Global Warming: But Whose Complaining?

December 7, 2011

Political Theory


DISCLAIMER BEFORE READING: I am in no means supporting the negative effects of global warming, simply touching base on a minority view point. Also it is known that global warming increases extreme weather, but the overall effect of global warming results in an increase in average global temperature, especially in colder climates. This basis will be used for this blog.

It’s early December, the setting is Ann Arbor, by this time the ground is usually blanketed in white snow, but not this year. A lack of precipitation is not the cause. It has rained here, but the weather has not been cold enough to freeze the rain into delicate snow crystals.

Growing up in Michigan, I was accustomed to my thanksgiving festivities being marked by ice and snow. I vividly remember, how slippery the steps were leading up to my Aunt Debbie’s porch, every step had to be taken with caution. Year after year it was like this; frigid temperatures and heavy snowfall were the norm during thanksgiving. Around this time, I was a freshman in high school; and our class had just watched the documentary An Inconvenient Truth. I remember how persuasive Al Gore’s arguments were, how desperate his cries for change were and how urgent the need for action was. Our education was just becoming more and more tailored to the changing environment and we were just now learning the steps we can take to improve it. But, it would be hard for us, as high school freshman to try and make a change in the environment. We would not  be able to see any rewards for our actions, at least any time soon. Then, we were young and immature; and we would need immediate gratification to make a drastic change in our lifestyles. But with the environment there is no immediate gratification. In fact, by being more eco-friendly we may never see the environment get better, but rather impede the environments deterioration. We didn’t know when global warming would occur, we only knew that change was required and we had a chance to make a difference. Would we be able to make this difference?

Well That's Not A Healthy Planet

Flashback two weeks ago, its thanksgiving, the weather is cool, but not too cold, there is no snow or ice on the ground. In actuality, there hasn’t been snow on the ground during thanksgiving since my freshman year of high school. Recently, winters have been arriving later and ending earlier. There were days in the middle of January which broke records with their high temperatures in the 60’s, something, that would have been unheard of in past years.  Nobody can be sure that this is related to global warming but the coincidence is striking. As a country we have progressed a lot, since I’ve been a freshman in high school, but we are yet to make a big impact on the environment. A sign showing how far we still have to go.

Here in Ann Arbor, a campus that is pedestrian friendly, there is no forgetting that winter is here. The frigid temperatures, the unbearable wind, and the everlasting snowfall are all constant reminders of the season at hand.  At times, with taking into account the windshield, temperatures drop below zero degrees, and any out door activity is advised against.  There have been no days like such. This year, the first snowfall came later, temperatures have been habitable and winter hasn’t seemed like the same winter that I was accustomed to growing up in Michigan (while winter officially doesn’t start until December 21, snowfall accumulation and large temperature drops usually occur in early November). I can’t say that I’m eagerly awaiting winters arrival.  Is anyone?

A Little Less Snow Wouldn't Hurt Anyone, Right?

 

The point that I’m trying to make above is that, generally, people do not have enough intrinsic motivation to start changing their daily lifestyles to help the environment. In colder places of the world, like Ann Arbor, people are going to be less determined to change their lifestyle because some of the consequences of global warming will benefit them in the short term. Even if global warming did increase extreme weather, and in turn make the winter harsher, it is unlikely people will attribute this to global warming. If we want our environment, and our atmosphere to be functional for coming generations, a new method needs to be devised.

A great philosopher, who was often discussed in our class, Thomas Hobbes, viewpoints can be applied directly to this situation. Hobbes believed that humans are selfish, only interested in their own self-preservation even when it comes to the cost of others.  Take the situation of the environment, people wont live a more eco-friendly lifestyle (especially in colder climate zones) because it is inconvenient to their daily routine, thus they are hurting the resulting generations. Hobbes would not be surprised at all by this. If one wished for the environment to change, Hobbes would likely advise that the government install legislation that would force citizens to live a more environment conscious life. This is because he doesn’t believe the average human is selfless enough to be able to make such a radical change on their own. He also believes that we concede our rights to the government in exchange for our life, therefore giving the government power in most situations.

So what message is trying to be conveyed from this blog post? That we should stop caring about the environment and allow the consequences of global warming to take its course? Absolutely not. I for one believe that the environment should be a huge priority of ours and change needs to stem from within, immediately. But, if global warming means shorter winters and warmer temperatures here in Ann Arbor, then for some the truth may not be as inconvenient as previously thought to be. Thus, decreasing their desire to help the environment. I believe, if we want to get serious about  the environment we should follow the advice Hobbes would’ve given us. A big enough impact can’t be made without any government involvement. We need to begin to pressure the government to make regulatory  laws that will radically change the way that we live our daily lives.

