• Grre
    14
    Before I begin, I will disclose some personal information I feel is pertinent to my point. That is, I am only twenty years old. This is important because I was born in 1999, considered to be, not only the dawn of the twenty-first century, but also, my entire life I have grown up with news/information regarding the 'looming' ecological crisis.

    All throughout school I was taught the importance of recycling, turning lights off when you leave the room; in the second grade I wrote a short story about a personified horse who has a dream about an apocalyptic future, and upon waking, realized a new personal commitment to recycling, not littering ect. My point is, to me, and others of my generation, an ecological crisis is not news, it is a fact we have grown up with, become accustomed to, even acclimatized to. Something commodified, branded, 'green' energy, 'green' clothing brands, eco-friendly notebooks. It is a facet of life. Yet we still enjoy all the unsustainable consumption habits of the generations previous to us, the generations that perhaps, had more of an excuse for their unsustainability. I have the facts, I have the science, yet I drive my own car everyday to school (which happens to be the most allegedly environmentally conscious university in my country). I am not a vegan or a vegetarian. I barely recycle. Most, if not all my friends, feel similarly. We discuss with candor how the planet is screwed, how everythings dying, we usually avoid watching nature documentaries because they're too 'depressing'. It has become common sense that yes, human beings are ruining the planet. Yet my generation is complacent in the face of that reality. We do not take it seriously. The older generations are also still trying to synthesize this looming threat into our current (unsustainable) economic system-trying to convince us that we can have our cake and eat it too. Some of us are convinced by that. Most, it might surprise you are not. Speaking from experience, we are a cynical generation...

    What struck me most recently in the news regarding this topic is Greta Thunberg, recently nominated for a nobel prize for climate activism. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greta_Thunberg There is a particularly striking video of her speaking to the UN regarding climate change. She is only 16, but she is speaking to not only the older generation, but to people such as me, and we do hear her. My friends and I have been following her; she raises an important point, it will not be us that truly suffer from the ecological crisis, but our grandchildren, and they will ask us, why did we not do anything when we still had the chance? When we had the science, the knowledge (unlike generations before us), to make a change, and yet instead, we sat and reaped the rewards that will come at the cost of future generations. We are smug, resigned, selfish, ineffective.

    Yet, what can we really do, beyond individual actions that imply moral culpability, like recycling ect? We are disillusioned, now, nearing full adulthood, I even, I feel, too set in my ways to make a great change in my life. As I said in a conference I presented at last month, I am not in the position to go live in a yert. I have a career to attend to, a life, my identity is necessarily built around consumerism and productivity.

    What sparked this train of thought is that I just finished reading the book What a Fish Knows by Jonathan Balcombe, where he detailed, not only impressive facts about fish, but the extent to which the ecological crisis is severely affecting them AND us.
    This is the point that people fail to understand. The ecological crisis does not consist of merely pretty forests being cut down. Boo hoo. It will result in widespread human catastrophe (as it has done so already in numerous, less-cared about countries) and it will result in our eventual extinction, or at least, a severe alteration in the way of life. People see technology as the magic that will prevent this from happening, and maybe to some extent it will, but when? And fast enough? I'm not so sure.

    My questions for discussion then, regarding this topic, are a couple.

    -To what extent will we (my generation thereabouts) be morally culpable for our complacency with regards to the ecological crisis?
    -To what extent can we enact change, dispel this disinterest regarding the ecological crisis? What is philosophy's role? Should there be more emphasis on environmental philosophy?? Why waste time debating the role of logic when, likely, the human race a hundred-years from now will be in a very different position?
    -Is this disinterest from younger generations proof of the inevitability of such a crisis, are we really doomed?
  • Valentinus
    356
    Well said,

    In regards to your first question, I was born in 1956 and can report that my generation bears a lot of responsibility regarding complacency. I will never forget my son's reaction (several years older than you) after viewing a speech by Al Gore. He turned a baleful eye and said, "You guys are dumping all this on us." I did not have a snappy comeback.

    I think there is a role for philosophical thinking to adjust to how what has been seen as strictly matters of "economy" are necessarily ecological at the same time. There are people who have been talking about this since humans started talking about ourselves as a species and not just the prodigal children of a creator who had given us the world to name and make of it what we will.

