The Philosophy of Global Warming


If you are interested in global warming, climate change, the environmental crisis, and the relationship between humans and the rest of life on Earth, then I am sure that you will like my amazing new book 'The Philosophy of Global Warming'.

In the blog post immediately below I have provided the book description, the list of contents and the first two sections of the book. You can find out how to get hold of the book by clicking on this link:

The Philosophy of Global Warming


Tuesday, 15 April 2014

The Philosophy of Global Warming




I am happy to let you know that my most comprehensive work 'The Philosophy of Global Warming' has now been published. In this post I have provided a lot of information about the book - the book outline, the list of contents, and the first two sections of the book.
When you read the 'Introduction' section you will see that I describe "the instinctive, almost childlike, response" that pervades contemporary thought concerning global warming (that 'Path 1' – emissions reduction – is the appropriate solution to the problem). This "instinctive, almost childlike, response" was in evidence again on the front page of The Observer two days ago:
 
  •  "top climate-change experts will warn that ONLY greater use of renewable energy - including windfarms - can prevent a global catastrophe."
 
  •  "Mitigation of Climate Change, by the UN's Intergovernmental Planet on Climate Change (IPCC), a panel of 200 scientists, will make it clear that by far the most realistic option for the future is to triple or even quadruple the use of renewable power plants. ONLY through such decisive action will carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere be kept below the critical level of 480 parts per million (ppm), before the middle of the century. If levels go beyond this figure, the chances of curtailing global mayhem are poor, they will say."
 
('UN urges huge increase in green energy to avert climate disaster', Robin Mckie & Toby Helm, The Observer, 13 April 2014, p. 1)
 
I have capitalised the word 'only' in both of these quotes in order to highlight the widespread existence of "the instinctive, almost childlike, response". It is not a surprise that this report was written by 200 scientists. All of these people are, no doubt, science-obsessed, thinking within narrow conceptual parameters, and utterly unaware of, but badly in need of, the philosophy of global warming!
 
BOOK OUTLINE
 
This is my most comprehensive and definitive work. In it you will learn:
 
What the philosophy of global warming is and why it is of great importance.
Why the decision-making process concerning the appropriate human response to global warming requires a consideration of the evolutionary forces which propel the planet.
Why cutting fossil fuel emissions is a futile exercise.
What the human species is and how it relates to the non-human life-forms of the Earth.
Why the human species has a special place in the universe and how this is related to global warming.
What it means to say that your life has a purpose.
Why the evolution of technology and the evolution of spirituality are deeply interconnected.
Why there is an urgent need for the technological regulation of the temperature of the Earth's atmosphere.
 
The book has 3 parts. Part 1 contains 12 chapters each of which contains a particular theme which is of relevance to the philosophy of global warming. Taken as a whole this part of the book can be thought of as providing a detailed overview of my philosophical worldview. Part 2 is a lengthy dialogue in which I respond to an Objector who poses 86 questions, queries and objections relating to my philosophical worldview. Part 3 contains 37 articles which expand on particular topics relating to the philosophy of global warming. I hope that by the end of the book you will have a clear understanding concerning your, and our, place in the universe and how this relates to global warming.
 
 
CONTENTS

The Purpose of This Book

Introduction

 
PART 1:   PHILOSOPHY

1  What is the Philosophy of Global Warming?
2  The Two Paths Facing Humanity

Two Types of Global Warming
4  The History of Our Solar System

5  What is Life?
6  What is the Human Species?

7  Technology and the Environmental Crisis
8  Why Life Benefits From Technology

9  Is the Damage Already Done?

10  The Evolutionary Processes Which Propel the Planet
11  Humans in the Cosmos

12  The Interplay between Technology and Spirituality

 

PART 2:   DIALOGUE

A plethora of objections, questions and queries relating to my philosophical worldview are posed and answered
 


PART 3:   ARTICLES


Was the Cosmic Bringing Forth of Humans ‘Inevitable’?

