Posts Tagged ‘climate change’

How many people might die from climate change?

June 2, 2017

Sorry that is the sort of question which cannot be answered accurately.

Social systems, environmental systems and climate systems are complex systems which means they cannot be predicted in detail. All these systems will be interacting with different forms of landscape – such as low lying areas, loss of glaciers and water and so on. We need all of them to remain stable to make valid detailed predictions. All we can predict is the general trends, and these can be disrupted by rapid changes of state into new systems which may not be human friendly.

The trends are likely to be extreme. People will try and move from parts of the earth which become difficult to live in, because of temperature (heat stroke, heart failure, dehydration), lack of drinking water and sea level rise, and that will likely cause wars – in which people will die as well. The massive storms we have seen will cause deaths as well, as well as disrupt the balance and interconnection of social functioning which will produce more deaths. Destruction of agricultural stability will produce problems with food supply, which is likely to produce malnutrition, which makes people more vulnerable to the other effects. Tropical diseases will move into what have been temperate climates, as well as be carried by people movement. It is likely that those of us who live in temperate environments will have little resistance to these diseases. We may see some parts of the world which have previously been uninhabitable become open to human life and the great powers will compete over those areas, which is also likely to produce war and death.

We also keep polluting the oceans which will disrupt the climate and ecological systems. Many biologists think that ocean death is possible, this will mean we will lose most of our fish stocks, we may also lose oxygen supplies if the plankton die and we keep cutting down forests, although it is unlikely we will kill ourselves, this will also lessen resilience.

With pro-corporate policies which help corporations release chemicals pollution without much in the way of check we will also poison ourselves and the other creatures and plants we need to live. The results of these chemicals on bio-system evolution cannot be predicted at all…

Basically there are a whole heap of endangering ecological processes going on, of which climate change is only one. What the results of multiple chaotic disruptions will be is absolutely unpredictable. However, it can be predicted that normality is going and that many people will die as a result.

The Energy Crisis

March 19, 2017

This article developed from a comment on an article by Jessica Irvine in the Sydney Morning Herald “Energy crisis: The 9 questions you were too embarrassed to ask”.

Point 1: There may be no energy crisis but there is an ecological crisis – which is growing. It is vital to keep the ecological crisis in focus as other crises flow on from that.

Point 2: The worse the ecological crisis gets, the more the energy crisis mounts, and the more people will suffer or die as a result. The economy and food supply will be hurt as well.

Point 3: There is currently a problem with gas supply in Australia, but that results from gas companies deciding not to supply gas to local consumers, and from gas power stations failing in the heat (from the ecological crisis). We need to get out of the control of the gas companies.

Point 4: A point of agreement with the author. Coal is stupid, expensive and poisonous to people and the environment.

Point 5: One significant problem is that the Coalition parties (both in government and opposition) have become obsessed with defending fossil fuel companies, and have actively worked to prevent alternate energy supplies from increasing. Labor was not much better, but it was better.

Point 6: Prices will continue to increase in the market as it exists, as companies continue to manipulate that market to increase profit. That is what companies do. That is why the prices have increased after the Carbon tax was repealed. We have a situation in which various companies are profiteering from the destruction of both our environment and Australia’s energy systems. This, is the main story, so let’s not forget it.

Point 7: South Australia is going it alone because the Federal government has done little but attack them (mostly using false information) in order to defend fossil fuel companies, and has provided no help, or even moral support. Essentially more states will have to go it alone if we want a solution under this Federal Government.

Point 8: Battery storage is still in development and will get better. They are still cheaper than the alternatives. We might think about a contract in which batteries get replaced with newer models as time passes. But that would not be supporting fossil fuel companies, so there is little chance of that.

Point 9: The Coalition government is in the business of picking losers that won’t challenge fossil fuel companies. The new Snowy scheme will be overpriced, depend on water and snow we may not have, and be powered by coal if possible. It is a massive waste of money, as you might expect.

When did the Righteous start attacking Science?

February 28, 2017

Its probably complicated. It probably began with religions resisting evolution, to increase their inerrancy, and to avoid change. They could argue that by challenging religion, science became immoral. Then it moved into commerce. Business resisted being put to extra costs when science discovered health problems with products. Smoking, for example, became branded as a right, a freedom, its health consequences denied.

So, it became relatively common to attack science for commercial and ideological purposes long before it was mainstream amidst the righteous. Indeed the right used to champion military and commercial science as the way of the future, just as much as the left.

