Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Unintentional Acts of Good People are the World's Greatest Threat

Text from the president's address to the U.N. earlier this week provides a good example of how the greatest threat to our future is being ignored. The text pits the "righteous many" and "decent people and nations" against "the wicked few."
"The scourge of our planet today is a small group of rogue regimes that violate every principle on which the United Nations is based. They respect neither their own citizens nor the sovereign rights of their countries. If the righteous many do not confront the wicked few, then evil will triumph. When decent people and nations become bystanders to history, the forces of destruction only gather power and strength."
There are, of course, people out there with destructive intent who pose a danger. Nuclear weapons will always keep the end of civilization potentially just minutes away. But such a good vs. bad duality leaves the door wide open for the most powerful and insidious agent of destruction to do its work.

Though each one of us may lead a productive and caring life, we remain in another respect like beasts of burden, harnessed to pull civilization closer to the cliff. To the extent that our machines run on fuels extracted from underground, we serve collectively as a team of mad chemists, redistributing carbon and thereby unleashing powerful forces of radical change. Of course, we don't mean to play this role. We are, as stated in the president's address, "decent people." But our participation in the destabilizing of the planet's chemical balance is no less substantive and real for being unintentional. Why, in order to conform and fit in to society, are we essentially forced to wear that harness and daily contribute to destructive transformations of our climate and our oceans?

We know who is keeping us in this bondage. It's the politicians who pretend that all evil is intentional, who pretend that the fuels combusted to run our lives and our vast economy do not have vast and lasting negative consequence, and who, armed with deeply entrenched pessimism, actively oppose alternatives to that bondage.

We won't be free, nor our nation truly defended from danger, until the deniers of human-caused climate change are stripped of their political power. Until then, preoccupation with the evil intent of the "wicked few" will leave us vulnerable to the collective and unintentional impact of the "righteous many."