By Stephen Fitzgerald
The continued existence of nuclear weapons is an ongoing existential threat to the human race, one that may still get us in the end. If nuclear weapons were easy to obtain we’d have gone extinct years ago. There are enough omnicidal maniacs out there that one, sooner or later, would press the button.
Passing alien would look down at the desolate and lifeless earth and debate why we would developed the technologies that could power our advancing civilization and then use them to destroy ourselves? They would need to look no further than their own evolution to answer that question. We evolve beyond a certain point or we don’t.
The conclusion would be that humans clearly had one foot in the future but also had one foot firmly planted in the animal kingdom and were still prone to behaviour controlled by basic animal instinct. Their inability to grasp what humanity and civilization is all about was overridden by the self serving needs of the animals among them. It all boils down to some humans being a bit backward on the evolutionary scale.
When it comes to nuclear holocaust, collective global action has been in play since 1945 to protect the fate of humanity. Simplified, the fear of global destruction and the world being uninhabitable has prevented WWIII. We grasp the issue and we act accordingly but, there is another existential threat facing humanity that collectively we don’t seem to comprehend and that’s called climate change.
Most of us see where we are heading and, catastrophic climate change will be no less destructive than nuclear war. So what’s stopping affirmative action? It’s the same people dictating nuclear arms policy that are dictating climate action policy so, why the inaction on climate change? Well, there’s not a lot of money to be made in the nuclear arms race but tens of trillions to be made in the fossil fuel industry. So, I guess greed overrides common sense and self preservation, but why?
“Climate change is,” writes Bryan Walsh in Medium:
… essentially, the sum of all our decisions. Our decisions to use fossil fuels. Our decisions to travel by car or jet. Our decisions to support politicians who deny the reality of global warming and work to thwart action to address it. And most of all, our decisions to prioritize the comfort of the present at the cost of the future.
It’s not that any of us consciously want to screw over the generations to come with hotter temperatures and more extreme weather. It’s that we’re each pursuing what we perceive as our individual good, the good of our family and close circle — the good of now. And through our collective actions, we create the catastrophe that is climate change, which will fall most heavily on the generations to come.
You can’t really blame us, we are acting the way we evolved to act — biased towards the near future and the nearby, reluctant to sacrifice for the sake of those we’ll never meet and who have yet to exist. And that worked well enough for 10,000 years of civilization — until today, when this global village has the power to destroy itself through new weapons, through biotechnology, and through climate change.
“Our morality and our moral dispositions evolved to stop us from killing ourselves within our small group and to make sure that we cooperated with our small group,” says Savulescu, the Uehiro Professor of Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford. “But they didn’t evolve to provide benefits to strangers or to deal with large numbers of individuals at risk. All those features mean we’re particularly badly placed to deal with large statistical threats like the use of biological weapons or global collective action problems like climate change.”
There are those among us who lack the moral capacities to deal with the sort of world we’ve created for ourselves. They are still blinkered by basic animal instinct.
We need to take that quantum leap into the future, we need to evolve beyond our primitive state. The Neanderthals in climate change denial need to take a small step out of the cave and take one giant step into the future for the sake of humanity. We need those in power to get a grip on what civilization and humanity is all about and, it’s not about pack mentality. It’s not all about looking after themselves, their own little tribe and their extended family of cronies at the expense of society. We need leaders with human qualities, moral fibre, ethics, empathy, intellect and a vision that protects our collective future.
In the primitive state, acting against the collective good would have seen us driven out of the village and isolated or worse. We are now a modern global village all facing the same threat. Any politician not fully committed to taking action on climate change is in it for themselves driven by animal instinct. They are in government under pretence and exist on lies and deceit at the expense of our society and then all of humanity. I see quite a few politicians dragging their knuckles across the floor of parliament but the numbers are starting to thin.
Our ancestors made sacrifices to get us through previous global conflicts and as humans, we have that wonderful capacity. To protect our future, we need to stand beside our new breed of ethical leaders and be prepared to prove our humanity once more, for the collective good.
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