Archive for the ‘Government’ Category
Day three of recognising the passing of 400 ppm atmospheric CO2.
In nearly four years of writing for Learning from Dogs, I can’t recall devoting three days of posts to a single subject. To put that into context, today’s post is number 1,683 since the first one was published on July 15th, 2009; not all of them from the brain of yours truly by any means you understand!
Today, I’m going to feature a recent essay written by George Monbiot finishing up three days of ‘reporting’ on the deeply disturbing, but fully anticipated, news that the planet’s atmosphere has reached a concentration of 400 ppm CO2.
Last Monday, I published What legacy do we wish to leave for others?
Then yesterday, a post under the title of 400 ppm, as the BBC reported it. I closed with a reference to a remark made by Professor Sir Brian Hoskins, director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London; the remark being “A greater sense of urgency was needed.“
I wrote that those wishy-washy words were pathetic. That we needed the sort of words that George Monbiot penned a few days ago in the Guardian newspaper. There it was entitled “Climate milestone is a moment of symbolic significance on road of idiocy“.
But I think the title that Mr. Monbiot chose to use on his own blog was far more apt: Via Dolorosa. (Note that I haven’t formally requested permission to republish the essay but trust that the following is acceptable to both Mr. Monbiot and the Guardian newspaper.)
Here’s how it opened:
May 10, 2013
Corruption and short-termism are pushing us along the path of sorrows.
By George Monbiot, published on the Guardian’s website, 10th May 2013
The records go back 800,000 years: that’s the age of the oldest fossil air bubbles extracted from Dome C, an ice-bound summit in the high Antarctic. And throughout that time there has been nothing like this. At no point in the pre-industrial record have concentrations of carbon dioxide in the air risen above 300 parts per million. 400 is a figure that belongs to a different era.
The difference between 399 and 400ppm is small, in terms of its impacts on the world’s living systems. But this is a moment of symbolic significance, a station on the Via Dolorosa of environmental destruction. It is symbolic of our collective failure to put the long term prospects of the natural world and the people it supports above immediate self-interest.
The symbolic significance of the planet’s atmospheric concentrations of CO2 passing 400ppm is that, I hope, with all the hope that my heart can summon up, it will bring us back from the brink. Then one ponders about this possibility as Monbiot’s next paragraph unfolds:
The only way forward now is back: to retrace our steps along this road and to seek to return atmospheric concentrations to around 350 parts per million, as the 350.org campaign demands. That requires, above all, that we leave the majority of the fossil fuels which have already been identified in the ground. There is not a government or an energy company which has yet agreed to do so.
“not a government or an energy company … has yet agreed to do so.”
I’m going to repeat that again, with emboldening; “not a government or an energy company … has yet agreed to do so.“
In fact, one could reasonable argue that having any hope for a turning back is utterly naive. Look what the essay goes on to say:
Just before the 400-mark was reached, Shell announced that it will go ahead with its plans to drill deeper than any offshore oil operation has gone before: almost three kilometres below the Gulf of Mexico.
A few hours later, Oxford University opened a new laboratory in its department of earth sciences. The lab is funded by Shell. Oxford says that the partnership “is designed to support more effective development of natural resources to meet fast-growing global demand for energy.” Which translates as finding and extracting even more fossil fuel.
The European Emissions Trading Scheme, which was supposed to have capped our consumption, is now, for practical purposes, dead. International climate talks have stalled; governments such as ours now seem quietly to be unpicking their domestic commitments. Practical measures to prevent the growth of global emissions are, by comparison to the scale of the challenge, almost non-existent.
As an example of the scale of the hypocrisy in which we are all immersed, last week’s The Economist magazine carried a full-age advertisement from Chevron on page 5 under the banner of ‘Protecting The Planet Is Everyone’s Job – We agree‘ and going on to explain:
We go to extraordinary lengths to protect the integrity of the places where we operate. Places all over the world, like Australia’s Barrow Island. It’s home to hundreds of native species of wildlife, including wallabies, ospreys, and perenties.
We’ve been producing energy on the island for more than 40 years, and it remains a Class A Nature Reserve.
Didn’t take me two moments to find this image:
To my mind this advertisement completely misses the point; deliberately or otherwise. Chevron and all other oil producing companies in the world are endangering the future of the entire planet by continuing to ‘produce energy’, aka oil. Period. Full stop.
Or to put it in the words of George Monbiot’s essay:
The problem is simply stated: the power of the fossil fuel companies is too great. Among those who seek and obtain high office are people characterised by a complete absence of empathy or scruples, who will take money or instructions from any corporation or billionaire who offers them, and then defend those interests against the current and future prospects of humanity. This new mark reflects a profound failure of politics, worldwide, in which democracy has quietly been supplanted by plutocracy. Without a widespread reform of campaign finance, lobbying and influence-peddling and the systematic corruption they promote, our chances of preventing climate breakdown are close to zero.
Thus the final sentence in GM’s essay carries a deep sadness.
So here we stand at a waystation along the road of idiocy, apparently determined only to complete our journey.
Why are we not seeing, hearing and reading words of a similar weight and power from just about every ‘opinion maker’ in the world?
Why not? Why not?
Staying with the terrible news that we are now above 400 ppm atmospheric CO2.
If there is anything of comfort to be drawn from the news that we are above 400 ppm CO2 it is that the mainstream media are running with it. I shall focus on the reportage from the BBC News website.
First, there was the news of the passing of that “symbolic mark”.
10 May 2013 Last updated at 11:39 ET
Carbon dioxide passes symbolic mark
Daily measurements of CO2 at a US government agency lab on Hawaii have topped 400 parts per million for the first time.
The station, which sits on the Mauna Loa volcano, feeds its numbers into a continuous record of the concentration of the gas stretching back to 1958.
The last time CO2 was regularly above 400ppm was three to five million years ago – before modern humans existed.
Scientists say the climate back then was also considerably warmer than it is today.
Carbon dioxide is regarded as the most important of the manmade greenhouse gases blamed for raising the temperature on the planet over recent decades.
Read the rest of the news release here.
Then David Shukman, Science editor BBC News added this further background, that I am going to republish in full:
Near the summit of the Mauna Loa volcano, the carbon dioxide monitors stand amid one of the world’s remotest huddles of scientific instruments. To reach them you have to leave the steamy Hawaii coast and climb through barren lava-fields.