However problems also arose with scientists talking down to and at people, and arrogantly assuring them that their fears about technological projects were misplaced. The failure of official science was marked by the disasters of thalidomide, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, the racist studies of infection, and so on. Commercial science, in particular, was governed by profit, not accuracy or safety. Then there was the use of science as a death machine – agent orange, napalm, nuclear weapons and so on – with little recompense to those damaged by it. There were constant changes in medical recommendations, and a relatively high level of iatrogenic disease (disease generated by medical techniques). Consequently even more people felt alienated from a science they had no input into.

Then, the big move occurred. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the State had expanded to include not only all men with property, but propertyless women, black people and so on, and by the late sixties and early seventies, ordinary people were active within that State, demanding equality, services and the end to elite authority. The righteous panicked.

Samuel Huntington wrote about this “democratic distemper” or “excess of democracy” in his report to the Trilateral commission on The Crisis of Democracy. The power of the people who *should* have power was being disturbed, chaos was emerging. His recommendation was to encourage voter apathy – to get people out of participating in the State.

This was achieved by encouraging distrust of government; so what was the point of people getting involved? The after events of Nixon was used to promote this idea, as was the Vietnam war. The free market was to be trusted rather than political action. Money and business were marks of virtue, everything else was pretense. You were to look after yourself and avoid government ‘interference’. You got out of politics that could impact the ruling class and just guarded your personal property. This was portrayed as part of the way to end elite authority, with the only elites in this view being left wing or governmental – wealth was not a thing that defined elites or marked power differentials. Hence the eager funding of libertarian think tanks. This meant removing what we knew about social action from the public domain. Social ‘science’ (such that it was) was declared to be interfering and communist etc.

These ideas promised to deliver liberty and prosperity for all. They couldn’t and didn’t. We have had 35 to 40 years of them, and they have never delivered. Wages became stagnant, wealth was distributed to the rulers, social mobility collapsed, the State was used to impose restrictions on ordinary people, people became more alienated from governmental processes, commercial media saw their job as largely supporting this order, rather than any alternative, as they were part of the corporate class.

Growing failure meant scapegoats had to be found. It was said to be the fault of immigrants, the fault of intellectuals, the fault of minorities, the fact that we had not got 100% free markets. Anything but the fault of the ideology itself, or behaviour of the corporate class. Once it became clear that science implied that the social order was coming to an end through environmental destruction, it became important to attack science to continue the arrangement and entrench the power.

The attack made use of techniques pioneered by tobacco, religion, libertarians, and so on. It fitted in with the official ideology by making your freedom the freedom to be anti-science and anti-the-authority-of-knowledge, it supposedly demonstrated your ability to think against the grain (as it agreed with the ruling ideology). It allowed political action and involvement. It gave people some sense of importance in the alienated world they lived in….

It helped save the power of the rulers for a bit longer, and they gamble that they will be rich enough to ride out the coming troubles, as money gives you everything…. at least so they think.

Fake News

February 15, 2017

What would be being said if we had a vaguely left wing media?

This is my attempt an opinion piece for such a fictitious venue.

The situation is dire. For the last nearly 40 years both mainstream parties have been pursuing the neoliberal vision of endless vaunting of free markets and business. They have repeatedly said that acting on these assumptions will lead to greater liberty and efficiency. Here at the Global Left we recognise that these predictions have always been wrong or were possibly deliberate lies to begin with. On the other hand, our own predictions about neoliberalism have been validated. With its enforcement; the economy has become permanently unstable, the median wage has stagnated, most ordinary jobs are insecure, industry has closed down, social security and education have been eviscerated, government services for ordinary people have declined or become punitive, public/collective property has been sold off, business fraud is mainstream, welfare for corporations has increased, business competition has declined, the tax burden has shifted to the middle class, people have become alienated from politics, every policy is decided by whether it profits established business, virtue and values go out the window, the right has started culture wars because it needs to distract people from reality, and there is a general retreat from democracy into authoritarianism.

By now we have plenty of experience of ‘privatisation’ and of ‘public-private’ partnerships, and we know what this means. Invariably in privatisation, income for the high-level executives increases magnificently, the workers who provide the service are cut back, maintenance and resilience decrease, services for ordinary people decrease, and prices increase. In public private partnerships we suddenly find it impossible to find out how much we the tax-payers are paying or what we have given the company because of ‘commercial in-confidence’. What a wonderful arrangement – for business. Nothing for us.

