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

Monday, 14 December 2015

COP21: Why don't they want to stop global warming?

It is good to see that at the recent COP21 meeting in Paris that representatives from very diverse countries and organisations were able to work together and reach an agreement concerning addressing global warming.

What is not so good to see is the way that these meetings are dominated by 'group think' concerning the situation we are in. There is too much 'finger pointing', too much discussion of who is to blame, and too much discussion concerning how those who are going to be affected by future global warming are to be compensated for the negative effects that they face due to this global warming. This is accompanied by a rosy assumption that if global carbon dioxide emissions are gradually reduced over the next half a century, and we do nothing else, that everything will work out relatively okay. Of course, we know that this assumption is completely wrong.

Here is an example of this 'group think'. It concerns the UK's approach to global warming, as expressed by the international development secretary, Justine Greening, who attended COP21:

  • "Helping poor countries to go green and adapt to the effects of global warming is in Britain's "national interest" because climate change will render other countries unliveable, sending displaced people in search of new homes, she [Justine Greening] argues.  In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, Ms Greening said Britain's commitment to spend almost £6 billion on overseas climate aid in the next five years was "the smart thing to do", because climate change could trigger refugee crises similar to that caused by the conflict in Syria."  ('Greening: Our choice is climate aid or more refugees' by Emily Gosden, The Sunday Telegraph, 6 December 2015, p. 18)

This is a widespread view: significant global warming is going to occur, many countries are going to be severely effected in a negative way, so lets give them billions and billions of pounds to help them deal with these negative consequences!

What we really need to see is a different way of thinking about global warming. Let us just focus on the type of global warming that is human-induced global warming (which is what they have been doing at COP21). This type of global warming is caused by rising greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere due to human activity. At COP21 thousands upon thousands of people attended and effectively said, well yes, global warming is going to occur, so let us try and limit it if possible so that the consequences are not too severe. Instead of this, wouldn't it be nice if they said; 'why don't we stop global warming completely and do it now, over the next 12 months'. This is possible, if the will was there, and it has nothing to do with cutting carbon dioxide emissions!

Rather than spending billions upon billions of pounds dealing with the negative consequences following from global warming, we could be spending this money stopping global warming. That is surely more sensible. To stop human-induced global warming we need to have an atmospheric carbon dioxide/greenhouse gas target, just like the Bank of England has an inflation target. The Bank of England has a range of measures it can deploy to reduce inflation in the economy if the inflation target is breached, or looks like it might be breached. Similarly, if inflation is way below the target, then the Bank of England can implement measures which result in the inflation rate slowly rising upwards towards the target.

We need the same range of measures to maintain the atmospheric carbon dioxide/greenhouse gas target, and thereby avert any global warming. We need measures to both increase, and decrease the level of carbon dioxide/greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This means we need to be actively intervening on the planet in order to pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Compared to sending humans to the moon, this is surely a piece of cake. Why don't we do it? Why don't we focus all our resources and energy on stopping global warming in its tracks? Of course, we will do this in the future (we will be using technology to regulate the atmospheric temperature in the future). But, why don't we do this immediately? It would save a lot of human suffering if we did.

There are a plethora of ways in which we can pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere in order to maintain our atmospheric carbon dioxide/greenhouse gas target. We can use human technology to directly pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere; maps have already been drawn up of the underground storage areas on the planet in which the carbon dioxide can be stored (as we saw in a previous blog post). We can cultivate massive seaweed farms to pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. We can plant more trees. There are also a whole range of ways in which the way that we manufacture goods can be made carbon-negative rather than carbon-positive; for example, plastics and cement.

We need to be able to actively control the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere through such measures. So, for example, if there are slightly too many greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, then we can immediately set the seaweed farms into increased production. In contrast, if the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere gets too low, then we can temporarily stop production from the seaweed farms.

There is no need to talk of future global warming, and no need for spending billions upon billions of pounds to compensate those negatively effected by global warming.There is no need for massive movements of global warming refugees. We just need to have the motivation and the drive to stop global warming. This won't be achieved by anything that was discussed in Paris at COP21. We need a completely new way of thinking about things, a new agenda, an atmospheric carbon dioxide/greenhouse gas target which we can attain through a range of globally coordinated measures. These measures will initially involve pulling a lot of greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere. This will mean that there is no future global warming.

