This came up in comments, but I thought it was worth a little more exposure.From Anne E. Kornblut at the Washington Post:
Last week at his library, in a speech at a Slate conference honoring top philanthropists, Clinton sounded almost critical of the presidential candidates, including his wife.
His complaint? None has put the subject of population control in a world with shrinking resources on the 2008 agenda.
“Now, nobody’s going to talk about this in the election this year — in either party — but I ain’t running for anything, I can do it,” he said, saying the world population will be 9 billion by the year 2050.
Among public figures, then, it takes someone no longer nurturing political ambitions to bring up the obvious. Does this mean one day an adult will look down at a child on a bleak, perhaps depopulated earth, and say, “We had a chance to save the earth, but politics got in the way”?
Housekeeping: A bit of travel next week will mean I won’t be able to attend to GIM as regularly as usual. If you leave a comment during that time and it doesn’t show up, it may be caught in the spam filter. Be patient and I’ll set it free as soon as I’m able. Expect a new guest post before that.
Image source: advencap’s photostream, flickr.com, Creative Commons license
Glad you posted about Clinton’s remarks. I’ve been looking for more context — the WaPo article offers none. This is the best I could find.
There is more at that link.
Yesterday, Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, who unveiled the report in Valencia, Spain, said: “All humanity must now assume responsibility for climate change.”
The nation that must change it’s ways quickly is the USA and the UN secretary-general is not the one to sway the powers that be (who happen to be the same people that hold the UN in low regard). Bill Clinton has more influence, but not that much more. The change has got to come from a grassroots movement determined to put new leaders in power.
I poked around a little more and found a few more quotes, such as these:
So that’s good; it seems he’s mentioning population with some regularity. Could be another sign it’s gaining some renewed attention. And his pointing to it should help push that.
I hear you, Trin, about Clinton’s influence versus the UN, but it doesn’t hurt either to have the UN’s recent Global Environment Outlook report making some strong statements about population, and parts of the the IPCC’s latest report (PDF) including the topic as well. 🙂
Of course, John, I’m quite impressed with good old Bill talking about population and growth issues and ditto for the UN groups. It’s just that — as Bill himself said — you will not hear a politician running for office mentioning these things.
When polling data starts to show that addressing population and consumption growth is something that a significant portion of the electorate want, then we’ll see politicians putting it in their stump speeches — at least that’s my working hypthosis until a sea change occurs in US politics or hell freezes over, which ever comes first.
Although it is not in my nature to be a gambler, I am going to step out on a limb here and bet you one dollar (US – haha) that we will see a “sea change” in American politics before “hell freezes over,” in large part because of people like YOU.
I believe you, Magne Karlsen, Emily Spence, Vivian Ponniah, Dave Gardner, Jim Lydecker, Kent Welton, Hazel Henderson, Russ Hopfenberg, Riane Eisler, Glen Barry, Gretchen Daily, Raoul Weiler, David Wasdell, Rajendra Pachauri and Ken Smail and many others are the many voices of the Greatest Lion.
Still others will play a much smaller part by helping to give the Greatest Lion its roar.
“Environmental activists are frustrated. They can’t get the issue of global warming into the presidential campaign.”
Ah, well. I’m not an American citizen, I know. So the American Presidential Election is none of my business, at all. But hey! The whole world has been Americanized to the extent that almost every other nation-state can make “The 51st State” claims. Whatever happens in the U.S.A. today, will tomorrow happen here in Norway.
But Norwegian politicians are not foolish. They know how voters behave. Oh yes. — They just proved that during the local / regional elections this automn. Environmental policies were hardly ever mentioned in the run-in before the election took place. — Such “dirty” talk is one certain way of losing voters.
The links you are supplying us are terrific. Keep going.
I am reminded of the wonderful link you shared recently about Object Relations Theory and the dynamic relations in group processes. It seemed remarkably relevant to the improving our understanding of “what is happening” in the world we inhabit.
For you, my colleague in psychology, John F., and the community at large, please click on the link just below to find another gift with explanatory power from psychology, perhaps like the one you have given us.
– Panglossian Disorder: “The neurotic tendency toward extreme optimism in the face of likely cultural and planetary collapse.”
