Lately I’ve been reading books about serial killers and a lot of news articles. Can you guess which is more depressing?
Today I just read an article in The Guardian where a study says that robots will eliminate 6% of all US jobs by 2021. Let’s assume the study is way off and the percentage is 3%; Can we really stand to lose that many jobs that quickly? Also, there is no way that is where it is going to end. We all know mainstream use of self driving cars are around the corner. Lowe’s is using robots to help customers in its stores. This is just the beginning. And it’s not just working class jobs, this article is about how robots are already mastering jobs done by pharmacists, journalists, and lawyers.
In the short term I find all of this very troubling as I don’t believe we are equipped to handle this kind of change to our culture and economy at a rapid pace. It is possible that over the longterm it might benefit human beings from having to work so hard, but in order to do that we will have to vastly change the way the wealth is distributed. (We’re having a hard enough time guaranteeing people that are working a real living wage.)
We’re also looking at this being the warmest year on record. Here is a link, in cartoon form no less, that shows the impact that humans have had on the climate. That should be simple enough to understand for your friends that still don’t think climate change is a problem.
Yet, with these unprecedented problems, we have the least serious candidate, definitely in modern times, gaining in the polls. Is this is a joke, or have we finally just given up?
All these things are what happens when you just let the free market make all the big decisions.
Despite the dark nature of the subject matter, this is why reading about the Son of Sam, and the rest of his ilk, seems like sunshine filled escapism, comparatively, when I curl up in bed at night…
How Game of Thrones is About Climate Change
Game of Thrones is a piece of fiction and therefore interpretive. I have been thinking about how the story could be used to discuss the challenge of facing climate change for awhile. However, Vox got there first, which is probably just as well, because they did a better job than I could have done. There is even a video for those of you not familiar with the show. Click on the link above to see how “Winter is Coming” could just as easily be “Summer is Coming”.
The show is one of those shows that just seems to get better and better every season. It is one of those rare shows that allows you to escape while watching it, while at the same time giving you plenty to chew on after.
Americans Largely Unconcerned About Climate Change
The headline story over at Huffpo today was about how Americans don’t seem to be overtly concerned about climate change. This is exactly why the problem of climate change worries me more than any problem. It’s the kind of problem that is going to be too late to do anything about once it affects people in a way that they can’t ignore it. At the same time, unlike a lot of other problems, there is a definitive timeline in getting it right. Not only has the right wing created a long running disinformation campaign to discredit climate scientists, but the problem itself is not the kind of problem that human beings seem genetically dispositioned to to deal with. We are much better at dealing with problems that are immediate. Especially in our culture, where short attention spans seem to be the norm, we seem to lack the ability to make changes based on our long term future.
Imagine if we could have destroyed the Nazi regime before they led millions to the gas chamber. Would that be a worthy goal? Millions of people are going to suffer from climate change, including our descendants. The poorest and most vulnerable people of the world are going to suffer the worst and the suffer sooner. Their suffering is going to increase due to our indifference on this issue. Not only will weather become more destructive, but experts are predicting more famine and war due to climate change.
Fighting and winning World War II put the U.S. in the position of being a super power. Wouldn’t it feel good to wave the flag again knowing that we did something that made the world better for a long time to come? Or are we content to be thrown on the heap of history’s chumps?
Climate Change Nightmare
This article over at Salon is worth reading. It not only holds the Republicans accountable for their denial of science, but points out the Democrats timidity in dealing with the issue. It gives a brief and vivid overview of the problems we are already facing and are likely to face if we do nothing.
What the World Would Be Like If Humans Had Never Existed
The above article over at Huffington Post is an interesting read that examines a scientific study of what the world would be like if humans had never existed. It shows how humans have wiped out a lot of diversity in the world, especially large mammals.
The news today is pretty bleak. At least the above article is informed speculation. There’s more gun violence. I read today that this year we have had more mass shootings than days of the year, if you count mass shootings as more than four people being shot at once, and not murdered, which is how the media often counts mass shootings. And yet we still refuse to have a sensible debate on guns.
