Debating the Risk of Change

Why must we endure the frost of January?

The question was posed in bold font below a picture of an old woman with her head tucked down into her coat. The wind and snow whipped at her tired looking face and behind her stood a bare and dead looking tree. In the top right of the poster a sticker implored a YES vote on proposition 1155.

Across a patio filled with cheap looking outdoor furniture sat two friends with tall glasses of a popular fermented beverage between them.

“Shivering in the winter cold, sweating in the summer heat… it’s all so goddamn tiresome. In this day and age, in this place, we have the technology – why shouldn’t we tweak the climate a bit? It is time for us to remake the seasons as we see fit.”

“Of course, we have the technology to change the climate, but just because we can do something does not mean that we should do it. The winter snows and the summer heat are dynamic. Humans were simply not meant to live in constant and unchanging perfection, we thrive in a changing environment, one which challenges us.”

“Sentimental shit. Just because its a few degrees warmer, I don’t think I am going to be any less likely to ‘thrive’, whatever the hell that is supposed to mean.”

“Anyway, both you and I know this shit about softening the harsh winters is just rhetoric. The real question is whether we should be changing the climate at all? If it has been the same since the beginning, if it worked well enough for our parents, and their parents, and so on and so forth, then why should we change it? You are talking about changing the the work of the founders.”

“Of course I am talking about changing the work of the founders. The founders never intended for us to be impotent passengers here, otherwise they would not have left us with the technology to change the world, or the knowledge that it is even possible. The founders created a world that was fitting for them, and they left us with the knowledge and power to to re-create the world as we see fit for us.”

“And will there be room in your new world for nature? What about the summer birds and the winter walruses? The natural world here would be ill adapted to your new climate…”

“Natural world? Which natural world? There is no nature here. The plants and animals in this place are the legacy of generations of genetic tinkering. Maybe a bit more natural selection wouldn’t be such a bad thing, huh? Maybe the natural world would adaptas it should.”

Maybe!? Maybe is the problem. Right now we have a environment which we know suits us. We and the environment are adapted to it. If we go and monkey around with the climate, you simply don’t know what is going to happen, and neither do I. Maybe changing the climate will lead to a great surge in natural selection leading to the emergence of whole new species of plants and animals, or maybe it will lead to a total environmental collapse?  It’s just too risky.”

“Nature is risk. True nature does not provide us assurances. It is only by changing things that we can return to a state of true nature. By injecting a bit of unpredictability we will change things and in turn we will watch things change.”

“The founders knew true nature, they knew disease and famine, they knew droughts and floods, they knew the devastation of uncontrolled climate change. They knew all of this, and yet they built a place like this. A place where change is constant, but predictable. A place of predictability, where the winters are cold and the summers are hot. A place with harmony.”

“Humans were simply not meant to live in constant and unchanging perfection, we thrive in a changing environment, one which challenges us.”

The two friends sat in silence for a moment, the echoed thought hanging in the air between them.

“Look around you. See the spring wildflowers, and the rushing streams flowing from the snow-covered mountain tops to the west. See the dark clouds forming on the horizon curving up to the east, there will probably be a storm soon. Are you really willing to give up this place that was made for you. Do you really want to return to your true nature if it means risking all of this?”

“This world we have is surely beautiful, with the dynamic shifting seasons and its glorious mountain tops, with its fluttering butterflies and prancing deer, it is nothing less than a work of art. It is a perfect work of art. But yet, I am not sure I want to live in a work of art any more. I want to know reality, I want to know true nature, if that means risking perfection then that is a sacrifice which I am willing to make.”

“So that’s it then, we can have harmony or we can have nature…”

“I guess we will just have to wait and see how the vote goes.”

“I guess so.”




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