The “United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change” (a name only a bureaucrat could love) has just concluded a two-week run in Copenhagen. If you have paid any serious attention to the proceedings, you need to seriously think about getting a life. For two full weeks hundreds of representatives from 198 countries got together in the Danish capital to postulate and pontificate, party and drink, hypothesize and officiously sound off and then party and drink some more, all in a supposed attempt to cobble together a plan that will rollback the tide of global warming like a Moses parting of the Red Sea.
And what did they come up with? Straight-faced, if slightly hung over, these bureaucratic numskulls and nitwits came up with a non-binding, 12-paragraph “statement of intention” to develop a plan that will stem and turn the tide of global warming! Fact is these people emitted so much hot air during the convention that they ended up actually accelerating global warming. Of course, should we be surprised? This is the fifteenth such U.N. convention on the subject since 1992. This was the type of gathering that only a true died-in-the-wool bureaucratic numskull and nitwit could enjoy. If you enjoy ferreting out Numskulls and Nitwits, then you would have been in seventh heaven at this meeting.
Think about the chances for success at this type of meeting. You start with clusters of government bureaucrats from 198 countries. What should that tell you? Then you wrangle with a touchy subject – humanity-caused global warming – on which there are still significant divergent opinions.
Look at it this way. Without any human industrial development there have been regular cycles of global warming and cooling for oh, about a billion years or so. Moreover, a recent study suggested that if all human activity ceased today, the impact on the current cycle of global warming would delay the process by about 24 years. Most of all, it is the utmost in human egotistic thinking to suggest that we could take actions that would reverse the natural cycles of global warming and cooling. Just look how successful we’ve been stopping hurricanes, tornados and earthquakes.
I have no doubt that the world is in the midst of a global warming cycle (although some now are claiming it is actually a cooling cycle!), and there is little doubt that human activity has accelerated the process to some extent, but it certainly is not the reason for the process. And I do wonder why we humans think we have the power to change a natural process that has gone on with or without us for millions of years. Instead of futilely trying to figure out how to change nature, we should spend our time trying to figure out how to live with a changing nature.
Even Ants Know Better
The numskulls and nitwits at the United Nations Convention remind me of several colonies of ants that were living on the beach in front of my home in Key West. Over the past few years I have closely studied and monitored the lifestyle and activities of these ant colonies. (There is not a lot to do when you are retired in Key West.)
At first these ants – who built their nests and tunnels on the beach – did not seem to understand the natural concept of low and high tides. When the tide was low the ants would march down the beach to build their nests and tunnels in the sand. Then the tide would come in and flood the tunnels, killing millions of ants. When the tide receded, the next colony of ants would come in and repeat the process; only to be wiped out by the next high tide. Then one morning I discovered a very unique happening.
The United Nations of Ants must have had a meeting or something, because I noticed that the latest colony had decided that, if they took the grains of sand extracted from digging the tunnels and built cute little dikes in front of their nests, they could block the effects of the rising tide. Of course, the next high tide wiped them out again. Then they must have had another meeting and the really smart ants among them must have argued that it was actually their own actions, i.e. removing all that sand to dig their tunnels that was impacting the natural order of the beach and allowing the water to rise.
So the next colony of ants changed the basic ant lifestyle of their predecessors and simply took up residence on the beach, without doing any digging or removal of beach sand, which they reasoned was the cause of rising water. They were gone in an instant.
Then one morning I went down to the beach to continue my studies and discovered that the ants had apparently had another meeting and decided that rather than trying to stop the rising water (which they still did not understand was simply a natural cycle because many of their leaders were numskull and nitwit ants) they would build their nests and dig their tunnels higher up on the beach (closer to my house) where the rising water could not reach them. They seemed to have decided that rather than trying to change the natural cycle of their environment they would adjust to it.
And, with this approach, the surviving colonies of ants lived happily ever after. That is until one morning when I took a large can of Raid down to the beach and wiped them all out.
And the moral of the story is …
Of course, when you have a serious problem, do not rely on numskulls and nitwits to solve it.
As a manager or leader, it is important to understand the nature of the environment in which we work. Often it is a waste of time and futile to attempt to change the environment, but you can develop plans and actions that allow you to survive within the environment. For example, growth and recession are natural cycles in the business environment. You can spend all the time and effort you want trying to create perpetual growth or eliminate recessions and you will always fail. You will fail because those are natural cycles.
Understanding that will encourage you to develop plans that allow you to take advantage of the good times and protect you as much as possible against the bad times. It’s not perfect and you will not always win, but you have a much better chance of success if you learn to adjust to your environment, than if you spend your time trying to change the natural order of things.
Those who naturally and appropriately worry about the impact of the evolving global warming would serve humanity better if they were to concentrate on ways to cope with the natural order, rather than to think that we mere ants of humanity have the power to change the tides of the natural order.