– LOL! — 😀
Afflicted parties of the above diagnosis, see below:
Okay, Steve. I had a laugh. 8) — But seriously: all you need to do in order to start feeling helpless, is to sit yourself down at your computer and look at photos of some of the sprawling cities of this world; preferrably nighttime images, as that’s going to make you REALLY realize how much electricity is being used around the world. AND — if you care to think about it — how much we humans actually rely on it. THEN, after that, you will need to do nothing else than remember some of the things you read on the scientific consensus from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC. And begin to FEEL a little. That’s all. Based on what I’ve seen you posting here on GIM, I believe you know exactly what I mean. —
(For some reason your link wasn’t working, Magne. I made it an embedded link and now it’s okay. Maybe there’s a length limit on pasted links, though I hadn’t thought so.)
So what do you guys think of the argument, made by some environmental writers these days, that it’s bad to “alarm” people or to make too much of the risks involved in our ecological problems? They say that if you do that people just turn off.
My own view is that that argument has no basis in fact, that it’s just an off-the-cuff opinion tossed out by environmental writers who, for whatever reason, don’t personally like to see the risks emphasized. Isn’t it an equally sound argument to say that as long as one is accurate in reporting risks one is giving people the truth. And they need the truth to be able accurately to assess the need for action, to decide upon their own actions, etc. Of course it’s not a bad idea to provide ideas for constructive action as well.
It seems to me the “don’t alarm them” approach is also rather infantilizing toward people. I mean, if the environmental writers who complain about alarming people can handle the truth, why can’t others?
EDIT: Also, it seems there are no complaints about the IPCC or the UN or the WWF being “alarmist” as they produce increasingly alarming reports. Why is that?
EDIT#2: 🙂 I would also suggest there’s been no test of whether being frank about the risks turns people off since the general level of awareness is still so low. The average citizen hasn’t been informed, much less turned off. (Of course my view that awareness is low is just an opinion. It’s based, though, on conversations with otherwise fairly well informed people. Or, in the US, we might ask how often we’ve seen stories about things like peak oil or mass extinction on major news outlets like CNN. Seems to me those are still in their infancy. That may be a good indicator of the average level of awareness, no?)
Question: “Shouldn’t we try to stick together and co-operate here? Make peace and not war, for a change?”
Answer: “Reality bites.”
Steve, I can’t accept that bet. Since it’s getting warmer I don’t expect hell to be freezing over anytime soon. 😉 So I’m counting on us — us collectectively — being able to produce enough people power to push forward intelligent, responsible politicians willing to make the hard changes required to actually demonstrate concern for human welfare rather than stroke the next potential campaign donor.
“Doom, dreadful fate, or utter ruin, isn’t a view that they embrace joyfully, but one they are left with, when they recognize that the solutions are not individual, but collective ones.”
– Kathy McMahon … a PARADOX …
Heh, that Panglossian Disorder article does speak to my question pretty well. 🙂
I think some environmentalists are suffering from Panglossian Disorder with McGiveristic Features — “A belief that massive planetary problems can be solved with ordinary/common items found readily at hand. Eg.: ‘Pig dung will be the next fossil fuel.’ Or ‘Coke Cans can be turned into solar panels.'”
The denial of what good science tells us is likely somehow true makes no sense to me. My inclinations lead me to suggest that the family of humanity “square up” as best we know how to whatsoever challenges are actually presented to us.
I am counting on the collective, too. All of us are in this together. Can there be any doubt about that fact? Of course, there are those who are rich, powerful, powerful and famous with exotic, alternative “Me Generation” strategies. Take Mr. Tom Brokaw as an example. He appears to recommend hoarding a six-month supply of rations and other supplies on a large estate as a way to “weather the coming storms.” Others suggest retreating to remote hideaways. There is little point in cataloging such options here. There are many of them. The point I would like to make is that people need to start sustaining meaningful communication about how it is we are going to proceed as members of one human community. Proceeding according the “Me Generation” strategies strikes me as unfortunate and unwise.
UN Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, just this week, noted how global warming is a clear and present danger for humanity. The political leader of Australia, Mr. John Howard, has been soundly defeated in the past few days after more than a decade in office. His refusal to acknowledge, let alone begin to address, the challenges to humanity posed by human-driven global warming are being presented as at least one primary reason for Mr. Howard’s defeat.
Who knows, raising awareness of our brothers and sisters could result in political support for global warming becoming a “litmus test” for election to public office soon.
