Maintaining Modernity’s Momentum
ChoiceUp is about making the best available choice under any given circumstance, but “the best” is a relative term and varies from person to person. The best from a ChoiceUp perspective is that which creates the least amount of human-influenced suffering. But for most, it’s a person’s belief for what they believe to be the measure of “the best”, and it primarily comes from cultural or religious exposure. However, what isn’t relative from one person to the next is absolute truth (unlike objective or subject truth etc.). Absolute truth and facts can only be found through the scientific method and processes that are falsifiable. And if we don’t individually and collectively prioritize first what we find to be true through science before all beliefs, solving problems and deterring bad choices that manifest more human-influenced suffering becomes a much more daughnting task than it needs to be.
At ChoiceUp we value diversity and everyone should be free to believe whatever they want to believe. But a central tenet of ChoiceUp is accept, ACCEPTENCE which means that all of us in humanity must acknowledge and embrace all the empirical knowledge that our species has found to be unequivocally true about the world around us. Science is the lens that brings reality into focus as clearly as it can possibly be seen. It’s humanity’s way to investigate the universe and all its contents in the most unbiased and authentic way possible. Scientific data and facts must be the foundation before anything for building an edifice of social competence. With this understanding, all of us should do our part (especially those with power and most influence) to alleviate the greatest existential threat to our species. And that threat is climate change.
All living things consume and discharge energy. From the first simple single-celled organism to the complex homo sapiens species that is us, consuming and releasing energy is a process inherent to all life. Food, shelter, and water are the basic necessities for human survival. And when the Ice Age began to affect our Neolithic ancestors, they found a way to artificially make fire to shelter themselves from the cold, and in doing so allowed our species to endure. It’s the way the world works and there’s no way around it – we need energy to live.
But as we evolved and found ways to live a more tolerable and convenient life, we developed civilizations and new technologies that stretched beyond simple survival. For millennia and in colder climes, wood, peat, coal, oil, and gas (fossil fuels) found at or close to the surface of the earth was used to heat homes and dwellings. However, with the invention of the steam engine, the accessibility of these fossil fuels became abundant as we could extract them from deep within the planet. And even more so since the development of the combustion engine. When the combustion engine was invented during the Victorian era there were 1.2 billion people on earth and now there are 7.4 billion. As the world population increases, filling humanity’s hunger for energy will only continue to grow.
Today, humanity emits 38 billion tons of CO² from burning fossil fuels and the concentration of CO² in the atmosphere has risen from 270 parts per million pre-industrial revolution to 410 ppm today. On average, global temperatures and sea levels have also risen during that time span with 2017 being the hottest year on record. The correlation is undeniable between how much CO² we pump into the atmosphere and the rise in temperature. There have been cooler years after hotter years from el Nina and other changes in the jet stream, but the trend in the data can’t be refuted.
The environmental impact from our polluting the planet is overtly obvious. Aside from the debris we can see, CO² is clear and the second most abundant greenhouse gas. Water vapor is the primary greenhouse gas but its levels haven’t changed. It’s humanity’s emissions of CO² into the atmosphere that keeps heat trapped in the atmosphere and doesn’t allow it to radiate into space. It acts as a clear heating blanket. All terrestrial compounds that absorb CO² are doing their best to balance the amount of CO² we put in the atmosphere so the planet’s climates stay the same, but they can’t keep up with the amounts of CO² we’re producing. The proliferation of forest fires, shrinking glaciers and sea ice that contribute to rising sea levels, more frequent extreme weather, and the acidification of the oceans are just a few of the negative environmental impacts that occur from making the Earth warmer from our use of more and more fossil fueled energy.
The innovations made to obtain energy from fossil fuels over the last couple centuries by developed countries has gotten us to where we are today in warming the planet. And with highly populated third world countries gaining access to the same kinds of technologies, this will only hasten the Earth’s warming. All respected scientist agree that humanity is affecting the planet, but many differ on the tipping point where mass amounts of human suffering will take place because of it. However, using and harnessing energy is a part of our evolution and everyone living a contemporaneous life should be able to live their lives as fully as possible to travel, be entertained, and work to their heart’s desire. But if everyone doesn’t accept and recognize the environmental problems we’ve created, it will extend the possibility of going beyond a tipping point and the action required to fix it.
In recent history and in lieu of fossil fuels for energy, we’ve used gravity by damming rivers for turbines, windmills, solar panels, electric and hydrogen fuel cars. They’re a good start, but they can’t provide enough energy to sustainably meet our needs. We can’t wait until someone invents a perpetual motion machine or creates a self-sustaining fusion reactor like a stellarator to supplement fossil fuels. We must look to nuclear power again for our energy needs. We now can build safer nuclear reactors than the Generation II design that was used in Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and Fukushima. Those were major disasters but by 2020 Generation IV reactors will become available and they’re more safe, efficient, economical, reliable, and make for a more sustainable future. Some Generation lV designs use nuclear waste for fuel, so they’re considered a renewable energy source and the kind of energy we desperately need now to stop polluting the atmosphere and heating of the planet.
Aside from climate change, fossil fuels also contribute to many health risks as they emit harmful particulates as well as CO². It’s well documented that cancer, asthma, and other pulmonary diseases have increased in areas where coal-fired plants operate. Smog from cars and industry also contribute to poor air quality. Instead of building more and more hospitals to treat these diseases, shouldn’t we get to the source of why people are getting sick in the first place and try to eliminate all corrosive belching incinerators and machines? There are natural pollutants like volcanoes and VOCs (which will only get worse as permafrost melts from a warming planet), but that shouldn’t keep humanity from doing all it can to have the healthiest home (Earth) possible.
Until the advent of gas furnaces and HVAC systems, we heated our homes with coal. Black soot clinging to drapes was a common site. Some people may have been unaffected by the contaminated air, but many developed respiratory infections. Smoking cigarettes use to be a social norm, but now seen as taboo, and for good reason as we now understand their adverse effects. Throughout our evolution, we’ve adapted and made changes to extend life and make it more convenient. Now more than ever, we need to do the same with climate change and not allow special interest to retain the status quo. ChoiceUp is about letting go of worn outdated beliefs and practices, and allowing new knowledge to be acquired and implemented.
A smokestack’s billowing gray plume use to be a sign of good fortune. It was a sign of prosperity, and it was for that time in our evolution, but now we know better. Everyone should have access to the best technologies, comforts, entertainments, and lives if they can obtain them in a ChoiceUp and lawful way. But they all take energy. And unless we reduce and eliminate CO² and other greenhouse emissions as soon as possible, we put at risk maintaining modernity’s momentum.