This morning while doing my regular exercise, the thought struck me that humanity’s ability to potentially regulate Earth’s climate is in a sense comparable to changing an individual’s lifestyle and diet to become healthier. Let me explain.
Despite a variety of competing claims and sometimes whacky methods, we know the way to lose weight and become healthier is to do enough regular exercise to burn a few more calories than we are taking in, and at the same time to eat good, healthy food rather than junk food. Sure, we also know that it’s easier said than done, and it takes a bit of commitment and will power to achieve that over a reasonable amount of time.
After you have achieved your optimum weight for your height and build, the goal is to continue doing regular exercise and eating healthily to stay that way, so you have the potential to live as long as possible. If you eat a lot of junk food and do little to no exercise, obviously it’s very likely things are not going to work out so well.
So, how is this similar to humanity being able to regulate Earth’s climate? At the moment, humanity as a whole is consuming too much, and consuming a lot of unhealthy things. We are consuming a great deal of fossil fuels, which do give us energy to do the things we want, but just like junk food, it’s not the healthy kind of energy. In fact, it’s making our climate and environment disastrously unhealthy, and if we continue on the path we are on without healthy “lifestyle” or societal changes, our future prospects for life will certainly suffer – in the form of mass species extinction and runaway climate change.
At this point in history, fossil fuels can be equated with unhealthy junk food because both can give us (our bodies and society respectively) the energy we need to function, but neither is healthy for us to survive and thrive. A healthy lifestyle change for humanity would be to produce and consume a lot more clean energy instead of dirty fossil fuels. Of course, just like the fast food/junk food industry tells us consuming their food is fine, the giant fossil fuel industry tells us it’s fine to keep regularly consuming the kind of energy it provides. The fossil fuel industry tells us we’ll continue to want and need its form of energy for humanity’s health and prosperity.
Just as we are able to learn to regulate our own fitness and health to a certain degree, ultimately to be able to live longer, humanity can learn to collectively regulate Earth’s climate. By producing and consuming much more clean energy, and by striving to make society run more cleanly and efficiently, we’ll be able to regulate the climate to a healthy level.
As soon as we start consuming too much of the wrong kind of stuff, consuming energy that causes toxins and pollutants (in our bodies or in our environment), we start to become unhealthy and our life expectancy decreases. Just like keeping our bodies healthy, it will take a bit of (collective) will power to change and stay the course, but there’s no reason why we can’t do it. Anyway, it’s not like we have a choice at this point, if we want a decent future for humanity.
Image CC licensed by Zach Flanders