Playing the Blame Game Doesn't Help

(SPECIAL NOTE: This article was originally written in January, 2020) 

“It is the part of a great mind to despise wrongs done to it; the most contemptuous form of revenge is not to deem one’s adversary worth taking vengeance upon. Many have taken small injuries much more seriously to heart than they need, by revenging them: that man is great and noble who like a large wild animal hears unmoved the tiny curs that bark at him.” ~ Seneca

Over the years, I have tackled several different ideas that I have seen emerging in many places regarding what I will call "romantic ideas" based upon false beliefs and ignorance. Occasionally, I am surprised by indignant outbursts by people I would never suspect of having the wool pulled over their eyes. Of course, the reason they are often so indignant is because they are simply suffering from grief (and anger and denial in this case), as we all are here. Either way, I want to make it clear that everyone is entitled to their own opinions as I cannot change those opinions - only the owners of those opinions can change them. This does not change the fact that they are still just opinions, nor does it change the facts which I routinely post in an attempt to reduce this ignorance. My intention is to help those who aren't yet familiar with the concepts to develop critical thinking habits to question these things - as most of the information we are fed daily is often more closely associated with advertising and marketing than anything else. Simply listening to the President of the US (in January, 2020) is a perfect demonstration to the sheer level of promotion and BS tactics one faces daily now. Many people are too naïve to question what they are fed in the media and as a result often believe whatever they are told versus doing their homework and researching these things. But seriously, take a look at most articles today about some "exciting new development" regarding almost any new technology and more often than not the promoter is looking for orders, investors, or deposits towards a finished product or to scale up a potential idea. Keep in mind that technology does not provide solutions.

The first "romantic idea" that I have worked to eliminate is the idea that blaming specific corporations, CEOs, or economic systems for our predicaments is generally anything other than a waste of time. I constantly hear people blame the "fossil fuel companies" or "capitalism" for climate change when in reality, the cause of our predicaments is literally US and our addiction to technology use. Yes, there have definitely been those who have utilized tactics to sell the general public on ideas that have amounted to less than highly ethical standards (and the small group ("1%") of people (the CEOs) who own or run the largest corporations could do far more on behalf of those who support those corporations). One example would be Elon Musk selling his fossil fuel-derived products as "green" or "clean" or "renewable" when in reality they ALL rely on a fossil fuel platform not only for their existence but for their maintenance and end-of-life disposal as well. This is true with EVERY device sold today - period. The raw materials required mining and 99.9% of mining vehicles utilize diesel fuel. The raw materials require massive amounts of water that had to be pumped from somewhere. The raw materials required diesel trucks, diesel ships and barges, and diesel train locomotives to be transported to factories. The factories operate on electricity provided most often courtesy of fossil fuels. These factories refine the raw materials into specific production standards and then ship the final raw product (steel, aluminum, plastics, wood, and other minerals such as neodymium) to another factory where these raw materials are manufactured into a device. These devices are then shipped around the world to be erected, built, or installed into a system of some sort. Another example of this is our food systems. A farmer must purchase seeds that are transported via diesel-powered trucks (again!) which are planted by diesel-powered tractors and machinery which are then fertilized and sprayed with pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, etc. (all produced using fossil fuels) using fossil fuel-powered equipment and then harvested using diesel-powered tractors. Harvests are then transported (more diesel-powered trucks and trains) to grain dryers, siloes, and shipped to factories (more diesel-powered trucks again) to be turned into bread, canned goods, produce, frozen food, and other items which are then transported (more diesel-powered trucks) to your local grocery store where you pick it up in (most likely) a gasoline-powered vehicle and transport it to your house. Needless to say, blaming climate change or any other predicament on specific corporations, CEOs, or economic systems is simply a refusal to accept the fact that we are buying these products and using or eating them and consuming yet more energy in the process. There is quite literally NO true way to suddenly end or even seriously reduce fossil fuel use without a concomitant mass die-off of human populations and an end to the lives (lifestyles) everyone has known for their entire existence. Have you ever considered what it would be like to live without electricity or most of all the other modern conveniences we enjoy today?

