Sunday, August 28, 2011

Old Testament thinking

The wettest month on record for Philadelphia and its suburbs going out with a bang as hurricane Irene roared through the area. To be honest, I thought that the rain we had two weeks ago today was more of a pain than today's rain. Even though on that day I was able to deliver all my papers after a slow start while today I went home after less than half of the deliveries due to rain swollen streets, I was far more bothered by all the rain then than today.

Still, I am not so self centered to dismiss today's weather event even though it didn't seem as severe for me as for so many others. While I am certainly not the most empathetic person that I know, I do attempt to gauge events with an eye towards others perspectives, not just my own.

Which brings me to an article I read in today's Inquirer concerning climate change in which the author offers a number of reasons why the United States should be looking forward, even be excited about the effects of climate change. His points, of course, center around the economic "opportunities" that climate change will present to the US which may well enable us to enhance our geopolitical power. The last sentence of his next to last paragraph sums it up nicely.

"Rather than our doom, climate change could be the centerpiece of ensuring a second consecutive American Century."

Is it me, or does this attitude embody the ruthlessness of competition gone amok? Is it any clearer how far our selfishness can take us that someone will look for a economic silver lining in the face of world wide problems?

In essence, the author concedes that climate change is occurring (quite a departure from the typical conservative approach of denial), and that regardless of whether it is man made or not, it is irreversible, so let's embrace its effects and figure out how to make money from it!

Never mind the tens of millions of people in those countries that are already hot and dry and for which this climate shift will condemn so many to starvation. Never mind the fact that almost a billion people on our planet still have to walk outside their homes for water and that this number will surely increase as their environs feature less potable water. Never mind that as the oceans warm, weather violence will increase thereby causing tremendous loss of life and property. Never mind even that as the climate changes, various food chains may be interrupted and thousands of species of plants and animals will go extinct. Don't worry about any of those because while "those" people, animals and plants might suffer, we just might be able to increase our wealth and stature. Sort of like being king of a shit pile, I guess.

There was a time in mankind's initial history that our unit of reference was our tribe. Everything was about our tribe, our 10, 15, 20 people. Anything and anyone outside that tribe was a threat. Gradually, our "tribe" expanded to our community. Then our state. Our country. Some people look at organizations such as NATO, the European Union, the United Nations, etc, as proof that we are seeing the beginning of the next step in increasing the size of our tribe. That, while the process is still in its infancy, we are on the road to a time when our tribe will be planet Earth.

For some, the concept of a unified earth is science fiction at best, a threat to national sovereignty at worst. Yet, I am sure that the idea of fifty united states making one great country would have seemed just as far fetched to those who lived in the "new world" of the 18th century. And I am equally certain that 15th century residents of France, England, and Spain would have deemed the idea of a unified Europe as ludicrous.

To me, the writer of that article embodies what I like to call Old Testament thinking. In this case, "Old Testament" revealed in the attitude of everyman for himself although at least the author has assumed a tribal level the size of the United States. He has defined greatness as the potential economic and geopolitical status that America could achieve in a time of tremendous and dangerous environmental changes.

Too bad he can't see that history will more likely name the next century after the country or organization that expends its energy towards solving the human crises of inland water shortages, coastal flooding, food distribution shifts, etc, that climate change will bring.

No comments:

Post a Comment