At the top, above 11,000ft, the air is thin and the sun piercing. During my visit, I watched rain clouds boiling in the valleys below me. Charles David Keeling chose this otherworldly spot because the air up here is neither industrial nor pristine; it is “well-mixed” which means it can serve as a useful guide to changes in the atmosphere.
Despite their global significance, the devices he installed back in 1958 do not look impressive. But he battled bureaucratic objections to fund them and his legacy is the longest continuous record of a gas, linked to much of global warming, that just keeps rising.
A day later, the BBC released this:
1 May 2013 Last updated at 03:52 ET
Scientists call for action to tackle CO2 levels
Scientists are calling on world leaders to take action on climate change after carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere broke through a symbolic threshold.
Daily CO2 readings at a US government agency lab on Hawaii have topped 400 parts per million for the first time.
Sir Brian Hoskins, the head of climate change at the UK-based Royal Society, said the figure should “jolt governments into action”.
China and the US have made a commitment to co-operate on clean technology.
But BBC environment analyst Roger Harrabin said the EU was backing off the issue, and cheap fossil fuels looked attractive to industries.
The laboratory, which sits on the Mauna Loa volcano, feeds its numbers into a continuous record of the concentration of the gas stretching back to 1958.
‘Sense of urgency’
Carbon dioxide is regarded as the most important of the manmade greenhouse gases blamed for raising the temperature on the planet over recent decades.
Human sources come principally from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas.
Ministers in the UK have claimed global leadership in reducing CO2 emissions and urged other nations to follow suit.
But the official Climate Change Committee (CCC) last month said that Britain’s total contribution towards heating the climate had increased, because the UK is importing goods that produce CO2 in other countries.
Rest of that news article is here. But I can’t resist the picture and quote from Professor Sir Brian Hoskins, director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London.
“A greater sense of urgency was needed.“ I’m going to be emotional! Frankly, those wishy-washy words are pathetic.
We need the sort of words that George Monbiot penned a few days ago. Those I will share with you tomorrow.
“It sometimes feels like a strange movie, you know, it’s all so weird that sometimes I wonder if it is really happening.”
This quote by Marshall Bruce Mathers III (born October 17, 1972), better known by his stage name Eminem, is so apt for today’s item. Because in so many places in so many countries, the weather ain’t what it used to be!
For example, in Grants Pass, Oregon, our local town, yesterday’s high was 86 deg F. (30 deg C.)! Then recently NOAA reported that:
According to NOAA scientists, the globally-averaged temperature for March 2013 tied with 2006 as the 10th warmest March since record keeping began in 1880. It also marked the 37th consecutive March and 337th consecutive month with a global temperature above the 20th century average.
So with all this in mind, I’m republishing a recent item on Climate Crocks, with the permission of Peter Sinclair.
Jet Stream Blows Winds of Change
April 19, 2013
I’ve been recovering from earth-month speaking-event whiplash, having criss crossed the state over recent days to talk about climate change, and what scientists are telling us.
Meanwhile, Paul Douglas, above, gave a brief summary of what we know about the extreme spring in the US, just before the current river of moisture hit across the nation’s midsection last night.
Near record setting flooding is hitting at my location, schools closed and evacuations underway. I got a bump from Jeff Masters last night about the situation, he is grappling with the big picture, will be posting more later today. For now, more concern about extreme weather knock-on effects – possible washing of dangerous invasive species into the Great Lakes water system.
The rains have brought the Des Plaines River on the east side of Chicago to major flood stage this morning, and a record flood crest is expected on Friday. The Asian Carp, a dangerous invasive species that would cost billions of dollars were it to get loose in the Great Lakes, is present in the Des Plaines River. Today’s flood event is capable of washing significant numbers of Asian Carp from the Des Plaines River into a canal that feeds directly into Lake Michigan, where they might be able to set up a breeding population capable of devastating the Great Lakes’ fishing industry. However, in October 2010, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed the Des Plaines River barricade, a 13-mile-long system of concrete barriers and a specially fabricated wire mesh that allows water to flow through the fence but prevents the passage of fish. Hopefully, this barricade will withstand the flood and prevent Asian Carp from washing into Lake Michigan.
The Met Office has just released a report entitled “why was the start to spring 2013 so cold?”
The immediate cause was a natural climate fluctuation called the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). The NAO switches between two states, and this winter (in its negative phase) saw a southward shift of the jet stream, bringing cold air over the UK from northern Europe and Russia.
The Met Office identifies three other natural climate variations that may have made the negative NAO phase more likely.
One is the recent behaviour of another natural climate fluctuation, called the Madden-Julian Oscillation ( MJO). It was particularly strong during late February and March – often a sign that a negative NAO is on the way.
This winter also saw what’s called a Sudden Stratospheric Warming ( SSW) event, where winds in the stratosphere above the north pole reverse direction. This brought cold weather conditions to the UK.
Finally, Europe’s climate is influenced by another natural climate system – the Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation ( AMO). While the influence on UK winters is unclear, the report suggests:
“[T]here is some evidence that the changes in Atlantic sea surface temperatures associated with the AMO, dispose the circulation to give drier than normal spring conditions over the UK and northern Europe.”
What about the effects of human-caused climate change? One question that has been much discussed recently is whether the recent rapid decline in Arctic sea ice could contribute to a change in the UK’s weather.
The new report explains how this could work:
“It is argued that amplification of global warming over the Arctic is reducing the equator to pole temperature gradient, thereby weakening the strength of the mid-latitude jet streams.”
This could allow cold Arctic air to push further south, over mid-latitude countries like the UK, and weather patterns could stay longer in one place.
The possibility of a link between the Arctic and UK weather appears to be gaining scientific support, but the Met Office acknowledges it’s still an “area of ongoing research”. The Met Office has told us it’s holding an “ informal workshop” in the next two to three months for leading UK scientists plus several international experts.
While scientists are making progress in working out how climate change could influence the odds of abnormal weather, it would be unwise to attribute one year’s events to a single cause. The report points this out, noting that:
“…no single explanation can account for the cold conditions observed”.
The report also highlights that although this spring was unusually cold,”it is not unprecedented or outside the expected natural variability of our climate”.
Nevertheless, with what the Met Office describes as “particularly heightened interest” in recent weather, getting to grips with how climate change could be affecting things is important. Even if, as the Met Office suggests, the complexities of the UK weather make “communicating the science drivers more complicated and nuanced than some audiences may wish.”
So wherever you are, do try and watch the Chasing Ice film because the more we all see the truth of what’s happening the better we can embrace change; locally, regionally, and globably.