We can only hope that this will be on the agenda at COP22. If not, they will once again be spending a lot of their time 'finger pointing' as to who is to blame for global warming, and spending their time discussing transferring billions of pounds to those countries who have either been negatively affected by global warming or who are 'developing'. They could, instead, change the agenda and decide to stop global warming through collective coordination in order to achieve an atmospheric carbon dioxide/global warming target! This can be achieved through the mechanisms outlined above.

Stopping global warming in this way is not a problem. The problem is changing the 'group think' and attaining a widespread realisation that stopping global warming in this way is necessary, possible and desirable.


Monday, 30 November 2015

The Insignificance of Humans

You are probably aware that as I write these words the leaders of many of the world's countries are in Paris for a United Nations conference on climate change (COP21). The sole focus of this meeting seems to be either countries making commitments to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions, or aiding other countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

It is striking that all of the people involved in this conference (I assume that it is all, but at least the overwhelming majority), have a shared underlying view. It is such a common and widespread view that I am sure that you hear it on a regular basis. It such a widespread and common view that people just keep on repeating it, and it gets repeated so much that people just seem to automatically believe that it is true. When people utter this view they never, ever, seem to get questioned as to why they believe it to be true. Of course, this view is actually completely wrong! The view is, as expressed by Professor Martin Attrill from Plymouth University's Marine Institute, and concerning taking action to prevent man-made climate change:

  • "It's not about saving the planet - it will carry on quite happily when we are gone... It's about protecting society. If we don't check things within 50 years, then it will be a very difficult place to live in."      (Western Morning News, 29 November 2015, p. 7).

This view entails that the human species is totally insignificant as far as the planet is concerned. We are of no importance to the planet, to life on Earth, whatsoever. In other words, according to Professor Attrill, and all the people at COP21 who share this overwhelmingly dominant view, we are, as a species, a total waste of space and the planet will be happy when we are gone. How utterly clueless these people are!

Let us help these clueless people out a bit. The planet, specifically the planet as a life-bearing thriving part of the Solar System, would not "carry on quite happily" if the human species were to become extinct. This is the opposite of the truth. The human species, as the enabler of the technological birthing process, is the most precious part of the planet that has ever come into being. The future thriving of live, and ultimately its survival, depends on the continued existence of the human species. If the human species were suddenly to get wiped off the face of the Earth, then life would not "carry on quite happily". It would be a day of such great immense sadness, despair and depression for life on Earth, that we can barely comprehend the extent of this desperation; this day would be the death knell for life on Earth.

In the context of COP21, is the realisation of the planetary significance of humans important? Of course it is! If the planetary significance of the evolution of the human species in the context of the unfolding planet / Solar System is realised, then one will know that the deployment of technology to control the atmospheric temperature is an inevitability, and that it is a very good thing. If one comprehends the place of the human species in the unfolding planet / Solar System then one will also realise that the phenomenon of significant climate change (human and non-human) will not be averted by reducing fossil fuel emissions. So, focusing so much energy on this non-solution is a futile waste of energy.

Of course, fossil fuels will run out. by definition, so we do need to move to renewable sources of energy. However, this is a very different thing from believing that such a switch is a solution to the phenomenon of global warming, or global warming-induced climate change. Let me repeat this. As fossil fuels run out, the smooth operation of energy-intensive societies clearly requires renewable energy sources. Everyone knows this. The important thing to realise is that this switch is no solution to the phenomenon of imminent global warming and significant climate change. Not only is our planetary significance due to our ability to deploy technology to enable life to survive and thrive, but the only way to prevent significant global warming and climate change over the next 100-200 years is to deploy our technology to control the atmospheric temperature. Initially this just involves mastering the art of directly removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and returning them to underground storage.


Friday, 13 November 2015

The Conflation of Climate Change & Global Warming

You will probably be aware that there is an increasing trend for these two terms - climate change and global warming - to be used interchangeably, as if they mean exactly the same thing. Let me explain why this is slightly worrying.

Of course, both of these separate phenomena occur on the planet in the absence of human influence. Throughout the history of the Earth there has been global warming; indeed, the early Earth was too cold for life to thrive; there had to be non-human-induced global warming in order for the atmospheric temperature of the Earth to rise to a level at which life could thrive. Similarly, there has been non-human-induced climate change throughout the history of the Earth. There are obviously close links between these two phenomena - non-human-induced global warming being a partial cause of non-human-induced climate change.