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4 Comments on “Global Warming: But Whose Complaining?”

  1. joethahn Says:

    To begin, I’d like to say that I strongly agree with your post and feel that you stated your concern very eloquently. I am a person who would definitely want to have kids and grandchildren and would definitely not want them to deal with a problem that my generation was too slow to act upon. I think Hobbes is very right when he says that people are selfish and are willing to live their daily lives at the expense of others. I really don’t think that people would care to change their daily routines to aid a population that has no effect on them, especially if they are enjoying the effects of the warming in their region. The government seems like the only actor that has the capability of commencing a change to impede the effects of global warming. However this seems as if it would be very difficult as there are still a handful of people who do not believe in the global warming theory. And even if a country were to take drastic action how would it effectively convince other states to alter their ways? For now I think that the best method would be to educate the public about the possible detriments that global warming could cause. The more people are aware of the problem, the more they would be willing to support a legislation to slow down the effects of global warming. A very similar problem is the humanitarian law conflict during war times. In this issue countries have difficulty convincing others to follow the humanitarian law because they have differing opinions on the value of human life.

  2. bmazus Says:

    I completely agree with your point that conserving the environment should be amongst the top priorities that both individuals and our government have in today’s day and age. This is the world we live in and we should do everything in our power to protect and conserve it.
    What I tend to disagree with from your argument is the reasons you list for people not being as attentive to the environment. I do not believe the people are not being attentive to the environment because it is to their benefit not to. I believe people are not attentive to it because in the world we live in right now it is a serious inconvenience to some people. I do not believe that people are thinking to themselves that they like the warmer weather so they will just forget about trying to save the environment. To many people being eco-friendly is not that high up on their list of priorities. Our world is plagued with an awful economy, disease, and so many other things that becoming eco-friendly is an inconvenience to many.
    Over time we will create more efficient and consumer friendly ways of being eco-friendly and soon saving our environment won’t be as much of a burden as it will be a formality.

  3. rmwells3 Says:

    Not to contradict you by any means, but I see More’s argument being more of the solution here. It shouldn’t be a function of the government to “implement” and “regulate” new laws to manage the situation; it should be all individuals acting as a function of society’s job to fix this problem. As you said, the problem stems from the population’s lack of effort, but with an incentive to do work, people will do what is necessary for survival. if we begin to feel the severe detrimental effects of global warming then we will begin to fix the problem as a unified entity. Therefore, the solution should not read “we have to pressure the government into action,” but rather we need to motivate all individuals to play their part in society. We don’t need laws on top of laws that potentially restrict our freedom, we need action from an individual level.

  4. erfreed3 Says:

    Your posts make a very compelling and interesting argument by addressing a controversial and shared viewpoint of global warming. In one sense, people recognize that “we should probably do something about the environment” but on the other hand many people have an “I’ll be dead and gone by the time sea levels swallow the Earth” mentality. This is perhaps the main reason why so many of us are unlikely to become activists in the prevention of global warming. I think Hobbes’ view, that we are interested only in our own self-preservation is not so shockingly a quite accurate portrayal of society. In fact, if the majority of us did actually care about the effect of global warming on future generations, we would not have this issue of “what should we do”?

    So what should we do? Like you, I have lived in Michigan the majority of my life and have noticed the significant lack of snow in November over the past few years. Also like you, I had to watch Al Gore’s documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth”, my freshman year of high school. The documentary instilled awareness, pleaded for change, but did not give people of our generation a reason to care. I personally believe we, as a nation should be doing something to prevent the worsening effects of global warming. But what should we do?

    You propose that we “pressure the government to make regulatory laws that will radically change the way that we live our daily lives.” But how do we do this? Especially when the “we” only concerns the people who actually care about taking action. I think rmwells3 makes a good point when writing that change must stem from individual action, which stems from incentive. I would argue further that incentive stems from self-preservation. So in my opinion, your Hobbesian view of global warming is very applicable. The question then becomes “are we waiting on a national disaster caused by extreme weather”? In a way, yes. If we are not directly threatened and have not been given an incentive to help ourselves, then we will not feel compelled as a nation to act. This all falls into the larger realm of “How long must we wait” and “What event will provide a feeling of duty and incentive”? They are horrible questions to ask because as a nation if we chose to be proactive, we could avoid the outcomes that may result via our own procrastination. However, given that everything relates back to our own self-preservation and interest, it is unlikely that the global warming situation will significantly improve unless the government or the larger scope of society makes it a priority.

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