The Arctic Ocean is melting.
Within the period of time that human beings have been measuring the thickness of the ice at the North Pole, it has remained a constant factor in weather patterns and trade routes between the continents in the Northern part of the world. What will happen to the Arctic when the great ice sheet melts completely during the summer? What will disappearance of this ice sheet do to the great currents of water that travel around the globe, regulating the temperature and climate and affecting the biological processes around the world?
The recent observation of the opening of the Northwest Passage, a seaway through the arctic that will allow trade routes between the North Atlantic and Bearing Strait, has been met with both anticipation and dread. The shipping, oil and natural gas exploration opportunities are massive. Canada has recently positioned its coast guard to intercept ships trying to pass through the Northwest Passage because it lies within the established international boundaries of Canada’s territorial waters. Russia has planted the Russian flag on the bottom of the ocean at the North Pole as a signal to the world that it will assert its rights to the great oil and natural gas resources sure to be found there.
Environmentalists are concerned that the melting of the Arctic ice sheet will start an irreversible climate change where sea levels could rise 40 to 80 feet around the world. The frequency of hurricanes and tornadoes will increase. Periods of drought and excessive rainfall will also increase, causing massive displacement of populations and millions of environmental refugees around the world.
There is a strong consensus within the scientific community that human behavior is a major cause of global warming. Political and business interest groups that depend on the continued use of fossil fuels have cranked up a tremendous propaganda machine to counteract the results of scientific studies and cast doubt on the same institutions that have given them the means to exploit nature to the fullest.
Behind both of these camps, environmentalists and scientists as well as politicians and business interests, is a basic assumption about the relationship between humanity and our environment, which is that humans have the ability to manipulate and affect nature and the environment. Both groups see humanity as something separate or beyond or outside the realm of the environment in which we live.
Environmentalists will probably disagree with this assessment. They will claim to have recognized that we are a part of something larger and that we must live in harmony with it or die. This statement would be based on the thought that we are not currently living in harmony with nature.
A different view of this situation is possible and even more accurate. Could it be that global warming is simply a natural part of the process that the biosphere generates to regulate dangerous behavior on the part of humans? Every prediction of global warming warns of catastrophic death and destruction of human beings and society on a scale that is unprecedented in recorded history, but is this really unnatural?
Like any other ecological system, the earth system must have in place a force to counter disruptive behavior by entities inside it, like the environmentally destructive behavior of modern humans. In other words, it is the earth system itself (and not its disruptive members) that maintains its balance. Since we humans have no direct predators like other animals, we must be regulated by the consequences of our behavior.
Human behavior is a natural part of the evolution of the Earth, because humans are a product of the Earth. We are not separate from it; we are the Earth’s children. The Earth is a living system that exists outside our own fantasies about our self–importance or morality. The Earth will do what it needs to do in order to control human population, whether by generating war, pestilence, disease or death whenever our behavior pushes us outside of the place that Earth has set aside for us as a species.
And so, thinking alone will lead anyone to realize that it is the Earth that does what is necessary for its own survival. It adjusts to our behavior in every case by compensating for it, by correcting it. To use a familiar metaphor, the Earth is about to have a high fever. But perhaps human beings need to adopt a more humble perspective towards the impending high fever and recognize that if we are going to infest the Earth, we must not do so to the point where we trigger the Earth’s defense mechanisms. Like any other virus, we can be purged from the body of our host when we become a threat to it.
Ultimately, the Earth will enforce the rules necessary for its own harmony and balance, whether or not we care to learn those rules or live by them. We do not control this earth system; it controls us. So it may be time to consider that it is our attitude toward the Earth, of which we are just a part, that is causing our problem. The Earth has no problem. It is self-regulating and the planet will continue to exist even if it has no biosphere at all. There are many planets in our solar system that exist without any appearance of any Earth-type life on their surface. The opportunity that we have to survive is just that, an opportunity. We can either seize that opportunity or choose the path that leads to our ultimate destruction and removal from this planet.