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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 4/24/19

To stop global catastrophe, we must believe in humans again

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From The Guardian

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We have the technology to prevent climate crisis. But now we need to unleash mass resistance too because collective action does work

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Because I am concerned about inequality and about the environment, I am usually classed as a progressive, a liberal. But it seems to me that what I care most about is preserving a world that bears some resemblance to the past: a world with some ice at the top and bottom and the odd coral reef in between; a world where people are connected to the past and future (and to one another) instead of turned into obsolete software.

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And those seem to me profoundly conservative positions. Meanwhile, oil companies and tech barons strike me as deeply radical, willing to alter the chemical composition of the atmosphere, eager to confer immortality.

There is a native conservatism in human beings that resists such efforts, a visceral sense of what's right or dangerous, rash or proper. You needn't understand every nuance of germline engineering or the carbon cycle to understand why monkeying around on this scale might be a bad idea. And indeed, polling suggests that most people instinctively oppose, say, living forever or designing babies, just as they want government action to stabilize the climate.

Luckily, we have two relatively new inventions that could prove decisive to solving global warming before it destroys the planet. One is the solar panel, and the other is the nonviolent movement. Obviously, they are not the same sort of inventions: the solar panel (and its cousins, the wind turbine and the lithium-ion battery) is hardware, while the ability to organize en masse for change is more akin to software. Indeed, even to call nonviolent campaigning a "technology" will strike some as odd. Each is still in its infancy; we deploy them, but fairly blindly, finding out by trial and error their best uses. Both come with inherent limits: neither is as decisive or as immediately powerful as, say, a nuclear weapon or a coal-fired power plant. But both are trans-formative nonetheless -- and, crucially, the power they wield is human in scale.

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Before we can best employ these technologies, we need to address the two most insidious ideas deployed in defense of the status quo. The first is that there is no need for mass resistance because each of us should choose for ourselves the future we want. The second is that there is no possibility of resistance because the die is already cast.

Choice is the mantra that unites people of many political persuasions. Conservatives say, "you're not the boss of me," when it comes to paying taxes; liberals say it when the topic is marijuana. The easiest, laziest way to dispense with a controversy is to say: "Do what you want; don't tell me what to do."

If "let anyone do what they want" is a flawed argument, then "no one can stop them anyway" is an infuriating one. Insisting that some horror is inevitable no matter what you do is the response of those who don't want to be bothered trying to stop it, and I've heard it too often to take it entirely seriously.

I remember, for instance, when investigative reporters proved that Exxon had known all about global warming and had covered up that knowledge. Plenty of people on the professionally jaded left told me, in one form or another, "of course they did," or "all corporations lie," or "nothing will ever happen to them anyway." This kind of knowing cynicism is a gift to the Exxons of the world. Happily, far more people reacted with usefully naive outrage: before too long, people were comparing the oil giants with the tobacco companies, and some of the biggest cities in the US were suing them for damages. We don't know yet precisely how it will end, only that giving them a pass because of their power makes no sense.

Innovation doesn't scare me. I think that if we back off the most crazed frontiers of technology, we can still figure out how to keep humans healthy, safe, productive and human. Not everyone agrees. Some harbor a deep pessimism about human nature which I confess, as an American in the age of Donald Trump, occasionally seems sound.

Of all the arguments for unhindered technological growth, the single saddest (in the sense that it just gives up on human beings) comes from the Oxford don Julian Savulescu. In essence he contends that, left to themselves, democracies can't solve climate change, "for in order to do so, a majority of their voters must support the adoption of substantial restrictions on their excessively consumerist lifestyle, and there is no indication they would be willing to make such sacrifices." Also, our ingrained suspicion of outsiders keeps us from working together globally. And so, faced with the need to move quickly, we should "morally bio-enhance" our children or, more likely, use genetic engineering, so they will cooperate.

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This is roughly akin to "geoengineering the atmosphere" to prevent climate change some people, having given up on taming the fossil-fuel companies, want to instead pump the atmosphere full of sulphur to block incoming solar radiation. Both cases are based on the premise that we humans won't rise to the occasion.

I hope Savulescu seriously underestimates the power of both technology and democracy of the solar panel and of nonviolence. I believe we have the means at hand to solve our problems, short of turning our children into saintly robots which, in any event, wouldn't do a thing to solve climate change, given that by the time these morally improved youths had grown into positions of power, the damage would long since have been done. And I'm convinced Savulescu is wrong about people's selfishness presenting the main obstacle to solving climate change: around the world, polling shows that people are not just highly concerned about global warming, but also willing to pay a price to solve it. Americans, for instance, said in 2017 that they were willing to see their energy bills rise 15% and have the money spent on clean energy programs that's about in line with the size of the carbon taxes that national groups have been campaigning for.

