The real problem of humanity is the following: we have paleolithic emotions; medieval institutions; and god-like technology. And it is terrifically dangerous, and it is now approaching a point of crisis overall.
I feel like the biggest hypocrite. Currently working for a sustainable development project, I am probably one of the people with the worst carbon footprints ever. I travel to remote places by plane all the time, eat meat occasionally, and use loads and loads of electricity. I have just recently become aware of that last one when we had four blackouts in the last week in my Nairobi home. I am quite literally lost without power. Even getting dressed in the dark is a challenge, and let’s not even speak about the horror of not being able to charge your phone for a while…!
My lifestyle choices lead me to produce around 20 to 25 tonnes of carbon emissions annually. That is, and I believe this is the proper scientific term, a shitload. It is about ten times the amount of greenhouse gas that one person can produce without damaging the environment. If everyone lived like me, the planet would be doomed. Even more than it already is.
So how can I justify being such a horrible polluter while simultaneously trying to tell other people how to live their lives and advising them on how to run their countries? The truth is: I can’t. But do I really have to?
Nobody’s perfect. If being perfect was the premise for being able to criticize or encourage others, there would most likely be no progress. The necessity to protect our environment is an absolute value and exists independently of my ability to comply with it. Advocating and furthering an environmentalist agenda is still the right thing to do, even if I am not able to live up to the standards.
It is difficult to grasp the concept of climate change. For many years, it has been such an abstract thing. A worry for future generations, if at all. We are just now starting to witness the first effects globally. And still, some pathetic morons (pardon my language) dare to deny it is happening. Why? Because our species is not able to think ahead far enough.
That is what Edward O. Wilson means by saying we have “paleolithic emotions”. We have just recently developed the technology to influence our environment in such a way that we could bring global warming upon ourselves. This technological evolution of just a few hundred years is not matched by any noticeable evolution in the way our brains work.
Once we will start to really feel the impact of man-made climate change, it will be far too late to stop the process. We will have passed the point of no return without realizing what we have done. Let’s hope we can get our “medieval institutions” to act before that.