This is, we might suspect, the kind of situation ‘free markets’ always lead to.

We have also learnt, if we needed to, that capitalism is completely unable to deal with ecological crisis because it is too tied up in maintaining business as usual or profit, and it is the main cause of the problems. Put simply the response of capitalism to ecological crisis has been to hire people to lie for it, and pretend there is no problem. Neoliberalism is still loudly cheered on by business funded think tanks, as despite its overt failure to deliver for the people, it does deliver for the corporate sector. Neoliberal governments have also tried to supress knowledge, stopping public servants from mentioning climate change, forbidding scientists from speaking in public, destroying libraries, clearing websites of information, trying to stop research funding. You might think that this would attract attention among those who claim to be suspicious of governments, but it apparently doesn’t.

Corporations have lots of money to throw about and purchase liars, because of the political restructuring which has gifted them with a much greater share of the wealth generated by their workers, and because ‘truth’ has become whatever makes a profit. Most of the media is also owned by the corporate sector, acts in that sector’s self-interest and takes this propaganda for granted. Neoliberalism has proved of wondrous benefit to corporations, but a curse to everyone else. We say that capitalism is strong and does not need the coddling it gets from neoliberals. Indeed it is better for it to face its customers as equals.

As we all should know, the Great Economic crisis of 2008 onwards was primarily caused by two factors: firstly financial corporations joined together extremely risky investments and sounder investments and sold them as ‘safe’ with the full approval of credit ratings agencies; secondly the mortgage industry deceptively sold people mortgages which they could not pay off with the aim of repossessing their houses and selling them for more than they were mortgaged for, taking the repayments with them. These two frauds were combined to make an even more unstable product which people were encouraged to invest in. The whole basis for the booming economy and the resulting collapse was fraud, and having so much money which was not going into wages or to the productive economy. Neoliberals sat back and cheered the triumph of the free market and claimed the only problem was that there were still some regulations which tried to prevent fraud. President Bush’s solution was to throw tax payers money at the elite benefactors from the fraud, without any oversight. President Obama was declared a socialist for asking these corporations to treat further tax payer monies as loans. A real socialist would have made sure the money got to the ordinary folk being defrauded, so they could keep their homes at the rates they agreed to, and not be losing their life savings and be thrown onto the streets, even when mortgage companies could not produce the paperwork that gave them the right to throw people out.

In the US, Donald Trump correctly diagnosed the dissatisfaction of working America with this neoliberal economic mess.  However, as we predicted, he is trying to fix it with more of the ‘solutions’ that caused the problems in the first place: tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, removal of regulations which tried to prevent corporations from poisoning people, removal of regulations the previous president re-introduced which tried to make corporations even vaguely responsible for the fraud and deception they carried out, cut backs to welfare programs and increased spending on the military. This is made more attractive by a little protectionism promised on the side, but not yet delivered; and we can be sure that when it is delivered, it will be delivered to protect useless or powerful companies.

Let us be clear, tax cuts for corporations do not generate jobs, they simply lead to higher executive salaries, more money for stock holders and more money to gamble on financial markets. In neoliberalism, mainstream ‘jobs’ are simply a cost to be eliminated.

By preserving the problem, President Trump has not ‘drained the swamp’ of his cabinet, but brought new infections. He has business finance controlled by representatives of financial corporations, environment by polluters, and so on. Mr. Trump will not do anything that will endanger his apparent business interests or the business interests of those he is allied to; to hell with anyone else. He is, of course, continuing the culture war, to try and convince his supporters he has something in common with them. Hopefully this is failing and, as we can see, many people are protesting and standing firm for American tradition and the rule of law, rather than the rule of presidential whim.

It is ever the way that the ruling class will cling to their basis for power, even when it is bringing about general destruction.

During the primaries, we tried to ignore Trump and, when that was impossible, covered his business scandals and incompetancies, especially the ways that he cheerfully sacrificed his workers and creditors for his own benefit. We covered his obvious vengefulness (which increases the probability of war and governmental repression of his enemies), his inability to understand ecological issues, and all his other lazy ignorance, but the rest of the media gave him free publicity, or asked him questions about his favourite bible verse. His reply “an eye for an eye” did show something about him, but it was not elaborated.