    Another element to consider is to what extent we are bonded to our tools and whether they can be made to serve us as maker of things. I was strongly influenced by The One Straw Revolution by Fukuoka because the book brings into question the limits of engineered agriculture. The age old questions regarding the best forms of association and uses of power now have to answer to the problem of sustainability in a direct way. No more wiggle room. People tend to do bad things when cornered. But sometimes it leads to new insights.

    In regards to your last point, I can't speak for your generation because I am just another old guy. But I wonder how much expressed "disinterest" is really just feeling overwhelmed.
  • boethius
    108
    All throughout school I was taught the importance of recycling, turning lights off when you leave the room; in the second grade I wrote a short story about a personified horse who has a dream about an apocalyptic future, and upon waking, realized a new personal commitment to recycling, not littering ect.Grre

    There is a thesis (that I find correct) that what you're referring to is "ecological theater" which puts on stage ecological principles without solving anything. This serves two purposes. First, the government and companies can point to the theatrics and say "look, we're doing something", whether it is to get votes or marketing or things that reduce costs and framing it as ecological action is simply a free win. Second, these theatrics shift the responsibility for the ecological crisis to individual action, not policies; the framework that people can consume what they want is not challenged.

    This has a tertiary affect, that I feel your post is a good example of, which is that the people that are ecologically conscious are forced to live as hypocrites in this system and this reduces both internal motivation as well as external legitimacy. For, living fully ecologically as an individual is essentially impossible and, just as importantly, making even a half-decent attempt takes so much time and effort that there is little available for political effort. Now, "leading by example" is a thing and does add value whenever it's possible in life choices, but engaging politically to solve what is fundamentally a political problem (and not consumer choice problem), is also leading by a much better example.

    This is the point that people fail to understand. The ecological crisis does not consist of merely pretty forests being cut down. Boo hoo.Grre

    This is another win by the propagandists behind the above points. Preserving nature probably entails valuing nature, and trees vs people is a false dichotomy to begin with as we depend on trees for survival. However, by accepting the paradigm that people are fundamentally more valuable than nature rather than dependent on and a subset of nature (that we cannot rationally value humans, a part, without valuing nature as much or equally, the whole), it more-or-less transfers to legitimizing what any group of humans seem to value and so setting up logical impasses. Some people wanting to continue to drive large vehicles as a single occupant becomes as important in this framework as the safety of the entire planet (to say otherwise is to be a crybaby hippy that values trees over people).

    I have a career to attend to, a life, my identity is necessarily built around consumerism and productivity.Grre

    Your identity is not necessarily built around consumerism and productivity. Your identity is contingent on your upbringing, which I agree tries to enforce conforming to consumerism and producing consumer products directly or indirectly, as well as your own choices since becoming conscious of this processes.

    Your false dilemma isn't yert vs consumerism, it's yert (isolationism, that can be good for some people who feel politically effective from that position) vs political action.

    For instance, if you want to go around arguing in favour of better public transportation... you're probably going to have to use a car, given that's society's system of getting around effectively at the moment.

    As to your questions:

    -To what extent will we (my generation thereabouts) be morally culpable for our complacency with regards to the ecological crisis?Grre

    As much as every other generation since the issue became alarming (at the latest, around the time of driving the passenger pigeons to extinction).

    Which generation is more responsible is a fairly useless question in my opinion. Every generation is responsible, if they are responsible for anything, to meet an existential threat.

    -To what extent can we enact change, dispel this disinterest regarding the ecological crisis? What is philosophy's role? Should there be more emphasis on environmental philosophy?? Why waste time debating the role of logic when, likely, the human race a hundred-years from now will be in a very different position?Grre

    I agree a lot of people use philosophical material for escapism (directing the mind to unimportant issues to crowd out the important and uncomfortable ones); and participating in that is of no use. However, if that's not the motivation, every philosophical area is relevant to the ecological crisis. Why exactly do we value humanity or the earth? What ethical conditions should we place, if any, on solving the ecological crisis? What are the correct philosophical frameworks to evaluating fundamentally uncertain scientific studies of future climate in terms of credibility and, most importantly, risk analysis (which is an application of ethically determined risk-toleration levels)? What political institutions and economic systems are integral to the ecological crisis and must be solved in parallel for a good chance of ecological success (i.e. what's the political scope of the ecological crisis)? Should people be manipulated into being "good ecological actors" or are the "would-be-manipulators" counter-productive at best and evil at worst and general good-faith must be assumed: and so non-manipulative information sharing is the morally sound and/or only effective strategy available?