Now, on to my next point. Is justice for any ethical breach of conduct warranted for company CEOs for lying by omission or other alleged wrongdoings? Sure, but this is a very complex and complicated situation best left to professionals who understand the laws and operations of corporations. It is overwhelmingly easy to point fingers, but doing the research necessary to realize that it has been society that continued buying into that paradigm makes it clear that the broad majority of people never even bothered to question this system. How many of us ever bothered to ask or look into how society obtains and uses energy for our lifestyles? So the rhetoric about blaming others really boils down to each and every one of us being a very real part of the predicament to begin with (I'm talking about those of us who can read this article - mostly middle class individuals from developed countries). Yes, there are those folks who were not a part of the rapacious culture (mostly indigenous tribes located around the world), but they don't attempt to separate blame into different camps - they see ALL of us as the group to blame. (This rapacious culture is called "wetiko" and can be read about in this article.)

I have known about global warming/climate change/global heating my entire adult life. I have been concerned about it ever since I learned about it in high school. Since that point in time, and despite all the warnings I have seen, read about, and heard of, very little if anything has been done to reduce emissions. I hear a considerable amount today about "technology" and "green" and "clean" and "renewable" items, but every single one of these things is derived from fossil fuels and relies upon the fossil fuel platform for its existence, maintenance, and disposal, so most if not all developments having to do with technology can be thrown out the window. They CAN'T accomplish anything but make matters worse by requiring fossil fuels far into the future just to continue the same system that got us into this mess.

This is the heart of the matter - THE SYSTEM - which we are all embedded within - the system is industrial civilization and comprises all the common subsystems one often hears about as the cause of climate change - fossil fuels, energy use, mining, agriculture, society, capitalism, political stalling, government corruption, and on and on. They are ALL part of THE SYSTEM. In reality, it is civilization itself which is unsustainable. So, switching out one type of energy use for another doesn't stop the system of growth (civilization). Switching out to a different economic system doesn't stop industrial civilization. Switching out governments doesn't stop the system. Switching out meat eating for vegetable eating doesn't change the system. Can these items reduce emissions? Possibly, but little headway can be made as long as the system is allowed to continue, because the system requires technology use and it is technology use which increases ecological overshoot. This means giving up the idea that we can still go chugging right along using solar panels and EVs or becoming vegans or getting rid of billionaires or getting rid of a particular politician or even an entire government. While these ideas might be able to ASSIST in reducing emissions, one must always be concerned with what would be required in order for each of these ideas to be scaled up to allow all 7.8 BILLION (as of 2020) of us to enjoy them. Therein lay the trouble - most ALL these ideas simply don't pass the sniff test in that arena because they are unsustainable to begin with.

The last portion of this article is to point out how human individuals are intelligent beings. We need energy to survive and we do this by eating food. We've done that since we first stepped foot onto this planet. We also require oxygen and water and a host of other items such as clothing, some way to get from point A to point B (usually our legs), some form of shelter, and community/love. Needless to say, we don't truly need most consumer goods we buy nowadays that don't serve those functions. However, one look at this article points out how many people don't ever stop to consider how much energy a device will use.

So, in reality, most people aren't truly conscious of their carbon footprint. This goes way beyond stuff we don't really need in order to survive. Think about how much energy you consume every day by taking into consideration that for every calorie of food you eat, 10 calories of fossil fuels were spent to create it and transport it to you. Just by existing we consume HUGE amounts of energy when one multiplies it by factors of hundreds, thousands, and millions, LET ALONE almost 8 BILLION! Take a look at 
how we first began developing technology (tools) to reduce our workload.

New evidence points to the fact that our ancestors began biodiversity decline long before we even existed, quote:

"Humans today affect the world and the species that live in it more than ever before.

But this does not mean that we previously lived in harmony with nature. Monopolization of resources is a skill we and our ancestors have had for millions of years, but only now are we able to understand and change our behavior and strive for a sustainable future. "If you are very strong, you must also be very kind,'" concludes Søren Faurby, quoting Astrid Lindgrens' book about Pippi Longstocking.

