2008 – Most Philosophical Student in America:
Meghan Nelson, Alexandria, Virginia.
Is global warming the greatest challenge facing humankind?
Global warming, if we continue in our usual passive ways, will eventually overwhelm the precious environment, destroying our civilization in a number of theoretical ways, whether it be by drought, starvation, destruction due to natural disasters, or possibilities not even determined yet by science. This still is not humanity’s greatest challenge. It is not global warming which will be the ultimate undoing of mankind, but our alarming lethargy and passiveness to take a stand against it.
Humanity has always thrived on the thrill, and the dire necessity, of survival; it is programmed in our DNA, imprinted in our genealogies. When one tribe or entire society faces another due to standard conflicts there is always a victor. This dialectical process with nations clashing has been repeated for centuries between civilizations, for political reasons such as in the Civil War between Pompey and Julius Caesar in 49 to 45 B.C., for religious reasons as in the Crusades during the 12th-13th centuries, for territorial as in the Mongol Conquests in the 13th century, to a mixture of all these different reasons as seen today in the Iraq War. When fighting for a cause and against an enemy it is possible to succeed. The sum of all the victories has created the world of men that we live in, showing, of course, that victory is the only way of progressing, and defeat is the easiest way of disappearing.
Due to our newly forged connections with technology in all forms, cars, televisions, computers, people in Western culture (incidentally those who produce the most pollution) have become disconnected with nature. The world has increasingly lost its passion for the environment and with it an increasing alienation and lack of interest in the preservation of the Earth. In previous battles it was easy to mobilize against a known threat, when the enemy was clear. Now, however, global warming is not a soldier from across enemy lines that can be stared straight into the eyes, but simply a general term to envelop so many complex factors attacking the environment, its causes still disputed today. With so many different reasons for global warming, and a general lack of understanding by the public, humanity has lost its natural courageous spirit and bravery to fight against it.
Still, humanity has proven to be remarkably resilient in the past, on the small scale such as being able to overcome complete losses of home due to hurricanes or forest fires, to a large scale such as being plagued by diseases. If there were an organized effort, global warming can be avoided or to deal with, with minimal consequences. Global warming is simply a side effect, the enemy is us, and we must overcome our apathy. This formidable lethargy, from not only being isolated from the environment but also not working to pinpoint and correct the major causes of global warming, will cause humankind to continue on its path to disappear.
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