Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the underlying nature of humankind? How much hope do you invest in our future? Depending on your perspective global warming will seem like either a crisis or an opportunity.
If you are pessimistic about the nature of humans then you probably believe that we are competitive creatures whose purpose in life is to consume resources acquire land and wealth and ensure we get laid to pass on our selfish genes. For people with this mindset the solution to global warming is depressing. In order to survive we must create a global treaty to limit the emissions of fossil fuels which in a fossil fuel powered economy means limiting consumption, travel and almost everything else. I.e. the solution is a cost that must be borne.
An alternative perspective is that the current crisis is actually a period of punctuated evolution. Humanity is undergoing a rapid transition to a higher emergent evolutionary stage.
The follow up to the Kyoto Protocol is a treaty designed by humans to determine the composition of the atmosphere. That we could even influence such a thing would have seemed impossible even 1 generation ago. However, it is true, and the composition of the atmosphere will determine more then just what we are breathing; it will also determine the surface temperature of the entire planet, which has ramifications for every ecosystem on earth.
Humanity has been transformed within a few thousand generations from a gawky primate emerging blinking from the forests out onto the Savannah into a planetary force. Not since the first bacterial cells appeared in the primeval soup has one species been so responsible for the future of life.
As our activities change the planet’s chemistry our electronic neural network is increasing in density. Humanity’s collective mind is going global. Soon there will be more neural connections in the global brain then there are in an individual’s brain. A tipping point is being approached.
It’s too late to go back to the trees. We have already changed the planet so drastically that only we can restore ecological balance by creating the structures necessary to regulate ourselves. This requires an ethical and philosophical leap of the same magnitude as the technical leap which has turned us from mammoth clubbers to planetary engineers.
The solution to global warming requires that we shift from competitive economies in which well being has been declining whilst wealth increases to cooperative economies in which creativity and wellbeing are paramount. We must consume less, share more, protect the natural world and work together as a unified species with a shared set of goals for the first time in human history. The needs of nations must give way to the needs of Gaia… planetary cooperation… sounds pretty damn good to me.
The precise ways in which a sustainable society will be more fulfilling are explored further in Green & Happy.