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

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Technology and Stewardship

Two recent newspaper articles highlight the one-sided way that contemporary religious authorities have come to view environmental issues. The first article is ‘Fracking risks God’s creation, says Church’ by James Kirkup, which appeared in The Daily Telegraph (14 August 2013, p. 1). According to this article, a leaflet published by the Church of England Diocese of Blackburn states that “Fracking causes a range of environmental problems” and that believers should consider their Christian duty to act as “stewards of the Earth” in order to protect “God’s glorious creation” from fracking. The leaflet also states that “succeeding generations” will suffer if “the Church remain[s]
uninformed and silent” on the issue.

The second article is ‘Reduce impact on climate or we disinvest, CofE warns companies’ by Sam Jones, which appeared in The Guardian (13 February 2014, p. 11). According to this article:

The Church of England has said that it will, as a last resort, pull its investments from companies that fail to do enough to fight the “great demon” of climate change and ignore the church’s theological, moral and social priorities.

… the Rev Canon Professor Richard Burridge, told the General Synod that… “Pointing the finger at the extractive industries avoids the fundamental problem which is our selfishness and our way of life, which has been fuelled by plentiful, cheap

I will explain why this way of looking at environmental issues is one-sided. These assertions are based on the assumption that the Destroyer Worldview is true. This assumption gives rise to a particular interpretation of what it means for humans to be “stewards of the Earth”. This assumption (that the Destroyer Worldview is true) is widespread in contemporary society, but one might have expected religious authorities to explore a different view, given that central to all religions is the importance of the human species, the specialness of the human species. That humans rightly have dominion over the resources of the Earth, that such dominion, such domination (a side-effect of which is the environmental impacts that it creates) is a good thing, is central to most religions. This is explicitly stated in the Bible and in many other religious texts. Such a view of rightful human domination leads to the Saviour Worldview, which is the opposite of the Destroyer Worldview.

Surely, one would think, religions such as the Church of England should be “informed” by their historical religious texts, rather than being “informed” by a particular contemporary social construction which is peddled by the scientists, environmentalists, politicians and activists of the day. Yet, when it comes to environmental issues it seems, based on the newspaper articles quoted above, that the religious texts have either been cast aside or reinterpreted in accordance with the dominant contemporary worldview (the Destroyer Worldview). In this case, the Church’s desire to be “informed” seems to mean listening to what scientists and activists/protesters are saying, and giving this priority over what is said in their religious texts relating to the rightful dominion/domination of humanity.

If one initially approaches environmental issues not from the scientific/activist approach (the Destroyer Worldview), but from the theological/religious approach, then one can see things differently. However, the religious authorities seem happy to simply unquestioningly go along with the scientific/activist approach. In other words, they simply accept that human environmental perturbations and human stewardship of the planet are polar opposites rather than complementary.

If you look at many ancient religious texts for insight into the nature of the human/non-human relationship then the key phrase is ‘human stewardship of the Earth’/‘human dominion over the non-human life-forms of the Earth’. The scientific/activist interpretation of stewardship is that human technology is an evil, an encroachment on nature, an offence to (God’s) creation/life. Contemporary religious authorities seem to have simply bought into this view. However, they need not, and they surely should not.

The religious texts offer a more compelling view of ‘human stewardship’; a view according to which human technology is actually a ‘gift from God’. Indeed, in this view, technology is the most precious part of God’s creation, and humans, as the bringers forth of technology, are the most precious part of the Earth. God is the original creator, the bringer forth of the Universe; on Earth humans are the creators, the bringers forth of technology. So, humans have a special relationship with God and a special place on the planet.

If you look at the Bible, you will find that humans are special because of their technological abilities. When you read about Noah’s Ark you will realise that the human technological ability to create, to bring forth The Ark, was a wondrous event which enabled humans to save the non-technological life-forms of the Earth. Technology is the saviour of life. I believe Noah’s Ark to be a prophetic account. The human purpose on the Earth is to develop technology for the benefit of life on Earth. This is what ‘human stewardship’ entails.

