My original thought here was to say, no, it doesn’t matter on how we got here, but in the middle of thinking about it, and trying to write about it, it dawned on me that yes, it does.
In the mechanical sense, we’ve always got to know what is causing things in order to stop them; if your bicycle isn’t going forward, it could be a flat tire, a chain that fell off, or a rusty bearing. We are dumping X into the ocean, and that causes problem Y, so we’ve got to stop dumping X. My first take was then ‘solve X’, and then solve its precedents later. Yes, there are always precedents, but trying to find solutions to the precedents may be a daunting task and not as amenable to concrete, engineering solutions. For example, if you want to stop burning coal, you might pass a law for that, and worry about the desire to burn coal (to get cheap energy) later.
But stopping X, without causing the preceding causes to stop as well is setting yourself (and your society) for ‘whack-a-mole’, where you continually try to stop other things, without attacking the root cause. Trying to solve the real room problem (burning coal, the need for cheap energy) is a harder problem, and may put us into places we don’t want to go. Most of the world doesn’t want to look to hard at some of the predicaments we are in, because to go to the root causes of things is scary, and when your pay check depends on a certain worldview, changing those core viewpoints can seem impossible to change.
What is the root cause of our current dilemmas? Our brains? The luck of the environment we were born into? Can we stop those root causes, whatever they are? Given the work in such fields as neuroscience, cognitive psychology and behavioral economics – can we change?