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November 27, 2007

Anxiety Planet (Logical, Historical)

The last entry  began with a reference to modern "problems" that confront our species and are being exacerbated by IT; but I didn't  list any specific problems or tell just how Information Technology may be making them worse. I hadn't meant to be coy; I simply wasn't sure which of several possible examples to cite. Certainly, one of the more pressing, and sure to concern those most influenced by IT, is Global Warming (GW).

GW’s most troublesome aspect is probably that despite general agreement that the planet has recently become warmer and human consumption of fossil fuels has played a role, there’s still no consensus on severity or how best to address it. Although some experts have expressed concerns that a rise in sea levels large enough to be significant may already be inevitable; others have been far more sanguine and also warned that that attempts to ameliorate GW by rapid reduction of CO2 emissions may be premature, could have dire economic consequences, and shouldn't be hastily undertaken.

As this is written, there seems a growing recognition that the planet’s warming and weather related problems are real, related to human activity, and more severe than first believed; thus there seems an increasing eagerness to take action.  However, an oft-repeated caveat is that until  China and the US, the planet’s biggest  CO2 emitters, begin taking definite steps, other nations will be hard pressed to even come up with a plan.

The last time I checked, NASCAR racing was still a growth sport in the US and the authoritarian Chinese government just opted to invest in Airbus over Boeing.

Since there's a possibility that we may already be facing worse consequences from GW than first thought, our inactivity to date has really been a policy decision that may be compounding inevitable environmental damage;  yet meek acceptance of that inactivity is  the present default. Any "sense of the species” sentiment with respect to  climate issues has yet to emerge; however, realistically, they are so broad and will require so much cooperation from such a large percentage of living humans that GW represents a kind of challenge our species hasn't knowingly had to deal with before.

Unfortunately, our species' history is also one of inability to cooperate. Whether acting as tribes, villages, city-states, or nations, humans  have always tended to favor destructive competition over constructive cooperation. The most hopeful aspect of Global Warming could be the unique opportunity it offers for humans to work toward a common goal; but such thinking would require that the problem be seen as one of survival. Right now, the issue is seen more as a divisive one pitting low-lying island populations against those living at higher elevations or those with a vested interest in oil against various proponents of "green" energy.

Two other modern problems, also chracterized by denial, are the wars being waged  against “terror” (WT) and “drugs,” (WD). Both are US policies, which despite definitional problems,  have nominal UN support; either through  treaty (WD) or  Security Council approval (WT). Both have also been waged for a while: the WT from September 2001, and  the WD from September 1969. Both are also destructive, failing expensively,  distorting both American and Global society, and unsustainable. Yet, an increasingly unpopular president can be confident they will contine long after he leaves office in 2009.

Ironically, the most important reason for scrapping both wars is their implicit rejection of the importance of emotions in determining human behavior. Such denial  flies in the face of both history and reality, and also compounds the emotional stress now being inflicted on our increasingly youthful human population. We humans,  now competing for resources and living space on Planet Earth in unprecedented numbers, are increasingly finding ouselves on the receiving end of a daily flood of information that needs to be anwered, dealt with, or otherwise responded to in timely fashion. There has probably never been so much emotional stress inflicted on so many vulnerable people as now, and it only promises to get worse. Here in the US, the sharp increase in prevalence of  stress-related syndromes like ADD, Bipolar Disorder, Panic Attacks, PTSD and persistent Insomnia (perhaps also morbid obesity) that have been observed over the past two decades should, ideally, have generated completely different kinds of assessments than were possible under the doctrinaire drug war beliefs now restraining Psychiatry, the Behavioral Sciences, and all of Medicine. 

The big question is similar to the one posed by Global Warming: have we been dithering too long, or is there still time to undo the damage?

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at November 27, 2007 12:20 AM