The Republican campaign keeps reaching new lows as they debate the fate of babies. 2015 is looking to be the warmest year on record, but many politicians refuse to admit that climate change is happening. And on and on…
The news today reminds me of a scene in the movie Wild at Heart, where the two main characters, played by Nicholas Cage and Laura Dern, are driving through the desert listening to the radio. Every station has some horrible bit of news on it, until it reaches an absurd symphony of facts. The couple finally pulls over, puts on heavy metal, and dances and does karate kicks as the camera pulls away. They eventually embrace, two kindred spirits in a strange world. Here is the scene:
The scene is filmed in an absurd way, but there is a lot of truth going on there.
In reading about whaling in the book In the Heart of the Sea, by Nathaniel Philbrick, a great example is made of what happens when human beings destroy nature for economic pursuit. I’m not talking about the whaleship Essex being sunk by a sperm whale, which is what the book is largely about, the true story that Moby Dick was based on. I’m talking about how Nantucketers, in their ever increasing greed for more whale oil and their stubbornness in following tradition, built an entire economy that was doomed to eventually collapse. The real story, which if you are interested in you should read the book, is more complex, but basically Nantucketers over-hunted whales and had to keep going further and further to find them. Also, because they had such a closed off culture, when it did become apparent to others to seek even new hunting grounds, the Nantucketers could not adapt fast enough.
This is a story that has been seen again and again. The fur-trade wore itself out from overhunting of beavers. Almost any American school child knows about how the Buffalo almost became extinct from overhunting. On a different note, with something like mountaintop removal in places like West Virginia one can see how whole economies rise and fall around something environmentally destructive, leaving a populace with nothing left to show for something other than a small few making a lasting fortune.
I don’t see how one can look at something like the oil industry and climate change and not expect the same to happen on a much larger scale. This time it will be more than a single species almost driven to extinction, a single region driven through a boom and bust cycle. While it is true that those species mentioned did manage to rebound somewhat, the ways of life they were based on never did.
As the old quote goes, “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” Humans, now more technologically advanced than ever, also have greater destructive powers than ever before. The game we are playing is much bigger now, but the story is old. Are we, as a species, truly capable of learning from our past? Or is the past merely a series of small prophecies of what is to come of our future?
More Posts On the Environment Include: Entertainment Shows Growing Environmental Concerns
Bernie Sanders Calls Out Jim Inhofe
I think the above video is worth watching. Bernie Sanders does a really great job at simply stating the facts about climate change. What takes this video to a special place is the fact that Sanders acknowledges that Jim Inhofe is a complete shill for the energy companies. Inhofe is not a serious person. He isn’t interested in a serious debate. He is simply trying to muddy the waters, spread misinformation, and do anything possible to confuse people over the facts of climate change. He has actually quoted the Bible in disputing climate science. Look at where his donations come from to get an idea of why he takes positions that are in no way backed up by science.
Ethics and Climate
For Father’s Day I thought the best thing I could do would be to share some of my Dad’s writings. He was an environmental lawyer for most of his career, has worked at the United Nations among other places, and now teaches at Widener Law School. Although he is also a published author, he now also runs a blog that deals with the ethical issues surrounding climate change. Above is a link to his blog. So thanks Dad for, among so many other things, fighting the good fight.
Climate Deniers Cut NASA Budget
It looks like climate deniers in our government are responsible for cutting the upcoming NASA budget, as NASA, like all of the major scientific institutions, is pointing out the change that is happening due to man-made climate change. NASA helped the United States be the first country to the moon. Now they are being dictated to by a bunch ideologues who don’t know the first thing about science. These are sad times.
Senate Votes Climate Change Not Caused By Humans
The Republican controlled Senate voted 50-49 that climate change is not caused by humans. These people are the modern day version of those that persecuted Galileo for saying that the earth went around the sun. Unfortunately for us, these climate deniers’ folly is going to doom a lot of people around the globe. Their ignorance will destroy lives. It is easy to look back at history in disbelief at people believing that the sun revolved around the earth. But that same kind of mindset is with us now. It is created by the same thing: Power that does not want to be challenged. The church didn’t want their authoritarian power being challenged. Today it is the fossil fuel companies who don’t want their power to make money to be challenged. The politicians that voted that climate change was not caused by humans derive their power from the fossil fuel companies. They are bought and paid for. Every major scientific institution has made the case for human caused climate change. The facts are not up in the air, they are just inconvenient to some of those that have a great deal of power. One day they will look as foolish as the church of Galileo’s time does now. Hopefully there will be a civilization around that can afford to laugh at them.