Two Routes to the Need for Geoengineering


The Need for Geoengineering


The Nature of the Universe
 
Links between My Philosophy & the Buddhist Theory of Atoms

The GreenSpirit Journal Comments on ITHSS

The First Book Critiquing ITHSS

Ahead of the Curve

The Need for a New View of Humans in the Cosmos

Technology

Human Population & the Environmental Crisis

The Growing Realisation of the Need for Geoengineering the GMST

Humans and Other Animals

Animals Think like Humans

Earth ‘Four Years from Disaster’

The Futility of Emissions Cuts

Prepare for Extreme Global Warming

Emissions Cuts: The Gap between Ambition & Reality

Accelerating Polar Ice Melting & Geoengineering

Evolution versus Creationism

The Calm before the Carbon Storm

Perceptions of Global Warming

Global Warming: Perceptions, Responses & Energy Policy

Global Warming & the Anthropocentric and Ecocentric Attitudes

George Monbiot on Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Concentrations Reaching 400ppm

The Three Questions & the Philosophical Worldview

The Environmental Crisis & the Colonization of Space

Technology and Stewardship

The Inevitability of Geoengineering

The Conceptual Framing of Geoengineering

The Technological Healers of the Earth

The Concept of ‘Future Generations’

Is Fracking Good or Bad?

Extreme Weather Events & Global Warming

How Much of Man is Natural?

Friedrich Hölderlin and the Environmental Crisis

Friedrich Hölderlin: A Final Reflection

 
Further Reading

Keeping in Contact

 

THE PURPOSE OF THIS BOOK

The purpose of this book is to get you to think about the philosophy of global warming. I am very hopeful that the information that is presented will change how you perceive the human presence on the Earth. I am hoping that you will conclude that the human presence on the planet is a positive one, a sign that the Earth, life, and even the Solar System, is positively thriving. I have three main reasons for hoping to convince you of this.
Firstly, I sincerely believe it to be true, and as a deeply philosophical person I simply have the desire to express the truth and to help other people to see the truth. You might be curious as to the source of my beliefs. Furthermore, you might be thinking, are my beliefs just my beliefs or are they ‘the truth’? All I can really say on this is that the beliefs and views that I outline in this book seem to me to arise from an episode of direct personal insight which was backed up by subsequent knowledge acquired from the insight and work of others. I am not an expert on the phenomenon of direct personal insight, of personal revelation into the truths of the universe, but I believe that it is possible that the universe can directly endow individuals who are in a certain state (a state of ‘receptivity’) with certain truths about itself. Perhaps such an endowment was the catalyst for my move into academia in my mid-twenties. My childhood years were spent in the deepest depths of the Cornish countryside, surrounded by thousands of trees and very few people. In my mid-twenties I had been living on a very small island, which is situated in the Atlantic Ocean, for a number of years. Again, as with my childhood years, I was surrounded mainly by non-human nature, the powerful ocean waves, the sometimes fierce weather, the plentiful beaches and the wilderness. After several years of doing a menial, unfulfilling and soul-destroying job on this island something changed within me, some kind of awakening occurred. There arose within me a new sense of openness; I spent time just looking at my surroundings, really looking; things appeared slightly differently than they did before, more alive, more vibrant. Questions and insights bubbled up within me and I had little choice but to seek to follow their lead. These initial experiences and questions led to a journey of well over a decade; a journey that involved attaining a first class BSc in Environmental Studies, an MA in Philosophy, a PhD in Philosophy, an international writing prize, conference speeches in Venice and Marburg, and finally, this book.
Secondly, I am slightly concerned by the increasing dominance of the view that the human presence on the planet is a destructive one. This view increasingly pervades the media, the arts, culture, various academic disciplines, politics and even religion. I recently attended a conference where there were speakers from a variety of religions and I was surprised by what they said. Not a single speaker had anything positive to say about human existence; there was talk of environmental destruction, overpopulation, and it was even suggested that the theological talk of a special place for the human species on the planet (the view of human dominion) was a view that needed to be rejected. According to this increasingly dominant view humans are, at best, just one species among many, and at worst they are the despicable destroyers of life. This view concerns me because it has led to movements such as the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEMT) which was founded in 1991. If it is widely accepted that the human presence on the planet is a negative one, and that there are too many humans on the planet, then it seems increasingly likely that plans will be instigated to cull the human species; in other words, billions of people could ultimately be needlessly killed (I don’t know exactly how this might be done, or who might do it, but I know there are people who think this would be desirable and who think about how it could be done; there are even people who think that it is already being done). Needless mass murder based on a false philosophy is something that I would like to see averted.
Thirdly, if the place of the human species on the Earth that I outline in this book is widely accepted, then a range of positive outcomes can result. We can celebrate our uniqueness, celebrate the joy that we are bringing to the Earth, rather than wallowing in despair at the thought that we are seemingly destroying the planet without really wanting to. Because states such as joy and despair ripple out from all sources where they exist, a more joyous philosophy would result in a more peaceful and joyous planet. We can also increasingly appreciate the value and perspectives of all individuals, all cultures, all perspectives, all life-forms, all personalities, as each of these has a positive role to play in the glorious evolutionary unfolding of the Earth. Furthermore, the realisation of our place on the planet, our purpose as a species, can enable us to reallocate our limited resources so that this purpose is more speedily fulfilled. Currently an enormous amount of resources are wasted on global warming mitigation schemes; these resources could be more optimally allocated. The creative energies of individuals can simultaneously be optimised. The outcome of this optimisation, through speeding up the fulfilment of our purpose, would be to more speedily bring about a more sustainable and harmonious existence, an increasingly peaceful and spiritual human presence on the Earth.
I have used a variety of writing styles, perspectives and approaches to present the information in this book. There are three parts to the book. Part 1 contains twelve chapters each of which contains a particular theme which is of relevance to the philosophy of global warming. Taken as a whole this part of the book can be thought of as providing a detailed overview of my philosophical worldview. Part 2 is a dialogue in which an objector to my philosophy poses a multitude of questions/queries/concerns and I provide responses. Part 3 contains a plethora of articles each of which illuminates certain aspects of my philosophy. The reason for this three-pronged approach is that what I am trying to get you to see is complex and it involves interconnections between many different phenomena. You are also likely to come across things which violently clash with your existing beliefs. My hope is that the three-pronged approach will both help you to understand particular points, and also to comprehend the bigger picture. You might find a particular chapter irrelevant at the time of reading it, but if you are open to the possibility that every chapter, every paragraph, is but a small jigsaw piece, then by the end of Part 3 you should be able to see the complete interconnected cosmic puzzle. There might be a complete trans-formation in the way that you see the world around you. In order to get the most out of the book I would definitely recommend starting at the beginning and moving through page by page, rather than jumping ahead to various sections that seem particularly interesting. I have attempted to slowly build up an overall philosophical worldview as the book progresses; that which appears in the latter stages of the book assumes an understanding of that which comes before.

