In this week’s climate-change quiz, we ask: Who wrote the following when discussing how to avoid the growing global catastrophe?
The glass is either half empty or half full. I choose to believe it is half full … Technology both creates unforeseen problems and then sets about solving them. My bet is on human ingenuity.
A tech start-up entrepreneur trying to sell a new invention that will supposedly save the world?
A Congress person who’s bought and paid for by the oil lobby?
The Executive Director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, Steven Cohen, in a post entitled “Facing the Climate Crisis without Hysteria.”
Sorry to say, it was Dr. Cohen.
The professor has been taking the media to task for what he calls its “hysteria” over the latest shocking report from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which predicts ever-deeper disruptions to life as we know it, damage to public health, mass migrations, and violent conflicts over land, water or other resources.
We need to shut down the technological monster known as “economic development” that’s devouring and poisoning land, air and ocean. In fact, we can only wish that the major media could drum up some real hysteria about what’s happening. Right now they might as well be auditioning for the lead in The Sleeping Beauty.
Meanwhile, more and more climate change scientists and advocates are telling us that if we and the other animals are to have the slightest chance of surviving the Sixth Extinction, we need to shut down the technological monster known as “economic development” that’s devouring and poisoning land, air and ocean.
Dr. Cohen wants to do the exact opposite. He wants to keep ramping up our murderous industrial civilization:
Slowing down the rate of economic growth to avert climate change could have similar, if not greater, negative health, displacement and other violent impacts.
… While there is no question that [there] are real problems, as in the past these will likely be addressed by new technologies and new techniques that will overcome the problems we now face.
But what have “new technologies” ever done to halt climate change in a world where greenhouse gases went over the tipping point last year?
What have new technologies done in the past 100 years to stop human population from ballooning from less than one billion to more than seven billion – and climbing toward nine?
Have new technologies done anything to stop the poles from melting? Or to dispose of those vast, Texas-sized islands of plastic trash in the oceans?
What have new technologies done to stop 200 entire species from going extinct every day?
What have they done to stop 200 entire species from going extinct every day?
On what basis, then, does Dr. Cohen “choose to believe” that his glass is half full? (And since when was climate science about having a belief system in the first place?)
Worse yet, his views are being espoused and applauded by no less than Andrew Revkin, the esteemed environmental journalist who writes the Dot Earth Blog for the New York Times. Revkin is impressed by such sage advice from Dr. Cohen as:
Maybe we can’t stop the sea waters from rising, but we can place our utility rooms on the second floor instead of the basement.
(Commenting on Revkin’s blog and Cohen’s great ideas, one reader laments that, like millions of other Americans, his house doesn’t even have a second floor.)
Of course, Cohen and Revkin aren’t alone in their thinking. Theirs, in fact, is the mainstream view – and the media view.
So, where do all these folks all go so hopelessly wrong in their thinking?
Part of the answer – perhaps even most of the answer – is that they never seem to take into consideration the fact that climate change is not only about what may happen to privileged humans in the future. It’s about what’s happening right now to the millions and billions of other creatures we’re destroying right now.
We may like to think of ourselves as technological gods ruling over nature with ever more ingenious devices. But all we can ever become is God in a dead world, ruling over a wasteland.Sure, we humans may not be about to go extinct this week (although entire communities and regions are already going off the cliff), but for 1,400 other entire species, this week will be their last on Earth.
That’s because for 200 entire species today, there will be no tomorrow. And for 200 yesterday, there was no today. And the day after tomorrow yet another 200 will go extinct. And the day after that … and the day after that. 1,400 entire species each week. (And the number is accelerating.)
What did technology ever do for them? For the 5,600 last month. For the more than 25,000 entire species so far this year.
More technology certainly isn’t the answer for any of those millions and billions of animals going down the tubes each year. For them, more technology was never the solution; it was the problem.
Like Professor Cohen, we may want to think of ourselves as technological gods ruling over nature with ever more ingenious devices. But all we can ever become is God in a dead world, ruling over a wasteland.
God in a dead, empty, lifeless world, waiting to go down the tubes with the rest of the creation we destroyed.