Guest essay by Eric Worrall
According to the Huffington Post author and historian Evaggelos Vallianatos, climate wisdom ended when the rise of technology displaced Renaissance appreciation of the Greek Gods.
Global Warming Is a Slow-moving Civilization-ending Catastrophe
12/26/2017 02:38 pm ET
Evaggelos Vallianatos, Contributor
Historian and environmental strategist
Ancient Greeks worshipped the Earth. In the fourth century BCE, Plato’s cosmological dialogue, Timaeus, left us a picture of a mathematical, rational, and beautiful cosmos, including a spherical Earth, “the maker of day and night and the first and oldest of the gods.”
However, eight hundred years after Plato, the world changed dramatically. With the support of Roman emperors, Christianity triumphed over the many gods of the Greeks. It denounced Plato and nearly destroyed Greek civilization.
After nearly a millennium of darkness, Europeans put a break on Christianity, which gave birth to the Renaissance. This meant scholars rediscovered Plato’s vision of the heavens and Greek learning.
The Renaissance brought our modern world. Unfortunately, modernity sidelined Greek wisdom for narrow technical achievements like burning fossil fuels (petroleum, coal and natural gas) for energy. In fact, in the twentieth century, “civilized” Europeans and Americans fought WWII with unimagined savagery that culminated in the development and use of nuclear weapons.
The savage thinking that legitimized nukes also legitimizes the burning of fossil fuels. In both cases, human hubris triumphed.
The federal government is now hiding the risks of global warming. Indeed, it is resurrecting the “1984” terror world of George Orwell. The Trump administration “sees burning more fossil fuels as the path to global energy dominance.” This kind of thinking and policy defies reason and national security. It delays actions against fossil fuels. It fails promoting life-saving conversion to solar power and other technologies that might minimize the violence of global warming.
How are Americans reacting to this macabre reality? Unfortunately, not as they should. After all, they elected Trump. Fact has been drowned by the fiction of the Trump administration, the industry and its media. But not everything is lost.
Why are they not leaving fossil fuels in the ground? Don’t they love their grandchildren?
The Renaissance was in many ways a flowering of Western civilisation, but it was also an age of early death, near constant warfare, slavery, disease and brutish poverty. A good time to live if you were a member of the elite, with the idle wealth and leisure time to explore the wonder and beauty of newly rediscovered Greek culture – at least until you got sick. Not so good if you were one of the far more numerous menials or slaves, who mostly lived their short miserable lives hoping for a painless death.
A transition time, so much better than what came before, but so much worse than what most of us have now.
This romantic worship of pre-technological “goodness”, an imaginary golden age before we spoiled the Earth with progress, in my opinion is endemic in the green movement. Many of them would roll back progress and modernity if they could.
In my experience, the people who imagine returning to an idyllic peasant lifestyle living off the bounty of the Earth are mostly people who haven’t tried it for themselves.
Growing a few weeds in the back yard is not the same as trying to feed your hungry family from a small patch of farm, without the benefits of modern farm equipment, fertiliser and pesticides. Working the land with hand tools on any kind of scale is hard work, a constant back breaking contest against weather, weeds and pests. Fall sick a few weeks, injure yourself, or simply suffer a little bad luck, and all your hard work is for nothing.
Update (EW): Clyde points out that providing people survived infant mortality, military service or the dangers of giving birth, people in the Renaissance lived to a similar age to today.