14.10.07

Blog Action Day: At Earth's Bedside

I promised to write a post for Blog Action Day 2007 because this is a wonderful initiative uniting people, who in essence are very individualistic, on a matter that requires a collective will.

So here is my contribution, centered on collective will, and illustrated with a picture of the gulf of Korinthos, Greece.

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My daughter inspired the title of this post. When she brilliantly finished college and didn't know what to do next, my husband, who is a doctor, and myself, a scientist, convinced her to study Medecine. You've got what it takes to become a doctor, we said to her, a passion for science, a passion for people, a passion for Human Rights, and compassion. After one year in medical school, my daughter showed no interest in a medical career. Instead, with our guidance, she started a bachelor in Biology.

During her three years study in Biology she was interested in everything related to the environment: Ecology, Climate change, Biodiversity, etc...After finishing her bachelor, she applied for law school with the goal of working in the new emerging field of environment and the law. At the same time, she applied for a one year master program in European studies focused on Science and Society, including learning to communicate Science and make risk assessments. She was accepted in both but choose to do her master first because she saw in it an opportunity to study how Science affects us in both ways, for the bad and the good, how it might be our only chance to save our planet from a large scale looming catastrophe, and how technological progress can be socially and responsibly monitored.

The looming catastrophe for future generations

When I compare my daughter's generation to mine I see a shift. Most advocay groups from my generation have been preoccupied by the health and the wealth of Humanity, by peace and war, by social struggles. My daughter's generation is preoccupied by the health of the planet. But it is not only a question of generation, it is a question of structure and substance. Despite technical and ethical progress, the moves forward and backward, there is some constancy in Humanity. But what about the earth, I asked myself when I started exchanging on a daily basis with my daughter on the matter since she started her master, will it ever be the same for us, humans, across generations ?

Every indicator, up to now, is telling us that the changes introduced by human activity and march toward progress in the earth's structure and substance are probably irreversible. The problem is serious and requires urgent thinking and urgent solutions.

For the advocates of piecemeal technological solutions and economic measures, like changing light bulbs, driving electric cars, a Carbon Dioxide stock market, and so on...I am frankly afraid that, despite the good will and the fact that such measures have tremendoudly helped environmental awareness among the public, time is running out.

For the advocates of Geoengineering, an engineering made on the scale of the planet inlcuding such radical measures as: "1) underground storage of carbon dioxide, 2) wind scrubbers to filter carbon dioxide from the air, 3) ‘fertilization’ of oceans with iron to encourage growth of plankton, 4) petrification of carbon dioxide, 5) deflection of sunlight from the earth through the use of a giant space mirror ‘spanning 600,000 square miles’" , I am afraid that, not only time is maybe running out too here, but that the solution, even though more radical and having a wider impact, will be more challenging than the actual problem.

Although, if we are to compare the earth to a living organism, but an ill organism on its death bed that will not be cured with few local interventions, large scale solutions might well resemble a Frankenstein approach.

Neoliberalism, collective will and the decentering of our social selves to meet our biological needs as a species.

We need collective will. Humans in the 21st century sadly lack this collective will because Capitalism, and especially its new form, Neoliberalism, have championed competition, and artificially suppressed our biological ability for solidarity by negating the existence of humans as a collectivity, a homogenous species, substituting it by the notion of the self centered individual consumer. The self-centered individual consumer on which neoliberalism thrives is a social construction based on an overinterpretation of Darwinian theory as applied to the social sphere, a biological theory itself inspired by the social theories of early Capitalism. Capitalism created differences in ecological niche construction between one individual and another, and inside the species, leading to the building of many special and individual interests, and eclipsing the interest of the species.

The main challenge facing advocates of the environment is this gap among individuals and countries, in our species' ecological niche, created by Capitalism and Neoliberalism. Is it normal that at a time we face a major catastrophe in our ecological system resulting from an over exploitation of resources that a small part of humanity have slandered and squandered these resources for its progress and wealth while the rest, the many, are still looking for their fare share of this progress and wealth, and probably won't have it ?

At Earth's bedside, we need to unite in one voice, one humanity, one species, one family near the ailing mother. The earth is an organism, a whole, a habitat on which depend our lives and the survival of our species. Our generation is witnessing the beginning of the catastrophe, my daughter's generation and her children and future generations will witness the convulsions and maybe the end. More than piecemeal measures, more than global measures, we need to accept the fact that what counts for us as one humanity and one species, is our habitat. We all depend on the earth and we depend on each other. We need to leave our egos and to unite, rich and poor, to developp solidarity with other human beings, and between human beings and the earth.

