Monday, March 13, 2017

Thoughts on a Facebook link I read today

When something seems blatantly obvious to you and yet you know that there are people out there with the same access to knowledge as you but radically different opinions on the subject, it is sometimes mind-wrenching. How can people believe that? Don't they know [X]?? What kind of nutcases are they anyway? Or, maybe they're just Evil.

Years ago I had the experience of driving across the northern USA in a truck that had undiagnosed mechanical problems. Randomly, it wouldn't start. I'd camp somewhere and it wouldn't start in the morning. I'd stop for a rest break and it wouldn't start when I was ready to move on. But randomly, I never knew when it was going to happen. I had tried to get it diagnosed and fixed before I left on this trip but to no avail. As it turned out it was a relatively simple problem and cheap fix; something about the ignition computer? Whatever. I didn't know my 1991 truck even had a computer, but it did.

Back to the story. The upside of travelling with a mechanical problem is that you find out the kindness of strangers. Lots of people tried to help me. In Wisconsin I ended up spending a weekend camped on the front lawn of a family that really tried hard to help me. The fellow virtually dismantled my truck trying to locate the problem. At one point he thought he had fixed it and I left the next morning. I stopped at the next town for gas and the truck wouldn't start. I knew this guy had a tow truck, I phoned him and he and his wife came to bring me and my truck back to their place so he could figure out what wasn't working. On the trip back the three of us were crammed into the cab of the tow truck and they began to tell me about their religious beliefs. They belonged to a small but wealthy evangelistic Christian sect that among other things believed in The Rapture but not in Darwin's Theory of Evolution. Anyone who knows me knows that my beliefs are pretty much the polar opposite to theirs. So I sat there quietly listening, not wanting to bite the hand that was currently trying to help me out.

In listening, I got where they were coming from, I understood why they believed what they did and I even kind of agreed with them. Out of Darwin's theory comes Social Darwinism, the so-called Survival of the Fittest. Competition is all, and to hell with those who are not Fit enough to Survive. Not that most proponents of the theory of evolution believe that now, but it is an unfortunate extension of the original theory to human history. In Darwin's time it was entirely believable, some people, some races of people, are just not Fit enough to Survive and we do the Fitness of the Human Race as a whole a disservice by trying to help them. My benefactors obviously did not believe that at all, otherwise they would have just shrugged their shoulders at my misfortune. I ended up going to church with them on Sunday and learned some more. This was in the Bush era and they had a photo of President Bush in the lobby of their church. They also had photos of various young members of their congregation currently serving in Iraq lining the back of the church hall. After the service the pastor's wife introduced me to each one of them, clearly in pain about the possibility of losing them. Several people took me aside to whisper they wouldn't be voting Republican again, they were deeply disappointed in Bush. They had wanted an end to abortion and homosexuality and they got a war in Iraq instead.

It helps to understand where people with opposing opinions are coming from. Sometimes there is an element of truth in what they are saying, it helps to find something to agree on. We will never have peace and freedom until we do.

So all of that is just a preamble to something I read (on Facebook) today. Here is the link:

This Man Hiked the Entire Route of the XL Pipeline

In this article the man is being interviewed about what he experienced and learned in the course of his hike and he talks about the different attitudes toward fossil fuels and climate change that he encountered during his hike. The following paragraph about some climate change deniers really struck me:

"These are folks who see themselves as hardy, self-sufficient, small government individualists. If you believe in climate change, you’re giving in to the idea of government coming in to fix things, collective action to impose greenhouse gas limits, and reining in the evils of the free market with stricter regulation. This conflicts with so much of that heartland identity."

The link between individualism and climate change denial was made clear to me. Living in a country where we don't have such a strong belief in rugged individualism and we see the value in government-provided welfare and healthcare, it is nevertheless clear that there is a price for that. We have more regulation and less personal freedom, more personal taxes and less emphasis on self-reliance. And if we accept the belief that drastic climate change is human-caused and ultimately disastrous for humanity, then we also have to accept the belief that humanity as a whole has to do something about it. Self-reliance and rugged individualism is not going to accomplish that, like it or not we will have to resort to Big Government Regulation to enforce the kind of drastic change necessary. I get that that is a tough nut to swallow for people used to taking care of themselves and disliking infringement on personal freedoms.

There are over seven billion of us now, and growing. In spite of progress made in birth control and birth rate reductions this number will only increase in the foreseeable future. We live on a planet that is not really setup for those numbers and in the natural order of things there would be considerably fewer of us in a balanced natural ecology. North America is an enclave of relatively low human population living in a very large area. Granted, most of it is not suitable for human habitation, but still. Preserving that luxury by building walls around us might work in the short term but long term it is not a solution. Our future here is inextricably linked to the future of humanity everywhere on the planet. Due to the huge number of us that is going to mean more government-enforced regulation, not less. I totally get the sense of loss of freedom. In my own lifetime I remember greater freedoms a few decades ago than exist now. It is sad. I don't like it. We have to do it.


Rain Trueax said...

Thoughtful post and it is strange how differently we see the world. So much of life is a balancing act between what we see as compassion and what we believe in a practical sense. Like totally believing in evolution means some species disappear and yet most who believe in evolution will do everything they can to protect each species. Irony is at the heart of so much of life. We just have to get comfortable with our own expectations for how they fit with others. Often that means staying away from some life views or keeping our mouths shut if we cannot.

joared said...

I've always been interested in trying to understand "where people are coming from" their actual life experiences, professional training and orientation, belief systems. Your stories and observations here certainly point out issues to consider. Where do we draw the line on what federal govt. vs state govt. vs individual independence is responsible for? All of life is a trade-off with positives and negatives. Seems we each have our own ideas about what kind of world in which we want to live -- as you say, finding that live and let live boundary we each must determine.

Annie said...

Rain, irony is indeed a the heart of so much of life! Often choices are not simple, the either/or of compassion/practicality is often complicated. I think though that protecting species is very much an emotional choice, lots of people want to protect polar bears and gorillas, but not so many feel that way about mosquitoes and other bloodsuckers. I personally won't miss any mosquito species, but I'd be sad to lose panda bears.

Annie said...

Joared, we all have our own ideas about things and we prefer to be with like-minded people. Life experiences that put you with strangers with different ideas can be quite educational!

Rain Trueax said...

I agree, Annie. I think we need to protect when it's a key species to the system, but often it's one that seems to have suffered being pushed out by another species very similar but more adaptable. That's another balancing act :)

Annie said...

Rain, Stewart Brand once said, "We are as gods, so we may as well get good at it." I think it applies. Work in progress...

Wisewebwoman said...

A wonderful thought provoking post. I'm so glad you're writing again.

Our planet cannot sustain explosive breeding. I do believe in Gaia. She will dump us off. Pestilence: whatever it takes.