Environmentalist Majority

I keep coming back to corporatist politics, centered in Washington and Wall Street, and the corporate media that reports on it. This is what gets called ‘mainstream’. But the reality is that the ideological worldview of concentrated wealth and power is skewed far right compared to the general public, AKA the citizenry… ya know, We the People.

Most Americans are surprisingly far to the left of the plutocratic and kleptocratic establishment. Most Americans support left-wing healthcare reform (single payer or public option), maintaining the Roe vs Wade decision, stronger gun regulations (including among most NRA members), more emphasis on rehabilitation than punishment of criminals, drug legalization or decriminalization, etc. They are definitely to the left of Clinton New Democrats with their corporatist alliance between neoliberalism and neoconservatism. Hillary Clinton, for example, has long had ties to heavily polluting big energy corporations.

Maybe it’s unsurprising to learn that the American public, both left and right, is also to the left on the issue of climate change and global warming. This isn’t the first time I’ve brought up issue of environmentalism and public opinion. Labels don’t mean what they used to, which adds to the confusion. But when you dig down into the actual issues themselves, public opinion becomes irrefutably clear. Even though few look closely at polls and surveys, the awareness of this is slowly trickling out. We might be finally reaching a breaking point in this emerging awareness. The most politicized issues of our time show that the American public supports leftist policies. This includes maybe the most politicized of all issues, climate change and global warming.

Yet as the American public steadily marches to the left, the Republican establishment uses big money to push the ‘mainstream’ toward right-wing extremism and the Democrats pretend that their conservatism represents moderate centrism. The tension can’t be maintained without ripping the country apart. We can only hope that recent events will prove to have been a wake up call, that maybe the majority of Americans are finally realizing they are the majority, not just silent but silenced.

The environmental issues we are facing are larger than any problems Americans have ever before faced. The reality of it hasn’t fully set in, but that will likely change quickly. It appears to have already changed in the younger generations. Still, you don’t even need to look to the younger generations to realize how much has changed. Trump voters are perceived as being among the most right-wing of Americans. Yet on many issues these political right demographics hold rather leftist views and support rather leftist policies. This shows how the entire American public is far to the left of the entire bi-partisan political establishment.

When even Trump voters support these environmental policies, why aren’t Democratic politicians pushing for what is supported by the majority across the political spectrum? Could it be because those Democratic politicians, like Republican politicians, are dependent on the backing and funding of big biz? Related to this, the data shows Americans are confused about climate change. Could that be because corporate propaganda and public relations campaigns, corporate lies and obfuscation, and corporate media has created this confusion?

It is quite telling that, despite all of this confusion and despite not thinking it will personally harm them, most Americans still support taking major actions to deal with the problem — such as more regulations, controls and taxes, along with also greater use of renewable energy. The corporate media seems to be catching on and news reporting is starting to do better coverage, probably because of the corporate media simultaneously being challenged by alternative media that threatens their profit model and being attacked as ‘fake news’ by those like Trump. The conflict is forcing the issue to the surface.

This growing concern among the majority isn’t being primarily driven by self-interest, demographics, ideological worldview, political rhetoric, etc. False equivalency has long dominated public debate, in corporatist politics and corporate media. This is changing. Maybe enough people, including those in power, are realizing that this is not merely a political issue, that there is a real problem that we have to face as a society.

* * *

The ‘Spiral of Silence’ Theory Explains Why People Don’t Speak Up on Things That Matter
By Olga Mecking
New York Magazine

The Spiral Of Silence Keeps People From Speaking Out On The Issues That Matter Most
Curiosity

‘Global warming’ vs ‘climate change’
socomm@cornell

Climate Change
Gallup

Yale Climate Opinion Maps – U.S. 2016
by Peter Howe, Matto Mildenberger, Jennifer Marlon, & Anthony Leiserowitz
Yale Program on Climate Change Communication

Voters Favor Climate-Friendly Candidates
by Geoff Feinberg
Yale Program on Climate Change Communication

Most Clinton, Sanders, Kasich, and Trump Supporters–but not Cruz Supporters–Think Global Warming Is Happening
by Anthony Leiserowitz, Edward Maibach, Connie Roser-Renouf, Geoff Feinberg, & Seth Rosenthal
Yale Program on Climate Change Communication

More than Six in Ten Trump Voters Support Taxing and/or Regulating the Pollution that Causes Global Warming
by Anthony Leiserowitz, Edward Maibach, Connie Roser-Renouf, Matthew Cutler , & Seth Rosenthal
Yale Program on Climate Change Communication

Sanders Supporters Are the Most Likely to Say “Global Warming” Is a Very Important Issue When Deciding Whom to Vote For
by Anthony Leiserowitz, Edward Maibach, Connie Roser-Renouf, Geoff Feinberg, & Seth Rosenthal
Yale Program on Climate Change Communication

Americans Say Schools Should Teach Children About the Causes, Consequences, and Potential Solutions to Global Warming
by Anthony Leiserowitz, Edward Maibach, Connie Roser-Renouf, Seth Rosenthal, & Matthew Cutler
Yale Program on Climate Change Communication

Relatively Few Americans Who Think Global Warming Is Not Happening Think It is a Hoax
Yale Program on Climate Change Communication

Americans Who Think Global Warming Is Not Happening Are Concerned Range of Energy and Environmental Issues
Yale Program on Climate Change Communication

