The Philosophy of Global Warming

If you are interested in the relationship between the human species and the rest of life on Earth, individual and collective human purpose, evolution, cosmology, the nature of reality, astrology, spirituality, and how all of this relates to global warming & the environmental crisis of modernity, then I am sure that you will like my new book 'The Philosophy of Global Warming'. In the post 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

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

A brief summary of the journey

I have just filled out my profile form on the MAHB website (Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere) and I thought I would put what I wrote there here:

"Over the past decade my academic journey has taken me from the discipline of environmental studies which is largely grounded in science & politics (BSc), to environmental philosophy which is largely grounded in ethics (MA), and finally to philosophy (PhD) where I considered the largely unquestioned metaphysical assumptions which underpin the question of how humans can achieve a sustainable and equitable future. Whilst there are many diverse aspects to the achievement of such a future, my main conclusion is that a central aspect of such a future is that humans need to actively regulate the temperature of the Earth's atmosphere. I am seeking to explain why I believe this to be so through both my blog and my books."


Sunday, 13 November 2011

A tale of two forces

No postings for a while as I've been away quite a lot. In October I spent two and a half weeks on Holy Isle:

When I returned and got around to checking my email I found this link in my inbox:

These two things - the aim for a simple and sustainable lifestyle on Holy Isle, and the phenomenon of 'irreversible climate change" might, at first glance, seem to be opposed.

Of course, if you have read my book Is the Human Species Special?: Why human-induced global warming could be in the interests of life then you will realise that these two things seem to epitomise the 2 forces which I outline:

'Irreversible climate change' = the force to environmental destruction

'Holy Isle' = the force to environmental sustainability

On Holy Isle they are seeking to be as self-sufficient as possible in terms of energy generation and food production. Compared to the average 'western lifestyle' the inhabitants have a low carbon footprint. The Holy Isle Project is undoubtedly part of the force to environmental sustainability, and it is worth bearing in mind that there are many advanced technologies on the Isle. Mobile phones, televisions, computers, electricity generators, a kitchen full of gadgets and appliances. The drive for sustainability and technology sit very well together.

On the other hand, at the global level, the force to environmental destruction has ALREADY brought us to the point where the forces have been set in motion which lead to irreversible climate change (the link to the Nov 2011 Guardian article above seemingly more confirmation of my claim in "Is the Human Species Special?").

As time progresses the need for geoengineering will become clear to all. I hope that enough preparations will have been made so that the switch to geoengineering the temperature of the Earth's atmosphere can happen speedily; if not, the suffering to the life-forms of the Earth will be higher than it could have been.

Let me clarify and conclude the tale of two forces. There are many different aspects to the phenomenon of sustainability. Sustainability at the planetary level requires the GMST to be in a certain range and as the homeostatic regulatory capacity of the Earth continues to weaken this requires human geoengineering of the temperature of the Earth's atmosphere. The yearning for survival (which I started to explore in the previous post) has propelled the force to environmental destruction to the point where this geoengineering is about to occur.

There are other elements to a sustainable, peaceful, harmonious and living Earth. As the force to environmental sustainability continues to grow, through projects such as Holy Isle, sustainability in terms of water use, and total resource use per head will slowly be attained. In short, there are two realms of sustainability - sustainability of the atmosphere & sustainability at the surface of the Earth. The first realm requires a technological geoengineering solution; the second realm has a more debatable role for technology. Some would say that sustainability at the surface of the Earth is easier to achieve without technology; however, there seems certain to be a role for technology in this realm too.

My main interest is in the first realm (sustainability of the atmosphere). This is why in What Does it Mean to be 'Green'?: Sustainability, Respect & Spirituality I claim that high human resource use in the past is 'green'. High human resource use was required to develop technology and thereby enable the sustainability of the atmosphere through geoengineering. In the second realm (considered in isolation) high human resource use is not so obviously 'green' (however, in the longer term the survival of the life which has arisen on the Earth clearly requires technology to leave the planet - so the need for technology is not simply to geoengineer the first - atmospheric - realm).


Tuesday, 13 September 2011

The Nature of the Universe

In order to fully appreciate why there is a need for geoengineering, and why the purpose of the human species is to fulfil such a need, one needs to think about the nature of the universe and the place of life within the universe.