In Australia we warned that Tony Abbott was not going to be an improvement on Julia Gillard. He was a hardline neoliberal head kicker, who wanted to impose his version of Catholicism on everyone. However, our rivals in the Murdoch Empire and the Fairfax Flutter, did their absolute best to promote him, rewrite his past, and attack Gillard and Labor. The result was as we expected. We ended up with a Prime Minister with a marvelous sense of his own entitlement and completely unable to negotiate. His first budget collapsed under the weight of this inability, the number of election promises it broke, and the attempt to fix Australia’s debt by kicking ordinary Australians and making them carry the burden. Furthermore, as we might expect, he fled from the environmental crisis into support for the coal industry at all costs, with the added bonus of attacking renewable energy whenever possible. It is conceivable that he headed the worst, most delusional, government in Australia’s history.

We had hoped that when this self-generated political crisis reached breaking point that Malcolm Turnbull might take his party into some vague encounter with reality, but so far he has knelt before the lunatic and failed right and refused to do anything to tackle our problems. He continues the fixed genuflection towards capital and wealth, as is most clearly shown by his staunch attack on minor union fraud, as contrasted with his happiness for the banks to regulate themselves when almost every other week the business pages fill with stories about the latest fraud and deception against small customers. These financial frauds have amounted to billions. If real, as alleged, they are major crimes, and yet nothing is to be done. Similarly we have revealed how large companies are routinely defrauding workers of their legal wages. But nothing is to be done.

Such large scale theft by business is of no concern to the government at all, indeed they are more likely to make it retrospectively legal than they are to prosecute. Neoliberalism implies the doctrine that if a business is big enough, then any fraud is acceptable if it primarily affects ordinary people. Profit is God. Class war on ordinary people is a duty. We say, profit is useful but it is not everything.

What can we do? As we have said, in Australia, Labor is a neoliberal party of a slightly less rigorous bent than the current government. When in government they failed to take on the mining corporations, they failed to promote their own climate policies, they did nothing to recapture tax revenue lost through various corporate tricks. They spend as much time attacking the Greens as they do attacking the Government. However, they are clearly better than the current bunch of incompetent, endlessly self-pleased baboons. So we would suggest that you vote for them in the lower house and press them to shed this stupid affectation that corporate business is the only valuable social and individual activity. For the upper house vote Green. The Greens do not have the experience of government that Labor does (although any ignorance, intransigence and stupidity is less a problem for them than it is for Trump as many of them have some experience and don’t have to engage in self-deception to the same extent), but they will at least attempt to recognise that we live in a time which requires urgent change and not endless thumb twiddling and praise of CEOs.

You too can get out in the streets and protest, write to your MPs talk to your friends, participate. Democracy is about participation. The government depends on you. It is your servant, however much neoliberals want it to be your boss. Don’t allow them to shout you down and talk you out of politics. Organise locally, get your community involved in deciding their future, rather than leaving it to the corporate sector. If you are not the solution, then you are betraying your children or other people’s children. In the terms of a well-known Hopi Indian speech: “You are the people you are waiting for”.

Trump and coal

December 19, 2016

I keep reading that Trump cannot restore the place of coal in the US economy. At the risk of repeating myself, he can.

Trump can save the coal industry for a number of years, all he has to do is pump taxpayer’s money into coal subsidies to make it cheap, and into coal power stations to make them cheap. That way he gets coal up and running, and people locked into providing coal for the years they need it to supply the power stations he helped build. He can also subsidise coal power in the third world and tie that to the US export market to help local coal production. Its expensive, but he is rebuilding America in the only way he knows how, tax cuts to the wealthy and corporate sector and subsidies for the wealthy and the corporate sector. (Trump has already apparently explained his cabinet of billionaires by saying such people are successful and therefore have all the skills and virtues necessary to govern and do good things. Rich people are, in his ideology, good people – by implication poorer people are not – they cannot expect help.)

He can work towards crippling renewables simply by making regulations affecting the industry difficult in the extreme, or charging a tax on renewables to ‘recompense’ people who are not on renewables. He can ban wind farms from being anywhere near where there are birds or people, increasing their cost of transmission. He can rule that people using renewable energy must pay a large charge to established energy companies to connect to the grid and keep it viable, and so on. These actions would make coal more competitive and boosts its chance of overtaking renewables in the US.

