In all the political hysteria about global warming, I can’t help but see it as the largest collective navel gazing of our age (Cover, “You’re Getting Warmer,” Dec. 5-12). Whether global warming is or is not being caused by our existence on Earth can be contemplated forever, but my view is that if humankind is responsible, it was absolutely inevitable. For what is it that separates humans from every other creature on this Earth? The glaringly obvious thing that seems to escape all the heavy thinkers quenching themselves in human guilt is this: We are the only animal that uses fire to change our circumstance.
Until mankind moved from roving bands of hunter-gatherers towards the warmth generated from some random lightning strike, we were little different than any other animal. From that point forward, humans have used every combustible item on the planet to heat, melt, cook, forge, combine, reduce, destroy and create everything that we now find commonplace. Absolutely everything beyond a naked existence used the manipulation of fire to come to fruition, and virtually everything we burn releases carbon dioxide. If 50,000 years of this utterly human behavior has finally created some slight degree of climate change, why should we be surprised, or worried, for that matter? And to the greater point, if it took 35,000-50,000 years to create this situation, then is it not the epitome of arrogance to believe that we can reverse it in the foreseeable future?
By current standards barely 30 percent of the world’s population has access to 24 hour electricity. (Which, even if generated by solar, wind or water power, will require a huge investment of burning, including trucks, trains, factories, lights, pumping stations, etc.) Can the American conscience really assuage its guilt by imposing Band-Aid measures like the Kyoto treaty on developing nations who only seek the wonders of modern technology? Should not the citizens of the world be allowed access to lights, Tivo, convection bakery … NASCAR?
I am all for the conservation of natural resources, as well as working toward reducing our sprawl over the planet, but let’s not pretend that we can remove modern society from the Earth. As other countries seek to attain the Western standards of comfort, we should not dissuade them, nor impose draconian measures against our own populace. Let’s seek to create less waste and utilize our energy to our best effort, but let us not ignore our basic human nature … we burn things, and it improves us.