The problems of sustainability as more social than scientific

April 23, 2024 by Joshua
in Addiction, Freedom, Models, Nature

People jump to treating our environmental problems as rooted in science, therefore they look for solutions from scientists.

I’m seeing the problem more as social than scientific in the following way. First, I want to clarify that understanding the mechanisms by which Earth’s ecosystems are changed depend on science. I’m not challenging that we understand the mechanisms through observation, experiment, debate, and the other tools of science.

When I pollute and deplete, I hurt other people. That I do it through polluting with plastic, drain aquifers faster than they replenish, or whatever doesn’t change that the problem is I’m hurting people without their consent (wildlife too, though I’m partial to caring more for humans than animals).

People have hurt others since before humans were human. We struggled with how to handle it. In the United States, one of the principles our founding documents are based on is that government should protect life, liberty, and property. As best I can tell, it was the original intent of the authors of the Constitution, following a tradition including John Locke’s Two Treatises on Government.

The United States Constitution
The United States Constitution

If we don’t protect life, liberty, and property, why bother trying to improve your life if someone can deprive you of it? Can you imagine a government that didn’t protect your life, your liberty, or your property? As for me, I expect I’d start giving up on a better future. I’d live by “eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we may die.” That is, I’d lose meaning and purpose and seek just momentary physical pleasure. Well, I’d probably work to change that system, but if I couldn’t I’d lose hope.

I see a lot of hopelessness, helplessness, and despair. The science isn’t causing it. We all knew we would all die. We know everything material will eventually crumble. But we have a government that allows polluting, thereby allowing people to take and destroy others people’s life, liberty, and property. Our government profits from people destroying others’ life, liberty, and property. Look at all the revenues it gets from people extracting, selling, buying, and burning fossil fuels; producing toxic chemicals that reach our lungs and bodies; and so on.

We have solved this problem: have government protect life, liberty, and property. Don’t allow people to pollute. You may say, but I like cooking with gas and driving sports cars. Okay, but you’re hurting other people by polluting them. You help pay for places like Cancer Alley and Sacrifice Zones that show you damaged other people’s life, liberty, and property. Beyond hurting them, if you promote government allowing you to destroy others’ life, liberty, and property, you help create helplessness, hopelessness, and despair. You help sow the seeds of the government’s demise. For centuries people have concluded that trade wasn’t worth it. Our dependence and addiction to the pleasures and thrills polluting and depleting enable blind us to how we are undermining what holds civilization together.

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1 response to “The problems of sustainability as more social than scientific

  1. Pingback: Seeing pointless medical waste giving blood » Joshua Spodek

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