Archive for the ‘catastrophism’ Category
The metaphor may be more apt than originally intended. As (push-)bike riding kills you 3.54 times more than walking, by switching to pedals you’ll be soon riding into the sunset for good…
…towards an untimely death, that is!
A group of British scientists has proposed to rename the current geological era as the “Anthropocene“, to register the fact that human activities are transforming the world.
The proponents, and many pessim-environmentalists all too happy to jump on the Anthropocene bandwagon imply no doubt that the aforementioned human activities are negatively transforming the world. But that is by no means a given.
If humans are transforming the world it may be the absolutely obvious, and thus ethically neutral if not positive, consequence of the fact that we have evolved brains: and it would look silly to feel cold in winter and hot in summer. Cue the discovery of fire, and the invention of air conditioning. Analogously regarding teeth: who would want to have them pulled without anaesthetic? Cue the history of medicine and dentistry, including metallurgy. And so on and so forth.
Or alternatively: could the Anthropocene be just one of the signs that the Technological Singularity is really going to happen, thereby possibly transporting humanity to a completely new way of living?
Those are only thoughts, of course: perhaps the doomers and gloomers are right. Still, it’s important to remember that seldom a word contains negative connotations per se. Those are more often than not, in the mind of the beholder…
[…] To the further advancement of science, nothing indeed can operate more prejudicially than an over-estimate of what has been accomplished. We are too apt to believe that “we are the people, and wisdom shall perish with us“. Dazzled with the present, we detect nothing in the gloom beyond. […] that, in short, of time, space and labor, there can be any considerable contractions, beyond those which have been effected within the memories of men now living; are propositions much less frequently entertained than the other, which detects the Ultima Thule of human research in the current epoch […]
From: “What Great Exhibitions Teach“, The New York Times, June 29, 1853
Let me understand…so far, the only practical consequences of all the climate change brouhaha have been:
(1) The transfer of billions of euros from European taxpayers to Big Oil/Big Energy firms, under the emission trading scheme
(2) The ballooning of agriculture subsidies to farmers to push them into cultivating corn (despite everybody well knowing the environmental impact from corn fuel will be worse)
(3) A substantial increase in food prices especially for very poor people in many parts of the world
(4) The return of a nuclear industry that will prosper on State guarantees and produce large amounts of radioactive garbage nobody has found as yet a good way to dispose of
If that’s what a cleaner, greener world looks like, I’d rather have it brown and dirty, thank you!
The Earth Policy Institute has published an excerpt from the first chapter of Lester R Brown’s book “Plan B 2.0: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble“.
Why did they do that, one wonders? It is truly quite amazing to see how the egregiously flawed the whole thing is.
Among the citations that should be reconsidered: Paul MacCready’s computations need be replicated and carefully contextualized. The St. Matthew Island’s reindeer population collapse-by-overgrazing story has been seriously questioned by scientists and may be more relevant to indicate the dangers of a cooling climate instead (and the peculiarities of ungulate wild population sizes).
The same can be said for Easter Island, where population is unlikely to have reached 15,000 (let alone 20,000 as quoted by Brown), and the decimation was more likely caused by European germs and slave traders than anything else.
Finally, Brown advocates a yearly expenditure of $190 billion dollars just for global warming. I am sure you and me and everyone elase could do a lot more good with a lot less than that money.
Is the planet under stress? Is civilization in trouble? Do we need a Plan B 2.0 to rescue either or both? Perhaps. Or perhaps not, based on how weak the foundations of Brown’s reasoning are.
Yesterday’s absurdist post linking anthropogenic global warming (AGW) to supernovae in the cosmos was in fact more than the usual criticism about correlation not showing evidence of causation.
The other, even more important point underlying my text concerned the all-too-apparent link between AGW/Climate Change and the ever-increasing efforts by all sorts of “experts” to convince our worrying global society that its future can be divined in this or that indicator.
There is a name for this: we are being “medicalized”.
Just like with the hapless villagers in Jules Romains’ 1923 play “Knock” (aka “Dr. Knock or The Triumph of Medicine“), all the “experts” have to do is stock up our fears, and abuse our credulity.
Just keep on measuring, and keep on suggesting, and an illness will be found. Next!
In the case of AGW, the indicator is the amount of human-induced greenhouse-gases emissions. But as the supernovae blog shows, it is all too easy to find an indicator for everything, linking whatever to anything else. Divination does not depend on the particular item used to predict the future: it is much more solid than that.
Knock’s story has in fact a distinctly sinister undertone. In the words of Iain Bamforth writing in the BMJ’s “Medical Humanities” (“Knock: a study in medical cynicism“, MH 2002;28:14-18):
Isn’t it that people ask to be deceived? All right, [Knock] will deceive them. Order requires domination, and domination requires a lie or two. So he gives their lives a medical meaning. That is: he extends the bounds of the biological, of whose oracles he is the interpreter, so as to make illness not just a bodily phenomenon but an organising principle for the effective administration of society itself. His argument is life, for that is what a doctor defends. His tools are ideals, seduction, fright, and, if necessary, the threat of violence. His power is his command of language […] Knock is […] a storyteller, raconteur, bluffer, salesman […] Knock gives everyone the fever. He inoculates his patients with the one idea: self preservation, at all costs.
In other words: from 85 years ago, echoes of what is being sold to us as “a universal threat, a generational challenge“. And preservation of the world’s climate, at all cost.
And so it was Jules Romains the one really capable to describe what the future would look like. As noted by French actor Louis Jouvet in 1949, but still we could be written today:
a penetrating act of inspiration, Knock revealed the direction a new mentality was going to take… . This mentality was Information and its strategies, astounding advances and violent dramatisings; abrupt and terrifying revelations; the invention of new needs, new ways of breakdown; the exalting of fresh anxieties that humankind would feed upon. Jules Romains announced, though we didn’t yet know it, the mad-cap mechanisms that were going to rule the world, suggestion and self-suggestion. In Knock, like a prophet at the gates, Jules Romains suddenly shone a light on power, the upsurge of parodigms (idées-forces) and collective theories. Humankind is a machine to make gods and every leader of men a creator of myths. Jules Romains, philosopher, moralist and dramatist, provided an admirable advance warning of the modern and all-encompassing mechanism of cohesion and conviction […]
Is this what “progress” and “modernity” were meant to be, in the case of Medicine, Climatology or anything else?
Is your SUV destroying the Universe?
Supernovae data from the 1950’s to 2007 show trends very worrying for the fate of the whole cosmos.
The Magnitude (brightness) of observed explosions, after hovering for several decades around the 20 mark, has recently dropped to 15 (i.e. towards brighter supernovae).
Furthermore, the number of observed supernovae has been increasing at an exponential rate, again after many decades below 50 per year, to 95 in 1996 and a little less than 600 in 2007.
The fact that this is happening exactly as anthropogenic greenhouse-gases emissions are on the increase, cannot be just a coincidence. If this will not convince Governments about the importance of stopping CO2 emissions, nothing will!