A couple of days ago “the biggest ever environmental demonstration took place in which hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in 2,000 rallies, marches and protests in 150 countries to demand greater action on climate change” (‘Investors pledge to take money out of firms blamed for climate change’ by Tom Bawden, the i newspaper, 22 September 2014, p. 9).
This raises a couple of questions:
1 Why were so many people were marching?
2 What outcome do these people hope to attain?
Let us start with the first question. There are, of course, a plethora of reasons why people were marching. Some people will have been persuaded to go by their friends; some people were taken by their parents; some people will have thought it would be good to have a day out and to have a stroll with likeminded people; many people just like to protest, they will protest over almost anything! However, I am sure that it is likely that most people who were marching shared one reason in common. This is that they want to make the planet a better place; they care both about the existence of life on Earth and the quality of life of Earthly life-forms. They believe that things are going pear-shaped, that humans are ‘destroying the planet through causing global warming’, so they have decided to march to try and make things better. They believe they are marching to avert global warming and thereby ‘save the planet’.
This brings us to our second question. The outcome that the marchers want to attain is to avert global warming and thereby ‘save the planet’. This leads us to another question: Why do the marchers believe that humans are ‘messing things up’ and that the planet needs to be saved? The marchers obviously have this idea because it has been ‘implanted’ in them because of assertions made by scientists and dispersed through the media. Scientists have claimed that atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations are rising, that this is a force for global warming, that global warming isn’t a good thing for life on Earth, and that human activities have caused rising atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. This view gets propagated through the media, and it obviously causes many people who care about life on Earth to go on marches.
This scientific story (in bold above) is widely taken to lead to one conclusion. This conclusion is that humans have disrupted the planet (things were fine before those destructive humans started plundering the planet!) and therefore that in order to deal with the situation human greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced. So, if you ask any of the marchers what outcome they hope to obtain though marching for action on global warming, you will get a standard reply: “we want the governments of the world to take action to reduce fossil fuel emissions; we want financial institutions to take their money out of the firms who have caused the problem (global warming) and reinvest in green energy through the ‘dirty energy divestment campaign’.”
The problem is that the scientific story that these people have bought into is very limited in scope. The human presence on the planet needs to be seen on many levels and from many perspectives and the scientific story ignores most of these perspectives. When one sees the bigger picture then one can see that creating a future planet on which human and non-human life-forms can thrive, in the face of global warming, does not require cutting fossil fuel emissions; it requires actively technologically regulating the atmospheric temperature. There are many reasons why this is so, one of the primary ones being that the primary force for global warming on the planet is non-human-induced global warming, not human-induced global warming.
Seeing that attempting to deal with global warming through cutting fossil fuel emissions is a waste of time can be difficult. When hearing this most people almost automatically reject the idea due to their scientific/media ‘mental programming’; they instantly raise lots of objections. To help people see why this is so I wrote my very lengthy book The Philosophy of Global Warming and I included a lengthy dialogue section which includes these objections and the answers to them.
Marching to avert global warming is a good thing. However, achieving this objective will not be attained by cutting fossil fuel emissions. So, marches which have the objective of cutting fossil fuel emissions are fundamentally misplaced. Averting global warming requires widespread and sustained action to technologically regulate the atmospheric temperature. Let us hope that in the future people march for this.