Who would want to steal the future of their own children?

I wanted to share with you  a really clever and powerful artwork that I discovered in a Facebook video, as well as my thoughts on the subject. At first glance it seems like nothing particularly unusual, a mother walking with her child. The genius part is that the child is made out of ice. As the hours went by it started melting away and eventually disappeared, while the statue of the mother remained intact. This was a really brilliant representation of the moral dilemmas surrounding climate change and environmental degradation in general. We’re stealing the future of our children, in the very same way in which our parents stole from our own future.

This is what we call Art..Video courtesy of greenpeace.org

Публикувахте от Arch2O в Вторник, 4 декември 2018 г.

The debt

This situation is very new in the history of our species. For the vast majority of human history, older generations were building up knowledge and wealth and in general, were leaving better opportunities to their children than the ones they had. Since the industrial revolution this trend started to change rapidly. We began experiencing much more comfort and wealth, better access to food, technology, travel, healthcare etc. But there were hidden costs that we decided to ignore for the last century. The new technologies that created the unprecedented economic growth also allowed us to destroy nature at unprecedented speeds. At the same time the advancements in agriculture and medicine created an extreme boom of the human population. We started to live on a credit that we’re never going to be able to pay back. We’re not in debt to the banks, we’re in debt to our children.

It’s already happening

We’re already experiencing the negative effects of climate change. Many parts of the world are dealing with extreme climate events such as prolonged droughts and severe heatwaves. These disturbances of the climate impact agricultural production and threaten the economic and political stability of many regions. For example, the war in Syria was, at least in part, provoked by an extreme drought that plunged the country in a deep economic crisis. And the effects of this instability are already felt even in the countries that like Europe and the US. The migrant crisis that we experienced now is just a pale vision of the scale of the migration that we’re going to have to deal with in the coming decades. A very big percentage of the human population lives around the coastal areas, and the rising sea levels are expected to provoke unseen migrations within and between countries. A lot of the agricultural production is also going to be jeopardized as a result of the rising sea levels. These economic and social instabilities are very likely to cause violent conflicts for land resources around the world.  But the situation is actually even worse than what most people imagine when they think about  climate change.

It gets worse

When we think of greenhouse has emissions we usually imagine that a certain level of emissions corresponds with a certain level of increase in global temperatures. And we think that if we cut the emissions by a certain level, were going to reduce the warming that we experience proportionally. The equation is really not that simple.  The situation is much more complex and unfortunately, much scarier. The geological data shows that some modest changes can trigger a chain of events that further accelerate and exacerbate the changes of the climate. Even if we stop emitting greenhouse gases today, we’re still going to experience increasing warming in the coming decades because of the gases that we’ve already released. But even worse, our  own emissions could become a minor source of the greenhouses gases that enter the atmosphere. Many scientists are warning us that we’re already triggering feedback loops that could cause runaway climate change. If we cause too much warming we might create changes that are completely out of our control and that our children would never be able to deal with, even if they halt all emissions and deforestation. The permafrost contains extreme quantities of methane and carbon. If more of these greenhouse gases are released the melting of permafrost itself is going to provoke more melting, the process will be uncontrollable and will have quick and devastating effects on the climate. Our estimates of the speed of this process might have been too optimistic, as this recent post from NASA reveals. And this is just one of many feedback loops that we are currently triggering.

We all love our children, right?
We all love our children, and our parents also loved us, no doubt about it. But when it comes down to complex issues like climate change we fail to think reasonably about it and act accordingly. Many people would claim that they would sacrifice anything for their children, even their lives. Yet when it comes down to cutting emissions, we fail to act with the urgency that is required from us. And I don’t just mean that we could reduce our emissions by consuming less, driving less, flying less etc. That’s necessary and important, but we also need to work for political solutions. Despite all of our disagreements I think that most people agree that they don’t want to to leave their children in a planet ravaged by famine and war.  Unfortunately, even in the comments of this video, there are plenty of people that still debate the existence of climate change. I believe that we should disagree about the possible solutions, but we have to agree on the objective facts. Climate change is real and its threatening the existence of our species and the ecological balance of the entire ecosystem.


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