A real pleasure and privilege to republish this article from Mr. Monbiot.
For some time now I have subscribed to the articles published by The Permaculture Research Institute of Australia. From time to time references have been made to PRI articles here on Learning from Dogs.
Recently, I read a PRI essay that had been penned by George Monbiot. It was called The Great Unmentionable. It blew me away. So I took a deep breath and dropped George M. an email asking if I might republish it here. George was very gracious in giving me such permission.
First some background to George Monbiot for those who are unfamiliar with his work and his writings. As his website explains:
I had an unhappy time at university, and I now regret having gone to Oxford, even though the zoology course I took – taught, among others, by Richard Dawkins, Bill Hamilton and John Krebs – was excellent. The culture did not suit me, and when I tried to join in I fell flat on my face, sometimes in a drunken stupor. I enjoyed the holidays more: I worked on farms and as a waterkeeper on the River Kennet. I spent much of the last two years planning my escape. There was only one job I wanted, and it did not yet exist: to make investigative environmental programmes for the BBC.
After hammering on its doors for a year, I received a phone call from the head of the BBC’s natural history unit during my final exams. He told me: “you’re so fucking persistent you’ve got the job.” They took me on, in 1985, as a radio producer, to make wildlife programmes. Thanks to a supportive boss, I was soon able to make the programmes I had wanted to produce. We broke some major stories. Our documentary on the sinking of a bulk carrier off the coast of Cork, uncovering evidence that suggested it had been deliberately scuppered, won a Sony award.
Anyway, to the article in question that was published on the Guardian Newspaper’s website, 12th April 2013.
The Great Unmentionable
April 12, 2013
We have offshored both our consumption and our perceptions
By George Monbiot
Every society has topics it does not discuss. These are the issues which challenge its comfortable assumptions. They are the ones that remind us of mortality, which threaten the continuity we anticipate, which expose our various beliefs as irreconcilable.
Among them are the facts which sink the cosy assertion, that (in David Cameron’s words) “there need not be a tension between green and growth.”
At a reception in London recently I met an extremely rich woman, who lives, as most people with similar levels of wealth do, in an almost comically unsustainable fashion: jetting between various homes and resorts in one long turbo-charged holiday. When I told her what I did, she responded, “oh I agree, the environment is so important. I’m crazy about recycling.” But the real problem, she explained, was “people breeding too much”.
I agreed that population is an element of the problem, but argued that consumption is rising much faster and – unlike the growth in the number of people – is showing no signs of levelling off. She found this notion deeply offensive: I mean the notion that human population growth is slowing. When I told her that birth rates are dropping almost everywhere, and that the world is undergoing a slow demographic transition, she disagreed violently: she has seen, on her endless travels, how many children “all those people have”.
As so many in her position do, she was using population as a means of disavowing her own impacts. The issue allowed her to transfer responsibility to other people: people at the opposite end of the economic spectrum. It allowed her to pretend that her shopping and flying and endless refurbishments of multiple homes are not a problem. Recycling and population: these are the amulets people clasp in order not to see the clash between protecting the environment and rising consumption.
In a similar way, we have managed, with the help of a misleading global accounting system, to overlook one of the gravest impacts of our consumption. This too has allowed us to blame foreigners – particularly poorer foreigners – for the problem.
When nations negotiate global cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, they are held responsible only for the gases produced within their own borders. Partly as a result of this convention, these tend to be the only ones that countries count. When these “territorial emissions” fall, they congratulate themselves on reducing their carbon footprints. But as markets of all kinds have been globalised, and as manufacturing migrates from rich nations to poorer ones, territorial accounting bears ever less relationship to our real impacts.
While this is an issue which affects all post-industrial countries, it is especially pertinent in the United Kingdom, where the difference between our domestic and international impacts is greater than that of any other major emitter. The last government boasted that this country cut greenhouse gas emissions by 19% between 1990 and 2008. It positioned itself (as the current government does) as a global leader, on course to meet its own targets, and as an example for other nations to follow.
But the cut the UK has celebrated is an artefact of accountancy. When the impact of the goods we buy from other nations is counted, our total greenhouse gases did not fall by 19% between 1990 and 2008. They rose by 20%. This is despite the replacement during that period of many of our coal-fired power stations with natural gas, which produces roughly half as much carbon dioxide for every unit of electricity. When our “consumption emissions”, rather than territorial emissions, are taken into account, our proud record turns into a story of dismal failure.
There are two further impacts of this false accounting. The first is that because many of the goods whose manufacture we commission are now produced in other countries, those places take the blame for our rising consumption. We use China just as we use the population issue: as a means of deflecting responsibility. What’s the point of cutting our own consumption, a thousand voices ask, when China is building a new power station every 10 seconds (or whatever the current rate happens to be)?
But, just as our position is flattered by the way greenhouse gases are counted, China’s is unfairly maligned. A graph published by the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee shows that consumption accounting would reduce China’s emissions by roughly 45%. Many of those power stations and polluting factories have been built to supply our markets, feeding an apparently insatiable demand in the UK, the US and other rich nations for escalating quantities of stuff.
The second thing the accounting convention has hidden from us is consumerism’s contribution to global warming. Because we consider only our territorial emissions, we tend to emphasise the impact of services – heating, lighting and transport for example – while overlooking the impact of goods. Look at the whole picture, however, and you discover (using the Guardian’s carbon calculator) that manufacturing and consumption is responsible for a remarkable 57% of the greenhouse gas production caused by the UK.
Unsurprisingly, hardly anyone wants to talk about this, as the only meaningful response is a reduction in the volume of stuff we consume. And this is where even the most progressive governments’ climate policies collide with everything else they represent. As Mustapha Mond points out in Brave New World, “industrial civilization is only possible when there’s no self-denial. Self-indulgence up to the very limits imposed by hygiene and economics. Otherwise the wheels stop turning”.
The wheels of the current economic system – which depends on perpetual growth for its survival – certainly. The impossibility of sustaining this system of endless, pointless consumption without the continued erosion of the living planet and the future prospects of humankind, is the conversation we will not have.
By considering only our territorial emissions, we make the impacts of our escalating consumption disappear in a puff of black smoke: we have offshored the problem, and our perceptions of it.
But at least in a couple of places the conjuring trick is beginning to attract some attention.
