A journal of political, social, and other important, possibly even somewhat related affairs, including but not limited to: Central European Society, The European Union, HC Kometa Brno, American Politics, Film, and Beer.

12 March 2008

An Answer in Search of a Question

This afternoon, while talking to to old friends of mine, I realized something about the climate change debate occurring around the world.

It struck me that hyper-educated urbanites, frequently but by no means exclusively European, were the ones leading the charge on global warming "solutions," as opposed to people with less education, or more tied to the land and the environment itself in some form.  It seemed strange to me that the urban lifestyle, with its detachment from the land, is the one that should be so emphatic about global warming.  After all, cities, with their pavement, energy consumption, and lack of green space are rather detached from the environment as such -- cities even cause their own weather.  Yet it was comparatively rare at the outset of the Green movement to see rural people involved.  This is even more striking when we consider that the Club of Rome -- a group of business elites, and hardly a left-wing institution -- is credited with priming the pump for this debate even in the late 1960s. The idea of climate change was almost immediately adopted as a rallying point for Green politicians.

I believe part of this urban-driven debate is partly because most politics naturally begins in capitals, and elites frequently gather there anyway.  However, compared to other environmental concerns, such as saving habitats of certain animals, and deforestation concerns, this was a disproportionately urban and leftist phenomenon. 

I then realized that climate change is a perfect project for the Left.  The solutions it desires are governmental or multilateral, it gives its advocates a way to heap guilt on the West and romanticize poverty and the primitive as something "authentic" and worth emulating, it gives an opportunity to blame the free market economy for the world's ills, and it carries with it an apocalyptic determinism consistent with Marxist philosophy.  Moreover, the promise of changing this Earth exalts collective man, while degrading the individual.

Your correspondent grew up in a paradise the likes of which Washington, Brussels, and Berlin can never hope to have.  I know more than most the value of a clean environment, having lived in the so-called urban jungle with its heat and garbage for many years.  I know the value of clean water, growing up hearing the creek at night on my property. I know the value of clean air; it struck me as sad when my astronomy professor envied me for having the opportunity to actually see the stars on cold clear winter nights.  I know the power of nature, and man's fundamental helplessness in the face of an avalanche, and I know the rhythms of the earth that make the creek run high and fast in late May and early June.  This is humbling knowledge, and I believe it helps us to understand man -- we are far greater than beasts, for our abilities to appreciate these things.  But we are also far from being gods, or even angels.

I refer again to the five stages of debate I wrote about yesterday.  The world very well may be changing, and we may even have a bit to do with it.  But it is supremely arrogant of us to believe that we alone are responsible for this change.  The problem with the climate change debate is that politics is driving the science, rather than science driving the politics.  This situation is extraordinarily irresponsible, and can only lead to bad science (at best).  We have seen before what science in the hands of undemocratic service can do; it is terrifying.

However, what is even worse is what some in the debate would do to describe man.  The debate "ennobles" humanity in all the most dangerous ways. By asserting mastery of our world, and denying our fundamental human frailty, we begin to neglect some of our most sacred principles.  This has always been a very dangerous path.  Man becomes a monster when he forgets he is only human.

Of course, that is not to say that we should just go ahead and live without rules.  We owe it to those left to be born (as we inherit from those that have come before us) to give them a world where they can still look up and see the stars.  When God saw that His handiwork was very good on the sixth day, it implies that we should keep it nice, and that we should not be wasteful.  We should keep the planet fit for human life; but we also must keep the world fit for a life that is human.

The current tenor of the climate change debate is flawed in this respect.  It is true that the climate-change-bandwagon wants to keep the planet fit.  However, its zealous drive to do so by any means necessary, it is doing a greater disservice to humanity than a couple degrees in the air ever could.


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