An interesting assertion / by Simmon Li

This is an excerpt from Thomas Friedman's Hot, Flat, and Crowded Revision 2.0. For me, it was very thought provoking, and it really does underscore how this type of thinking is so ingrained:

This change is ironic, when you consider for how long, and how intently, the great philosophers struggled to understand nature as a system that acted according to its own laws, without human - or divine - intervention. The ancient Greeks, noted the Israeli political theorist Yaron Ezrahi, "were always worried that the gods were acting through nature. Natural disasters were seen as divine retribution and thunder was interpreted as the threatening voice of Zeus." These beliefs set in motion a philosophical movement that aimed to prove that, on the contrary, science and nature were not wars played out by gods against humans, but, in fact, autonomous natural phenomena. "This is the origin of the modern Western notion that nature is a realm of necessary rules and laws outside of human control," said Ezrahi. "The [later] Greeks insisted on proving that nature was an independent system so that humans would not feel a double anxiety - that natural events were not something they caused. So they created the concept of nature as a system independent of human agency and indifferent to human agency." The Greeks disconnected human morality or immorality from anything that happened in nature, and one effect of this was to basically relieve human anxiety and reassure people that they did not cause the flood, the storm, or the drought by their actions. Now human anxiety is back - only instead of us asking, "Did Zeus create that hurricane because of something we did?" we are asking, "Did we create that hurricane because of something we did?" "Instead of asking, 'Can we control the gods and thus control the weather?'" Ezrahi said, "we're now asking, 'Can we control ourselves and [thus] control the weather?'"

"The weather just happens. [It's getting crazier, but it's not our fault.]" This is the kind of thinking that people do these days. He talks about this concept a bit later too, when he talks about Heidi Cullen at the Weather Network.

One thing people always loved about the Weather Channel was that the weather "was nobody's fault," mused Cullen, who got her training working as a researcher at the National Center of Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. "We didn't point fingers. Out news was not political. And then Katrina came along and suddenly the weather wasn't the weather anymore. It was something else." Before, the weather was always seen as an act of Mother Nature, "and then suddenly the weather was potentially our fault."

He then talks about climate change as a political issue, which is mind boggling to me. An increase in the concentration of atmospheric CO2 is not disputable. Sure, CO2 is not the only factor in climate change, and there are many factors that affect it. The Milankovich cycles affect the temperature too, and other things like ice reflecting energy back into space, not to mention methane, water vapour and all the other gases that can trap heat. We're not certain for sure, but recent trends suggest that this could be a break away from the cycle that governed the Earth's systems before. As I mentioned, the concentration of CO2 particles is definitely higher than we've ever measured it, even going back in time. Another excerpt from the book, a quote of Andrew C. Revkin:

Uncertainty is the reason to act. If I know that I have built my house on the edge of forest, and that there is an ever-increasing likelihood of droughts and forest fires, I am going to buy more home insurance and I am also going to invest in fire-proof shingles, cutting the risk and hedging against the worst-case outcome. I am not going to sit around and say: 'Gosh, no one can predict with any certainty when lightning is going to hit the forest, how many trees will go up in flames, how far the fires will burn, or if my home will be engulfed, so why buy fire insurance?'

Why is this a political issue? Mr. Revkin is perfectly correct, if the analogy is a bit wild. The fact is, temperatures in recent years indicate that surface temperature is on the rise. Large disasters that are weather related are happening more and more. Katrina, the Tsunami in 2004, the earthquakes in China, Haiti, and other places, and the most recent flooding of Pakistan, not to mention the countless food crop failures due to intense heat, lack of rainfall, or unusual temperatures, and one has to really ask "Can we afford to make this a political issue?" Risk management is about preparing for the worst case scenario, and quite frankly, we're doing nothing to protect this spaceship for the future of humanity.

It's like Pascal's gamble. Think about it. There are four scenarios.

We prepare, and we're wrong, in which case, we've become better able to live on less than ever before. This kind of innovation would be the stepping stone to living off world, or in space.

We prepare and we're right, in which case, we live and continue to thrive as a species.

We don't prepare and we're wrong, in which case, we can keep living business as usual.

We don't prepare and we're right, in which case, we all end up living very different lives to the ones we live now, and perhaps a large number of humans die due to the lack of food, water, etc.

If we don't prepare, we have a 1 in 4 chance of living. If we prepare, we have a 2 in 4 chance of living. I'd rather take 50% odds over 25% odds.