One of my favorite quotations of all time comes from George Carlin. He said something along the lines of, “The world is not going anywhere. People are.” It makes a lot of sense. One mantra that I have heard over and again since I have been a little kid has been, “Save the Planet”. Think about it, though. The planet itself is not going to go anywhere, at least not until the sun explodes. It does not need to be saved. We, the inhabitants, however, are most likely going to be evacuated at some unfortunate point in time. We need the saving. Otherwise, we will be booted off, by either an abrupt, earthly regurgitation or in a long, drawn out, painful way. Depressed yet?
There are many environmental problems that exist that it is hard to predict which one will eventually be our undoing as a species. No doubt, the industrial age and the human pursuit of convenience has certainly contributed to most, if not all of these problems. One can argue, too, that all we can do is slow down the inevitable, at least at this point. We are like a patient on their death bed who is searching for a new drug to extend their life with some quality.
Indeed, the problems appear so bad that they are practically irreversible. Many scientists have given very convincing arguments why we are doomed. The Washington Post has a wonderful synopsis of recent research that was conducted by 18 scientists and published by the journal of Science. I recommend reading that article here. It will give you a good understanding of the survival limits that exist, and the ones we have pushed past the point of recovery.
All of this considered, there is the belief that we are not doomed. The reason for this optimism is that, despite our massive stupidity, we are also a pretty intelligent species. We can sit and think about all of the misery we have caused the environment, or we can also consider all of the amazing progress humans have made. From the invention of the wheel to curing illnesses like smallpox to putting man in space and on the moon, we have done some truly remarkable things.
The most recent of these human marvels, and the one that I think holds the greatest possibility for solving the problems we have (and continue) to create, is the development of technology. Consider where we were with our technological advancement only five, ten, and twenty years ago. Also consider that technology is really only in its infancy. Now, imagine what this can mean for the environment.
Last night, I watched the Lost Interviews of Steve Jobs. It made me think about the power of technology, and how far humans can take this wonderful gift. It made me think, of all the advancements our species has developed over our existence, that technology is not only the greatest, but it is the one that holds the greatest power to enforce the change that we need. Finally, it made me think that technology might not be able to cure the illnesses that we have inflicted on to the environment, but if we continue developing it at such an exponential rate, we might be able to use it to protect ourselves from the consequences that what we currently feel are irreversible and terminal.
I know what I am saying is not ground breaking. I know that people have discussed the power of technology before, and I know that people have certainly discussed the idea that we can essentially outsmart all of our environmental problems; that we will be able to solve our problems through our human intelligence. It is a comforting thought, though, and I like the sound of it.
While I like the thought that we can solve our problems through our own human intelligence, I do think that too much credence in this idea is a mistake. It is mistake to rely on it because it makes us neglect responsibility. Believing this way leads us to think that there is someone else currently solving the problem, so it is not a big deal with continuing to contribute to the problem. It is like the young kid who smokes cigarettes and thinks they can continue smoking because by the time they get cancer there will be a cure for it. What if that cure never comes?
I am guilty of this negligent way of thinking and acting. I am guilty of it too often. When I am faced with a decision to act in a way that is environmentally friendly or act in a way that is not, I often choose the latter. I do this because I think I subconsciously live by the belief that there are other people out there solving problems for me.
This is the human way, I think. For the first quarter of our lives most of us look to our teachers and parents when we do not have the answer for something, or when we cannot take care of ourselves; we develop a habit of relying on others to solve our problems. So, when we are faced with problems on a global scale, we think there is some mystery person fixing it, and that everything will be okay. Because of this, we carry on in ways that are habitual to us, even if those habits are contributing to the problem.
I hope that at this moment there is some great mind creating a fix for our global problems. But, if there is not, we can all assume that George Carlin’s prophecy is correct. The planet, in fact, will not go anywhere. We, however, will.
I want to hear your thoughts on this. Can human intelligence overcome human stupidity? Please comment, or visit the guest forum to contribute to this discussion.