How far can our kind be trusted on geoengineering? A multi-disciplinary account of global governance issues in light of Holistic Darwinism email@example.com Gihan Sami Soliman University of Edinburgh, Faculty of Science and Engineering, School of Geosciences The greatest challenges to the successful deployment of geoengineering may be the social, ethical, legal and political issues associated with governance, rather than scientific and technical issues. (Royal Society)
Would a human kind comprising an estimated number of 700 million of hungry people (WFP, 2014), while wasting one third of its food be entrusted on geoengineering
complaining today about the depletion of fossil fuel and global warming, while the little bit of sunlight falling on earth for one hour meets the world's energy demands for an entire year?! (Inslee et al, 2008). How much of today's hunger, misery and fears are all about politics and governance? Perhaps the greatest deal! Fears of a man-made doomsday has been lingering there for a few decades, expressed in several forms and cultures (Preston, 2012; Ginn, 2015); but officially by the publication of the “Limits to Growth” – 1972 (Hall, 2009). This seems to have been pushing humanity away from the “individualism” (Encyclopaedia Britannica) associated with the Laissez-faire economy of the traditional liberalism, justified at a time by what is known as the “Social Darwinism” to a sort of global solidarity enthusiasm – at least in principle. The Neo-liberalism dominating the world’s politics today is attractive in spite of the criticism and apparent contradiction! The “adventures and misadventures” are based on appealing human values: “liberty” and “equality”, and is open to “conserve nature” as well, however, as explained by George (1999) and McCarthy and Prudham (2003) neo-liberalism in its focus on “free trade in
goods and services; free circulation of capital and freedom of investment” – based on the assumption that market dynamics can take care of the community and nature, shifts power from politicians to “entrepreneurs” and thus commodifies nature, society and people. “Economic growth is most important now. It is essential to almost everything else we want to achieve. Our hero is the risk-taking entrepreneur who creates new jobs and better products.” Peters, C. (1983).
The question here is: How can such profit-oriented individuals leading a profitlead global community, be entrusted over ecological restoration including geoengineering? Although Neo-libralism has not been frankly associated with the so called Social Darwinism – and most of social Darwinists have not frankly called themselves as such. But it was Herbert Spencer, a liberal utilitarian, who established the “survival of the fittest” natural fallacy by trading heavily in the evolution paradigm so as to explain how the liberal utilitarian logic of justice emerges (Stanford Encyclopedia). The problem with “rational utilitarianism” or “rational selection” is that it always draws on maximising the profit and pleasure of individuals for whatever it takes. In case geoengineering as a proposed “deliberate large-scale manipulation of the planetary environment to counteract anthropogenic climate change” (Royal Society), the current global situation dominated by liberalism and neo-liberalism might not be ideal for saving humanity, but is as I propose a potential step towards a level of global governance capable of saving the planet provided that academics would lend a hand to humanity for mobilisation through activism. After all, capitalism is a process that comprises value exchange (McCarthy, 2003) and deciding on value priorities may lead to a shift in the game dynamics. Back to geoengineering, scientists make the point that even if we cut all carbon dioxide emission today – which is technically impossible, temperature will keep increasing with disastrous consequences. Geoengineering might help us “buy
more time” till we reach a plausible level of CO2 in the air but is “controversial” in three major ways:
Ethical, technical and political. But mostly political
(Battersby, 2012; Royal Society): In the end, the greatest obstacle to any drastic form of geoengineering may turn out to be politics. "You can't have competing geoengineering programmes, there has to be just one," says Allen. "So some supranational body would have to decide on the weather." (Battersby, 2012)
