Could it be that there are inherent evolutionary cranial/neurological deficiencies in our DNA makeup; so deeply embedded that we as a species now in this industrial age are unable to comprehend ourselves as a threat to our own future existence? Could it be that this is the reason our response to our desecration of the planet and its biosphere is so muted? Could it be that this deceitful cranial/neurological DNA side of us will lead to our painful end?
As a result of global warming, within the next one hundred years underground permafrost stores in the Artic will release massive amounts of methane. Methane is much more potent as a heat-trapping greenhouse gas than is carbon dioxide. This will exponentially compound the global warming problem.
Very few citizens of this world spend any part of their day or year thinking about this. Is there a reason? Yes there is. It can be found in a number of recent scientific observations about the genomic origins of human behavior. It is now being defined by modern psychology as Optimism bias. It describes a human brain wired for hope and optimism.
Optimism bias also permeates our economic thought. Milton Friedman demonstrated this insouciance “par excellence.” His neoliberal confidence in his theory of unfettered capitalism was stunning. Any ordinary skeptic now listening to his speeches and interviews is immediately reminded of this.
Today capital markets operate on an Optimism bias perception of a perception of a perception platform. It is a platform of naivety. Ecological reality is obscured. Any form of open discussion of adjustment is pushed into the future. But adjustment will arrive. There is inevitability to all corrections. The imaginary world of those who refuse to face reality is then exposed to the light of day. The dream becomes no more than what it ever was; a dream. Then follows the nightmare.
Is change possible? That is the question facing our 21st century Anthropocene Age. Difficult social/political challenges face our carbon dependent civilization. The “Pulp fiction” mentality referenced above rules among the general public. Also there is an optimism bias among many of the political and economic elite. It even extends part way into the scientific community.
Many in our world society have understood the problem in all of its complexity. Many understand that we have to change the way we think. Yet, the general public remains content to carry on day by day, month by month, year by year as if there will be no adverse life-change or even inconvenience as a result of the underlying ecological forces being set in motion. There is no fear of the possibility of human extinction. There is discussion at many levels, but those discussions and the political agreements made after them fade into inconsequence. An example: The 2015 COP21 agreement in Paris. It made headlines and then has faded into the midst. The Pope’s environmental encyclical just before that; the same. Also the recent meeting in Poland.
This cognitive impairment appears in animal behavior. Have you ever seen a bear dog fearlessly chase a bear up a tree? The bear dog is unable to visualize the painful consequences of being mauled by the bear. It can only think of itself in the present tense. The bear dog assumes survival to be a “given.” It is not able to comprehend the fact that its survival is in reality not a given.
It must be a direct pain experience, not pain visualized. If somebody tells me that snakes are dangerous and can poison me and I should not be walking in the woods, only a small part of my brain, the part that focuses on future risks will glimmer. It will not hold me back from walking in the woods. Yet, if I come across a snake in the woods, nearly all of my brain will light up with activity as I process the “threat.” Nevertheless I will continue to walk in the woods. But if on a walk I get bitten, I will then be very much afraid of walking in the woods, and most certainly not in those same woods. We are all victims of this cognitive impairment. It is in our DNA. It grew out of our evolutionary need to disregard future dangers facing us. For the early hominid, each day was a new day. The future would take care of itself. It was too much of a burden to think about threats beyond those of the moment.
Over the coming decades, as we attempt to forecast the hominid societal changes that will be taking place in response to the ecological breakdown, we will need to keep in mind this cognitive impairment. We will need to recognize that the transition will most likely only take place after the pain has set in, only after the bear dog has gotten mauled ‑ after the snake has bitten larger and larger numbers of the world population and its poison has taken hold.
As an Addendum, here are a few words from two of the world’s greatest thinkers
Could you say something about the current wildfires in California? Is catastrophic climate change a danger comparable to the danger of a nuclear catastrophe?
The wildfires in California have been horrendous, the worst in California history. These terrible fires are yet another manifestation of global warming, just as are the increased intensity of hurricanes, typhoons and other weather-related events. I believe that catastrophic climate change is a danger comparable to the danger of nuclear catastrophe. A nuclear catastrophe could happen at any time. With climate change we are approaching a point from which there will be no return to normalcy and our sacred earth will become uninhabitable by humans.
And a recent NY Times article on the possibility of another Permian Triassic extinction. (This possibility is covered in my new book Overcoming the Threat to Our Future: A Book About the Existential Threat to Our Evolutionary Future, a Book That Explains How We Can Overcome That Threat
Here is a summary of the NY Times article
The Planet has seen sudden warming before; 250 million years ago. We call it the Permian-Triassic Extinction. It wiped out almost all life. In some ways it was the planet’s worst life mass extinction. Here is our problem: It may parallel what is occurring today. Left unchecked, our future on the same course as was that worst event in geological history.
Another NY Times article
“Greenhouse gas emissions worldwide are growing at an accelerating pace this year, researchers said Wednesday, putting the world on track to face some of the most severe consequences of global warming sooner than expected.”
Also the Climate Summit Poland
“The message from ‘The People’s Seat‘ at the United Nation’s COP24 climate summit in Katowice, Poland on Monday—presented by the octogenarian British naturalist Sir David Attenborough—was as succinct and simple as it was profound and terrifying: ‘If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilizations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.’ ”
David Anderson brings together a wide range of interests in his writings, namely; theology, history, evolutionary anthropology, philosophy, geopolitics, and economics. He has written four books. The fourth has just been published. It is about the necessary geopolitical, social, religious, economic paradigm shift needed for human survival.