Friday, August 23, 2013

What if Aliens Caused Global Warming? (we'd do something about it)


Does anyone remember the movie Armageddon?  It was full of wonderful "science" and an unbelievable plot made believable only by Ben Affleck and Bruce Willis hugging it out over a nuclear bomb.  However, I did believe in one thing.  If an asteroid were about to crash into the earth, annihilating life as we know it (or as anyone knows it), we would drop what we're doing and try REALLY hard to stop it.

Meanwhile, here on Planet Not-Hollywood, we face multiple other threats to human existence, and yet we're not all banding together and throwing 99% of our fiscal budget at removing this threat.  In fact, many people still deny this possibility.  Sure, there are many differences between real life and "Armageddon", not the least being that the melting ice caps aren't bringing an avalanche of former glaciers through the streets of Paris, London, Beijing, and New York City.  But I'd like to ask one particular question:

What if it wasn't our fault?

Sarah Palin once said "But while we recognize the occurrence of these natural, cyclical environmental trends, we can't say with assurance that man's activities cause weather changes."  Now, I'm no Sarah Palin fan, and she's certainly said some dumb things in the past.  In fact when I heard this, I thought wow, way to try to have it both ways.  But then I realized the genius (however unintentional) of this statement.

You see, I'm actually very pro-human.  I love humanity.  Mankind has done great things.  Before our great society, there was no ice cream, no karaoke, and no League of Extraordinary Dancers.  We developed language, mathematics, social structures, and tools, that turned us from apes into Masters of the Universe.  I'm proud of humanity.  Humanity is great.

And that is why I think there is so much denial and fighting over climate change.  Sometimes when I hear people talk about Climate Change, what I really hear is this:

1.  You are destroying the world
2.  Therefore you are evil
3. Here's how to save the world

Now, most people don't INTEND to give this message, but it's only natural to hear point 2, when someone makes point 1.  When we listen to other's speak, we think everything is about us.  It's like if someone asks you "Did you take the last cupcake?"  You might answer "I only had one! just like everyone else."  You really heard "You're a pig" instead of an innocent question.

Now most people (especially conservatives) don't think humans are evil.  Destroying the world certainly sounds evil, so to avoid cognitive and identity dissonance, many people need to conclude that the first statement is not true.  I'm not evil and I'm human.  So what you're saying must be a lie (or I must be evil).   Maintaining your identity as not-evil is a strong motivator for denial.  They're so stuck in point 1 and 2 that they'll never hear point 3.

So what if instead, climate change debaters spoke like this

1. The world is changing (kind of like in that movie 2013, blame it on the Mayans or something)
2. We're all in trouble
3. Here's how to save the world

After all, does it really matter if humans are causing global warming or not?  There is real evidence that the climate is changing.  Say some passing aliens dropped several gigatons of carbon into our atmosphere (and then left).  Reducing carbon emissions is still a good strategy, as are several more aggressive ideas like putting reflectors in the atmosphere.  If you're overweight, does it really matter if it's because of genetics or because there's a MacDonalds next door?  Go on a diet and exercise.

Pro-environment does not have to equal Anti-humanity.  This should not be conservatives vs. liberals.  You can love humans and try to save the earth too.  In fact, if you love humans, you should probably protect our home.  The asteroid is coming for us. Let's not waste time pointing fingers, band together, and get Ben Affleck* to save us all.




Addendum:  Want further proof that climate change has become "personal"?  A study shows that pro-environment labeling for lightbulbs dissuades conservatives.

* It's not lost on me that in Armageddon, deep oil drillers save the world.  Way to sell end-of-the-world due to environmental disaster (asteroids count) to conservatives.

2 comments:

  1. Very good points Eric. When we stop blaming we can start taking action.

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  2. There is one potential problem with letting humanity off the hook. If the take away is that it is part of a natural cycle, that can be used as (yet another) cause for inaction. In other words, we can tell ourselves, "it'll blow over -- let it pass".

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