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Blogging Action Day - An On V Global Warming Debate

Today, On Violence is participating in Blogging Action Day. The stated goal is simple, "First and last, the purpose of Blog Action Day is to create a discussion. We ask bloggers to take a single day out of their schedule and focus it on an important issue." This year the topic is global warming.

With that simple mission in mind, we asked ourselves: Is Global Warming Violent?

Eric C:


To determine if Global Warming is Violent, we need to answer a series of questions:

First, is Global Warming happening?


Most likely, the answer is yes. I'll defer to the majority opinion of experts and scientists on the subject. (This may seem like I'm hedging; I am. Though I am a die hard environmentalist, I'm also a philosophical skeptic.)

Second, is it "attributable to human activities" (ie. releasing millions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere)?

Again, I would say yes. And on this point I am certain. Blame it on Karma or Newton's Third Law, but you cannot release millions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere and not expect there to be a reaction, most likely a negative one.

Third, will global warming, if it happens, cause injury?

Most definitely. Wikipedia has an entire page about the effects of global warming. Without discussing all the animals, habitats and ecosystems that will be violently destroyed, I'll keep this on the human scale. If sea levels continue to rise, small islands like Tuvalu or the Maldives will sink. Imagine that, entire islands and peoples displaced by rising water. That, I would argue, certainly is injurious.

Most interesting to me are the conclusions of this exercise. First, people can collectively cause injury. Every American who drives a car, who consumes 25% of the world's resources, is injuring the people of Tuvalu. We tend to view Violence as a one on one, or one on many activity. It isn't. Second, you don't have to pull the trigger to negatively affect another human being. All you have to do is leave the light on buy a bigger truck.

Michael C:

I guess when you break it down, global warming (and the impending doom it spells for both humanity and nature) lacks the human element. Sure we could all die, but who specifically caused it? We can't blame anyone individually; this makes it difficult to talk about philosophically.

Global warming lacks the critical parts that would make it overtly violent. First, it lacks the human victim. While many animals have, and many more will suffer greatly, they are not human. Almost all philosophical and religious systems hold the human intellect above the animal and thus ignore global warming. Second, it lacks the perpetrator. The Holocaust had Hitler. 9/11 has Osama bin Laden. The Empire had Darth Vader. Global warming has...car companies? Not a compelling perpetrator.

We would all agree that suicide is a violent act. Suicide satisfies the criteria of both human actors and human victims. And, when it comes to global warming the science is clear: we are slowly committing worldwide suicide. True, the scale is enormous, but it is us doing it. It may lack specific human perpetrators and individual victims, but it is still suicide.

This leaves only one remaining issue, what if humanity survives global warming but in the process wipes out ninety percent of the flora and fauna of our world? Is that Violent? I think the phrase "wipes it out" should speak for itself.

Yes, it is Violent.

two comments

I agree largely with the huge lack of a single perpetrator. There’s industrial coal plants, slash and burn farmer, any who operates a car, etc. It’s comparable to saying a hurricane is violent, but a hurricane has no intent to harm, it simply does. In the same way, perpetrators of carbon emissions aren’t out to hurt the environment or kill 90% of the planet (which incidentally seems a bit high considering the immense diversity of ocean life).


True on ocean life, but if the theories are correct, then what happens on the ground has a large effect on the ocean. Plus, we wipe out most of ocean life just by over-fishing.