A Shameful Civilization

by Jennifer Benjamin

At this week’s meeting of the SouthCoast Energy Challenge interns, we were given the privilege of hosting a speaker from the Climate Reality Project. I’m far from religious, but when the man showed us slides of the destruction caused by hurricane Sandy, a type of storm that will become more common due to climate change, all I could think of was how biblical it all seemed. The world was being purged in fire and water, to wipe away a shameful civilization, as if we had a reason to be punished and some omnipresent force- be it god, nature, or karma- was here to collect.

It made me angry because it reminded me that we have reason to be ashamed. We are vehemently choosing to continue a path of environmental destruction when, in truth, we could stop the worsening of our destruction right now. It would put us behind in the world economy and force us to live what many view as a lower standard of living, but our problems would be solved. The truth is, the ways in which we have sought to better our lives have been misguided. We didn’t realize the extremity of the risk we were taking when we discovered oil, invented the steam engine, or discovered economies of scale. But now that we do, we have to turn around and try again. We simply cannot continue anything that is unsustainable. It just doesn’t make sense.

The problem is, we want to solve our environmental problems without having to make any sacrifices, and we are relying on technological advancement to make it possible. Now, technology can do amazing things, but it can only progress so fast. While we seek sustainable alternatives for some of our unsustainable products and activities (starting with what we deem to be top priority), we should stop the rest of those for which we do not yet have any alternatives until alternatives can be found. This HAS to be done, regardless of whether or not people will agree with it or feel threatened in any way. The damages that may be done by making sacrifices today are nothing compared to the damage that will be done if we stubbornly remain on our current path.

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