I do understand what you mean. The challenges before humanity appear both as formidable and frightening. There are moments when I have experienced free-floating anxiety, intense dread, profound fear, a sort of physiological trembling and moments of feeling as if I am freezing; however, those feelings and sensations do not govern how I think, judge and will.
Well, I’ve been buried in the Global Environment Outlook (GEO-4) report which you link to above. It’s 540 pages long. (God knows when I might actually post something on my blog again!) In the midst of consuming that material, here’s my take on the “alarmist” label:
The UN reports like GEO-4 and IPCC are long and detailed. Their more alarming statements are situated in a sea of data and relevant caveats — as they should be since they are about dispassionate science. When a blogger/activist reiterates some of those alarming statements outside of the background of 100’s of pages of text and all of the careful caveats of fine scientific reporting, many people only hear the alarm, not the message. I’m not sure they stop being receptive to the message, but they may stop listening to that particular messenger. That’s why anyone engaged in this business must continually be proving their own credibility by staying on top of the science and being knowledgable with regard limits of current science and where the caveats lie — while at the same time fending off the psuedo-denialists, those that actually do understand the state of play but are being paid to take opposing views. It’s a long row to hoe.
In the last year, I’ve seen a marked uptick in the number of news reports, peer-reviewed science reports, and blogger/activist posts about climate change — and at least a few instances like the Bill Clinton one where some mention of population and consumption growth sneaks through. I’ve also seen people like Paul Chefurka talk meaningfully about a personal “dark night of the soul” and bounce back from deep depression related to our future prospects to re-engage in the struggle to get honest words and views out into the media. Even if one beleives the future to be dismal, working to make it less so is taking a powerful — and ethically positive — stance that many can appreciate.
My own sense of this is that it’s now time to start adding to the “alarming” messages more of the “let’s do this” suggestions. Just saying “hey, here’s an alarming situation” is not enough anymore. People are asking, “Okay. Given that, what do we do about it?”
Of course, mostly I’m describing my own evolution. After nearly a solid year of investigating sustainability issues as carefully as I know how, I’m convinced that we, humanity, are in dire straights, unintentionally terraforming the planet to our disadvantage. I really don’t need to hear more about all the dreadful consequences. I want to work on solutions.
Here’s my sense of things:
1. keep up the “alarming” messaging but always accompanied with the best supporting science. Naked alarming messages do turn people off — and they should — but when there is a fire in a crowded theater, shouting “fire” is necessary.
2. keep responding to the denialists with the best science out there. There’s plenty of it and learning to respond to denialists sharpens our thinking.
3. start emphasizing practical ways to mitigate negative outcomes. The hard part here is accepting that the negative outcomes are inevitable and all we can do is mitigate them.
I’ve offered noting new in the above and wonder what other takes you all may have on this approach.
A last thought: There is something else I have trouble expressing that bothers me a great deal. It has to do with a way of living that is beneficial to all irregardless of climate change and growth issues; it get’s painted as philosophical or spiritual but to me has much more to do with common sense and having one’s feet firming on the ground.
It’s about where we place our day-to-day personal attention. Is it on personal gain, the sort of gain that can go far beyond immediate needs? Is it on some ideology that is founded in a set of abstraction that can never be tested in any practical way?
Or is it on our immediate circle of activity with an eye to what contributes to and enlivens our experience of the world and others, to what enhances life and living? Do you feel the connection to other people and their circumstances or do you not? Can we experience living in a wholesome, thorough, healthy way? As many have said, the measure of our way of life can be seen in how we take care of the old, the sick, the poor, and the young. Are we paying attention to these things? If there is anyway to disuade people from the trap of consumerism, it must lie in asking these sorts of questions.
[Hey, if you can’t spew out a stream-of-consciousness rant like this in a blog comment, where can you? Apologies in advance.]
Hey John, i had contacted you for the debate on urbanization, thanks for your help. Our university came first in the debate and i even got the best speaker award…thanks once again.
In the 1970s (when I was still a child), climate scientists, environmentalists, and politicians were discussing problems like the greenhouse effect and toxic rain. People got worried about these, and were discussing the issues openly. In the 1980s (when I was a teenager), problematic issues like rusty nuclear reactors was brought onto the table, and also the fear of the thinning ozone layer above the poles became a topic for discussion.
