Cause or Symptom?

Last edition I complained that biologists are seldom consulted on issues that involve the ecosystem.  The earth ecosystem is, of course, a biological unit, and its rules of operation are not under human control.   We should consider the real rules of operation when dealing with the ecosystem.  And so I began to prepare a little blog about global warming from an ecosystem point of view.  One thing led to another, as it often does on the internet.  Bottom line — it will take a while to pull that together.

In the process, I imported the list of speakers at a conference on climate change that is finishing up today in Copenhagen, and scanned through it.  I again found no significant representation of experts on the biology of the ecosystem.  Lot’s of economists and the like (reminder, economics is a human invention, the ecosystem is not).  Then I checked the very long list of blogs that mention climate change or global warming as a key word (well over 10,000 in WordPress alone) and the very short list of blogs that mention overpopulation as a key word. (here are two thoughtful and balanced examples)

From the viewpoint of our power over our own humanity, this dichotomy seems to be upside down.  If this biological problem were a disease, another biological sort of event, we would know exactly what to do.  We would be trying our very best to deal with the cause of the disease at the same time as we treat the symptoms.

It is clearly established that global warming is caused by people.  Obviously, then, the more people there are, the bigger will be the problem.

Because our power to cope with any problem lies in the choices that are available to us, we should at the very least be talking about those choices.  Step one (1) should be obvious.  If a problem is caused by growth, we should not try to solve the problem by bigger and better growth.

That leaves two other choices.  (2) Decide to do something to affect the CAUSE of the problem — we begin by talking about it.  (3)  Don’t decide to do something — or — decide to do nothing, which is the same thing.

Only one of these three options offers us any power over our outcomes.

It reminds me of the title of a recent seminar:  “Talking about death won’t kill you.”  Are we more afraid of words than of the suffering that will result from doing nothing?

Our greatest power in any situation is to study the cause of the problem. And then talk about it, among the experts of all the disciplines.

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