 
INTRODUCTION

Do you believe in global warming? Do you believe that humans are the cause of this phenomenon? Do you believe that global warming poses a real threat to both humanity and to non-human life on the planet? I think it is safe to say that the majority of people would answer these questions as follows:
 
Do you believe in global warming?
Yes. Global warming is occurring because carbon dioxide concentrations are increasing in the atmosphere; this exacerbates the ‘greenhouse effect’ and causes global warming.
 
Do you believe that humans are the cause of this phenomenon?
Yes. Humans are the cause of global warming because atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations have shot upwards since the start of the Industrial Revolution, as revealed by the ‘hockey stick’ graph. This has occurred because of the human use of enormous amounts of fossil fuels and also because of the human destruction of rainforests and other carbon sinks.
 
Do you believe that global warming poses a real threat to both humanity and to non-human life on the planet?
Yes. The polar ice will melt, sea levels will rise, the climate will significantly change, extreme weather events will become more pervasive, the food supply will be badly affected, temperature increases will make large parts of the planet (or even the entire planet) inhospitable; in short, the conditions which currently enable humans and non-human life-forms to flourish might disappear.

The reason that I think it is safe to say that the majority of people would answer these questions in such a manner is that these views are so pervasive in mainstream media, politics, culture and academia. These views, in turn, arise from the science of global warming. The scientific under-standing of global warming centres on the ‘greenhouse effect’. The ‘greenhouse effect’ is a natural phenomenon the existence of which is necessary for human existence; without it the atmosphere would be far too cold for humans to exist. The ‘greenhouse effect’ exists because green-house gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, trap the incoming infrared radiation from the Sun after it has bounced off the surface of the Earth; this trapping warms up the Earth’s atmosphere. The term the ‘greenhouse effect’ is often used to refer simply to the fact that by increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere humans have exacerbated this natural pre-existing effect, thereby causing a higher atmospheric temperature than would otherwise have been the case. It is useful to keep in mind that the ‘greenhouse effect’ is a non-human effect which has been affected by humans.
 
The science of global warming has numerous dimensions. Scientific measurements have revealed the levels of greenhouse gas concentrations in the distant past through ice cores and tree rings, and they have revealed recent and current concentrations through direct measurement. Such measurements have produced the ‘hockey stick’ graph which shows escalating atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations in very recent post-industrialisation times. In this period humans have removed ‘carbon sinks’ by engaging in mass deforestation, whilst simultaneously releasing enormous amounts of fossil fuels from their under-ground storage areas. Given these activities one should not be surprised that the measurements made by scientists have produced the ‘hockey stick’ graph. Scientists are also measuring the polar ice, measuring sea levels, and producing a plethora of computer models which attempt to predict how a warmer atmosphere will change the climate in various regions of the Earth.
 