Maybe my daughter is right. Maybe we need to be at the earth's bedside before everything else, because by doing so, we will be rebuilding our species long lost ability for cooperation and solidarity from its roots. If we succeed by doing so, we will be able to feel the same solidarity for others and reverse the logic of Neoliberalism. For this is the ultimate test for globalised Neoliberalism, will it be able to adapt from the inside, change its concepts, work on different assumptions, and save humanity, or will it sink us alltogether ? Because if we follow socio-Neodarwinian logic in Neoliberalism, maybe the few wealthy will make it, on the expenses of others, and that's what most people think of what is behind the inaction of our governments, but then Neoliberalism will have defeated itself anyway. It won't be able to profit from wars, toxic toys, toxic food, cheap goods, and cheap labour. During our planet convulsions, it will surely profit from these convulsions with no concern for the grim future that is awaiting everyone of us. Neoliberalism is ahistorical and where there is no history, there is no future.

As much as individual freedoms and individual concerns were the Achille heel that led to the fall of communism, collective freedoms, the freedom to act together, and collective will for solidarity with each other, and with our habitat and species, to save our planet, will be the Achille heel that will eventually lead to our demise, the demise of our planet, and the demise of the major obstacle to save our planet now, our unchallenged burden, Neoliberalism itself.

Dave Lucas has an excellent post as well as a round-up of the blogosphere who celebrated Al Gore on this Blog Action Day for the environment.

The Two Wolves has a superb post on climate change and the copntroversy surrounding the data presented in Gore's Inconvenient Truth, with eclectic links and an interesting take on the subject.

8 comments:

eredux said...

Check out this US Carbon Footprint Map, an interactive United States Carbon Footprint Map, illustrating Greenest States to Cities. This site has all sorts of stats on individual State & City energy consumptions, demographics and much more down to your local US City level...

http://www.eredux.com/states/

Sophia said...

Eredux,

Thanks for visiting and leaving this interesting link. The map is very informative.

Wolfie said...

As you know Sophia, I'm a pessimistic worrier when it comes to the environment. However I'm not a big fan of Gore's efforts as it centred too much on his personality and political ambition. Ironically, in spite of some of his sloppy science he has been demonstrated to be quite correct. In fact too optimistic. So I'll let him off this time ;-)

Your daughter is correct however, we are at the crossroads of a crisis and the end of humanity looms darkly on the horizon.

Sophia said...

Wolfie,

I agree with you thst Al Gore's campaigning is not worth a Nobel prize. However, he has been advocating environemental issues well before his 'Inconvenient truth' and candidates for the peace prize are so scarce these days.

Where I don't agree is that his campagning is political. Although restrained by his political career and maybe future, I see his campaigning for the environment, contrary to you, as a way to divorce from Politics, without divorcing from politics. He won't be able to resume his political activities after his film and his prize without disappointing.

Although, if he was to isntrumentalize some of his do good actions, he should have publicized the fact that he paid from his pocket to lift an entire hospital personnel with more than 200 patients from New Orleans during Katrina. Indeed nobody heard of this at a time Clinton and Bush father were touring Katrina refugees and making some political profit from it, one for his son and the other for his wife.

Wolfie said...

I'm not saying he's a bad man, far from it. However I raised my eyebrows when at one point we get a full section on his failure to win the presidential race and a bit about his background and family. Maybe it’s a cultural thing but I've been watching David Attenborough's documentaries since childhood and all I know about him is he "likes animals" and his brother made "Ghandi" [the movie]. I just thought he really should have stuck to the subject, its an old fashioned humility thing - especially when the message is important.

Sophia said...

Wolfie,

I don't know the Attenborough's myself that much except for Richard's cinematic career.

Whwn you write: "he really should have stuck to the subject", I am not sure whom you are talking about, Gore or Attenborough ?

Wolfie said...

Gore naturally.

Sophia said...

Wolfie,

I agree that Gore should have stuck to the subject but you don't know how much a defeat is something that alters your public image forever. In North American society there is no place for defeat. It is a taboo. There was no going back for Al Gore from his 200 defeat and he needed to prove himself somewhere else.

 
Since March 29th 2006