Gardiner (2006) compares with the folkloric ―perfect moral storm‖ tale in an interesting analogy. He sets three reasons for such analogy as firstly the” dispersion of causes and effects”, which could be summarised as that the impact of any particular emission of greenhouse gases goes far beyond its source, secondly the ”fragmentation of agency”; which is that the problem is not caused by a single entity or agent and thirdly the “institutional inadequacy”; due to the current world governance prototypes. The three reasons manifest themselves in two dimensions; the spatial and the temporal. On the temporal level, he explains how and why each generation might, in a legitimate “selfdefence” passes the problem to the next generation(s), in greater magnitude, whopping cost and exacerbated impact. That all makes the climate change problem a “backloaded” and consequently a “deferred phenomenon” across generations. On a spatial level, the current structure and distribution of world governance institutions and the short span of the political attention due to the short office-life of politicians makes the problem harder to solve. Gardiner also provides an interesting list of corruption tricks that would deteriorate the situation even further, namely the “distraction, unreasonable doubt, selective attention, delusion, complacency, false witness and hypocrisy tricks”. As the climate change problem - in its temporal and spatial dimensions, is more complicated than the Prisoner's Dilemma (a game-theory based on rational choices made through weighing situational factors against Preferences) Gardiner seems to support Hardin's relevant solution of the “mutual coercion”. Gardiner’s argument, as vigorous as it is, seems to take no consideration for the possible intergenerational dialogue through heritage/culture transmission, generation overlap as well as the use of “cognitive artifacts” for communication
(Jones and Nemeth, 2005), and perhaps also some collective natural disposition in our human nature to cooperate for the common good – which hasn’t been adequately explored yet, as highlighted hereinafter.
On an ethical level, many of the philosophers, ethicists, spiritual and common “people” (that is not to put them all in one basket) who must be “engaged” in the decision-making process as “stakeholders today (United Nations Post 2015), would reject geoengineering (as a form of ecological restoration) in concept. In many situations – in spite of the different stands, interfering with natural process to “restore” an ecology has been described as “faking Nature” (Elliot, 982) or an “arrogant” human attempt to “dominate” nature (Katz, 1997). “Nature” in several academics debates, was acknowledged from both ends of arguments - in spite of the controversy, as in position of “integrity” (Katz,1997), “intrinsic-value” (Peterson, 1999), “self-realisation” pursuit; nature as “traumatised”, “shackled” or “freed” (Light, 2011) to “pursue her own interests”; nature in its wholeness apart from us (Katz, 2012) or in a “co-nurture” relationship (Brady, 2007) with humans! In such “value” debates, some go as far as to set humans on equal footing with all the other species (Singer,1989) or claim a “biospherical egalitarianism” (Naees, 1973) – in principle, perhaps to convince humans to “leave nature alone” (Katz,1997-2012). The answer to this dilemma lies in system thinking (Parra-Luna, 2009) . It is true that the human kind is a byproduct of “Nature” in its Darwinian sense as the aggregation of natural laws and processes, but once we are here, we cannot avoid transforming elements through the natural capacity of observation. Humans in this sense are “co-creators of self and nature” (Soliman, 2014). The capacity of observation puts us in the position of responsibility to reach out for the other beings and embrace their existence as inseparable of ours. It has also enabled us to ―construct new “living-systems” through the simulation of life dynamics and manipulation of life elements (Umpleby, 2007). As an educator, I was trained to plan my lesson based on the Bloom’s taxonomy (cited in Wallace, 2005). The Bloom’s taxonomy sets “manipulation”
as one objective/outcome of education! The manipulation of nature’s elements so as to produce development and community progress is what we raise our children to be good at; it is based on the unique human capacity of deciphering the “circularity” of “self-regulatory systems” (Maturana and Valera, 1928; Foester ). This capacity has been called the Cybernectis or “steermanship”. We cannot avoid manipulating nature’s fundamentals through the capacity of observation and we have no moral obligation thus to “leave nature alone” but to act wisely on our capacities, which is why the biological label of human beings that is supposed to lump them together with the rest of species is the same label that sets them way apart: The Homo sapiens or the Wise Man as the name translates in Greek.