He can take money away from climate science and give it to climate denialists, or to corporate think tanks, to create even more of an atmosphere in which business can just continue on its way. He can revoke all objections to the Keystone pipe line, as he has money invested in it.

The congress might object to the expenditure, but they will probably pass it as too many of them are beholden to fossil fuel companies.

He can encourage countries like Australia to keep up coal exports, opening new coal mines and new ‘clean’ power stations. This will then probably encourage India to keep up its determination to burn coal as a matter of ‘justice’. This will probably encourage more subsidy of coal power in other countries by other countries.

Don’t underestimate what he can do.

‘Human Greed’ and the Anthropocene

December 16, 2016

We often see human greed, blamed for ecological destruction, and even the Anthropocene itself. However this is not the case. “Human greed” is not the problem. Most humans, even today, are not generating emissions, pollution and ecological problems at a suicidal rate and they are not craving the ‘untapped resources’ of the Amazon, the Indonesia rain forests, the Liverpool plains in Australia, or the poles. Most humans do not like it when their ecologies change, and frequently protest against it, as they are not the direct cause of that change. Do any of the local residents near me, for example, relish the idea of having unfiltered pollution stacks, near their homes, for the tunnels to take a highway which is to push 75,000 extra cars per day over an already blocked bridge? No, it is not their greed that is responsible. It is not the billions of Indian villager’s greed, or even the greed of the average inhabitant of Delhi, which makes the air unbreathable. The inhabitants of Tuvalu or Kiribati have not contributed to the climate change which will destroy their homes. Most people  on the planet generate small amounts of emissions.

It is a relatively few humans, acting within particular social arrangements, that cause the problem.

Gareth Bryant argues that 71% of contemporary greenhouse gas emitters in Europe are responsible for only 4% of European emissions, while 9% of emitters are responsible for 83% of those emissions. According to Richard Heede, just 90 organisations have been responsible for two thirds of greenhouse gas emissions between 1854 and 2010.

Half of these emissions have occurred since 1986 after the triumph of neoliberal corporate dominance, when people became aware of climate change, and when particular corporations began sponsoring climate change denialism for what seemed like their own political and economic advantage. They had to engineer the state we are in. It was not natural.

Realising that the cause  of our climate problems is not just ‘human greed’, but the greed and activity of particular humans, in particular social organisations, changes the possibilities for ending the problem. If the problem is human greed then there is no chance, or we must get rid of humans. If it is particular people in particular social organisations, then yes it is possible. It  is just politics, persuasion, risk and effort. It is standing up to power. It is not easy, but it is doable.



Individual vs Collective?

November 28, 2016

I am noticing that there seems to be a gentle stream of ‘retreatism’ in some modes of depth psychology. The idea seems to be that the ‘crowd’ is bad, that social life is somehow corrupting and, that faced with the world situation, and the Anthropocene in particular we have to move into our own, somehow special individuation.

To me this is a partial truth, and needs expansion. It may also be true that in specific times of life (when aging, or facing immanent death, or in the midst of illness), this may be the best thing for some of us to do. I just don’t think it is a good strategy for a general approach to deal with ecological crisis or political instability. That we recognise that humans affect the world, does not mean we can correct the effects by ‘going away’. All life forms affect the world. At the moment humans are perhaps affecting it disproportionately (this is what the idea of the Anthropocene recognizes), and we may not be able to afford retreat from that recognition.

This mode of retreat seems to be based a non-ecological mode of thinking, and in a situation of, shall we say, degrading relationships, it seems to imply that individuals are disconnected, self tending units, and could lead to further degradation.

At the biological level we are colonies, or interactive ‘systems’, of multiple creatures. Much of our body weight, when we subtract the water, contains ‘foreign’ DNA. Even our cells may depend on what were originally external organisms (mitochondria have their own DNA). We are not a single biological being: we are symbiotes.

At the psychological level, depth psychology appears to uncover that we have multiple psyches, and layers of psyche: ‘complexes’, personal unconsciousness, collective unconsciousness, archetypes, or whatever. If you are more into neurology for your evidence, then we have, at least, a hind brain, a mid brain and two hemispheres, all of which may function independently, and communicate with difficulty. Other researchers add neurological centres in the heart and the solar plexus. We are psychologically multiple interactive systems. We are not so much engaged in dialogues, but in ‘multi-logues’.

