The Sisyphean Struggle: Humanity Against Climate Change and Our Own Apathy

HST 207 – Science and Technology in World History

Mary Hill Young



Vast and catastrophic global climate change is no longer a possibility, but rather a probability. The choices that humanity makes in the next few years will not halt climate change, only mitigate or delay it. What techno-fixes are available to us will inevitably be used, not because doing so is the intelligent decision, but because humanity has clearly proven that it is incapable of preparing for, or even seeing, past its own generation. The most effective fix for climate change is not a technological one at all but a social one, a simple change of behavior. However, whether or not a delaying of the effects of climate change is possible it becomes a moot point in the face of humanity’s need for comfort and progress, and its inability to change past behavior patterns.

Global climate change has been affected already, and no techno-fix, however innovative, will halt it. With an ecosystem as large as the earth the only option we are presented with at this stage in the game is to attempt to mitigate the symptoms of the climate change as they appear. Though it is true that society will ameliorate the effects of climate change with a variety of techno and socio techno fixes, we must also consider the possibility that our very attempts to fix what is broken may be leading to greater disaster in the long run.

Based on the research presented by Professor Reidy in his work on Tyndall it is clear that there was research to support the negative effects of humanity on the environment as early as 1861 – confirming the existence of greenhouse gas in particular. “..He found that compound gases, such as carbon dioxide and water vapor, were relatively powerful absorbers of heat. The significance of this struck him immediately. In his paper to the Royal Society of London He announced in astonishingly prescient terms, that any change to the constitution of the atmosphere “ would produce great effects on the terrestrial rays and produce corresponding changes of climate.”” (Reidy, The Strange Deaths, Varied Lives and Ultimate Ressurection of Professor Tyndall, 13) Clearly Tyndall was ignored by polite society then, just as every contemporary climate scientist has attempted to explain to society at large has been brushed off as fear mongering and overly paranoid. Yet, as we are beginning to feel the real effects of climate change it beggars the question: If, since the 1900’s we have been failing to take action, what would prompt humanity to act now?