In our current epoch these two terms are typically used to refer to human influence on the Earth, so let us focus on this influence. The phenomenon of human-induced global warming came to prominence in intellectual thought due to the realisation that the greenhouse gases that humans had released from underground storage into the biogeochemical cycles of the Earth, through the industrial revolution, would cause the atmospheric temperature to rise if they built up in the atmosphere to a significant extent.

The phenomenon of human-induced global warming struck many people to be a phenomenon which we should take very seriously. And these people are right.

There was possibly a worry that talk of global warming seems abstract and difficult, hard to get a handle on. The public at large might wonder how it would affect their daily life. So, talk switched more to human-induced climate change. Environmentalists like to talk about the climate changing because they can scare people: there will be droughts, there will be famines, there will be mass migration of climate change refugees, sea level rise will submerge populated islands!

So, nowadays, people typically use the terms interchangeably. Shall we talk of global warming? Shall we talk of climate change? Who cares, because they are really the same thing!

Let me explain why this is wrong; let me explain why this is worrying.

Humans can easily stop human-induced global warming. No problem, this is easy stuff. If the cause of human-induced global warming is a build up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere which has occurred because humans moved things (fossil fuels) from underground storage, then stopping human-induced global warming simply means that we need to put these things back into underground storage. We are already know how to do this. We also know where it can easily be stored. No problem.

But humans cannot easily stop human-induced climate change. The human influence on the planet is so pervasive in a multitude of ways, and the climate system is so sensitive, that the climate will always be influenced to some extent through human activities (even if humans do not / did not cause global warming). There can be no doubt about this. This is just something we have to live with; something we have to expect and prepare for as best as we can.

The main lesson that we can learn from this consideration is that whilst we should prepare for inevitable climate change, our main focus should be on preventing human-induced global warming through returning greenhouse gases to underground storage. If we do this then there will be no major changes to the climate due to human activity; just the inevitable minor ones which we can live with and adapt to.

It is only if we do not do this that there will be significant human-induced global warming, and the very significant changes in the climate that will result from this.

As for the futility of attempting to deal with human-induced global warming through cutting fossil fuel emissions. What a total waste of time! But I have already written about this in many places already.


Wednesday, 30 September 2015

The Veil of Ignorance

You will have noticed that I haven't posted anything for a while; as September draws to a close I thought I should write something!

I don't have a television, but I try to keep up-to-date with what is going on in contemporary human culture through the radio, particularly Radio 4. Over the past few weeks the issue of the relationship between humans and the Earth / Solar System, framed from the perspective of the environmental crisis / human-induced global warming, has cropped up several times:

*   Pope Francis has been talking about this issue as he has toured the United States. He expressed the view that it is our common duty to protect the Earth from human destruction / human-induced global warming, by cutting fossil fuel emissions.

*   Yesterday, Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, chimed in to the issue by warning about the massive risks to global economic stability which would be caused by a significantly changed climate precipitated by global warming. Again, we should cut fossil fuel emissions to supposedly avoid this.

*   There was another interview on Radio 4 with the author of a new book called 'The Evolution of Everything'. The author seemed to appreciate the reality that human culture has a preordained directedness from hunter gatherer to global technological society. However, when it came to the environmental crisis / global warming, the author failed to have any understanding of how this fits into the unfolding cosmos. He expressed the widespread but tired old view that 'we might destroy/eliminate ourselves as a species, but life will be fine without us, it will continue to thrive and might even be much better off without us'.

*   The issue of water / life on Mars has also been in the news over the last few days. New images suggest that water might be pervasive on Mars, and this in turn suggests that life is quite likely to have evolved on Mars. This is, of course, what we would expect from the perspective of the view that I express in my books. The whole universe is directed towards bringing forth life wherever possible, and then that life is directed towards surviving. The bringing forth of the human species, the environmental crisis, and human-induced global warming, are all part of this striving for survival on the part of life.