But even though the scientific evidence of pending ecological disaster was available, and even though ordinary people were in fact able to talk among themselves, adressing these issues, nothing was actually done about the crises. As I see it, this is probably the most disturbing fact of modernity.
In the 1990s, while bloody genocidal wars were frequent, in Iraq, Russia (Chechnya), the former Yugoslavia, Colombia, Rwanda, Burundi, Sierra Leone, Liberia, etc., and young adult westerners like myself were heels-over-head into the new & exciting communication revolution, with all its bit-powered new electronic equipment. As for political discussions, the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the Americanization of the world was on everyone’s lips. I don’t know this for certain, but I think, maybe, the 1990s was the decade when we really got “so very distracted.”
In the 1970s, top economists were discussing the urgent need to do something radical about the most unfortunate economic imbalance of this planet: a new economic world order. The whole thing ended up as a very good and commendable idea, but an impossible thought. There were wars taking place in Mocambique, Angola, Kongo, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Iran, Iraq, and where else now? Bloodbaths all over the place. Not a good time for economic reform, one might say.
Well, it’s not that the world is coming to an end; not as such. But we are, as of now, in the process of making human life become harder and much more difficult in the future. What may be turning people off, is the notion that this future I was just referring to above, is nearer than what used to be the case, say, no more than five years ago. We’ve been acting like tourists here, sleep-walking as a matter of habit. — And we’ve done so for far too long.
Trinifar: – It’s now time to start adding to the “alarming” messages more of the “let’s do this” suggestions. Just saying “hey, here’s an alarming situation” is not enough anymore.
That’s right, I agree. But the truth is: this planet consists of almost 200 countries, and every possible solution to manmade climate change / global warming is a local one.
There’s not much people can actually do in order to mitigate global warming, except perhaps stop shopping. 🙂 — Consumption levels must come down. The sideeffect (byproduct) of a reduction of consumtion, will be a pain in the arse for the manufacturing industry: overproduction comes down. — And that’s what we all hope for, isn’t it?
Or is it?
I mean: millions of factory workers won’t like it.
Uh uh. 8)
[Hey, if you can’t spew out a stream-of-consciousness rant like this in a blog comment, where can you? Apologies in advance.]
– Well said. 😀
RE: “There’s not much people can actually do in order to mitigate global warming, except perhaps stop shopping.”
What I intended to say here, was that there is only one thing all people, regardless of where they live, can do, and that is to shrink or cut down on consumption, in general. In different geographical sones or locations, there are, of course, different things that can, and should, be done; all depending of what might be the most pressing issues in different locations / regions.
Another thing that everyone can do, regardless of where they live, would be to cut down on air flights, and demand that politicians start looking into the possible option of high-speed railways. But this, I believe, is a long stretch.
It is also possible for everyone who owns a car to use it a little less frequently than they’re in the habit of doing. — Yet another long stretch, I’m afraid.
In the meanwhile, I’m researching the possible reasons why it is so difficult for human beings and societies of humans to accept the science! And how come it is so very difficult for people who do accept the science to change their ways, but give it all up and, as a matter of bitter fact, do the opposite of what is required of people to do: consume more than ever before, travel more often by plane and buying SUVs and Hummers.
It’s insane, really! — Doing the exact opposite of what would be a wise response.
I just don’t understand, doh. —
Let’s not forget about the Montreal Protocol which is a successful global treaty to save the ozone layer.
“At present, 191 nations have become party to the Montreal Protocol …. Those 5 that are not as of September 2007 are Andorra, Iraq, San Marino, Timor-Leste and Vatican City.”
Even though imperfect and not at the scale of the GHG problem, it gives me hope as a positive demonstration of governments being able to act globally and effectively.
Yeah, while I was ranting away, yesterday, I was actually thinking about mentioning the Montreal protocol, and the successful implementation of an International Law against the use of certain ozone destructive gases. I also chose to forget about the (non)-signing of the Kyoto protocol and the international consensus of working towards 2015 on the UN Millennium Goals of Development.
