In an interview with The Guardian last month, James Lovelock — the scientist who conceived of the Gaia hypothesis — said he believes that humans have not yet “evolved to the point where we’re clever enough to handle as complex a situation as climate change.”
Could it be? Is our species, as the subhead on the article put it, “too stupid” to prevent climate change? Considering some of the news developments from just the past few days, the question might have some merit. While not likely to be signs of the apocalypse or TEOTWAWKI, stories like these make us wonder if the planet has struck peak sanity:
- US Republican Lindsey Graham, historically one of the GOP’s good guys when it comes to supporting clean energy, this week warned that a climate bill might not be in the cards if President Barack Obama names a “controversial” (to Republicans’ eyes, anyway) nominee to succeed retiring Justice John Paul Stevens to the Supreme Court. Nothing like holding the planet hostage for politics, yes?
- And then there’s the uproar that’s followed US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s announcement that the government will now give equal consideration to bicycles and pedestrians in transport planning and policy decisions. While cycling aficionados cheered, industry howled with cries of “dumb” and “nonsensical.” One Congressman even went so far as to ask whether there was still mandatory drug testing at the Transportation Department. Really? Heaven forfend we should give any weight to low-carbon means of getting around in the future.
- Finally, there’s the mind-blowing conclusion from Standard & Poor’s that the Massey Energy coal mine tragedy that killed 29 miners will be “immaterial” in terms of financial impact to the company. In delivering that assessment, the S&P also upgraded its opinion on the firm from “hold” to “buy.”
If that last tidbit doesn’t make the case for a shift to cleaner — and safer — energy, along with a new standard for corporate social responsibility, we can’t imagine what would.
What was really interesting about the Lovelock piece was that he never said “stupid” in the interview: it was the title of the article reporting the interview in the main piece of the paper. I think he has a point, though, on the evolutionary aspect. If we don’t make a conscious decision to fix the accountancy error that allows fossil fuel their place of supremacy, we won’t get the chance to go on. We will not be the first animal to over-breed trash our environment and suffer its collapse but we will be the first ones to do it knowingly. The evolutionary challenge is to listen to the human being part of our brain rather than acting on the animalistic human doing.
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