Last week, President Trump withdrew the United States from one of the worst deals it ever made: the Paris Climate Accord. The agreement required the US to cut its CO2 emissions by 26-28 percent by the year 2025. In addition, the accord states that the US will transfer 3 billion US dollars to the United Nations Green Climate Fund by that same year, 1 billion of which it has already transferred.
There is no doubt that global warming is happening, and there is no doubt that this can have severe consequences on humanity. However, there is no conclusive evidence that CO2 is the primary culprit in global warming. Every so often, a new “harm-doer” is found, and colossal amounts of resources are poured into obliterating it, only to discover some years later that the science behind the assertion was flawed. The only ones who feel better when the campaign is over are the shareholders of the companies that had made a fortune fighting a pointless war.
Until a few years ago, for example, cannabis was illegal. The argument was that it could potentially lead to use of harder drugs, and that long-term use of cannabis damages the brain. As recently as 2011, the National Institute of Health (NIH) released a study arguing that using cannabis has acute and long-term effects on the brain.
But within a few years, the view of cannabis has been reversed. Today, in 2017, no one discusses cannabis potentially leading to the use of hard drugs, and hardly anyone mentions possible brain damage. On the contrary, cannabis is hailed not only as a pain reliever, but also as a potent remedy in its own right. The American Cancer Society (ACS), for instance, states that marijuana “can help relieve pain and nausea, reduce inflammation, and can act as an antioxidant.” As for the risk of brain damage, the ACS argues that, in truth, cannabis “can help treat seizures, and reduce anxiety and paranoia.” The ACS even states that cannabis can “cause death in certain types of cancer cells growing.”
The Daily Mail and an Israeli research both went farther than even the ACS and reported that cannabis oil heals brain and lung cancer. As proof, they introduced the personal stories of people who were healed using the “magical drug” that until recently was considered evil. How could science be so wrong for so many years and change its mind so quickly? Clearly, someone is benefitting from these “scientific” revelations.
In all likelihood, the same is true for the argument that CO2 emissions are the prime cause of global warming. The Paris Accord requires America to give up millions of jobs and pay billions of dollars. Someone will obviously create jobs elsewhere and will benefit from the funds that America is pouring out.
As if this is not bad enough, the improvement that the accord aims to achieve is miniscule, at best: a cooling of one fifth of one degree Celsius (0.36 °F), assuming that all of the nearly 200 countries that signed the agreement keep it, and assuming that the science behind blaming CO2 for global warming is correct. How Obama ever signed this ludicrous agreement is beyond me.
What Do You Do with a Warming Planet?
A few years ago, a short film described the impact of the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park after they had been hunted to extinction 70 years earlier under the pressure of cattle and livestock ranchers. The scientists studying the effects of the wolves’ return were astonished to learn that the introduction of wolves rejuvenated the entire ecosystem in Yellowstone. A few years after their return, bare ground became covered with grass as deer were forced to migrate farther away from the wolves. Trees were left to grow in peace and quintupled in height, causing the bird population to grow in numbers and diversity. The lush vegetation allowed other mammal populations to multiply, as well. Also, the growth of the trees strengthened the soil around riverbanks, narrowing their channels and forming pools that support the reproduction of amphibians that had almost become extinct in Yellowstone. It turned out that the restoration of the wolves in Yellowstone not only affected the animal population and the vegetation in the area, it even changed the physical geography of the park. Today, the rejuvenation of Yellowstone is a landmark example of how man’s selfishness makes us ignorant of nature’s complexity, and of the fact that every level in nature impacts every other level in ways we do not understand.
The same is true for CO2 emissions. We are mistreating nature in so many ways that focusing on just one cause will only create more problems elsewhere. The only way to save our planet is to change our selfish nature. And the way to change ourselves begins not in how we treat our planet, but in how we treat our fellow person.
Human nature impacts the rest of nature on two levels. The more superficial level has to do with our exploitative behavior. We are exploiting everything and everyone, and therefore approach every person, animal, plant, or mineral on the planet with a negative attitude. No other creature on this planet has this attitude. When wolves kill deer, they do not do this in order to hurt the deer but because they are hungry. Yet, when we hurt other people, we do it only in order to hurt them! As for the rest of nature, we may not have a deliberate intention to ruin it, but we exploit it to extinction just as the cattle ranchers did in Yellowstone. And when nature slips off-balance, we suffer the consequences.
The second, deeper level of adverse impact we humans have on nature has to do with the fact that all of nature is connected. Therefore, our negativity spreads throughout nature even when we do not show it through direct action. A few years ago, Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler published one of the most influential books of our time. It is titled Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives—How Your Friends’ Friends’ Friends Affect Everything You Feel, Think, and Do. In their book, Christakis and Fowler documented the impact of people on other people even when they do not know one another, but simply because they share common friends. If we consider the realization that merely six degrees of separation (or less) stand between each of us and every other person in the world, then we will realize that we are all influencing one another even without knowing one another.
In a famous TED talk titled “The hidden influence of social networks,” Christakis argues that “human beings assemble themselves and form a kind of superorganism.” Indeed, we are a superorganism, except that not only humans are included in it, but our entire planetary ecosystem. Whatever we do, say, or think impacts every iota of reality and ripples in ways we cannot even imagine. When our actions, words, or thoughts are negative, we spread negativity everywhere.
Since no other creature on Earth but humans spreads negativity, no other creature is responsible for the negative phenomena impacting our world. If we change our behavior (such as by cutting CO2 emissions) but not our nature, we will mislead ourselves into thinking that we have made things better, which will, in turn, delay the necessary shift we must perform on our nature. The result will be a worsening of the negative phenomena.
In my previous column, I outlined a program for developing what The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman called “a whole new set of jobs and industries around the heart, around connecting people to people.” The program I outlined uses specialized workshops that help people shift from our inherent exploitative attitude to a collaborative one.
In the coming years, as robots take more and more of our jobs and universal basic income programs become a necessary reality, people will have all the time they need to partake in programs aimed at improving ourselves and our relationships. The trainings and workshops, whose structure I outlined in the book, Completing the Circle: An empirically proven method for finding peace and harmony in life, are designed to foster the desired change in our nature. In this way, by focusing on mending our society, we will also mitigate our negative footprint on nature.
This transformation will not happen because we will stop over consuming and over polluting. It will happen primarily because we will stop spreading “negative vibes” throughout the superorganism that is our planet. As a result, we will treat nature in a far more sustainable way than we currently do, and we will know what to change in our behavior and how to effect the change in order to achieve the best results. Only connection to all of nature through establishing positive connections among ourselves, will grant us the knowledge of the inner workings of nature and how we should relate to it.
The fact that so many crises are simultaneously unfolding on so many fronts should tell us that they are not the problem, but symptoms of a deeper one. That deeper problem is our egoism. If we fix this, we will have fixed everything, from CO2 emissions through international relations to our personal connections.