I remember years ago, as a high school student, being taught some of the basics about cycles of nature. I remember even being greatly surprised when my biology teacher explained how forest fires were a necessary part of that cycle, in order to clear away overgrowth of trees and to offer the ground underneath a chance once again to feel the sunlight on its face. Of course, I am not talking about acts of arson and unquestionably, any loss of personal possessions and more so people’s lives, is horribly tragic. But left to itself, nature has the built-in intelligence to do a “disk clean” and make things ready for the future.
To this day, I am still amazed at how such destructive events can have a positive side. More so, I am in awe of the brilliance of the design of the natural world such that it keeps itself in balance. Given our planet’s history, it seems that there is even a legitimate need for extinction level events, in order to make way for the next evolutionary step. I would not pretend for a moment to understand the various computer models that try to quantify these huge, planet-wide changes. But I think we have to respect the fact that humans are still a dot along the line of history of the universe and even of our own planet Earth.
Whether we humans have the ability to really screw things up and disrupt nature’s natural healing ability, I cannot know. I remember a cute line from the movie remake of the brilliant 50s film “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” Although I was quite disappointed with the remake [despite its starring Keanu Reeves], the one cute line was “I’ve come to save the world from you humans.” So it seems that at least in Hollywood, there are those who are convinced that we have the power to change everything and break nature’s rules.
To the best of my understanding, there are still questions related to the extent of global warming, and human beings’ contribution to it. It likely is true that a change of a couple of degrees around the world can lead to a major upset in our civilization. If in fact global warming can dry out critical bodies of water, and contrarily flood huge areas of arable land, then this could definitely be a cause for local wars that spill over borders and even lead to the growth of huge terror groups [that claim that all of the world’s suffering is because of the “infidels”].
What confuses me is why those individuals and groups who challenge the use of fossil fuels on the principle that they contribute to global warming do not more fully embrace alternative energy sources that are available even today. Nuclear power has its issues, but it is not a generator of greenhouse gases. I would suggest that any money being put towards fighting global warming/climate change, should be redirected to research into fusion. This is the cleanest form of massive energy creation, and could really end the use of fossil fuels by most of the world.
Tremendous work is being done in the field of solar power. And a recent Israeli discovery had to do with photosynthetic materials that could be integrated into everything from our housing to our clothes. When everything around us is able to generate its own energy needs, once again, fossil fuels become a very secondary choice. If we eliminate our dependency on fossil fuels, there are economies that will be severely hurt and even collapse. In the midst of all this human suffering, there is once again fertile ground for terror groups to grow. The ultimate joke could be that providing abundant energy to everyone could lead to the fall of multiple nations and the creation of terror organizations on the scale that we have never seen. Ultimately, everything has a cost.
I suspect it won’t be too long before we are able to clear a great deal of the greenhouse gases that float above us. Robotic drones carrying photosynthetic engines could potentially replace a great deal of the carbon dioxide in our atmosphere with oxygen and water. I wonder actually if such a technology could potentially generate too much oxygen and lead to oxygen toxicity amongst the people of the world. It seems that there is no escape from the fact that everything has a cost.
I am more than willing to admit that I honestly do not know if global warming is real, significant, or a necessary part of the natural cycle, independent of our actions. Despite the brilliance of so many researchers in this area, I wonder if we will ever really know [at least, in the next few decades].
I will end with an anecdote about how much we know and how dangerous our lack of knowledge can be. Before the first atomic bomb tests were done, there were those who theorized that the release of so much energy into the atmosphere could literally ignite the oxygen around us and turn the world into a fireball, wiping out everything. A reporter asked one of the Manhattan project physicists how they could take such a chance as part of their development of the A-bomb. The answer was succinct and beautiful: “how else will we know”. It may very well be that all of our theories about global warming will be shown not only to be wrong, but counter to what is best for this planet. Humility in science is not a nicety — it is critical, in order to be open to ideas that even challenge your most basic, fundamental view of the world. In the meantime, the heat in my house is on and I still enjoy a steak barbecue. If I was a better person, I’d make sure to plant a tree just to make up for all these things I’ve done.
Thanks for listening.