“There is no solving the problem. There is *no solving* the problem. All it is is slowing the symptoms.”

07 Nov 2009

Journalist Pat Joseph’s article “The Ass’s Dilemma,” in the Spring 2009 Virginia Quarterly Review covers geoengineering—the idea of worldwide projects to try to mask the effects of greenhouse gases with artificial volcanoes that spew sulphur dioxide into the upper atmosphere, or other such schemes.

He spoke with atmospheric chemist Ines Fung of the University of California, Berkeley, who was skeptical of these ideas.

“Geoengineering is not science fiction, okay?” she continued. “How do we test it? How do we know that it would work? The scientist’s responsibility is not just to propose wild ideas. The scientist’s responsibility is to say, ‘How do we test them?’”

Her frustration seemed to grow as our interview progressed, and when I finally gathered my things to leave, I thanked her for putting up with my questions. She said, “No, no, it’s important not to just look at what is the last resort and ignore responsible action. It’s very American to want a quick fix, but the energy problem is the principal challenge for humankind—the two energy problems: not just the squandering of energy, but also the imbalance in energy access in the world.”

“Sure,” I answered, “but recognizing that doesn’t do anything to solve the problem of climate change.”

She took a deep breath before answering wearily. “There is no solving the problem. There is no solving the problem. All it is is slowing the symptoms.”


books I've read on failure & grace

The World Without Us
The Last Oil Shock: A Survival Guide to the Imminent Extinction of Petroleum Man
A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster
Hell and High Water: Global Warming--the Solution and the Politics--and What We Should Do
The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl
The Tipping Point
Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace... One School at a Time
The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity and the Renewal of Civilization
Out of Poverty: What Works When Traditional Approaches Fail
The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History, 1300-1850
Confessions of an Eco-Sinner: Tracking Down the Sources of My Stuff
Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future
The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World

Mason's favorite books »