It's in the DNA

By Stephen Fitzgerald

The continued existence of nuclear weapons is an ongoing existential threat to the human race, one that may still get us in the end. If nuclear weapons were easy to obtain we’d have gone extinct years ago. There are enough omnicidal maniacs out there that one, sooner or later, would press the button.

Passing alien would look down at the depleted and damaged earth and debate why we would developed the technologies that could power our advancing civilization then continue to burn fosil fuels and destroy ourselves? They would need to look no further than their own evolution to answer that question. We evolve beyond a certain point or we don’t.

The conclusion would be that humans clearly had one foot in the future but also had one foot firmly planted in the primative past and were still prone to behaviour controlled by basic animal instinct. Their inability to grasp what humanity and civilization is all about was overridden by the self serving needs of the primative minds among them. It all boils down to some humans being a bit backward on the evolutionary scale.

When it comes to nuclear holocaust, collective global action has been in play since 1945 to protect the fate of humanity. Simplified, the fear of global destruction and the world being uninhabitable has prevented WWIII. We grasp the issue and we act accordingly but, there is another existential threat facing humanity that collectively we don’t seem to comprehend and that’s called climate change.

Most of us see where we are heading and, catastrophic climate change will be no less destructive than nuclear war. So what’s stopping affirmative action? It’s the same people dictating nuclear arms policy that are dictating climate action policy so, why the inaction on climate change? Well, there’s not a lot of money to be made in the nuclear arms race but tens of trillions to be made in the fossil fuel industry. So, I guess greed overrides common sense and self preservation, but why?

“Climate change is,” writes Bryan Walsh in Medium: … essentially, the sum of all our decisions. Our decisions to use fossil fuels. Our decisions to travel by car or jet. Our decisions to support politicians who deny the reality of global warming and work to thwart action to address it. And most of all, our decisions to prioritize the comfort of the present at the cost of the future.

It’s not that any of us consciously want to screw over the generations to come with hotter temperatures, more extreme weather and flooded coastlines. It’s that we’re each pursuing what we perceive as our individual good, the good of our family and close circle — the good of now. And through our collective actions, we create the catastrophe that is climate change, which will fall most heavily on the generations to come.

You can’t really blame us, we are acting the way we evolved to act — biased towards the near future and the nearby, reluctant to sacrifice for the sake of those we’ll never meet and who have yet to exist. And that worked well enough for 10,000 years of civilization — until today, when this global village has the power to destroy itself through new weapons and through climate change.

“Our morality and our moral dispositions evolved to stop us from killing ourselves within our small group and to make sure that we cooperated with our small group,” says Savulescu, the Uehiro Professor of Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford. “But they didn’t evolve to provide benefits to strangers or to deal with large numbers of individuals at risk. All those features mean we’re particularly badly placed to deal with large statistical threats or global collective action problems like climate change.”

There are those among us who lack the moral capacities to deal with the sort of world we’ve created for ourselves. They are still blinkered by basic animal instinct, still in the clan of the cave bear, still dragging their knuckles over rocky ground, still driven by mindless greed.

We need to take that quantum leap into the future, we need to evolve beyond our primitive state. The Neanderthals in climate change denial need to take a small step out of the cave and take one giant step into the future for the sake of humanity. We need those in power to get a grip on what civilization and humanity is all about and, it’s not about pack mentality. It’s not all about looking after themselves, their own little tribe and their extended family of cronies at the expense of society. We need leaders with human qualities, moral fibre, ethics, empathy, intellect and a vision that protects our collective future.

In the primitive state, acting against the collective good would have seen us driven out of the village and isolated or worse. We are now a modern global village all facing the same threat. Any politician not fully committed to taking action on climate change is in it for themselves, those they selectively represent and the spoils of office. They are in government under pretence and exist on lies and deceit at the expense of our society and then all of humanity. I see quite a few politicians dragging their knuckles across the floor of parliament and they need to be removed.

Our ancestors made sacrifices to get us through previous global conflicts and as humans, we have that wonderful capacity. To protect our future, we need to stand beside our new breed of ethical leaders and be prepared to prove our humanity once more, for the collective good. So why aren't we?

Well, here we humans stand in all our glory. What got us here and, in essence, what's the prime objective? Darwin would suggest that we are part of the evolutionary process that defines all life on planet earth. We have one overriding objective and that is to mix up the gene pool and reproduce. So, really it’s all about passing the baton of life on to the next generation. To build up and strengthen our children to give them every chance of success and every chance to also carry on with life's ongoing generational push.


Since this is our driving force, why then, would we let a hand-full of mindlessly greedy people cut down and destroy our future, not just for their own children, but for all children? There is something insane about wilfully destroying the process of life but, that’s what we are doing. We are blindly destroying the natural world and driving ourselves towards catastrophic climate change and devastating sea-level rise that threatens all life and drives mass extinction.


We are at the very beginning of time for the human race. It is not unreasonable to acknowledge that some of us are driven by greed and lust and don’t have the capacity to deal with the problems we are creating. But there are tens of thousands of years in the human future. Rather than destroying that future, it’s our responsibility is to do what we can, learn what we can, improve the solutions and pass them on to strengthen and protect the future.
 

We need to transition away from fossil fuels to renewable clean energy and our prime objective must be to become stewards of the planet and protect the future for humanity and the natural world. If we can’t do that we are no better than mindless parasites eating their host and, when we destroy it, we perish. So, all the wars, all the accumulation of wealth, all the money, power and control, and all that we pass on to future generations will amount to nothing and be lost in time on our current path. 

 

Hundreds of million of generations to evolve and the fate of humanity rests in the hands of just one. The direction for humanity rests squarely with us, right now. We are the last generation in a position to action climate change. If we do nothing now, it will be too late.

We have a choice

There is a monumental real life battle going on that spans the globe and impacts every one of us. It’s a battle between what’s right and what’s wrong for humanity and the future for the natural world. This is the choice: “Keep fighting over and burning fossil fuel, to darken the planet, or transition to renewable clean energy and save us”. We can achieve this by making individual choices that are environmentally sustainable and, by backing politicians and companies who embrace urgent climate action.

Go to the next article: Why don't we listen

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