Am I anti-nature?

So I previously wrote that I’m not nearly so concerned about the alleged negative impact of burning fossil fuels as so many other people are. The carbon we release into the atmosphere used to be part of the carbon cycle, but it has been sequestered for a very long time. Burning fossil fuels just brings it back into the carbon cycle. I have some blog articles in the works that will further explore this theme.

That should raise a question; am I anti-nature? Do my beliefs on this issue exhibit a remarkable lack of concern for the health of our planet?

On the face of it, this is a ridiculous question to ask. Let me illustrate why.

We bought a Honda Pilot recently, and I really like our vehicle. We buy “new” (for us, usually pre-owned) vehicles so rarely that I’m almost always a couple of technology generations behind the times. It’s nice to see some of the newer features that have been developed. I really like the ability to put a bunch of music on a USB stick and play it through the system.

And the sub-woofer… ooohhh.

So much fun!

But it’s not a perfect vehicle. Newer models let you play music directly from your phone through bluetooth, but the model we bought does not integrate so well. It has bluetooth, but you cannot play music through that. I also find it a lot harder to visualize where the front of the vehicle is as I’m pulling into a parking spot. Am I too close to the curb or too far? This problem will likely go away as I get used to it, though, so it’s not a problem inherent in the vehicle. Still, it is inconvenient.

Now that I’ve voiced some complaints about the Honda Pilot are you going to ask me if I am “anti-Honda-Pilot?” Do I hate Pilots? Have I made it my life ambition to resist the Honda corporation? The question is absurd, isn’t it? Having a bone to pick with some details of the Pilot hardly makes me an opponent of the vehicle. Similarly, asking whether I am “anti-nature” simply because I think additional carbon might actually be good for the planet is a ridiculous question.

But the question needs to be asked because of the way our modern society addresses these kinds of issues. Too many people take the approach that if I do not absolutely affirm every last detail of what a person says on any particular subject, then somehow I am “anti” this, or “opposed to” that. If I do not swing fully and completely in one direction and affirm every minutia of dogma related to that subject, then I get painted as though I swing completely and fully in the other direction.

Middle ground has become a land of fantasy; complete with unicorns and fairies.

To be clear, this tendency exhibits itself on both sides of virtually every debate. It’s not a tendency tied to any political or ideological perspective, but people in general these days. Which is a shame. This inability to have a reasoned conversation is epidemic these days, and my humble contribution to fixing that particular problem can be found in my book, Arguing with Friends.

And that brings me to the flip side of the discussion. I emphatically agree that we should reduce our consumption of fossil fuels. I embrace reasonable efforts to promote alternative energies. Not because carbon is evil (it really isn’t), but because fossil fuels are, to the best of our knowledge, a limited resource. Although it is still a very long way out, we are likely to eventually run out of them.

On that basis I support renewable energies. I think wind turbines are amazing, and I’d love to work in that sector one day. Solar panels strike me as less hopeful, but I like to keep an open mind. Hydro electricity is an established alternative energy source, and a very good one at that. Nuclear energy isn’t technically renewable, but the efficiency is outstanding so we should be making full use of that too.

Now let’s ask the reverse question; given my support of reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, and my support for alternative energies, does that make me a tree-hugging hippie who is anti-business? Do I worship at the feet of David Suzuki and Al Gore?

Once again, really (and I do mean REALLY) no. I do not.

And if I will simply be allowed to live in the fanciful land of “middle ground” then you will find that I agree that we need to work much harder to keep our planet clean. On my computer desktop – as I write this – is a photo of a pristine island somewhere in the ocean. There is a sailboat just off the island, and the island itself has white sandy beaches and lots of greenery. It is truly magnificent, and I believe we need to keep it that way. All of nature needs to be kept as clean as possible.

But “clean” should not be confused with “untouched by humans.” We need to use nature in large part because we need to eat. We need to live. We need shelter. Beavers don’t feel guilty when they chop down trees to dam up rivers, and neither should we. Cheetahs don’t feel guilty when they hunt and kill to eat, and neither should we. We need to do these things responsibly, absolutely, but we still need to do them. Eco-responsibility does not mean eco-avoidance.

So I believe we need to work hard to be responsible in how we interact with our planet. We need to reduce our energy requirements as much as is reasonably possible. We need to reuse our resources before we tap into the planet’s additional resources (be they renewable or non-renewable). We need to avoid practices that are clearly and demonstrably destructive.

It’s just that burning fossil fuels isn’t one of those “destructive” practices. If we really want to make the world a better place, that’s one cause that’s completely barking up the wrong tree.