* Whilst I was in town yesterday I noticed a poster advertising an imminent screening of the film 'The Age of Stupid'. The tagline was something like: 'we could have saved ourselves but we didn't because we are so stupid'. This is obviously a campaigning film produced by environmentalists who utterly fail to comprehend the nature of the relationship between the human species and the rest of the Earth. There is some merit to the view that we are living in an age of stupidity / ignorance. But the nature of this ignorance is that the overwhelmingly vast majority of humans who are currently alive believe that humans are a wholly destructive force on the Earth whose productive activities (their 'work' in Holderlin's terms) are fundamentally harming the rest of life on Earth. This is not true, so to believe it is to be 'stupid'. It is in the future, when the 'veil of ignorance' has been lifted, that the vast majority of humans will come to realise that they, the human species, are the saviours of life on Earth. The human species will come to realise the point of it all, they will come to realise their important place on the Earth, and how, through their 'work', their toil in bringing forth the industrial revolution, the technological revolution, the environmental crisis, the geoengineering of the Earth's atmosphere, that they have enabled wonderful life to survive and thrive. I am not seeking to label the producers of this film, or environmentalists, or anyone, as 'stupid'. It is to be expected, given the current stage of the evolution of the Earth / Solar System, that the vast majority of humans are lacking insight into the nature of things, being as they are, stuck behind the 'veil of ignorance'.

It goes without saying, that the views expressed above, the views expressed by Mark Carney, Pope Francis, the author of 'The Evolution of Everything', and the views expressed in 'The Age of Stupid', are all views firmly emanating from behind the 'veil of ignorance'.

Some people seem to get really excited by the idea that humans are a wholly and fundamentally destructive force that is destroying the Earth. This idea of stupidity and injustice seems to give meaning to their lives, it gives them a reason to get out of bed in the morning, it gives them something to 'fight for'. And this is okay. It doesn't matter that the underling view which motivates their actions is wrong. Their actions are still 'right'. Such is the nature of human motivation in the unfolding Solar System.

I hope that this has made some sense to you. On a final note, I have been reflecting recently on the fact that although I have a PhD in philosophy, that I am fundamentally a mystic. There are thousands of philosophers and the vast majority of them have nothing of any importance to say. The realm of importance is that of the mystic. So, I was wondering whether I should have called my 2014 book 'The Philosophy of Global Warming'! It makes it sound like a boring work of academic philosophy, not an inspiring insight into the nature of human existence, human purpose and the nature of reality.


Monday, 8 June 2015

The Concept of Naturalness

A little reflection on the concept of naturalness. Many people assert that "humans are not natural". Other people take it to be obvious that humans are completely natural and ridicule those who assert that humans are not natural. Can we make any progress concerning this disagreement?

I believe that it is blatantly obvious that everything is natural; however, I think we should be forgiving of those who prefer to use the concept of 'naturalness' differently. This is because it is also blatantly obvious that there is a great chasm between humans and the rest of the lifeforms of the Earth.

One aspect of what creates the chasm between the human species and the rest of the lifeforms of the Earth, is the concept of naturalness itself. The human species is that part of the Solar System which has created the concept of 'naturalness'. The human species is that part of the Solar System which has become so separated from its surroundings that it can entertain the possibility that its surroundings are 'natural' and that it is something very different, something 'non-natural'. This fact itself is of interest, and it creates a chasm between the human and the non-human. Another related aspect of this chasm between the human and the non-human is that the human species is the technological animal; technology being the factor that stimulates the creation of the concept of 'naturalness'.

So, whilst everything is natural, there is a fundamental chasm between the human and the non-human, and in many cases we can simply think to ourselves that this chasm is what people are referring to when they utter phrases such as "humans are not natural". We need not think to ourselves that these people are stupid or have preposterous views.

It is also common to believe that "not every configuration of nature is good". However, this is actually a pretty empty statement. There is nothing obvious about whether a particular arrangement of nature is good or bad. In order to start making some progress on this question one first needs to ask the question: Good for what or for whom? Then, one needs to make progress on the question: What does good mean?

In my writings over the past decade I have made the case that the present configuration of nature (human domination of the planet, human release of fossil fuels from underground storage, etc.) is exceptionally good for life and exceptionally good for the Solar System. It is good because it is a sign that life is thriving and will thrive into the distant future. It is not so good for the human species because being the technological animal entails being a species that itself suffers terribly. However, in the bigger picture it is good for the human species, because it is good for life, and the human species is part of life. I have outlined all of this in great detail in my books 'The Philosophy of Global Warming' (2014) and 'Is the Human Species Special: Why human-induced global warming could be in the interests of life' (2010), and 'An Evolutionary Perspective on the Relationship between Humans and their Surroundings: Geoengineering, the Purpose of Life and the Nature of the Universe' (2012).


