Climate disruption is a result of human nature, and human nature isn’t going to change.
Here’s what I learned visiting St. Eustatius. The debate over global warming is a waste of time.
St. Eustatius is a tiny Caribbean Island. In its day, the place was a big deal, one of the world’s busiest trading ports with 3500 ships a year. It’s best known for being the first place to acknowledge U.S. sovereignty, but it also played a key role in the Revolution. Most of the guns used by the Continental Army came through Statia, as it’s now known.
Today, it’s a lovely, quiet sleepy little place of 3500 people, 2 miles by 5 miles, although most people live in a one square mile area in the center of the island. Much of the island is taken up by rainforest and there are only 14 miles or so of roads, most narrow and many in poor condition. The climate is mild. Incomes are low and prices are high, especially for gas.
Given all that, you’d expect this would be a pedestrian paradise, with paths dominated by walkers, bicycles, scooters and the occasional golf cart. But it’s not. It’s absolutely full of cars. And not just any cars. BMWs. SUVs. Four wheel drive extended cab pick-ups. Even a muscle car or two.
No one walks, except tourists, and people stop and try to convince them to accept a ride back to town. I saw a couple get in a vehicle and drive from my hotel to a nearby restaurant in the same time it took me to walk it. Statians simply love cars and they will have them. Whether they need them or not.
People in Statia, and America, and China, and everywhere else, want the things that an energy intensive economy provides. Cars, climate control, leisure time, affordable organic foods and out of season fruits, big screen TVs, international travel. (Or if you live in Japan, electric toilets.)
Yes, we can combat global warming through conservation and changing the mix of fuels we use, but that’s fiddling around the edges. Carbon taxes would end up being a rort, with cheating and a corrupt secondary market. To really make progress it would be necessary to cut back on global consumption. That’s not going to happen. Sure, people will make token changes, like putting plastic bottles in a different trash container, but they simply will not make the degree of lifestyle change necessary to address the problem.
Some problems, like CFCs and water pollution, might be tractable. A problem that requires a fundamental change in human nature is not. It’s not about rational arguments. In a rational world, Coloradans would be lining up to turn in their guns, but instead they’re arguing they need more.
If Statians won’t give up their cars, good luck getting those yahoos in Houston to give up central air.