Tag: New World Order

Our unsustainable way of life

The second of two essays reflecting the ‘New World Order’.

Yesterday, I introduced the first essay from Patrice Ayme.  Today, the second essay is a complete ‘copy and paste‘ as it appeared on TomDispatch.  The importance of such writers as Patrice Ayme, the authors that are published on TomDispatch, and many more besides, is beyond measure.  As the old saying goes, “The only thing required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing“.

So without further ado, here is that TomDispatch essay.

oooOOOooo

Tomgram: Mattea Kramer and Jo Comerford, Congress Tweeted While America Burned

Posted by Mattea Kramer and Jo Comerford at 10:11am, May 21, 2013.
Follow TomDispatch on Twitter @TomDispatch.

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: Those of you who were struck by the recent TD piece “You Are a Guinea Pig: How Americans Became Exposed to Biohazards in the Greatest Uncontrolled Experiment Ever Launched” shouldn’t miss last Sunday’s fascinating Bill Moyers interview with its authors, David Rosner and Gerald Markowitz, who have written the new book Lead Wars: The Politics of Science and the Fate of America’s Children. Tom]

Three days after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Congress passed a joint resolution called an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). You might remember it. In layman’s terms, it was a carte blanche for the Bush administration to go to war wherever it wanted, whenever it wanted, however it wanted, under the guise of fighting anyone who “planned, authorized, committed, or aided” the September 11th attackers, or “harbored” any terrorists or terror organizations connected to the attacks. That document, more than any other, launched the Global War on Terror or GWOT. President Obama long ago ditched the name and acronym, but he kept the global war.

And don’t expect that to change. On Thursday, Assistant Secretary of Defense Michael Sheehan went before Congress and insisted that the Defense Department couldn’t be more “comfortable” with AUMF, as it was written, and that not a word should be altered or amended for changed circumstances. The Pentagon was so comfortable, in fact, that its officials foresee using that resolution to continue its drone-powered “dirty wars” in the Greater Middle East and Africa for years to come. “In my judgment,” Sheehan said, “this is going to go on for quite a while, yes, beyond the second term of the president… I think it’s at least 10 to 20 years.”

So there you have it. The military got its blank check for overseas wars, for sending out the drones and the special operations forces, and has no plans to change that before 2023, if not 2033. In other words, for at least the next decade, the GWOT, whatever label it’s given, will continue to be the central fixture of American foreign policy.  It’s not going anywhere. Today, TomDispatch regulars Mattea Kramer and Jo Comerford of the invaluable National Priorities Project look at the “homeland” a decade into the future, as the effects of Congress’s austerity policies sink in. Put the two together and what a grim scene you have: a country investing in war in distant lands as it crumbles here at home. Andy Kroll

How America Became a Third World Country 
2013-2023 
By Mattea Kramer and Jo Comerford

The streets are so much darker now, since money for streetlights is rarely available to municipal governments. The national parks began closing down years ago. Some are already being subdivided and sold to the highest bidder. Reports on bridges crumbling or even collapsing are commonplace. The air in city after city hangs brown and heavy (and rates of childhood asthma and other lung diseases have shot up), because funding that would allow the enforcement of clean air standards by the Environmental Protection Agency is a distant memory. Public education has been cut to the bone, making good schools a luxury and, according to the Department of Education, two of every five students won’t graduate from high school.

It’s 2023 — and this is America 10 years after the first across-the-board federal budget cuts known as sequestration went into effect.  They went on for a decade, making no exception for effective programs vital to America’s economic health that were already underfunded, like job training and infrastructure repairs. It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

Traveling back in time to 2013 — at the moment the sequester cuts began — no one knew what their impact would be, although nearly everyone across the political spectrum agreed that it would be bad. As it happened, the first signs of the unraveling which would, a decade later, leave the United States a third-world country, could be detected surprisingly quickly, only three months after the cuts began. In that brief time, a few government agencies, like the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), after an uproar over flight delays, requested — and won — special relief.  Naturally, the Department of Defense, with a mere $568 billion to burn in its 2013 budget, also joined this elite list. On the other hand, critical spending for education, environmental protection, and scientific research was not spared, and in many communities the effect was felt remarkably soon.