Thursday, 30 April 2015

The Two Paths Facing Humanity

Here is an excerpt from my book  'The Philosophy of Global Warming'

We are living at an exceptionally important time, a unique moment in the evolution of the planet. Humanity stands at a crossroads and the future is uncertain. There are two possible paths that we can take. One path leads to a glorious and wonderful future, the other leads to death and destruction. Which path will we tread?

Many people know that we are at a crossroads; they see the two paths stretching into the future. They know that one path leads to a glorious and wonderful future and that the other leads to death and destruction. However, the paths are not transparently labelled; they are not labelled ‘path to a wonderful future’ and ‘path to destruction’; if they were the choice of path would be extremely easy. Is it obvious which path leads to which destination? Many people believe that it is. A great many people are certain that one particular path is the path to a glorious and wonderful future; these people are passionately attempting to convince us to walk along this path. This is why I am concerned about the future. We should remember that all that glistens is not gold; what seems obvious at first sight can be wrong, fatally wrong. It is clear to me that the path these people seek actually leads to death and destruction.

What is one to do when one sees good-intentioned people seeking to shepherd humanity along a path which leads to the death and destruction not only of the human species, but of all life on Earth? One could just sit back and do nothing. Alternatively, one can seek to illuminate the true nature of the two paths so that destruction can be avoided and the path to a glorious future can be trodden. Let us seek this illumination.

The Two Paths

What is the nature of these two paths? The two paths represent different ways in which humanity can interact with the Earth in the future. The choice of path is a very serious affair. There is little more serious than the issue of whether one’s species goes extinct and one’s planetary home becomes lifeless. Let us choose our path with extreme care.

The two paths are characterised by the amount of involvement humanity has with the rest of the Earth. The first path involves minimalizing involvement. This path has many aspects such as restricting the size of the human population, restricting the human appropriation of the Earth’s resources and restricting the deployment of human technology. Those who urge us to tread this path believe that human involvement with the Earth is already too high. These people believe that a high level of future human involvement is a negative thing, both for the human species itself and for the non-human life-forms which we share the planet with. This view is underpinned by the belief that the optimum state of the Earth is one in which human involvement is minimised because humans are fundamentally destructive. Through their greed, their appropriation of the Earth’s resources, their technology, humans are seen as a danger to both themselves and to the non-human life-forms of the Earth. Let us refer to this path as the ‘minimalizing involvement’ path. The extreme advocates of this view seek absolute minimization – the voluntary extinction of the human species for the good of the Earth. However, the ‘minimalizing involvement’ path more typically involves calls for restrictions, and a general pulling back of human involvement with the ‘non-human’, rather than absolute minimization. I refer to this path as ‘minimalizing involvement’ because minimization is the underpinning ideal. In reality, very few advocates of this path think that involvement should actually be absolutely minimized through the voluntary self-extinction of the human species. All advocates of the ‘minimalizing involvement’ path believe that significantly reducing human involvement with the Earth would be a good thing. In the specific realm of global warming this ‘wide’ path is enshrined in the narrower Path 1 which we identified in the Introduction and Chapter One.

The second path is obviously very different; it involves much more human involvement with the Earth. However, it does not involve ‘maximizing involvement’. Absolute maximization would entail humans actively and intentionally utilising, manipulating and moulding every single part of the Earth. Whilst there are those who advocate absolute minimization, I am not aware of anyone who advocates absolute maximization. Indeed, the notion barely even makes any sense (humans would need to be moulding and manipulating every life-form, every ocean, every part of every ocean, volcanoes, the inner core of the planet, etc.). The second path does not entail either absolute maximization or any weaker type of maximization; maximization is not an ideal underpinning the view. The second path involves significantly increasing human involvement with the Earth, but this is a far cry from maximization.

