In a recently published book, the myth of Apollo and Daphne (as in Ovid's Metamorphoses) is used as a metaphor for the mix of fear and panic that is intrinsic to change in human society: fear of leaving behind a past that has no future, panic of the price to be paid for a future that is uncertain and beyond the point of no return. This book provides, among other things, scholarly analyses of "deep gender balance" and how it relates to the unavoidable need to attain ecological balance and, specifically, energy balance. For a more detailed book review, see Section 9 in Supplement 5.
Current Status of the Climate Change Issue
There is mounting evidence that human activity, and excessive consumption subsidized by relatively cheap fossil fuels, is generating an
increasingly increasing volume of greenhouse gases. This pollution is bound to induce global warming, which in turn is bound to induce climate changes with potentially adverse consequences for humanity. There is no such thing as absolute certainty about the future, and this is also true for projections based on scientific research. However, as evidence that climate change is anthropogenic continues to accumulate, it would seem wise to keep in mind the precautionary principle. As early as 1975, Wally Broecker wrote an article in Science that describes the current situation with breathtaking foresight:
"If man-made dust is unimportant as a major cause of climatic change, then a strong case can be made that the present cooling trend will, within a decade or so, give way to a pronounced warming induced by carbon dioxide. By analogy with similar events in the past, the natural climatic cooling which, since 1940, has more than compensated for the carbon dioxide effect, will soon bottom out. Once this happens, the exponential rise in the atmospheric carbon dioxide content will tend to become a significant factor and by early in the next century will have driven the mean planetary temperature beyond the limits experienced during the last 1000 years."
The precautionary principle allows for freedom in human affairs, albeit freedom tempered by judgment; and ecological ethics require that those who are consuming and polluting the most may have to slow down and allow those who are consuming and polluting the least to attain a higher standard of living. Conversely, the developing nations also must exercise judgment and avoid excessive consumption that is not sustainable as world population continues to increase (we already have 7 billion neighbors). In the complex and painful process of exercising such judicious freedom, a number of strategies have been proposed to deal with the threat of pollution-induced climate change. These strategies are basically of two kinds: mitigation and adaptation.
Mitigation Strategies for Climate Change
Mitigation strategies seek ways to reduce the ecological impact of human activity by doing more with less. There are many ways to support the effectiveness of such strategies, ranging from experience-based methods (native peoples are notable for doing things efficiently by imitating the ways of "mother nature") to industrial engineering and optimization techniques to increase output productivity (units of output per unit of input labor, energy, or materials) or, conversely, reduce input intensity (units of labor, energy, and materials per unit of output).
Some specific examples of mitigation strategies include designing energy efficient buildings, shortening supply chains to reduce transport related emissions, reducing leaks from power plants, changing cattle feed practices to reduce methane emissions, carbon capture and utilization, carbon offsets, CO2 sequestration, "clean" manufacturing, waste recycling, responsible use of industrial standards (e.g., ISO 9001, ISO 14001, and ISO 50001 for quality, environmental, and energy management systems, respectively), etc. For links to online information on these and other mitigation strategies, click here; for links to industrial standards, click here.
In general, the goal of mitigation strategies is not to exceed sustainable material and energy flows. The effectiveness of mitigation strategies should be evaluated against this absolute goal. Clearly, if resource productivities increase (or resource intensities decrease) but total resource consumption rates increase even more due to population growth, economic growth, or any other reason, mitigation actions alone will not do. Mitigation strategies will always be helpful, but they should not be used as "smoke screen" to avoid facing the fact that infinite material growth in a finite planet is a mathematical impossibility.
Adaptation Strategies for Climate Change
In the long term, attaining global energy balance and climate stability will require significant adaptation of human behavior in conjunction with radical economic reforms. For reasons already discussed in these pages, such behavioral adaptation and structural reforms are contingent on further progress toward gender balance and integral human development. All adaptation strategies entail one or more of the following:
- Giving up the fantasy of unlimited material growth in a physically limited planet.
- Conceding that "the market" is not an "invisible hand" that works for the common good.
- Overcoming the consumerist mentality and embracing the "economics of enough."
- Outgrowing the mentality of human control and domination of nature.
- Letting go of patriarchy (and machismo) in both religion and society.
- Renouncing all manner of violence in both religion and society.
- Pursuing human development (needs, capabilities) over superfluous material wealth.
- Making it a habit to take into account both self-interest and the common good.
- Fostering human rights, social solidarity, political subsidiarity, and ecological sustainability.
For links to adaptation strategies proposed by various groups and institutions, click here; for an integrated strategy currently being articulated for Mother Pelican, click here. It is hard to envision how any of these strategies can be implemented absent a radical renunciation of all manner of violence in both religion and society; it is even harder to envision how same strategies can be pursued as long as patriarchy prevails - thereby excluding 50% of the human population from contributing in all conceivable roles of responsibility and authority; and, it is utterly hard to envision any such adaptation happening as long as resource waste and environmental pollution prevail over ecological balance (energy balance in particular). For further understanding of the issues, the following recent titles are recommended:
Should Apollo become a Fountain?
- Ecological Ethics, Patrick Curry, Polity Press, 2011.
- Prosperity without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet, Tim Jackson, Earthscan, 2011.
- The End of growth: Adapting to Economic Reality, Richard Heinberg, New Society, 2011.
- Plato's Revenge: Politics in the Age of Ecology, William Ophuls, MIT Press, 2011.
- Wisdom, Consciousness, and the Future, Thomas Lombardo, Xlibris, 2011.
- Amrutha: [...] about the Law of Nature, John Wijngaards, Author House, 2011.
In the myth of Apollo and Daphne, she tries to run from him but eventually must become a tree to escape. The crucial message conveyed by Ovid's poem is that human nature is shattered because the original unity of man and woman is shattered. This is strikingly portrayed by Kate MacDowell in her hand-built porcelain Daphne, a photograph of which embellishes the book cover of Ecofeminism and Rhetoric. Another artistic rendition of the same myth is Gian Lorenzo Bernini's sculpture at the Galleria Borghese in Rome, Italy.
A reversal of the myth would be a better metaphor for the coming transition from domineering patriarchy to human solidarity and ecological sustainability. Restoring the unity between humanity and the human habitat cannot be attained by inducing 50% of the human population to escape domination at the price of becoming an erect but mute tree - which is, in fact, a phallic symbol! Perhaps it is time to see Apollo (a symbol of patriarchal domination) running from Daphne (a symbol of "mother nature") and becoming a symbolically female fountain - overflowing with milk and honey - to escape her long-repressed anger.
Building on this reversed metaphor, restoring humanity to the "original unity in diversity" by restoring the original unity of man and woman becomes the most appealing way going forward at this crucial point in human history. This restoration requires deeply internalized gender equity, equality, and balance along the entire gender continuum:
- It is more than just a matter of gender equity (equal opportunity, equal pay, etc.);
- It is more than just superficial gender equality (equal sharing of human nature and human dignity)
- It is more than just numerical gender balance (50-50 sharing in roles of responsibility and authority)
- Gender balance entails a deeply internalized renunciation of either radical masculinism or radical feminism in order to create a new culture in which both men and women can work together to attain human solidarity and ecological sustainability.
The intersection of gender balance and energy balance is proposed as a point of reference for climate change mitigation/adaptation strategies. Both gender and energy issues pertain to all dimensions of human activity. Both gender and energy issues are part of the problem, and both must be part of the solution. There are technological solutions for the energy dimension of ecological sustainability; but the roadmap toward gender balance has yet to be worked out. It follows that fostering gender balance ("deep gender balance") must emerge as a top priority.