We are also social creatures. We think with borrowed, badly copied or modified thoughts. We feel with borrowed, emulated and modified feelings and desires. We think with others and in reaction to others. Without singular amounts of effort we cannot live alone, and when young we cannot live alone at all. We are interdependent with others as interactive systems. The boundaries are fuzzy, we blend into each other and are interpenetrated by each other. The same is true of our ecology, we modify it, it modifies us, and that is happening between billions of creatures simultaneously. It again is a set of interactive systems: that is the nature of being.

We are both collaborative and competitive, and are so at many levels, individually, group, nationally etc… Sometimes what we think is working-together is working-against-each-other.

Consequently, the individual and the collective do not seem to me to be separate, or even opposing, poles. Certainly, not in the sense that one is enlightened and that the other is ignorant. They work together, and against each other, always. We are always in multi-logues. The question is how to work together as productively as possible. What follows are some suggestions.

First point, which should contain no problems for depth psychologists, seems to me to recognise that we are massively unconscious. We do not perceive most of this working together or against each other; we cannot perceive all of it; we probably cannot understand all of it; and we cannot predict the consequences of it in detail – this is true of both our inner and outer lives (and these lives are not separate; the boundaries are continually fuzzy and porous).

Second point may be that given this unconsciousness, unpredictability and porous boundaries, full retreat is impossible – we are always in the systems whether we like it or not. What is needed is a set of day to day techniques to deal with events we are unconscious of. We may need to fully engage with our senses, fully engage with our symbolic capacities, fully engage with our ability to listen in the widest sense.

Third point. Because we cannot fully understand, we may need to suspend our sense that we do understand. We all think we understand. Often understanding involves blame, condemnation and scapegoating, which are processes which almost automatically stop our ability to listen and understand. (We may even condemn ‘thinking’, or ‘lack of spirituality’, or ‘spirituality’ itself, when humans automatically appear to think or have some spiritual orientation towards the cosmos.) That is one reason why these techniques are so popular; they fill the gaps, stop us being puzzled and preserve our egos and their understandings. So it could be useful if we recognise that whatever we think is right, could be wrong, no matter how right it seems.

Fourth point. Premature and enforced understanding, automatically produces unintended consequences. It is the order that produces the disorder it fears. It makes things worse. It stops us listening to the world, it stops correction by reality. It nearly always produces action and may sometimes be necessary.

Fifth point. We need to correct our understanding. We do this not just in retreat, although retreat is valuable – everything needs rest – but we do it in interaction with the world. It is only interaction that can give correction or show us the consequences of that understanding (if we look/listen).

Sixth point. While our ego (consciousness) tends to seek repetition and fixed understanding, we can remember that we have multiple and unconscious modes of understanding and wisdom which may see things differently; that may add to our conscious understanding, even if our ego resists. Bad feelings can tell us that we are thinking ‘badly’ or incorrectly. Dreams can give us symbolic representations of reality which include events that our consciousness may not want to admit. The same is true of art and story. A sense of unease can be informative (perhaps it is our heart thinking?). If we really hold to the understanding that things/events/people/ecologies are interconnected and boundaries are fuzzy, and that our orders may not always be good, then maybe we can perceive more ‘data’ to help improve our understanding. All of these messages and data need evaluation through interaction with reality, but they can potentially add to understanding. We all have ‘inner wisdom’, but it is not just found in retreat, it is also found in an attentive and open daily life.

Seventh point. Response to crisis should probably be an oscillatory process. We go ‘inside’ to our hidden wisdoms, we go ‘outside’ to the interacting or multi-loguing world, we go ‘inside’ again and come out, and so on. If we remain isolated or unthinking individuals then it is possible we will be worse than ignored, we will lose some of our internal power and meaning as it does not go into the world, we will become complicit in that loss. If the reader is familiar with depth psychology and its metaphors, then they will be aware that in alchemy, the practitioner does not simply engage in ‘spiritual’ or ‘inner’ work, they do that work in conjunction with work in the laboratory. They take their insights from the inner work into the lab, and the lab work into their inner lives. Sometimes the two progress simultaneously. In alchemy, there is no enforced separation between ‘mind’, ‘spirit’ and ‘body’, or between ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ they are aspects of each other, and this may be a useful approach.

Clearly, then, I am not protesting against doing inner work, but saying that inner work is part of outer work, it is not separate. I am also not remotely against the idea of multi-logue, but admit it can be difficult and upsetting to our egos, and this can be good.