Robust public investment had been a key to U.S. prosperity in the previous century. It was then considered a basic part of the social contract as well as of Economics 101. As just about everyone knew in those days, citizens paid taxes to fund worthy initiatives that the private sector wouldn’t adequately or efficiently supply. Roadways and scientific research were examples. In the post-World War II years, the country invested great sums of money in its interstate highways and what were widely considered the best education systems in the world, while research in well-funded government labs led to inventions like the Internet. The resulting world-class infrastructure, educated workforce, and technological revolution fed a robust private sector.

Austerity Fever

In the early years of the twenty-first century, however, a set of manufactured arguments for “austerity,” which had been gaining traction for decades, captured the national imagination. In 2011-2012, a Congress that seemed capable of doing little else passed trillions of dollars of what was then called “deficit reduction.” Sequestration was a strange and special case of this particular disease.  These across-the-board cuts, instituted in August 2011 and set to kick in on January 2, 2013, were meant to be a storm cloud hanging over Congress. Sequestration was never intended to take effect, but only to force lawmakers to listen to reason — to craft a less terrible plan to reduce deficits by a wholly arbitrary $1.2 trillion over 10 years. As is now common knowledge, they didn’t come to their senses and sequestration did go into effect. Then, although Congress could have cancelled the cuts at any moment, the country never turned back.

It wasn’t that cutting federal spending at those levels would necessarily have been devastating in 2013, though in an already weakened economy any cutbacks would have hurt. Rather, sequestration proved particularly corrosive from the start because all types of public spending — from grants for renewable energy research and disadvantaged public schools to HIV testing — were to be gutted equally, as if all of it were just fat to be trimmed. Even monitoring systems for possible natural disasters like river flooding or an imminent volcanic eruption began to be shut down.  Over time the cuts would be vast: $85 billion in the first year and $110 billion in each year after that, for more than $1 trillion in cuts over a decade on top of other reductions already in place.

Once lawmakers wrote sequestration into law they had more than a year to wise up. Yet they did nothing to draft an alternate plan and didn’t even start pointing out the havoc-to-come until just weeks before the deadline. Then they gave themselves a couple more months — until March 1, 2013 — to work out a deal, which they didn’t.  All this is, of course, ancient history, but even a decade later, the record of folly is worth reviewing.

If you remember, they tweeted while Rome burned. Speaker of the House John Boehner, for instance, sent out dozens of tweets to say Democrats were responsible: “The president proposed sequester, had 18 mo. to prioritize cuts, and did nothing,” he typically wrote, while he no less typically did nothing. For his part, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tweeted back: “It’s not too late to avert the damaging #sequester cuts, for which an overwhelming majority of Republicans voted.” And that became the pattern for a decade of American political gridlock, still not broken today.

Destruction Begins

March 1st came and went, so the budgetary axe began to fall.

At first, it didn’t seem so bad. Yes, the cuts weren’t quite as across the board as expected. The meat industry, for example, protested because health inspector furloughs would slow its production lines, so Congress patched the problem and spared those inspectors. But meat production aside, there was a sense that the cuts might not be so bad after all.

They were to be doled out based on a formula for meeting the arbitrary target of $85 billion in reductions in 2013, and no one knew precisely what would happen to any given program. In April, more than a month after the cuts had begun, the White House issued the president’s budget proposal for the following year, an annual milestone that typically included detailed information about federal spending in the current year. But across thousands of pages of documents and tables, the new budget ignored sequestration, and so reported meaningless 2013 numbers, because even the White House couldn’t say exactly what impact these cuts would have on programs and public investment across the country.

As it happened, they didn’t have to wait long to find out. The first ripples of impact began to spread quickly indeed. Losing some government funding, cancer clinics in New Mexico and Connecticut turned away patients. In Kentucky, Oregon, and Montana, shelters for victims of domestic violence cut services. In New York, Maryland, and Alabama, public defenders were furloughed, limiting access to justice for low-income people. In Illinois and Minnesota, public school teachers were laid off. In Florida, Michigan, and Mississippi, Head Start shortened the school year, while in Kansas and Indiana, some low-income children simply lost access to the program entirely. In Alaska, a substance abuse clinic shut down. Across the country, Meals on Wheels cut four million meals for seniors in need.