The capacity of observation has been foreshadowed by Darwin in four major distinctions - in spite of all his attempt to deny their significance for the classification of species: 1) Education (“imitation and reinforcement”); 2) longer-attention span (allowing the perception of complexity and strategic planning); 3) emergence of morality
(thus behaviour is no longer dictated by genetic mutation and is rather situational, rational, more flexible and thus more adaptive) 4) Nominalism. This is where human beings are part of nature but are also distinct as a “sociophysio-biological” kingdom and not just another species (Soliman, 2014-2015). There is currently a shift towards “significant mobilization of resources from a variety of sources and the effective use of financing” by the United Nations. This means that the rules of the economic game is likely to change and some transformation of our life system(s) is underway. The United Nations, by helping the so called “stakeholders”, might be able to achieve such goals or might not. But it is certainly a new time for global governance. This brings on the concept of “mobilisation” in its biophysical dimension in relation to the society and broadens the definition of geoengineering to encompass all and any deliberate measure whether on a small or a greater scale to restore equilibrium to life cycles through social synergy (Corning, 1997; Schwaninger, 2004) so as to sustain billions of lives and species. It includes measure of geoengineering, bioengineering, adaptation and/or mitigation but above all social and political reform in light of the Holistic Darwinism rather than “social Darwinism”. This is according to the Structure Determinism paradigm (Maturanan And Valera, 1928) which explains that studying a system apart from the complex web of relationships relating it to the surroundings must result in erratic conclusions. The holistic Darwinism proposed by Corning (1997) is the most recent outcome of a long academic debate - spanning several generations, on the mechanisms of the Natural Selection in regards of cooperation, synergy and biological altruism. The account refute the traditional interpretation of what is commonly known as the Social Darwinism and acknowledges an area of uncertainty on the reasons of cooperation in addition to encouraging “creativity” in cracking social relationships after the failure of the traditional cooperation theories to explain eusocialtiy and the abundant of cooperative behaviour in nature. The Holisitic Darwinism also encourages social “synergism” approaches.
“.. but for now perhaps the safest tools for engineering the planet are to be found down on the farm.” (Battersby, 2012)
The concept of mobilisation of support and natural resources in regards of global governance issues can be explained in light of the The “Living Systems Theory” (G. Miller’s, 1978 cited in Umpleby, 2007) has been founded on the idea that “cells, organs, organisms, groups, corporations, nations, and supranational organisations all process matter, energy and information”. This theory is very significant in linking social sciences to natural sciences and explains the concept of mobilisation in a multi-dimensional perspective. In biological systems such as cells, molecules and organisms matter and energy are regarded as one entity energy/matter, while physics - in its spatiotemporal consideration of situations, expresses the inter-reversibility between energy and matter as E = mc2 . (Umplby, 2007). The [=] sign in this equation does not put energy and matter on equal sides of the scale but is an indicator of an interreversibility “with a difference”. This interreversibility with a difference is also known as the Circularity (Maturana and Valera, 1928). Circularity is the uncracked miracle of life! By deciphering circularity human beings were able to mobilise energy and matter into the human organisation through simulating natural occurring selfregulation and thus the unique ability of conceptualisation/abstraction has become a political power that encompasses all the natural elements of life. A capacity of ”steermanship”! However, and as the equation shows, the observation is not an ultimate capacity of authorship and such manipulation of natural elements has turned against us finally. Ecological restoration in this respect cannot be confined to the attempts of “cleaning our mess” or the simple engagement in ecological artworks, but extends to reflecting (Darwin, 1871) on our collective selfawareness; economical, technological, humanitarian and political arrangements as well as reconsidering our justice systems, solidarity, responsibilities and compassion towards each other and other beings in light of the Holistic Darwinism (Corning, 1997).