The reason we don't have a solution to climate change has less to do with the greed of the great, unengineered unwashed than with the greed of the almost unbelievably small percentage of people at the top of the energy heap. That is to say, the Koch brothers and the Exxon execs have never been willing to take a 15% slice off their profits, not when they could spend a much smaller share of their winnings corrupting the political debate with rolls of cash. If you wanted to "morally enhance" anyone, that's where you'd start if there are Grinches in need of hearts, it's pretty obvious who should be at the front of the line.

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Bill McKibben Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Bill McKibben is the author of a dozen books, including The End of Nature and Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future. A former staff writer for The New Yorker, he writes regularly for Harper's, The Atlantic Monthly, and The (more...)
 
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7 people are discussing this page, with 13 comments


pablo mayhew

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Good Lord. Give it up already. Even Greenpeace co-founder and former president of Greenpeace Canada Patrick Moore described the narrative of anthropocentric global warming and "climate change" as a cynical and corrupt way to manipulate the population:

"Fear has been used all through history to gain control of people's minds and wallets and all else, and the climate catastrophe is strictly a fear campaign--well, fear and guilt--you're afraid you're killing your children because you're driving them in your SUV and emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and you feel guilty for doing that. There's no stronger motivation than those two."

It's time to wise up to globalism and the globalist agenda to control the world through (among other methods) the imposition of an illegal carbon tax.

click here

Wake up now, before it's too late for the rest of us.

click here

click here

Submitted on Thursday, Apr 25, 2019 at 5:50:44 AM

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BFalcon

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Reply to pablo mayhew:   New Content

When the US military discusses climate change it must be real.

Submitted on Thursday, Apr 25, 2019 at 6:27:17 PM

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Reply to pablo mayhew:   New Content

Catastrophism is a weird distortion of reality that afflicts a portion of the population. We can only hope it doesn't spread, despite the anxiety-promoting propaganda from government, mainstream media, and radical activists. If only more people would have the curiosity and critical thinking to check the data, instead of blindly accepting "expert" claims as gospel, they would realize the climate catastrophe is only an outgrowth of computer model projections and inconsistent with reality.

Submitted on Thursday, Apr 25, 2019 at 7:52:13 PM

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David Watts

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Reply to pablo mayhew:   New Content

I thought I would point something out. You said:

Good Lord. Give it up already. Even Greenpeace co-founder and former president of Greenpeace Canada Patrick Moore described the narrative of anthropocentric global warming and "climate change" as a cynical and corrupt way to manipulate the population ...

Pablo, you are using Patrick Moore as justification for your, "Good Lord. Give it up already."


Your first link in your comment:

Global warming a total "hoax and scam" run by corrupt scientists, warns Greenpeace co-founder

In fact, the co-founder of Greenpeace Canada, Patrick Moore, recently spilled the beans during an interview on SiriusXM's Breitbart News Tonight, explaining that not only is global warming completely fake, but that it's also being used by social engineers around the world including Greenpeace to fear-monger the public in to giving up their rights and freedoms.


Now, for the real story from greenpeace.org:

Patrick Moore Does Not Represent Greenpeace. Patrick Moore has been a paid spokesman for a variety of polluting industries for more than 30 years, including the timber, mining, chemical and the aquaculture industries. Most of these industries hired Mr. Moore only after becoming the focus of a Greenpeace campaign to improve their environmental performance. Mr. Moore has now worked for polluters for far longer than he ever worked for Greenpeace. Greenpeace opposes the use of nuclear energy because it is a dangerous and expensive distraction from real solutions to climate change.

Patrick Moore Did Not Found Greenpeace. Patrick Moore frequently portrays himself as a founder or co-founder of Greenpeace, and many news outlets have repeated this characterization. Although Mr. Moore played a significant role in Greenpeace Canada for several years, he did not found Greenpeace.

Patrick Moore often misrepresents himself in the media as an environmental "expert" or even an "environmentalist," while offering anti-environmental opinions on a wide range of issues and taking a distinctly anti-environmental stance. He also exploits long-gone ties with Greenpeace to sell himself as a speaker and pro-corporate spokesperson, usually taking positions that Greenpeace opposes.