There are two reasons why one might advocate treading this path. Firstly, one might tread this path with regret because one believes that humanity has perturbed the biogeochemical cycles of the Earth to such an extent that our future survival depends on deepening our involvement. For instance, one might love to tread the first ‘minimalizing involvement’ path, but one believes that human-induced global warming is a serious threat to the future survival of the human species and that it can only be dealt with by geoengineering the temperature of the atmosphere; so, one decides to tread the second path with regret; given the reality of the situation we face, this is the best path to take. Secondly, one might joyously skip and jump along the second path. In other words, one believes that significantly increasing human involvement with the Earth is actually a good thing, a positive event which benefits not only the human species but also the totality that is life on Earth. Let us refer to this path as the ‘increasing involvement’ path. The advocates of this path believe that significantly increasing human involvement with the Earth would be a good thing – either good solely for humanity or good for the totality of life on Earth. In the specific realm of global warming this ‘wide’ path is enshrined in the narrower Path 2 which we identified in the Introduction and Chapter One.

Which of the two paths should we tread?

The Crossroads

Before one can see the true nature of the two paths one needs to clearly see the journey that has led to the crossroads. If one is at the crossroads and is unable to see the entire journey which has led to the crossroads – the journey of the Earth and the journey of the Solar System – then it is unlikely that one will make a good choice of path: ‘minimalizing involvement’ or ‘increasing involvement’. One could
get lucky and just happen to pick the right path, the path to a wonderful future rather than the path to death and destruction. However, if one cannot see the entire journey which has led to the crossroads then one will not have the tools with which to make a properly informed decision. This means that one could easily select the wrong path, and given the seriousness of the choice this would be a terrible outcome. Furthermore, and worryingly, given the nature of the two paths, it is likely that one’s lack of backwards vision will result in one choosing what I believe to be the wrong path. As we saw in the Introduction there is a simplistic instinctive response that Path 1 – the ‘minimalizing involvement’ path – is the path to a glorious and wonderful future. A little knowledge can clearly be a dangerous thing. Let us expand our knowledge; let us move beyond the simplistic instinctive response; let us consider the journey that led to the crossroads.

Understanding the past will help us to select the right path in the present.


Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Discussion about Human Nature and Suffering

 I thought I would share with you some more objections to my philosophy, and my replies to these objections. These objections are on the theme of human nature and suffering.

Objector:   Humanity is evil because it displaces the rest of creation.

NPC:   Any life-form that exists displaces some other form of life / some other part of creation. That is just a simple fact; an inevitability of being a complex life-form that exists on the Earth and that therefore needs to consume other forms of life in order to survive. As the population size of a life-form increases, as with humans, then other life-forms are typically displaced to an increasing degree. So, we agree that "humanity displaces the rest of creation". How could anyone disagree?!

Let us move from this simple fact to your judgement that this displacement is evil. This is seemingly where we disagree. The 'evil' view of human existence currently pervades the news, the television, politics and business, so it is not surprising that so many people have that view implanted into them. 

The 'evil' view is an attractive view, after all, the human displacement of other life-forms on the Earth has involved terrible suffering, mass murder of our fellow creatures, and exploitation and pain and suffering on a barely imaginable scale. However, rejecting the 'evil' view of human existence does not mean that one rejoices in this terrible suffering and exploitation. Rather, one can see that this is just the terrible predicament that being 'human' entails. On the view that has arisen within me the 'human' is that part of an evolving planet that brings forth technology for the good of life as a whole. This role on the planet means that life causes great harm to itself, via the human, for its own benefit. Being that part of life that is human involves inflicting immense suffering on oneself (because all life is one, so causing suffering to the non-human is effectively harming one's brothers, one's babies, oneself).

To be human is not a bed of roses. How can humanity be happy and sane when it inflicts such pain on itself?! It is not surprising that so many people kill themselves, it is not surprising that the mental homes are full of 'insane' people, it is not surprising that so many people are desperately unhappy and turn to crime and drugs. Humans endure all of this suffering, the greatest suffering on the planet and the greatest suffering in the universe, for the good of life as a whole. That which makes humans human, the separation from the non-human, is the inevitable bringer of suffering to the human. So, to be human is not to be 'evil', it is to be that part of the evolving planet which suffers greatly in order to be the saviour of life on the planet.

Objector:   You talk about human suffering and how it is related to our relationship with nonhuman life. Us humans, as a species, are destroying other forms of life, often inflicting great suffering on them in the process; and while there may be many people in poverty around the world, and many humans in all walks of life who suffer personally for various reasons, there seem to be very few who are overtly suffering because of the suffering and destruction being inflicted upon nonhuman life.

