A young reader "the Dingo" wrote a comment this week which came with a request.
I have been following your blog for a while and have read (nearly) every one of your posts. And I think I have a good handle on your sensibility—and I like it. The human race and the planet needs your "common" sense now, more than ever. I know you probably don't do requests, but I'm curious--if you could one day write up a post in which you outline what your policy would be, if you could somehow had influence in the levers of "power". I know, I know—you don't think the policy of politics works when solving real issues. And you're right; it doesn't. But, I'm just curious as to what type of policies/laws or whatever you would lay out, if you could. I'm a 20-something, desperately worried about the disaster I know is coming down the tracks for me, at full speed, and you have been the most sensible voice I have heard from the older generations on this matter. However, even after reading your blog, I'm still not sure what actions I can take that are worth investing in and what are not.
For example, should I (as young guy) invest/work for a solar company or volunteer to protect the environment, and so on...now and in the future, to try and mitigate climate change? Or is that a meaningless gesture, because the flaws of human nature will ultimately make my efforts worthless and pointless, because of the failure of man to make collective change. I don't want to be a Doomer or a Pessimist—I want to be a realist, but the reality keeps pointing to me to the fact that we humans will be done in by our very nature,at some point down the road. So, I'll admit, I'm lost as to what actions I could take that will be meaningful and less harmful to our current collective situation. Maybe you can help in this dilemma. Thanks.
I'll give him (and the rest of you) my thoughts on this.
If we lived in a perfect world, I would propose that humans start gradually reducing their populations and consumption with the longer term goal (achievable in decades) of getting down to "sustainable" levels using appropriate technology (wind, solar). Such a reversal is not possible in the real world, and, frankly, I don't see how it would work, even in a perfect world. Maybe I simply lack the imagination to see how humans (an animal species) would accept such reductions, or how they would be enforced (for example, birthrates below replacement level for a long, long time). If this were possible, I would also implement rules by which every human being is entitled to a minimum standard of living. Humans would also be required to adopt a policy of "non-interference" (to the extent possible) with the rest of the natural world.
Back in the real world, you are not obliged to try to take "meaningful and less harmful" actions to save our Earthly situation. You can't affect the outcome. And not just you, for no individual, including me, can affect the outcome. I did apparently affect you, which is a small victory for me. Small victories are all we get. But let me make some further distinctions.
"Meaningful" is in the eye of the beholder, and the most important beholder is you.
"Less harmful" is more complex. As you know from reading DOTE, humankind is digging a very deep hole for itself. And the humans keep on digging. Actions which amount to digging are not less harmful.
From your remarks, and the fact that you read this blog conscientiously, I can see that you are already a conscious person, and striving to become more conscious. (You want to be a realist.) Conscious people are indeed obliged to not make a bad situation worse, both in their personal lives and in how they live on the Earth. The word "obliged" is not quite right here, for a conscious person will feel and think that way as a matter of course. In short, conscious people will adopt a moral stance automatically. Unconscious people are out there making things worse than we wish them to be. They're doing it all the time. They are the problem. You are not the problem. Don't think of yourself as a problem. Conscious people are rare. If they weren't, we wouldn't be in this Big Mess.
I want to bring up a George Carlin line here. George said—
When you're born, you're given a ticket to the freak show. When you're born in the United States, you're given a front row seat.
Funny! And so true!
What I want to focus on is the "you were born" part. You exist, you got a ticket! You are a conscious entity living on the Earth. You weren't here before you were born, and after a lifetime of indeterminate length, you will be gone. As will I, assuming an exception will not be made in my case
Your time on Earth is precious. Use that time as well and as wisely as you can. Don't neglect yourself, in so far as your "selfishness" is in accord with your natural desire to be "less harmful." Also remember that you are living in George's freak show, so not all will go smoothly. Always cut your losses as quickly as possible. There will be losses.
I hope this message goes part of the way toward answering your request.
Have a nice weekend.
Bonus Video — bear in mind as you watch George that his take on things is not the same as my own, as expressed in this post and others. There are, however, points of agreement.