The science of global warming is well established. I do not doubt the science of global warming. There are those who do doubt the science of global warming. Some people claim that the ‘hockey stick’ effect of recent escalating atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations is caused by ‘natural variation’ rather than by human activities. There are others who accept that humans have caused the ‘hockey stick’ effect, but deny that rising atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations lead to global warming. There are even a few people who deny that the ‘hockey stick’ effect reflects reality, believing that it has been created by the manipulation of data by scientists. There are almost always people with minority views. I myself am convinced by the science of global warming and thus believe that human activity has resulted in an increase in greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, and that such an increase leads to a warmer atmosphere through exacerbating the ‘greenhouse effect’.
 
This book is not about the science of global warming; it is about the bigger picture, the wider situation within which the science of global warming is situated. This wider approach is needed because science has come to dominate the debate concerning global warming, and there are other non-scientific factors which need to be considered, factors which are of crucial significance. The initial domination by science of the global warming debate was inevitable; after all, we only know about the phenomenon because of scientific enquiry. However, the time has come to widen the debate, to widen our understanding of the factors relating to the phenomenon of global warming. The time has come to fully engage with the philosophy of global warming.
 
Of course, non-scientific factors have already been widely discussed concerning the phenomenon of global warming. The science of global warming has established that there is a problem that needs to be addressed. Since this scientific realisation occurred the phenomenon has inevitably encroached into the domains of politics, ethics, economics, psychology, business and engineering.
 
At the international level political leaders frequently meet to draw up protocols and to discuss how to respond to the problem. At the domestic level politicians seek favour with sections of the electorate by saying that they will respond to the problem. Environmental charities have taken up the cause and have sought their own solutions to the problem.
 
In the realm of ethics, discussions take place concerning who is to blame for the problem and who should bear the consequences and financial cost of dealing with the problem; the rich countries might be the historical cause of the problem, but should poorer countries be prohibited from industrialising in the same fossil-fuel intensive way? Should rich countries provide less fossil-fuel intensive technologies to the poorer industrialising countries for the sake of everyone across the planet? What is the fair thing to do?
 
In the realm of economics there are discussions concerning how to get countries and individuals to have lower carbon footprints; we are here in the realm of taxes, subsidies, incentives and tradable permits. Psychologists hone in on the individuals and seek to understand how they can be made to use less resources, how they can change their lifestyles, how they can come to see the connections between their individual actions and the larger planetary problem of global warming. Businesses respond to the problem through presenting an ‘environmentally friendly’ carbon-neutral face in order to attract more custom; they also seek to come up with genuine solutions to the problem such as technologies to help humans cope with a changing and more hostile climate. And engineers are working on a plethora of solutions to deal with the problem; these range from enhanced sea wall defences to technologies to pull carbon dioxide directly out of the atmosphere so that it can be placed (back) in underground storage.
 
The science of global warming has clearly encroached into a wide range of disciplines. What has yet to occur is for the nature of the ‘problem’ itself to be seriously enquired into. The ‘problem’ itself is simply a scientific fact. It is a scientific fact that the temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere is regulated by the ‘greenhouse effect’ and that human activity has resulted in an increase in greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere (as I have already stated, I am convinced that this is a fact). However, a scientific fact such as this, a fact which presents a problem, doesn’t automatically simultaneously present its own solution.
 
A simple way of looking at the situation would be as follows:
 
Scientific Fact = Human activities have increased the carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere.

Problem = If the increase is of a sufficient magnitude global warming will occur to the detriment of both human and non-human life-forms.
 
Solution = Humans need to stop carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere from rising too much.
 
This is not only a simple way of looking at things, it is also surely true. However, the important point is that what exactly the solution to the problem entails is not clear. In other words, there are two ways in which humans might be able to stop carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere from rising too much:

Path 1:   Humans stop emitting, or radically reduce emissions of, carbon into the atmosphere.

Path 2:   Humans use technology to regulate the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
 
I used the phrase ‘might be able to stop’ because according to one line of thought, a line of thought which is barely mentioned in the media, Path 1 is not even a possible solution. There are two different reasons why this might be so. Firstly, the damage has already been done, simply stopping now will have no effect; the action-consequence time-lags mean that carbon dioxide concentrations are set to keep on rising for the foreseeable future whatever we do now. Secondly, we simply cannot stop emitting now; the state of the world (population size and growth, economic trajectories, developing countries industrialising, state of technology) and the human dependency on cheap fossil fuel energy supplies means that Path 1 is nothing more than a pipedream, mere fanciful wishful thinking.
 