Submitted on Friday, Apr 26, 2019 at 1:14:54 AM

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BFalcon

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Reply to David Watts:   New Content

Thanks for correction

Submitted on Friday, Apr 26, 2019 at 2:51:47 AM

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Charles Homer

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Here is an interesting look at how fossil fuel companies deliberately provide us with misleading climate change information:

click here

Without shareholders pushing them to be transparent, one has to wonder how many fossil fuel companies would just as soon live in the past when their businesses were unencumbered by an inconvenient truth.

Submitted on Thursday, Apr 25, 2019 at 12:23:30 PM

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Strange. The misinformation comes from the alarmists. It's ridiculous to blame any company, person, or industry for trying to correct damaging misinformation used for an attack.

Submitted on Thursday, Apr 25, 2019 at 10:59:40 PM

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"We have the technology to prevent climate crises." I heartily encorage Bill McFibben to share that tidbit with us. So far hot air seems like his best thought on the topic.

Submitted on Thursday, Apr 25, 2019 at 5:33:49 PM

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Art Costa

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I've come to the conclusion that few, certainly those who live in the USA, believe in climate catastrophe. There is nothing in my world that demonstrates anything has changed at all. People continue to go about their "business" as if they are living in the 20th century, Happy Days.

There's lip-service, but little else. It is a problem which will require, minimally to give up the way of life pretty much in its entirety.

There's no technology solution (cornucopian make-believe, MMT is another example of the "silver bullet" paradigm). The GND is flawed at this stage. It still clings to growth, to preserving our arrangement on this planet under the new regime of "renewable energy". The logic of the GND is premised on the original New Deal which worked because the problem had not yet manifested in a way that anyone (or hardly anyone) knew or cared.

Renewables, though necessary, cannot replace the world fossil built.

Capitalism (globalism is simply an outgrowth) is at the core. Degrowth is the only way to tackle the problem, if there's a chance at all. That degrowth also means zero human birth rates world-wide. There will be pain, mostly for the top 33% but everyone will need to significantly alter their lives, much will be top down and not based on "free markets" or individual willingness to do more with much, much less. That choice has long passed.

Submitted on Thursday, Apr 25, 2019 at 5:56:52 PM

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There are solutions.

Submitted on Thursday, Apr 25, 2019 at 6:26:49 PM

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Actually I provided "solutions". The problem is denial exists at a number of levels. For years the problem has been buried in "we don't want to alarm people" and time and environmental degradation marched on - at an ever rapid pace. Like a heart attack hoping the pain will leave and all will be well, the wealthy nations, even those who have made more of an effort than the US, still think there's a fix that will allow us to just shift gears and keep on going under a "renewable regime". A careful look at the problem tells us that is a huge delusion.

Yes people do have problems accepting the "unacceptable". We have built-in defensive mechanisms - fight/flight or intellectualize/rationalize when all else fails. (As the often quote: "You [we] can't take the truth".

Submitted on Thursday, Apr 25, 2019 at 9:49:21 PM

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Reply to BFalcon:   New Content

Actually I provided "solutions". The problem is denial exists at a number of levels. For years the problem has been buried in "we don't want to alarm people" and time and environmental degradation marched on - at an ever rapid pace. Like a heart attack hoping the pain will leave and all will be well, the wealthy nations, even those who have made more of an effort than the US, still think there's a fix that will allow us to just shift gears and keep on going under a "renewable regime". A careful look at the problem tells us that is a huge delusion.

Yes people do have problems accepting the "unacceptable". We have built-in defensive mechanisms - fight/flight or intellectualize/rationalize when all else fails. (As the often quote: "You [we] can't take the truth".

Submitted on Thursday, Apr 25, 2019 at 9:50:05 PM

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Art Costa

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Reply to BFalcon:   New Content

Actually I provided "solutions". The problem is denial exists at a number of levels. For years the problem has been buried in "we don't want to alarm people" and time and environmental degradation marched on - at an ever rapid pace. Like a heart attack hoping the pain will leave and all will be well, the wealthy nations, even those who have made more of an effort than the US, still think there's a fix that will allow us to just shift gears and keep on going under a "renewable regime". A careful look at the problem tells us that is a huge delusion.

Yes people do have problems accepting the "unacceptable". We have built-in defensive mechanisms - fight/flight or intellectualize/rationalize when all else fails. (As the often quote: "You [we] can't take the truth".

Submitted on Thursday, Apr 25, 2019 at 9:50:36 PM

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