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Human Self, Natural World, and Climate Change

A conscious species rapidly changing the earth's climate through its ordinary daily activity sounds like a science fiction scenario, but it's true, it's our species, and it's unprecedented in the history of life on Earth. Like it or not humankind has now entered the era of conscious responsibility for choices that effect the health of all life on the planet. This new situation is cause for a deep revisioning of human industrial activity that will require not only technical changes in how energy is produced and used, but significant changes in political, and economic systems. Our current systems reflect widely held assumptions about human identity and the need to change in response to knowledge of our effect on the life of our planet amount to a global identity crisis. There is a growing awareness that the world climate is changing due to human activity. The cause of this ongoing change in climate is primarily due to production of large amounts of CO2 that are produced and released into the atmosphere via the burning of fossil fuels that that occurs in the activity of our modern industrial economy. If current emission trends continue, the consensus climate science, represented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ?Third Assessment Report: Climate Change 2001? predicts, the earths climate will continue to become hotter. The IPCC will produce another Climate Change report in February 2007, which should highlight any changes in the scientific consensus in the intervening 5 years. A rapid change to a hotter climate will stress the life of plants and animals through disruption of the complex web of mutually interrelated factors that support all life. According to Lester Brown , in his book Plan B 2.0, the technical means exist to significantly mitigate the impact of human activity on the earths climate and ability to sustain life. Why then, particularly in the U.S., is there not a massive effort under way to mitigate man made climate change? The most common argument against change of human activity that could mitigate climate change is Global Warming denial, simply put this position proposes that man-made climate change doesn?t exist or doesn?t represent a significant threat. The intentional misrepresentation of the Global Warming denial lobby are well documented on the website, The Heat is Online . The other major argument is the ?Free Market? economic argument, which fits into two categories. The first form is that mitigation in the form of forced change in operation of the economy would be too costly, and the second is that government regulation is worse than climate change because it limits freedom and is inefficient because it is central planning. The costs of Global Climate change have been quantified by the Stern Report , which rightly characterizes the relationship between modern economics and climate change as follows, ?Climate change presents a unique challenge for economics: it is the greatest example of market failure we have ever seen.? The relationship between freedom and economic systems is addressed further down this page and in several other sections of this site. Given the reality of climate change and humanity?s causal role in the degradation of the life giving properties of the natural world, our previous range of ideas about the relationship between mankind and nature, which have lead us to this point in our life history, need to change to match our current reality. Failed Views of Human Identity and how Humans are Related to Nature The three dominant views that have defined much of our collective perception about the relationship between humanity and the natural world. In the first view human beings are seen as a Devine creation that exists in a non-material spiritual reality separate from the natural physical world. The second view proposes that Humanity, and each individual human, is competitor with a hostile natural world. Proponents of the third view see Humanity as a dependent child of a nurturing natural world. The view that Humanity is a Devine creation that exists in a non-material spiritual reality separate from the natural physical world is the religious and spiritual viewpoint. This way of viewing reality means that nature is often seen as infused with spiritual force, emanating from a spiritual source, or a separate creation of a Deity. Some of these points of view offer more connection to the natural world than others, but most hold in common a view that the non-material reality as superior to the material world, or nature. The failure of this point of view is the creation of human separation and superiority relative to the natural world and the proposal that our inherence in the natural world is of secondary importance compared to our origins in a non-material world. Viewing humanity, and each individual human, as competitor with a hostile natural world. This is the viewpoint of modern industry and applied science and technology. Capitalism is a very clear expression of this way of looking at nature as something to be defended against at worst, and exploited for individual accumulation of resources that are desired by the individual, without reference to any surrounding effects, at best. This is the point of view driving the rapid expansion of the western style global economy. As the ability of humans to amplify their forcefullness has increased our impact on the natural world has changed. Now that we have enough force at our command to destroy nature we can no longer afford to view the natural world as a competitor. Just like the flawed logic of cancer, which grows without restraint and kills its host, the flawed logic of relating to nature as if we were in a competitive relationship is self defeating. The third view is Humanity as a dependent child of a nurturing natural world. This viewpoint is typically expressed as a way of supporting the idea that it is wise and right to treat the environment with care and kindness. While this way of looking at the relationship between human beings and nature has the advantage of supporting a positive and cooperative relationship with the natural world it distorts the relationship in several important ways. A human child becomes progressively independent relative to their mother, human beings never become independent of the earth in any meaningful sense. As children mature they reach a point where they can become parents, our maturation relative to the earth never reaches a point where we have the choice to become a planet. In the life cycle of mothers and children, It is typical for mothers to die before their children die. When this happens the children continue to live. This is not true of the relationship between the human self and the natural world, if the planet dies we die with it. Global Climate Crisis Caused by Human Industrial Activity = Human Identity Crisis The three preceding models of human nature, and the relationship of human beings to nature, focus primarily on the separation of individual from nature. In order to have a solid foundation upon which a sustainable way of living can be developed the other truth of human individuality, non-separation, must be fully accepted. This amounts to a global identity crisis for humanity. Each individual creature, from the amoeba to the human being, is an autonomous separate entity. All individual entities have a boundary that defines them. That self-boundary is semi-permeable relative to the environment of the entity. The boundary is made of, and allows constant exchange of material and energy with its environment. This means that the entity is irreducibly non-separate relative to the totality of its environment. Without both the self-defining boundary, separation, and its permeability, non-separation, relative to the environment, the autonomous individual entity would not exist. Our modern way of living currently does not reflect the complete truth of who we are and this is the root cause of why we are unable to quickly change in response to the knowledge that we are seriously damaging our living world. Successful transition to a new identity and relationship to the natural world is necessary to enable civilization to exert the force and ingenuity required, quickly enough, to avert a disaster of horrific proportions. Stevie Wonder puts it beautifully in his song "As" when he says, "make sure that when you say you are in it but not of it, you're not helping to make this earth a place sometimes called hell, change your words into truths and then change that truth into love, and maybe our children's grandchildren and their great great grandchildren will tell, I'll be loving you"

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