me and the ice age

Young people these days talk about something that makes no sense to me: climate justice.

Justice, as near as I can make out, is the other-regarding virtue of action, where we focus on meting out what people deserve, especially as it relates to the use of coercion. This latter is important because this idea, justice, evolved in the context of contests between man and man: its origin is to right great wrongs, wrongs caused by deliberate behavior, usually regarding force and theft. Justice focuses clearly on rules of behavior, limiting our actions. When a limit is broken, then compensatory action of a possibly violent but definitely coercive nature is warranted. Justice thus pertains to people who choose.

The climate is something else again. It is a vast cosmos of interactive systems that we barely understand. And while such things as pollution may indeed be handled by systems of justice, of law, “climate justice” assumes way too much, especially a lot of knowledge of what climates should be.

The global climate is. Climates are. And they change. And have done so outside of the kind of direct human control where justice might readily and sensibly apply.

Could it be that people use the term “climate justice” merely to bully people into accepting a policy that is by no means evident? If you load up your politics with “justice” skeptical people might be cowed by your use of a word of power.

And yes, justice is the Big Gun of moral suasion. Because it directs the coercive power of the State, you see. In times past Righteousness might have been the word of choice, since God was the Big Gun of rhetoric. But the State long ago usurped the place of the deities in lowbrow ethical argumentation.

Amusingly, the same folks who are prone to the term “climate justice” appear to be the ones who talk a great deal about “privilege” — as in “white privilege.” And here we might find a relevant check upon climate justice fanaticism.

Greg Gutfeld’s notion of “ocean privilege” to describe Americans’ feelings of invulnerability to attack provides a key. Much of American foreign policy has been bolstered by Americans’ sense of impregnability, buffered as America is from the Old World by two great oceans. Drolly, Gutfeld himself seems to think that the days of American ocean privilege are over: (“Ocean privilege does not exist anymore. The world is small. We cannot rely on distance anymore.”) And yet he seems (from what I can tell) to think that this means America must be more engaged overseas — a bizarre conclusion.

But this is not the occasion or location to provide a critique of Gutfeldian interventionism. Instead, I merely note his use of “privilege” as an excuse to mention a far bigger and more universal privilege: Climate stability privilege.

For most of the last 5000 years, and perhaps a bit longer, humanity has lived in a remarkable period of climate calm: slow, moderate changes.

Sure, there was the Medieval Warming Period, and the Little Ice Age (which we have been warming out of for a few centuries, mostly through no merit of our own), and other waxings and wanings. But the sun has been fairly steady in its output; we have lived through a quite moderate cycle of climate metamorphoses. And civilizations have risen and fallen accordingly.

At the end of the last Ice Age, however, our climate was not at all conducive to human life.

You know, The Flood and all.

Graham Hancock has made much of recent discoveries in his latest book, Magicians of the Gods, and sides with scientists who think the Ice Age ended because of bolides evaporating the two great Canadian glaciers. Geologist Robert Schoch describes the following epoch carefully:

A dark age ensued, which I refer to as SIDA (solar-induced dark age). For thousands of years following the end of the last ice age humanity was reduced to the brutish Hobbesian state, hunting, foraging, and eking out a hardscrabble existence; and this included living in caves in some regions. Indeed, retreating to caves and other underground shelters would have been a way for isolated pockets of humanity to survive the cataclysmic solar-induced onslaughts at the end of the last ice age.

But he offers a causal story distinct from Hancock’s:

Electrical plasma discharges from the Sun, driven to the surface of our planet, would have caused widespread incineration where they touched down as well as setting off wildfires. Solar outbursts not only warmed the planet overall but, hitting glaciers, oceans, and lakes, through melting and instantaneous evaporation, would have placed vast amounts of moisture into the atmosphere that subsequently came down as torrential rains. These rains, combined with rising sea levels, caused widespread flooding across the globe.

Frightening times. Schoch summarizes: “Major solar outbursts and eruptions, the likes of which have not been experienced on Earth in modern times, were the instigating factors that ended the last ice age and brought early civilization to its knees.”

But could it have been even worse, much earlier?

Seventy thousand years ago or so, humanity was hit to almost nothing by vulcanism of astounding proportions — when, scientists tell us, the number of modern humans went down to a few dozen breeding pairs, in several locations at most.

So, while I am very concerned about some anthropogenic environmental disasters (ocean pollution, overfishing, and a possible and quite alarming increase in oceanic anoxia) others strike me as a tad overblown. We have more to worry about from comets and volcanos than “anthropogenic global warming,” for even the worst predicted effects are as if nothing compared to the catastrophes of the Ice Age terminus.

One interesting thought: why were ancient civilizations — which we may wish to call pre-historic civilizations, since if Hancock and Schoch and others are right, they preceded our histories — so obsessed with megalithic structures? Could it possibly be that these stonework monstrosities served as refuges from cataclysm, including increased cosmic radiation?

We make fun of troglodytes, to this day. But that, my friends, is mere climate stability privilege. Our nice above-ground houses will provide no protection should Sol start engaging in major unruly emissions, as it has in times long past.

And today’s young “climate justice advocates” would envy the men guarding the caves and mines and other underground structures should solar activity increase and make above-ground living again perilous or impossible. There is no concept of justice that will sway those who have prepared for the worst to take in and provide safety to the clueless, privileged young who offer nothing but their genes.

If you want to survive disaster, make yourself useful and unenvious, and . . . dig. Deeply. Into the bedrock.

To get a little perspective, at the very least.