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Save Yourself the Agony

Free Rein's picture

Two weeks ago, we had a very juicy discussion in class about whether we can stop the changes occurring to the planet’s climatic system or not. I was mesmerised by the views that were aired by my fellow colleagues. One against twelve (exclusive of our fabulous professor, of course) is what I would term the then position of the held discussion. Unfortunately, I was the crazy one-the misfit-the round peg in a square hole. I must say that, it was such a quirky feeling at first but it became interesting as the discussion unfolded. My other intellects talked of how we can change global warming and other climatic issues. However, my stand remains engraved in the fact that global warming is irreversible, and we can do nothing at all to change that. Basing my argument from the two weeks’ class, we discussed a scenario from the book, As the World Burns.’  I sided with the therapist’s opinion of the earth’s therapeutic goal; “For the patient to be at ease within the overall social structure and customs-not only to be free from pain but even to be…um…happy (P.46).”

The shifting climatic patterns, the increasing acidification of water bodies, the morbid impacts on the cryosphere, biosphere and the hydrosphere is not a recent wonder; it existed even over two centuries ago and what scientists and climatologists would call the ‘Little Ice Age’ period. I am not among those in denial that we, human beings, are the main causal agents of the change. Our actions, some out of good will, have attributed to this menace. Scientists and other environmental eco-activists have been on the move calling upon us to stop global warming. I am not against this either, but I strongly feel that it’s totally a waste of the limited time we have. How and where do you begin reducing the Carbon(IV)Oxide emissions? How do you regulate the changing weather patterns? Some actions are close to impossible. Yes, you can advocate for change but in this world, we are living in, only a handful of people will actualize this change. Most people are uncertain of the change in the climatic system and only a few are willing to cut on their lifestyle and increase their frequency of going green.

“Old habits die hard.” Even if we minimize our eco-unfriendly behaviours, the ingrained and pro-environmental bad habits we have, our actions are too small to make a difference. How can someone be willing to use an energy saving light bulb and yet you can’t see the Carbon (IV) Oxide levels fading away? Every day you wake up to the same old message; the Carbon (IV) Oxide levels in the atmosphere are being depleted-only a little is remaining and other grim climatic issues? How can someone be willing to forego the cheap light bulbs and run to the exorbitant energy saving bulbs? The proposed mechanisms on the safest means and mode to use that are environmental friendly are too expensive. I am an intended Economics major and some of the ways we use to minimize negative externalities and environmental pollutions are too basic. Ways like setting high carbon emission taxes and using caps and trade methods can only be afforded by the rich industries. Unleashing electric cars which are worth a fortune and having almost none car charging stations are just some of the ways people are being barred from effecting the change. Only the rich thrive in such conditions and they continue propelling these hazards since they own large and global industries which produce tons and tons of pollution.

In ‘As the World Burns’ a politician says, “…I like the system. I don’t care if it is killing the planet. It’s making me rich (P.24).” This is the way the earth is working nowadays. Where the ‘man eats man’ society and ‘every man for himself are the trending lifestyles. Where people are regarded as plausible when you are well-fitted to the trends and sway along with them no matter the magnitude nor direction. Only a few people have the will-power to take the risk of being a social misfit. No one wants to be hated by the society because of trying to change the rules of the game. NO. Not even me. How do you survive having a day or life full of tantrums, insults and only end up in depression? (Question for activists) I feel that we shouldn’t worry about what we can’t change, what seems hard to change or that which we lack total control of. We should be ‘well-adjusted’ to the existing truth and accept whatever new that comes our way open-mindedly. Again, lowering our consumptions lower the aggregate price levels of the goods in the market but the supply remains constant. The climatic system gives zero cares about the sources of Carbon emissions or rising sea levels. It will continue to warm up, more than or in just the same way it has always done.

Environmental activists talk of a handful of green initiative methods that aim to offset the climatic imbalance getting a lot of people excited. However, they fail to fathom the fact that sizeable reductions are required to curb this catastrophe and that for real change to take place, it must be carried out everywhere in the globe. Their activism doesn’t address the deeper dynamics that cut across the existing challenges in the planet and human survival. Changing one industry is not reducing anything at all. The earth has over 190 countries which are at the verge of developing and being urbanized. Think about those developing countries, that have their real GDP way down there and are introduced to cheap methods of producing their own goods instead of relying on exports. These people would do and give anything for the cheap fossil fuels and coals so that the extra can be used to establish themselves and achieve other national goals.

That said, I hope you save yourself from the cheap beliefs of changing the world. The anthropogenic global warming is an irreversible change that will last more than your stay here on earth and learning to live with that fact will make your stay here better. Again, it has been existing since the invention of breathing and not coming to terms with it will only make you sick. “This is the world you live in. This is the skin you live in. Make yourself at home!”




Anne Dalke's picture

I’m so glad that you decided to elaborate, in this paper, on the stance you took in two of our classes: that “global warming is irreversible, and we can do nothing at all to change that.” In both cases, you certainly took (as you say) the minoritarian view, and I’m happy that you are now taking the time to elaborate on this. You do so carefully, first agreeing that “human beings are the main causal agents of the change,” then claiming that “only a few people” are willing to change their lifestyles in order to actualize change, that even the actions we might be willing to take  “are too small to make a difference.”

You develop your ideas first through the lens of your intended major, Economics, with attention to the inadequate ways in which we are “minimizing negative externalities,” and the costs of addressing pollution, which often fall on those with the least wealth. You claim that current “activism doesn’t address the deeper dynamics” of the problem, and speak also to its psychological dimensions, the fact that only a few of us “have the will-power to take the risk of being a social misfit,” the probability that no one “wants to be hated” for “trying to change the rules of the game.” You end, as the fictional therapist does, by advocating “adjustment” to what is, saying that we should all “make ourselves @ home” in the world we live in.

I’m wondering if your work in the Economics @ Bryn Mawr might one day involve Environmental Economics, which might broaden and deepend the claims you make here; the department offers a number of courses that count toward Environmental Studies (I see, for example, that one of the thesis seminars this spring will focus on “causes and responses to environmental and natural resources degradation.”)

Would you like to go on learning in this direction, for the revised paper due @ the end of the week?

A few years ago, I co-taught a 360 on “Eco-Literacy” with a colleague in the Economics Department, who recommended Environmental and Natural Resource Economics:

In Fundamentals of Ecology, Eugene Odum and Gary Barrett say that “economics and ecology are seen as antagonists, but “should be companion disciplines.”

A student in this ESem a few years ago also wrote fairly extensively about “ecological economics”:

You might read that essay first, then read around in the two textbooks, then write about what you are thinking in response.

Enjoy the exploration—