Tuesday, September 29, 2015

#272 / Lovelock And Figueres

The August 24, 2015 edition of The New Yorker included an article by Elizabeth Kolbert titled, "The Weight Of The World." Kolbert's article was subtitled, "Can Christiana Figueres persuade humanity to save itself?"

Christiana Figueres is the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Her job is to persuade the nations of the world to take the steps necessary to prevent what is euphemistically called D.A.I., or "dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” 

As Kolbert says, "in plain English it means global collapse."

The prognostications furnished in the Kolbert article are not heartening, but Figueres is a raging optimist compared to James Lovelock. Lovelock is an independent scientist, environmentalist and futurist who lives in Devon, England. He is best known for proposing the Gaia hypothesis, which argues that the Earth is a self-regulating, complex system that works consistently to maintain life on the planet. 

That sounds encouraging, but Lovelock's latest book is called The Revenge of Gaia. His predictions are the opposite of rosy.  You can click right here for an article published in The Guardian, in which he elaborates his current, and very pessimistic views. Lovelock summarizes the situation this way: "enjoy life while you can; in 20 years global warming will hit the fan; catastrophe is inevitable, carbon offsetting is a joke and ethical living [is] a scam."

The Lovelock article is well worth reading, but I recommend coming back to Figueres. Her approach is the opposite of Lovelock's. As Kolbert notes, she is seeking to raise expectations, not lower them: 

The danger of high expectations, of course, is that they can be all the more devastatingly dashed. Figueres, who is well aware of this, is doing her best to raise them further, on the theory that the best way to make something happen is to convince people that it is going to happen. “I have not met a single human being who’s motivated by bad news,” she told me. “Not a single human being.”

Figueres says something else that resonates with me, that I think needs to resonate with all of us. This comes from the very end of the Kolbert article:

You know, I think that this whole climate thing is a very interesting learning ground for humanity. I’m an anthropologist, so I look at the history of mankind. And where we are now is that we see that nations are interlinked, inextricably, and that what one does has an impact on the others. And I think this agreement in Paris is going to be the first time that nations come together in that realization. It’s not going to be the last, because as we proceed into the twenty-first century there are going to be more and more challenges that need that planetary awareness. But this is the first, and it’s actually very exciting. So I look at all of this and I go, This is so cool—to be alive right now!

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