Despite this line of thought there is currently a widespread view which pervades the minds of most people – the politicians, the media, the activists, and the general public – that Path 1 is the solution to the problem. Despite the reality of the situation, which is carbon emissions continually rising across the world, and immense future changes already ‘locked in’ through action-consequence time-lags – Path 1 utterly dominates debates concerning the phenomenon. This seems to be the instinctive, almost childlike, response: if the problem is releasing carbon into the atmosphere, the solution has to be to stop releasing carbon into the atmosphere (Path 1).
 
The situation that we face is actually much more complex than is belied by this simple instinctive response. In other words, the question of which path humanity needs to adopt is a very complex question. The appropriate answer to the question requires a consideration of a wide range of both scientific and non-scientific factors. So, there is a scientifically-revealed problem which presents two possible solutions (Path 1 and Path 2). The discovery of the appropriate solution to this problem requires a careful consideration of a number of diverse factors, factors which have not yet been widely considered in relation to the problem. To find the appropriate solution we need to shift our focus from the science and delve deeply into the philosophy of global warming.



Get the whole book here: 

The Philosophy of Global Warming




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Monday, 31 March 2014

My New Book




In recent weeks I have been very busy putting the finishing touches on a new book which is called 'The Philosophy of Global Warming'. I have now finished the book and am happy to let you know that it will be published on the 2 April 2014. I am very excited about this book and will put some excerpts from it onto this blog in the near future. For now I will just share with you the book description:

 

 

This is my most comprehensive and definitive work. In it you will learn:

 

What the philosophy of global warming is and why it is of great importance.


Why the decision-making process concerning the appropriate human response to global warming requires a consideration of the evolutionary forces which propel the planet.


Why cutting fossil fuel emissions is a futile exercise.


What the human species is and how it relates to the non-human life-forms of the Earth.


Why the human species has a special place in the universe and how this is related to global warming.


What it means to say that your life has a purpose.


Why the evolution of technology and the evolution of spirituality are deeply interconnected.


Why there is an urgent need for the technological regulation of the temperature of the Earth's atmosphere.


 

The book has 3 parts. Part 1 contains 12 chapters each of which contains a particular theme which is of relevance to the philosophy of global warming. Taken as a whole this part of the book can be thought of as providing a detailed overview of my philosophical worldview. Part 2 is a lengthy dialogue in which I respond to an Objector who poses 86 questions, queries and objections relating to my philosophical worldview. Part 3 contains 37 articles which expand on particular topics relating to the philosophy of global warming. I hope that by the end of the book you will have a clear understanding concerning your, and our, place in the universe and how this relates to global warming.

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Monday, 10 February 2014

Extreme Weather Events & Global Warming


I am writing this article in February 2014 in the midst of what many people are calling ‘extreme’ weather events in the UK. It has certainly been very stormy, with the highest amount of rainfall in the period since records began. Strong winds and abnormally high rainfall has led to coastal flooding and damage, and to numerous rivers bursting their banks. Many homes in the Somerset Levels have been flooded for over a month and there is currently no railway connection from Devon and Cornwall to the rest of the UK due to extensive storm damage to the railway infrastructure.
 
You won’t be surprised to learn that many people are wondering whether there is a link between these ‘extreme’ weather events and human activities on the planet. To be a little more exact, the issue that keeps popping up in the media is whether there is a link between these ‘extreme’ weather events and human-induced global warming. However, the issue of real importance is slightly different to this. The issue of real importance is surely whether there is a link between these ‘extreme’ weather events and global warming (the aggregate of non-human induced global warming and human-induced global warming). If there is a causal link between these ‘extreme’ weather events and global warming, then this means that the immediate technological regulation of the atmospheric temperature would have immediate benefits; it would enable global warming to be stopped in its tracks and would thereby stop an escalation of ‘extreme’ weather events in the immediate future.

The mainstream view seems to be that these ‘extreme’ weather events are probably caused by, or are at least made more severe by, global warming, but that this cannot be known for sure. It certainly seems to be a fact that a warmer atmosphere will cause a change in the climate in various parts of the Earth, and that this change will include weather events which people consider to be ‘extreme’ compared to what came before. However, when it comes to the current weather events in the UK, one cannot conclude with certainty that the cause of these events is global warming. So, we are left with the mainstream view that the causal link is a ‘probable’ one.