Only when the FAA imposed furloughs on its air traffic controllers did public irritation threaten to boil over. Long lines and airport delays ensued, and people were angry. And not just any people — people who had access to members of Congress.  In a Washington that has gridlocked the most routine business, lawmakers moved at a breakneck pace, taking just five days to pass special legislation to solve the problem. To avoid furloughs and shorten waits for airline passengers, they allowed the FAA to spend funds that had been intended for long-term airport repairs and improvements.

Flights would leave on time — at least until runways cracked and crumbled.  (You undoubtedly remember the scandal of 2019 at Cincinnati International Airport, when a bright young candidate for Senate met her demise in a tragic landing mishap.)

And then, of course, the Pentagon asked for an exemption, too. We’re talking about the military behemoth of planet Earth, which in 2013 accounted for 40% of military spending globally, its outlays exceeding the next 10 largest militaries combined.  It, too wanted a special exemption for some of its share of the cutbacks.

Meat inspectors, the FAA, and the Department of Defense enjoyed special treatment, but the rest of the nation was, as the history books recount, not so lucky. Children from middle-class and low-income families saw ever fewer resources at school, closing doors of opportunity. The young, old, and infirm found themselves with dwindling access to basic resources such as health care or even a hot dinner. Federal grants to the states dried up, and there was less money in state budgets for local priorities, from police officers to lowly streetlights.

And remember that, just as the sequestration cuts began, carbon concentration in the atmosphere breached 400 parts per million.  (Climate scientists had long been warning that the level should be kept below 350 for human security.) Unfortunately, as with the groundbreaking research that led to the Internet, it takes money to do big things, and the long-term effects of cutting environmental protection, general research, and basic infrastructure meant that the U.S. government would do little to stem the extreme weather that has, in 2023, become such a part of our world and our lives.

Looking back from a country now eternally in crisis, it’s clear that a Rubicon was crossed back in 2013. There was then still a chance to reject across-the-board budget cuts that would undermine a nation built on sound public investment and shared prosperity. At that crossroads, some fought against austerity. Losing that battle, others argued for a smarter approach: close tax loopholes to raise new revenue, or reduce waste in health care, or place a tax on carbon, or cut excessive spending at the Pentagon. But too few Americans — with too little influence — spoke up, and Washington didn’t listen.  The rest of the story, as you well know, is history.

Mattea Kramer is Research Director at National Priorities Project, where Jo Comerford is Executive Director. Both are TomDispatch regulars.  They wrote A People’s Guide to the Federal Budget.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook or Tumblr. Check out the newest Dispatch book, Nick Turse’s The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyberwarfare.

Copyright 2013 Mattea Kramer and Jo Comerford

oooOOOooo

If it strikes you as utter, complete madness trust me, you are not alone.

A new world order.

Two very different essays that, nonetheless, do sing to a common tune.

I sit here with a heavy heart. Why, you may ask?

Because I really wish I wasn’t setting the scene to a couple of disturbing essays.  The first from Patrice Ayme.  His essay is called Plutocracy: New World Order with the subtitle of The New World Thinking. The New World Emoting. The second essay is from Mattea Kramer and Jo Comerford under the TomDispatch umbrella.  Their title is How America Became a Third World Country.

That heaviness comes from an emotional conflict.  The conflict between never having been more contented in our beautiful Oregonian home and the tiny voice in my head that says that I shouldn’t throwing darts at the country that has been generous in welcoming me as a resident.

But I justify publishing these two essays in this manner.  Just as Pharaoh leads the barking whenever the dogs sense something threatening their ‘territory’, then too should citizens (I use the term in the broadest sense) start barking when they sense something threatening the integrity of their country.

So today the Patrice Ayme essay and tomorrow the TomDispatch essay.  I’m very grateful to both Patrice and Tom for their permission to republish their essays.

oooOOOooo

PLUTOCRACY: NEW WORLD ORDER

Obama just  nominated Commerce Secretary the billionaire heiress who discovered him, and introduced him to the Rubin-Summers-Goldman-Sachs-Citigroup conspiracy. Penny Priztker was condemned to pay a 460 million dollar fine by the Federal government in 2001, for financial malfeasance. 460 million, that’s more than Mitt Romney’s fortune, that made small rank and file democrats huff and puff, in indignation, a few months ago, just like their mighty masters told them to do.