I simply had to say something about the follies of the 1970s and 1980s, when all sorts of scientific evidence of pending disaster (greenhouse effect, acid rain, deforestation, desertification, extreme draught and floods) was already available to the political-administrative leaders of this planet. — I keep telling myself: Now that we find ourselves discussing topics concerning the environment — noone’s going to be free say that we haven’t been warned. It’s just that we share in a long history of ignoring scientific evidence of the most unfortunate character. We’ve put it off: “In the future, solar plants in the Sahara will supply Europe with all the energy this continent is ever going to need.” (something I read in a magazine published in 1987). 🙂
In the 1980s
what is the point of science, if humanity can’t respond to reports?
About the Montreal Protocol: this agreement has been a success primarily because it involved local and punctual modifications in our production chains, without questioning the whole system as a whole. Alternative products exist instead of CFC; the thing was just to put a progressive ban on CFCs and promote the use of other chemicals instead. Final point.
When it comes to global warming, air, soil, water pollution, resource depletion, the problem is more deeply rooted. Solving these problems will not only require local fixes, rather a global revolution in our lifestyles and production systems. Something that implies so many jobs and economic equilibriums that nobody actually can think about taking the appropriate measures to solve these issues.
But I keep on hoping that we’ll react before it’s too late.
Magne, I hear you.
Julien, your remarks about the Montreal Protocol are spot on. And last I knew no country is coming close to meeting its Kyoto targets (except those like China that are effectively exempt!)
What I think has us alarmed is that apparently nothing short of a nearly complete, worldwide cultural change is required to preserve the natural bounty of Earth. And most of us know that, while some or even a lot of positive change will happen, it won’t be complete or worldwide.
What a great thread! In producing my documentary about our obsession with growth, I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been scolded about being “alarmist” or “too negative.” Here are my two cents:
I don’t believe Mothers Against Drunk Driving ever hear these complaints. Why? They are certainly against something. They are certainly sounding an alarm. But they are different because their message doesn’t scare the mainstream so much. They’re message does not impact corporate profits, our retirement portfolios, our ability to watch the SuperBowl on a giant plasma TV.
Many environmentalists tone down their message and settle for extreme compromise, because they believe that is the only realistic objective. I have to wonder how effective we might be if ALL the believers stuck together, insisting on the truth. As it is, half our messengers are out there compromising. Yes, they’re inching us forward. But will inches get us there?
Messages about sustainability and climate change are scary and they do threaten our very way of life.
But does that mean we should tone it down? No more than the lookout on the Titanic should have cried out, “Hey, there MAY be an iceberg ahead. Do you think maybe it would be profitable for us to slow down a bit?”
Magne, I would love to know what you turn up in your research. I hope to do an extensive and interesting chapter on “denial” in my film.
Hooked on Growth: Our Misguided Quest for Prosperity
Until the summer of 2005, when I finally gave up, I used to believe that I’d be able to make it as an author of fiction. I stopped believing in a future as a social scientist (anthropologist) long before that. — But okay: while I was still producing novels, poems and plays, I adopted a friend’s odd phrase: “Life is research.”
I used to write things that had everything to do with the present. Aspiring to become an author of present-time prose, of course I had to do some research. I mean: What’s life all about, these days? How do people in the western world live? How do they do it? Things like that. Actually, interesting stuff.
Now … today, I longer dream of becoming an author …
But my research continues. It’s become a stupid habit. Now, I’m becoming more and more worried about other people’s habits. And I wonder: Which, if any, individual / group instincts / mechanisms are we up against here? Because it’s becoming very clear now: humanity as a whole (a species)simply cannot respond to scientific truths about human disruption of the balance of the ecosystems. It’s intriguing, really. But nobody ever talks about it. And that’s also intriguing? I will call it FEAR.
Dave, I can’t give you a better answer: my method of research is philosophical. — I’m seriously troubled by the worldwide lack of positive response to a whole lot of alarming scientific reports. I treat the blogosphere (using this blog in particular) as a very big and extremely important thaink tank. And here’s my reason to hope: there can be no doubt that the number of environmental or ecological blogs has exploded in the past couple of years, so it is definitely fair to say that awareness is on an all time high.
What is urgently needed now, is a clear understanding of all those psychological, spiritual, social, cultural, etc., reasons why it is proving so very difficult for societies of humans to respond to these extremely challenging reports. What’s keeping us?
How to translate scientific challenges into a social / cultural commitment?
Fascinating subject, which is why I want to include it in the doc. I’m producing right now. But your comments are making me think this subject could be worth another doc. all its own!
