Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A climate of collective idiocy

Today the Senate debates the merits of an oil pipeline disastrous to the common good.  The Keystone pipeline and its cousins will enable the development of Canadian tar sands, helping to make catastrophic climate change inevitable and irreversible.  Except for the momentary fever dream of an ephemeral energy boom, it offers Americans nothing but the prospect of oil spills and higher energy prices.  But the fossil fuel companies invested  hundreds of millions of dollars in this legislature, and so we get fossilized fuel public policy.

Last week's hallucinatory agreement between the US and China to start considering getting semi-serious about fossil fuel emissions is already receding into the carbon dioxide haze.  

For those of us who have hoped that humans might act to ensure our grandchildren's well being, it's enervating stuff.  We almost certainly doom our civilization if we don't start moving it away from fossil fuels starting . . .  well, starting years ago, actually.

I am no longer surprised.  We have a bad habit of assuming that since individual humans are capable of intelligence, forethought and planning - that this means we should be equally capable of intentional collective action. Unfortunately, collectively our species demonstrates the cognitive abilities of a toxic lichen. Civilizations, perhaps achieve the blind tropisms of a nematode or a pea plant - sometimes able to evade a fatal obstacle. A nation or a government can often lurch around with the spastic enthusiasms of a poorly coordinated toddler . . . 

I don't place much hope in the plans of our leaders or their critics, but hey, sometimes yelling at toddlers helps - if only as a personal tonic.