Are Humans Too Stupid to Save the Planet?

James Lovelock recently published an article asserting that humans are too stupid to reverse global warming. Whether or not you agree with his assessment, stupidity, it may be argued, is an inherited condition. In that sense, it's forgiveable, if unfortunate. But when a smart guy like Barack Obama does idiotic things like opening up America's coastline for years of oil drilling, it's a conscious choice that forces us all to act as co-conspirators in a bad decision for our future.


Two questions come to mind. First, why is Obama adopting the Sarah Palin "drill, baby drill" dominionist view that humans can and should exploit every last resource on earth? And second, assuming his plan comes to fruition (a plan second in short-sightedness only to his nuclear power fantasies), what will it mean in real terms?

First, the why: Despite the continuing nonsense and racism from the far right, Obama is neither a socialist nor a communist, not fascist nor leftist. If we must label him with a word with "ist" as a suffix, his policy record could probably be best described as an unwavering corporatist, with close ties (like most in Congress) to multinational business. Hope-laden rhetoric aside, his policies rarely waver from the playbook written by lobbyists from big banks, big pharma, big insurance and (in this case) big oil.

Second, estimates suggest that the oil and natural gas available in the coastal regions Obama wants to open up will provide the BTUs to fuel our economy for two or three years, tops. That sounds to me like a golden parachute for oil barons, not a life raft for average Americans--and at what long-term damage to fragile ocean ecosystems?

“Drilling our coasts will doing nothing to lower gas prices or create energy independence,” Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said in a statement. It will only jeopardize beaches, marine life, and coastal tourist economies, all so the oil industry can make a short-term profit.”--NYT

Even more egregious than Obama's decision to open up drilling in sensitive ocean areas, however, is his misdirected view of what America's "clean" energy portfolio should look like. In Obama's corporatist world view, our future lies in biofuels (starving the world to feed automobiles), nuclear energy and non-existent clean coal technology. But in the view of many eminent scientists, much better, less destructive technologies--combined with conservation can take us where we need to go.
Where is the vision and leadership we need to make the transition from technologies of the 1950s to technologies of the future? If a hope-monger like Barack Obama can't see the light, maybe Lovelock is right. Maybe we're just stupid enough to keep fiddling while Rome burns.