Now, none of our ancestors ever stopped to consider their carbon footprint. They existed in a rather large world which was pristine in comparison to today's world. They discovered fire and began using it to their advantage in many different ways. They began developing tools to make jobs easier, no differently than many different species do today. The difference with our species is that we CONTINUED to develop tools far beyond that of simple tools. Metal smelting opened up a whole new level of development. The discovery of fossil fuels opened up yet another new level of development and allowed for the industrial revolution. All of this was simply based upon previous discoveries of fire, the wheel, and other simple tools combined with the smelting of metals. These discoveries were all based upon making specific tasks easier. Very few if any people concerned themselves with possible effects of building these devices or possible effects of using the devices. Looking far down the road has never been one of our stronger abilities - even today, our computer models reflect this blind spot in us. Our brains, while having the ability to foresee certain events, are much more developed for the here and now. Part of this is due to the reptilian, ancient part of our brains. The limbic part of our brains is also older and emerged in the first mammals - it can record memories of behaviors that produced agreeable and disagreeable experiences, so it is responsible for what are called emotions in human beings. The main structures of the limbic brain are the hippocampus, the amygdala, and the hypothalamus. The limbic brain is the seat of the value judgments that we make, often unconsciously, that exert such a strong influence on our behavior. By studying how we think, one can determine what things attract the most attention in our minds. It is clear beyond any doubt that seeking energy is one of our primary pursuits. Whether this energy is utilized for food, work, or entertainment and pleasure no longer seems to matter as society doesn't generally comprehend that massive amounts of energy are spent for all pursuits. Very few people actually are cognizant of the amounts of energy burned collectively just to keep society humming along. This becomes apparent when one sees talk of "stopping the fossil fuel companies" as if they (the companies) somehow are responsible for our use of fossil fuels - most people are completely unaware of just how pervasive fossil fuel use is in our daily lives. We have collectively become a "superorganism" which has little awareness of the destruction done in our name.

All of this leads to the simple fact that life itself is cyclical. Before humans came along and began creating massive amounts of waste, nature knew no such thing as waste. Waste streams from plant organisms (oxygen and what we call food) were utilized by animal organisms and plant organisms utilized animal waste streams (carbon dioxide and feces and urine). Before the industrial era, amounts of true wastes such as slag from smelting and other environmentally damaging wastes were small and there were large parts of the planet which were still more or less pristine in comparison to today. Zooming out of human lifetimes and looking into the geological past, one can see numerous past extinction events, with 7 major mass extinction events preceding the one we are currently in (the 8th such extinction event). Even without such events, most species have a limited average lifetime on this planet, and for mammals the average time a species exists is 1 million years, quote:

"The typical rate of extinction differs for different groups of organisms. Mammals, for instance, have an average species "lifespan" from origination to extinction of about 1 million years, although some species persist for as long as 10 million years. There are about 5,000 known mammalian species alive at present. Given the average species lifespan for mammals, the background extinction rate for this group would be approximately one species lost every 200 years. Of course, this is an average rate -- the actual pattern of mammalian extinctions is likely to be somewhat uneven. Some centuries might see more than one mammalian extinction, and conversely, sometimes several centuries might pass without the loss of any mammal species. Yet the past 400 years have seen 89 mammalian extinctions, almost 45 times the predicted rate, and another 169 mammal species are listed as critically endangered." (Link here.)

This leads us to come to the conclusion that while we often view life and our species in particular as "sacred" or somehow "more special" than other lifeforms, this is in fact a hubristic and anthropocentric view. There is nothing any more special about human beings than there is about dogs or Bluebuck or Giant fossa. As soon as one looks at the long term planetary, geological scale of life here, he or she can begin to understand that ultimately nature controls these things, not humans. Humans have very little agency in the grand scheme of things here on earth; especially when it comes to energy issues. While one cannot rule out a temporary respite from extinction (the next 30 years or possibly a "bottleneck" where a rebound occurs), the long term outlook is that extinction is baked in

This article doesn't really contain anything new with regard to concepts that have already been outlined here, but there are some people who have developed a romantic idea that humans are not designed in the way described above - that we somehow have a "magical" ability to be some other sort of animal instead of the one we are. If this was actually true, then we would BE this other organism rather than the ones we ARE.


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