The Other I

August 10, 2009

In defense of pursuing the lost cause

Filed under: Environmental Issues — theotheri @ 8:20 pm

Research shows that people who are successful are usually pretty good at judging whether they can do something or not, and if they can’t, they don’t tend to spend their energies pursuing frustrating failure.

I’m a person who likes success quite a bit, and as a general rule I don’t favour heroic projects I can’t achieve.

In many ways, trying to manage environmental change so that it does not seriously degrade or even destroy Earth’s capacities to support the complex life that currently makes its life here might be one of those heroic challenges.

First of all, because if the scientists I’m reading are right, the task is immense and is going to require radical changes in life styles.  That will take major and sustained commitments from governments and individuals alike.

And because I fear that a very large number of people either do not think environmental change is a problem, or that if it is, there’s little any of us personally can do about it.

Some scientists think that the only thing that is going to bring about effective change and a determination to act is a catastrophe on a mega-scale.  If we are lucky, it will not be so mega that we will be helpless by the time we realize maybe we need to do something to survive.

My own guess is that mankind will not glide fairly effortlessly into environmentally sustainable life styles.  I suspect it will involve significant angst and loss of life first.

But if that time comes, everything we can do now will make the losses smaller and the way forward clearer and shorter.

That’s why I think it’s worth trying.  Even if it doesn’t lead to obvious success.  In any case, it may be unlikely to unfold for better or for worse in my lifetime.  But whatever foundations we start laying now will matter in ten years time.

And they will matter more in twenty years time.  And thirty.

It will matter until humankind either succeeds or fails.



  1. I was convinced of a looming crisis after watching “An Inconvenient Truth.” I was plain shaken at the state of the environment, yet I don’t think about it everyday. Very unfortunately, environmental news isn’t a prominent issue in mainstream media. (I know, I should expand my news sources.)

    Now that your blogs are reminding me again just how important this enormous issue is, I wonder about all sorts of things. I wonder how our habitat is going to change, but more so how humankind is going to adapt. I wonder what will actually come about – a series of natural disasters, one great one, or chaos among civilization over scarce resources. I wonder if the future holds a worst case scenario (every man for himself) or a best case scenario (a worldwide community coming together). I wonder how I should prepare and how I should react in today’s reality for tomorrow’s future.

    There are so many unanswered questions as yet, but I don’t doubt that conditions are deteriorating. The world at large has not taken care of our environmental health, and that’s got to catch up with us somehow.


    Comment by jooliedee — August 11, 2009 @ 4:20 pm | Reply

    • I’m pretty sure I know what you are saying and that we are on the same page. But you are younger than I am, so the issue looms even larger. Nobody knows, of course, how climate change will evolve and how it will affect human life. But I’m pretty sure that the more we do about it now, the more we can reduce its devastating effects for the future. Which isn’t very specific, I know. Somehow using energy-saving light bulbs and turning off the TV rather than leaving it on remote doesn’t seem quite enough, does it?
      My one source of optimism is the realization that it does not take everybody to bring about what could be big changes. Just a critical mass.


      Comment by theotheri — August 11, 2009 @ 9:06 pm | Reply

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