Now, if the 460 million dollars fine felon becomes chief, that’s fine, as long as the masters of the people don’t ask the People to huff and puff about the fine. The finer the fine, the finer the master, say the little People, and they bleat, satisfied. As Obama put it:”Priztker is one of the most eminent personalities of our country“. When Pluto reigns, down is up.

When Common Decency Is A Hindrance
When Common Decency Is A Hindrance

Plutocracy is the New World Order. The New World Thinking. The New World Emoting.

To get some perspective on this, it’s good to have a retrospective look at the greatest plutocratic realms of the past, and ponder why extremely wealthy fascism rose, increasingly, in the Orient, while clever democracy rose, occasionally, in the West. And sometimes fell, disastrously, for reasons related.

It turns out that, when Rome became fascist and plutocratic, it turned to Oriental despotism, and criminals, indeed, came to command and control.

***

PERSIA REIGNED WITH ALL CRAFTS; YET NOT SMART ENOUGH:

Establishing  giant, metastatic empires in the Orient is nothing new: the Hittites tried it, they proceeded to invade Lebanon and the rich valleys behind, Egyptian territory. However young Pharaoh Ramses II, defeated them at Qadesh, next to present day Damascus. Through courageous combat in that battle which defined his long rule, Ramses rescued victory from the jaws of defeat, somewhat miraculously.

Ramses lost ground, though, and later made a loving peace with his enemies. Then, the Hittites having been destroyed by the mysterious coalition of the Peoples of the Sea, the Assyrians tried to impose their own giant metastatic empire, using the harshest methods. That brought them so many enemies that they got invaded from all quarters, annihilated as a nation first, and an army, later.

Then the union of Medes and Persians, thanks to three remarkable leaders, established a giant fascist empire, from Ethiopia to Central Asia, Libya to India. The third emperor, Darius, besides being excellent at sword-play in the dark, and a great general, proved capable of using a free market economy, switching to so called Keynesianism, and then a command and control economy, as needed. Darius established a giant “Royal” road network (ancestral to the one the Romans would build, four centuries later).

A Persian Pony Express, with posts every five miles, would bring news from distant corners of the empire in a week. Darius went on to invade the Scythians, land of the Amazons, present day Ukraine.

Darius’ Persia was the greatest empire, so far, larger than the present day continental USA. It became so, thanks to a great variety of methods of socio-economic governance. Some of these methods would later be used by the West, massively. Not just the communication network, the free market, the command and control, but also a crafty diplomacy of seduction, cooptation and local autonomy (that’s how the Ionian Greeks and Phoenicians became collaborators of Persia; whereas Alexander would annihilate Tyr).

However, unbelievably, tiny Athens broke the Persian empire, inaugurating the next great event, still on-going, the rise of the West. Again and again, minuscule Greek armies routed the juggernauts of professional giant armies. Again and again, small democracies proved superior to large fascist foes. I claimed that mental superiority entailed military superiority.

***

FREE IN THE WEST, SLAVES IN THE EAST

Herodotus explained the Greeks’ military superiority: free men are more motivated in battle, as they fight for themselves, he said. But it’s not clear that elite Persian soldiers did not feel free.

So I hold something slightly different: free men are, living in an “open society” are not just more motivated, but, simply, more intelligent. Yes, intelligent.

Yet how come that the free men tended to be in the West, and the subjugated ones, in the East? And this for 4,000 years, defining the “West” as anything west of Mount Lebanon. Why did so much of the Mediterranean turn out propitious to freedom and individual initiative? What of the enormous Celto-German forests, from Spain to the Baltics?

Two factors played a role:

1) Trade, with the big man, the leader being the ship owner-captain (Tyr, Phoenicia, Crete, Athens, Carthage, etc.). This required to excel at technology and adaptative intelligence, confronting nature.

2) Small owner-peasants. The West’s agricultural system did better thanks to small, free owner-peasants.  The owner peasant was captain of his own plot of land, and found himself in a situation roughly similar to the ship captain. Such people worked hard, and thought hard about outwitting nature. All of Germany was this way, until the military encroachment of Rome in the beginning of its plutocratic phase, brought, by reaction, a militarization of German society (this is what archeology shows).

