Sunday, 7 September 2008

A Theory of Apparent Opposites: Moving from an inconvenient truth to a convenient solution

One of the greatest things about nature is the ability of “apparent opposites” to work together in resolving problems and creating great things. Perhaps one of the greatest examples of all is the sexual union by male and female organisms in the reproduction of species. But one can also look at the Sun and water in contributing to the photosynthesis process (“apparent opposites” as water puts out fire). Recently, medical researchers found evidence that eating transgenic tobacco prevents cervical cancer (most people would associate tobacco to being a cause of cancer!). Human reason and dialogue enables conflicting and opposite interests to be resolved peacefully. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. In a world full of dilemmas, we could perhaps modify the physics tenet to “for every action there is an opposite yet compatible reaction.”

Issues surrounding environmental preservation and sustainability have come under great scrutiny in the past decade. Oil products (and its derivatives) are arguably one of the main culprits in environmental degradation. The reality of the matter is that our consumption patterns are damaging our natural environment – a damage that could potentially be irreversible. That it is an inconvenient truth cannot be disputed. What we can do, however, is to turn the inconvenient truth into a convenient solution.

In the legendary film Armagedon, the President of the United States passionately articulated our ability to engineer our common courage in resolving problems that are common to people all over the world:

“I address you tonight, not as the President of the United States, not as the leader of a country, but as a citizen of humanity. We are faced with the very gravest of challenges. The Bible calls this day Armagedon: the end of all things. And yet, for the first time in the history of the planet, a species has the technology to prevent its own extinction. All of you praying with us need to know, that everything that can be done to prevent this disaster is being called into service. The human thirst for excellence and knowledge, every step up the ladder of science, every adventurous reach into space, all our combined modern technologies and imaginations, even the wars that we fought have provided us the tools to wage this terrible battle. Through all the chaos that is our history, through all of the wrongs and the discords, through all of the pain and suffering, through all of our times, there is one thing that has nourished our souls and elevated our species above its origins, and that is our COURAGE.”

The underlying theme in the film is quite powerful. Workers from an oil rig are called upon to save the planet that is about to be bombarded by a number of meteors, wiping our species from the face of the Earth. The fact that the “heroes” are from the oil industry is ironic because it is they that will essentially prevent the natural catastrophe from occurring (the oil industry preventing natural damage. hold on. what?). And this brings us to the environment. Global warming and environmental degradation caused by human activities are arguably natural catastrophes waiting to happen. The author of this blog has enthusiastically spilled an extensive amount of electronic ink on the recent oil discoveries in Brazil. But the author is also aware that oil products do harm the environment. We must therefore combine our modern technologies and imaginations and go further up the ladder of science to ensure that the “apparent opposites” – oil products and the environment – can work together in providing a platform of sustainable co-existence. Our dependence on oil will not, realistically, be replaced by biofuels any time soon. Thus we must adapt our technology in order to prevent irreversible damage to our environment, and thus ultimately, to our very own well-being. Arguably, the convenient solution is under construction. Governments around the world are addressing environmental issues like never before. Even oil companies are working hard to improve their technology and reduce externalities.

Human beings only tend to react en masse in a state of emergency. A state of emergency is primarily the work of psychological stimuli. The convenient solution to the global inconvenient truth therefore begins with a change of mindset. We are now faced with the gravest of challenges of this century. It is time that “everything that can be done to prevent this disaster is called into service.”

To see the Armagedon clip, please click here.

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