NPC:   You seem to be thinking about human suffering in terms of individual humans. You wonder what the exact reasons are why a particular person suffers and how is this related to the suffering and destruction the humans inflict upon nonhuman life. I am making a more general point. I am coming from the perspective of the entire planet as it evolves on its journey as a life-bearing planet flowing through an ageing Solar System. Before humans evolved there was suffering and destruction on the planet. At a certain point in the evolution of the planet the 'human' evolved (what exactly this means, what exactly the 'human' is, we don't need to get into now). All that we need to appreciate is that at this point, the point of the evolution of the human, immense suffering also evolved. Suffering came into existence that was of a different magnitude to that which came before. This suffering is not because of humans causing suffering to non-human life. This suffering exists because to be human is to suffer. Some people might say that this is because humans are the only form of life to have self-consciousness, or that they are the only form of life to have advanced rationality and therefore mental torture, self-doubt, and problems of ego/self-image. For me, the foundations of human suffering are separation from the rest of life that is caused and inherent to being the technological animal = human.

Objector:   How can our arrogant, ignorant, unnecessary, and ultimately suicidal human destructiveness be considered "an expression of the very essence of life"?

NPC:   The essence of life is obviously hard to express in words. We can think of life, since it arose on the Earth, as a force which seeks to modify, expand, propagate, dominate, push forward, strive upwards and onwards, as much as is physically possible. So, simple life-forms evolve into more complex life-forms which have a greater modification ability. This primitive force reached its zenith in the technological abilities of humans.

Objector:   We are on the brink of a considerable knocking-down of planetary diversity, however, as has happened in the 5 previous extinction events, we will have a relatively life-impoverished planet for some millions of years until life elaborates itself again, probably without human beings in the picture.

NPC:  Your extrapolation from the outcomes of past mass extinctions, to a forecast about the outcome of a future mass extinction, is flawed because it ignores the changing state of planetary dynamics. One cannot simply say that because life has bounced back in the past that it always will do so in the future. This is like a 90 year old human saying: "When I was 20 I was able to run a mile in 4 minutes, when I was 25 I was able to run a mile in 4 minutes, when I was 35 I was able to run a mile in 4 minutes; therefore, when I am 100 I will be able to run a mile in 4 minutes." The mistake is simply to believe that past events and outcomes will be repeated in the future. This isn't always true on an evolving life-bearing planet which is homeostatically regulating itself in an evolving cosmos. 

Objector:   I have to take issue with your assertion that: "Any life-form that exists displaces some other form of life . . . That is just a simple fact; an inevitability of being a complex life-form that exists on the Earth and that therefore needs to consume other forms of life in order to survive. As the population size of a life-form increases, as with humans, then other life-forms are typically displaced to an increasing degree." 

While it is true that life needs other life to survive, we humans are capable of making ethical choices, and we can choose in what way and to what degree we displace other life or cause it to suffer. People can choose to "eat lower on the food chain," reducing animal suffering and their ecological footprint at the same time, for example. And why assume that a species with the power of choice must maintain a population that continually "increases"? We are capable, as a species, of deciding to limit the size of our families just as we are capable of deciding to reduce the amount of carbon and other GHG we spew into the atmosphere. It is not "a fact" that we humans have to continue along the same trajectory that we've been following; to do so, or not, is an ethical choice, and that is the "fact."

NPC:   I think here we simply have a disagreement about the extent to which humans as individuals, and human culture in general, is determined by freedom. You will be aware that there is extensive literature on the issue of the extent to which an individual human has free will or not, and there is a similar literature on the slightly different question of whether or not the overall trajectory of human cultural evolution is 'determined in advance' or could be changed by 'human free will'. It is obvious to me that human free will is severely limited at best, and that the trajectory of cultural evolution from hunter gatherer to globalised technological society will occur on any successful life bearing planet. I presume that you disagree with this. On my view the scope for humans who lived in the past to make ethical choices to life in a way which didn't displace other life, or cause it to suffer, was non-existent. Never going to happen. You seem to want to believe that this could have happened. When we switch from the past to the future, then I am happy to accept the possibility that at a later stage of the evolution of the Earth/Solar System the time will be right for human freedom to exist in a more meaningful sense. 

So, what you say is a "fact", isn't obviously a fact.