A demographic core of owner-peasants was the core of the success of the Roman republic, and its successors, the Imperium Francorum, and France, or anything working along French lines (most of Europe). When enjoying this basic culture, of free, independent peasants, the West did very well. Why so? Because thinking by oneself, for oneself, makes one more intelligent.

***

WHY THE ORIENT IS DUMBER:

The Orient did better when the peasants could cultivate. That meant, when they had water. That was not obvious in the increasingly parched lands, from the Maghreb to India. First, there, one needed to bring water to agricultural lands. Whereas in the West, both water and arable land were in the same place, not so in the East. In the East water was on rocky mountains, arable lands in parts of plains at the bottom of said mountains. To bring the former to the latter, one needed great hydraulic works. Underground canalizations, sometimes fifty feet deep, could extend dozens of miles.

Such extensive works meant armies of workers and maintenance people. And also standing armies to establish and protect the necessary order. Plus a field army to roam around the empire, and keep the static defenses obedient.

In other words, food on the carpet in the parched, basin and range Orient meant a large fascist system to make it possible, and everybody enslaved to it, in a military organization (Christianity and Islam, both oriental religions, kept much of this essential psychological character: fascist god on top, giving absolute, even capricious  orders to its slaves below).

***

ALL TOGETHER NOW, DOWN THE ROMAN ROAD TO HELL?

What consequences today? Western countries do not depend upon small owner-peasants anymore, but upon giant farms, or agribusinesses, for food procurement. Even trade has become unbalanced: production on one end of the Earth, increasing unemployment, at the other end.

Giant agribusinesses, and unbalanced trade became facts of empire in Rome, and lasted centuries. It was a deliberate plot of Roman plutocracy. At some point, six senatorial families owned most of North Africa. Seneca, Nero’s tutor, the plutocratic philosopher of note, used to boast that he had no idea how many giant properties he owned on the various continents.

That delocalization and globalization made Rome, and Italy into an empty shell of its former self. As those who had the power, the senatorial families, wished. What they feared first, was a proud, potent, empowered People.

(Part of) Italy would resurrect as independent republics, more than a millennium later.

What’s the morality of the story? Men have a strong instinct for doing things right. In a plutocratic system, though, men who do things wrong get rewarded, and this goes on, until the situation exponentiates and breaks down. Thus plutocratic systems are intrinsically pathological: they reward criminals. Not just criminal according to the laws of men, but criminals according to the laws of nature.

In the Orient, life is harder, less natural, militarization exploits part of the Dark Side, because human beings, by living there, live in a less optimal situation. In the West, the rise of plutocracy did not have these excuses.

The Romans knew this well. The Roman republic was the product of a revolution against Tarquinus Superbus, the king of Rome, of Etruscan origin. So the founding act of five centuries of Roman republic was an anti-plutocratic revolt. Same for Athens (several times, during the same centuries).

The Romans passed a strong anti-plutocratic law. That law limited, by force the size of a family’s fortune; it fixed an upper bound on how much one could own. The Second Punic war saw the death, on the battlefield, of too many of the best leading Romans. Meanwhile the conspirators of wealth, back behind the walls of the fortified cities, as Hannibal was roaming the countryside, established a New World order of rents.

When Carthage got defeated, those men of greed kept on pushing, and tried to grab control of the state. After several wars of distraction against Macedonia, Carthage, Numantia, Corinth, etc. it became clear that was what was going on to thousands of the best Romans, led by top nobles (in mind and ancestry), the Gracchi.

The Gracchis mostly tried to impose the wealth limitation law. They also succeeded to impose a land redistribution (an unthinkable socialist measure in the post Thatcher-Reagan world!). Yet, the Gracchi and their supporters lost a civil war. All got killed, by the private armies of the plutocrats. By 100 BCE, when Caesar was born, the dice had long been thrown. Only extreme measures could address the situation (extreme measures that Caesar and Cicero, on the good side, would try).

Now what? Losing democracy, means, ultimately, that we will lose not just freedom, but intelligence itself. It is difficult to imagine how the Americans will pull out of their present death spiral into furthering the wealth of the .1%. When bandits are called “philanthropists”, all values have been inverted in a country: gangsters are in control, the mafia has got metastatic. It will go on, all inverted, until it explodes, or get trampled over. The commerce chief will be a certified felon.