On April 16th, the Carbon Omissions site will launch a brilliant animation by Leo Murray, neatly sketching out the problem*. The hope is that by explaining the issue simply and engagingly, his animation will reach a much bigger audience than articles like the one you are reading can achieve.
(*Declaration of interest (unpaid): I did the voiceover).
On April 24th, the Committee on Climate Change (a body that advises the UK government) will publish a report on how consumption emissions are likely to rise, and how government policy should respond to the issue.
I hope this is the beginning of a conversation we have been avoiding for much too long. How many of us are prepared fully to consider the implications?
So very difficult to pick out the sentence that carried the most power, for the essay is powerful from start to end. But this one did hit me in the face, “The impossibility of sustaining this system of endless, pointless consumption without the continued erosion of the living planet and the future prospects of humankind, is the conversation we will not have.“
Finally, I can’t resist reminding you, dear reader, of the point made by Prof. Guy McPherson in his book Walking Away from Empire, which I reviewed on March 6th. particularly in the first paragraph of the first chapter; Reason:
At this late juncture in the era of industry, it seems safe to assume we face one of two futures. If we continue to burn fossil fuels, we face imminent environmental collapse. If we cease burning fossil fuels, the industrial economy will collapse. Industrial humans express these futures as a choice between your money or your life, and tell you that, without money, life isn’t worth living. As should be clear by now, industrial humans — or at least our “leaders” — have chosen not door number one (environmental collapse) and not door number two (economic collapse), but both of the above.
Maybe this is why we seem unable to have the conversation because to do so means we have to look at ourselves in the mirror. Each one of us, you and me, has to address something so deeply personal. Back to Prof. McPherson and page 177 of his book (my emphasis):
It’s no longer just the living planet we should be concerned about. It’s us. The moral question, then: What are you going to do about it?
For my money, Mr. Monbiot is yet another voice of reason in the wilderness; another voice that deserves to be followed. I say this because by way of introduction to his philosophy, he opens thus:
My job is to tell people what they don’t want to hear. That is not what I set out to do. I wanted only to cover the subjects I thought were interesting and important. But wherever I turned, I met a brick wall of denial.
Denial is everywhere. I have come to believe that it’s an intrinsic component of our humanity, an essential survival strategy. Unlike other species, we know that we will die. This knowledge could destroy us, were we unable to blot it out. But, unlike other species, we also know how not to know. We employ this unique ability to suppress our knowledge not just of mortality, but of everything we find uncomfortable, until our survival strategy becomes a threat to our survival.
“… until our survival strategy becomes a threat to our survival.”
I sense the growing of this threat to the point where maybe within less than a year the vast majority of open-minded, thinking individuals know the truth of where we are all heading.
A less than reverent view of the Euro.
This was sent to me by Richard Maugham from England. Richard and I go back the thick end of 40 years or more. He and I met when I was a salesman for IBM UK (Office Products Division) and Richard was a salesman for Olivetti UK. Thus we were selling competitive products!
But that didn’t stop us from becoming great friends and remaining so ever since. Indeed, Richard and Julie are out to see us in Oregon in just over 3 weeks time.
One of the bonds between Richard and me is a love for silliness and quirky humour. Hence Richard sending me the following that, in turn, had been sent to him.
For those that are not familiar with the Blackadder comedy series on the BBC, more background provided later on. Anyway, this is what I received from Richard.
The Euro according to Blackadder
Baldrick: ”What I want to know, Sir, is before there was a Euro there were lots of different types of money that different people used. And now there’s only one type of money that the foreign people use. And what I want to know is, how did we get from one state of affairs to the other state of affairs?”
Blackadder: ”Baldrick. Do you mean, how did the Euro start?”
Baldrick: ”Yes Sir”.
Blackadder: ”Well, you see Baldrick, back in the 1980s there were many different countries all running their own finances and using different types of money. On one side you had the major economies of France, Belgium, Holland and Germany, and on the other, the weaker nations of Spain, Greece, Ireland, Italy and Portugal. They got together and decided that it would be much easier for everyone if they could all use the same money, have one Central Bank, and belong to one large club where everyone would be happy. This meant that there could never be a situation whereby financial meltdown would lead to social unrest, wars and crises”.
Baldrick: ”But, Sir, isn’t this a sort of a crisis?”
Blackadder: ”That’s right Baldrick. You see, there was only one slight flaw with the plan”.
Baldrick: ”What was that then, Sir?”
Blackadder: “It was bollocks”.
More about the Blackadder series can be read here, from which I republish:
Blackadder is the name that encompassed four series of a BBC 1 period British sitcom, along with several one-off instalments. All television programme episodes starred Rowan Atkinson as anti-hero Edmund Blackadder and Tony Robinson as Blackadder’s dogsbody, Baldrick. Each series was set in a different historical period with the two protagonists accompanied by different characters, though several reappear in one series or another, for example Melchett and Lord Flashheart.
The first series titled The Black Adder was written by Richard Curtis and Rowan Atkinson, while subsequent episodes were written by Curtis and Ben Elton. The shows were produced by John Lloyd. In 2000 the fourth series, Blackadder Goes Forth, ranked at 16 in the “100 Greatest British Television Programmes”, a list created by the British Film Institute. Also in the 2004 TV poll to find “Britain’s Best Sitcom”, Blackadder was voted the second-best British sitcom of all time, topped by Only Fools and Horses. It was also ranked as the 20th-best TV show of all time by Empire magazine.
Although each series is set in a different era, all follow the “misfortunes” of Edmund Blackadder (played by Atkinson), who in each is a member of a British family dynasty present at many significant periods and places in British history. It is implied in each series that the Blackadder character is a descendant of the previous one, although it is never mentioned how any of the Blackadders manage to father children.
There are many videos on YouTube of Blackadder sketches and it was a hard choosing what to include in today’s post.
See what you make of this:
Captain Blackadder is court-martialled for killing a pigeon and George provides counsel for the defence.
The full copy of an email received yesterday from 350.org
Breaking news about a good friend
Big news has just emerged: Dr. James Hansen, the planet’s premier climate scientist, announced his retirement as head of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies, where he began his career in 1967.
If 350.org has a patron saint, it’s Jim. It was his 2008 paper that gave us our name, identifying 350 parts per million CO2 as the safe upper limit for carbon in the atmosphere.
