Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Backwards

Recent talks with certain folk have focussed on all the bad stuff which is (without argument) going on in lots of places, to lots of key systems, in the name of wealth.

Today's blinding insight is that this is getting us nowhere in particular.

A lot of bloggers and commenters are well-educated on the problems we face as a vulnerable species on a vulnerable planet, and are looking for, or asking for, leadership, guidance, ideas, ways forward to move us away from the MAD path we seem to be currently walking.

Here's a suggestion.

As a species, we are often destructive, selfish, greedy and stupid. But we are also creative, imaginative, brilliant and determined. While it does often appear on the surface that our leaders are either unwilling or unable to bring about the kind of changes we feel are necessary, and while it seems that many individuals who have the choice to behave in different ways persist in their old ones, both these appearances should be viewed with caution. There is another side to the coin.

Considerable resources are already being expended in attempts to find an optimal path through the mire into clear water beyond. Though a lot of these resources will produce little of value, they are necessary because they form the platform on which a sensible way forward will be found.

It is commonly observed that we are, in the first time in our history, in a position to overwhelm the natural world and damage it irreparably, thus threatening our own survival. But this power also exists in our ability to respond to risks on relevant scales and direct ourselves onto a pathway which could be, in part at least, of our choosing.

Collectively, we have the means to help shape the future. We have the motivation. What remains is the opportunity. The question is how long it will take for the right direction to be found, and whether our actions are timely enough to avoid appalling harm.

Science is very good at showing us what is, and reasonable good at showing us what is a likely consequence if we do x to y. Long may this continue. We need science more than ever, not least because it is fundamentally rational, and reason is what is needed as much as anything.

So, my suggestion is that we have been tending to look at this problem backwards. As well as seeing what we are doing wrong and trying to stop it, we should be paying attention to what we we can do which is more resourceful, constructive and productive to the natural environment. We should be looking at the climate, environment, ecology, oceans, atmosphere, industry, society, as systems which we can help make better.

This doesn't mean we can ignore the obvious. Screwing up the oceans of the world is a bad idea, and stopping screwing them up requires positive action to avoid doing certain things, like throwing all our shit in them, warming them up and acidifying them, and overexploiting the resources which come from them.

So here's a thought: we have the brains, the information and the opportunity; let's start worrying less about where we went wrong, and more about what we're going to do to fix it.