However, I am suggesting that when we recognise that oppression or destruction is likely to come, or is coming, then people may need to formally join together to protect themselves and protect others.

The more understanding we have gained from participation and challenge, then the less likely that this joining will be violent, condemnatory or exclusionary; the more likely we will be responding to reality rather than to our limited understandings of reality.

How to talk to President Trump about climate change.

November 27, 2016

A set of hypotheses. There is also the “don’t let him do anything approach” which has its logics…. however this is more based in the idea of talking to people….

1) Do not make climate change a challenge of the form “you cannot do this”. This is not about victory over others. If you do this, he will try to ‘win’ to prove you wrong. Thus if you say “coal is doomed”, or “coal cannot be rescued” he will be obliged to prove you wrong, and it is easy for him to do so.

Any industry can be saved for 4 or 5 years if you are prepared to throw enough tax payers’ money at it, and/or cripple the business opposition by regulations and taxes.

Corollary a:  do not say “renewables cannot be stopped” – yes they can – they could be declared illegal, or made impossible to establish.

Corollary b: Telling him the “science says” seems to set up a situation in which he knows best and will prove it.

Corollary c: it might be better to argue President Trump is running away from climate change, because tackling it is too difficult for him.

2) Not losing money is important – this is how human psychology works, loss seems bigger than gain. Perhaps if the Keystone pipeline is to be closed then investors (such as the president) should be compensated? It could be cheaper than spending endless amounts of money to prove coal is viable.

3) Without engaging in triumphalism, we could keep pointing out that there is lots of money to be made in investing in renewables all over the world.

On the other hand, climate change could result in massive economic losses if we don’t act. Talk to the insurance industry who are losing the continuity of events that allows them to issue insurance and profit.

We could even argue that government regulation of trade is bad, get rid of both fossil fuel subsidies and renewable subsidies.

4) Climate change and the extreme weather it brings, threatens the social order. Sure not much has happened (to wealthy people) so far, but the long term prospects are not good. Revolution, loss of position, loss of wealth, buildings could fall, costs of fixing damage etc. are all things to be dealt with.

5) Be prepared to yield. If the president ‘needs’ to loose windfarms near his golf courses, then it may not be helpful to set up a situation in which he tries to obliterate all wind farms in revenge.

6) Trump positions can change with remarkable rapidity. A few years ago, Vladimir Putin was almost universally agreed to be evil. A few flattering words about Mr Trump and he seems to have become the hero and darling of the alt.right (as you can soon see, if you look). Who would have guessed, that a State which has been an enemy of the US for over 100 years, could be rehabilitated so easily, even when it still appears to be threatening US interests?

Could the same happen with climate change? Could President Trump be flattered into action?

7) It may be useful to suggest that President Trump is smart enough to work out the realities, or not, of climate change if he talks to real climate scientists, and does not allow his advisors to prevent him from doing this.

8) Ultimately you may need to stand firm, fight and win, but going into such a posture at first may not be helpful, and may set up more polarisation, which will delay things as Trump supporters will be bound to try and prove themselves right.

9) Don’t expect the media to do anything for you, such as convey useful information and criticism. They didn’t during the campaign, they won’t now.

Anyway, just some suggestions.

Corporate society and the Toynbee Cycle

November 24, 2016

[this is an elaboration of some of my comments on the previous article on the Age of the Anthropocene blog]

When I was arguing that Trump may well seek to ‘over-rule’ apparent economic realities and help produce climate disaster, I was guided by a theory which I call the ‘Toynbee Cycle’ after the historian Arnold Toynbee. The basic proposition is that Civilisations or societies, if they are to succeed and survive, adapt to their environment which includes ecology and other societies. Societies always face challenges which the society either overcomes, adapts to, or fails.

A failure can be a learning experience and produce better adaptation later on. This learning often involves a change in the people in power and/or the ideologies they embrace.

However, sometimes these challenges arise out of the very factors that have helped to generate the societies success.