Have you seen Economic and Planetary Collapse: Is it a Therapeutic Issue? http://www.peakoilblues.com/blog/?p=132
If not, take a look. It addresses this issue.
Hooked on Growth: Our Misguided Quest for Prosperity
We just discussed this “Panglossian Disorder” paper here, in this thread. It’s very interesting, indeed.
Now, I may be the most pathetic idiot alive on this planet today (who knows? maybe I am?); the unemployed social scientist and internet nerd who, after relentlessly hearing and reading about global warming and climate change, refuses to accept the truth, which, in that case, would be that the majority of adult humans are ignorant and / or uninformed, both about the concepts of global warming and climate change, and about the human factor: the way we — as a species — are ravaging this planet. The simple truth is: I refuse to believe in ignorance no more.
I believe in active suppressing of all knowledge. I believe in the tendency to deliberately ignore all warnings, and feign ignorance of all knowledge. I believe in the rather aggressive obsession with the climate denialists’ counter-science, which is all about letting humanity off the climate hook, and paving the way for further destruction of the ecosystems in the belief that we can continue to do just that forever: “No problem. What we are experiencing now, in terms of global warming, climate change, extreme weather events, and so on, is nothing but a natural cycle, it’s happened before, the little ice age and all that, don’t worry, these climate alarmists have got it all wrong.”
I believe we need to accept and try to figure out how to overcome all these spiritual, social and psychological defence mechanisms which are deeply rooted in the individual person as well as in society, as seen as a structural and functional whole, where people lead their lives, and do not want to make a fuzz and come out as some kind of madman / madwoman, no matter what might happen.
If anyone can figure out what the funky hell I mean? 😀
I’m worked up on a tremendously large set of social, psychological, spiritual, mental, and culturally based defence mechanisms. Social codes, unwritten laws, rules, and regulations, which are openly challenged at your own risk and peril. Bad habits. But still habits!! And, as such, somewhat holy.
“If anyone can figure out what the funky hell I mean? :D”
I think you mean something funky… but possibly true ❗
Is it ignorance or denial, refusal to believe, and suppression of the truth. Hmmm…
It’s the challenge of informed humanity again. I was amazed now, at discovering that The Club of Rome has finally decided to put it’s horrendous millennarian question back onto its site. I’m still amazed by the fact that the 2004 question and topic for discussion has not yet been highlighted by any well-established media group.
But hey: — Here’s what The Club of Rome had to say about the media world: “On the one hand we recognise an increasing flow of information that may potentially provide us with more knowledge about the world around us. On the other hand we also identify a growing information overload causing confusion and disorientation and an increasing tendency on misuse of information and information channels, obscuring the premises of the public and private decision-making and increasing to public ignorance.”
And: “The course of humanity has not changed, even though an increasing number of people have all the informational resources needed for responding to the situation.”
But things have changed. Not much, but a little. As a matter of simple fact, John, no more than a year ago, your article “Humanity Is The Greatest Challenge” would never have made it to the BBC’s Green Room, no matter how hard you’d tried. It would have been rejected as a matter of editorial commonsense, on the principle grounds of being “horribly true to the point” and “written in a poisonous manner” – 💡 — I guess that’d be funky enough, ha? 8)
“The speed at which mankind has used the Earth’s resources over the past 20 years has put “humanity’s very survival” at risk, a study involving 1,400 scientists has concluded. (…)
The bleak verdict on the environment was issued as an “urgent call for action” by the United Nations Environment Programme, which said that the “point of no return” was fast approaching.”
Things like this are turning up in the media now. Things that would have been impossible to put in print no more than two years ago. Words used, language preferred. Things have changed. Or is about to change. Let’s see now: which established media channel is going to be the first to produce a complete list of taboo topics?
We live in an interesting phase.
Question: “Can climate be fixed in less than ten years?”
Answer: “Do you believe in Santa Claus?”
John: – It seems there are no complaints about the IPCC or the UN or the WWF being “alarmist” as they produce increasingly alarming reports. Why is that?
Good question. — Probably because these are organizations that are under the leadership of people who’s salaries are out of this world? I mean: referring to organisations of people of extremely high esteem (think: “class system”) is categorically different from the reference to ordinary people — people like you and I — who’s got the message, is worried about the content of this message and chooses to make good use of information channels which are open for all of us, no matter who we are and whatever we might think … t.b.c. …
I couldn’t agree more. It’s a tall order, but the right one.