Saying that something is ‘probable’, as is widely done with regards to this possible causal link, isn’t particularly satisfactory. This could mean that the degree of certainty in the causal link is 50.1 per cent, or it could mean that the degree of certainty in the causal link is 99.9 per cent. Can we make any progress in thinking about the nature of this causal link?

The first thing to consider is timescales. People inevitably have a very short-term memory, because in the bigger scheme of things people don’t live very long. The climate in the UK, and the associated nature of the weather events (‘extreme’ or ‘mild’) in particular locations, has varied immensely in the past. Over medium to long timescales big changes in climate are normal; such change is inevitable; such change is to be expected. When ‘extreme’ weather events occur they are typically labelled as such because people cannot recall many, if any, similar events in the handful of decades that they have been alive. Our cumulative weather records themselves only go back a few hundred years. Considerations such as these seem to lend weight to the idea that the current weather events which have been labelled ‘extreme’ are actually normal weather events; they are not caused by global warming.

However, this conclusion doesn’t immediately follow. After all, global warming has been a phenomenon affecting the climate of the Earth since the Earth was formed. At a broad scale, the entire history of the Earth can be seen from the perspective of the interplay between non-human-induced global warming (the increasing output of the Sun) and responses to this phenomenon made on the Earth (responses which result in the homeostatic regulation of the atmospheric temperature). This interplay has inevitably been one of the main factors changing the climate (thereby generating ‘extreme’ weather) in particular parts of the Earth over decades, hundreds of years, and thousands of years. So, we cannot think of any ‘extreme’ weather event as being wholly divorced from global warming. Furthermore, this interplay has reached the stage in which the Earth’s (non-technological) homeostatic regulatory capacity is weakening; given this current state of weakness, this current difficulty in ‘smooth’/‘easy’ regulation of the atmospheric temperature, an increase in climate variability can be expected. In other words, the current ‘extreme’ weather events can be causally linked to non-human-induced global warming, not just to global warming.

The second thing to consider is that we are currently living through the epoch of technological birthing. This entails the coming of a point of realisation for the human species:


  • The realisation of the extent of the perturbations that the human species has made to the Earth.

This point is followed by three further realisations:
  • The realisation that the human species needs to deploy
    technology to regulate the atmospheric temperature of the Earth.

  • The realisation that this is a wonderful thing for the totality that is life on Earth.

  • The realisation that such regulation is the purpose of the
    human species.

 
There is a gap between the initial realisation – the realisation of the extent of the perturbations – and the three later realisations. We are currently in this gap. Within this gap there is confusion about our place on the planet and our relationship to non-human life-forms. Within this gap there are also forces in play which seek to stimulate our progression to the later realisations. One of these forces is an increased number and severity of ‘extreme’ weather events. There are two factors of importance here:
 
 
1.  The increase in the number and the severity of ‘extreme’ weather events caused by the reality of the perturbations caused to the biogeochemical cycles of the Earth by human activities in tandem with non-human-induced global warming.

2.  Human concern that particular ‘extreme’ weather events are caused by human activities.


Either, or both, of these factors can stimulate our progression to the later realisations. The second of these factors is in play in the UK at the moment. The ‘extreme’ weather currently affecting the UK could have no causal link to global warming or human activities, yet this isn’t important, it is the concern itself which can be a catalyst to the later realisations. In other words, the concern might or might not be reflected in reality and the reality isn’t important; in this case being a catalyst is more important than the truth.

Let us now consider the first of these factors. One thing seems to be certain: If the human species is ‘slow on the uptake’, if it does not move speedily to the later realisations, if it ignores the concerns, if it doesn’t push ahead with the technological regulation of the atmospheric temperature, then the first of these two factors will become more severe and pronounced until we get the message. In other words, the longer we delay technologically regulating the atmospheric temperature, the more ‘extreme’ weather events we will be letting occur; we will effectively be ‘inviting’ them to occur. So, whilst there is no certainty concerning the cause of the current ‘extreme’ weather events in the UK, there is certainty that global warming will cause a plethora of such events in the future if we are not successfully technologically regulating the Earth’s atmospheric temperature.


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Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Two Categories of Environmental Problems


Today I would like to elucidate the relationship between technology and the environmental crisis. I will outline the three stages of the technological birthing process. I will then explain why there are two categories of environmental problems, which are delineated by the role that technology plays in solving environmental problems.

 

In my philosophy I refer to technology as a ‘package deal’. When life on a planet becomes technological it gains immense benefits but it also has to endure a painful period of technological birthing in which technology brings a great number of harms. These harms are the ‘price to pay’ for the much greater immense benefits which technology brings. We can think of the technological birthing process as having three stages.
 
