Strive To Understand The Whole Picture — Globe Hackers
When Steven Pinker says, I’m paraphrasing, that all that’s required to tackle the worst probable outcomes of climate change is knowledge, I must beg to differ. Complex problems require a lot more than that.
Who would argue that climate science isn’t complex and climate, as it relates to functions of civilization, aren’t complex? The climate affects every aspect of our lives in many ways. I won’t go into systems theory, complexity science, climate science, and how those domains relate to economics, politics, food, ecosystems, etc. You can read up on those things as you wish. I have posted book recommendations and website links on my website at globe hackers.
The main point I am trying to make is that when we point to various areas of progress that we have experienced since, say, 1750, we need to understand it within an ever-changing context.
If we notice that a woman in China might prefer a factory job over working in rice paddies because the money she would earn from the factory will impact her life in more positive ways, we also need to understand the many changes that go along with that, their probable directionalities and cultural impacts; issues of sustainability and so on. They may all be good but will they always be good and relative to what? It is likely that when the woman working at the factory makes enough money, she might want to start a business or be a real estate investor or broker. Who knows, but she will probably move on from the factory if she can and wants to.
Immigrants to Brooklyn in the eighteenth century may have sewn caps in their tiny apartments and worked the docks to earn money to pay for their children’s education, a noble thing, by the way. Still, their children will be working within a vastly different context with different desires and needs. Everything we inherit these days is in flux-today, much more so than in the early eighteenth century.
We have taken for granted fossil fuel energy, what Nate Hagens metaphorically refers to as 50 billion “slaves” (because fossil fuel energy allows us to do much more work than a mule fed with oats) for many generations, and it’s given us more wealth than anyone in the seventeenth century could have possibly imagined. But things change, and it turns out fossil fuels have some economic externalities and environmental impacts that are not good for the health of ecological systems and public health.
We have known about climate change for decades, and our leaders and people have chosen to ignore the problem and instead carry on as if this particular set of circumstances can last forever without a hitch.
We all hope that free enterprise, science, engineering, and technology will facilitate solutions to our problems and allow us to continue our GDP based economic growth forever so that all people around the world can have air conditioners, white goods, shopping malls, Amazon warehouses, cars, medicine and so on. That is perfectly reasonable. However, it may require that we modify our way of doing things to achieve this constantly evolving state of progress.
We can do so many positive things to ensure a brighter future for most people and maintain a healthy balance in the natural services surrounding us and upon which we depend. Again, I refer you to books and internet resources if you feel you want to educate yourself regarding the various challenges we are facing.
We need to understand the broader and constantly evolving and changing context we are in both on a micro and macro level. We need to ensure that our way of life allows us to maintain good health and a positive mental attitude. We need to strive to understand the multitude of perspectives required to understand something well. Staying in our ideological safe space will not do.
When I say context, I mean across domains of knowledge.
Our culture needs to be conscious of the need to do this, as do all of us as individuals. If we are not aware of what is going on, there is nothing we can do to affect what’s going on.
We can’t assume that people who benefit significantly from how the system works in this era want to change the system as needed because they are rational. (If they don’t, it won’t benefit them, so they must.) A profits first mentality is horrendously short term.
We need to consider immediate needs, five-year, ten-year, and 25-year blocks at a minimum, and take action for nature’s long-term health and welfare. We are part and parcel of the biological systems from which we evolved. People who can’t recognize this need help. They need education.
If war is expensive, destructive, and potentially devastating to life, we need to work to end our need to wage war. This project is not some naive hope; it’s imperative in a world where technology drives our ability to be more and more efficient at destroying things. We could create a new game that would allow us to compete without the need to kill. If you can’t imagine that possibility, then, in many crucial ways, you are a deficient person.
If we want to look back with pride at how things have progressed twenty or one hundred years from now, we will have to recognize how things must change, and we are the only ones who can do that work.
Some things that are needed:
- Structural and systemic change
- New concepts of economic growth
- Better management of crucial global resources
- Better environmental stewardship
- A better understanding of negative externalities from business
- A science-based approach to regulation, health, and business
The above list is not to say that we haven’t made progress in these areas. I want to emphasize that we must continually evaluate the effectiveness of what we are doing in light of new information. (Let’s pay attention to the data and the science and act accordingly.)
I’ll end the bulleted list there. It is by far too short. Let’s add all the positive and still relevant things The Enlightenment has given us. I am not for throwing babies out with the bathwater. We should build upon the institutions and systems that have proven to work and stood the test of time.
- More free speech
- More freedom
- More free enterprise
- More creativity
- Better critical thinking and sense-making skills
- Ethical business leaders
- Leaders who are committed to our welfare and general health
We will not get these things through brutal, short-term, game-theoretic competition. As we always have, we will get there through cooperation, broad knowledge networks, economic activity, cultural exchange, etc.
Those of you who believe this is impossible need help. You need to get to work and educate yourself. You need to realize that you can be an active part of the solution.
We have to fight to stop those who would make this project impossible wherever they are, whatever ideology they subscribe to. We need an open society. Going back to closed societies is untenable in the twenty-first century.
We move on, or we go back. One way or another, our choices and actions will bring about the circumstances that will ultimately dictate the result.
Originally published at https://www.globehackers.com on April 23, 2022.