4.3 The Way Forward


Suppose that AIT’s prescription of a rapid revamping of the energy infrastructure to renewable sources in a World War II style effort had been adopted. That would have rapidly eliminated the aerosols that are currently masking the true effects of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere as the BBC documentary on “Global Dimming[39]” showed. Aerosols are microscopic particles such as sulphates and ash that both scatter sunlight directly and form the nucleus of water droplets that reflect sunlight back into space. As such, aerosols cool the planet and they are also the byproduct of our fossil fuel emissions. While aerosols last only 3-5 days in the atmosphere, the CO2 that we spew into the atmosphere from that same fossil fuel burning can last for centuries unless we deliberately regenerate forests or deploy other means to sequester the carbon back into the ground. If aerosols are suddenly eliminated from our atmosphere, the result would be an equally sudden spike in global temperatures across the planet, perhaps on the order of 1C or more. But can you imagine the political fallout, especially in the United States, if global temperatures spike up as renewable energy gets deployed rapidly on a vast scale as AIT prescribed? As it is, even the staid Economist magazine wrote regarding the climate disruption that has already occurred, “When reality is changing faster than theory suggests it should, a certain amount of nervousness is a reasonable response[40].”

On the other hand, forests sequester carbon and therefore, the regeneration of forests has the potential to reduce the CO2 buildup in the atmosphere. Joseph Canadell, a scientist at CSIRO, Australia’s National Climate Research Center in Canberra said that “if you were to stop deforestation tomorrow, the world’s established and regrowing forests would remove half of fossil fuel emissions[41].” But stopping deforestation and promoting afforestation would require addressing the number one cause of the deforestation on the planet, the ever increasing demand for animal foods and animal products among humans.

Instead AIT mainly focused on the conversion of the energy infrastructure of the world to clean, renewable sources as the panacea for Climate Change. It left the impression that there is little to no change required from the public at large, other than to muster the will to call their political representatives to act on legislation to support this conversion with appropriate top-down subsidies and policies. As such, AIT was based on the predicate that it isn’t our Caterpillar culture, the addiction of wishing under the Cosmic Fig Tree that needs to change, but the fuel that powers the benevolence of the tree that needs to change.

However once we acknowledge that our behavior, our culture of violence towards Nature is the fundamental root cause of the environmental crises we face, then the public at large becomes the central actor in addressing the crises. All the catastrophic projections in AIT assume that we will continue to act as we have been doing regardless of the changed environment around us, that we will continue our inherited culture of violence, but somehow avoid the consequences by quickly deploying solar panels and wind turbines. This doesn’t seem possible. Therefore the battle is really over the hearts and minds of human beings. This is the Kurukshetra from the Mahabharata of our times.

Therefore, human behavior, our over-consuming Caterpillar culture, the culture of violence towards Nature is the root cause, extinction is the disease and climate change is the symptom. Just as every good medical doctor knows, the fever is the symptom, not the disease by itself. Can you imagine going to a doctor with a cancer raging within you that has eaten half your vital organs and being told to take aspirin to douse the 100F fever that is a symptom of the cancer? Such a doctor would be considered incompetent. But that is the Really Inconvenient Truth that AIT glossed over.

And the way forward is to train every human being to see through the fear mongering and the incessant marketing of conspicuous consumption in our mass media, to practice mindfulness, cultivate compassion, detachment and patterns of conscious consumption and thereby, strive for a deeper sense of happiness than the Pursuit of Affluence that we are being steered towards. Our goal must be to create a just, caring world of abundance in which all people and all species have a chance to flourish.


[39] BBC Horizon, “Global Dimming,” 2005. http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/global-dimming/

[40] Quote is taken from the Economist Magazine article, “Beating a Retreat: Arctic Sea Ice is Melting Faster than Climate Models Predict. Why?” Sep. 24, 2011. http://www.economist.com/node/21530079

[41] Quote is taken from Marlowe Hood, “Forests Soak up Third of Fossil Fuel Emissions,” Cosmos Magazine, July 15, 2011. http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/news/4524/forests-soak-third-fossil-fuel-emissions

4.2 The Root Cause
5. The Kurukshetra of our Times
Sailesh Rao
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