There is a lot to be concerned about and deal with to make this a better world, however if our species and other life on our planet do not survive in a viable way, nothing else matters. What good will it do in the end if we find a cure for Alzheimer’s, but billions of people slowly starve to death in agony, because there is not enough food? We humans are not by nature logical. We do most of our thinking unconsciously, driven by primitive urges and emotions such as fear, empathy, greed, kindness and the need for status. While we focus on the symptoms of some of the most obvious problems we face, too often we ignore what lies behind them. I have listed some situations like this below.
We Need To Overcome Lazy, Fuzzy Thinking
- Demanding Ever More Growth, which is impossible in a finite space with limited resources. Yet, we keep calling for it. Growth is often promoted as the solution for economic and numerous other problems.
- Seeing the World as Unconnected Pieces. Ignoring connections can be disastrous. Projecting agricultural production based on past records, for instance, ignores the effect of climate change, growing water scarcity, cropland loss, and the depletion of petroleum needed for machinery, fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides. Thinking like this leaves us unprepared for what lies ahead.
- Trying to Resolve Problems Without Addressing Their Basic Causes. Regarding climate change, we only look at the most superficial causes rather than getting down to the bottom of the problem. Environmental Damage (in this case climate change) = Population x Per Capita Consumption modified by Technology. Double population, and damage doubles. The same is true of doubling consumption. But we don’t consider this. Discussing population is largely taboo, and who wants to constrain their lifestyle? We focus on dealing with the third factor, technology. Solar energy, windmills, building insulation, hybrid automobiles, etc., are in the news and even some politicians talk about them. We can only go so far with these, however, and then we must face up to dealing with population and our lifestyle if we want to make meaningful progress. How can we save the great apes in the Congo when population there will have increased by 111% by 2050 and people will be starving and need fire-wood and bush meat?
- Disregarding the Future. Isn’t it really astounding that hardly anyone, including governments, looks further into the future than five or ten years . My novel 2045: A Story of Our Future, describes the kind of world we could have if present trends continue. My article, “Is It Inevitable that Evolution Self-Destruct?” noted under writing, describes a possibility farther in the future.
- Misdirected Interests. Ever since living creatures had brains, they knew what was needed to stay alive and procreate. Most knew little else. With us today, it is very different. We know a lot of things that have nothing to do with survival, and are ignorant of many things that are essential for it. People’s interests run off in other directions-collecting antiques, preparing gourmet dinners, gossip, automobiles, sports, the history of the Civil War, flower growing, guns, and literature for example. We avoid knowledge about things that threatened us, like climate change and uncontrolled population growth. Politicians need an informed public that demands responsible behavior that can counter the narrow, selfish agendas of special-interest groups.
We Have to Understand How our Planet Works
Without going into details we need a grasp of the most rudimentary principles of exponential growth, thermodynamics, general systems theory, the scientific method, biology, evolution, ecology, the food chain, and the carbon cycle. We should know where the food on our table comes from, where wastes go, what pesticides do, and what harm can result from species extinction and climate change.
We Have to Understand How our Minds Work
We need a rudimentary knowledge of how our brain works so that we can overcome its deficiencies and use it to its best advantage in order to better cope with problems that are rapidly growing in number, complexity, and gravity. An important starting point is to recognize that our brain evolved to meet the needs of hunting-gathering societies. It was not designed from scratch to meet the needs of modern society. Instead it developed from earlier forms of life (fish and amphibians) by adding and adapting parts as needs changed.
Simplistic thinking tells us that when people come together there is a larger body of knowledge and talents, and things should work better. However, as we all know they usually don’t. New problems develop that make sensible action difficult.
These problems are the subject of my book, Invisible Walls: Why We Ignore the Damage We Inflict on the Planet … and Ourselves.
We Must Work Together Rather Than Fight