Let me say a few words about the postings that are appearing in this blog. I have what might usefully be referred to as a 'complete picture' of the place of humans in the cosmos and the relationship between humans and the cosmos. This 'complete picture' can be thought of as a reasonably large jigsaw with lots of different pieces. It is impossible for me to instantaneously gift you with the 'complete picture'; all I can attempt to do is present you with one piece of the jigsaw at a time. Each posting is an individual piece. It is unlikely that on encountering a single piece of a jigsaw that you will assert: "I can see the complete image/picture". My hope is that when enough of the pieces are in place that you will be able to see the wonder that is the 'complete picture'.

So, what is the nature of the universe? You might believe that humans are simply not able to answer this question. Indeed, it would seemingly be foolish to claim that one knows with one hundred percent certainty what the nature of the universe is. Nevertheless, humans clearly have perceptual access to part of the universe, and are able to observe certain movements within the universe. On the basis of such observations it is reasonable to draw some conclusions concerning the likely nature of the universe.

One of the main conclusions which one can draw is that the universe is 'purposeful'. There is much to be said about why this is so, why you can see that this is so for yourself, and what this means when fully elucidated. These are all pieces of the jigsaw! To say that the universe is 'purposeful' is to say that the universe has a particular aim/objective/goal (our consideration of the phenomena of mind, consciousness, awareness and thought is a long way off, but to avoid confusion it is worth noting that to say that the universe is 'purposeful' is not to say that it is minded, or conscious, or aware, or thinking). To say that the universe is 'purposeful', that it has a particular aim/objective/goal, is simply to agree with Aristotle that:

"There is something divine, good, and desirable… [that matter] desire[s] and yearn[s] for"

What is the nature of the universe? The universe is an entity which desires and yearns for something "divine, good, and desirable. It is this desiring/yearning which underpins the evolution of the universe (in both what we call the 'living' and the 'non-living' parts of the universe). The purpose of the universe is to attain a 'good and desirable state', to attain that which is 'yearned for'.

I will be presenting a view of humans in the cosmos in which both 'life', and that part of life that is 'humans', are states of the universe that were yearned for because they are parts of the universe that are divine, good and desirable.

By the way, the above consideration of the nature of the universe contains some excerpts from my forthcoming book:


Tuesday, 6 September 2011

The Need for Geoengineering - a clarification

In the previous posting "Two Routes to the Need for Geoengineering" I might have given the impression that there is a doubt as to whether or not there is a need for geoengineering. However, if the life which has arisen on the Earth is to survive there is very little doubt about this need. The only real question concerns the timescale within which the need exists.

To see this let me say a few words about the 'environmental crisis'. It is easy to make the mistake of believing that before humans had a significant impact on the Earth that the Earth was in some kind of 'static' state. According to this view, the Earth (and life on Earth in particular) was in a perfectly 'happy' and 'stable' state until humans started having a significant impact on the Earth; when this impact arose then humans 'disturbed this static state' by 'destabilising' the systems and cycles of the biosphere. The first thing to appreciate is that there is actually no such thing as a 'static' Earth. The Earth is an evolving and ageing whole. When the Earth was in its 'youthful' stage of evolution life spread out over the entire planet and was almost effortlessly maintaining the conditions of the Earth to keep them favourable for its continued existence. The Earth aged out of its youthful stage a long time ago. Life on Earth is now in a stage in which it is in peril (see Sir James Lovelock on this - Gaia, The Ages of Gaia, The Revenge of Gaia). In the future the ageing process will have reached the stage in which the Earth is unable to sustain any life. The youthful exuberance of a young Earth gives way to decay and death.

The only way in which the Earth as a whole can escape such a death is if humans somehow find a way to move the Earth to a more youthful part of the universe (via very advanced technology); and it is hard to take such a possibility seriously. It is more plausible that the life which has arisen on the Earth could survive by leaving the Earth and travelling to a distant part of the universe via human technology - a highly advanced spaceship - in a Noah's Ark type scenario. The future survival of the life that has arisen on the Earth clearly depends on human technology.

