In every addiction support group they say that until you acknowledge your addiction, realize who you have harmed and ask their forgiveness, there is little hope for lasting change. I think this holds true for the environment as well. People have an addiction, the addiction for more: more power, more possessions. To heal this widespread addiction of damaging our earth by our desire for more, widespread acknowledgement and repentance is also needed to facilitate a lasting change.
I believe the key to our survival does lie in a small-scale community and governance structure. The more localized you are, the more you are able to solve and prevent problems in your area. One large government is good for things such as taxes and controlling major resources and roadways. But to really build good policy everywhere, local government and community could do that significantly better. People who live in an area know the land better and can create policy and community to become more resilient and mobilized for the coming natural disasters. We are part of the natural world. We have the same ability to adapt as a community and as a species. However, if we don’t acknowledge the damage done and the fact that we need to change our ways significantly, earth and our species could be in a lot of trouble.
Bookchin’s comprehensive approach to environmental problems echoes the weak anthropocentrism ethic proposed by John Huckle in his essay “Sustainable Development.” It is only appropriate to approach an interdisciplinary and comprehensive problem like environmental exploitation with integrated solutions that incorporate dimensions of society, economics, and science. Many approaches to environmental exploitation and subsequent consequences of it only treat symptoms of the problem rather than addressing the root cause. For example, soil toxicity problems are treated by removing top layers of soil and disposing of them at a landfill as hazardous waste. Clearly, this approach to remedying soil quality does not prevent further soil pollution or address any issues of quality control regulation or environmental injustice likely associated with this problem. If Bookchin’s social ecology was applied in a soil toxicity case study, it would serve as a preventative measure against pollution in the first place. Additionally, such an approach would naturally and elegantly integrate the precautionary principle.
I feel that a comprehensive approach to environmental issues comparable to social ecology or weak anthropocentrism would so successfully focus on treating exploitative activity that arguments from climate change deniers would hold no water. That is, if the exploitation of environmental resources can be addressed (which can be agreed upon by a reasonable majority as a phenomena that occurs and does not require elaborate model-based scientific data to prove), activities that contribute to climate change would be reduced by default.
A drawback to implementing social ecology is the breadth and scope of changes in contemporary social values, policy, and regulatory enforcement that would have to take place. Such a social paradigm shift would occur in no less than a decade. While this may seem grim, the 1973 Oil Embargo catalyzed an environmentally conscious movement in the United States that spurred alternative energy research, increased the enforcement and strength of environmental legislation, and made environmental conservation a hot button voting issue.
John Huckle states, “We should balance our rights to self-determination and development, with responsibilities towards the rest of the human and biotic community” (emphasis mine). I disagree that this statement should merely be a prescription of human behavior, but must become a description of contemporary behavior within the next decade if we are to avoid positive feedback loops that would send climate/ecological cycles into a tailspin.
I do not believe that failure to mitigate climate change is a result of limitations in science and technology; as a plethora of scientific evidence indicates, climate change is having monumental effects and is primarily the cause of human activity. I agree with Ausubel that “on a technological plane,” (159) we can reduce CO2 emissions and thus help mitigate climate change. With California as an exception, the problem largely relates to policymakers’ and governments’ resentment about straying away from “business as usual.” I agree with the “redesign of our civilization” that Ausubel prescribes, and that this requires decentralization and more efficient, localized systems of governance. I also think that more education regarding the issue of climate change is necessary; if constituencies are more aware of the problem and potential catastrophic effects of climate change, they are more likely to work to get governments to adopt policies designed to mitigate it.
I do not think that a climate change mitigation scheme will easily fit into government policy as it has been operating, but that is why a systemic redesign is necessary. Environmental concerns like climate change are not necessarily conducive to the primary government aims of growth, economic development, technological innovation, and increasing globalization. Thus, I think it is going to take a massive reconsideration of priorities in order for climate change to make it onto the policy agenda in a way that will help mitigate the crises associated with it. As Ausubel mentions, education and decentralization are critical components of such an endeavor.
There are some things that are just clearly out of our control. We cannot control the weather. We cannot control other people. To an extent, we are able to predict and manipulate these things, but never with complete certainty. Without a doubt, this was the aim of the Kyoto Protocol, Montreal Protocol, and the Copenhagen summit of 2009.