    -Is this disinterest from younger generations proof of the inevitability of such a crisis, are we really doomed?Grre

    There are two answers to this question. First, interest of youngsters is very context determined. Countries that have implemented a lot ecological policies don't have much "forced hypocrisy", focus the debate on policy and so don't have the framework that leads to much "forced hypocrisy", and are often actively trying to enable more political engagement of young people on the ecological issue. If you feel that you'd only be effective in a pushing best practices forward even further, it's probably best to just move to one of these places (i.e. places like Scandinavia, which is what I did, but there are other places as well). Where propaganda has been effective in creating scientific denial or a maze of false-dilemmas that render most people that aren't in denial politically ineffective, then it's reasonable to stay if you feel your most effective resisting this propaganda in a very harsh environment (it is mentally very difficult to live in a society that you judge to be a mix of immoral and insane; hence why I moved to Scandinavia, because I viewed myself more effective in pushing forward best practices and policy debate, and that's only really feasible to do "where it's happening", akin to moving to Silicon Valley if you want to make a startup, or New Orleans if your interested in Jazz, or New York if you want to do contemporary art; not necessary, not even effective for everyone, but there's a big "where it's happening" advantage for any activity).

    The second answer, is that young people maybe inactive now, but only because conditions are relatively stable. When I was growing up (around a decade and half before you) there was near complete belief among people accepting climate change is a problem that consequences are "a hundred years away" and governments "are on a good enough track to solve the problem" (leading up to and after Kyoto, most people thought it was a watershed moment, as it followed the same pattern as other global issues ... you had to be particular discerning to realize it was basically meaningless, fossil industries weren't "going down without a fight" and they were just getting started).

    This 100 years away belief was because the political organs behind reporting on climate science were largely influenced by the oil lobby as well as the media, so discussion of any legitimate risk-analysis (that it could be 100 years away ... but it could be a lot sooner: reasonable to err on the side of caution) was labelled as alarmist. This alarmism paradigm was so effective that people in the climate movement itself started doing the job of propagandist journalist in labeling experts discussing the risks as counter productive (due to the alarmism finger pointing the whole movement will receive from the propagandists).

    Fast forward to today and no one believes consequences are 100 years away, and the correct risk-analysis paradigm is coming into view in the media (that to be clear, essentially every expert did know and most tried to present in both alarmist and non-alarmist tones; the media just refused present any risk discussion as anything more than alarmism and kept insisting on "where's the proof").

    However, consequences are still no evidently harmful to most people, fires, floods and storms are still either only affecting a minority or are not too damaging as to warrant real alarm. This will change. The reason climate change is so dangerous is because it will keep getting worse and worse. At some point -- when infrastructure fails on larger scales for more time and more frequently, when crop failures lead to food shortages and rationing even in Western countries and disaster scales that exceed even the "disaster fatigue thresholds" that have been built up to that point -- it becomes impossible to project oneself in consumer society. Since young people haven't drunk much the denialist coolaid, when it's no longer possible to pretend life can just "go on as normal" there's only one option available which is to act on the problem. In my view, ecological policy strategy is both "what's the best we can do now" as well as "what material can we prepare for when the crisis becomes intolerable".
  • I like sushi
    616
    It’s up to the governments and those with financial weight. Education and global stability is progressing and people will become more concerned as equality increases.

    Also, there are MANY extraordinary steps being taken. People tend not to revel in good news though so every dip is made out to be a chasm in order to sell a story and play on people’s obsession with complaining even when life is good for them.

    Don’t get me wrong, pessimism is useful and a degree of cynicism is important. We’re extraordary creatures able to contemplate our own existence and comprehend change over thousands, millions and billions of years.

