A set of questions tends to circle around human-caused global warming and climate change. Will it be bad for us? Won’t it be good for anything?
There is a nuanced answer about how global warming will be good for us collectively, although not individually. Global warming will be bad for the environment and bad for many segments of the economy. Far too many individual humans will suffer and die as a result of it.
But humanity has to grow to embrace and balance the environment with the economy. This is a step, an unfortunate one, on our path to greater maturity of global governance, international cooperation, and sustainable development.
There is going to be more pain before there is less due to this global issue.
But it is driving global cooperation and innovation in regulation, policy, generation of electricity, transportation, farming, and innumerable sub-fields of science and technology. It is inspiring art. It is helping shape the next generation of global leaders, who will consider it as part of their daily efforts.
As an analogy that is pertinent to the moment, no one credibly can deny that the USA has an ugly upwelling of racist white supremacy right now. As I write this, Heather Heyer’s friends and family are barely beginning the cycle of grief after her murder by a white supremacist in Charlottesville, Virginia, this past weekend. From Canada, I’m looking south in horror at neo-Nazis, Klu Klux Klan members, and the young white supremacists with their polo shirts and tiki torches marching, attacking people, and spouting inflammatory hate while police stand by. I’m watching many on the right claiming against all evidence that the anti-fascist protestors are actually the ones in the wrong, even after a white supremacist allegedly drove his car intentionally into a crowd opposed to the fascists marching, killing Heyer.
Some of that is due to President Obama.
Hear me out.
He was elected to become the 44th President of the USA. He was elected on a platform of hope. He was elected by young and old, black and white, gay and straight. And he was black.
Just by being black and a presidential candidate, then president, he became a lightning rod for the worst aspects of white racism in the USA. He drew that to himself, not because that was his intent or through his words or actions, but because white racists are triggered by people who aren’t white men assuming positions of power.
And so the paroxysms that the USA is undergoing right now, the ugly underbelly that Donald Trump exploited and rode to the Oval Office, would likely have been expressed differently and to a lesser degree if Barack Obama had not been President.
But this is, in my opinion, a brief upwelling of vitriol, a necessary lancing of the racism underlying the USA’s society. It’s hand-in-hand with the removal of symbols of historic racism in the American South as society there comes to grips with the reality that monuments of racists built to continue racist intimidation are no longer acceptable.
The USA will be better for this. It will become a saner place. A more equal place. A more mature country. But first it has to go through this very public pain and humiliation.
In a smaller way, this is analogous to the growth we need to achieve as humanity around global warming. We would have been better for starting to deal with it more aggressively much earlier. The humans who will see their lives and dreams cut short or diminished will not gain solace from this. But humanity will become better for dealing with climate change.