Can We Count on an Escape to the Stars?

63  bar rises 29.81  0mph ESE dew-point 51   Beltane, cloudy and cool

                 First Quarter of the Flower Moon

“Environmentalism has replaced socialism as the leading secular religion. And the ethics of environmentalism are fundamentally sound. Scientists and economists can agree with Buddhist monks and Christian activists that ruthless destruction of natural habitats is evil and careful preservation of birds and butterflies is good. The worldwide community of environmentalists—most of whom are not scientists—holds the moral high ground, and is guiding human societies toward a hopeful future. Environmentalism, as a religion of hope and respect for nature, is here to stay. This is a religion that we can all share, whether or not we believe that global warming is harmful.” from a New York Review of Books article by Freeman Dyson

Here’s a bit from his own webpage: Freeman Dyson is now retired, having been for most of his life a professor of physics at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

Dyson is a smart guy and no follower of the crowd.  His article reviews books which count the cost of global warming.  His real point, though, seems to be that those who would silence the critics of global warming may find themselves on the wrong side of history, much like the Catholic Church and Gallileo, for example. 

Here’s another quote:  “In the history of science it has often happened that the majority was wrong and refused to listen to a minority that later turned out to be right.  It may–or may not–be that the present is such a time.” 

He seems to look toward a more nuanced stating of the case along the lines of this quote from Ernesto Zedillo, editor of  Global Warming: Looking Beyond Kyoto.  “Climate change may not be the world’s most pressing problem (as I am convinced it is not), but it could still prove to be the most complex challenge the world has ever faced.”  Dyson has written elsewhere that he believe global poverty, starvation and epidemic treatable diseases like malaria, cholera and typhus are more important than global warming.  These are, he argues, clear and present realities.  We should not let climate change take attention away from them.

This is important stuff for me since I got word last night that I will serve on the Sierra Club’s political committee this year.   I believe in the Great Work Thomas Berry describes in his book by that name, namely, that our generation is the one that will have to change the human presence on the earth to a sustainable one.

Still, I take the point of some conservative critics who wonder if the emphasis on the health of mother earth detracts from our specie’s self interest, i.e., our own survival.  My belief is that the two have become, or, better, we now recognize that they always have been, intimately related.  Only in the most optimistic space opera science fiction sense can we imagine scenarios in which our species escapes earth to colonize the stars.  Short of that we have to dance with the planet we were given.  This one.

Somehow we must make progress to mitigate the affects of climate change and to slow it down.  We must make that progress, though, in a way sensitive to the needs and aspirations of the human inhabitants of earth, our fellow creatures.