But as much as for his science, we respect him for his courage. He’s always been willing to speak the truth bluntly, from the day in 1988 when he told Congress that the time had come “to stop waffling so much and say the planet was warming,” to all he’s done to bring attention to damaging projects like Keystone XL — even to the point of risking arrest to do so. I have no doubt he’ll go on doing science, and speaking plainly — indeed, he told the New York Times that one reason he’s leaving the federal payroll is so he can take on the government more directly.
But this is a big moment, and we need to mark it. Here’s what I hope you’ll do: honor Jim’s lifetime of work by making a public comment to the State Department about Keystone XL and tell them to reject the pipeline. In this case, speaking out is simple — click the link below to go to the page to submit from. There’s a list of ten arguments to choose from – you can mix and match or put it in your own words and just speak from the heart.
Sending a message to the State Department might not seem like much, but I think it’s actually quite fitting tribute.
One reason we’re fighting the pipeline is because Jim Hansen did the math to show that if we combusted the tar sands on top of all else we burn, it would be “game over for the climate.” So far that message hasn’t gotten through: the State Department hired a bunch of compromised oil industry analysts to ‘review’ KXL, and unsurprisingly they decided it would have ‘minimal’ environmental impact. We need to get them to take reality seriously, and change that assessment.
Maybe — just maybe — with a truly overwhelming flood of comments, we can break through. Together with our friends across the movement, we’re aiming for an ambitious target of 1 million comments to the State Department to stop the pipeline.
Beginning this comment push is all the more timely after the disasterous tar sands pipeline spill in Arkansas, where thousands of gallons of toxic oil ran freely through the streets of a suburban community.
Jim Hansen has been to jail twice to try and block KXL. When I saw him in handcuffs, I cringed. I don’t mind going myself, but it seems crazy that we have to send our best climate scientist off in handcuffs; in a sane world he’d never have to leave the lab. And in a sane world we’d just be toasting his retirement from NASA with well-deserved champagne.
But it’s a crazy world, heating fast, and so we need to mark this historic day in a way that really counts. Please do take a couple minutes to submit a comment on the Keystone XL Pipeline.
So many thanks,
P.S. This article about Jim’s work in the New York Times is supurb — please take a moment to read and share: nytimes.com/2013/04/02/science/james-e-hansen-retiring-from-nasa-to-fight-global-warming.html
P.S. please submit your comment re the Keystone XL Pipeline; for all our sakes. This is the acknowledgement you will receive from 350.org.
Thanks for submitting your comment. We’ve set the ambitious goal of 1,000,000 comments to the State Department because our best defense against the big money behind this project is overwhelming numbers — in short, people power.
Submitting a comment is just the first step — to hit that big goal, we each need to get our friends, family and maybe a few new people to join us. The next step is to share this with your social networks. You can click below to easily share with Facebook and Twitter:
Also, emails to friends is a great way to encourage people to share as well — just include this link when you reach out:act.350.org/letter/a_million_strong_against_keystone/
No doubt we’ll talk again soon about all this — there’s still a ways to go.
A review of the recently published book by Martin Lack.
In many ways it would be terribly easy to find fault with this book. If it had been written as a book, been through the edits that a new book requires, then published, those faults would be a significant criticism.
But it was not written as a book! It was originally written as an academic text. As Martin explains in the Preface:
This book is based on research originally undertaken – and a dissertation written – as part of my MA in Environmental Politics from Keele University in Staffordshire (in 2010-2011).
Then in the following paragraph goes on to say:
Academics generally disapprove of the publication of academic research via non-academic, non-peer-reviewed routes. However, I am trying to reach more than just an academic audience.
Three sentences later:
However, this book retains many of the features of a piece of academic research, …. (All quotes from page viii of the preface)
To a person unaccustomed to reading academic research, as is this reader, the structural and presentational differences between a ‘normal’ non-fiction book and a dissertation are significant. That needs to be borne in mind as you turn to page one.
OK, now that I have got that off my chest, on to the substance of the review.
Turning to the outside back cover, one sees Martin clearly explaining that the book is not about climate science, rather an analysis of why some people dispute “the reality, reliability and reasonableness of this science.”
That alone justifies the work that Martin put into his research and dissertation and his subsequent decision to adapt his findings into a book.
The pace and scale of the changes that are being visited on Planet Earth is truly frightening. The number of feedback loops that we are locked into now don’t even bear thinking about. Just take the continuing and accelerating loss of the Arctic ice-cap and extrapolate that for a couple of decades (touched on in my recent post More new tomorrows and see footnote.)
We are not talking of subtle changes over many generations. We are talking about irreversible and irrevocably massive changes to our environment within the lifetimes of just about every living person on this planet. (I’m 70 next year and while I have no idea how many years I have left, I rate it as at least 50:50 that before I take my last breath, the coming destruction of biosphere will be blindingly obvious to me, Jean and 99.9% of the world’s population.)
Makes me want to shout out ……
There is not much time left to leave a sustainable world for future generations. Come on politicians and power-brokers; start acting as though you truly understand the urgency of the situation!
Ah, that feels much better!
Back to the book!
Martin examines 5 categories that display denial behaviours, to a greater or lesser extent. These categories are: Organisations; Scientists, Economists, Journalists and Politicians. Oh, and a 6th catch-all category: Others.
Each section dealing with a category is structured in the same way: Preliminary Research; Key Findings and Summary. Tables are used extensively to allow easy review of the findings.
Again, what needs to be hammered out is that this format is very unlike a typical non-fiction book. Because it’s fundamentally an academic dissertation! But, so what!
What is important is for the widest possible audience to understand the breadth and extent of the denial going on. Denial that is, literally, playing with the future of humanity on this planet; the only home we have.
Let me reinforce that last sentence by picking up on what Martin writes on his closing page (p.76):
Furthermore, there is strong circumstantial evidence to suggest that this scepticism is being fuelled by those with a vested interest in the continuance of “business as usual” by seeking to downplay, deny or dismiss the scientific consensus on the extent of ACD.
Martin Lack’s book may be unconventional in many ways. But as a tool to show how those who deny the science of climate change deny the right of future millions to live in a sustainable manner, it is most powerful. It is a valuable reference book that should be in every library and every secondary school across the globe!
The Denial of Science is published by AuthorHouse 02/23/2013
- To add weight to the points made in this review, do look in on tomorrow’s post.
- I have no commercial links to Martin Lack; indeed, I purchased the copy of the book that I used for this review.
Trip back memory lane to the days of Zanjeer.
I had completely forgotten about the story of Zanjeer. But thanks to a recent email from John Lewis, friend from previous Devon days, it seemed fitting for today’s post.
