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Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Smart Money's On The Planet

I must preface this writing by stating unequivocally that I am not a scientist. I tend to base my conclusions on what I observe and for the big scientific questions, I tend to default to the majority opinion among reputable scientists presenting research free from personal or political bias. Based on observation and majority scientific opinion, I have come to the conclusion that yes, global warming is a measurable phenomenon that is occurring and that the prevailing evidence shows that the behaviors of humans are a major factor in the warming trend.

While what happens next if the overall problem continues is still open to speculation as far as I can tell, it appears ultimately that human life in certain corners of the planet is at risk. This leads to a conclusion that humankind, by continually engaging in actions not directly related to the survival of the species, has placed its own species at imminent risk of not surviving.

This is the point where I state without hesitation that I eagerly await the planet’s final response to humankind’s existence on it.

So the reader at this point is horrified. "How utterly sick!" you think to yourself, "Are you actually arguing in favor of the natural destruction of the human race?"

In a word, yes.

If you could just take a moment, take your heart off your sleeve and tuck it back into your chest, take a deep breath, swallow the nearest industry-forced psychotropic medication at your disposal and relax, I’ll explain myself.

Isaac Newton posited that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. There are many examples of this in everyday life. If you use logic and criticize a Republican using intellect and reason, Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly tell everyone within earshot that you hate America, which while hysterical and devoid of reason, can be classified in the simplest terms as a reaction to a stimulus. If you rub a sexual organ (yours or someone else’s; I’m not judgmental) at a certain angle with the necessary combination of force and energy, you stimulate a reaction (and it’s hoped for all involved that it’s not the spoken phrase "Are you done yet?").

Now consider the planet. Since the Industrial Revolution of the late-19th Century, the actions of humankind have acted as a stimulus toward the planet on which we all coexist. The planet’s well-considered reaction is becoming abundantly clear with each passing day. It is curious to the species of humankind that for every man-made emergency, we begin with soul-searching, in most cases asking ourselves "what can I do differently to change what has occurred or what is about to occur?" With the evolutionary gift of reason, it is our conceit that we believe we can come up with solutions for every problem that presents itself.

There are two problems with that conceit. The first is humankind’s lousy track record of ideas, with an overwhelming majority of what we’ve come up with thus far being worthless and not at all helpful to the overall health and survival of the species.

Don’t believe me? Below is a list of items created by the minds and hands of humankind. How many can you spot that are/were necessary to the survival of humankind as a species?

Handguns

Bombs (atomic and non-atomic)

The Tacoma Narrows Bridge

The Chevy Vega

The Ford Pinto

The 5-day deodorant pad

Tris pajamas

Lead paint

The Dalkon Shield

Thalidomide

PCB

CFC’s

Asbestos insulation

Cigarettes

Crystal methamphetamine

Plastic containers

The Maginot Line

This is the short list. I’m certain a better mind than mine can find other sterling examples of human ingenuity throughout history that led to no improvement whatsoever in the human condition or led to lives being saved. I am certain that still others can name things that have helped in the survival of the species, such as penicillin and any of a number of vaccines that argue in opposition.

The second problem with the above conceit is much more concrete. If I had to lay a wager (a uniquely human activity that does nothing to benefit humankind by the way; add that to the list above) between humankind’s capacity to save itself from extinction, and a planet that has already survived past climate shift and inundation by large land mammals and comets, I’d bet everything on the planet. While humankind has had its successes, it is still a species ruled both literally and figuratively by its vices. While homo sapiens evolved from other species that were much more primitive, one check of any given day’s disasters in the news, from Pakistan to Burma to Darfur to any given day in the life of the current occupant of our White House, proves beyond doubt that there is still much work yet to be done on the evolutionary front. We are at best a species with potential long-term viability doomed to be disconnected from that eventuality by our emotions, terrible judgment and litany of bad ideas.

Being infected with human feelings, I take no personal or emotional comfort in self-inflicted human extinction. However, I do take comfort in the knowledge that the planet’s oncoming reaction to the negative stimulus of human encroachment presents Nature with an opportunity for improvement upon previous life models. As millions of species on our planet have disappeared, millions of others have taken their place, with each exchange bringing about either subtle or significant improvement (with the salient exceptions of the duckbill platypus and Ann Coulter). This heavenly mass teeming with life that we all coexist upon is a marvelous series of experiments to behold in that way.

Many generations from now, someone or something will discover what was Washington, DC at the bottom of a 10,000-meter underwater trench and will be curious about the primitive architecture for about 30 seconds. After that they’ll continue on their way, much like we all did when the Woods Hole Institute found the Titanic. It’s not the planet as an entity that is destroyed by global warming, but merely the myriad life forms upon its surface. While I currently recycle, compost and utilize a rain barrel and an economy car, I am aware that no amount of recycling, composting, organic farming, emission limits, carbon credits or vegetable oil buses alters the truth of supremacy of planet over inhabitants.

Look at the bright side though. Pat Robertson and James Dobson will bite the biscuit like everyone else. In and of itself, that should give everyone hope for a more evolved phoenix rising from the ashes of humankind.

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