So, Benazir Bhutto is dead. The crisis in Pakistan, long in duration and dangerous in the extreme, moves to another level. How long it remains there can’t be determined at this time. Nor the outcome.
As always, and a constant element of surprise to some of my closest intimates, my mind turns almost immediately to the example this represents, skating almost casually–at least insofar as how it may appear–past the significance of the current events. The potential of an overthrow of Musharraf and/or the rise of radical elements in a nation equipped with nuclear weapons can’t be trivialized. And that is not my intent.
But as an example of the predictable tendency of political realities to blow up under pressure, these kinds of events are absolutely at the heart of my pessimism for the ability of mankind to “save the planet.”I’m often asked, “Why isn’t it obvious to you that it’s easier to solve the environmental problems on Earth than to terraform Mars?” The answer is simple. “We cannot solve the environmental problems here on Earth because mankind is here–all over the place.” My position is that, if anything, the opposite of the standard thinking is more likely. It’s much easier to terraform Mars than to solve the environmental problems of Earth. Note, I’m not talking about short-term solutions. Those will be absolutely necessary for terraforming to even stand a chance. No, I’m all in favor of every environmental effort I’ve ever heard, I think, unless they’re poorly thought out and mis-directional, as some are.
But short-term solutions are not solutions at all. They are postponements only. Anything approaching the idea of “solution” has to involve true sustainability, not only as presented and practiced, but as modified and practiced by future generations.
The constant turmoil in the polito-sphere, as exemplified by assassinations, revolutions, wars, world-wide economic struggles for market dominance, etc., etc., makes the idea–save possibly via massive decline in human population–of sustainability so absurd to me that I’m virtually dumbfounded by those who think solutions on Earth are possible, let alone likely.
Of course, many have precisely the projection that massive decline of our population is in the works.
Okay, so that’s probably not so “duhhhable.” Maybe something might happen to stabilize population at, or near, the present level and, simultaneously, to guarantee a sustainable level of consumption from those living at the time, whenever it might be. And forever afterwards, of course.
I just don’t buy that happening, that’s all. Worse, though, in terms of alienating my point of view from the average Joe’s, is that I’m so totally convinced that our almost universal expectation that “massive reduction in human population is the extent of the threat” is way off base. We all seem to believe the rest of life on this planet will just thrive in our newly found absence. “Life on Earth survived the extinction of the dinosaurs, didn’t it?”
But doesn’t Gaian survival depend an awful lot on how the demise of mankind comes about? If global warming, for example, were to lead to a planet more closely resembling Venus than today’s Earth, say, then what happened to mankind along the way seems to me to be a rather trivial question. Of course, there are many people who wouldn’t agree. For them, what happens to mankind is the breadth, height, and depth of the question.
That, more than anything, seems to me to be the attitude of mankind which most needs to change. If, before I die, I can accomplish that much in the minds of a significant number of people, I will have done as well as I can ever hope. It’s really not about us, folks. Really! It’s about Gaia.