The Environmental Dilemma

So I recently watched this video about Elon Musk and the stuff he is currently working on titled “21 Predictions Elon Musk has for 2021” and it got me thinking. No, in fact, that really was not the start of it. I have actually been thinking a lot about this feeling of mine lately. This feeling telling me something along the lines of “the future is actually here/approaching very fast now”.

You know, I mean the future we used to see in Sci-Fi movies or read about in novels: Self driving cars, talking electronic devices, Artificial intelligence, Expeditions to other planets (ok, we’re still on a very basic level at that) and even lag-free Videochatting on our computers and smartphones is now a thing thanks to good internet speeds. Hm, that one somehow sounded way funnier when it was still in my head. We don’t have to go outside to do “official” stuff anymore, we can sign documents digitally and a lot of the communication in todays society, for better or worse, is taking place online.

At the very least, we are in the middle of a powerful transitional phase, that will change life on this planet dramatically. Whether it is going to be a bright and good or dark and dystopian future remains to be seen. Probably something inbetween, really.

So as I said, thoughts about the current state of humanity and the world with regards to the natural environment we live in have been going around in my head lately. This is an issue of great importance to me, as I am an absolute nature lover. I was vegan for close to ten years and up until very recently, mostly for environmental reasons. I am still extremely conscious about what I consume and still eat an exclusively plant based diet, enriched with some regional eggs and fish.

However, lately, some realisations have been creeping up on me. They were quite subtle at first, then confusing. I did not know what to do with it. But let’s start off by acknowledging that the shit around us (humans) is pretty deep already and that we are going to drown in it at some point not too far in the future if we don’t do something about it.

I don’t even want to get into the discussion of whether climate change is man made or not. I am going to assume it is, as this is what the data we have available is telling us according to the vast majority of scientists (although, out of interest: If you are reading this and you actually think climate change is not man made – what are your arguments? I would love to know).

According to most scientists, we are already past the point of no return, meaning that some of the changes that are happening now and going to happen in the future are already irreversible.

And as people are becoming more conscious of this growing problem, the number of solutions offered to it increases.

Reducing the amount of animal products we consume is such an answer. A lot of the environmental problems we face today on this planet are associated with the production of meat and dairy products. And while the same can also be said for the production of plant protein, like soy or rice, the amount of resources used for animal products is several orders of magnitude above that. This is in part due to the fact that 90% of energy is lost per trophic level. Also, as probably a lot of people know by now, the meat and dairy industry is responsible for a huge portion of humanitys greenhouse gas emissions, mainly methane (Cow farts, not even kidding) and the good old CO2. Not to mention cattle farming takes up vast amounts of land which leads to deforestation and a reduction of biodiversity on a massive scale.

Also, the circumstances of production cause highly sentient animals to suffer in unspeakable ways. Suffering that they really shouldn’t have to go through. In my eyes, it’s one thing to just kill an animal for food. If you go to the forest or a lake, catch a wild animal and then kill it, you are at least somewhat part of the food chain. On the contrary, the torture and mistreatment of animals that happens every day in this economic sector disgusts me.

Okay, so much about the vailidity of veganism, which is, at least hypothetically, a very powerful decision one can make to make a difference.

The so called “zero-waste”-trend for example is another honorable mention, which revolves around reducing the amount of trash you produce as much as possible.

Another thing, which should be a given by now if you’re a civilised person by any means, is garbage separation. Yes, being conscious about littering is very important. After all, I think you enjoy the sight of a garbage-free beach or forest as much as I do.

So what do I want to convey here?

All these approaches are built (in essence) around the same principle: People having to take responsibility for their actions in order to make them work. Also, to save the planet, a high percentage of the population would have to apply these practices.

And I think, and this might be quite a claim (or not), that that is never going to happen. Ever.

As much as these things have become trends in our modern times, there are just too many people that really don’t care.

