Wednesday, 14 November 2007

More on why talk of 'climate change' is in denial

Scientists can teach us all there is to know about facts. They can tell us what we need to know about changes-in-themselves; but not about values. Not about why those changes _matter_. Science is silent for instance about catastrophes, in the human sense of that word.
If we are to take as a lesson from that that we ought not to talk at all using any value-laden terms, this would be a gross fallacy, a SCIENTISTIC error. Ought we to give up the term 'the _Holocaust_'? Ought we to refuse to speak of the fate of the Easter Islanders when their civilisation collapsed as _tragic_? Ought we to refuse to speak of the _chaos_ wrought by the Asian tsunami?
[One could go even further: a rigorously scientistic thinker might argue that to speak (for instance) of macular degeneration is to speak in an inappropriately value-laden way. Perhaps we should speak instead of 'macular change' (or at most of 'significant macular change leading to altered macular functioning')...]
From the point of view of the Universe, one might say, what's happening at present is climate change, or at most global warming. But from our point of view as humans, a point of view which cannot be done justice to in the language of science alone, it is incipient chaos, long emergency, potential catastrophe.
If some people find such terms unduly unsettling, then: be unsettled. Some find the term 'hate crime' unsettling, unduly provocative; is that a good reason to use the euphemism (say) 'serious-dislike crime', instead?
Calling what is happening 'climate change' is as anodyne as that, and far more dangerous: the wolf is at the door, with a thousand hurricanes in his lungs.
I am NOT saying, in my Guardian article, that ALL we should do is use accurate terms such as 'climate chaos' and 'climate emergency'! And I wholeheartedly agree with those who say that our main effort now has to be to persuade people to buy into the changes that we need to make to our economy and society in the understanding that these changes will by and large IMPROVE people's lives. On the latter point, see for instance Mark Lynas's excellent http://www.marklynas.org/2007/7/10/a-better-way-to-live . But what Mark Lynas has also done that is of immense value -- it has helped wake me up fully, and many other people who I know -- is to depict what the human future would be like, under six degrees of global heating (See his book, 'Six degrees').
Scaring people with a reality-check DOES work sometimes -- AS PART of a much broader strategy of change. It works to some extent, albeit mostly with unfortunate consequences, in the 'war on terrorism'. It worked around the ozone hole issue. What is crucial is that people see a WAY that they can actually succeed in averting the threatening future. So the 'liberals' are wrong: there is no individualised solution to the climate crisis. What then we ought to do, faced with potential catastrophe? The answer is: organise. Collectively. Get political. That is what I try to do: that is why I am in the Green Party.
The huge challenge of the current crisis is: it's hard to see how we can actually make the changes that are needed, much harder than it was in the case of the first huge limit to growth that we ran into the belly of: the ozone hole. This time, we need to make really big changes to our economic and political systems - and fast. We have to decarbonise much of the economy, and we have to reverse globalisation via localisation. The Green Party is the one Party that is trying to put together a political programme that stands some reasonable chance of doing this. It is of course worrying that we are still far from power, outside a few Councils. All the more reason to work harder -- and to join us.
For now, a good enough aim for our movement is human self-preservation. And: a better life. The wonderful thing about the changes needed to prevent climate catastrophe is that they mostly coincide with the changes needed to make us happier and healthier.

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1. 2. 3. Rupert's Read: More on why talk of 'climate change' is in denial 4. 12. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 23. 24.

25. 26. More on why talk of 'climate change' is in denial 27. 28.

29.
Scientists can teach us all there is to know about facts. They can tell us what we need to know about changes-in-themselves; but not about values. Not about why those changes _matter_. Science is silent for instance about catastrophes, in the human sense of that word.
If we are to take as a lesson from that that we ought not to talk at all using any value-laden terms, this would be a gross fallacy, a SCIENTISTIC error. Ought we to give up the term 'the _Holocaust_'? Ought we to refuse to speak of the fate of the Easter Islanders when their civilisation collapsed as _tragic_? Ought we to refuse to speak of the _chaos_ wrought by the Asian tsunami?
[One could go even further: a rigorously scientistic thinker might argue that to speak (for instance) of macular degeneration is to speak in an inappropriately value-laden way. Perhaps we should speak instead of 'macular change' (or at most of 'significant macular change leading to altered macular functioning')...]
From the point of view of the Universe, one might say, what's happening at present is climate change, or at most global warming. But from our point of view as humans, a point of view which cannot be done justice to in the language of science alone, it is incipient chaos, long emergency, potential catastrophe.
If some people find such terms unduly unsettling, then: be unsettled. Some find the term 'hate crime' unsettling, unduly provocative; is that a good reason to use the euphemism (say) 'serious-dislike crime', instead?
Calling what is happening 'climate change' is as anodyne as that, and far more dangerous: the wolf is at the door, with a thousand hurricanes in his lungs.
I am NOT saying, in my Guardian article, that ALL we should do is use accurate terms such as 'climate chaos' and 'climate emergency'! And I wholeheartedly agree with those who say that our main effort now has to be to persuade people to buy into the changes that we need to make to our economy and society in the understanding that these changes will by and large IMPROVE people's lives. On the latter point, see for instance Mark Lynas's excellent http://www.marklynas.org/2007/7/10/a-better-way-to-live . But what Mark Lynas has also done that is of immense value -- it has helped wake me up fully, and many other people who I know -- is to depict what the human future would be like, under six degrees of global heating (See his book, 'Six degrees').
Scaring people with a reality-check DOES work sometimes -- AS PART of a much broader strategy of change. It works to some extent, albeit mostly with unfortunate consequences, in the 'war on terrorism'. It worked around the ozone hole issue. What is crucial is that people see a WAY that they can actually succeed in averting the threatening future. So the 'liberals' are wrong: there is no individualised solution to the climate crisis. What then we ought to do, faced with potential catastrophe? The answer is: organise. Collectively. Get political. That is what I try to do: that is why I am in the Green Party.
The huge challenge of the current crisis is: it's hard to see how we can actually make the changes that are needed, much harder than it was in the case of the first huge limit to growth that we ran into the belly of: the ozone hole. This time, we need to make really big changes to our economic and political systems - and fast. We have to decarbonise much of the economy, and we have to reverse globalisation via localisation. The Green Party is the one Party that is trying to put together a political programme that stands some reasonable chance of doing this. It is of course worrying that we are still far from power, outside a few Councils. All the more reason to work harder -- and to join us.
For now, a good enough aim for our movement is human self-preservation. And: a better life. The wonderful thing about the changes needed to prevent climate catastrophe is that they mostly coincide with the changes needed to make us happier and healthier.
30. 31. 32.