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Climate change is a metaphysical problem

The limits of a rational, technical approach

Our grandparents were not worried about a prolonged drought. They had an effective means of making it rain. It was enough to give eggs to Saint Clara, who would then arrange it with God. Sometimes it took a long time before the rain clouds appeared on the horizon, but that egg sacrifice always worked. In the other case, the human race would have long died out. The rain that literally and perhaps figuratively falls from the sky, is the source of all life.

I fear that the politicians will not cancel the climate agreements, to follow the advice to bring eggs to one of the monasteries of the sisters of Saint Clara. There are too many wicked people in politics and the Christian parties easily cry along with those wolves. Nevertheless, I want to make an attempt not to limit climate policy to a unilateral rational, technical or scientific approach.

Three ways to deal with climate problems

Below is a brief overview of the ways in which humanity has dealt with climate problems in the course of history. Then it is investigated whether some wisdom can be gained from this, in order to adjust or make the consequences of global warming bearable. Wisdom only becomes visible if we are willing to think in full openness and freedom. There are three ways to deal with the climate: the first is that of paganism, the second of science and the third of monotheism.

Pagan superstition and magic

In the pagan view there is a mythological relationship of man with the vicissitudes of the climate. Man depends on it and is powerless against the forces of nature. If man wants to escape from the dangers that nature brings, he can either try to make those powers favorable by making sacrifices, or he can make use of magic to defuse those forces.

The scientific approach

According to the scientific approach, nature is no longer animated by frightening forces, but natural phenomena are subject to mathematical laws. Nature can be studied with the help of mechanical laws. Thanks to insight into those laws, humans can try to influence nature. Science makes the mythical explanation completely ridiculous. The myths have been permanently removed from human consciousness.

However, there is a problem with this scientific approach. Nature, in particular the climate, does not seem to be precisely determined by established laws. That is why chaos theory has been applied to this. The latter means that with climate there is a certain determinism, but the changeable is dominant. For example, how climate and weather develop is a question of probability. Weather forecasts illustrate this perfectly. So many factors play a role in this, and moreover they are very volatile, that an exact prediction cannot be achieved. The story of the wings of a butterfly in Brazil that ultimately cause a tornado in Texas, is a famous example. That butterfly is not the only cause, but it has initiated an uncontrollable process. This could mean that not much has to happen to cause a climate disaster. This can take place completely unexpectedly and at breakneck speed.

Biblical wisdom

The monotheism offers a totally different explanation. The climate is seen here as a matter between the lower and higher. God has nature's key and man has no mastery over it. In any case, it is clear that man does not control the rain and the climate. This dependence and being passive must endeavor to break through the pagans through sacrifices or through magical means. The scientist tries it with technology. Some people live with the phantasm that technology will one day achieve full mastery over nature. From monotheism can overcome the above dependency and passivity, if we stick to what God meant by nature. The idea of the Good offers the key to the solution.

The Flood

The latter can be found in the story of the Flood. God punished humanity because there was no more justice. Too much was stolen. Only Noah was allowed to live, because he was a just man and he had a family. Indeed, founding a family is an assignment that God has given to man to sustain His Creation.

Rational people will find this statement absolute nonsense. In this they are just as fundamentalist as the Amazon Indian who holds on to his magical worldview. However, we do not need to believe in God at all to recognize the value of biblical wisdom. We can simply replace God with the Good. Who is the atheist who will reject the Good because he can not believe? The Good is not visible and no proof can be provided for an order to do the Good.

The wisdom of the Good

Monotheism can be seen as the wisdom of the Good. That is the Higher that holds the key to nature. Applied to climate change, this is a metaphysical problem: are we willing to heed the command that comes from Higher to do the Good? Is what happens in nature not dependent, just like at the time of the Flood, on the behavior of people? Whoever accepts this will be motivated to adjust his behavior in the interest of nature. Climate change is then no longer a matter of climate treaties and also no problem that politicians have to solve for us. From the wisdom of the monotheism, to solve the problems of climate change is a personal matter of conscience.

That personal matter of conscience is not as simple as it seems. It is certainly not without obligation. The point is that billions of people act responsibly for the good of their loved ones and for future generations. We can no longer appease our conscience with eggs for St Clara. With every action we must ask ourselves whether it is justified, in the light of maintaining a viable climate. But how in a godless world motivate people to follow their conscience? My hypothesis is that the world can only be saved from a climatic catastrophe if all humans embraces the ethics of Christianity.

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   © Juliaan Van Acker 2020