Wednesday, April 22, 2009

We Can't Kill the Planet

This is an idea that's bothered me a long long time. "Save the planet." It sounds great, but in truth we can't kill the planet. I don't mean, should not, I mean cannot. All our carbon, all our chainsaws, all our nukes, all together, could not wipe out life on Earth or kill the planet.

Let's be really clear in the future as to what we really mean. Kill the planet? Kill the euphemisms!

There are microbes in the Antarctic ice and bacertia feeding on volcanos at the bottom of the ocean.

We're not killing the planet; we're killing ourselves.

I first heard about the perils of climate change in the mid-eighties. It was included in a presentation which predicted wars for oil, rising sea levels, and doomsday-type chaos. Thus, like the early scientests who used computers to study weather, the message was easy to dismiss as extremist and unrealistic.

Today few of us doubt what nearly all scientists now agree on. And as computer models improve and more variables are added the results remain similar. Similar, except the predictions of chaos keep moving forward in time. Climate swings can apparently happen much faster than originally suspected.

A significant portion of children born today will live a full hundred years and more. But it's now known that ocean currents, local climates, and global patterns can shift in a decade. Thus I humbly submit that while worrying about the planet is noble, worrying for ourselves would be wiser.

Precisely when we'll hit the tipping point that endangers billions of us is still unknown. Until then, let's loose the vague speech. Stop saving the planet. Let's save ourselves!

(Oh, but Happy Earth Day none the less.)

1 comment:

MWSwall said...

Sadly, I think a lot of the "Save the Planet" rhetoric is based in a backwards looking economic theory which will end up doing our species far more harm than good.

Oddly, such views are considered "left-wing" in my country, yet the strongest condemnations I have read regarding it actually come from socialists.

As you stated up front, we cannot kill our planet... we only kill ourselves. Now, there are those that say we have to reduce our production and usage off natural resources. I believe the opposite is true. As societies develop and are able to improve their standard of living through industrialization, they tend to find find efficient means of production which pollute far less.

Rather than worry about maintaining levels of "sustainable growth", I think we need to worry about focusing on increasing food production and improving standards of living for our fellow human beings... in the process we invariably will find ways to minimize our impact on the world as well.