Schedule May 24, 2018
The Hedgehog and the Fox A Nelson Mandela Perspective on Global Warming
George Philander (Princeton)

Global warming is polarizing because it involves the two profoundly different worlds of science and of human affairs. The objective methods of science (which hedgehogs favor) produce results with which everyone, in principle, can agree, for example results concerning the threats rising atmospheric CO2 levels pose. However, science has limitations and is silent on ethical issues such as the following: in our response to global warming, what is the appropriate balance between our obligations to future generations, and our responsibilities to those living in abject poverty today? The numerous answers to this question depend on subjective factors such as religion, ethnicity, culture... To find a solution acceptable to as many people as possible, compromise is a requisite, compassion a virtue. Nelson Mandela, a hedgehog when he fought apartheid, became a fox when, as president of his polarized country South Africa, he prevented a civil war by being compromising. The same approach can promote responsible stewardship of planet Earth by complementing warnings of imminent gloom and doom, with songs that extol the wonders of planet Earth, the only planet known to be habitable. The seasons, the huge annul global climate changes everyone experiences, can serve this purpose, and are also excellent vehicles for gaining familiarity with the powerful methods of science, and with its serious limitations. By exploring Earth's glorious diversity of seasons -- different regions get rain in summer, or winter, throughout the year, or seldom -- we discover that all of us on this planet are inter-dependent "no man is an island" and that the present is a precarious moment in Earth's eventful history, a time for caution and circumspection.

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