Faust’s Temptation

  In the 2003 dystopian novel Antelope and Clark, Margaret Atwood described a pill that would make everyone happy and eradicate disease. But widespread use of such pills would hit profits for drug companies, so they pay drug developer HelthWyzer to insert viruses into the pills to make users sick. HelthWyzer could then double its profits by selling the antidote.
  “From a business standpoint, the best diseases,” explains scientist Clark, “should be those with prolonged symptoms. Ideally—that is, for maximum profit—the patient should Die or recover before the money runs out.” One unfortunate consequence of this shrewd business plan is that it will kill most of the world’s population.
  The provocative thinking here is: Deliberately hoping that the “bad” will produce the “good.” Economist Joseph Schumpeter expressed the same idea in his theory that the economy progresses through “creative destruction.”
  But the ultimate expression of this concept is Goethe’s Faust. In the opening chapter “Prelude to Heaven”, God explained his problem to the demon Mephistopheles, that human beings have the potential to progress, but are inherently lazy and lack curiosity, “People are easily decadent, and it doesn’t take long for them to do everything. Don’t want to do it”; God sent Mephistopheles to act as a force that “will always do evil, but can also create good” to awaken humanity from complacency.
  So, could this “evil” be an extreme climate event that could befall us? After all, few people now sincerely believe that the world can achieve the goals set recently at the UN climate change conference, and that we can limit overall global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Inside.
  In his new book, “The Economics of Decarbonization and the Post-pandemic World,” economist Charles Dumas predicts a string of climate extremes linked to rising temperatures. If global warming “stabilizes” at 1.5°C by 2025, one can expect an acceleration in desertification in North America and Africa, a slowdown or cessation of the Gulf Stream by 2100, loss of mountain glaciers and parts of the Arctic, loss of rainforest, and unprecedented southern Atlantic hurricanes engulf islands.
  In the second projected scenario, global temperature rises “over” 1.5°C. As a result, the Gobi desert expanded, shellfish became extinct, the Mediterranean became arid, and forest fires continued to rage. Additionally, by the mid-22nd century, Miami, central London, much of Manhattan, Mumbai, and Bangkok were all submerged underwater, wars to control the new liquid Arctic erupted, Andean glaciers melted that dried up Peru, and many species died.
  The third scenario Dumas predicted is more extreme: southern Africa and much of the Amazon basin turn into deserts, northern India and Pakistan are battered by Himalayan snowmelt, and storms continue to rage. Rising sea levels have flooded cities in New York, London, the Netherlands and Australia, and tropical diseases more dangerous than Covid-19 are spreading rapidly. Dumas made no further predictions because the damage from the first three scenarios “has a high probability that drastic measures will be accepted and taken.”
  Such a catastrophic event does not require divine judgment as a necessary wake-up call. Enlightenment thinkers believed that the progress of the human mind is linear, but that achieving higher states of mind and behavior may actually depend in part on extreme events. History provides a lot of support for this view: World War II, for example, was a necessary precondition for the creation of the European Union years later.
  But this in no way means that we should do evil intentionally in order to achieve good, such as the behavior of the pharmaceutical companies in Atwood’s novel. First, it is impossible to calibrate the “optimal” crisis. Second, we are less likely to agree with Robespierre today—that terror is justified if it leads to virtue—because the “necessary price” theory of progress conflicts with the atrocities of Hitlerism.
  ”We have encountered situations,” the German philosopher Karl Jaspers wrote in 1948, “in which we have no intention of reading Goethe, but turn to Shakespeare, Aeschylus, or the Bible. , if we can still read.”
  But Faust remains the elephant in the room, the uninvited guest of modernity.