Americans Who Think Global Warming Is Not Happening Favor or Do Not Oppose Policies
Yale Program on Climate Change Communication

2016 Election Memo: It’s The Climate, Stupid!
by Elliott Negin
Moyers & Company

Politicians at Sea
by Marina Schauffler
Natural Choices

70 Percent of Americans Have This Surp
rising View of Global Warming

by Sean Breslin
The Weather Channel

Ready and Organizing: Scientists, and Most Americans, Have Climate Change on Their Minds
by Astrid Caldas
Union of Concerned Scientists

Maps Show Where Americans Care about Climate Change
by Erika Bolstad
Scientific American

Many More Republicans Now Believe in Climate Change
Poll shows a big leap from two years ago
by Evan Lehmann
Scientific American

Half of U.S. Conservatives Say Climate Change Is Real
Trump and Cruz reject global warming, while more Republicans see it as a threat.
by Eric Roston
Bloomberg

Trump doesn’t represent American views on climate change: a visual guide
by John D. Sutter
CNN

Trump supporters don’t like his climate policies
by Dana Nuccitelli
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Did The Pope Change Catholics’ Minds On Climate Change?
by Maggie Koerth-Baker
FiveThirtyEight

Brief exposure to Pope Francis heightens moral beliefs about climate change
by Jonathon P. Schuldt, Adam R. Pearson, Rainer Romero-Canyas, & Dylan Larson-Konar
Pomona College

New poll shows Exxon CEO is closer to public opinion on climate than Trump
by Bill Dawson
Texas Climate News

How Americans Think About Climate Change, in Six Maps
by Nadja Popovich, John Schwartz, & Tatiana Schlossberg
The New York Times

Climate change is a threat – but it won’t hurt me, Americans say
by J.D. Capelouto
Thomson Reuters Foundation

Americans are confused on climate, but support cutting carbon pollution
by Dana Nuccitelli
The Guardian

Well Lookie Here, a Majority of Americans Support Restricting Carbon Pollution from Coal Plants
by Ellie Shechet
Jezebel

Surveys Show Major Gap Between Voters and Their Representatives On Global Warming
by Noa Banayan
Earthjustice

Climate Change Denial ‘a Problem’ for Republicans
by Steve Baragona
VOA News

Climate of Capitulation
by Vivian Thomson
The MIT Press

Conservatives can lead the charge to deal with climate change
by Susan Atkinson
The Pueblo Chieftan

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A Sense of Urgency

There is something that has become more apparent to me than ever before.

The greatest divide in our society isn’t ideological or partisan. It can’t even be simplified into a divide by race or any other standard demographic. Rather, the divide is between those who have a sense of urgency and those who don’t.

Everything comes down to that. It doesn’t matter if you see, understand and acknowledge the problems we face, if you don’t appreciate the struggles and suffering of the victims of these problems. For those who personally know these problems, they don’t have the privilege to be patient for reform to eventually come next election, next generation, or next century. You either feel this sense of urgency or it simply makes no sense to you.

There is a basic and seemingly insurmountable challenge. There appears to be no way to make someone feel this urgency, much less get them to grasp the visceral experience of urgency for those who do feel it. There is no way to communicate this. Either someone gets it or not. Yet the urgency grows as problems worsen for so many. And the conflict between those who do and don’t get it likewise grows. I see no way for this to be easily resolved until the comfortable begin to feel uncomfortable when the dirty masses get restless enough to disturb their slumber and threaten their good life.

For those who don’t feel urgency, they assume the vocally urgent are just complaining. They see them as petulant children who are pestering the responsible adults trying to have moderate, reasonable adult discussion. Only children and ideologues, as they see it, always want to get their own way. These people don’t realize how unreasonable they are being in expecting those who struggle to suffer in silence. Can they really be that disconnected from how bad it has become for those less advantaged and fortunate? Will it really take mass protests or revolution before the clueless finally get that these are real problems that have to be dealt with now and not later?

As an example, consider the worsening unemployment, poverty, and homelessness. The government hasn’t kept full unemployment data since the 1980s. No one knows for sure how bad unemployment is at present. And the mainstream media rarely talks about this in any depth.

It’s as if data not being kept means the problem doesn’t exist. Just ignore the growing number of poor people barely making ends meet or living in homeless camps or ending up in prison. This problem doesn’t exist because it doesn’t impact people who aren’t poor. But even if the problem did exist, I’m sure it would solve itself. We just need to get all the low income people to shut up and quit supporting candidates like Sanders who is a spoiler. Let’s threaten that Trump will win and that’ll shut them up, right?

Homeless camps are popping up in cities all over the country. That is what happened during the Great Depression. And then those temporary homeless camps become permanent shanty towns. There eventually will be a breaking point that easily could turn violent as it did during the Great Depression. People turned on each other. The government was finally forced to intervene, but only after they let the problem get horribly bad for so many.

It’s not even limited to the United States. Worsening poverty and increasing homelessness is found in the UK (“one in ten parents would not be able to pay housing costs during January – and 2.5 million parents were forgoing household essentials, including food, clothes and energy, in order to pay the rent.”), Greece (“number of new homeless as high as 20,000. Moreover, nearly 20% of Greeks no longer have enough money to cover daily food expenses, according to a recent study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The nation’s unemployment rate is 26%, the highest among 28 European Union members.”), France and all across Europe.