Zanjeer was a Labrador Retriever who served as a detection dog with the Mumbai Police. During the time of the 1993 Mumbai bombings, Zanjeer detected arms and ammunition, including 3,329 kg of RDX explosives.
Here’s how Zanjeer’s death was reported back in November, 2000.
Police dog Zanjeer dead
Police sniffer dog Zanjeer, who detected arms and ammunition used in 1993 serial explosions, died at a veterinary hospital at Parel last night, Bomb Detection and Disposal Squad sources said.
The nine-year-old Labrador was admitted to the hospital last month after it developed swellings in the lungs and paws.
Among the eight dogs with the squad, Zanjeer was regarded as a hero. It had two handlers, Ganesh Andale and V G Rajput. Zanjeer had detected 3,329 kgs of RDX, nine sticks of gelatine, five kg of other explosives, 18 AK-56 rounds, five pistol rounds and 6,406 other rounds during the blast investigations.
Zanjeer was born on January 7, 1992, and was inducted into the squad on December 29, 1992. It was trained at the Dog Training Centre of the Criminal Investigation Department at Shivaji Nagar in Pune.
WikiPedia has an entry that opens thus:
Zanjeer (7 January 1992 – 16 November 2000) was a Labrador Retriever who served as a detection dog with the Mumbai Police. During the time of the 1993 Mumbai bombings, Zanjeer detected arms and ammunition, including 3,329 kg of RDX explosives.
Zanjeer was trained at the Dog Training Centre of the Criminal Investigation Department at Shivaji Nagar in Pune, India. He joined the Mumbai Police Bomb Detection and Disposal Squad on 29 December 1992 and was handled by Ganesh Andale and V G Rajput.
The name Zanjeer comes from the 1973 Hindi film Zanjeer but he was also called “Ginger” because of his coat colour.
Not including his contributions during the 1993 attacks, Zanjeer helped to recover 11 military bombs, 57 country-made bombs, 175 petrol bombs, and 600 detonators.
Some special dog!
Finally, from the First Post website comes this:
Zanjeer, the labrador: Unlikely hero of 1993 Mumbai blasts
A senior police officer lays a floral wreath on Mumbai’s most famous dog Zanjeer, who worked with the Bomb Squad, following his death from bone cancer in the city, November 17, 2000.Zanjeer, a golden labrador, saved thousands of lives during the serial bomb blasts in the city in March 1993 by detecting more than 3,329 kgs of the explosive RDX, 600 detonators, 249 hand grenades and 6406 rounds of live ammunition. He was buried with full honours during a ceremony attended by senior police officials. Reuters
Twenty years ago! My, how the years slip by!. Thanks John.
A guest post from Tom Engelhardt.
As regular followers of this blog know, Tom Engelhardt of Tom Dispatch fame has very kindly given permission for essays on Tom Dispatch to be republished on Learning from Dogs. I try to be circumspect about which essays I do republish.
I’m away from my desk for the next two days which seemed like a great reason to republish this reflection from Tom on the Keystone XL protest event held in Washington D.C last February 17th.
Tomgram: Engelhardt, Climate Change as History’s Deal-Breaker
Where Is Everybody?
Why It’s So Tough to Get Your Head Around Climate Change
By Tom Engelhardt
Two Sundays ago, I traveled to the nation’s capital to attend what was billed as “the largest climate rally in history” and I haven’t been able to get the experience — or a question that haunted me — out of my mind. Where was everybody?
First, though, the obvious weather irony: climate change didn’t exactly come out in support of that rally. In the midst of the warmest years and some of the warmest winters on record, the demonstration, which focused on stopping the Keystone XL Pipeline — it will bring tar-sands oil, some of the “dirtiest,” carbon-richest energy available from Alberta, Canada, to the U.S. Gulf Coast — was the coldest I’ve ever attended. I thought I’d lose a few fingers and toes while listening to the hour-plus of speakers, including Senator Sheldon Whitehouse from Rhode Island, who were theoretically warming the crowd up for its march around the (other) White House.
And I also experienced a moment of deep disappointment. When I arrived early at the spot in front of the Washington Monument on the National Mall where we were to assemble, my heart sank. It looked like only a few thousand protestors were gathering for what had been billed as a monster event. I had taken it for granted that I would be adding one small, aging body (and voice) to a vast crowd at a propitious moment to pressure Barack Obama to become the climate-change president he hasn’t been. After all, he has a decision to make that’s his alone: whether or not to allow that pipeline to be built. Nixing it would help keep a potentially significant contributor to climate change, those Albertan tar sands, in the ground. In other words, I hoped to play my tiny part in preserving a half-decent future for this planet, my children, and my new grandson.
Sixty environmental and other organizations were backing the demonstration, including the Sierra Club with its hundreds of thousands of members. Given what was potentially at stake, it never crossed my mind that the turnout wouldn’t be substantial. In fact, on that frigid day, lots of demonstrators did turn up. Evidently, they knew the dirty little secret of such events: that much talk would precede a modest amount of walking and inventive slogan shouting. So they arrived — poured in actually — late, and in real numbers.
In the end, the organizers estimated attendance at somewhere in the 35,000-50,000 range. Media reports varied between the usual “thousands,” generically used to describe (or, if you’re in a conspiratorial frame of mind, minimize) any demonstration, and tens of thousands. I have no way of estimating myself, but certainly the crowd was, in the end, sizeable, as well as young, enthusiastic, and loud. It made itself heard passing the White House. Not that President Obama was there to hear anything. He was then on a golf course in the Florida warmth teeing up with “a pair of Texans who are key oil, gas, and pipeline players.” That seemed to catch another kind of climate-change reality of our moment and strongly hinted at the strength of the forces any such movement is up against. In the meantime, Keystone builder TransCanada was ominously completing the already green-lighted first half of the Texas-Oklahoma leg of its prospective future pipeline.
In the end, I felt genuine satisfaction at having been there, but given what was at stake, givenFrankenstorm Sandy, the devastating Midwestern drought and record southwestern fires of 2012, the Snowmageddon winter storm that had recently dropped 40 inches of the white stuff on Hamden, Connecticut, the blistering spring and summer of 2012, the fast-melting Arctic sea ice, and the fact that last year broke all heat records for the continental United States, given the build-up of billion-dollar weather disasters in recent years, and the growing emphasis on “extreme weather” events on the national TV news, shouldn’t hundreds of thousands have been there? After all, I’ve been inantiwar demonstrations in which at least that many marched and in 1982, I found myself in my hometown in a crowd of a million demonstrating against the possibility of a world-ending nuclear war. Is climate change a less important issue?
