54A Vane Attempt

"Don't Need a Weatherman To Tell Which Way the Wind Blows" 

A Series of Innocuous Blogs for Vainglorious Edification.


The Day the Earth Stands Up
March 28, 2009

In Scott Derrickson’s apocalyptic remake of “The Day the Earth Stood Still” (Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly, Kathy Bates) there is a single, strident message.  It is that behavioral change in human beings comes about only at a “precipice.”  The precipice called for by the movie is a cataclysm.  A catastrophe.  The threat of world annihilation by a swarm of robotic locusts.  Indeed terror and fear do cause behavioral changes in people.  One need only look at the mistrust and loathing inhabitants of occupied lands feel for their occupiers.  In the world’s most repressive societies it is fear of black guards, secret police, goon squads and organized crime that keep the masses docile, cringing in poverty.  The threat of mutual destruction kept nuclear holocaust at bay through most of the East West cold war.  And the threat of violent retaliation keeps Israel from invasion by its sometimes hostile neighbors.

The movie’s message wants us to believe that the impending climate catastrophe trumpeted by global warming alarmists is a “precipice.”  It suggests that humankind should pay terrible tribute to the massive floods, catastrophic hurricanes, and scorching heat that will come about if industrialization continues to consume fossil fuels at its present rate.  The clarion call from climate doomsayers is that human beings must conform to a doctrine of prescribed behavior, else the world as we know it will come to a fiery, burning end.  Sound biblical?  Sound epic?  Sound like the work of spinners of great fiction?  It pretty much is.  But is that all bad?

Joseph Campbell has long argued that fiction in the form of myths play a major role in the way human beings have evolved.  Especially socially.  Mythology puts into readily absorbed stories all manner of lessons, cautionary tales and inspiration.  Take Icarus, the wax-winged immortal who flew too close to the sun and then fell.  His is a tale of hubris.  He thought himself invincible and chose to fly ever higher and closer to the heat of the sun.  The myth teaches that hubris, grandiosity, pride can lead to an unexpected fall.  It is presumably just such a tale that the modern day mythologists behind global warming hope to teach to mankind.  The lesson is a good one.  That is, continued use of unsustainable energy resources will damage the quality of life on the planet.  And in light of the modernization of vast population centers like India and China, that damage will largely be environmental.

But we question the prescribed “precipice” of climate disaster as necessary.  Because we have so many provable, empirical reasons to change our energy manifesto without ever considering global warming.  The greatest of these reasons is tribal hostility.  If we cast the industrial nations as one tribe of humans and those that harbor fossil fuel resources as another tribe - it is clear.  Human beings fight wars over energy.  The West currently pays vast sums of money to import foreign oil to sustain its way of life.  And despite great strides in environmental technology, the use of fossil fuels has deep and expensive environmental consequences.  So, without even considering man-made global warming, there are three enormous, indisputable reasons to change our energy practices:  hostilities, economics, environment.  Not to mention the impact on “national security.”  Any sovereign nation able to produce their own energy is far less vulnerable to foreign manipulation and threat.

Our difficulty with “The Day the Earth Stood Still” is rather simple.  Human beings do not need an external threat to call them to action.  And when that external threat is based on extraordinarily unsound science, as is anthropogenic global warming, the action itself is threatened.  That is, as it becomes ever more apparent that global warming, relabeled climate change is based on flawed science and exaggeration - the credibility of whole institutions is damaged.  And damaged credibility gives rise to mistrust and backward behavior.  The need for human civilization to establish global energy independence is one of two premier challenges.  There are indisputable reasons to do so.  Mythology is unnecessary.

Of course in the end it matters little how we get to evolve… As long as we evolve.  Part of human evolution is stewarding the resources of our planet in a responsible way.  Part of that stewardship is to abandon monopolistic industrial/military control of all our energy sources.  We are at a real, astonishing brink of discovery with regard to energy.  There are, waiting in the wings, ubiquitous sources of sustainable energy.  They will be introduced with or without support from the energy establishment.  But what must come first is a global understanding of how to distribute those sources in a sustainable, equitable way.  That requires changes in our way of living life.  We must come face to face today with the very real and impending disaster of too many people on the planet.  The biblical encouragement to “go forth and procreate” is no longer a necessary or responsible admonition. 

What is very real and looms ahead as the second great challenge to humankind, tangential to energy - is population.  It is an even more volatile problem than energy as it touches all manner of societal hot buttons.  But we must address this issue today.  This is the real climate change.  We are a planet of six billion, rapidly on our way to doubling that in fifty short years.  The Earth’s biosphere is an extraordinary creation.  It is capable of supporting life in near-miraculous ways.  But like any organic biological system, it has limits.  We approach those limits rapidly.  The real change in Earth’s climate will not come from excess CO2 in the atmosphere.  It will come from man’s refusal to mitigate population growth.  It is a complex subject.  And we do not need to be pushed to the edge of a cliff to acknowledge it.  Let’s instead evolve on our own terms, take this difficult matter into human hands and with help from those who care, face head-on our most vexing human problem.  In the end… it will make a good and true story.