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Thanksgiving and a Summing Up

Thanksgiving and a Summing Up

More than 40 years ago I decided that working to limit human-caused environmental deterioration would be my lifetime public service commitment.  It seemed obvious then, and now, that degraded natural systems were  a greater threat to  happiness than anything else.  But today I declare a truce based on what I learned in a year of researching and writing almost 200 posts.

First, climate science says, bottom line, that it may too late to prevent catastrophic climate change.  The feedback loops, particularly melting  polar ice, are strong and will  make Earth less hospitable whatever we do now, so stop worrying about it.

Second, even if it’s possible to avoid catastrophic global warming,  people are hard-wired against uncomfortable actions big enough to make a difference.   Like other species, the human animal consumes and reproduces without much concern for the consequences of everyone’s doing it.   Biology dictates that survival and comfort are each person’s core marching order, so  conservation  to benefit those who will be around in 20, 30 or 40 years is a  tough sell. Destructive behaviors, like helping to burn the four cubic miles of hydrocarbons a year that are heating the planet, come easily because the strong drive for “more” consumption is deeply embedded in us, almost like a deer’s drive to gorge and reproduce even when over-grazing threatens them all.

Compassion is a nicer reaction to people  being themselves than anger.  A year ago,  I expressed hope that humans could be different from other animals and wrote that human imagination, rationality, and moral commitment to  coming generations  could triumph over  basic instincts. I advocated restrictions on present consumption, particularly of fossil fuels,  that climate science says are essential to slowing global warming.   That’s not happening, as passionately summarized by Robert Jensen, a professor at the University of Texas Austin.  Bill McKibben, one of our environmental heroes, laid out what is happening in his August 2012 article, “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math.”

Going forward, this blog will emphasize adaptation and resilience in a time of accelerating climate change.  I will also weigh in  whenever it seems useful on this blog’s four central points: (1) human-caused climate change threatens  everyone; (2) strong, politically-difficult measures, like carbon taxes that would double the price of American gasoline,  could be enacted; (3) human psychology and leaders’ short-sightedness are pushing us on a collective march off  environmental cliffs; and (4) climate scientists have told the truth about consumption’s effects  on our beautiful planet.


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Comments (5)

  1. George Draper Tuesday - 04 / 12 / 2012
    I think this new direction is a positive one, Grier. Sooner than most people think, advice on adaptation and resilience is what the world will need, to say nothing about compassion, which it has always needed, to little avail. George
    • Grier Raggio Tuesday - 23 / 10 / 2018
      I've been beating my head against the "we consume too much" wall for 50 years. No significant dents.
  2. Steve Love Tuesday - 04 / 12 / 2012
    My dear friend, this is a step in the right direction, but I would encourage you to go the next step and that is to be actively engaged in the political arena in support of the only people who come anywhere close to sharing your concern for the challenges of transitioning to a more sustainable economy that will benefit future generations. And those people are in the Democratic Party. So long as we have an economy which funnels more and more of the world's wealth into the hands of fewer and fewer persons and out of the control of the public sector, we will have the brainless consumption that threatens the ecology and social stability. The captains of industry have never shown the foresight to move us in that direction in the past, so we have to have enlightened leadership in DC and Austin if we want to bend the curve in favor of a sustainable future. I urge you to focus your energy in that direction!
    • Grier Raggio Tuesday - 23 / 10 / 2018
      I was the Democratic Party's nominee for U.S. Congress from north Dallas in 2010 and lost to a conservative Republican. The problem with mainstream American politics is that everyone accepts maximizing economic growth as a measure of our country's success. That's wrong. The IPCC report released 10/8/18 states science's warning that we have to reduce hydrocarbon burning, and by implication economic growth, greatly and very soon to avoid very bad climate changes.
  3. Collagemama Wednesday - 19 / 12 / 2012
    "Too late" and "too little" are pretty scary concepts. You have tried to warn us, and I thank you for that effort.

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