Avoiding Doomsday

January 22, 2007 at 8:01 am Leave a comment

This past week, when the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved its “Doomsday Clock” two minutes closer to midnight it highlighted the destructive power Humanity holds over our future through both our economic activity and military pursuits. It was a clear shout out to the people of this world to change our ways before we reach “midnight”. But such seemingly monumental tasks appear out of the reach of most individuals to affect change in any meaningful way. The truth is that rapid and meaningful change will not happen by pronouncements from “above”, but by us acting individually from “down here.”

The rate and scope of change involves at least two elements. First is the notion that we become the focus of our efforts. In fact, you might say our autistic-like single-mindedness in industrial pursuits has brought upon us the environmental problems we are just starting to debate. For example, as a society we have become exceedingly expert at the arts of trade, production and consumption. While we have many other admirable attributes, these stand out far above the rest because of the predominance they hold in our world. While the aim of our productivity and technology may have been admirably to eliminate poverty, we have already attained the technological know-how necessary to achieve the utopia we all seek on Earth and our frenzied economic growth will only destroy what we most cherish.

The beast we have created needs to be tamed before the clock reaches midnight. Some say that the architect of our modern economic system, Adam Smith, recognized that self-interest was the key to our system’s success. I’m not going to say he was wrong. But, perhaps in our interpretation of that model we are missing the bigger picture of how cooperation is linked to our individual self-interest. The key is we each have to recognize that our ship called Earth has limited resources and the more people we want to fit on the ship, the greater our need to coordinate the use and distribution of its resources. Just as our focus has brought us to where we are, it can also bring us to where we want to be. Imagine if both environment and peace became the focus of everyone’s efforts on the planet – mountains could be moved. In general, you can begin by simply spending less money! And, of the money and time you do spend, spend them on sustainable and enduring efforts and solutions.

The second element at play is the power each of us holds to affect others through our own example. We tend to think of our actions as singular and alone in a vacuum, however, the exact opposite is true. Each of us sits among a community of family and friends and our example provides significant weight in their mind’s eye — you need look no further than yourself to know this truth. Example is more powerful than words because it is your belief put into action. Ever heard the expression “Actions speak louder than words”? Well, in acting your beliefs, you become a teacher whether it be to combat global warming or to resolve issues peacefully. And, as adults we bear responsibility for the lessons we teach our children and therefore for the society we project into the future.

I remember one day at Descanso Beach I was contemplating the water as it rolled onto the shore. The ocean seemed so unified and large yet also manifested itself so uniquely in how its waves were braking on the beach. Then, a curious thought entered my mind: Is the ocean one [entity] acting as many or many [entities] acting as one? I now realize that humanity is not unlike the ocean I so often contemplate; we each contribute differently to the tapestry of life on this Earth, but like a tsunami wave, together we can have tremendous force and impact upon it. To overcome the challenges that face us, we must act individually toward our common interest: survival. And, through our millions of examples, the force of humanity to determine its destiny will change the face of Earth like a tsunami upon its shorelines.

Doomsday Clock Moves Two Minutes Closer to Midnight
http://www.thebulletin.org/weekly-highlight/20070117.html

Charles Puts His Carbon Foot In It
http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/article-23382210-details/Charles+puts+his+(carbon)+foot+in+it/article.do

Things You Can Do to Affect Global Warming
http://www.climatecrisis.net/takeaction/

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Entry filed under: Environment, Philosophy, Sustainability.

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