The situation in Europe is not as desperate: conditions for a revolt exist. Although Goldman Sachs has its servants in place all over, the Italians threw out one of them, a Goldman Sachs partner, Mario Monti, at the first chance they got.

Some may sneer, as they notice that, once again I used “Orient” and “Occident” according to old Greco-Roman semantics. What of the true Orient, the far-out East, China and company? Well, I will hide behind my usual observation: it’s Western culture that conquered the world. Present day China’s ideology has very little that is specifically Chinese, besides what the West and China had in common, such as the more or less free market. The idea of “People” (Populus) and “Republic” (Respublica) are Roman. So the very title of China, the “People Republic of China” is, well, (Greco-)Roman.

The dangers threatening China, accordingly, like those threatening us, are those that devastated the Roman republic. For the reasons exposed above, the development in the West, of a more advanced civilization was first, thus why everybody adopted it later.  Rome was first to rise as high as it did. But, the greater the rise, the greater the fall. By 700 CE, the fall of Rome had been so great, that China had risen higher, on many indicators. The West, invaded by hordes of savages for more than six hundred years (beyond even 400 CE to 1000 CE) was fighting for survival.

Plutocracy as a New World Order is not just the end of many things. In the fullness of time, plutocracy is the end of everything.

Even the Will to Power. Slave masters are not so masterful. After all, they are enslaved to their slaves.

When Rome went down, Roman plutocrats whined that the “world was getting old“. By this they meant that resources were being exhausted, and that, in its stupidity plutocratic civilization could not find a technology out.

Right now, the world is not getting old, it’s getting killed. And that’s worst.

***

Patrice Ayme

The counter-intuitive aspect of liberty.

How libertarian ideology is holding back our liberty to change.

Martin Lack, he of the popular blog Lack of Environment is taking a small break from his writings.  In his own words,

I am afraid this may be the last post on this blog for a while because – what with the all the willful blindness and ideological prejudice that seems to stop people from recognising what an Eff-ing mess humanity is in – and my as yet unresolved employment situation – I am feeling somewhat emotionally drained. However, please don’t cancel your subscription (as who knows how quickly I may recover).

So what a pleasant surprise when less than a day after those words in came an email that read, “Since I have told readers of my blog that I am taking a rest, I offer you the text appended below to post on your blog instead (or not – as you see fit).

On reading the text I most certainly ‘saw fit‘ to publish it!

It is a very interesting approach to climate science denialism resulting from an analysis of conspiracy theories.

So over to Martin.

oooOOOooo

Professor Stephan Lewandowsky.
Professor Stephan Lewandowsky.

Libertarian ideology is the real road block

I have recently been catching up on a bit of reading – focusing on the recent work of Professor Stephan Lewandowsky (and others).  Following in the wake of James Hansen, Ben Santer and Michael Mann, Lewandowsky has recently been the target of hate-mail campaigns by climate change sceptics.  Unlike all the others, however, Lewandowsky (formerly at the University of Western Australia but now at Bristol University in the UK) is not a climate scientist.  This is how Bristol University announced his recent appointment.

Steve is an internationally renowned cognitive scientist who has joined us from the University of Western Australia. His research has already revolutionised our understanding of human memory and cognition, and he now stands poised to build upon his impressive body of work with a project as ambitious as it is timely. In particular, Steve’s intention to improve our understanding of how people choose to acquire information, and to use this understanding to help create a more informed populace, is a unique and much needed undertaking. Thus, this research offers enormous benefits in the fields of experimental psychology, climate research and the wider public engagement with and understanding of scientific research.

I must admit that, until recently, I had not sat down to read either of the papers by Lewandowsky et al (  ‘Motivated Rejection of Science’ [PDF]  or ‘Recursive Fury: Conspiracy Ideation in the Blogosphere’ [PDF] ) – I had only read about them.

However, now that I have read them, the thing that strikes me most forcefully is not the stupidity of conspiracy “ideation”, the invocation of conspiracy theories, it is the fact that, as Lewandowsky et al acknowledge, their work confirms the findings of many previous studies; that climate change scepticism is associated with prejudicial adherence to libertarian ideology.  Also key is that climate change scepticism can be predicted by that prejudicial adherence to libertarian ideology.

