Beyond The Puddle

PuddleWe humans collectively have a worldview of that of the sentient puddle that Douglas Adams describes. It’s a powerful metaphor for so many things.

There’s some discussion here and there as to whether we’re still in the Holocene epoch – a time where everything is supposed to be in the right balance to sustain the world we know.

There are some that suggest we’re no longer in the Holocene epoch, and that we’re in the Anthropocene epoch, a period where we humans have affected the world on many levels.

This is all about ‘climate change’. The main argument about climate change seems to revolve around whether we humans have been naughty or not during our stay on the planet.

The planet we call Earth is fine, barring a supernova of our sun or something we can’t predict. The Earth doesn’t really care too much whether we’re here or not. It’s happily spinning around the Sun, which in turn spins around the center of the Milky Way Galaxy, which in turn doesn’t seem to orbit anything we have found… yet.

That’s the point, really. We’re pretty good at knowing what we do know, but as a society we’re awful at knowing what we don’t know. We’re so bad at this that we have specialized groups of people that try to figure out what questions to ask so that we can know more. We call them scientists, and we trot them out when their opinions and our opinions agree.

We accept Einstein’s Theory of Relativity on faith now, largely, but when it fell out of his head it was questioned. Of course, it didn’t affect the planet as much as the things surrounding the present discussions. To do that would require people to learn a new name.

Dr Clair Cameron Patterson
A rendition of Dr. Clair Cameron Patterson from the television series Cosmos. Originally aired on April 20th, 2014

Dr. Clair Cameron Patterson. This geochemist did something that most people don’t even think about. We used to have leaded gas, done to keep internal combustion engines from ‘knocking’.

Dr. Patterson started by trying to determine the age of the Earth, and being a scientist he noted enough discrepancies in his data that he began a campaign to remove lead from gasoline in 1965. In 1986, lead was no longer available in gasoline – and it took over 20 years from the beginning of his campaign to accomplish that. As a result, the lead in the blood of the average American is said to have dropped 80% by the 1990s.

In other words, by measuring one thing he found other things – he found the questions to ask and answer that ultimately affected the entire world and how livable it is.

That’s really the core of the climate change ‘debate’. About how livable the Earth is. And since the Holocene, our metaphorical puddle, is at least being discussed as ‘over’, we don’t need to think so much about the intentionality of things. We don’t need to debate how fast we can positively impact the environment. That’s too long and detailed for most people, and the choices for people are between convenience or not instead of whether we’re assuring that generations to come will have a livable planet.

We all know that the climate is changing simply by going outside. We can’t comprehend ‘global warming’ when our personal experience is that it’s colder outside, or ‘global cooling’ when it’s warming outside.

We can comprehend that our environment is becoming less livable.

Like it or not, the planet we call home is changing – maybe some of it is natural, maybe not, but that’s immaterial. If we want our species – we are a single species – to have a future on this planet, we need to accept that how we have existed during the Holocene Epoch prior to us finding questions and answering them… we need to accept that how we have lived is not the way we should live, and that we need to pay more attention.

All the rest is politics, and by definition, there is no agreement in politics. Self-interest for ourselves lasts only as long as we do, perhaps further in some cases.

Being interested in our species, on the other hand, is where we should start.

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