Vanity thought #1025. Cosmos E12

Another weekend is approaching and it’s time to review last week’s episode of Cosmos before new one hits the TV. This one was all about climate change, a rather non-controversial topic for us. At least it shifts the discussion away from dead end issues like evolution, here we and our fellow atheists can find a lot to agree on and raise less controversial questions that they haven’t been programmed to dismiss yet.

The episodes starts with “Once there was a world” and NDGT repeats this phrase at least three more times during the show. I don’t know why, probably to drill down the fact that we are responsible for our current situation and our future. Once he specifically made the point that this is what people in the future might say about our civilization if we don’t change our ways.

Totally agree, we must change our ways, this ugrakarmic way of life is unsustainable. The question is how, but more on that later.

Example of our bleak future is taken from Venus. NDGT says, and he backs up his statements with awesome CGI, so they must be true, that once Venus was as cool as Earth. Then something happened, oceans dried up and carbon was released into the atmosphere, creating a massive greenhouse effect that traps all the sunlight and burns everything on the surface.

He shows pictures taken on Venus from Soviet lander and they show a very inhospitable place. Was it a hoax just like we argue Moon landings was? Maybe, there’s a connection here to be made later, too.

Far from reaching any conclusion, I’m afraid we have to settle on the explanation that our senses do not register forms of life existing on higher planets like Venus or Moon, or the Sun itself. We should just shrug our shoulders and move on.

My first thought was that if Venus did all that to itself, why do we blame human civilization for global warming here on Earth? NDGT later explains that we have sufficient evidence of human activity effect on C02 in the atmosphere and resultant increase in temperature. Okay, what if Venus had a civilization just like ours and what we see there is our future, too? No one knows. Venus resurfaces itself so often that traces of prehistoric life there would have been burned and melted millions of years ago, but it’s an interesting thought to keep in mind.

Then the show takes us back to the Earth where CO2 is still regulated properly. NDGT explains the mechanics of greenhouse effect and there’s not much to argue there. I like how he talked about the Earth “breathing” and Earth’s body as if it was a living organism, which, of course, it is. I tend to think that this is how he actually views the stars and the planets – as living beings operating on a much larger scale than us so we don’t notice the usual signs of life. Earth takes a year to breath in and breath out, for example (in summer green forests fill the atmosphere with oxygen and in winter it’s replaced with carbon dioxide instead).

One minor point – most of the “breathing” is actually done by marine plankton and algae, forests contribute relatively little.

Then NDGT showed us the statistics of CO2 levels in Earth’s atmosphere over the period of thousands of years and there was a huge spike at the end of it – where we live now. There’s an important philosophical point to be made here which went past NDGT altogether.

This spike in CO2, undoubtedly deadly for our civilization, does not only coincide but is actually caused by our scientific progress. For thousands of years the Earth was able to regulate itself and people inhabiting it were in complete harmony with nature, then these scientists came along, invented progress, and now we are on the verge of extinction.

What is really grinding here is that these same scientists and atheists who destroyed the world as it existed for millennia keep telling us that their civilization will last forever. No, it won’t, own up to it – material progress is unsustainable, your model of society based on greed and progress is unsustainable, and your “civilization” will perish just like any other empire in world history. Your society will be replaced by someone with different values and those new people will also claim to last forever, and life under them would probably be even worse.

Then the show talked about positive feedback loops – ice melts, water surface increases and water absorbs more heat from the Sun than ice, so it gets even warmer and melts more ice, and so the system goes completely off balance in a very short period of time.

That’s fine, but there’s also a negative feedback loop at play – surface warms, water evaporates, which cools it, and then clouds shield the surface from heating up again. Water vapor itself is a major contributor to green house effect but clouds do protect us from the Sun so negative feedback loop is there, too. Btw, CO2 is important and if we add more of it into the atmosphere it’s bad but water vapor it responsible for up to 80% of greenhouse effect, minimizing our contribution.

As NDGT goes on and on about science and climate change and effect of coal and oil, question rises -who is he arguing with? Politicians? They are not going to pay attention to anything said on his show. Corporations responsible for maintaining the status quo, ala lead episode from earlier in the series? There’s nothing in the Bible to deny global warming though I bet there are some Christian groups who would oppose science as a matter of principle.

Young Earth Creationists, for example, do not support the man made climate change, but their opposition is not to the numbers themselves but to stretching them to pre-flood years, they can’t accept science that goes that far back in history.

As far as I understand Christianity, lots of them should view modern civilization as satanic and global warming as a due punishment.

IMO, NDGT rallies his faithful just for the adrenaline high, having actual opponents is not as important to them as feeling good about their righteousness. This, however, leads to the question of solutions.

We say that the entire modern, godless way of life needs to be abandoned and there’s no fix for our current problems except chanting the Holy Name that would quickly reduce our greed and desire for “progress” – the primary causes of our unfortunate situation.