Amongst many other things, this explains why EU sceptics are climate sceptics and why the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) do not like Wind Farms.  I had understood this for some time.  However, I had not fully realised its importance; it was just one theme among others.  Anyone who has read my blog recently will probably have noticed my post about New World Order (NWO) conspiracy theory, in which I acknowledged that I had not realised just how significant such thinking is, and how subliminal and subconscious it may be.

Although adherence to free-market economics and libertarian ideology were themes I highlighted in my MA dissertation and in my subsequent book, and mentioned on my blog numerous times, everything I have read in the last few days points to one conclusion:  We will not succeed in communicating the urgency of the need for radical changes in energy policy until we can convince people that climate scientists are not trying to perpetuate their research funding or halt human progress.

Professor Lewandowsky’s research shows that little can be achieved by simply telling people they are wrong.  Far better is pointing out to people that Limits to Growth and Peak Oil have already halted the progress of globalised Capitalism, as recent times prove dramatically. In other words conveying facts to people rather than ideology.

I must admit that this has been a tough pill to swallow.  I am not naturally progressive and certainly not naturally “liberal”.  On the contrary, I am socially and politically conservative.  However, the reality of anthropogenic climate disruption is a game-changer. Therefore, unlike members of the Flat Earth Society or Young Earth Creationists (YECs), I do not refuse to accept what scientists tell me simply because I don’t like the message.

We cannot defeat such obscurantism by telling people they are irrational; we can only defeat it by focusing on the evidence that suggests strongly that they are mistaken.  To this end, I think the words of St Augustine of Hippo are an important consideration; words going back over 1,400 years before anyone started to question the Age of the Earth or the Origin of Species!  Words echoed by Thomas Aquinas, (often quoted to those YECs):

“… since Holy Scripture can be explained in a multiplicity of senses, one should adhere to a particular explanation only in such measure as to be ready to abandon it if it be proved with certainty to be false, lest Holy Scripture be exposed to the ridicule of unbelievers, and obstacles be placed to their believing.”
– Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica (1273).

In the last 150 years or so, most Christians have now come to reject conspiracy theory explanations for fossils, for example, and have realised that it is inappropriate to treat the Bible as a scientific text book.  Regretably, the main source of ideological blindness today is not conventional religion; it is adherence to free-market economics.

Therefore, it is important that we acknowledge the ideological nature of the communication problem we face. That is that the research by Prof Lewandowsky and others has discovered a tendency for libertarians to prefer conspiracy theories to reality.  Perhaps, therefore, not surprising that he has been attacked; no-one likes to be told they are deluded.

Roadblocks to policy change will not be cleared by social and political scientists telling libertarians that they are deluded.  All that will do is confirm their suspicions and reinforce their prejudices!  No, what is needed is for climate scientists to be bolder in stating the facts.

The majority of climate scientists seem content to continue to soft-soap the issue; afraid of “telling it to people straight” because it may induce despair.

No, it is not too late to prevent an ecological catastrophe but I am certain that we are now very short of time and, as everyone from the International Energy Agency, the Pentagon and the IMF agree, further delay will not be cost-effective.

At the same time, I think social and political scientists need to focus on debunking the ‘New World Order’ conspiracy myth and pointing out the logical fallacy in the idea that all Greens are Communists in disguise (the so-called ‘Watermelons’).

The environment has become a political football when it is nothing of the kind.  It is our life support system and we have pushed it near to the point of collapse, as E.F. Schumacher once said, by mistaking Nature’s capital for a form of income.  Therefore, if we do not change course, bankruptcy would seem inevitable.

oooOOOooo

Having read and reflected on Martin’s essay, a couple of recollections surface.  The first is Guy McPherson’s book Walking Away from Empire that I reviewed earlier this year then referred to in a recent republication of a George Monbiot essay:

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.

The second recollection comes most recently; from yesterday’s The story of carbon. A story that showed the power of academic, peer-reviewed, properly conducted, rational science!

I will close with a repeat of the closing words from yesterday:

“By my calculation, we have a 5–10 year window to avoid the catastrophe. It won’t be easy — we’re past the point where any transition will be smooth — but we can make the transition and survive as a civilized species, humans in a recognizable world.”

Nothing counter-intuitive about that!

Dr. Michael Mann

A review of Michael Mann’s new book The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines.

