Experiencing the climate this year in S.E. Alaska where July so far was cool and inclement it occurred to me that indoor, thermostat regulated lifestyles like those of average Americans detach humans from environmental sensitivity. I’ve spent decades in unheated shelters including Alaska, sometimes sleeping on the ground where I used ground temperature and insulating blankets to keep a gallon of water from freezing solid when the air temperature was zero Fahrenheit, so I am fairly sensitive to climate.
The effects of indoor, thermostat regulated lifestyles are fairly new in the course of human history. A couple of centuries ago people in the north were lucky to have a woodstove for cold winters and built their homes around the woodstove. Air conditioning didn’t exist much before electricity when the Gulf coast was populated by mosquitoes and outlaws. People worked hard to separate themselves from nature to a certain extent; they liked bright things, glitz and shiny and that desire to be relieved from the common dark, dour, sometimes dank conditions of homes lit by candles and perhaps kerosene lamps increased along with the advance of technology. People were attracted to neon lights like bugs are to bug lights. Indoor living with climate controlled environments became common as did machines for transport and to relieve work. Humans to some extent tried to forget the external and very real world of nature and were unconcerned with managing its health. In places like the Willamette Valley of Oregon and Puget Sound of the state of Washington urban and suburban sprawl overtook exceedingly fertile farmlands that had arisen when the great northwestern forests were converted into lumber. An irrational exuberance had overtaken humanity of the first world and it was based on segregating nature and placing mankind into an artificial, bug free, trouble free world.
It is my belief that the irrational exuberance of living a lifetime in artificial environments has affected human psychology deeply. The bright lights and bling of the artificial has become the new normal and nature has become regarded as disreputable. Some associate nature with vermin and value its remaining ecospheric health only so far as to consider its monetary value if processed for market sale. The psychology of natural consumption inside the new nature of the artificial normalizes irrational exuberance. The addiction to a world of pastel colors, shiny objects, bright lights and machines has been joined with drugs, alcohol, tobacco and intoxicants of polluting and non-polluting kind so far as to make common human nature maladapted to experience subtle change of seasons effects directly on the senses, the varieties of darkness and light of winter months, and psychologically incapable of making serious remedies for gross natural habitat loss, mass species extinction and global warming.
In my opinion being aware of the problem is required for fixing those serious ecospheric, environmental challenges. It is probably impossible to get humanity to step back from the ecospheric ledge if it requires reducing consumption, so increasing efficiency through innovating new technological and environmental methods may be the most realistic way to proceed.
Politicians tend to be immersed in the general unnatural psychology of irrational exuberance and excess consumption. Americans buy some things just because they can and feel like it. They have disposable income that exceeds their basic needs for living. President Reagan was known as the great communicator. He was an optimist with a cheery disposition. Not only was he liked, he was trusted. President Reagan said that America’s best times were yet ahead. His optimism helped greatly to bring about the end of the Cold War 1.0. President Reagan had faith in God and that was honest. He too however personified the American greatness of consumption rather than environmentalism. The nation needs faith in God, environmental reformation and technological progress to move very far ahead in the way of progress. Blind allegiance to the politics of consumerism and a wrong understanding of Smith’s Wealth of Nations/Capitalism may deliver the U.S.A. to knock itself out crashing into an environmental limits wall.
I have written elsewhere on select approaches to take to make up with the nation and world’s ecosphere. The field of environmental economics is highly recommended. I would add here the observation that what is lacking in U.S. politics at the Federal level (actually quite a number of character items are lacking and in need of repair yet I will not digress) is creative thinking. Fixing the environment is a matter of solving inductive puzzles rather than deductive ones like crossword puzzles. Inductive puzzles bring one to see ways to put different technologies or tools together to make something to solve problems and challenges. From pieces in the world comprising everything that exists, one selects pieces to invent a puzzle picture that solves the problem.