Tuesday, November 18, 2014

#323 / Just A Quibble

I like Paul Krugman. And I liked his recent commentary on the announced agreement between the United States and China on global warming. Krugman's column ran on Sunday, November 16th in my local newspaper.

But I do have a quibble with the way Krugman outlines the situation (just as I have a quibble with the picture, above). 

It is common for human beings to believe that they are in control of everything, that they have "the whole world in their hands." As I try to point out in this Two Worlds blog, that is only partly true. Human beings are "in control" of the human world that they create. This is the world that we most immediately inhabit. In our world, we can truly do "anything." No laws constrain us in "our" world, because we make up the laws, and the law is what we say it is. Nothing is impossible within our human world. Not that it's easy to make changes. It's not, and the momentum of past choices makes it extremely difficult to make the changes we might need to make, or want to make, to change our human world. 

Past (and continuing) human choices and human activities have caused global warming, and global warming is a good example of how we have put in place, within the world that we have created, processes that we find are very difficult to change. We have based our world on the combustion of hydrocarbon fuels. Now we need to change that. We can change it, but it's not easy to make change happen. 

This very situation is what Krugman writes about in the column I read on Sunday. Here's my quibble. Krugman says that the actions we need to take are necessary to "save the planet." Let's be clear. The "planet" is not a human creation. It's not part of "our" world; it's part of the World of Nature, a world that we did not create, and the world into which we come, and within which we construct our human world.

When we think we are equivalent to God (or to Nature, for those who are shy of any admission that there might be a Creator of the World of Nature that we ultimately inhabit) we are making a mistake. We can't save "the planet." We can only "save," or protect and extend, human civilization. We can "save" the world that we make, but the World of Nature, which came before us and all our human creations, is not subject to our decision. In the World of Nature, we don't make the law. Those laws of Nature, in fact, make us!

Krugman gets it wrong. Conservation International gets it right. "Nature is Speaking," as Conservation International says, and it's message is this: 

Nature doesn't need us. We need Nature.

Anyone who hasn't seen the "Nature is Speaking" videos should watch them. Let's celebrate the recent United States - China announcement with Krugman, but as we do that, let's not forget who, and where, we are!

Image Credit:


  1. Another great example of the fact that the terminology we use largely determines the conclusions we reach. That's why it drives me crazy every time I see or hear a progressive using the term "defense" when he/she really means "military."

    The words do not mean the same thing!

  2. I am with you, John. In fact, I can channel my Mom on just that topic - http://www.gapatton.net/2014/10/283-word-from-my-mom.html. Or, http://www.gapatton.net/2012/01/14-my-mom-on-military.html.

    Thanks for his nice comment!


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