Monday, February 11, 2008

We Don't Know What We're Doing - Part I


I read a book recently called The Ingenuity Gap by Thomas Homer-Dixon. His basic premise is that the world is a complicated place and we really don't know what the heck we're doing. And, we'd better get smart quickly before we really screw things up.

I also read on Yahoo that ranchers, farmers and timbermen in Africa and South America are burning 60 acres of tropical rain forest every MINUTE! Consider this: the state of Illinois is 57,000 square miles. At the rate of 60 acres a minute, they are burning a rain forest the size of the state of Illinois every 424 days!

The Yahoo article states that 20% of all manmade CO2 emission are due to this burning. That's more than all the planes, trains, trucks and automobiles combined. It's second only to the burning of fossil fuels for electricity and heat. So, if we can get nuclear technology back in business, this might be the #1 source of CO2. Plus, the burn of the rain forest is a double-whammy: the forests absorb and store carbon from the atmosphere. They clean up the junk we put up in the air as a result of burning stuff! So, if they are burning down our atmospheric cleansing mechanism, it compounds the problem.

What does this have to do with the book? We're unwittingly performing a huge experiment on a planetwide basis. We don't know the ramifications of our activities because we really don't understand how the whole system works. And, we may never understand how the whole system works. But, destroying vast tracts of the system, when we don't know the implications, seems really stupid. I don't understand the plumbing system in my house. It would be similar to me ripping random sections of plumbing out of my house... and not expecting any adverse effect.

Some think they know more than they do. Many of those people are policymakers or influence public opinion - and that's the problem. As Shakespeare said: "The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool." We have so few wise people in the public eye today.

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