“There Is No Planet B”
While protesting that Sunday, I noted one slogan on a number of hand-made signs that struck me as the most pointed (and poignant) of the march: “There is no planet B.” It seemed to sum up what was potentially at stake: a planet to live reasonably comfortably on. You really can’t get much more basic than that, which is why hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, should have been out in the streets demanding that our leaders begin to attend to climate change before it’s quite literally too late.
After all, to my mind, climate change, global warming, extreme weather — call it what you will — is the obvious deal-breaker in human, if not planetary, history. Everything but nuclear catastrophe pales by comparison, no matter the disaster: 9/11, 70,000 dead in Syria, failed wars, the grimmest of dictatorships, movements of hope that don’t deliver — all of that’s familiar history. Those are the sorts of situations where you can try again, differently, or future generations can and maybe do far better. All of it involves human beings who need to be dealt with or human structures that need to be changed. While any of them may be the definition of “the worst of times,” they are also thedefinition of hope.
Nature and the weather are another matter (even if it’s humanity that, by burning of fossil fuels atincreasingly staggering rates, has created its own Frankenstein’s monster out of the natural world). Climate change is clearly something new in our experience. Even in its relatively early but visibly intensifying stages, it threatens to be the singular event in human history, because unlike every other disaster we can imagine (except a full-scale nuclear war or, as has happened in the planet’s past, a large meteorite or asteroid impact), it alone will alter the basis for life on this planet.
Raise the planet’s temperature by three to six degrees Celsius, as various well-respected scientific types and groups are now suggesting might happen by century’s end (and possibly throw in some more heat thanks to the melting of the permafrost in the north), and if you live in a city on a coastline, you’d better watch out. And that only begins to suggest the problems humanity will face.
The world, at best, will be a distinctly poorer, less comfortable place for us (and from there the scenarios only get uglier).
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m no scientist. I doubt I’d even be considered scientifically literate (though I try). But the scientific consensus on the subject of climate change seems striking enough to me, and what’s happening around us is no less striking as a confirmation that our world is changing — and remarkably quickly at that. Whether you read about melting glaciers, the melting Greenland ice shield, melting Arctic waters, melting permafrost, acidifying oceans, intensifying storms, greater desertification, wilder wild fires, or so many other allied subjects, doesn’t it always seem that the rates of bad news are on the rise and the word “record” is usually lurking somewhere in the vicinity?
So I continue to wonder, given our situation on this planet, given our future and that of our children and grandchildren, where is everybody?
Can You Organize Against the Apocalypse?
Don’t for a second think that I have some magic answer to that question. Still, as it’s been on my mind, here’s an attempt to lay out at least some of the possible factors, micro to macro, that might have limited the size of that crowd two Sundays ago and perhaps might tend to limit the size of any climate-change crowd, as well as the mobilizing possibilities that lie in the disaster awaiting us.
Outreach: Yes, there were at least 60 groups involved, but how much outreach was there really? Many people I know hadn’t heard a thing about the event. And while climate change has been on the human agenda for a while now, a real movement to deal with what’s happening to us is in its absolute infancy. There is so much outreach and so much education that still needs to be done.
The slowness of movements: It’s easy to forget how long it can take for movements of change to grow, for their messages to cohere, penetrate, and begin to make sense or seem meaningful to large numbers of people in terms of their everyday lives. Despite its obvious long-term destructive power, for many reasons (see below) climate change might prove a particularly difficult issue to link to our everyday lives in ways that mobilize rather than demobilize us. On a similarly difficult issue, the nuclear movement, it took literally decades to grow to that million-person march, and even early anti-Vietnam War protests were smaller than the recent Keystone demo.
Politics: Attitudes toward climate change have largely polarized along left-right lines, so that the issue seems politically ghettoized at the moment (though there was a time when Republicans of some stature were concerned about the subject). To my mind, it’s part of the insanity of our moment that the preservation of our planet as we have known it, which should be the great conservative issue of our era, is now pure poison on the right. Even American paleo-conservatives, who are willing to make common cause on American war policy with left anti-imperial types, won’t touch it with a 10-foot pole. When this begins to change, you’ll know something of significance is happening.
Enemies: Here’s a factor it’s easy to ignore, but no one should. Giant energy companies and energy-connected right-wing billionaires have for years now been funneling staggering amounts of money into a network of right-wing think tanks and websites dedicated to creating doubts about climate change and promoting climate denial. In the latest revelation about the well-financed climate-denial movement, the British Guardian reports that between 2002 and 2010, $120 million dollars was shuttled, “using a secretive funding route,” into “more than 100 groups casting doubt about the science behind climate change.” It all came from conservative billionaires (and not just the Koch brothers) who were guaranteed total anonymity. And it “helped build a vast network of think tanks and activist groups working to a single purpose: to redefine climate change from neutral scientific fact to a highly polarizing ‘wedge issue’ for hardcore conservatives.” The funders of this “movement” and their minions should, of course, be disqualified on the spot. They are almost all identified with and profit from the very fossil fuels that climate-change scientists say are heating up the planet. But they — and a few outlier scientific types they’ve scrounged up — provide the “balance,” the “two sides,” that the mainstream media adores. And they play upon the arcane nature of Science itself to intimidate the rest of us.
Science: When you have a bad boss, or your country is ruled by a dictator, or your bank cheats you, it’s within your everyday experience. You have some body of personal knowledge to draw on to understand the situation. You are personally offended. But Science? For most of us, the very word is intimidating. It means what we didn’t understand in school and gave up understanding long ago. To grasp climate change means teaching yourself Science with no professors in sight. Filling the knowledge bank you don’t have on your own. It’s daunting. Oh yes, the Ice-Albedo feedback loop. Sure thing. If the boss, the bank, the dictator takes your home, you get it. If Superstorm Sandy turns your home into rubble, what you get is an argument. What you need is an education to know just what role “climate change” might have played in making that storm worse, or whether it played any role at all. Similarly, you need an education to grasp the dangers of those tar sands from Canada. It can be overwhelming. Doubts are continually raised (see “enemies”), the natural variability of the weather makes climate change easier to dismiss, and sometimes, when Science takes the lead, it’s easier just to duck.
