Recently climate change has been talked about a lot. The agreement goes that humans are digging up and burning ancient sources of carbon, fossil fuels (coal, petroleum). The added carbon is changing the atmosphere and reverting it to an ancient time, one where current life on earth has not adapted to yet. The solution I keep hearing is to switch all fuel sources to renewable energy sources (solar, wind, geothermal, wave, etc.).
This renewable energy argument is linear. That technology will save us.
Fossil Fuels = Climate Change
This, however, ignores the large context of the issue. I see three solutions: technology (renewable energy), population, and lifestyle.
If there were only ten humans on the planet and they all lived together in one town and lived like the average person today, the fuel they use would not matter. Fossil fuels are not intrinsically evil or wrong. Like most things, it is the scale at which they are used that causes problems. This scale of use is driven by two things: the number of people (population) and how much each person uses (lifestyle). Here is that formula:
Population x Lifestyle x Fossil Fuels = Climate Change
This is a bigger problem than technology. If we do not address the other two issues of population or lifestyle, then another issue will appear in the future. Technology is a temporary solution to a larger problem. If we use renewable energy technology, we still will be taking up most of the usable landmass, still causing mass extinction, still polluting, still exploring other people.
In complexity science, there are a few different stages to a system. They do not need to follow any order, however (we think of them) may occur in the following order: release, reorganization, growth, conservation. As humans, we have relied on technology to conserve our desires and labor. We can reduce the world around us and ignore it. We allow ourselves to desire anything and everything. Something much more difficult is to acknowledge the damage we cause and address it. To summarize, technology is not the only solution.
Just as we might call damage from a swarm of insects “the insect problem“. When insects are not in balance with the environment. So too, we must acknowledge and address the human problem.
The Default Solution
Currently we are trying to solve this human solution by using technology. However, if we fail to solve it with technology we will fall to the default solution, entropy.
Human brain size has been getting smaller. A similar phenomenon occurs in the domestication of animals. As humans domesticate animals their brain size decreases. The animals no longer need to look out for predators, look for food, find or fight for a mate. Humans take care of all of those needs. Because animals don’t need to be smart to survive they don’t and their brain size decreases. Instead of a big brain the resources are moved to traits that are important to humans growing big and growing fast while eating the provided food.
One possible explanation to why the human brain size is getting smaller is that humans are domesticating ourselves. We are falling into the default solution. The default solution is we lose intelligence until we find another solution. We might lose enough intelligence to revert back to an animal that functions to needs in the moment. The current popular phrase used is “Return to Monkey”. If humans do return to monkey then we won’t have technology and lifestyle and population will be limited by nature like every other animal.