Ausubel claims that the reason climate change still exists in its current extent is because of the “biggest political failure in the history of civilization.” While it may be a bit of a stretch to call today’s political environment the worst in the history of civilization, I think I can see where he’s coming from. After several intentional meetings between world governments and organizations to curb necessary industrial processes which contribute to the “carbon footprint,” not much progress has been made. The error in Ausubel’s thinking is that just because little progress has been made, the blame should not be placed on the temporarily elected appointed “decision makers.” It is not out of the corruptness of their hearts that presidents, secretary generals, prime ministers, et cetera refuse to shut down factories, rather it is because such a decision would be unwise. Both the short and long term effects of such actions cannot be justified against the ever-changing scientific evidence and discoveries regarding climate change. As science and technology are able to place more of the pieces of the puzzle together, we will be able to make more concise decisions. Also, it is not that we are being held back by current scientific limitations, rather we are being pushed forward by them – we are just not as far along as we wished we could be.
Competition between nations drives this century. Every country is constantly trying to create the most advanced technology before another country creates it. The environmental degradation that results due to these developments is not a priority for most countries. Violence and industrial warfare are results of this competition. For this reason, I agree with Ausbel’s belief that industrial warfare leads to environmental degradation. Nevertheless, environmental stresses will lead to water wars and agricultural wars in the future.
Recognizing the interconnectedness of all beings and complex processes is essential to developing an environmental ethic as well as creating peace in our world. We must understand that we need animals and microorganisms to survive, the same way that developing countries need to export to other countries to keep their economic standing. By recognizing our relationship with nature as well as our connection to all other humans, feelings of compromise and forgiveness will develop on their own. Therefore, I believe that the role of interconnectedness in our world is the most effective tool to create peace and harmony.
Humans have the tendency to be selfish. Having different goals, therefore, does not encourage them to work together and create peace. I do believe peace plays a significant role in saving our environment because it creates unity between everyone, which will in turn allow us to work towards a common goal. By recognizing that we are all interconnected, like the Iroquois Peacemaker stated, feelings of empathy as well as a desire to help others develop. This will allow us to work together to save our environment and all things dependent on it.
By and large I feel that our failures to mitigate climate change reside in our government and in the ways that politics over the past 60 years have favored slow and limited steps towards action. While technology plays a crucial role in offering the means of powering our society in a sustainable and healthy way, so much of its progress is often dependent on the whims and decisions of the government. In the example of the light-water nuclear reactor, failure to improve upon the design and switch to a liquid fuel reactor, a technology which would have generated waste 10,000 times less toxic than plutonium, was due to the Nixon administration who wanted instead the plutonium for nuclear weapons during the cold war.
In the light of technology produced through academia, politics often can play a large role as well. Often, new and progressive technologies arise from the minds and laboratories of institutions and universities, which are at least partly funded by government programs and grants. When the political tides turn to defund such national programs to “reduce government spending” or reallocate the money to defense budgets and subsidies, the government indirectly stifles the progress of technologies that could lead to the next great revolution in sustainability.
Point being, our climate issues have not only arisen out of our government decisions, but in a large way the technology we frequently hold up to be our environmental save all is largely directed by our political climate. Overall, it appears to me that the failure of our mitigation action resides in our political system and the ways in which it often upholds priority to a thriving economy. With an option of delay that favors short term gains that can be used to win the next term’s election, the necessary decisions that must be made to address our climate dilemma are too often cast aside as fanciful and hopeful rhetoric. That ‘one-day’ technology too often is our scapegoat. The fact that our government has acted very little to make simple and much needed efficiency changes, which are now in existence and could reduce our energy consumption by 50%, is enough of a red flag to indicate that the government is failing to take even the most moderate of actions.
I absolutely agree with Ausubel that the failure of the world to mitigate climate change is due to a crisis of government and political action, rather than a limitation of science and technology. Though there is plenty of room for advances in renewable energy that would help make dealing with climate change easier, the technology that exist today is more than adequate to reduce our use of fossil fuels by a large amount, and eventually completely. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report detailing the ability of renewable energy sources to meet our energy demands. According to the report, from a technological standpoint, renewable energy can more than meet our energy demands, and by the year 2050, nearly 80 percent of our energy needs can be met with existing technologies alone. So what is the problem? Why all the doom and gloom in discussions about climate change is the solution is already available to us? The problem is that the transition will not be easy. In fact it will be extremely hard and expensive. Switching away from fossil fuel use is a painful process, and it is one that doesn’t seem to have the political support to get done. Supporting renewables would require the government to spend enormous amounts of money, as well as ignore the lobbyists of the already established energy industry, who will surely resist this change with all of their power. Ultimately I believe it will come down to the public, led by a few political members who understand the situation, to demand drastic change in our energy industry.