Much as the liberals amuse themselves with the conservatives’ lack of belief in global warming, the conservatives have a field day with the liberals’ Panglossian notion that this is the best of all possible worlds, and that we ought to keep the planet exactly the way it was when we, the generations currently alive, chanced to embark upon our lives. As if.
I can almost always find the wellsprings for a rant or two in the pages of The Economist, and of course, TED Talks. (If that sounds too snooty, you should see me snort into my beer at some of the comments that Daniel Tosh makes.) I am not picky about the source of my ramblings—generally I want to be amused, entertained, or educated, and preferably all at once. I mention this because, with all of the evidence that surrounds us, at all levels of erudition, I can’t understand how anyone can believe that this world is not all about change. Back to The Economist.
Awhile back, there was an article on the Mississippi River, and how its flow has changed over the centuries. The illustration accompanying the article makes the flood plain painfully clear, and yet our government encourages people to build, and rebuild, in an area that can’t help but be inundated in the future. When will the madness stop? Who will be the first to say, yup, it’s a bad idea to try to drag this planet to a halt, right where it is. It’s the height of hubris to think that a) we can mold this big old earth into our version of heaven, and b) that we are the be-all and end-all of everything.
It’s interesting that conservatives tend to be more religious, but that liberals act as though humans are the teleological result of evolution. Change is the only constant, and evolution is a non-thinking phenomenon, regardless of the way it is portrayed in schools and on science shows. No creature thinks, wow, I got to get me a longer proboscis, so’s I can get the nectar buried deeper in the flower. It’s the poor fella who happens to be stuck with the longer proboscis that finds, or doesn’t find, the flower that happens to allow for that particular trait. Then he either dies off, or passes that mutation on to later generations, who find, or don’t find, flowers that work for them. Evolution is not a forward-thinking process. It’s only after it happens, and we see the current state of things versus what worked in the past, that we can figure out which random mutations are working right now. Even that won’t tell us what mutation will become necessary in the next five minutes as a result of ongoing changes.
Yet daily we are inundated with examples of the pervasive thinking that, because we exist at this point in the lifespan of our planet, this is the way things ought to be forever and ever. We can’t manage to find a source of power that can be made readily available to all, without causing harm to some part of the planet, but we have the right, and the ability, to keep the next ice age from occurring?
How about we get the religion out of the government—the religion that says that we are the all-powerful, all-knowing gods of this planet, and that if we merely tithe enough to Caesar, he will render paradise.How about we make adaptation a conscious process, conforming ourselves to the world we happen to find ourselves in, instead of acting as though throwing more money at the coastline will make the tide stop washing away the beach. Or plunking a house down will hem in the Mississippi River.
Somewhere, we glommed onto the notion that we’ve got all the answers, even in the face of the planet constantly demonstrating that we do not. Maybe this is the time we can step back and think things through, before rushing to an expensive, short-term solution that only ends up aggravating the whole situation. Or, I guess, we can just throw more money into the river.