What this means is that the development and deployment of technology is a fundamental part of human stewardship. Only certain technologies are required to fulfil God’s purpose, but when the technological genie is released its development leads into all sorts of creations (nuclear power, fracking, airplanes, cars, submarines). Environmental problems are simply a deleterious side-effect of this purpose, this greater good, this bringing forth, this epoch of foretold human stewardship. In other words, environmental problems are a fundamental part of the human stewardship of the Earth; they are not antithetical to it.

I would urge religious authorities to consider the various interpretations of ‘human stewardship’ that exist; I would urge them to consider how the view that I have just outlined is supported by their religious texts. This would surely be much more fruitful than getting “informed” through the limited and skewed assumptions of scientists, politicians and environmental activists.


Monday, 12 August 2013

The Environmental Crisis & the Colonization of Space

A few days ago I came across a copy of the Resurgence & Ecologist magazine which was published late last year (September/October 2012, No. 274). In this magazine there was one article which I think completely misses the point. In 'The Great Space Myth' (pp. 54-5), John Naish attempts to convince the reader that "the empty promise of space colonies only encourages the continuing ruin of the one planet we can inhabit". Naish claims that:
"such lofty ambition [to establish human space colonies] has a shadow side because it gives us permission to act as bad tenants of the planet we already live on. It encourages our species' habit of rapaciously destroying those ecosystems that support us only to abandon that mess and find new virgin territory to despoil."

It is the claim that the human activities (past and present) that have resulted in the 'environmental crisis' of modernity have been "encouraged" and "given permission by" the following belief that I find to be highly implausible; well, not highly implausible, just plain wrong:

The Belief:   If we change the Earth's biosphere to such an extent that it becomes uninhabitable then we can move to a space colony.

There is an 'environmental crisis' because this term is a concept created by humans to refer to a subset of human activities. The 'environmental crisis' has a cause or causes; this cause/s is the reason why humans have acted in the way that they have. What I find to be wrong is Naish's claim that one of the causes of the 'environmental crisis' is 'The Belief' (as detailed above). I believe that the causal roots of the 'environmental crisis' can be traced back to the formation of the Solar System, but many people simply trace the roots back to the Industrial Revolution; this was when the large-scale human modification of the Earth's biosphere was set in motion. I don't think anyone (except possibly Naish) believes that the pioneers of the Industrial Revolution were causally influenced in their activities by 'The Belief'. I don't believe that these pioneers thought something like: we could do this Industrial Revolution thing and if it all goes pear-shaped we will simply move to a space colony!

Similarly, I don't believe that any of the human actions that have caused the 'environmental crisis' have been causally influenced by 'The Belief'. Humans, past and present, simply act in accordance with their inner feelings/motivations/drives, they act in a way which they believe will make them happy. For many humans alive today this means acting in a way which they believe is sustainable/environmentally-friendly. For many humans alive today this means acting in a deeply unsustainable way (constant airplane fights, gas-guzzling cars, high all-round resource use). What seems wrong to me is the belief that those humans who are acting in an unsustainable way (individuals, corporations, governments) are causally influenced to act in this way by the belief that their actions are justifiable/permissible/acceptable because if everything goes wrong we can move to a space colony.

Clearly, if one wants to modify human activities across the planet in order to make them in accordance with what one personally believes to be desirable, then one needs to identify the actual causes of human activities. If one believes that human activities are caused by the belief that humans can escape to a space colony, then one is surely wrong. Furthermore, from the perspective of my philosophical worldview, current human activities across the planet are just as they should be.  The force to environmental destruction is in the ascendancy which is a sign that the Earth is bringing forth the technological protection that life needs in order to survive; the force to environmental sustainability is weak but growing, which means that when the technological protection is in place we can look forward to a long-term sustainable future on this planet (although in the distant future space colonization seems to me to be inevitable; human technology will enable both humans and non-human life-forms to live in non-Earth locations when the Earth becomes uninhabitable because of non-human causal reasons).