I think you’re right, Magne. There does seem to have been some progress in recent months. This is a very, very good thing, no matter how funky. 😆
John: “It seems to me the “don’t alarm them” approach is also rather infantilizing toward people.”
This is a very good point. — I’ve been meaning to respond to this for quite a while now, but without doing so. I’ve been thinking about this remark, but I still don’t know exactly what to say. But I’m in total agreement with you. I lend the modern media culture a thought. I think about the ins and outs of the entertainment industry, the sporting industry, and the tourist industry. I’m also thinking of the logic of advertisement (“Don’t worry, be happy, and please, do yourself a favour and get lost in the supermarket”). And I think about the widescreen jungle of specialized television channels. In fact: when I start to think about the infantilizing character of the present civilization. It’s too much, really.
Under the link below, there’s a video of stand-up comedian George Carlin’s take on materialism and consumerism. I believe he has a point or two to offer here, on the all-too-relevant topic of “an infantilizing world civilization.” 🙂
“If you look at the overall picture of impacts, both those occurring now and those projected for the future, they appear to be both larger and appearing earlier than we thought (in our 2001 report),” Martin Parry, co-chair of the impacts working group, told.
“Some of the changes that we previously projected for around 2020 or 2030 are occurring now, such as the Arctic melt and shifts in the locations of various species,” said Martin.
There are indications that projected increases in droughts are also happening earlier than expected, he said, though that was less certain. The IPCC considered about 29,000 pieces of real-world evidence in compiling this report, as well as the projections of computer models. These include observations showing that dry areas of the world such as the Sahel and southern Africa are receiving less rainfall, while it has increased in northern Europe and parts of the Americas.
The panel suggests societies need to adapt to future impacts, as well as curbing emissions. Without extra measures, carbon dioxide emissions will continue to rise; they are already growing faster than a decade ago, partly because of increasing use of coal.
In my opinion, it is no longer possible to be more of an alarmist than the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change itself.
It is about time the various political-economic movers and shakers of this world understood this. The use of the term “ecocide” is certainly going to be more usual tomorrow than it is today. Anything else will disappoint me.
That’s a great video of George Carlin. Here it is again for those who missed it two comments above:
Of course some will quibble that the word “alarmism” means unnecessarily alarming (as one commenter did in objecting to my handling of the term in the BBC article), but I know what you mean, and there are slightly different definitions anyway.
Okay: “Unnecessarily alarming”
January 2, 2007: http://www.ecologicalhope.org/global-warming/talking-about-climate-change-how-scary-should-we-be/
“Worry, but don’t panic.
That’s what some climate scientists are saying now, concerned that the level of alarm being raised by people like Al Gore, and, well, me, and many others may scare people into paralysis, or a sense of helplessness.
I get their point, yet I still have this other sense that most people are still not scared enough, or scared at all.
So we debate the debate — because the debate about whether human-induced global warming is occurring and changing our atmosphere rapidly, well, that debate is over.”
– Margaret Swedish
There are some words in the English vocabulary that is more scary than others. Ecocide is one of those words.
But I do remember your blog post and wonderful phrase “Ecocide For A Quick Buck.” — And hey, isn’t that the exact worst case scenario we are all hoping to avoid? Yes, hoping to avoid, by means of sharing knowledge, building bigger knowledge bases, arguing, debating, discussing?
I wonder. 💡 8)
I agree with Margaret Swedish, and really don’t agree with the concerns that sharing alarming (but accurate) information is scaring people into paralysis or hopelessness. I think she’s right that many are still apathetic about this stuff. If we use the (less common) definitions of “alarmist” that I linked to, then I think some alarmism is called for here!
Many haven’t even heard much about any of it beyond what they see of climate change coverage. I got an email from John Howe recently in which he said he’d given a lecture and found that no one in the audience had even heard of “peak oil.”
We can try (realistically) to alarm people a little, which, logically should rouse them to action, or we can lull them to sleep with reassurances that there’s there are some problems, but nothing of a magnitude to really worry about.
In fact, I wonder where this idea comes from that alarming people shuts them down. 😕 Perhaps there’s some theory to that effect, but I see no real evidence of it.
“Fear of the future phobia is quite alarming. The fear of what may happen in the coming years can drive people mad.” – 😉
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