A QUIET STAND OF ALDERS
"The alder, whose fat shadow nourisheth
All set neere to him long flourisheth." -- William Browne, c. 1613
Welcome to A Quiet Stand of Alders, the author
website of Stanley Rice, a science educator
and writer. If you care passionately about the natural world and its
evolutionary history, this website is for you.
Here you will find essays about ecology, evolution; and ethical, political, and religious issues connected with them. I intend my approach as constructive, although I do not hold back from criticism when the facts demand it. At the same time, I want to preserve a context of peaceful meditation, such as you will find in a quiet stand of alder trees down by the river. Peace and zeal are the fire and ice of a scientist, an educator, an evolutionist, or a naturalist. About every week, a new essay will be posted. You can find all of the old essays in the archives.
I am embedded in the creationist and anti-environmentalist heartland of rural Oklahoma and will report to you from the front lines! I consider myself a missionary for evolution and ecology.
Please feel free to contact me at the email below, or by posting comments on my evolution blog.
The Fundamental Cause of Global Warming
December 19, 2010
There is a bewildering array of possibilities for the major cause of global warming. I am assuming, for this discussion, that the major cause is human activity, a fact accepted by nearly all scientists. But which human activity is the major cause?
Is it deforestation of the rainforest? Is it carbon emissions from automobiles, or from industry? Or is it equally attributable to all of these things?
I would like to penetrate more deeply into this question. The fundamental cause of global warming, of all carbon emissions, is the human inability to be satisfied with a peaceful sufficiency. Global warming has, one could say, a spiritual cause. (If you think I am sounding like Wendell Berry, I take that as a compliment.) We always desire more than we have, even though we cannot even remember all that we have. And all of these things that we buy must be manufactured, which causes carbon emissions, and must be transported, which causes more carbon emissions. We often do it with borrowed money, which is processed expensively and oppressively through banks that produce their own shitload (now there is a word Wendell Berry would probably not use) of carbon emissions. Advertisers spend billions of dollars to make and keep us dissatisfied. We belch out massive amounts of carbon because of our boundless appetite.
If, instead, you buy half as much stuff, you reduce your carbon emissions by half. The same is true if you travel half as much. My television set is vintage 1989 and will no longer work; for some compulsive reason on my part, it is in the attic. I will avoid the carbon emissions associated with manufacturing and transportation of a television, and the electricity necessary to run it, by sitting in the back yard and watching the birds. (My bottle of dark beer required the production of less carbon than a television would. I think.) Satisfaction, besides being the true fount of happiness, is also the best way to reduce carbon emissions.
The rich people of the world have huge carbon footprints, and aspire to have bigger ones. The poor people of the world have small carbon footprints but aspire to have big ones. In the face of this spiritual reality, it does not matter how many hybrid cars or LED lights or solar panels we use. The world will smother if we do not learn satisfaction with sufficiency. It cannot be enforced, and cannot readily be taught. No technological fix will save the damned human race, if by this I mean that we have inflicted this sin upon ourselves.
There are a few Amish around; in fact, their numbers are increasing a little. While I would not want to participate in what I consider a stifling religious culture, I find their skepticism about technology refreshing. They accept new technology, but only after careful consideration. They are the only culture in the world (that I can think of at the moment) that selects technology rather than automatically gobbling it down. We will have to live more like them, and enjoy it, if our culture is to survive. And why not? They seem, if anything, a little happier than the rest of us.
What will the future bring? Obviously, we will encounter limits on how much energy and material available to us. Will we gradually and gracefully adjust to these limits, or will we roar our engines right up to the final moment? And if we have a Really Great Depression as a result, will neighbors help one another adjust to frugality, or will individuals fight with one another for the last pockets of richness? Everywhere we look, when we see localized disasters today, we see both reactions. Which of them will prevail during the future collapse of our society cannot be predicted.
(includes The Sabbath of the Earth)
(includes The End of Altruism
and If Humans Vanished...)
(includes You Are an Ecosystem)
(includes Absurd Creativity
and Fiscal Responsibility -- In Plants)
(includes Deep Time and Deep Intestines
and The Evolution of Spite)
(includes My Neighbors' Earth
and Trying to Interfere with Natural Selection)
Global Warming—It’s Happening Now
Green Is the New Green
Darwin, Science, and Bias
Optimism and Hope
The Legacy of Michael Crichton
No Political Hope
The Reality of Collapse
Walking in the Woods with Mahler
The Illusion of Plenty
Degrees of Freedom
Social Darwinist Preachers
a blog about evolution and related topics
New York: Facts on File, 2007.
New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2009.
Life of Earth: Portrait of a Beautiful, Middle-Aged, Stressed-Out Planet
Now available for pre-order!
Encyclopedia of Science and Technology
Encyclopedia of Biodiversity
Encyclopedia of Evolution (Revised Edition)