Crew Commentary

Physics is Not Political

Tim Rumage - Planetary Ethicist


Physics is not political, it simply is. The Planet is a dynamic entity, not a static one. It responds to all the stimuli it is given.


The longer the air temperature is above 32oF (0oC), the more ice will melt.

The higher the air temperature is above 32oF (0oC), the more ice will melt.

The higher the water temperature is above 39.2oF (4oC), the more water will thermally expand. These are not just facts, but the reality of how physics and chemistry work.


There is no politics in melting ice. It does not matter if we are discussing ice cubes in a drink or snow in springtime or a glacier on a mountain or an ice pack at the North Pole. Exposing ice to heat leads to having less ice and more water.


Are there political and economic considerations involved in how communities and nations respond to reality? Yes. But that does not change the reality of reality. Some might prefer that the Planet worked the way they want and at a pace that was in keeping with their expectations. While understandable, those are rather unrealistic, impractical and unhelpful wishes.


Much of the progress of the 20th century was defined by humanity’s “triumph” over nature. We channeled rivers, irrigated deserts, and transformed the landscape. But as General Patton reminds us – all glory is fleeting. Nature plays a long game, and, like the house in Las Vegas, always wins in the end. Humanity’s triumph in the 21st Century will be in overcoming our self-focus and embracing a balanced partnership with the Planet, if for no other reason than physics is.


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