This is not to suggest that geoengineering is good or safe, but that it is broader and deeper than what it is commonly known to be, and that it is, in such broader sense, is inevitable as it relates to the human capacity of observation and the current knowledge base. In a recent study on bioengineering, Robock (2008) lists twenty reasons why geoengineering might do more harm to the planet and life on earth than good; among which there are irreversible-untested environmental, social and political changes that may result from the process; such as the whitening of the sky and the depletion of ozone as well as the human errors and political uncertainty factors. It is interesting though that Robock builds his case against the geoengineering by picking the most two radical proposals, namely injecting stratospheric aerosols into the atmospheres - analogous to those resulting from the eruption of volcanoes, and using â€•space-based shieldâ€– to reflect solar radiation away, as if these were the only options available, and thus passing an ultimate judgment based on conditional situations while the fact is that Geoengineering may include less dramatical solutions that were introduced in his paper and other literatures (Bellamy, 2013) but not discussed thoroughly. The paper leaves the reader with an answered question of whether some milder integrated albedo arrangements with other measures to reduce carbon dioxide existence in the atmosphere might work to neutralise the impact of climate change especially if accompanies by measures taken to control emission of greenhouse gases. How about partially manipulating the cirrus clouds, seawater sprays, or using GMOs or changing the land-use patterns and how about using more than one solution based on geographical specification and priorities? As victor (2009) affirms, inaction remains as risky as action and it is likely that governments will be forced at a certain point of the future to take emergency measures if the climate takes a sudden dangerous turn threatening millions of lives and habitats. This is where consilience among sciences is required in expressing life systems and processes. And this where the public will have to participate in making decisions which will influence their lives, the lives of their children/grandchildren, and the lives of billions of organisms on the planet without being
prepared or well informed due to the lack of a holistic perspective of the situation, based on the realistic integration of human knowledge. Darwin introduced species as intergenerational populations, with advancementof-organisation pursuit and species capacities, and on top of them there is the Homo sapiens (or the Wise as the name translates in Greek) whose intellectual reproduction (education/nurture) and morals have become more valuable for fitness and species viability than biological reproduction – although both are needed. ―...great philosophers and discoverers in science, aid the progress of mankind in a far higher degree by their works than by leaving a numerous progeny (Darwin, 1897, p106)
The Natural selection, therefore, was never confined, by Darwin, to genetics (random mutation and recombination) but is all the natural forces constituting and/or decomposing living-systems. Such forces perhaps like gravity; circularity; aspects of space, time, pressure and temperature; chemical reactions producing energy; matter-and-antimatter annihilation producing energy, climatic, economics, social, moral and political aspects as well. The more we advance in civilization the more cooperation for survival will make sense to us. As man advances in civilization, and small tribes are united into larger communities, the simplest reason would tell each individual that he ought to extend his social instincts and sympathies to all the members of the same nation, though personally unknown to him. This point being once reached, there is only an artificial barrier to prevent his sympathies extending to the men of all nations and races.
The answer seems to me that human kind may be entrusted - in principle, on geoengineering in its broader sense. Geoengineering in a broader sense would be manipulating the ecology back into equilibrium. In this sense, we would have to acknowledge ethics beyond the economic gains, game theories or the so called “rational choice”, and embrace our natural dispositions to work for the common good and contribute to the advancement of the human organisation besides acknowledging the need for economic growth and survival according to the “structural determinism” paradigm, I propose that it is high time
we linked science discipline to each other and to the society meaningfully and not be ashamed of spirituality (properly defined), ethics and values of love and social justice as part of who we are, and as long as they embrace collective survival values. That it is time we considered all our ecological restoration options, including geoengineering to involve a re-evaluation of all our moral, economic and governance systems in an attempt to reach a positive unity of self-reference. This improvement inevitably leads to the gradual advancement of the organisation of the greater number of living beings throughout the world (Darwin, 1999)
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A multi-disciplinary account of global governance issues in light of Holistic Darwinism Gihan Sami Soiliman Copyrights 05/05/2015
Published on May 7, 2015
A multi-disciplinary account of global governance issues in light of Holistic Darwinism Gihan Sami Soiliman Copyrights 05/05/2015