NDGT, however, proposes solar and wind energy as a solution to fossil fuel burning. Somehow he didn’t say a word about nuclear energy and ongoing progress in that field. Apparently we are on the verge of building a clean, self-protecting reactor that would eradicate almost all the downsides connected with nuclear power plants. The returns on those is incomparable with wind and solar farms, if we get that reactor going we can change our CO2 emissions almost instantly, in a matter of a decade or two.

I suspect he stayed away from nuclear energy for “political” reasons – after Chernobyl and Fukushima no one wants to hear another word about nuclear power. Sometimes science needs to be sacrificed for the sake or preserving peace, which is understandable but that’s not he message this show was meant to convey.

I don’t know what our response to nuclear fusion or solar and wind farms should be. They seem legit – clean, sustainable, and that’s what our vegan friends pin their hopes on, too. They don’t like the notion of millions of farting cows (all the methane in the world contributes only about 7% to greenhouse effect, so cow farts are immaterial). Vegans prefer solar powered tractors instead. I don’t know what to say to that, not with any confidence.

Germany recently got the moment when 74% of their electricity was produced from clean power sources. That lasted maybe for a few hours but it’s still an impressive achievement. OTOH, their solar panel industry is bankrupt, last time I heard, and so is the biggest Chinese producer over in Asia.

Maybe the correct argument is similar to hybrid and electric cars – their production contributes more to greenhouse effect than savings from driving them, though some say that with improved technology solar panels got past the point where savings from using them started paying back handsomely, it’s the reality now. I don’t know what to say about wind, too.

I suppose these solutions can’t be implemented for other reasons than simple technology, namely greed. I don’t think the society is ready to implement them and take the resulting hit on their way of life, or that Chinese are not going to stop burning coal so whatever they do in the US will not save anyone.

NDGT had a perfect example there – solar power was on the verge of going mainstream in 1913 and then the WWI broke out and it was forgotten. We don’t have as much control over our global society as scientists lead us to believe. Millions of things can go wrong, and NDGT himself mentioned a butterfly effect in this show – what happens to us in everyday life is really out of our control, so even if we have all the ideal solutions it doesn’t mean we are free to apply them.

Ultimately, it leads to the same game of greed and hope. They always say that they have solutions but in the end they create only more problems, wind and solar is just their latest panacea. None of those worked out before, what makes NDGT think this one will be any different?

It still goes back to the life on Earth when everyone was living in a religious society of some sorts and there was no need for “progress”. By any calculation, it lasted thousands and thousands of years, it worked, it has been proven, yet this is precisely the kind of solution the atheists are not willing to accept.

NDGT presented another view of history – that of progress, from nomadic tribes to agriculture based society, which, presumably, lead to scientific revolution of three hundred years ago. We can explain emergence of agriculture as some sort of a transition between different yugas but invention of agriculture didn’t threaten survival of the Earth the way industrial revolution does. If they want a transition suitable for this age, it should be from agriculture (sacrifices) and temple building (cities) to harināma saṅkīrtana.

They can toy with wind power but that’s not the solution recommended in śāstra so it’s going to fail even if I can’t explain exactly how ATM.

The show ended with CGI of a perfect city of the future where there’s green everywhere and wheat grows on buildings’ roofs. It looks enticing but what would life there be like? It’s still a multi-layered monstrosity with elevated roads and trains. What would be attractive for people in this environment? I didn’t see any spaces for human interactions – dedicated parks or markets, much less temples. Why would people who spend most of their time communicating online want to live in such close proximity to each other? What would be the necessity for urban life in the future? Work? Not likely. Entertainment? Nope. The reasons we built cities in the past will not exist in the future, they hardly exist now, most of the city growth in the world is due to slums, and everyone seeking a good life has moved out ages ago

My final point, NDGT included parts of Kennedy speech about going to the Moon “by the end of this decade”. It was so easy back then even if now we have phones in our pockets which are more powerful than computers controlling their entire operation. The more we progress, the more difficult flight to the Moon becomes. No one even dares to make “by the end of the decade” predictions, it’s either unfeasible or impossible.

Back to the Venus lander – it survived there only for two hours, its cooling system couldn’t cope with the heat. Understandable, but consider how astronauts on the Moon spent up to two days there when surface temperature was hotter than oil in our cooking pans. How did they keep the air-conditioning going? On batteries! Right. We can’t get a phone working whole day on a full charge and they had batteries to cool their landing module and their spacesuits for days while being literally in a frying pan?

It just does not compute, and so far I haven’t seen any better answers to the cooling question.

Anyway, there’s only one more episode of this show left, so I am almost done, too. I got used to the opening sequence and familiar music so it’s probably a good time to stop watching it, but another feeling I noticed is that it got boring. All these arguments against atheism have a limit on their usefulness, at some point we must make a decision and never bother ourselves with them anymore. Most of our debates with them quickly run into various dead ends anyway.

Logic is helpful but it’s not the recommended method of self-realization in this age, it was suitable in Satya yuga but our intellect is too weak to make a decisive difference in our lives the way chanting does, we should never forget that

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