The Leonardo DiCaprio Case – Global warming, leadership and leaders

Global warming, leadership, and leaders

Probably all of us have heard about global warming. Some may be more concerned about it than others. We, The Meaning of Life Team, are alarmed. Global warming and other related environmental issues can threaten humanity’s future and potential, and without such future and potential, we may lose the meaning of our life, the purpose of the life of humanity.

If you don’t believe that global warming is a major or the major challenge for humanity (in spite of all the laboratory evidence, Earth-wide gauges, and already-serious consequences), then this post is not for you. Still, this post is not about global warming itself, but few of the difficulties of managing it or its consequences.

Global warming is (what a surprise) a worldwide phenomenon. All of us, all the 7+ billion human beings contribute to it with our carbon footprints. Consequently, the solution(s) (any solution) must be global as well. No individual act can prevent or mitigate a problem of such magnitude. Any global solution, even, e.g., a global movement of individual people reducing their personal carbon use, must be initiated or co-ordinated somehow by someone(s). So the role of the leaders (any leader’s) is crucial for these most wanted and most hoped-for developments.

There are various types of leaders. The most obvious and visible ones are political leaders, authorized to act on our behalf. Business leaders are also directly making decisions sometimes affecting the lives of millions. Religious leaders may just influence, not command their followers, but their power is undeniable. Hollywood stars, especially the rich and famous ones, visit us daily in our home as role models through the television, tabloids and the net.

Leonardo DiCaprio is one of these leaders, a celebrity, and a paradigm for many people. He is also a UN Messenger of Peace with a special focus on climate change designated by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2014. So his leadership doesn’t come with decision-making power, but his influence far exceeds his symbolic role.

His actual contribution to this symbolic level was adequate. His movie “Before the Flood” was well receipted, met the expectations of professional climate researchers, environmental activists, and the general public. It is difficult to judge a case of an actor and a movie, but many think that he is honestly concerned about climate change and he expressed his own sincere opinion regarding the required actions.

Especially because of this perceived honestly, it was a bitter disappointment to learn that he regularly takes private jets, even for a trip to accept an environmental award. He did that in spite of his statements in the movie and his evident knowledge of the carbon footprint of such private jets. Furthermore, he did those in spite of the apparent risk of potentially damaging his own reputation, one of his (an actor’s) most valuable assets. Even after the scandal he couldn’t stand in front of us and say that he was sorry and it won’t happen again.

We are not here to condemn him; we are here to understand the incident, and its causes and implications. There are other well-known examples of leaders not just neglecting climate problems, but actively disrupting vital safeguards of the natural environment and diminishing international cooperations for solutions. (yes, he is the man) So this phenomenon, leadership problems regarding environmental issues, is relevant, and worth looking at it.

The reasons behind Leonardo’s actions were probably as follows: convenience, sheer habits, self-esteem, display of status symbols, peer pressure & comparison, expectations of friends & relatives and privacy issues. If you were such a big star, you would also appreciate some peaceful hours on a private plane without other passengers to approaching you all the time for an autograph. Understanding breeds empathy.

However, in spite of all our understanding and empathy, such behavior is harmful in more than one level:

  • Private jets do have huge environmental footprints. It is not by accident that experts recommend public transport.
  • Bad example 1. “OK, I cannot have a private jet (yet), but at least I will travel first class, by limousine and I will go on a hunting trip to Africa.”
  • Bad example 1. “if he, the Messenger of Peace with climate change focus can do such things, and can slip through the net, I can do anything!”

In the long term, the environmental situation gets worse, so we cannot afford such mistakes and behavior indefinitely. Ultimately climate disasters can change their minds, but can we afford to wait until the last minute?

So first, sooner better than later we must persuade these leaders somehow to act more responsibly. Yes, we must convince Leonardo Di Caprio to give up private jets. The real question is how do you do it? How can you make them give up something from their status symbols or comfort? They get used to situations when they persuade or force others. How can you influence, teach or force those, who get used to influencing millions, showing an example to many and (in case of politicians) having the force of the very state behind them? How can you even reach them in their private jets and behind their walls and bodyguards?