    I’m fairly convinced that the current obsession with the environment is more or less mostly about a cultural shift that’s been picking up momentum for around 100 years. What’s coming to fruition now (anyone’s guess is good as any in regards to what “fruit” we’ll produce!) is necessarily culminating to a rethinking of global politics - the strain between what Clifford Geertz referred to as “epochalism” and “essentialism”; in simple terms this is about the re/recreation of a state.

    I’d go a step further because I believe something greater is happening along these lines. That is the idea of “state” is evolving, or rather dissolving, into something “other”. Pointing the finger at some “global cataclysm” is probably a lot more to do with how we’re expressing a global cultural shift on a scale completely unprecedented in the history of homosapiens.
  • Grre
    14


    I would like to share your optimism that there may be 'new insights' as a result, but so far, it seems that science is coming up with more piecemeal, stop-gap methods. I go to an environmental university, but our school is actually building an arena on the so-called "protected wetlands" that are a part of the property. Maybe I'm overly cynical, but I certainly agree, it is overwhelming. Being bombarded with all these messages and warning and scientific facts my entire life, is, well, tiring.
  • Grre
    14


    Interesting that you see the ecological crisis resultant of some macro-shift in political engagement. Of course I have no doubt that politics encompasses most areas of life, especially something as global as, well, global warming.
    I'm a bit confused as to your point though, are you trying to say that ecological crises are some form of political propaganda? The external 'other' that keeps what otherwise would be a divided group, solid and together? Or are you saying that as a result of these ecological factors, the whole dynamic of global human interaction is changing?
  • I like sushi
    616
    I am not saying there is one thing resulting in another. It’s untrue to say the younger generations are disinterested. The truth of the matter is most people on earth don’t care because they don’t know and/or have more immediate worries (putting food on the table).

    People across the globe are slowly but surely moving out of poverty. People living in rural areas understand the changes.

    My point was that in the western world its a distraction from the political instability and the shifting sociopolitical structures. Rather than dealing with things on a level where people can actually influence the political sphere they prefer to turn to nihilism.

    Things are better than you think. The things that you think are food are the things you should probably be more concerned about.
  • ZhouBoTong
    181
    To what extent will we (my generation thereabouts) be morally culpable for our complacency with regards to the ecological crisis?Grre

    Well we can't expect dolphins or chimps to solve the problem, so humans are the only ones that can be held responsible. The only upside would be that the 2 or 3 generations prior to yours are probably more responsible (tough statement to prove, but I am sticking with it). I guess that is not really an upside, but takes away a bit of the moral culpability.

    To what extent can we enact change, dispel this disinterest regarding the ecological crisis?Grre

    I am getting the sense that only thing that will dispel the disinterest (not just in your generation) is going to be catastrophe on a global scale. To paraphrase some terrible movie - it is not until we are on the precipice of annihilation that we will change.

    Your generation seems FAR more interested than any of the previous generations, so maybe you all can get us moving in the right direction. Heck, despite the massive holes and incompleteness, I am still happy to attempt something like the Green New Deal, rather than just plod along waiting for the end.

    What is philosophy's role?Grre

    Unfortunately, philosophy can only help those who are interested. At this point, I am leaning more toward rhetoric as the method of change. I wouldn't go as far as sophistry, but appeals to emotion and authority (celebrities not scientists) seem to have a better chance of impacting the average Joe or Josephine. I think climate change just needs an incredible spokesperson. Without some technological miracle, solving climate problems will require massive lifestyle cuts for most of us in the developed world. This spokesperson will have to convince us all that it is worth it. And more importantly, get the first of us to actually commit to the lifestyle. I don't mind cutting back on life's conveniences, but only if enough people do it to actually help, I am not going to be the ONLY one (and this attitude is part of the problem, sorry young people).

    Should there be more emphasis on environmental philosophy??Grre

    Can you imagine an opponent of climate action (anyone who is opposed to the idea of human caused climate change or that we can do anything about it) engaging in environmental philosophy? It would attract 99 pro-environment people for every one pro-humans over the environment person (I hope that sentence made sense). Anyone that considers climate change to be a "leftist conspiracy" is likely not very interested in environmental philosophy, so what would be the point? If it doesn't "convert" people, then does it serve a purpose? I am probably being too harsh. If it "converts" one person, I suppose it was worth it.