Nature: Science is bad enough; now, throw in Nature. How many of us still live on farms? How many of us still live in “the wilderness”? Isn’t Nature what we catch on the Discovery Channel? Isn’t it what we pay a lot of money to drop in on briefly and ogle while on vacation? In our everyday lives, most of us are, in some way, no longer a part of this natural world of “ours” — not at least until drought strikes your region, or that “record wildfire” approaches your community, or that bear/coyote/skunk/puma stumbles into your (urban or suburban) neck of the woods. Connecting with Nature, no less imagining the changing natural state of a planet going haywire (along with the likelihood of mass, climate-changed induced extinctions) is again not exactly an easy thing to do; it’s not what comes “naturally” to us.
Blame: Any movement needs a target. But this isn’t the Arab Spring. Climate change is not Hosni Mubarak. This isn’t the Occupy moment. Climate change is not simply “Wall Street” or the 1%. It’s not simply the Obama administration, a polarized Congress filled with energy-company-supported climate ignorers and deniers, or the Chinese leadership that’s exploiting coal for all its worth, or the Canadian government that abandoned the Kyoto treaty and supports that tar-sands pipeline, or the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has put its money where its mouth is in American electoral politics when it comes to climate change. Yes, the giant energy companies, which are making historic profits off our burning planet, couldn’t be worse news or more culpable. The oil billionaires are a disaster, and so on. Still, targets are almost too plentiful and confusing. There are indeed villains, but so many of them! And what, after all, about the rest of us who lend a hand in burning fossil fuels as if there were no tomorrow? What about our consumer way of life to which all of us are, to one degree or another, addicted, and which has been a model for the rest of the world. Who then is the enemy? What exactly is to be done? In other words, there is anamorphousness to who’s aiding and abetting climate change that can make the targeting on which any movement thrives difficult.
The future: In the environmental movement, there is some serious discussion about why it’s so hard for climate change to gain traction among the public (and in the media). It’s sometimes said that the culprit is our brains, which weren’t set up, in an evolutionary sense, to deal with a problem that won’t deliver its full whammy for perhaps close to a century or more. Actually, I wonder about this. I would argue, based on the historical record, that our brains are well enough equipped to face distant futures and their problems. In fact, I think it’s a reasonable proposition that if you can’t imagine the future, if you can’t imagine building something not just for yourself but for your children or the children of others and of future generations, then you probably can’t build a movement at all. All movements, even those intent on preserving the past, are in some sense future-oriented.
The apocalypse: Here’s the thing, though. It’s difficult to organize for or even against a future that you can’t imagine yourself and those children and future generations in. The thought of world-ending events may simply close down our operative imaginations. The end of the world may be popular in fiction, but in everyday life, I suspect, the apocalypse is the version of the future that it’s hardest to mobilize around. If the prospect is that it’s already hopeless, that the suffering is going to be largely down the line, that we’re all going down anyway, and the planet will simply be destroyed, well, why bother? Why not focus on what matters to you now and forget the rest? This is wheredenial, the almost involuntary turning away from unpalatable futures that seem beyond our power or ability to alter, comes into play. If the future is essentially over before it begins, then better to ignore it and go about your still palatable enough daily life.
Putting Your Money on Climate Change
Add all these factors (and others I’ve probably ignored) together and perhaps it’s a miracle that so many people turned out in Washington two weekends ago. As we’ve already learned in this nuclear age of ours, it’s quite possible for a grid of exterminationism, a sense of hopelessness about the distant future, to descend upon us almost unnoticed. That grid in no way stops you from thinking about your own life in the present, or even about the immediate future, about, say, getting married, having a child, making a living, but it’s crippling when it comes to mobilizing for a different future.
I’ve always believed that some of the vaunted organizing power and energy of the famed Sixties came from the fact that, in 1963, the superpowers achieved an agreement on the testing of nuclear weapons that sent them underground and more or less out of consciousness. The last end-of-the-world films of that era appeared in 1964, just as bomb-shelter and civil defense programs were heading for the graveyard. By 1969, the National Committee for a SANE Nuclear Policy had even eliminated “nuclear” from its own name. Without necessarily being aware of it, many (especially among the young), I suspect, felt their energies liberated from a paralyzing sense of doom. You no longer had to think about scenarios in which the two Cold War superpowers would destroy the planet. It made almost anything seem possible. For a brief period before the Reagan presidency raised such fears again, you could look to the future with a sense of hope, which was exhilarating.
Can there be any doubt that, to steal a phrase from that era, the personal is indeed political? On the other hand, the apocalypse, particularly an apocalypse that features Science and Nature in its starring roles, seems anything but personal or stoppable — unless you’re a farmer and a pipeline filled with a particularly nasty version of oil runs right through your nearest aquifer. The real issue here is how to make climate change personal in a way that doesn’t simply cause us to shut down.
One of the cleverer approaches to climate change has been that of Bill McKibben, the man who organized 350.org. In a determined fashion, he’s been breaking the overwhelming nature of climate change down into some of its component parts that can be grasped, focused on, and organized around. Stopping the Keystone XL pipeline and encouraging students to lobby to make their schools divest from big fossil fuel companies are examples of his approach.
More generally, climate change is, in fact, becoming more personal by the year. In the “extreme weather,” which so regularly leads the TV news, its effects are coming closer to us all. Increasing numbers of us know, in our hearts, that it’s the real deal. And no, it doesn’t have to be the apocalypse either. The planet itself, of course, will survive and, given a few hundred thousand or even a few million years, will recover and once again be a thriving place of some unknown sort. As for humanity, we’re a clever enough species. Sooner or later, we will undoubtedly figure out how to survive as well, but the questions are: How many of us? On what terms? In what kind of degraded state? And what can we do soon to mitigate climate change’s worst future effects?
Perhaps a modern, post-religious version of seventeenth-century French philosopher Blaise Pascal’s famous bet is what’s needed. He argued that it was in the interest of those who remained in doubt about God to place a wager on His existence. As he pointed out, with such a bet, if you win, you win everything; if you lose, you lose nothing.
Something somewhat analogous might be said of climate change. Perhaps it’s time to put your wager on the reality of climate change, on its paramount importance to us and our children and our children’s children, and to bet as well that your efforts (and those of others) will in the end make enough of a difference. Then, if you win, humanity wins everything; if you lose, well, there will be hell to pay.
Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project and author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture, runs the Nation Institute’s TomDispatch.com. His latest book, co-authored with Nick Turse, is Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050.
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Copyright 2013 Tom Engelhardt