That is just talking about the Western world. On a related note, there is the global refugee crisis. The number of refugees in recent years returned to the levels last seen during WWII and in the past year has hit the highest level ever recorded. This is related to wars, instability, overthrown governments, etc (often caused or contributed to by Western governments), but another major factor is climate change with major droughts. This has been a major problem in the Middle East and Africa, along with parts of Latin America, Asia, and Europe. Scientists, politicians, and even the Pentagon have pointed to the link between climate change and terrorism. This problem is only going to get worse.

Consider also one of the main reasons there are so many homeless and refugees. It’s related. A large number of homeless are veterans who are dealing with neurological and psychological trauma from war. And many refugees are escaping war. Meanwhile, the comfortable back at home in Western countries rarely if ever personally experience war, on either side of the equation. If they did experience it, it would be hard for them ever be fully comfortable again and they would feel cut off from the cud-chewing herd. Many war journalists end up traumatized simply by seeing the ravage caused, an experience that like that of the soldier they’ll never be able to explain to family and friends back home.

It’s not only about such dramatic events as war. For the poor, all of life can be traumatizing. And the traumatized tend to end up poor. The homeless have high rates of mental illness, in general. Obviously, much of that is simply because mental illness doesn’t lead to a well functioning life and we live in a society that is heartless toward those who can’t help themselves. But being homeless probably increases mental illness as well, because of stress and trauma, lack of healthcare, malnutrition, etc. A similar set of problems likely exists for refugees. And it is also likely that refugees that find their ways to other countries often end up homeless or else in severe poverty. It simply sucks being homeless or a refugee, to be made a pariah and cast out from acceptable society.

It makes me wonder if these two problems are more closely related than we normally think. We tend to keep the homeless and refugees in separate categories, but maybe it’s more meaningful to think of them as variants of the same problem. These are people who have no place or purpose in society. They are unwanted and often despised. They are part of a large and ever growing proportion of the global population that is feeling urgent and sometimes causing others to feel urgent.

The response from so many is to ignore the problem and hopes it goes away. Blame the victims of the refugee crisis, turn the refugees away, or force the refugees into camps. Tear down homeless camps, hide the homeless, use hostile architecture, design cities to drive the homeless away, and other similar sociopathic behaviors and authoritarian measures. Interestingly, some of the kindest acts toward the homeless have come from recent refugees, as it often takes someone who personally understands suffering to have compassion.

To put refugees in camps isn’t so different to the reason so many homeless end up in jails and prisons. These are the places where the unwanted and unneeded are stored away. Similar solutions are ghettoes and housing projects. Homeless camps are just a more short term variety of this kind of response. It should be unsurprising that the number of refugees is increasing simultaneously as is the number of homeless and prisoners. There are now more blacks in prison than there were blacks in slavery before the Civil War. There are also more mentally ill people in prison than has been the case since before the Civil War. People tend to be less bothered by refugees, the homelessness, and other undesirables when they aren’t seen.

We always could deal with the fundamental problems that are causing these other problems. But it’s easier to hide them. It’s like the strip mining that looks like a warzone and yet is never seen from the road, the truth obscured behind a a stand of trees and the people who used to live there simply made to go away. Our world is full of invisible problems of invisible people. Invisible that is until they disrupt the social order.

Explain to me again how voting for Hillary Clinton to stop a Donald Trump presidency is going to make a damn bit of difference to those already being fucked over by our society, no matter which party has power. We have elections all the time and here we are—the problems going unsolved, voices of the suffering going unheard, and the desperation and outrage ever increasing.

There are many other problems that could be brought up. There is growing inequality, inferior education system, a permanent underclass, and systemic racism. There is institutional failure, cronyism, corruption, corporatism, regulatory capture, and crumbling infrastructure. There is the military-industrial complex, military imperialism, drug wars, and creeping authoritarianism. There is the general failure of democracy as our society turns into a banana republic and the public loses trust. And, of course, there is the mainstream media’s complicity. We aren’t seriously dealing with any of these problems.

So, what happens next? How will this end? Are you feeling any urgency yet?

* * *

Urgency can mean many things. Within it, there is a seed of radical change, not a return to what was but potentially a transformation. That seed has to be planted and nurtured, if it is to grow.

That is why it takes a broken person to profoundly understand that the system itself is broken. This brokenness isn’t necessarily a loss. It can be taken as an opportunity, like a seed breaking open, a change from one condition to another. Urgency is a starting point and, for that reason, important.

In that light, here is a slightly different view on suffering…

In praise of patience
Resilience is the fashionable prescription for trauma. But bouncing back is not the only – or best – way to bear sorrow
by Samira Thomas

“In this extended form of time, resilience becomes transfigured from the urgency associated with a need for recoil into something that takes its time, and resembles patience.

“Patience, in its original meaning, was a virtue that enabled a person to overcome his suffering and, in some sense, enact understanding in the face of the faults and limitations of others. Patience today might conjure a sense of inactivity, a feeling that it’s about more or less waiting for things to pass. Consider, instead, the term patient. As an adjective, it is the quality of a person who is able to overcome and demonstrate understanding towards others. As a noun, it is a person who is in need of understanding and, specifically, medical care.

“Patience recognises suffering in the difficulties of one’s life and that of another. Nowadays, it might conjure up ideas of complacence but, with a long view of time – in which time is understood as abundant – patience becomes a way of bearing sorrows. Unlike resilience, which implies returning to an original shape, patience suggests change and allows the possibility of transformation as a means of overcoming difficulties. It is a simultaneous act of defiance and tenderness, a complex existence that gently breaks barriers. In patience, a person exists at the edge of becoming. With an abundance of time, people are allowed space to be undefined, neither bending nor broken, but instead, transfigured.