    Is this disinterest from younger generations proof of the inevitability of such a crisis, are we really doomed?Grre

    We are probably doomed. But don't blame yourselves. I have actually been rather impressed with the level of interest from the youngest generations. This thread is just another example :smile:

    There is a thesis (that I find correct) that what you're referring to is "ecological theater" which puts on stage ecological principles without solving anything.boethius

    Clever stuff. While I am not sure this thesis encompasses all environmental speech, you are certainly on to something :grin:
  • Bitter Crank
    7.6k
    Some analysts have said that the opportunity to avoid the present crisis of global warming passed sometime around 1990--30 years ago. How so?

    Evidence that accumulating greenhouse gases could lead to global warming began to converge in the 1970s. Various streams of data, from satellites to cores extracted from the ocean floors and glaciers formed the basis of more specific predictions and the development of better climate models. The decade of the 1980s was THE TIME when climate change should have been taken seriously and should have been acted upon.

    THEY missed the boat. By 2006 when Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth was published, 26 years had passed. Since 2006, another 13 years have passed. Had THEY acted on the basis of early creditable information, we would have had 40 years in which to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

    So, who are THEY? Energy corporations like Exxon, Shell, BP, etc.; auto makers; elected officials; oil and coal producers, et cetera. THEY are the people who own, manufacture, process, and sell energy, transportation, plastics, chemicals, and so forth. They, and governments, were the critical institutions that acted to continue business as usual, or failed to act to prevent ecological damage.

    We the people are relevant as part of the solution, but in times of crisis (such as World War II or climate change) it is the major industrial giants that have to be mobilized first. This wasn't done; it isn't being done.

    Some US states are undertaking some of the policy changes now that should have been undertaken 40 years ago. An example is "30% of electricity from renewable sources by 2030". "30% in 2030" projects are good (if they are achieved or exceeded), but they don't address transportation and heating exhaust which are huge sources of CO2 emissions.

    The best role for The People is to keep the political and corporate feet to the fire -- as the expression goes. In the meantime, The People should start walking, bicycling, and using mass transit.
  • boethius
    108
    The best role for The People is to keep the political and corporate feet to the fire -- as the expression goes. In the meantime, The People should start walking, bicycling, and using mass transit.Bitter Crank

    I like your points, but I would change the above to "Advocate for more and use whatever effective walking, bicycling and mass transit systems are available". That trying to do "everything ecologically" is simply impractical (short from building yert and living in isolation), was a central grievance of the OP.
  • Bitter Crank
    7.6k
    Yes. Like, if you have two feet, use them whenever possible. I realize that many people live in pedestrian no-man lands, where travel on foot is just not safe, and biking is probably even unsafer. Then too, a lot of people do not live near a bus or rapid transit line of any sort. But, many people do. A lot of people dislike riding on buses. I don't drive, I have to use buses, and I find them to be loathsome some times. So I get that. But if we want mass transit, we have to use it when feasible (else demand won't exist).

    There are days when an isolated yurt sounds like just the thing.

    When I am out biking around the city on weekends, I find that there are few people on the street. Few people walking, except for dog walkers, a few runners, a few other bicyclists. No adults, no children. It's just not the sign of a healthy society -- people should be more active, be able to walk a mile to the store and back. Like, actually walk 3 blocks to the drug store. Instead, they drive.

    One of the consequences of past-the-peak-oil and the need to reduce CO2 emissions, is that people in cities will have to use their own internal bio-drives to do stuff. Then they won't have to drive to the gym to exercise.
  • Grre
    14

    I really agree with your points. This kind of ties into what I was also trying to get at; my issues with individual culpability, that is, like the 'ecological theatre" concept @boethius brought up. Theres a lot of (neoliberal) focus on individual actions, like biking to work ect. which is great, but also, not really a reasonable reality for some people. Turning off lights is something easier to do, but, even if everyone turned off every light, it would be nothing compared the damage industrial corporations are doing, with regards to pollution and energy usage. Individual culpability inspires a good spirit, but it does nothing to change the framework of issues at hand, in fact, it works to shield the culpability from those who really deserve it and those who's change would be a major impact.