I’m republishing in full a recent Post on Kate’s fabulous blogsite Climate Change.  As a degree student, Kate is a fantastic representative of the generation that is going to have to deal in full with all the crap that my generation (born 1944) has brought about!  Learn more about her here.  Anything that can spread the word to those, especially in my age group, that are climate change denialists is no bad thing.

The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars

February 22, 2012 by climatesight

Available from Columbia Press

Throughout all the years of public disputes about climate change, arguably no scientist has taken as much flak as Dr. Michael Mann. This mild-mannered paleoclimatologist is frequently accused of fraud, incompetence, scientific malpractice, Communism, and orchestrating a New World Order. These charges have been proven baseless time and time again, but the accusations continue. Dr. Mann’s research on climate change is inconvenient for those who wish to deny that current global temperatures are unusual, so he has become the bulls-eye target in a fierce game of “shoot the messenger”. In “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines”, a memoir of his experiences, Michael Mann finally speaks out.

The story begins quite harmlessly: an account of how he became a scientist, from childhood curiosity to graduate work in theoretical physics to choosing climate science on a whim out of the university course calendar. For those who have followed Dr. Mann’s research over the years, there is some great backstory – how he met his coauthors Ray Bradley and Malcolm Hughes, the formation of the IPCC TAR chapter about paleoclimate, and how the RealClimate blog operates. This book also filled in some more technical gaps in my understanding with a reasonably accessible explanation of principal component ananlysis, a summary of millennial paleoclimate research before 1998, and an explanation of exactly how Mann, Bradley and Hughes’ 2008 paper built on their previous work.

Dr. Mann’s 1998 paper – the “hockey stick” – was a breakthrough because it was the first millennial reconstruction of temperature that had global coverage and an annual resolution. He considered the recent dramatic rise in temperatures to be the least interesting part of their work, because it was already known from instrumental data, but that part of the paper got the most public attention.

It seems odd for a scientist to downplay the importance of his own work, but that’s what Dr. Mann does: he stresses that, without the hockey stick, the case for climate change wouldn’t be any weaker. Unfortunately, his work was overemphasized on all sides. It was never his idea to display the hockey stick graph so prominently in the IPCC TAR, or for activists to publicize his results the way they did. Soon the hockey stick became the holy grail of graphs for contrarians to destroy. As Ben Santer says, “There are people who believe that if they can bring down Mike Mann, they can bring down the IPCC,” and the entire field of climate science as a result.

Michael Mann is an eloquent writer, and does a fabulous job of building up tension. Most readers will know that he was the target of countless attacks from climate change deniers, but he withholds these experiences until halfway through the book, choosing instead to present more context to the story. The narrative keeps you on your toes, though, with frequent allusions to future events.

Then, when the full story comes out, it hits hard. Death threats, and a letter full of suspicious white powder. Lobby groups organizing student rallies against Mann on his own campus, and publishing daily attack ads in the campus newspaper. Discovering that his photo was posted as a “target” on a neo-Nazi website that insisted climate change was a Jewish conspiracy. A state politician from the education committee threatening to cut off funding to the entire university until they fired Mann.

Throughout these attacks, Dr. Mann consistently found trails to the energy industry-funded Scaife Foundation. However, I think he needs to be a bit more careful when he talks about the links between oil companies and climate change denial – the relationship is well-known, but it’s easy to come off sounding like a conspiracy theorist. Naomi Oreskes does a better job of communicating this area, in my opinion.

Despite his experiences, Michael Mann seems optimistic, and manages to end the book on a hopeful note about improvements in climate science communication. He is remarkably well-adjusted to the attacks against him, and seems willing to sacrifice his reputation for the greater good. “I can continue to live with the cynical assaults against my integrity and character by the corporate-funded denial machine,” he writes. “What I could not live with is knowing that I stood by silently as my fellow human beings, confused and misled by industry-funded propaganda, were unwittingly led down a tragic path that would mortgage future generations.”

“The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars” leaves me with a tremendous empathy for Dr. Mann and all that he has gone through, as well as a far better understanding of the shouting match that dominates certain areas of the Internet and the media. It is among the best-written books on climate science I have read, and I would highly recommend it to all scientists and science enthusiasts.

“The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars” will be released on March 6th, and the Kindle version is already available.