“And it is an act of courage, because only the unknown lies on the other side of the threshold of events we seek to overcome.”

Learning to Die

I just finished Learning to Die in the Anthropocene by Roy Scranton. It’s a quick read, only having taken me a couple days to slowly enjoy. For such a compact text, it still packs quite the punch.

To get an idea of where Scranton is coming from, consider him to be the love child of Peter Wessel Zapffe (“The Last Messiah”) and Morris Berman (The Twilight of American Culture) who was raised watching Carl Sagan’s Cosmos and then sent off to war with an anthology of ancient Greek literature stuffed in with his military gear. He actually doesn’t mention either Zappfe, Berman, or Sagan. But Zappfe in particular came to mind while reading, as he was the original inspiration of Deep Ecology.

Even though I doubt he is in the same intellectual tradition as Zappfe, Scranton with his stoical and cosmological attitude does capture the mood of philosophical pessimism. Still, there is an odd far-reaching optimism in his sympathetic view of humanity. He is no misanthrope.

The idea that most captured my attention came from another book, Carbon Democracy by Timothy Mitchell. I haven’t read Mitchell’s book. All I know of it is from what Scranton wrote. But from that little taste it was satisfying. It seems a potentially compelling explanation of how the modern world came to be and what changed.

The basic idea is that coal made democracy possible. Coal mining and transportation required large numbers of workers. It was also very localized, both in terms of the communities of workers and in terms of infrastructure. It gave citizens great power and leverage to demand their rights. This is what the very essence of democratization.

Oil changed all of that. Fewer people were needed. And the infrastructure was no longer as limited, pipes and ships could be redirected to avoid conflicts and disruptions. The oil giants swept the legs of democracy, as Johnny Lawrence did to Daniel LaRusso in “Karate Kid.” It was inevitable and predictable.

This is why no one in power is going to do anything about climate change. Their power is dependent on oil. And this is why the general public is so complacent. It’s not just that they feel powerless. It goes deeper than that. Our entire society is dependent on oil. We traded democracy for consumerism, comfort, and convenience.

Governments, politics, and activism won’t solve this problem. Our world is determined by our dominant energy source, what fuels it all and makes it all possible. Unless we find new energy sources and new ways of using that energy, we will continue on this path to wherever it leads.

Considering the hard data of the options before us, it is hard to imagine what that new world might look like. At this point, we are hoping for a technological miracle to save us. For those like Scranton who are staring down stark reality, this leads to a philosophical view of humanity, a stepping back to see the big picture. I think that is a good thing, better than our present state of being driven by the dynamics of fear and hope, denial and desperation.

We need to stop, take a breath, and look with clear eyes.

Climate Change, Refugees, and Terrorism

Climate change is already here.

We are past the point of preventing it, decreasing it, or even managing it well. There is nothing we are going to do about it at this point. What we will do is react to it, as it happens, crisis by crisis.

Politics are irrelevant. But no doubt there will be many speeches and much posturing, on all sides.

* * *

Learning to Die in the Anthropocene: Reflections on the End of a Civilization
By Roy Scranton
Kindle Locations 860-888

“Consider: Once among the most modern, Westernized nations in the Middle East, with a robust, highly educated middle class, Iraq has been blighted for decades by imperialist aggression, criminal gangs, interference in its domestic politics, economic liberalization, and sectarian feuding. Today it is being torn apart between a corrupt petrocracy, a breakaway Kurdish enclave, and a self-declared Islamic fundamentalist caliphate, while a civil war in neighboring Syria spills across its borders. These conflicts have likely been caused in part and exacerbated by the worst drought the Middle East has seen in modern history. Since 2006, Syria has been suffering crippling water shortages that have, in some areas, caused 75 percent crop failure and wiped out 85 percent of livestock, left more than 800,000 Syrians without a livelihood, and sent hundreds of thousands of impoverished young men streaming into Syria’s cities. 90 This drought is part of long-term warming and drying trends that are transforming the Middle East. 91 Not just water but oil, too, is elemental to these conflicts. Iraq sits on the fifth-largest proven oil reserves in the world. Meanwhile, the Islamic State has been able to survive only because it has taken control of most of Syria’s oil and gas production. We tend to think of climate change and violent religious fundamentalism as isolated phenomena, but as Retired Navy Rear Admiral David Titley argues, “you can draw a very credible climate connection to this disaster we call ISIS right now.” 92

“A few hundred miles away, Israeli soldiers spent the summer of 2014 killing Palestinians in Gaza. Israel has also been suffering drought, while Gaza has been in the midst of a critical water crisis exacerbated by Israel’s military aggression. The International Committee for the Red Cross reported that during summer 2014, Israeli bombers targeted Palestinian wells and water infrastructure. 93 It’s not water and oil this time, but water and gas: some observers argue that Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge” was intended to establish firmer control over the massive Leviathan natural gas field, discovered off the coast of Gaza in the eastern Mediterranean in 2010.94

