Apocalyptic Politics

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYes, the climate is changing. There is no argument.

There isn’t even an argument that we have something to do with it. Plainly, it’s our fault.

There’s a lot of different opinions. Some choose to ignore or disbelieve it, and some others scream bloody murder to get the doubter’s attention. And they can never seem to agree. Mostly it’s not about facts, it’s about freedom or liberty or just priorities. The paycheck and the comfortable Ikea furniture, and the 2014 sedan are just more important.

So, yea, some people tend to get angry, and possibly to freak out a bit about this, because it looks as ignorant as a sheltered suburbanite teenager when so many people just say “screw it, the SUV is what I need and I’ll put 50 gallons of gas in it a week”.

But it’s not so much about, well, freaking out about it. I don’t entirely understand what the problem is with considering the impact we have on things. I’ve heard it called “arrogance” to believe we can have an effect on our planet or climate. This bothers me, because it misses a far more key point: survival. It’s not about making judgements of virtue or character, although that can help to incite some people to action… it’s about considering what’s actually good for us now, and later.

We all do these things like burning a little extra electricity to run our fancy TVs. And some of us are deciding individually to make small concessions (where our comfort level allows us to… liberals) and some larger concessions (crunchier leftists). It’s pretty rare for someone to actually cry about apocalypse scenarios… except for when the media needs a good story.

There are a few idealists though, such as radical primitivists, that are actively hoping we scuttle ourselves, I think. The general idea is to get rid of all or most of society and technology and government, to reduce our impact on the environment. I’ve run into one or two. Their views are abhorrent to me; I like my internet and my easy access to basic needs and a comfortable home. That and I think we can still come up with a solution to fix this. So that’s too far to take the whole “protecting nature” thing.

Most of the conservatives I’ve met seem to sort of ignore the science or the warnings, because it’s more comfortable to do so. That seems… morally objectionable on it’s own level, perhaps because I think we ought to do right by our children and our planet, and that level of comfort feels like hedonism for the sake of itself, and comfort can be a distraction from happiness, sometimes. At least I’ve found it to be so. I know there’s different levels here too, some people may care more and research and keep up on things, but just not think there’s a good enough reason to do anything. But we may not have time to consider forever. That’s part of the call for action.

Back to the idea of just considering what’s going on, though. If you enjoy driving your car, you ought to consider what might happen if it gets too hot, cold, or we just run low or out of resources. The further question of nuance is, is it likely that it could occur? What’s the chance, the probability? We have pretty good tools for predicting things now, so long as you control for the right variables. Our models have demonstrable utility. I don’t see it as being particularly far-fetched to believe the models may have something to say about longer term phenomena like climate change, even if there’s a margin of error.

The problem is our model is working with extremely local data, but we’re trying to predict phenomena on the order of decades or centuries. It won’t affect us immediately. We’re potentially screwing our grandchildren if we’re wrong… and I’m not particularly happy with the way the previous generations have left things for us. I don’t the future generations, potentially my children, to be disappointed in me for having left them a wreck of a planet.

This is of course assuming they’re around. I don’t think we’re screwing things up enough to kill large swaths of the population, but it’s certainly possible and not something I really want to test. And even if it’s not that bad, perhaps a good question to ask, how bad does it need to get to do something?

I have also seen a particularly scary form of apocalyptic acceptance in a few people, where they’ve already assumed and accepted it’s all going to end. And they’re just going to ride it out, and enjoy it for what it’s worth. Forgive the over-used phrase, but it would be like re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic to do anything now. But… if we got ourselves into this mess under our own power, why would you expect we can’t also get ourselves out of it?

Ya, it’s a bit of an emotional argument, but that’s how I see it. Well, the whole thing is a bunch of emotional arguments. Hopefully some of them may help to see the issues from different perspectives.