[话语]环境问题-技术难关还是社会问题 Human Nature, the Major Barrier of Solving Environmental Problems

Nowadays, environmental problems become more and more serious. While numerous regional and even international environmental conferences were held, the process of saving and protecting the environment doesn’t gain much progress. Does solving environmental problems face more than merely technical barriers.

在开学初的时候读了Philip Wylie的《The End of Dream》,这本书写于1971(Wylie去世前才写好)。当时正是美国环境污染最为严重的时候,Wylie通过科幻小说的形式描述从七十年代开始美国各地爆发了各种严重的环境问题,但是没有引起足够的重视,一步一步的走向了灭亡。
At the beginning of this semester, I read Philip Wylie’s The End of The Dream. It was written in 1971 just before Wylie died. It was when environmental pollution was at the most severe stage. The End of The Dream, as a science fiction, described the environmental catastrophe which finally eliminate the entire human species.

Even though my environment class focuses on the possibility of those tragic events happened in the book, I was deeply impressed by how human beings reacted and how they chose under tragic events. In this book, there was no Hollywood-style hero and no brave and inspiring government. There was only rational human behaviors under extreme conditions. As the book started with the end of the story, readers clearly saw how human species walked toward extinction step by step. This book, instead of hoping to inspire people to protect and save the environment, was moaning for the unexcused human nature. The author just wanted to show how human society’s inability when facing catastrophe.

书中有一幕讲到有一年核电站出现了重大事故,核废料造成了巨大的土壤水源污染。那个时候,万众一心,民众公投关闭大部分核电站,可是不到三天,因为核电站的关闭,电力大量缺失,人们又开始公投重开核电站。看到这里,第一反应是悲哀这些人的短视。可是再一想,如果在现实生活中,发生这样的事情,很可能民众还会做出同样的反应。让无数人放弃现在的生存权力而去追寻虚无缥缈的下一代或者人类未来的生存权,这根本不可能。人,只能活在当下,对于自身生存的渴望在本质上就否定了对于未来的前瞻性,因为一切都必须以现代人的利益基础为先。而Wylie也借此提出了他的”无力回天的时间点(The Point of No Return),他假定在人类的发展过程中有一个点,当过了这个时间点,一切人类社会所作出的努力都将阻止不了人类的灭亡。另外他认为只有在一些问题引发灾难之后,人类才能意识到这些问题的严重性。这说的是前面所说的人类的短视性了。从人类本性出发,否定当代的生存权而去争取将来人类的生存权,这似乎就像两队人在竞争一样,就算会有一些人会做出牺牲,但是人类社会的群体性使得本质上少数人的意志不被重视,也可以说成是某种形式上的多数人的暴政。(这一点,在我读了Hardin的《The Tragedy of The Commons最有感触,将来的文章中再作细述)
In the book, once the nuclear radioactive waste polluted vast areas of land and water. At that time, citizens seemed to solidify their resolution to save the environment and thus voted to shut down the nuclear plants. However, only three day after the nuclear plants were shut down, due to the lack of electricity, citizens voted again for reopening those nuclear plants. My first reaction was moaning for these people’s short-sighted view. Then I thought that in the real world, this kind of behavior is actually quite rational. What these people care is not environment but their own interest instead. When their life were threatened by radioactive waste, they wanted to shut down the plants; when their life were deeply interrupted by the lack of electricity, they wanted to reopen these plants. It is impossible for people to give up their right of living for the sake of future generations. People can only live in present. Their desires for living innately deny the possibility of having real long-sighted view. Based on that, Wylie came up with his idea of “The point of no return”. First, it means that there is a certain point in our human history which if we passed, we would never save the environment. Also he pointed out that only after those catastrophes happened, did they know the severe outcome of the catastrophe. It is the tyranny of the commons.

环境问题,不仅仅面临着挑战人类本性的难关,也面临着要挑战现有几乎所有的政治和经济制度的难关。有关这一点,书中最惊人,最可怕也是最合乎情理的一幕—纽约城的毁灭(The Holocaust of New York)。在1982年(书中)的纽约,已经是毒气横行,快到了崩溃的边缘。在那一年的感恩节,也就是美国传统的购物黄金日。为了拯救“快要崩溃的经济”,为了促进消费使郊区的工厂重新工作,纽约的市长和几个工业巨头以及美国军方在那一天解除了车辆进城限令。无数的车辆涌入第五大道,加重的毒气的传播,整一个纽约一夜之间变成了人间炼狱。 虽然说这一幕太过于极端,但是其背后所体现的规律就是在现在的人类社会,经济利益和国家利益始终是放在首位的。这不是讽刺,却是一种人类现实,是人类社会发展的根本。(当然也有学派争论,这种社会形态实质上是以资本主义私有制为基础的一种必然发展规律,要究其根本,就必须追溯着私有制的根本)
To solve environmental problems not only faced the challenge of human nature but also need to challenge nearly all political and economical systems in modern society, About this point, the most terrifying and the most extreme event is the holocaust of New York in the book in 1982. It is the time of thanksgiving and the time of shopping normally. However, at that time, even though poisonous gases already threatened the environmental condition of New York. In order ti save the economy and boost the production of factories, the Mayor and several major industrial company leaders along with US army decided to free the restriction on incoming cars. Numerous cars flow in the city and escalated the circulation of poisonous gases. New York became a city of death. Even though this scene may seem too extreme, the rule behind this event is rational. This is a reality of nowadays political and economical system. (Even though some argued that it is because of rule of private property)

I felt deeply hopeless after reading this book. Instead of worrying about the severeness of environmental problems, I was more impressed by the social and human nature barrier of loving environmental problems. Thus, I can only rest my hope on the technology advance which may be an opportunity to save the human species.
By Zhuofan Tang