“Meanwhile, thousands of miles to the north, Russian-backed separatists fought fascist paramilitary forces defending the elected government of Ukraine, which was also suffering drought. 95 Russia’s role as an oil and gas exporter in the region and the natural gas pipelines running through Ukraine from Russia to Europe cannot but be key issues in the conflict. Elsewhere, droughts in 2014 sent refugees from Guatemala and Honduras north to the US border, devastated crops in California and Australia, and threatened millions of lives in Eritrea, Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda, Afghanistan, India, Morocco, Pakistan, and parts of China. Across the world, massive protests and riots have swept Bosnia and Herzegovina, Venezuela, Brazil, Turkey, Egypt, and Thailand, while conflicts rage on in Colombia, Libya, the Central African Republic, Sudan, Nigeria, Yemen, and India. And while the world burns, the United States has been playing chicken with Russia over control of Eastern Europe and the melting Arctic, and with China over control of Southeast Asia and the South China Sea, threatening global war on a scale not seen in seventy years. This is our present and future: droughts and hurricanes, refugees and border guards, war for oil, water, gas, and food.”

90. Francesco Femia and Caitlin Werrell, “Syria: Climate Change, Drought and Social Unrest,” The Center for Climate and Security, February 29, 2012. http://climateandsecurity.org/2012/02/29/syria-climate-change-drought-and-social-unrest/.
91. Colin P. Kelley, Shahrzad Mohtadi, Mark A. Cane, Richard Seager, and Yochanan Kushnir, “Climate change in the Fertile Crescent and implications of the recent Syrian drought,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, January 30, 2015. Early edition. http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2015/02/23/1421533112.
92. Quoted in Eric Holthaus, “New Study Says Climate Change Helped Spark Syrian Civil War,” Slate.com, March 3, 2015. http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2015/03/02/study_climate_change_helped_spark_syrian_civil_war.html.
93. International Committee for the Red Cross, “Gaza: Water in the line of fire,” news release, July 15, 2014. http://www.icrc.org/eng/resources/documents/news-release/2014/14-07-israel-palestine-gaza-water.htm. Ahmed Hadi, “Health crisis looms in Gaza after Israel bombs water infrastructure,” Al-Akhbar English, July 17, 2014. http://english.al-akhbar.com/content/health-crisis-looms-gaza-after-israel-bombs-water-infrastructure
94. Nafeez Ahmed, “IDF’s Gaza assault is to control Palestinian gas, avert Israeli energy crisis,” The Guardian, July 9, 2014. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/Earth-insight/2014/jul/09/israel-war-gaza-palestine-natural-gas-energy-crisis. Julie Lévesque, “Israel Steals Gaza’s Offshore Natural Gas: $ 15 Billion Deal with Jordan,” Global Research, September 06, 2014. http://www.globalresearch.ca/israel-steals-gazas-offshore-natural-gas-15-billion-deal-with-jordan/5399736.
95. Jeff Wilson, “Ukraine’s Wheat, Corn Face Mounting Drought Risk, Martell Says,” Bloomberg.com, March 5, 2014. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-03-05/ukraine-s-wheat-corn-face-mounting-drought-risk-martell-says.html.

* * *

What Will Become of the Climate-Change Refugees?
By Julian Spector

Climate change already affecting migration patterns around the world
By Renee Lewis

Climate change could already be displacing more people than war
By Jason Margolis

How Climate Change is Behind the Surge of Migrants to Europe
By Aryn Baker

Bill Nye Explains the Link Between Climate Change and Terrorism
By Matt Miller

Why Climate Change and Terrorism Are Connected
By Justin Worland

GROWING CONNECTION BETWEEN CLIMATE CHANGE, TERRORISM AFFECTS POLITICS
By Jack Martinez

New Study Says Climate Change Helped Spark Syrian Civil War
By Eric Holthaus

The Connection Between Global Terrorism And Climate Change
By Kimberley Johnson

The Link Between Climate Change And ISIS Is Real
By Joe Romm

Worried About Refugees? Just Wait Until We Dust-Bowlify Mexico And Central America
By Joe Romm

Heat Waves And Drought Are Already Having A Devastating Impact On Important Crops
By Natasha Geiling

More Words

I’ve written so often about knowledge and ignorance, truth and denialism. My mind ever returns to the topic, because it is impossible to ignore in this media-saturated modern world. There are worthy things to debate and criticize, but it is rare to come across much of worth amidst all the noise, all the opinionating and outrage.

I don’t want to just dismiss it all. I don’t want to ignore it and live blissfully in my own private reality or my own narrow media bubble. I feel compelled to understand the world around me. I actually do care about what makes people tick, not just to better persuade them to my own view, but more importantly to understand humanity itself.

Still, noble aspirations aside, it can be frustrating and I often let it show. Why do we make everything so hard? Why do we fight tooth and nail against being forced to face reality? Humans are strange creatures.

At some point, yet more argument seems pointless. No amount of data and evidence will change anything. We can’t deal with even relatively minor problems. Hope seems like an act of desperation in face of the more immense global challenges. Humanity will change when we are forced to change, when maintaining the status quo becomes impossible.

It is irrational to expect most humans to be rational about almost anything of significance. But that doesn’t mean speaking out doesn’t matter.

I considered offering some detailed thoughts and observations, but I already expressed my self a bit in another post. Instead, I’ll just point to a somewhat random selection of what others have already written, a few books and articles I’ve come across recently—my main focus has been climate change:

Apocalypse Soon: Has Civilization Passed the Environmental Point of No Return?
By Madhusree Mukerjee

It’s the End of the World as We Know It . . . and He Feels Fine
By Daniel Smith

Learning to Die in the Antrhopocene: Reflections on the End of a Civilization
By Roy Scranton

Reason in a Dark Time: Why the Struggle Against Climate Change Failed – And What it Means for Our Future
By Dale Jamieson

Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World
By Timothy Morton

Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor
By Rob Nixon

The Culture of Make Believe
By Derrick Jensen

The Elephant in the Room: Silence and Denial in Everyday Life
By Eviatar Zerubavel

States of Denial: Knowing about Atrocities and Suffering
By Stanley Cohen

Living in Denial: Climate Change, Emotions, and Everyday Life
By Kari Marie Norgaard

Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change
By George Marshall

What We Think About When We Try Not To Think About Global Warming: Toward a New Psychology of Climate Action
by Per EspenStoknes

How Culture Shapes the Climate Change Debate
By Andrew Hoffman

The Republican War on Science
By Chris Mooney

Reality Check: How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future
By Donald R. Prothero

Climate Change Denial: Heads in the Sand
By Haydn Washington

Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming
By James Hoggan

Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming
By Naomi Oreskes & Erik M. Conway

The man who studies the spread of ignorance
By Georgina Kenyon

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate
By Naomi Klein

Climate Change, Capitalism, and Corporations: Process of Creative Self-Destruction
By Christopher Wright & Daniel Nyberg

Exxon: The Road Not Taken
By Neela Banerjee

Poison Spring: The Secret History of Pollution and the EPA
By E.G. Vallianatos

Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil
By Timothy Mitchell

Democracy Inc.: How Members Of Congress Have Cashed In On Their Jobs
By The Washington Post, David S. Fallis, Scott Higham (Author), Dan Keating, & Kimberly Kindy

Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism
By Sheldon S. Wolin

Heated Argument on Climate Change

“I am aware that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or to speak, or write, with moderation. No! no! Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; — but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch — AND I WILL BE HEARD. The apathy of the people is enough to make every statue leap from its pedestal, and to hasten the resurrection of the dead.”
~ William Lloyd Garrison

I ended up getting in a heated argument with my dad. It wasn’t intentional. If anything, I was trying to avoid it. But I just couldn’t take it anymore.

The discussion began with violence in the media, but somehow made its way to the even more contentious issue of climate change. The latter issue really gets my blood boiling, partly because of how dismissive people like my dad can be. He is an older middle class white male American. He has never experienced most of the externalized costs from environmental problems and likely never will. He’ll probably be dead by the time the shit hits the fan (and he realizes this, as he has increasingly talked about his own mortality now that he is in his 70s).

Part of my dad’s attitude is that he has spent his entire life in positions of authority (army officer, factory manager, private consultant, professor, president of the local Kiwanis group, Church deacon, and on and on). He isn’t used to people challenging him, especially about intellectual topics. Even when he doesn’t know something, he knows how to sound intelligent, confident and generally authoritative. I’m sure I’m one of the few people in his older age who have been willing to challenge him and put his feet to the fire.

He complained that I was treating him with disrespect, and that is what bothers him. It seems to me that he’d rather be un-/misinformed and treated with respect than to risk dealing with uncomfortable truths. The problem is I refuse to respect his ignorance, willful or unintentional, nor to respect his disrespect toward me and toward experts who actually do know what they’re talking about. If he wants respect, then he has to earn it… like everyone else.

* * * *

I don’t know what better response I could have given. I just have my breaking point. No matter what I have ever said, I’ve never been able to get my dad to take any of it seriously. To him, it is some combination of an intellectual exercise and political rhetoric. What it isn’t to him is personally and viscerally real.

He doesn’t understand why it bothers so much we in the younger generations who will spend the rest of our lives dealing with the literal sins of our fathers (and mothers). We have real reasons to be worried about when the bill comes due for the generations of unpaid externalized costs. How can someone like my dad be so heartless toward the well being of his own children and grandchildren? This isn’t just about politics. Lives are at stake. The inevitable suffering isn’t a hypothetical.

I don’t know how to reach him in his state of fearful denial and passive inaction. I know it is overwhelming, as to be almost incomprehensible in its vastness and complexity. We are playing with things we don’t understand. To consider the consequences is no easy task. But that difficulty isn’t a valid excuse.

I feel frustrated. My dad is able to be rational and talk rationally. But this problem ultimately can’t be touched upon with rationality alone. My dad uses rationality as a way to distance himself. Rationality as rationalization. He always has a reason to dismiss the data and those who point to it. The world is full of reasons, too many of them being superficial and self-serving. Oddly but all too typical, my dad uses reason to dismiss reason, which is to say he uses rhetoric as a defense against deeper thinking (and feeling). The climate science is ‘fishy’, he says—no further explanation required in his mind.

I’m not sure if or how I could act differently to (maybe) elicit a different response. It’s obvious that he gets defensive and is polarized. His facade of intellectuality is where he retreats to. So, that is where I meet him, but in reality his demand for respectful reasonableness is just a front he puts on. As long as we are moderate in our emotions and remain politically correct in our language, there is no danger of straying from the status quo and so no danger of becoming too uncomfortable.

The genuine truth and authentic heart of the matter is what is being avoided. Not just facts but what acknowledging those facts would mean. The suffering in the world is immeasurable, even as we can measure the expression of that suffering in concrete problems (rates of poverty, toxicity, mortality, etc). It’s too easy to feel helpless.

Basically, that is what I hear from my dad: What is the point? Let’s just focus on the positive (or at least avoid focusing on the negative) because, in the end, we’re probably doomed.

His worldview is typically Christian, in the mainstream sense. We are all Sinners with a fatal flaw built into our nature, Original Sin. My dad wouldn’t overtly talk in those terms, but that is the sense I get from him. These major problems are caused by human failure and any attempt to deal with them will just lead to ever more and greater failure. The best we can do is to hold our heads down and hope for the best. The suffering of so many people in the world is inevitable, and we who suffer the least should simply count our blessings, but beyond a few token actions of charity there is nothing we can do about the suffering of others, much less the larger systemic problems behind it all.

It is an attitude of defeat, of fatalism and cynicism.

* * * *

On my end, I want to communicate well. But I realize how often I fail at this aspiration. Irritation, exasperation, and outrage easily get the better of me. I’m even known for sometimes being an ornery asshole when you catch me in the right mood.

How could I communicate better? What wording or framing would be able to soften my dad’s defenses and allow real communication to happen?

One thought I had was putting it into the context of one of his own interests, World War II. As I’ve never been a climatologist, my father never fought in WWII. But similarly we both have an interest and have spent many years thinking about these topics, although not as serious scholarly study. It’s just two subjects we each have been focused on throughout our lives. So, what if the situation was turned around and my father was trying to argue something about WWII?

It’s as if I stated strong opinions about WWII bombers and tanks, after having read a few anti-war pieces in the New York Times. And then I dismissed his more informed opinion on the matter. When he pointed to scholarly data and professional opinion, I said that I wasn’t interested in researching it further. Instead, I said it smelled fishy and argued that the historians who supported his view were biased because they profit from getting grants to do research, selling books, and getting gigs on documentaries—not to mention promoting the military-industrial complex, as if their studying about war proves that they want more war to further their careers, whether or not such motivations are conscious.

If I did all of that, it would be highly disrespectful and, from his perspective, simply frustrating. He holds others to a higher standard than he holds to himself and those he agrees with. But he can’t see it that way. It is hard for him to imagine himself in the opposite position.

That goes for me as well. It’s hard for me to fully sympathize with my dad, to take on his worldview. I don’t want to merely be righteous. In the end, I know my dad means well and he actually is intellectually honest, even if he has a hard time coming to terms with this issue.

Still, none of that changes the issue at hand. Climate change is what it is, no matter what we think or feel about it.

* * * *

My dad showed me an article. It is a piece from the Wall Street Journal by Matt Ridley and Benny Peiser: Your Complete Guide to the Climate Debate. I wasn’t in the mood to look at it, as I’ve simply grown tired of the pointlessness of it all. And I told him so.

I realize he doesn’t like the term ‘denialist’. But there is good reason why some place that label upon those like Matt Ridley. He has repeatedly shown he isn’t interested in honest debate. His critics have refuted much of his evidence over the years. Yet he never acknowledges any of this science and goes on repeating the same refuted misinformation.

Ridley is denying strongly supported scientific evidence. What should someone like this be called? After a while, the more well informed begin to question the motives of this kind of political activist (actually a politician in this case and also a former chairman of a bailed out and nationalized bank) aligned with big money special interests:

Matt Ridley – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

“Ridley is a forthright proponent of fracking. However he has been found to have breached the Parliamentary Code of Conduct by the House of Lords Commissioner for Standards for failing to disclose in debates on the subject personal interests worth at least £50,000 in Weir Group, which has been described as, ‘the world’s largest provider of special equipment used in the process’ of fracking.”

He inherited his position at the bank from his father. And his investments in coal mining are from his family’s estates. To put it simply, he was born into wealth and power. And has since spent his life in the corporatist revolving door between big biz and big gov. On top of that, despite pretending to be an authority to be taken seriously, he has absolutely no expertise about climatology.

He represents so much of what is wrong with the world. And that just depresses me.

* * * *

The following are a mix of articles. Many of them are about Matt Ridley. But if you go further down, there are some about other issues: conservatism, libertarianism, national security, and survey data.

Mechanical Spider Legs and Progressive Reform

Did you see this article about FDR?

Report: White House Officials Deliberately Hid FDR’s Mechanical Spider Legs From Public

It does explain a lot. I always wondered why public photos of him never showed his legs.

On a happier note, here are some thoughts about the coming future, when mechanical spider legs will no longer need to be attached to humans.

‘Rise of the Robots’ and ‘Shadow Work’

One of the jobs that hasn’t been mechanized yet is that of torturer. But with Poland being held accountable, let’s hope it won’t be a growing job sector.

With US Accountability MIA, Poland to Make Payout for Torture of CIA

That article points out how the US government officials aren’t being held accountable for their own actions. That isn’t just true internationally, but also nationally. The US government isn’t accountable to American voters anymore than it is accountable to international courts.

Study: Congress literally doesn’t care what you think

Vote all you want. The secret government won’t change. – The Boston Globe

A major reason for this is big money. The US government has big money (funding a big military—and increasingly militarized police—along with helping to fund a big defense industry) and, of course, American politicians are beholden to big money (including from that defense industry), a cozy corporatist collusion. Besides indirect bribes (beyond just campaign money) and unofficial kickbacks (via no-bid contracts and below-market-value of natural resources from public lands), there are also direct subsidies to corporations and banks.

