There is a film about global warming, entitled “The Age of Stupid“. It is, despite some slight exaggerations, a very good and powerful film. I surely can recommend watching it. But it nevertheless is wrong in one particular way – namely, in what its title expresses.
I don’t know whether the director, Franny Armstrong, has meant it so – but calling a film about us, people of today, threatening ourselves (through global warming), “The Age of Stupid” implies the message that people were not (as) stupid in times prior to the industrialization, when the anthropogenic climate change has its roots. But, as I would argue, this is not the case. And that doesn’t make the challenge any easier – quite the opposite.
It is not so that we are destroying our world (and we do it not only by causing the unnatural warming of it) because we are particularly stupid and short-sighted when compared with our ancestors. Think of humankind’s past: people have been harming themselves, others as well as the natural environment at all times – through wars, slavery, pollution (the latter was indeed terrible in medieval cities) etc. The actual difference is that we never were, until, say, the 20th century, in the position to seriously affect the stability of the earth’s ecosystems. At least not in a large scale (consider, though, the fate of Northern American buffalos or European forests).
Today we are able to do it, obviously. Technological progress, along with the sheer quantity of humankind, have enabled us to impose such a pressure over the earth’s ecosystems (particularly over the climate) that we now find ourselves at the brink of a catastrophe. With other words: we are threatening our own existence.
To overcome the challenges we are facing, we have two alternatives. The first one, not really feasible (and not solving the problem in the long term), is to go back to the “Middle Ages”, to abandon the technology by which we are causing harm to the earth. But this is a quite SF-like solution. How to do it? And who can ensure that, in 1000 years, we won’t arrive where we are now, again?
So the second alternative seems to be the only one: humankind has to change. We have to change. We have to finally accept that the earth is not here to serve us, and that we are not independent from what happens to her ecosystems. They are our (only) habitat. When we harm and destroy them, we destroy the foundation of our well-being. And, for that matter, the well-being of our children, and their children, and their children… If we proceed, there will come the point when our descendants will be forced to recognize what we seem not to want to – that it cannot go on like that. But then it may be too late.
The 20th century’s experiment of Communism showed that forcing people to change is not possible. So the only possibility is to make it clear to all people (or a strong majority, at least) that we have to change. And that we want to.