by Godofredo Aravena
Seems to me that all efforts to create awareness about climate change will be useless. Any effort to make the average individual understand the problem we are facing today, will be useless. “Limits to growth” is a good example of failed efforts. The message has been there for 40 years. The required awareness, at a global scale, a necessity to handle the current situation, is something that seems to me impossible, because we are, as specie, not smart enough to handle our own power.
Based on my experience, average human has, let´s say, a six-dimensional perception of the world. Own body, family, house, job, grocery store (stores in general) and neighborhood. Anything beyond this limits, it is outside of a truly understanding (something happens out there, but nobody dares to find out what and how). Nation is a distant concept understood only because our job and family require some security provided by the concept of nation. Most people do not understand how the nation-system works. Water and electricity are there, always available. Food, at the grocery store. Job, a place to go and do something for what we receive some fiat money. Garbage, is taken by the garbage truck, to who knows where. Dirty water goes somewhere. Smoke vanishes into the air. Outside these limits, nobody knows what is really going on. Nobody knows how things happen.The mechanisms.We are unable to connect the dots. Concurrently, nobody knows their footprint and the effects of it to the rest of this world (present and future). Nobody cares.
But the world, the biosphere, mankind activity included, is a thousand times more complex (ten thousand dimensions?). Average people can handle only six …. We have not been able to model climate. We have not been able to model the behavior of the ocean (I work with it). We have not been able to make a robot like in “I robot” (the movie), that is still Sci-Fi, even though we have been trying for more than 50 years. We have not been even close to make an organic part of a human body. Our so respected medical doctors can just help to repair it. The truth is that the final repair is done by the body itself. We know that gravity exists, but we do not know what it is. And so on. There are so many things we do not know how they work. The reality of the average human is so basic.
Nature is so complex, and its understanding is so far away from our current knowledge. We are full of experts, that know little about things outside their technical knowledge boundaries. The average personal knowledge has an ultra-narrow bandwidth. I am an engineer and can see how ignorant we are even designing simple things like a ship or a car. The ignorance factor is always present, in any design (30-40% margin sometimes). Testing of models, in real conditions, is the only way to assure reliable functioning, by trial and error. The failures of the Challenger and the Columbia are good examples of our lack of knowledge of the complexities of the real world.
Our society has become a heavier load to the biosphere, and what did not matter 100 years ago, now it does matter. Our footprint as society, the result of the aggregated footprint of all individuals (including babies), is something that today matters. It has a visible effect. But is beyond average people (the 99.9% of us), to understand how their own individual actions affect somebody in the other side of the world, or 20-50 years ahead from now.
If we as society have already failed to understand the consequences to people and nature of our personal and family footprint, I see it as impossible to understand on time how we contribute to climate change, oil depletion, and all other calamities ahead, and how they will affect us. And take action on time to avoid disaster. So if we talk about climate change, a very-very complex relation between several factors, is impossible to expect that the process will be fully understood by average people, to make it a personal issue. Until it becomes something understandable because affects one of their six basic dimensions. By that time, it will be too late. The average human does not have the necessary brain capacity (and required knowledge) to handle the power we have as species. Give somebody a chainsaw, and enough fuel and food, and can spent his life chopping down trees without any question about consequences (the boss must know …).
We are just like those young sicarios (hired killers) that we see in Mexico, young boys (16-17 years old) with a gun, that can kill anybody without any remorse. Totally unaware of the consequences of their acts. Too immature. As our society today. Too much power, too immature to handle it.
Then, we have to add the trap of the system itself. We have been raised among the system, we need the system to live. The same system that we can´t handle properly. We do not understand how it really works, but we need it, and we use it (like a car). There are some people who can handle more than six dimensions, and potentially act accordingly. But even knowing, it is almost impossible to live outside the system. We are not prepared, the system does not offer alternatives.
So, total lack of understanding of the system, that implies total lack of understanding of the system footprint (us included), and total lack of understanding of the mechanism of the biosphere and environment. Plus, the fact that we are totally dependent of the system, and do not know another way of living. We have the recipe for disaster.
In conclusion, I see no way to change our current path. We are doomed. We have total failure of the system.
Godofredo Aravena is a 52-year-old ship designer who spent 15 years working in the most important shipyard in Chile to become head of the Naval Architecture Section. He worked nine years as an independent naval architect, with a small office in Concepción, Chile. He and his wife have two daughters and a granddaughter.
Thanks to ulvfugl for pointing out a technical fix to the problem of the disappearing comments: “I’m using Chrome browser. Go to top right corner, click three horizontal bars, says ‘new incognito window’, get NBL, and everything is immediately updated. Can’t advise for any other browsers, but I assume it’s something to do with cookies and being tracked, etc, because being anonymous fixes it.”