In the first stage technology brings both widespread benefits and harms which affect both humans and non-human life. These are very varied; the benefits include medical technologies which can save the lives of human and non-human life-forms and telecommunications technologies which enable humans to communicate more efficiently; the harms include illness caused by technological pollution and the deaths of multitudes of human and non-life-forms due to the operations of, and accidents involved in, the use of cars, buses, airplanes and a plethora of other technologies. In this stage it is not clear whether overall technology is ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

In the second stage the technological birthing process reaches its fruition and the immense benefits of technology for planetary life manifest themselves. It is now clear that overall technology has immense benefits.

In the third stage the harms caused by technology are reduced as humans learn to reign in the dangers of various technologies through greater understanding, better design and wiser deployment. These three stages can be thought of as the unfolding of the technological ‘package deal’.

The environmental problems that constitute the environmental crisis can also be thought of as a ‘package deal’. This is because when life becomes technological a vast array of environmental problems will arise, and these problems have the same (technological) cause. However, there is a widespread tendency to mentally package all environmental issues into a single category and assume that they all have the same kind of solution. At one extreme there are a great many people who believe that, when it comes to environmental issues, technology and human intervention are both wholly bad; for these people the solution to all environmental problems involves reducing technological deployment/human intervention. You will hear these people say things like: “How could the solution to a problem possibly be more of what caused the problem?!” At the other extreme are those who believe that technology provides the solution to all environmental problems; for these people the solution to all environmental problems is more of what caused the problem in the first place.
 
I am convinced that these two extreme views, which are surprisingly common and widespread, are both wrong. We shouldn’t put all environmental problems into a single category and then adopt a blanket view concerning whether or not technology is the solution. The first thing that we need to do is to create two categories of environmental problems. The first category contains human-induced global warming. The second category contains all of the other environmental problems. This division is a central part of my philosophy. The basis of this division is that the only solution to the first category problem is a technological solution. In contrast, all of the second category environmental problems could have either a technological or a non-technological solution. In this category there is scope for choice; we can ponder: “Shall we aim for a technological solution, a non-technological solution, or a mixture of the two, for this particular environmental problem?” We have no such choice when it comes to the realm of global warming – the environmental problem that is human-induced global warming in tandem with non-human induced global warming. To this problem, there is ultimately, at the end of the day, only a technological solution.

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Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Some Questions and Objections

When people come across my philosophical worldview for the first time they often get the wrong impression. The reason for this seems to be that they interpret what I am saying from within the confines of an alternative worldview, a worldview which is narrow and flawed. To get the right impression these people need to start afresh and free themselves from the constrictions which have shaped their previous thought processes. In order to aid this 'freeing' it is useful for these people to pose questions and objections which I can answer. Here are some such questions and objections:
 
 
Objector: Humans are obviously a destructive force on the planet. Just look around you, there is human destruction everywhere. We are on the brink of initiating another mass extinction of life on the planet. How can you possibly say that we are the saviours of life?


NPC: The history of human thought concerning how humans relate to the wider cosmos has been pervaded by two extremes – either humans have a uniquely special and joyous place in the cosmos, or humans exist in a ‘fallen’ state (as in the Garden of Eden interpretation of the human condition). These two extremes have their own contemporary incarnations relating to the environmental crisis. At one extreme, humanity is the saviour of life on Earth (this would be a Noah’s Ark ‘technological’ interpretation of the place of humanity in an evolving cosmos); at the other extreme, humans are the destroyers of life on Earth. This long-standing dichotomy of ‘two extremes’ can be transcended. Due to being the bringers forth of technology humans are the destroyers of some of the life-forms of the Earth. Yet, simultaneously, humans are ultimately, and most fundamentally, the saviours of life on Earth. Far from the simple either/or dichotomy, the reality of the situation is both/and. Humans destroy in order to save.




Objector: People who actually care about Life on Earth are not wrapped up in narcissistic fantasies of human conquest; they are against geoengineering.


NPC: This is wholly unhelpful. Lots of people with very diverse views about what course of action we should take actually care about Life on Earth. The real issue is not caring; it is the realisation that the survival of complex life on Earth requires the geoengineering of the temperature of the atmosphere. A planet can be wholly populated by individuals who care about life on that planet, yet because these individuals lack this realisation their actions can lead to that life becoming decimated.




Objector: I believe that all species and all cosmological processes are in a state of becoming the next stage of creative evolution, creating the next opportunity for the next cosmological leap. Why should I believe that the human species is the end point of planetary evolution?


