Monday, February 13, 2006

Natural and Unnatural Man

Why? Jonathan David Carson asks
Why is it tragic when human activities bring about the extinction of a single species, but natural, that is, benign, when scores of millions of species become extinct in the ordinary course of nature? How can the same result be evil when caused by man and good when caused by Mother Nature? A forest fire started by a discarded cigarette butt does not burn any hotter than a forest fire started by lightning. More than ninety-nine percent of all the species that have ever lived are extinct, extinguished by Mother Nature. If we extinguish a species, we extinguish perhaps one hundred-thousandth of one percent of the remnant, perhaps one millionth of one percent. We are dismayed by the human extinction of one species. Why are we indifferent to destruction ten million or a hundred million times greater? Why should human-induced global warming or cooling be a catastrophe when the earth has been warmed and cooled far more without us? According to the January 2000 issue of Scientific American, as “many as four times between 750 million and 580 million years ago…ice as much as a kilometer thick engulfed the earth. Glaciers scoured the nearly lifeless continents, and sea ice encapsulated the oceans—even in the tropics.” Each of these mega ice ages was followed by a “brutal episode of warming,” with a “runaway greenhouse effect….baking the planet.” A man-made episode of global cooling that engulfed the earth with ice a meter thick would be a disaster. Why is a kilometer thick sheet of ice not one?

No comments: