Thursday, 20 August 2009

Climate change Thursday #4


Apocalypse Now?

So we are facing an apocalypse. That sounds like bad news. Paul Kingsnorth is adamant and counsels absolute despair in this exchange with the sunny panglossian George Monbiot.

Here is a taster from Kingsnorth:

The writing is on the wall for industrial society, and no amount of ethical shopping or determined protesting is going to change that now. Take a civilisation built on the myth of human exceptionalism and a deeply embedded cultural attitude to "nature"; add a blind belief in technological and material progress; then fuel the whole thing with a power source that is discovered to be disastrously destructive only after we have used it to inflate our numbers and appetites beyond the point of no return. What do you get? We are starting to find out.

And this:

The challenge is not how to shore up a crumbling empire with wave machines and global summits, but to start thinking about how we are going to live through its fall, and what we can learn from its collapse.

Monbiot concludes:

You appear to believe that though it is impossible to tame the global economy, it is possible to change our founding myths, some of which predate industrial civilisation by several thousand years. You also believe that good can come of a collapse that deprives most of the population of its means of survival. This strikes me as something more than optimism: a millenarian fantasy, perhaps, of Redemption after the Fall. Perhaps it is the perfect foil to my apocalyptic vision.

I find myself in the Monbiot camp on this one. There is a climate crisis absolutely. The consequences of it will be terrifyingly severe and unpredictable. But let's not write ourselves off just yet. We've met great challenges in the past but this is perhaps the greatest. A century or so ago European powers often found themselves in catastrophic wars against themselves where millions of lives were lost as the competition for resources, nationalism, and technology combined to brutal effect. That doesn't happen any more- we found other ways of doing things.

We've managed successful international environmental treaties before such as the Montreal Protocol. Let's give it a meaningful go before we write off the species.

One thing I will say for Kingsnorth is that he mentions The Road by Cormac McCarthy which is excellent. Buy it.

On the more pessimistic note, the anti-environmental lobby in the US is gearing up in a major fashion. TheHill.com reports a major national effort that will culminate in rallies and will be backed by millions of TV adverts. The Waxman-Markey bill which I mentioned a couple of weeks ago could face the same ferocious assault in Autumn as Obamacare is facing currently.

I particularly like the sound of Energy Citizens which is an alliance of the American Petroleum Institute, National Association of Manufacturers, and the American Farm Bureau Federation. Those are the sort of citizens that would make Thomas Paine proud. They will spew the usual mis-information but hey-ho.

The link to the article came courtesy of @algore. Follow him (in a Twitter sense....)

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