This will be my last post of 2016. Once again there was no indication this year that Homo sapiens can change its aggregate behavior in some positive way. Indeed, bad situations like politics in the U.S. and the state of the climate got considerably worse this year.
My Flatland stuff can and should be viewed as a hypothesis about our benighted species.
With each passing year in which humans fuck-up by failing to address the great anthropogenic problems of the 21st century, Flatland "pessimism" looks more and more realistic. In short, there is more and more confirming evidence supporting the Flatland hypothesis as time goes on.
But you certainly can't tell that to David Grinspoon, who is deeply offended by ... I'll let him tell you.
Currently I feel that spewing misanthropy is just as dangerous as emitting carbon dioxide. It is the opposite of activism. There is a real danger of unintended consequences, of encouraging people to give up. Pessimism, if it becomes a habit, can reinforce a narrative of unstoppable decline. If there is nothing we can do, that releases us from our obligations.
There’s no future in despising humanity. Self‐flagellation may feel good to some, but how does it help move us toward solutions? Surely we can find a way to love Earth without hating ourselves.
There’s more to my argument than just “put on a happy face.” This negativity is suspect, tactically (it doesn’t work) and philosophically (it reinforces Earth alienation rather than identity). It also feeds a false narrative about climate change. Many people see the fight to halt global warming as an impending either/or situation. We’re going to stop it by a certain date or we’re not—and it looks like we’re not.
Some have likened it to an asteroid that is clearly heading for Earth. In some important respects, this is a bad analogy.
In fact, Elizabeth Kolbert, talking about the 6th mass extinction, likened humanity to an asteroid analogous to the one that wiped out the dinosaurs. Nobody to my knowledge has characterized climate change as an asteroid.
Unlike the path of an asteroid, whose motion is determined by the relatively simple laws of gravitational mechanics, climate is horribly complex. The asteroid either will hit us or it won’t. With climate, it’s not an either/or proposition. It’s a constantly shifting trajectory that will require sustained attention and concern over years, decades, and centuries. Clearly we are not going to shut down all the coal plants in the next 10 years. Just as clearly, they will all be shut down by this century’s end. Between those two boundary conditions lies a huge range of possibilities. Yes, we are putting ourselves at risk, and yes, we must do whatever we can to move ourselves as quickly as we can toward new energy systems.
There's lots more where that came from. All human failures can be placed at the doorstep of pessimists. Follow the link to the Slate article.
To be clear, I am not a misanthrope, although I do admit that my familiarity with our happy species over nearly 65 years has bred much contempt.