The considerations in the previous paragraph apply to the distant future. Let us now consider the more immediate survival prospects for the life that has arisen on the Earth. This is a complex issue with many aspects; I cannot go into all of these aspects here (they will appear at some stage in future blogs, and I have written 3 books in which I try to cover all of these aspects). There is one thing that is crystal clear. If there is no geoengineering then the Earth will become devoid of life much sooner (and seemingly very very much sooner) than if such geoengineering occurs. The non-technological ability of the ageing Earth to keep the conditions of the Earth favourable for complex life-forms is already weakening due to the ageing process. However, just as with an individual human, technology can extend life. If humans can successfully geoengineer the Earth (in particular the temperature of the atmosphere) then the life-forms of the Earth can look forward to a long and rosy future. If not, there is just a downward spiral of decay and death.

So, there is no doubt about the need for geoengineering. The only question is when such geoengineering is required. If the human perturbations to the cycles of the Earth hadn't occurred there would probably be quite a few thousand years before complex life on Earth died. The human movement of fossil fuels from their underground storage areas to the temporary storage areas of the slow moving deep ocean currents (the thermohaline circulation) leads me to believe that we have, at most, until the year 3000 to be successfully geoengineering the temperature of the Earth's atmosphere.

There is no certainty about the date; there is just certainty about the need.


Saturday, 3 September 2011

Two Routes to the Need for Geoengineering

My belief that the evolution of the 'human' was 'inevitable' is intimately connected to my belief that humans need to geoengineer the temperature of the Earth's atmosphere. However, there are two different routes which one can travel which transport one to this destination. Today I would like to briefly introduce you to these two routes.

The first route is embedded within a particular view of the universe as a whole. One can believe that the entire universe is a purposefully evolving and unfolding entity and that geoengineering is a part of this unfolding. According to this view the universe seeks to evolve life wherever possible and life then sets out on its own journey towards complexification, maintaining itself, technology, geoengineering and ultimately spreading out from its host planet to other parts of the universe. This view entails that the evolution of the 'human' was 'inevitable'. For an initial insight into the view that the universe is a purposefully evolving whole you could take a look at my paper on Friedrich Holderlin and the Environmental Crisis:

The second route is free of any philosophical baggage concerning views of the universe as a whole. This route is based solely on environmental science. The perturbations that humans have been made to the systems of the Earth, but which have not yet become manifest (the elastic band has become nearly fully stretched but has not yet been released) necessitate the need for geoengineering; if this doesn't occur all complex life on Earth will die when the effects become manifest in the near future (before the year 3000). The current limits of human understanding concerning the way that the systems of the Earth operate mean that other interpretations are possible; one could believe that we have until after the year 3000 to geoengineer the temperature of the Earth's atmosphere, or that the systems are so robust that there is no need. My interpretation is that there is a need for geoengineering before the year 3000.

I will be further considering both of these routes. I should stress that the second route is a part of the first route; in other words, the human realisation that they have perturbed the systems of the Earth to such an extent that the only option is to geoengineer the temperature of the Earth's atmosphere is a stage in the evolution of the universe as a whole. Clearly, the second route can also be self-standing.

By the way, in case you haven't noticed it, there is a box below which you can enter your email address in if you would like to be notified when new blogs evolve.


Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Was the cosmic bringing forth of humans 'inevitable'?

Today I would like to briefly consider the question of whether the cosmic bringing forth of humans was inevitable. This question, when fully elucidated, clearly has an answer (either yes or no); however, it is questionable whether humans can know with certainty what the answer is. Let us elucidate the question. There are two elements to the question. Firstly, what is a 'human'? Secondly, what does it mean to talk of 'inevitability'?

Let me start by considering the notion of 'inevitability'. According to conventional wisdom the cosmic bringing forth of humans was not 'inevitable' because the paths which biological evolution takes are not 'directed' towards a particular outcome. According to this view, biological evolution is simply a process through which the 'fittest' life-forms survive. If one believes this then it is hard to also believe that one particular life-form - the 'human' was 'inevitable' from the first moment that life evolved on the Earth. One can believe that biological evolution is driven by the 'fittest' and also believe that there is a tendency for the evolutionary paths to head towards complexity. However, to believe this is to believe a very different thing from believing that the heading towards complexity is a heading towards one particular form - the 'human'.

So, according to conventional wisdom the 'human' is not inevitable because the evolutionary paths that life has taken on the Earth could have been very different. You will probably have heard people assert something along the following lines: "Things could have turned out differently, if the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs had missed the Earth then the evolution of life on Earth would have been very different; dinosaurs could still be the dominant life-force on the planet and humans would not have evolved." There is still debate about what exactly caused the end of the 'dinosaur era', but the general point is simply that biological evolution is a process which is pervaded with contingency. Life is evolving in a particular direction, then some 'freak event' such as a meteor strike radically changes that direction.