    How do you suggest The People hold corporate's feet to the fire?

    Also, I appreciate you letting my generation off the hook. While my generation might be more "Aware" as @ZhouBoTong pointed out, but I'm worried that such interest is merely getting commodified. Such as the 'eco-friendly' straws trend. I'm not sure if people of my generation are really interested in enacting change so much as matching the current "Green" trends.

    PS. Thunberg's next planned global climate strike is planned for May 26. I'm mad that my schooling is done for the year and I'm no longer in high school, or I would have participated.
  • Bitter Crank
    7.6k
    Also, I appreciate you letting my generation off the hook.Grre

    You're welcome. It just isn't a generational issue. The Industrial Revolution started in the late 1700s. Everyone since then has either suffered and/or benefitted from industrialization. No one is guilty, everyone is responsible.

    @Boethius is right about ecological theater. It's similar to the theater of safety performed at airports. Just because recycling one's cans and bottles isn't in itself going to save the world doesn't mean we should stop recycling. We can, we should, we must recycle. We should buy less stuff to start with. Of course, some cities have no recycling programs. Minneapolis has two recycling programs: combined stream recycling of plastic, paper, and metal (goes in one container) and kitchen and yard waste recycling (goes in a different container). These two recycling programs leave very little stuff to put into the garbage container.

    Of course it will be impractical for many people to bicycle to work, because no provisions have been made to make bicycling safer, more convenient, and faster. It doesn't involve billions of dollars for cities to create bicycle lanes on streets, separate bicycle paths along disused railroads, and the like. With some adjustment, one can bicycle year round even in a city with cold weather like Minneapolis.

    Look: IF we were serious about reducing our CO2 footprints, we would immediately sharply reduce the miles we drive. We would walk more, use bicycles, and take whatever public transit we could find. In the decades ahead, as oil becomes more expensive and the consequences of global warming start to bite deeper, we will have to abandon the private automobile, along with much else.

    Had we taken global warming seriously in 1980, in the intervening 40 years we could have built a good deal of mass transit (rail, bus, trolley, bike ways, etc.). We didn't. So making these changes now is that much more urgent.

    All that said, it is still necessary for major corporations and governments to make a 180º turn around.

    How do you suggest The People hold corporate's feet to the fire?Grre

    Political campaigns are essential. "The People United are much more difficult to defeat." Who do you vote for? Are they or are they not committed to a human future? Boycott corporations who seem uninterested in change. Referenda and initiative campaigns. Support solar and wind power programs. Individuals have the responsibility of reducing their own consumption. That is and will continue to be true, no matter what else happens. Advocacy. Creating bad publicity for banks, politicians, and corporations who seem unresponsive to the threat of global warming.

    Expect cooptation. Expect to see mass marketing of T-shirts with eco-slogans, buttons, all sorts of product tie-ins. Expect to see counter-campaigns by oil companies explaining how they are struggling to save the world. It's bullshit, and all that crap can be ignored.

    PS. Thunberg's next planned global climate strike is planned for May 26. I'm mad that my schooling is done for the year and I'm no longer in high school, or I would have participated.Grre

    You mean, there is no way for you to plug into this action? Help is always needed to get these things off the ground, and wherever you live, there is a need for people to start organizing. Grow where you are planted.

    By the way, expect to feel a sense of futility at times. Changing the direction the world is going is harder than making an aircraft carrier turn quickly. If saving the world were easy, it would have been done already.

    How will it all work out? Gee, I don't know. I simultaneously harbor hope and doubt that you will be successful. (I use the plural "you" because I won't be around that much longer, given my age.) Your #1 enemy is inertia and contrary interests. A lot of wealth is tied up in coal, nuclear, and petroleum, and people (being what we are) are not just going to let their investments evaporate if they can help it.

    James Howard Kunstler The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century Kunstler doesn't offer some magic solution that will enable clever people to escape the problem. As he says in another book: "Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology, and the Fate of the Nation".

    Kunstler offers good, solid, and punchy information about peak oil, CO2, methane, etc.
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