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Robin Schmit

Honors 100 BC
11/21/16
Global Challenges Essay
Futility
Prompt 1: Climate change is a crisis that we as a global community will face - some through career,
some through personal choices. Building on what you heard in the interdisciplinary discussion, how
might you choose to address this challenge in your own life?

Climate change is a complex global crisis, just like poverty, world hunger, and general
inequity. If humanitys track record is anything to judge by, we will fail to progress on
overcoming this issue as well. Taking world hunger as an example, science and technology have
already overcome the physical barriers preventing humanity from feeding seven billion people.
Rice alone has a large enough annual crop yield to feed the planet, and we have the technology
to transport it around the world. Despite this, nearly a billion people lack sufficient caloric intake
to live a healthy and active life.
Of course, the solution to world hunger is not as simple as shipping rice to the starving,
nor is the solution to climate change as simple as the abrupt cessation of fossil fuel usage. While
these actions could theoretically be undertaken, and even enforced, by a united oversight
coalition, they will not be (nor would it necessarily be a good idea for them to be.) After all,
these problems are extremely complex, and a simple solution would likely do as much harm as
good.
It seems arbitrary in the extreme to deny developing nations the right to utilize their fossil
fuel reserves. Such an action would destroy the sovereignty of entire countries, which would be
left wholly reliant on developed nations for alternative energy sources (which are in no state to
take over from fossil fuels anyway.) At the same time, failure to take drastic action on the subject
of climate change allows the problem to grow more severe, which will ultimately be to
everyones detriment.
Climate change, just like other global problems, has no easy answer. Even those
challenges for which a solution currently exists, such as world hunger, have not been overcome
by a divided human race whose members strive to extract as much material wealth as they can
from the system, their fellow beings, and the world around them. Our system of value judgments
is inherently flawed due to an inability to look sufficiently far ahead. Unfortunately, this system
also reinforces its own flaw by rewarding those who stay focused on the present and exploit their
fellows most efficiently.
Following this train of thought to its natural, depressing end leads to one inescapable
conclusion. Humanity as a unit has neither the time nor the foresight to act in sufficient
magnitude to abate the worst of climate change. For forty years, scientists have warned the globe
that our way of life is inherently unsustainable, and we have failed to take meaningful action.
The election of a climate change denier to the position of President of the United States
reinforces my point that this failure to act is unlikely to change any time in the near future.
The only differences between climate change and any other global crisis are that climate
change has a deadline before which we must act (a deadline that quite probably is already past)
and it affects different groups of humanity in different ways. To those who witness abject human
suffering on a daily basis, climate change is the least pressing of their worries. To those who do
not, climate change is the only flaw in their ivory tower. If we accept that it is too late to prevent

climate change, we should stop trying and instead address problems we might actually be able to
fix. Our profit-driven motivational system is not well set up to fight climate change on the axis
we are currently fighting. Rather than attempting to decrease our use of fossil fuels gradually
over the next ten or fifteen years (by which time it will certainly be too late if it isnt already),
humanity should focus its research and efforts toward a solution that we would actually
implement if we discovered it. For instance, space travel would allow us to abandon the wreck
we have made of this planet and find new worlds to exploit, while fusion reactors would provide
a cheap alternative energy source to fossil fuels (although that would hardly stop the damage
weve already done.) These science-fiction solutions are humanitys best hope to survive the
natural devastation we have set into motion.