There is clearly a sense, due to these 'freak events', in which the past (and present and future) evolutionary paths which life has taken are not inevitable. The biological evolutionary paths could surely have been different. Our question is not whether biological evolutionary paths are inevitable (could not have been different), it is whether they are 'inevitable'. To say that these paths are 'inevitable' is to say that they are themselves heading in a particular direction. 'Freak events' are outside influences which can temporarily cause a deviation from the pre-existing evolutionary trajectory; however, once knocked off course, the evolutionary paths can reassemble and head back towards the direction which they were previously heading in. So, to believe in 'inevitability' is not to believe that evolutionary paths could not have been different, it is simply to believe that evolutionary paths are heading in a particular direction.

Consider an analogy. John is attempting to drive from Glasgow to London, and he is absolutely desperate to get to London. When he leaves Glasgow there is a sense in which it is 'inevitable' that he will arrive in London. This 'inevitability' does not entail that the path which John takes to get from Glasgow to London is inevitable. If things go smoothly then he will take the route he planned in advance. But he could encounter roadblocks and/or accidents ('freak events') which cause his path to be very different. Despite his desperation it is also not inevitable that he will arrive in London (the stress caused by his desperation to get to London could cause the ultimate 'freak event' - the death of John).

So, to believe that the cosmic bringing forth of the 'human' was 'inevitable' is to believe that the biological evolutionary paths of life on Earth were always heading towards the 'human'. There are many possible paths to this destination, and the destination itself was not inevitable (just 'inevitable'). Let us move from 'inevitability' and consider that which is hypothesised to be 'inevitable' - the 'human'. What is a 'human'? The answer seems to be obvious: humans are a species of animal which inhabit the Earth; they typically have two arms, two legs, a torso and a head. This is how we typically think of the 'human' as a member of a particular biological species - the 'human species'. I don't have this conception of 'human' in mind - simply a member of a biological species with a head, torso, arms and legs - when I consider whether the 'human' was 'inevitable'. I have in mind a different conception of 'human': the essence of what we call 'humans' is not their torso, arms, head and legs. The 'human' is marked out by the way it sees itself compared to its surroundings, it is marked out by the particular way that it thinks, it is marked out by its actions - such as engaging in science and developing technology.

When I say that the 'human' was 'inevitable' I don't mean that a particular biological arrangement of limbs was 'inevitable'. I mean that this way of seeing itself, this way of thinking, these 'unique' actions, were inevitable.

Was the cosmic bringing forth of humans 'inevitable'? I believe that it was. There are many reasons which lead to this conclusion and I will consider the first of them very soon.


Saturday, 27 August 2011

Humans in the Cosmos

What is the relationship between humans and the cosmos? Humans are part of the cosmos; humans are in the cosmos; humans 'are' the cosmos. The cosmos is an evolving entity which has brought forth humans. There are many questions which we need to consider:

Was the cosmic bringing forth of humans 'inevitable'?

What does it mean to be 'human'? Is being human being part of a 'biological species'? Or is being human being a part of the cosmos that has a 'special' relationship with the cosmos?

What does it mean to say that the cosmos has a 'living part' and a 'non-living' part?

Is the notion of a 'species' purely a human conceptualisation?

Are there any 'objects' in the cosmos in-itself? The alternative being that all objects require being conceptualised as objects in order to exist.

Is there directionality in evolution? Are there 'forces' which propel the evolution of the non-living and the living cosmos along a particular trajectory?

Does technology have a cosmic purpose?

Are humans the 'saviour' of life on Earth or the 'enemy' of life on Earth?

Does the environmental crisis and human-induced global warming have a cosmic purpose?

How similar are humans to the cosmos that evolved them? Could it be the case that qualitative feeling, and other human attributes, pervade the cosmos?

How much knowledge can humans have of the nature of the cosmos?

How many senses does a typical human have and are there senses in the 'non-living' cosmos?

What, if anything, makes humans unique?

Is geoengineering the purpose of the human species?

What does it mean for the human species, and for individual humans, to be 'green'?

We will be considering these, and many other related issues, in the near future...