Terra Diem MMXXII
A "day" to recenter on the natural world
Last Friday was Earth Day. Though, it’s not a very imposing holiday, so most celebrations and observances of it happened yesterday and today. The weekend is more convenient, more free time and whatnot, especially for a more minor day.
I haven’t written on here in a while, so I figured this was a good occasion for another post, just to take a small bit of time to recenter and refocus on the theme of the Earth (the environment, the climate, our natural world, etc.).
As I’m a relatively young person,it’s easy to take any extraordinary claim I make about the world to be rooted in inexperience and a lack of “knowing how it all really works” rather than in actuality and fact. At least, that’s what I’ve been generally taught growing up. Such a stereotype discourages people in my position from ever asserting anything grand or extreme or weighty. It’s not really the case that whatever thing is so important or dangerous or a big deal, I just think it is because don’t know any better, because of my life-inexperience.
Now, this phenomenon is being counteracted a bit by the validation of social media virality, but in general it’s still pretty pervasive, and this is a digression. Fortunately, I’m pretty happy to say what I think, in general. And while I think I have been impacted by this societal conditioning more than I would like, and probably more than I realize, I’m still pretty unfazed when it comes to the climate.
It should be pretty uncontroversial to say that, in many ways, we’re killing our planet. Though, to those outside of the circles I engross myself in, this probably sounds like a super stereotypical “crazy environmentalist” claim. But anyone with a basic understanding of the biosphere and the human impact on it would be hard pressed to present a compelling counter argument.
Human civilization has blatantly decimated much of the natural world to build our world. The destruction of forests and ecosystems across the globe to make room for the billions of us and our cities and towns and roads and houses is obvious. Huge tracts of natural land has been destroyed so that it can be utilized for human progress.
The above isn’t necessarily bad. Building a great city will disrupt, damage, and generally destroy much of the life that was originally in that space. That’s ok. At least, I think it is. We can have a modern, “developed” civilization, imo. That’s not a problem. The problem is that we go farther than that. Much, much, much farther.
The existence of our civilization does not necessitate the deletion of the natural world. It does not demand that we endanger and drive to extinction hundreds and thousands of species of animals. It does not require the end of the atmospheric conditions that have been present with us for the history of our species. It does not need us to fill the oceans with oil and plastic.
But we are doing all of those things.
To be fair, we have a history of doing this. There used to be a lot more megafauna, such as giant sloths, on this planet. We likely hunted them to extinction.
But humans of the past have a little bit more wiggle room in justifying their actions. They were much more often acting out of a need for immediate survival, and/or were ignorant of the scope of their actions.
We can claim no ignorance. We destroy the natural world with full context and thousands of preemptive warnings.
I would rather we don’t do this. I would rather not live in a world with atmospheric conditions unfamiliar to every one of my ancestors since recorded history began, and likely a good bit farther than that. But, I am in that world. That world where weather finds itself in a new troposphere for the first time in millennia. That world which spawned itself in just a few decades. As or more impressive than the Moon Landing, in my estimation.
But we are taking action.
Global CO2 has stalled for the past decade. We aren’t making it worse. (Well, we are making it worse. We are still putting a record amount of CO2 into the atmosphere every year, but we aren’t accelerating this rate of CO2 emission. Woo).
And over the same time, global GDP has risen somewhere around 30%. So, we have achieved absolute decoupling of GDP and CO2 emissions.That is vital. It also is evidence that capitalism does not inherently produce this problem. Which is good, because it would have been fairly difficult to end capitalism in the timeframe required to implement real climate action (that timeframe is now, immediately, and especially over this year and the following several).
Also on Friday, a man named Wynn Bruce immolated himself in front of the Supreme Court.
I wrote once about climate nihilism in the context of a comedy special. I’ll write about it more in the future. It, like every suffering-oriented belief system, is tempting. And its acceptance among many is understandable. But, categorically, it is always fatal.
A classification I have come to disdain, in the sense that it feels to put off a responsibility of being a full person. In many other places and times, there is/was not so much emphasis on being young, at least in the same way. Wars have been waged by men quite a bit younger than me, e.g. Alexander the Great began his reign and conquests when he was 20.
And to be fair, high schoolers think high school is a big deal, which it generally isn’t, at least in the way they think it is. So, even I do the exact same thing to those a bit younger than me. It’s a strong impulse.
I am shamelessly plagiarizing Noah Smith here.
The building which houses the Supreme Court is called the Supreme Court Building.