Recently I had an exchange with Erik Curren in the Comments section of an article he had written about global warming. Erik is the owner of the Transition Voice web site that serves as a platform for the Transition movement.
Curren’s post was a rambling maundering about “climate deniers,” who, according to Curren, are inordinately successful in “spreading doubt” about climate change, or more accurately anthropogenic global warming.
This brings to mind Ed Abbey’s observation: “Fantastic doctrines (like Christianity or Islam or Marxism) require unanimity of belief. One dissenter casts doubt on the creed of millions. Thus the fear and the hate; thus the torture chamber, the iron stake, the gallows, the labor camp, the psychiatric ward.”
The debate over climate change is polarized on the extremes of “deniers” versus “alarmists.” Oddly, “deniers” are frequently associated with right-wing, fossil-fuel energy corporations, and “alarmists” most frequently associated with “environmentalists” and environmentalism, particularly large Green organizations. One suspects that there is something other than environmentalists vs. corporate developers behind the schism. Perhaps we should “Follow the money” to learn the source of this vociferous debate.
The polarization of the debate obscures understanding of climate science and blocks the effectiveness of environmental activism. More importantly, it draws attention away from the more serious problems caused by human pollution, biodiversity loss and species extinctions, all of which are caused by human growth and development of critical natural habitat.
If we are to plan ahead for natural limitations on human growth that we face in the future, we have to move away from these fruitless arguments to areas where we can come to agreement. Fossil fuel use must be curtailed, even before it becomes too scarce to extract, if for no other reason than fossil fuels are polluting by their very nature, regardless of their carbon content, and their use fosters increasing consumption. Human economic growth and its increasing consumption must stop at some point, because we live in a finite planet that cannot withstand continued and accelerating resource depletion.
Why distract ourselves with possible future climate variation, when these looming problems face us right now and right here in our own homes?
Rather than political and economic strategies aimed solely at “global warming,” such as cap and trade economic “fixes,” we should come to grips with the very real and immediate challenges of finite fossil fuel availability and finite resources for which there are no renewable alternatives.
Finally, and most importantly, human population growth and increasing resource consumption has exceeded the limits of our planet’s ability to support us. We flat out overshot our natural limits, and we’re living on borrowed time, and squandered resources.
The real transition looming on the horizon is not a simple exchange of nonrenewable for renewable energy technologies. The Earth can no longer support its human population, regardless of its energy technology choices.
The transition that will inevitably arrive is the change from a continuously growing human population to a steady state population considerably smaller than our present 7 billion individuals. The founding concept of modern economics based on production for profit has failed and we must discard it in favor of a steady-state economy based on production for use.
What we need now, rather than an unending debate on the future of global climate variation, is to develop a realistic, rational theory for a steady-state society that lives within natural cycles of resource availability, that does not consume resources faster than they are naturally renewed, and that does not produce waste faster than it is natural dispersed, such that all other species’ viability is not threatened.
We can’t embark on the transition to this new society until we have envisioned the desired outcome.
Until we know the destination, we cannot plan the route.