Geoengineering projects are amongst the biggest, most audacious engineering projects ever. These are huge manipulations of aspects of the earth designed to reduce or mitigate the effects of climate change. Several projects are proposed. One such project suggests spraying the stratosphere with sulphur aerosols in order to change the amount of sunlight reflected from the upper atmosphere. Another involves increasing phytoplankton blooms by adding iron to the world’s oceans in order to increase carbon dioxide removal from the atmosphere.
Critics claim that geoengineering is highly risky. They charge that the technologies have never been used on such large scale with a consequent risk of irreparable damage to ourselves and our descendants.
More recently another group of engineers – human engineers – have propounded some equally highly manipulative options. One of the high priests of human engineering defines these options as “(involving) the biomedical modification of humans to make us better at mitigating, and adapting to the effects of, climate change.”1
Liao proposes; pharmacologically making us meat intolerant, reducing our height genetically, lowering birth rates through cognitive enhancement and, inducing us towards altruism and empathy via hormone introduction. Liao does sound a caveat that no-one would be coerced into any of these options.
However it is proposed, no matter what the safeguards are, both sets of engineers – geo and human – are proposing that they take on god-like functions. One group wish to manipulate the planet, the other wish to manipulate the humans upon it.
Both forms of engineering are branches of the very historical approach over the centuries that has landed us in the mess we are in today: namely, technological intervention in natural processes. To paraphrase Einstein, we cannot get out of the mess that we are in by applying the same logic that got us into it.
Why don’t we do something a lot easier than huge, costly, highly risky manipulations?
Why don’t we simply change our minds?
Instead of thinking that the environment is outside of us, understand that we are intimately part of the world
Instead of thinking that reality is conditioned by a linear cause-effect sequence, recognise that there is an ever changing system of feedback, reinforcement and emergence happening.
Instead of thinking that we do not impact upon the earth, realise instead that we do and that not all of our impacts have been for the good.
Instead of thinking that we are just a small cog in a big wheel, change our minds to realise that we have options, we have choices, we can act differently.
Instead of thinking that the experts will solve things, realise that it is our collective common sense that we need to tap.
Instead of thinking I can do nothing at home, at work or in my community, change our minds and think what each of us can do at home, at work or in our community.
Instead of thinking that our decision-makers (“leaders” if you prefer) are best suited to making decisions on behalf of all of us, re-frame our thinking so that we re-engage with our collective wisdom.
Instead of continuing uncritically down the technological, inhuman path, change our minds and take the less worn but more human, sustainable pathway.
1. Matthew Liao, The Sun-Herald, 30 September 2012 pp. 82-83