News, Science 2015-02-15

Climate Change and the end of Evolution

The Washington Post recently put up an article on the coming “megadrought” that will hit the Southwest and Central United States. Whether you think that climate change is real or that the megadrought is just hype isn’t relevant to this article. What is relevant is the following quote:

We really need to start thinking in longer-term horizons about how we’re going to manage it

This is a quote from one of the scientists interviewed for the article and it hits on a major point. Human beings must now think in a long-term manner, something that may well be impossible.

The Limit of Evolution

Not everyone believes in evolution, but lets pretend it’s real for a second. If we go with this premise, then it’s important to see that creatures evolve to survive in an eternal past. They develop mutations that allow their ability to have offspring, or they die without having offspring. That’s basically it. The longer those conditions exist, the more ingrained the mutation becomes.

Human beings, like many other creatures on Earth, developed in an environment where immediate attention was required. Get food now. Run from the bear. That sort of thing. The advances we’ve made in the last thousand years or so are a blip compared to the time we’ve lived without those conveniences. That, it turns out, is part of the problem.

Human beings are geared towards understanding what is happening “right now ™”. Thinking in abstract terms is difficult and thinking in broad terms may well be impossible. This tendency to only pay attention to what is right in front of us served Humanity well for thousands of years. That’s because for thousands of years, this is was where all the action was happening. Unfortunately, in 2015 humans have constructed a world so elaborate that to properly manage it requires an ability to think deeply about a particular issue and broadly about the possible ramifications. This is something that, thus far, most humans spectacularly fail at.

Certainly we could blame other things. Politicians are essentially paid to lie to us at the behest of corporate sponsors. A technology-infused society has us moving so fast we don’t have time to think in depth any more. There is also, of course, the good old-fashioned conspiracy theorist who thinks this “climate change” nonsense is a plan from the Illuminati.

All these things and more are influencing public opinion on climate change. Yet, all these things are also proof of the basic tenet that human attention is strictly short-term. Politicians take money and position because it benefits them immediately. A fast-paced society means that people can only deal with what is in front of them, something they’re geared for anyway. Conspiracy theorists only seek out what confirms their fantasies without thinking of the greater issue. People, in general, are simply not prepared for dealing with a long-term, fairly abstract issue that could ultimately change the world quite drastically.

Rough Weather

What about technology? Activists? Scientists? The picture of Humanity described thus far is one of the masses. People who have drunk the Kool-Aid, are misinformed, or just don’t have time to know what the truth is. What about the thinkers and specialists? Well… have they done anything yet? Climate change is as big a threat as ever, so despite the reports, studies and treaties, the answer seems to be no. We live in a world where China pollutes the rest of the world with impunity. Think about that. One nation is polluting the rest of the planet without reprimand and largely for short-term financial and socio-political gain. Again, think on the thesis of this article.

The End

In the end, it may well be that there is no way off the roller coaster ride. The future not certain, of course, but the issue has been a long time coming. Perhaps it is soon time for humanity to be going.

About the author

Erik Hentell: I started out in theater before moving to graphic design. I eventually moved into web design while trying to expand my knowledge on software development. I currently work for a media company helping with their digital assets such as source code archives and ebooks.