Perhaps innocuous, climate conference represents rise of planetary intelligence – Sidereal Messenger


It starts this Sunday (31), in Glasgow, another UN climate conference. The ambition is for COP26 to bring more commitments from countries to contain climate change. The expectation, in turn, is that the results fall short of what is necessary. But, taking a step back, perhaps it represents part of a transformative geological event in Earth’s history: the rise of planetary intelligence.

It is a concept espoused by David Grinspoon, a researcher at the University of Colorado. In these times of civilizing depression, I found some comfort in the idea that the so-called Anthropocene, rather than a great global tragedy, might be the beginning of something spectacular.

Anthropocene is the name given to the geological epoch in which humans became capable of interfering in the course and destiny of their planet. It may sound a bit arrogant, but that’s not even new to Earth’s history. Grinspoon reminds us that there are antecedents of creatures that have had a devastating impact. Some 2.5 billion years ago, cyanobacteria took over the oceans and filled the atmosphere with a gas then toxic to most life forms: oxygen. Mass extinction and devastation from living creatures, therefore, is nothing new.

The exclusivity of humans is the way in which we are devastating the planet, driven by our disorderly occupation supported by technological interventions, that is, by intelligence. But, see, it’s half-assed intelligence. To date, it has brought good local solutions, but they produce inadvertent and catastrophic global effects. Converting an area of ​​forest for agriculture or burning oil for locomotion are good local technological solutions. But they contract a global disgrace, if applied on a large scale – as we are doing.

Grinspoon wonders whether, from the standpoint of possible advanced civilizations out there, this technological acumen of ours would represent real intelligence. And then he lists what would be the next stage: such planetary intelligence – the ability to use our transforming technological power to combine global and local solutions, preserving and protecting us, like the biosphere, in the long term.

This requires strong international cooperation, which, as we are seeing, is not easy. Grinspoon has no illusions about the immediate horizon. For him, climate change is already a reality and will still entail enormous suffering, in addition to taking future generations to ask themselves how we were so lethargic, with decades of warning. But at events like the COP, we see that attitude change, although slow, is “under way”. The 21st century will not be potato chips, but there will be a 22nd century, and in it perhaps intelligence has already taken hold on Earth as a planetary phenomenon — and possibly the most benign force the world has ever known. Despite our missteps, there is still hope for humanity.

This column is published on Mondays in Folha Corrida.

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