NPC: To see that the human species is the zenith of the evolutionary progression of life on any life-bearing planet one needs to have an adequate conceptualisation of what the human species is. For me, the human species is the bringer forth of technology; which means that it is also that part of a planet which considers itself to be not natural (this is a requirement for developing technology). In other words, the zenith of the evolution of life is to bring forth technology to ensure the continuation of that life. Once this zenith has been reached evolution will continue; species will go extinct and new species will evolve. To appreciate that there is a zenith to the evolutionary progression of life on Earth isn’t to believe that evolution will simply stop when the zenith has been reached. Indeed, it is precisely the attainment of the zenith itself that enables evolution to continue.
 

 

Objector: Is the purpose of human life "geoengineering"? No. From the perspective of modern evolutionary theory, life, including human life, is accidental and without purpose -- of any kind. "Life" (whatever that may be) just is and happens. Any presumed human "purpose" is purely arbitrary and is a social construction, it can be argued for but it cannot be established as THE, or even A, purpose.


NPC: The view that human life is accidental and without purpose is itself a social construction. Modern evolutionary theory is not wholly false, but it is a woefully incomplete picture of the way that the universe, and the part of the universe that is life, evolves through time. What we really need is a more comprehensive view of the plethora of forces that are involved in the evolutionary process. You are right that establishing that the human species has a purpose is not easy, but that does not mean that such a claim is not true.




Objector: You place humans at the peak of creation, when the reality is that this is not the case; humans exist in a relationship of interdependence with all that is.


NPC: This is a simple false dichotomy. It makes perfect sense to be at the peak of an interdependent planetary life/planet/cosmos.


 

Objector: The human species needs to give up its compulsion to dominate and control.


NPC: No it doesn’t. It needs to accept that it is the peak of creation; it needs to accept that its purpose is to technologically control the temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere; it needs to accept that it is the saviour of life on Earth. If your ‘giving up’ wish came true, then we would have given up on life on Earth and the future would be dreadfully bleak.



Objector: You seem to believe that humans are the only valuable life-form on the planet!


NPC: No. I believe that all of life is exceptionally valuable in itself; in other words, the value of a life-form has nothing to do with human valuation and interests. The very fact that a life-form exists means that a precious thing exists. However, I believe that there are different levels of value within life-forms. I believe that sensations and feelings pervade the universe, existing in both the living and the non-living. In the realm of the living are plants which contain feelings but do not contain any awareness of these feelings. There is a slightly fuzzy boundary between plants and animals, and there may be a few exceptions to the rule, but animals can be thought of as life-forms which have awareness of their feelings. This awareness means that animals can suffer, whereas plants cannot suffer. For me, this means that animals are more valuable life-forms than plants; they are more deserving of our respect than are plants. Within the realm of animals there is a division between the human species and all other animals on the Earth; the human species is the most valuable life-form on the Earth. The reason for this is that the human species is that part of life which has become technological, and therefore it is the only life-form which can save the totality that is ‘life on Earth’ from extinction.


Some people believe that if one accepts that all life is valuable then it immediately follows that the human species should ‘rein in’ its involvement with the Earth, that it should reduce its population size and its resource use; that humans should use less technology, stop modifying habitats and ‘leave things to nature’. This does not immediately follow. Having respect for all life-forms, valuing all life-forms, does not in itself lead straight to a particular conclusion concerning the appropriate way that humans should interact with the Earth.




Objector: Do you think that we have a responsibility to ‘future generations’?


NPC: I prefer to think of the ‘future existence of planetary life’, rather than of ‘future generations’. However, I will answer your question in terms of ‘future generations’. The answer is: Yes. If we ignore ‘future generations’ of humans and non-human life-forms, if we focus solely on the interests of the life-forms that are currently alive on the Earth, then we can consider what the most appropriate course of action would be. Given that there are uncertainties and risks in the realm of geoengineering, and given that the serious time-lag effects resulting from previous actions don’t start until around the end of this century, there would be a strong case for not geoengineering the temperature of the atmosphere. In other words, if we are wholly selfish, and are only concerned about our own existence (the existence of life-forms currently in existence), then the optimal course of action seems to be to avoid all possible risks to our own existence.


However, as soon as we bring ‘future generations’ into consideration then everything changes. If we care about the future existence of life on Earth then we need to take responsibility for the future. We need to accept the risks and uncertainties arising from geoengineering in our own lifetimes in order to enable the existence of ‘future generations’. In short, we owe it to ‘future generations’ to geoengineer the temperature of the atmosphere. To not do so would be extremely selfish.



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