Don’t blame, prepare

There are several ways to view global warming. The first is that man, through his unsustainable use of petrochemicals, has put the entire planet on the brink of extinction. Another is the planet Earth, though natural processes, is going through a cycle of heating and cooling. One side of the argument claims that there is no scientific disagreement about what is causing the planet to heat up. This is simply not true, and all it does is define the argument as “It’s manmade” or “It’s natural.”

But the fact is, whether it’s a manmade or natural phenomenon is utterly irrelevant. The real question is, how is mankind going to cope with a planet where even the climate (not just the weather) is unpredictable?

A similar thing may be said about Peak Oil. As we pointed out in our cover story “Beyond Petro-noia” (RN&R, Jan. 18), the day is coming when more than half the accessible oil in the world will have been used up. It’s a fact. It’s obvious. Eventually, half the world’s oil reserves will be used, and then, as supply dwindles, the price will go up. It’s a finite resource.

But with peak oil, the question we—meaning many of our scientists and citizens—spend our time debating is, when will we reach the halfway point? Again, when it happens is irrelevant. If we begin preparing now, when the moment comes, the end of oil may not mean the end of civilization.

So what’s it going to take for humanity to survive each of these threats without sacrificing everything that makes us human?

The first is that we have to learn to approach these global issues from a global perspective. All the world’s countries must do what they can to avert catastrophe. President Bush may be fiddling while Iraq burns, but many people in this country think it’s more important to figure out a way to live without oil than to figure out a military solution to ensure an uninterrupted supply of what’s left in the ground.

Mankind’s survival will depend on a two-pronged approach. This approach is neither conservative nor liberal, or maybe it is both. It works like this: All individuals will have to do what they can to develop rational, sustainable methods of living their own lives. Like Craig Bergland from the “Petro-noia” story, who has learned to use solar methods to heat and power his home, each of us will have to make individual efforts to learn and take advantage of “sustainable” systems in our own lives. The technology already exists, but until we make a commitment to use it, it’s not going to help.

But the government will also have to get in the act. That means our government is going to have to change its point of view from a nationalistic, protectionist one to one that encourages sustainable growth in less fortunate countries and discourages unsustainable growth and technology in others. We all recognize that countries like China are creating a new petro-chemical based economy, which will, in the short term, hasten global warming and grow its political and economic muscle. We should work diplomatically with China and other petroleum-based economies to move away from the world’s oil addiction.

Forget Christianity vs. Islam. Forget Democracy vs. Communism. Forget manmade vs. natural. Forget the Peak Oil timetable. The country and economy that’s prepared for a sustainable world will be the one that wins all the marbles in the 22nd century.