So as I see it, that leaves us with very limited options. One of which could be “Climate Lockdowns”. An argument that is increasingly being made right now, in the face of the Pandemic. And I have to say, when all of this shit started, the thought tempted me.

Just imagine what we could do if we used this level of Totalitarianism to influence other areas of interest”.

It seemed to me as if we had opened up a Pandora’s Box of possibilities – yet still, a Pandora’s Box it is.

It soon occurred to me that going down said path would inevitably lead to horrendous amounts of tyranny (not that the act of locking people down and telling them where they can and can’t go, what they can and can’t do isn’t already tyrannical in and of itself) and oppression as governments that are “given a hand” will proceed to take off your whole arm. I’m not even sure if this saying we have in German can be translated to English like that, but I think anyone reading this can understand what I’m getting at. Individuals and institututions naturally seek power and dominance and, if given power, seek to increase the extent of that power. A situation like that would without a doubt be abused badly by those in power for their own gain. Apart from that, the justification of allegedly “saving the planet” would make for a good way to greenwash the resulting tyranny, which makes for a truly problematic combo. If you don’t believe me, go open up a history book – extending state power to “make the world a better place” never worked out too well.

In my opinion, this has already begun, whether to a greater or lesser extent is hard to tell and not what I want to discuss here.

So what are we left with, really?

Well, to me it seems that the only real option that could save us in the end is the development of technologies that have the ability to shrink, stop or even reverse the changes done to the earths ecosystem. And this is where it finally makes sense I started this article talking about Elon Musk, because this guy, among others, is a the the frontlines of developing technologies like that. By the way, I simply used Elon Musk as an example, because he is the most well-known person of this kind. I do realise there are problems with his products and some controversy surrounding his persona (as there is with every “important” person).

To some people, this probably sounds kind of irresponsible and even ridiculous. If you would have made the same argument in a discussion with me a few months or years ago, I would have laughed at you, probably called you an idiot and reported to you all the numbers that make going vegan the only viable choice .

And to be fair, there are, of course, problems with this approach.

I, for my part, neither know what these “technologies” could look like, much less how to develop them, how they could function etc. but I am sure there are people who have the right skills and know where to start looking for these solutions.

And also, to support my argument, I would argue that this has, of course, already started long ago, even though it doesn’t feel like it with all the negative news surrounding environmental problems. Technology is gradually becoming less environmentally harmful and more energy efficient, while at the same time increasing in “technological capacity” (computers becoming more powerful by the year,…). This development has been going on for decades, centuries, hell, even milennia (however, environmental problems of this magnitude haven’t been present for as long, so let’s stick with the “decades” range here).

The rise of the internet has sped up this process quite significantly and I am sure we have not even remotely grasped the scale at which the World Wide Web is going to change (and already is changing) the world.

So there is hope.

And just for the fun of it – There is another option: Leaving the planet to give Earth a break. Probably not very realistic this is going to happen in time before Mother Earth rids herself of us for good. But it’s kind of a cool thing to think about.

So, what can we conclude from this short text?

First off: No, I am not actually arguing that we should all just blindly “trust Elon/ the tech superbrain of your liking” and ignore the ever-increasing problems that we are (to our best knowledge) causing on this planet.

Taking responsibility for your actions is a great and very important thing to do. So do it.

By all means, going vegan is great, reducing the amount of trash you produce is also a good idea. So do it, if you have been thinking about doing it. As is being conscious about everything you do, really. I just think relying on these kinds of ideas/ideologies as a means to change our future is… well, it is well-intended and powerful, but kind of a bit… naive maybe?

Do I truly believe everything I argued for in this article?

Well, kind of. Of course, I always try to reshape my opinions, implementing new impulses that make sense to me. The realisation that preceded the creation of this article was not an easy one for me.

I just wanted to put this on here because I have been thinking about it a lot lately, changing my approach quite a bit.

Is it going to work out?

Hell, who am I to know?

But what I do know is that we are most likely absolutely fucked if it doesn’t.


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