Navigating Through Climate Change: Beware of the Metaphors

Navigating Through Climate Change: Beware of the Metaphors by Douglas R McGaughey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Navigating Through Climate Change:
Beware of the Metaphors

[The following are reflections inspired by the reading of
Wes Jackson and Robert Jensen, An Inconvenient Apocalypse:
Environmental Collapse, Climate Crisis, and the Fate of Humanity
(Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2022)]

[Note to the Reader: There are no themes here that are original to this author. Their source is, for the most part, Immanuel Kant. I have merely re-figured what he con-figured. My personal definition of the ‘life of the mind’ is the expectation that one not only understands what another thinker said within the coherent context of her/his works but also knows where s/he said it. However, I have chosen not to provide citations to avoid any possible distraction from the flow of themes. One can find the relevant citations by searching my other writings.]


While by no means challenging the reality of the crisis, this author finds that Jackson and Jensen present an analysis of the origins and required response to the apocalyptic collapse of the earth’s climate that invoke key metaphors inappropriately. In agreement that the core response involves humanity acknowledging its ‘limits,’ but Jackson and Jenson treat limits only as imposing limitations on behavior. Furthermore, their account of ‘evolutionary adaptation’ is materialistically reductionistic and profiles humanity’s ‘carbon nature’ as a genetic condition driving the development of fossil fuel energy. Foremost, their materialistic reductionism treats ‘mind’ as merely a product of the brain’s synapses. The author claims that a more adequate understanding of, and response to, climate change requires careful attention to these key metaphors of ‘humanity’s limits,’ ‘environmental adaptation,’ and the ‘mind’ without succumbing to speciesism.

Everyone surely wants to be ‚on the right side of history’ – at least, mostly. When it comes to climate change, the pathway to the ‘right side’ is complicated by humanity’s limits. However, those limits include not only applying limits-to self-interest that, clearly, we must do to avoid further devastation of our planet. However, they also include limits-for that make possible experience, understanding, and responsible agency in the world. These universal limits-for precede our establishing limits-to our personal agency. In other words, to talk of limits does not mean determining merely what one ‘can’t do’ or ‘shouldn’t do.’ Paradoxically, limits are also inescapable for determining what one ‘can do’ and ‘ought’ do. In fact, were there no limits, there would be no species that could remotely expect to creatively respond to the climate crisis (or any other crisis) much less hold itself responsible for its agency.