A common example could be an extreme military proficiency that has expanded until the point where the costs, financial and social, of maintaining that success and dominance depletes the society of resources and the capacity to respond to challenges; in particular the capacity to respond to new non-military kinds of challenges. Similarly, problems arise when a group of people has been able to commandeer the cosmologies, economics, technologies etc. of a society and they restrict membership and do not allow newcomers. Such a group is likely to resist innovation and change, even if it kills them, because they have no competence or experience in such. Letting in new classes/groups of people, provided they appear talented or qualified is always a good strategy to get new ideas. Restricting entry to kin and existing group members is usually harmful. [for those who like this kind of thing, this latter point comes from Pareto’s cycle of elites]

Toynbee’s oft repeated point is that previously successful societies, do not fail so much as commit suicide. This suicide is usually promoted by the dominant groups not wanting to risk loss of dominance, or not being able to see the world in terms other than those of the tools (conceptual and technological) they use.

In my terms, the order the rulers seek creates the very disorder they fear. Reality does not work the way they want it to, or they demand that it does.

The standard ways of dealing with challenges, which seem likely to ensure social collapse, are:

To try and impose the required order more rigorously.
To pretend that the signs of disorder are illusionary.
To pretend to be solving the problem, usually with a knowing wink.
To attack those who might be trying to solve the problems.
To stir up a distraction and get people’s attention focused elsewhere, or
To locate a scapegoat to blame for the problems and argue everything will be well when that scapegoat is purged.

We largely seem to have a corporately dominated society; its cosmologies, forms of organisation and economic power seem to be embraced everywhere. It has relatively tight control, and factions of our current society, which support that order, appear to be dedicated to all of the techniques named above:

The economy is not working – so let us have more ‘free markets’, more power to the corporate sector, more wealth for the wealthy. Trump has promised to encourage more fossil fuels as they have worked in the past, and are (incidentally)generated by wealthy people and organisations.

People pretend that the climate change generated by society’s economy and success is not a problem, is not happening, is some kind of conspiracy, or is beyond human remediation.

Many government seem to want to embrace a ‘solution’ to climate change which supports coal burning. Not just new mines, but ‘clean coal’ and fracking for cheap ‘clean’ gas despite the leaks.

Groups attack and smear scientists, greens and anti-coal protestors who recognise some of the problems.

Official media, tends to distract us by focusing on the lives of celebrities, on murders, imaginary worlds and so on.

Groups can actively blame refugees, illegal immigrants, and ‘liberals/greenies’ for everything.

All of these are attempts to keep the disordering order functional, and remove challenges to it, and challenges to the behaviour of its supporters from consideration

This kind of situation encourages what I call the ‘mess of information’, because the dominant cultural trend is an attempt to avoid reality. The mess of information supports bad politics which reinforces the problems. I may write about that mess later., but this is long enough for today…

Australia and Climate Change

November 12, 2016

It is frequently argued that Australia’s CO2 emissions are tiny, and that there is no point in the Australian federal government acting. This is especially the case if the US, under President Trump pretends there is no problem, as their emissions are huge.

Unfortunately the Australian Government is already acting.

By not attempting to ameliorate climate change it is showing that it does not care about climate change, and that it will not object to other bigger polluters continuing to pollute. So it helps make CO2 production normal and produces more climate change.

By encouraging coal mining in Australia our governments (of all persuasions) clearly demonstrate that they care more for the profit of some companies, than they care about the land, people’s health or maintaining a climate balance. By taking this choice, they ally with the commercial and political forces which produce climate change. Saying that stopping mining might cost us money and jobs is irrelevant – virtue can be difficult, and there appear to be more jobs in renewables anyway.

By encouraging Australia to continue to have one of the highest CO2 emissions per head in the world, they are implying that a prosperous life style depends upon destroying climate stability and that destroying that stability should be encouraged.

They are also encouraging short term visions over long term visions, and short term profit over long term expense, which is probably not good for anyone in general.

By being half hearted or indifferent to climate change they provide an exemplar and excuse for other’s behaviour (‘If wealthy countries in the West can’t be bothered, then why should we?’). If they acted to cut emissions and support renewables (or support thorium research, if you prefer) then they would be providing an exemplar of behaviour which also might influence other governments and corporate behaviour.

So let us be clear the government is acting. Just not the way we might think is sensible.

As for things like ocean fertilization or carbon capture and storage, they are likely to help prolong our use of fossil fuels. They are also likely to have weird and unintended effects. They may not even work other than in theory, or only work for a short time. We may need to deploy such methods, but the proper research will take longer than we might have to prevent climate turmoil (transformation is unlikely to be linear or smooth) and we have to move to 100% renewables or non-fossil fuels eventually. Why not start now, and help everyone achieve this, as well as make money for our scientists and companies out of the IP?