Greed n Green

Hi, Everybody. Recently, I’ve read a book called Collapse by Jared Diamond. This book have discussed why past or present societies succeed or failed at solving their environmental problems. What does it mean to us today? I would like to share a lil of it here ..

All of us recognize that environmental problems have gotten worse within last decade. Most environmental problems involve detailed uncertainties that are legitimate subjects for debate. In addition, however, there are many reasons that are commonly advanced to dismiss the importance of environmental problems.

I take some of the commonest quotes from the book :

 The environment has to be balanced against the economy.

This quote shows environmental concerns as a luxury, views measures to solve environmental problems as incurring a net cost, and considers leaving environmental problems unsolved to be a money-saving device.

Technology will solve our problems.

This is an expression of faith about the future. This expression of faith is the hidden assumption that, from tomorrow onwards, technology will function primarily to solve existing problems and will stop to create new problems. Unfortunately, the actual experience is the opposite of this assumed. Think of the technology today, whether or not they succeed in solving the problems that they were designed to solve? Or create even more unanticipated new problems?

Technological solutions to environmental problems are far more expensive than preventive measures to avoid creating the problem in the first place: Example, the billions of dollars of damages and cleanup costs associated with major oil spills, compared to the modest cost of safety measures effective at minimizing the risks of a major oil spill.

Most of all, advances in technology just increase our ability to do things, which may be either for the better or for the worse. All of our current problems are unintended negative consequences for our existing technology. The rapid advances in technology during the 20th century have been creating new problems faster than they have been solving old problems. What makes you think that in human history, technology will amazingly stop causing new unanticipated problems while it just solves the problems that it previously produced?

If we exhaust one resource, we can always switch to some other resource meeting the same need.

Optimist who make such claims ignore the unforeseen difficulties. The current hope for breakthrough involves hydrogen cars and fuel cells as applied to motor transport. Thus, there is no track record justifying faith in the hydrogen-car solution to our fossil-fuel problem. However, we do have track record of a long series of new car technologies advertized as breakthroughs that aroused much discussion even sales of productions. All too often, a focus by politicians or industries on the promise of hydrogen cars and wind energy for the distant future distracts attention from all the measures needed right now – The fuel consumption.

Another example of faith in switching and substitution is the hope that renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar energy, may solve the energy crisis. It is indeed likely that energy sources other than fossil fuels will make increasing contributions to our motor transport and energy generation, but this is a long term prospect. We’ll also need to solve our fuel and energy problems for the next several decades.

Most of us consider the secure of our next generation as the highest priority to which to devote our time and our money (pay for education, life insurance, make wills), with the goal of helping them to enjoy good lives 50 years from now. It actually makes no sense for us to do these things for our next generation, while simultaneously doing things demoralizing the world in which our next generation will be living 50 years from now! What’s the point of willing our property to our next generation if the world will be in a mess then anyway?

Past societies lacked archaeologists and television. Easter Islanders were busy deforesting the highland of their overpopulated island for agricultural plantations; they had no ways knowing that, thousands of miles to the east and west at the same time, the other populations were collapsed due to environmental destructions. Today, we turn on our television sets or radio or pick up our newspapers, and we see, hear, or read about what happened in the world. Our television documentaries and books show us in graphic detail why the other past societies collapsed. Thus, we have the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of the past people. That’s an opportunity that no past societies enjoyed to such a degree. I hope there are enough people will choose to profit from the opportunity earned from the past societies to make a difference!

                                                                                                                                                                                                            — Jared Diamond —

Easter Island’s inhabitants used up all their resources (deforest); The societies eventually collapsed.

Easter Island was isolated at the Pacific just like the Earth is isolated in space. Over years they’ve been mined out the resources; the result was the ecological disaster and the collapse of their entire civilization. From this ancient mysteries there are lessons to be learn for our own civilization today.

This book is definitely worth reading as it able to trigger thoughts. How great if there are enough people out there to address these environmental issues. Anyways, most importantly, thank you Japheth for sharing it with me.


Posted on August 5, 2011, in Currently Read, GO GREEN !!. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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