The latest Middle Eastern incursion only serves as a distraction from the pressing issue facing mankind: namely, a fast approaching calamity the likes of which we as a species have never seen and are incapable of defeating. We are essentially declaring war on the planet, and the planet will win. This does not mean we should neglect the current dangers posed by extremism and terrorism, but it is important to prioritize our catastrophes.
There is a well-worn axiom in politics that sophisticated leaders can walk and chew gum at the same time. In a world of increasing technological complexity and a myriad of daunting challenges which span the spectrum from war and peace to climate change to income inequality to basic human rights and to the very issue of life and death itself the ability of leaders to walk and chew gum at the same time is crucial. Yet it is becoming increasingly clear that humankind’s ability to master global issues is showing signs that it can do neither.
While the world is currently captivated if not confused about the leading superpower’s latest adventure in Syria and the long-term prospects for bringing order or at least clarity to the implosion currently underway in that most volatile region global leaders are gathered in New York City at the United Nations to once again dance around their collective inability to confront the scientifically indisputable adverse consequences of climate change.
And while leaders will do their very best to put a positive spin on the limited if not inconsequential actions taken to date the facts of the matter in plain view to those interested enough to be paying attention indicate that we are losing the most serious battle that will ultimately affect every nation and all of humankind. A report released this week by the Global Carbon Project shows global emissions of greenhouse gases in 2013 rose to record levels. Yes, last year we did not only not reduce greenhouse gases, we increased them. And while the trend is for emissions declines in the West outpacing those in the East, last year saw emissions increases across the board, albeit smaller increases once again in the West than in the East.
Quite simply, we are burning up the planet and continuing to put the survivability of the species in peril. While short-term needs will always take precedence over long-term ones in virtually every political calculus, lending weight to another axiom that in the long run we are all dead (John Maynard Keynes), the true test of statesmanship is the ability to convince a skeptical and cynical public that it is in their best interests to focus on both. Visionary leaders, in short and dwindling supply at the current moment, are particularly adept at both walking and chewing gum. But statesmanship is nowhere to be found.
If not so tragic it would actually be amusing that today many are more worried about Sharia law popping up in their communities accompanied by a cadre of ISIS/ISIL cells than the catastrophic impacts of what very well be the Sixth mass extinction that is manifesting itself daily in our living environment. It is not necessarily an either/or proposition folks, we can deal with both.
Without weighing in on the merits of continuing or expanding conflicts around the globe, we do have the capacity to deal with both short-term and long-term issues and our stubborn resistance to even attempt to enlighten the populace to that fact is the height of intergenerational irresponsibility. If not for ourselves, let’s do it for our kids and their kids. Mankind may be the cruelest enemy of all.
Republished from Huffington Post with the author’s permission.