Karl Gallagher (libertarianhawk) wrote,
Karl Gallagher

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Gaiacrats versus Theocrats

a_steep_hill commented at length on a Freeman Dyson interview I posted a link to. He thought Dyson's optimism about the human future and the dangers of global warming was unjustified.
The unpleasant reality I'm talking about is simply the need to change our relationship with the world, and our way of thinking about it. And that, apparently, scares the shit out of most everyone.
The question at issue is whether or not one believes that humanity is subject, over the long term, to some of the same constraints that apply to the other lifeforms on the planet.

Amory Lovins definitely believes these constraints exist, that they can only be put off or ignored for so long, and that we are nearing the day when we will need to come to grips with them. He also believes that humanity can have a prosperous future by accepting these constraints and engineering within them. (In this respect he is very philosophically similar to architect Bill McDonough.)

From his statements and general attitude, I would think that Dyson does not believe that these constraints are relevant to human development. But then he cites Lovins as an example of an optimist. So I'm not sure what his position is. Perhaps he sees that there are constraints which humanity must respect, at least in the near term, and is simply trying to distinguish himself from the doombats.
I think almost everybody believes in natural constraints, though there do seem to be some people out there who think the government can overrule any natural law to meet public demand. There's a lot of disagreement as to where the constraints are, how close we are to them, and what the minimum safe distance would be. The big question is who makes the decisions on the constraints and what they base their answers on.

Right now there's a group of politicians and activists volunteering to make the decisions and tell everyone else what constraints they have to obey. Their efforts concentrate on bypassing democratic processes through negotiations among government and NGO bureaucrats, leaving the elected governments without any responsibility for acquiring the new powers to enforce those rules, and the voters subject to them without any chance to influence the process. This is justified on the grounds of the importance of environmental issues to human survival.

Of course, theocrats justify their control of government by the overriding (by their priorities) importance of the human relationship with God and people's fate in eternity. So they grab power with a clear conscience and wield it as they think God would wish them to. History shows theocracies don't do as well by their people as other types of governments. It's hard to fix bad decisions when the original decision was justified as "God's Will". Elections make for easier course changes.

Environmentalism has been compared to a religion before. There's lots of parallels--the idyllic origin story, the prophesy of upcoming apocalypse, the rituals people go through to demonstrate their faith (recycling as a prayer). Lately a new one has been created with carbon offsets filling the role of purchasing indulgences (I look forward to the Martin Luther of environmentalism).

Having a new political class of gaiacrats controlling our "relationship with the world" terrifies some people as much as having theocrats dictating our relationship with God does others. The debate so far makes me think gaiacrats would be as bad at incorporating new information as theocrats. The world will have crises in the future. We'd best respond to them by pooling the views of as many people as we can so we can look at the costs and benefits of policies in full. Experts focus too narrowly to make good decisions. The way to improve the quality of our decisions is to increase the wealth of the world so people will be better educated and more able to take a long-term view of problems.
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