Wednesday, October 21, 2009
I made the mistake last night, after finishing the book, "City of Light" (which was riveting...) and wanting to read just a wee bit more, of picking up a TED book (I'm attending the conference in Feb. and you get books all year in connection to this) "Whole Earth Discipline" by Stewart Brand. I didn't read all that much of it, maybe thirty pages. But I was up in the night filled with fear for the future of mankind, the future of all those I care about who will presumably outlive me, and then of course myself.
This is not new for me. I've read all the books, I am a devotee of James Lovelock for chrissake. But still, all the information being hurled at me once again, it freezes me up. I think people who are think they are doing something by buying and driving Priuses (for example) are in denial about the true state of our human climate impact that is well underway. I have to say, from everything I've read, trying to do something about the climate by reducing oil and gas consumption, for example, is well... too little, too late. I really don't want to make myself feel better by doing things that only do that, make me feel better but make no overall impact.
The thing that really got to me was his chapter on war and how war is endemic to humankind, an integral part of our species behavior, and there have only been small pockets of time - including this one! - where humans are relatively peaceful. He argues that in the ancestral environment approximately 25% of young men were killed in battle. This comapares with roughly 3% now. I remember Steven Pinker pointing this out at a lecture I heard him give - that our world - on balance - is significantly less violent (in terms of death by combat) than it ever has been. The idea of the noble savage is outdated and wrong. We are living now in a world with relative freedom from violent death - percentage wise. In any case, Stewart Brand makes the argument that as resources are reduced due to climate change there will be more and more wars. He argues that all of civilization could be lost. In fact, is perhaps likely too.
Oh god! So... I'm up in the night with these thoughts. Is it better to die from violence, drought or disease? I have to say, disease wins hands down in my book. It's horrible to contemplate that a large scale population reduction due to disease may be the best chance for civilization. I shudder to think.
Brand also talks about how climate change can happen quickly - all the models we now have are for this slow gradual climate change, when in fact, several times the climate has changed dramatically in three years to ten years.
Anyway, as I said, I haven't read the whole thing... Can't wait till he gets to the uplifting part!
Well. nighty night!