There is a simple answer: not easily. But we have to try because the prize is great: their decisions affect our and our children’s future, they influence the behavior of millions.

You cannot force the rich and powerful to act properly because they have more power than you have. You have to be more clever, diligent and persistent. They are just humans after all, fundamentally similar to you.

First of all: don’t try to do it alone. Our power is our number. They are a few; we are many. They do depend on us, on several people to get their wealth, to gain popularity and to have security. We provide these to them.

There are many possible ideas/methods. For example, you can:

  • Initiate a movement. Try to reach and recruit similar-minded people. Be a leader yourself; it will give you initial leverage.
  • Use the results of the science of persuasion and psychology. You know, just humans, they are…
  • Go gradually, step by step, through many intermediaries. Don’t try to hunt down the lion first, try to catch smaller fishes at the beginning. Build step-stones, gather your strength.
  • Collect ideas from many people. Some of your newly acquired comrades may have a brilliant idea.
  • Think long term. You don’t have to come up with a solution tomorrow. The environment problem will stay with us for a while…

Or you can just join us. We are already working on the problem.

 

The Meaning of Life Team

Can cryptocurrency have such an effect?

Bitcoin and crypto-currencies

According to a recent article on Resilience Bitcoin and crypto-currencies (through their creation, mining) may actually have a material effect on our future (through energy usage and climate change).

Bitcoin Could Cost Us Our Clean-Energy Future

Or is it just a recent clickbait article, cleverly mixing fashionable topics, such as environment and bitcoin?

When will the bitcoin mania end?
What do you think?

Meaning of Life Team

 

Mortal Dangers Ahead?

Mortal Dangers

In his latest paper in the International Journal of Astrobiology Daniel P. Whitmire, PhD., teacher at the Faculty of Mathematical Sciences of the University of Arkansas found (taking our current state and the Principle of Mediocrity into consideration) that we have high chances to go extinct relatively soon. Needless to say that extinction would be a telling argument against any meaning of our existence. Is the situation really so grave? We can not afford to look away from such a risk, so we shall come back to this topic as soon as possible.

The original article: Implication of our technological species being first and early

Meaning of Life Team

Did The Human Genus Occur By Chance?

Human Genus

It’s long been assumed that the human genus originated during a significant climate change event in Africa. According to this hypothesis an ice age occurred between 2.8 and 2.5 million years ago which coincided with a pulse or cluster of diverse new species, including Homo. These pulses may be seen in the African fossil records.

It’s a theory partly made popular because of its grand theater. It highlights a dramatic story of humans having evolved into a sophisticated species with huge brains under extreme pressure. It sounds heroic to become a clever enough survival in a few hundred thousand years after the onset of a catastrophic ice age. A great origin story worthy of our intellect.

Now Andrew Barr from the George Washington University (Signal or noise: significance of turnover pulses) has published a study which refutes the ice age theory. Instead it claims that simple random factors other than environmental shifts are likely to have caused these pulses.

W. Andrew Barr’s paper declares that the underlying cause of these pulses may be down to just chance. To prove it, he ran a series of computer simulations to model how the African fossil record might look without factoring in climate change. The results showed species clusters of a similar size to the real African fossil record. While it is true scientists can’t agree on what defines a cluster, Barr’s paper implies that species origination is more random than once believed. In other words, Homo, the most intelligent of species, may have come about from pure luck. A simple roll of the cosmic dice.

At first glance, it looks like our collective human ego has been dealt a massive blow. Barr believes his findings must prompt us to look for causes other than climate change for human evolution. He adds that our larger brains and technological prowess could have evolved for any number of prosaic reasons.

For those searching for meaning in life, Barr’s randomness of evolution may strike a deep disappointment in our hearts. It seems like our heroic backstory has been stripped away, leaving nothing but a primordial soup of arbitrary numbers.

This randomness of life’s origins suggests that we as high functioning individuals have no control over our own fate. However noble the vision of our destinies, we might as well wander aimlessly through our lives, subject to the vagaries of chance.

