Roy Tang

Programmer, engineer, scientist, critic, gamer, dreamer, and kid-at-heart.

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This past weekend was supposedly some global climate strike, led by young activists. I don’t actually know if there was a local counterpart to these activities, as obviously I did not participate. Good for the young though. Between the climate activists and HK protesters, the modern youth still give me some hope for humanity. Anyway, I’m gonna step into the melee here and start rambling about things I may or may not be fully informed about, feel free to correct me or tell me I’m being an idiot or whatever.

Hope to be able to resolve climate change? Not so much. The science is irrefutable, and all signs indicate to us being well past the point of “can we stop it?” to “can we mitigate its effects?”. It’s not that I’m pessimistic, but the way the world works lately, it is difficult to be optimistic all of the time.

I did read a couple of interesting twitter threads about it over the weekend. The first thread discusses how the current climate activist movement, epitomized by 16-year old Greta Thunberg, is too extremist in their views. I was unable to verify, but one of the examples was that many of the activists reject technological solutions such as carbon recapture and economics/market incentive-based approaches. The perception of some commenters in the thread is even that the movement is a thinly-veiled cover to promote socialistic ideals. And indeed, some climate strike demands include universal healthcare and education, things largely perceived as socialist policies.

The second thread discusses why one might be against market-based approaches: there is a sentiment that the current crisis is brought about by markets and industries’ overreach, so it feels weird to be relying on those very same markets and industries to bail us from our situation, because in a way that would make them “heroes” and let them “get away with” the vast damage they have done in the first place. (I wish I could find the link for this second thread, though it is an admittedly lesser point, I am surely not giving it justice.)

Obviously not every group has the same demands, and citation needed, etc etc, but the perception of these movements including demands that are ideologically extreme contribute to making it difficult to save the planet. The truth is that everybody, everywhere should be doing anything and everything they can.

I am largely in agreement that the current climate crisis is brought about by human excess, and can even partly be blamed on runaway capitalism and consumerism. In my head the analogy for this is something like a person who pushes and abuses his body to do all this fun stuff and then the doctor tells him he’s dying and he needs to change his lifestyle in order to become healthier, but he’s really set in his ways so that’s something really hard for him to do, so instead he grasps at straws and follows miracle cures or looks for technological solutions to avoid the lifestlye change.. And that’s where we are now, we pretty much abused and extracted as much as we can from the planet to feed our runaway growth and now we’re hitting the limits of the ecosystem and the ecosystem is starting to fight back against us like the parasites we are. And while the real solution requires a severe lifestyle change - we have to give up things like meat and airplanes and all that - that’s not something we are willing to do. So we grasp at straws and hope that somehow science or economics can save us.

As a self-proclaimed man of science, I still do think that our best hope of salvation lies in some sort of as-yet-foreseen innovation. But in the meantime, we can’t just twiddle our thumbs, we need that lifestyle change anyway, in light of our ever increasing population, if we are to continue to survive in this world. Something about our way of life has to give, in order for it to be sustainable.

I say this, though many of the prescribed changes are quite difficult for me as well. I suspect my personal carbon footprint is below average, mainly because I don’t travel as much especially compared to the average Metro Manila denizen. I don’t drive, and I don’t take vehicles except maybe 2 or 3 times a week at most, and I use public transpo when I can and will often opt to walk whenever it’s feasible. (I do take plane rides like 2-4 times a year, but I also know people who fly a lot more often than me.) Where I fall short would be giving up meat (or even reducing intake). Since my diet is largely meat, this is mostly a nonstarter for me, so I implore people to eat less meat on my behalf lol. Or at least cows, cows are the worst, or so I heard. I’m also pretty bad at conserving power, given that I often leave my computing machines online and idle just for the convenience of not having to boot again. Such is life.

Sometimes it can feel like my personal effort doesn’t really matter, because people like me living in third-world countries aren’t the most egregious offenders in terms of damage to the climate. We can all do our small parts, but the larger effects can only come from the leading countries of the world, and is here that my doubts about their capability to bring about meaningful change come into play.

In the end, we can’t fight the planet. If we are living in excess, the planet will find a way to humble us for our excesses. The question is moving forward, how much of our modern lifestyle can survive this crisis.

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roytang.net is a personal site, an E/N site, and kind of a commonplace book; I post about a random assortment of topics that interest me including software development, Magic the Gathering, pop culture, gaming, and tech life. This site is perpetually under renovation.