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Climate Change Interview 16: Philosopher - Minneapolis, MN

Photo: Joe Lynde

Live Interview: Clem Samuels

1. What are your thoughts when you hear the claims that the earth is warming, the environment is being destroyed and that humans are the cause?

Duh! There is no question that it is happening. I’ve always thought that people who say, “No, that’s not happening,” should stop and think. I tell them that if you hook a hose up to your house and, let’s say the Atlantic Ocean is drained, you can put that hose out and it will take a long, long time but eventually you are going to have the ocean back. OK? My point is that when people say, the atmosphere is so big it can absorb this stuff, they have to realize that while it is big, there is a limit. I use that as an example. A little garden hose isn’t much but after a while you have an ocean.

We’ve been putting a little pollution in the every year since the Industrial Revolution – a couple hundred years. And now we had more than a little each year. We are adding a lot. Now you have an ocean of emissions.

I think, too, that most people think about their grandkids and how their life is going to be different and about what they can do to help them. I don’t know what we can do to help them. I’d like to protect them from all that but…..

2. In your mind, what are the driving forces of climate change and environmental degradation?

I think consumerism is one of the big problems. For that matter I think the ‘American Ideal’ is working against us. You can come to this country and work hard and build a future. I mean, our history is an example for everyone. Our ancestors came and cut down all the trees in the way of progress. Now everyone is saying, “Don’t cut those down!” We didn’t set a very good example when we got here. I’m not sure it isn’t too late for us.

Take a look at the fires in Brazil. Here you have scientific proof that the amazon jungle is one of the most important eco-systems as far as the atmosphere is concerned and they are doing absolutely nothing to stop it. The President of Brazil is saying, “Hey, come on you guys, we want a piece of the apple too.”

Some private citizens are doing a better job but it’s hard for me to believe that every city in America hasn’t banned plastic bags for instance.

3. Has your life been affected in any way? If so, how?

I think if you embrace the idea of climate change it affects your life. I mean we’re not perfect but we’re much more aware of little things we do that might have a negative effect on the climate. I mean there are the plastic bags, eating more plant-based foods to cut down on methane.

If you could go back one month in a time machine ask people if much changed over time they would say no, of course not. Even two months ago wouldn’t seem to make that much difference. If you did that every month back like four years slowly the answer would change. The changes are so incremental they are hard to see. Thirty years from now this will be an entirely different world.

4. In your opinion, what needs to be done?

Things have to change politically all over the world. I don’t think there is any question about it. It would help us if there was no religion. There people out there who say god will not let this happen. They may be small in number but we need everyone on board. Michelle Bachman is one of them. You definitely need political action. You’ve got to get people in office that will change things.

You also have to have corporate awareness. They only understand money so you have to have something like a carbon footprint tax. But of course, they pay the politicians so the whole system has to change. That’s a hard one.

The people in this country have a history of being nonchalant about big issues until they get slapped in the face. Then they act really quick. By the time it happens this time it just might be too late.

When the disasters, fires and hurricanes keep moving in that will get a lot of people to stop and say, “Hey wait a minute….” A lot of it has to do with money.

5. Do you consider yourself part of the problem or part of the solution?

Well, we are part of the problem but we are changing. Boomers have caused a lot of it but I’ll bet there isn’t a Millennial out there who, if born in our time, would have done anything different. They can point the finger at us but scientifically no one had any idea. They could say we wreaked everything but that’s not the point. The point is we really had no idea what was happening. If Millennials were born back then none of them would have given a Junior High School speech on climate change.

The big thing is not about pointing a finger its about figuring out the problem and doing something about it. Pointing fingers just takes away from what has to be done.

6. What do you think the long term outcome of climate change and environmental degradation will be?

I understand the question but the answers don’t mean anything because we can go back in time and take a look at a Popular Science Magazine when they had their issue out on what the world was going to look like in the year 2020. They flying cars and this and that and all the other crap they predicted. We’ve seen that time and time again but they really had no idea about what was really going to happen.

Once the money shifts to make it more profitable to stop climate change rather than causing it, amazing things can happen. With human ingenuity like desalinating the ocean etc, there are all kinds of things that could happen. I don’t believe that the predictions for the end of the century are going to be that dire because a lot of things are going to change.

I think there are a lot good people who want to correct the problem but that doesn’t mean it is going to get fixed. There were a lot of people trying to stop slavery but that didn’t happen for hundreds of years.

In the end, as I said before, its all about the money.


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