Essence of wisdom, page three.

A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.

My concluding essay on the subject of wisdom starts off with this quotation by Martin Luther King, Jr.  That he was best known for using nonviolent civil disobedience to achieve political aims in the 1950’s and 60’s may not be inappropriate today.

I started with looking at our brain in recognition of the strange ways in which we humans make sense of the world, then yesterday looked at how we confuse what we do with what is best for us, surely the essence of wisdom.  Today, I want to conclude with a reflection on the gap between the new wisdom of millions of citizens and the failure of so many leaders to recognise this wisdom.  When I use the word wisdom in this context, it’s probably more in the sense of awareness.  The growing awareness by millions of us that something isn’t right and that our democratic representatives and leaders are way behind.

I will support my argument by referring to a number of media items that have surfaced in recent days.

Let’s start with this weather forecasting chart from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.


Australia’s “dome of heat” has become so intense that the temperatures are rising off the charts – literally.

The air mass over the inland is still heating up – it hasn’t peaked

The Bureau of Meteorology’s interactive weather forecasting chart has added new colours – deep purple and pink – to extend its previous temperature range that had been capped at 50 degrees.

The range now extends to 54 degrees – well above the all-time record temperature of 50.7 degrees reached on January 2, 1960 at Oodnadatta Airport in South Australia – and, perhaps worryingly, the forecast outlook is starting to deploy the new colours.

“The scale has just been increased today and I would anticipate it is because the forecast coming from the bureau’s model is showing temperatures in excess of 50 degrees,” David Jones, head of the bureau’s climate monitoring and prediction unit, said.

Just reflect on that!  54 degrees Centigrade is 129 degrees Fahrenheit!

On January 4th, just 5 days ago, Bill Moyers held an interview with climate change communication expert Anthony Leiserowitz who explained why climate change gets the silent treatment, and what we should do about it.  Here’s a trailer to that programme.

I very strongly recommend you put an hour to one side and watch the full programme available here.

Next comes a recent item on Christine’s fantastic blog 350 or bust.  I forgot to ask Christine for permission to reproduce her article but am confident that republishing it on Learning from Dogs carries her full support.

New Report Connects Dots Between Political Inaction & Growing Cost Of Climate Change


This is a reposting from The Earth Story’s Facebook page:

“The cost of living is going up and the chance of living is going down. “ –Flip Wilson

A new publication issued by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in the journal “Nature” has reported that the chances of keeping temperatures below a 2 degree rise is now largely in the hands of policy makers.

The challenge of a changing climate can now only be fought with the backing of political agenda – and as most people will agree, this seems bleak.

Of all the uncertainties with regard the effects of climate change, including geophysical and social uncertainties; political uncertainty ranked as the number 1 factor in determining the fate of our species and our planet.

What went wrong? Maybe we have been advertising climate change in an ineffective manner, considering how politically charged the world is?

The burdens of climate change are often communicated in relation to extreme weather events, melting ice caps, lives lost, loss of biodiversity, endangered species etc., but it would appear that to some this doesn’t seem to ring a bell; probably as the bell doesn’t chime as “cha ching cha ching”.

So what happens if we try to communicate climate change in relation to cost?

In 2012, in the United States alone, there were 11 natural disasters that cost over $1 billion – and this does not yet include the almost country wide drought or hurricane sandy, and let’s not forget the multiple other disasters which did not make the 1 billion benchmark. It is predicted that events, like the ones that swept the entire globe in 2012, will increase in frequency and in destructive force if we do not keep temperatures below the 2 degree rise on pre-industrial temperatures.

If we do not change our ways by 2020, the research group have found that the probability of keeping the temperature within the assigned two degree window drops below 50% (best case) or 20% (worst case) – no matter how much money is spent in the effort.

It is predicted that money will not matter; it’s almost bittersweet.

2012 was an eye opening year in terms of our natural environment. From here on out, let’s try change our ways; not our climate. The clock is ticking.

“… the chances of keeping temperatures below a 2 degree rise is now largely in the hands of policy makers.”  Further comment by me is pointless – the message is already crystal clear.

The implications of the changes that are being imposed on all of us were picked up in a recent article in the British newspaper The Telegraph: Rising food prices will reap a bitter harvest.  Here’s a flavour (sorry!) of the article.

British shoppers should brace themselves for “massive” food price rises in 2013, says the aptly named Mark Price, managing director of Waitrose. Is he correct, or is this just another retailer trying to soften up public opinion before imposing price hikes?

Liam Halligan goes on to write (my emphasis):

It strikes me that Price most certainly is right and his statement deserves more comment and consideration. For it is almost inevitable that many crucial foodstuffs will become considerably more expensive during 2013, not least due to recent weather patterns. More fundamentally, the food price rises we’ll see over the coming year will also reflect longer-term non-cyclical trends, not least the burgeoning world population.

During 2013, in fact, rising food prices are likely not only to have a serious impact on the global economy, but could well spark violence and political upheaval, not least in the Middle East.

The importance of the trend Price has highlighted, then, goes way beyond the tills of upmarket British supermarkets. It’s certainly the case, though, that UK food production looks weak, as heavy rainfall in 2012 meant many crops were ruined and farmers couldn’t plant as much as they wanted for 2013. Despite a very dry first quarter, 2012 was this country’s second-wettest year since records began in 1910.

I don’t want to quote any more from the article but read it and realise how the world in 2013 may be unrecognisable beyond our wildest imaginations.

OK, going to round this off.

