From Plato and his student Aristotle in the early 300s B.C. to Dostoevsky in the 19th century, Europeans believed in Essenism – that we were born with our essential purpose in life planted in us at birth by the Creator.
In the 1870s Russians – novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky and revolutionaries like Michael Bakunin – created a philosophical revolution called existentialism.
The first existentialists believed that we are born with the free will to choose our purpose in life. They rejected the medieval thinking that we all have a fixed station in life.
So much for serfdom. So much for the Tsar.
It is now mainstream that we make our own choices for living according to our own values. If there are going to be moral qualities like justice and fairness, it is up to us to create them.
Fundamental environmentalists find that a world created without a predetermined purpose is frightening and terrifying.
According to them, the chief purpose of our lives is to determine and oppose the causes of climate change, mitigate them and deal with the impacts of climate change on our lives.
The problem they face is that social culture is now existentialist. The Social Media generation think it is science fiction to live in an existentialist world where people believed that their purpose was installed before birth.
Most people have chosen a purpose for their life that has nothing to do with the environment. We can recycle and reduce our personal carbon footprint as part of complicated modern life, but we live for other chief purposes.
Accordingly, attacks on oilsands aren’t credible to most people, especially uninformed ones that don’t recognize how oilsands producers have reduced the carbon footprint since the first air quality monitor was installed downwind of oilsands operations 30 years ago.
The existential problem was scientific and technological: to reduce the impact and resource use of oilsands production.
Producers have used technology to reduce the per-barrel carbon footprint of the oilsands for 50 years since the first commercial oilsands mine opened.
Oilsands is the most studied natural resource in Canadian history, beginning with experiments at the Royal Military College laboratories in the 1870s.
Private and public research has gone on since. Most of the work has been to make oil recovery more resource-efficient with less environmental impact.
The existential impacts of climate change that are most concerning now are wars and refugees.
Authors, scientists and political scholars talk of climate wars started by the impacts of climate change; the climate wars they foresee are regional and ignited by shortages.
There are already more than 80 million refugees in the world today, migrating to get away from war, and violence, food shortages, religious persecution and in search of opportunity for their children.
A group of agricultural scientists pinpoint 2023 as the date when the world will no longer be able to produce enough properly nutritional food for the global population.
The first consequence could be the escalation of climate refugees, migrating people in search of food.
Shortages of water, flood-free land and clean air could trigger more refugee migrations.
Refuges with a purpose are existentialists in action.
– Frank Dabbs is a veteran political and business journalist