How does that alter our perception of life’s meaning? Moreover if all organisms are created by chance, what does this mean to be human? How does this shape our ego? If all species originate from random fluctuations over the course of time, then that makes us no better than amoebae. Our first thoughts might be that this is rather depressing for humankind. It’s far easier to have purpose to our lives when we believe we were shaped by an extreme external forces providing us a favourable (we, the clever-enoughs to survive) framework for our existence.

Science relentlessly seems to strip away the purpose in our lives, declaring we’re not as important in the scheme of things as we believe. Galileo risked inquisition from the Church by suggesting the Earth revolved around the Sun, implying Man was not the center of the Universe. Darwin theorized that all species evolve by natural selection and are not designed from scratch by some celestial being. From parallel multiverses to quantum mechanics, our sense of order and how we shape our destiny has been knocked time after time. Science has shown us to be tiny and inconsequential against the vast backdrop of space and time. With this latest paper, has Andrew Barr just thrown another pebble at the hubris of mankind?

However, before we get too disconsolate, we shall step back to have an overall picture.

First of all, we shall realize that randomness is integral to the fabric of life and universe. It’s been with us since the Big Bang and will exist to the universe’s last dying whisper. The molecules of a gas move around randomly, a process called Brownian motion. Volcanoes erupt through sudden shifts in the Earth’s tectonic plates, spewing destruction. An abrupt shift in temperature can trigger avalanches. Sunspot activity occurs at random resulting in magnetic storms affecting the Earth’s weather. Stars form and collapse into black holes, sucking other stars into oblivion. These are events are beyond our control, caused by forces of nature arbitrary and spontaneous from our point of view. They existed long before humans walked the earth and will continue long after.

Consequently Barr’s study didn’t uncover a new layer of randomness in life’s origins; it only shines a brighter light on the existing ones.

The real question we must ask is whether past randomness of our formation is a decisive factor of our meaning of lives. Is our past or our future is more important for us?

The answer depends on your personal views and preferences. One may think that the past, such as our ancestors and where we are coming from is more important than what we will do in the future. I don’t share this view. You cannot change the past, but you can define yourself and make your own decisions in the future.

Randomness might pervade all mechanisms of Nature, but it may not prevent us from forging a path toward our selected destiny. This chance is obviously depends on the existence of our free will, so further research is more than justified. But if we can meet this “minor” precondition, we can look for meaning outside the past whims of Nature.

Such future realization of the meaning of life is uncertain in almost all respect at best. We are all mortals, so our personal “futures” are limited. Even humanity’s existence in threatened by internal and external dangers. Individuals, whole groups and even entire societies have grossly different views on what is a worthy meaning of life. Nevertheless, we all, individually or together must look inside ourselves for a meaning of life. Raising a family, having a successful career, or travelling the world? Why not? Accomplishing our dreams during a finite lifespan of an individual or a hopefully very long existence of humanity may be the best we can hope for in a random world.

The Meaning Of Life Team

Citation

(Barr, W. (2017). Signal or noise? A null model method for evaluating the significance of turnover pulses. Paleobiology, 1-11. doi:10.1017/pab.2017.21 10.1017/pab.2017.21)

Oxigen loss – long term consequences

Oxigen loss – long term consequences

Global WarmingWarming oceans may have long-term effects on our own future potential as recent and historical processes show.

The current decline in the oxygen level of the oceans resulting from global warming is not just alarming in itself. The subsequent reduction of the biomass in the oceans may also easily result in a significant nutrient gap, and the slow recovery of the nutrition was exactly the factor behind the very slow recovery of the ocean’s biodiversity during the worst known mass extinction 250 million years ago.

Why is it relevant to the meanings of life? Because we can permanently harm our long-term potential to survive and develop. Global warming is not just a temporary problem or something we can remedy in a mere few thousands year. We may destroy our capability to reach our aims and fulfill our hopes as a race – the very opposite of the meaning of our life.

Causes behind the slow recovery after the worst mass extinction

The Arctic gives clues on the worst mass extinction of life

 

Similar processes today

Environmental science: Oceans lose oxygen

 

After posting, related article:

Jurassic drop in ocean oxygen lasted a million years