Toward a solution to global warming

Bob’s post, “Ecosocialism or collapse,” got me thinking about the challenge of global climate change in a new light. In the post, he quotes Richard A. Smith on “three principles for an ecosocialist economy to save us from collapse.” These can be summarized as (1) economy of stasis, (2) production for need (as opposed to excess), and (3) shift in focus toward the common good.

To these, Bob responds:

“Absolutely. But how do we get there? These three proposals all assume the existence of a powerful state (or international governing body) that can mandate such changes. We don’t have that now nor is there any real possibility of there being one.”

Which started my gears turning. Where have I seen such a complex and seemingly insurmountable problem before? Ah: the civil war in Sri Lanka. And the three categories of obstacles are much the same.

The challenge of global warming is not just economic, nor is it just political. Smith also brings up a third area of challenge that is neither economic nor political: “Replace the profit motive with concern for the common good.” This is a problem of thinking, or consciousness.

spheres.GIFIn seeking solutions to the Sri Lankan conflict, we found it useful to view the challenges as occurring in three overlapping spheres of Politics, Economics, and Consciousness. In order to be successful, a solution must address all three spheres. Any solution that addresses only one or two of the spheres is doomed to fail. And consciousness is key but easily overlooked: in the case of ending a conflict, there must be a transformation from viewing the other as enemy to viewing everyone as part of the same nation.

The problem of global climate change is similar. The discussion here on Polizeros has focused primarily on economic (socialist vs. capitalist) and political (enforcement vs. encouragement) solutions. There are of course technical challenges as well. But until Bob’s post, no one had yet brought up the problem of consciousness. How do we convince people to put the greater good above their own selfish desires?

One answer is through what is often referred to as a spiritual approach, though it might also be considered ethical for those not inclined toward spirituality. In Sri Lanka it meant not converting people from their current religion, but rethinking their current religion. Buddhist extremism, for example, is used as justification for killing non-Buddhists, while Hinduism is strongly associated with caste (and economic) stratification. Christians, who are in a unique position for mediation, instead keep to themselves. Yet all of these religions contain the teachings necessary to overcome self-centeredness and put aside violence.

Sri Lanka is a small country, yet an end to the war there remains elusive. On a global scale, the application of solutions in these three spheres would be even more complex. But they are necessary. If we are to find an answer to global warming (short of climate-imposed population and technological reduction), we must begin to think in terms of comprehensive approaches.

It may also be true that no single entity or organization can fully address more than one (or even one) of these spheres. That means cooperative thinking in a way humanity has been reluctant to undertake so far. Either-or, black-and-white approaches are easy to embrace and make it easy to spot our “enemy”— but these approaches, insofar as they prevent us from working together, may in fact be the enemy.

(A modified version of this post appears on www.AsymptoticLife.com.)