Firstly, by asking you to read a recent item in Democracy Journal.  This is how the article starts.

Everyone’s Fight: The New Plan to Defeat Big Money

The 2012 campaign is by now mercifully out of our systems, but it remains worth reflecting on some of the dubious firsts that occurred during this election. This was the first presidential campaign to cost more than $2 billion. It was also the first time neither candidate accepted any public financing or the limits that come with it. Finally, it was the first presidential election after Citizens United, the Supreme Court decision that allowed around $600 million in super PAC donations this cycle, and many millions more to nonprofit “social welfare” groups that aren’t required to disclose their donors.

But even these bleak facts don’t do justice to the problem of Big Money. Campaign spending isn’t even our most dire money-in-politics problem. That would be the thousands of lobbyists and many millions of their dollars that are devoted to the warping of our public policy. These powerful lobbies control most outcomes on Capitol Hill, and the problem is far worse than it was 20 years ago.

Read the rest here.

Lastly, by returning to another recent item from Bill Moyers.

Citizens, Not Consumers, Are Key to Solving Climate Crisis

January 4, 2013

by Lauren Feeney

Annie Leonard spent 20 years working for environmental organizations, studying where our stuff comes from and where it goes. She followed waste from industrialized countries to apartheid-era South Africa, where it was dumped in black townships, to Haiti, where it was disguised as fertilizer and dumped on a beach, to Pakistan, Indonesia and the Philippines where we sent everything from e-waste to used car batteries for recycling in a process too dirty for our own backyard.

Then, in 2007, she made a short animated film about our consumer culture and the damage it does to the environment. The Story of Stuff went viral (chances are you’ve seen it — more than 15 million people have) and spawned a whole series of videos that explain complicated environmental and political concepts in an irresistibly simple and engaging way. We reached Annie via email to talk about the latest installment, The Story of Change. This one’s a bit of a departure — instead of looking at the problem, it proposes a solution.

It included this video:

Can shopping save the world? The Story of Change urges viewers to put down their credit cards and start exercising their citizen muscles to build a more sustainable, just and fulfilling world.

I shall close with another quotation from Martin Luther King, Jr.

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

17 thoughts on “Essence of wisdom, page three.

  1. From all of this, I think the phrase that struck me (about our chances of now avoiding less than 2 Celsius average temperature rise) most forcefully was:

    It is predicted that [the amount of money now spent] will not matter


    1. Yes. I have thought about this a fair amount, especially as I decided last year to go ahead and spend part of my retirement account now, rather than doing the prudent thing and holding it for later. Living in such precarious times does encourage us to focus on the present and try to do whatever it is we want to do in this lifetime ASAP–doesn’t it?


  2. Hello Paul, I follow your blog and enjoy your posts very much. I blog in a similar vein, and yesterday was writing about one of the “citizen groups” you are looking for here: Idle No More:

    Unfortunately following the news of politics, environment and climate change often takes me down depressing paths. I appreciated your pointing me to Paul Chefurka, who tries to show us how to deal with our upsetting reality with some equanimity.

    One thing I’m curious about: in a post that ended with a nod to The Story of Stuff & of Change, it was odd to come upon a consumer ad at the end. I have so far resisted the idea of advertising on my blog and am wondering about your thought process in relation to allowing ads on your site.

    all the best,


      1. Jennifer and Mr. P.

        I do take your points re the Google ad. It’s not a big thing for me and if there was a general mood among my readers against the ad then I would turn the option off.

        It produced an income of less than $200 in 2012 which sits in my PayPal account and gets used for charity donations, from time to time. For example, just the other day we made a donation to the Earth Insight Foundation from that PayPal pot.

        Thanks for the feedback, Paul


      2. I think there is only one thing more annoying than irrelevant advertisements and that is unexplained abbreviations.


      3. You’re absolutely right, my apologies. While we’re at it, let’s all learn esperanto* too…

        And I’m now intrigued, because despite having wasted the last half hour on it, I can find nowhere that expands ‘NTTO’ into “(I’m) not touching that one”. This abbreviation was once commonly used in the chatrooms I used to frequent many moons ago. It was commonly accompanied by the “:#” ‘smilie’ (as here) which was supposed to represent a zipped-shut mouth.

        * For the techno-illiterate, I offer the following information: when encountering blue text that is underlined, point your mouse** at the text and click.**

        ** where does it all end?


      4. Thanks Pendantry. Before submitting my fIrst comment, I also searched the Internet in vain for an explanation of your acronym. However, thanks for the explanation of the :# (which I also did not understand)… As for your comment regarding hypertext links, I’m NTTO 😉


      5. I always find useful for finding text anywhere on the Internet page at which I am looking (i.e. the equivalent of when in a Word document)… I appreciate, of course, that neither of the above will help you if you are viewing comments remotely via WordPress notification, email or mobile device – (i.e. as opposed to psychic remote viewing)… 😉


  3. Re: “Ending the Silence on Climate Change”:

    [Appeal to make the issue non-partisan, followed by:] The point is that climate change will affect all Americans, no matter what your political beliefs, your religious beliefs, your race, class, creed, etc. And in the end, the only way we’re going to deal with this issue is if we come together as a country

    (My bold.) So, climate change ‘communication expert’ Anthony Leiserowitz denounces one form of apartheid while in the very same breath reinforcing another. Correct me if I’m wrong: it was parochial thinking that got us into this fine mess in the first place.

    Thanks for the pointer to ‘The Story of Change’ — I haven’t seen that one.


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