US taxpayers subsidising world’s biggest fossil fuel companies

U.S. Taxpayers Subsidizing World’s Biggest Fossil Fuel Companies

Why Should Taxpayers Give Big Banks $83 Billion a Year?

Top Banking Analyst: Subsidies to Giant Banks Exceed $780 Billion Dollars Per YEAR

Big Banks Have Raked In $102 Billion In Subsidies Since 2009: Report

A related aspect is that of the climate change debate. People are always arguing over who is getting funded how much and who is doing the funding. Interestingly, many of the same big energy sources that fund political campaigning also fund the opponents of the scientific consensus, from funding think tanks to funding scientists. No matter how much money climatology researchers get, they can’t use that money for lobbying and campaign donations, as does big energy.

Accusations that climate science is money-driven reveal ignorance of how science is done

Not just the Koch brothers: New study reveals funders behind the climate change denial effort

Graphs of Science Funding

It’s obviously a complex issue, but one has to wonder what are the end results of all that money. Even the money that goes to research, is the issue really a lack of enough data to know we have a problem to deal with? I doubt it.

Big money corruption is a non-partisan issue, not that you’d realize that from the mainstream media. It has been a central concern of both the Tea Party and the Occupiers. In general, it has been a growing concern of all Americans. A movement is forming and those involved, individually and collectively, are demanding to be taken seriously. In some cases, concerned citizens are going to extremes in their attempt to get heard.

Can the Gyrocopter Gang Start a Political Reform Movement?

Much of the organizing is grassroots and the changes are starting at the local level. Just recently, the county I live in issued a resolution and so joined the ranks of a growing number of local governments across the country, in both red and blue areas.

County supervisors call for Constitutional amendment – The Daily Iowan

Now, we just need a president who is even half the man FDR was and apparently he himself was already half machine. Maybe having mechanical spider legs gives someone the courage to face down the fascists and oligarchs in order to demand progressive reform.

Happy News: Lack of Democracy & Excess of Carbon Dioxide

If you were already paying attention and being honest with yourself, none of this should surprise you. Still, it is sad.

Princeton Concludes What Kind of Government America Really Has, and It’s Not a Democracy
By Tom McKay

“As Gilens and Page write, “the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” In other words, their statistics say your opinion literally does not matter.”

Carbon Dioxide Levels Just Hit Their Highest Point In 800,000 Years
By Kiley Kroh

“And this uncharted territory is something humans will have to navigate for quite some time because once its emitted, carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere. In fact, Andrew Freedman explains, “a single molecule of carbon dioxide can remain aloft for hundreds of years, which means that the effects of today’s industrial activities will be felt for the next several centuries, if not thousands of years.””

 

Art Bell & Global Warming

I listen to Coast to Coast AM on the nights I work late. Last night, Art Bell was hosting. He used to be the main host for years, but he is semi-retired right now. I wish he would go out of retirement because C2C has become weak sauce without him.

George Noory is the new main host, but he doesn’t even come close to filling the shoes of Art Bell. Noory is less confrontational than Art Bell. I would say the entire show has taken on a slightly more new agey slant and I sometimes think it’s turning into something like an alternative Fox News lite. If Glenn Beck is ever a guest on C2C, the show will have lost all credibility in my eyes. Alien abductees are one thing, but Glenn Beck should even be below the standards of C2C.

The following video is an upload of last night’s show. Art Bell interviewed Peter Ward about the BP oil spill and global warming. Many rigfhtwingers go crazy over this topic and Art Bell kept wondering why rightwingers get so mad about anyone who simply states the facts. It’s impressive that Art Bell will say this since it seems to me that rightwingers represent a fair number of the listeners. But that’s Art Bell for you. He’ll state the truth as he understands it, whether or not it’s popular.

Compare that interview to another recent interview George Noory did with Roy Spencer who is a creationist.

Meteorologists: Less Support of Global Warming… why?

Global Warming denialism is a favorite hobby on the right. And a favorite hobby of mine is countering such ignorance. I’ve come to a formulaic response.

I point out that the IPCC is the most respectable international scientific institution that focuses solely on climate change. It’s a very conservative organization. It looks at all the peer-reviewed research and takes years to assess it before putting out a report. It’s conservative because the research is done more quickly than it’s process of assessment and so most of the research it bases its conclusions on is research that has been thoroughly discussed among climatologists. The climatology researchers who submit their work to the IPCC do so without getting any payment and so the climatologists aren’t getting rich off of it.

What conclusion does the IPCC come to? The IPCC concludes that the theory of anthropogenic global warming is supported by the research.

The denialists love ignorantly dismissing the IPCC. So, I sometimes skip even mentioning the IPCC. I often go directly to the data on scientific consensus. Basically, the consensus increases the more that scientists know about climatology research. So, around 80% of all scientists in all fields support anthropogenic global warming, climatologists in general support it even more strongly (I forget the exact percentage), and climatologists who are active researchers who do most of their research directly on global warming have 97% support.

There is, however, new data I came across. Someone mentioned that only 60% of meteorologists support anthropogenic global warming. At first, this seems to cast massive doubt on the scientific consensus. Yes, 60% is still a majority but not a strong majority. This seems like damning evidence. I mean, afterall, shouldn’t meteorologists be some of the scientists who would be most well informed about climatology?

I’m not one to ignore evidence that undermines my own views. I value truth above all else. So, if many meterorologists question anthropogenic global warming, I should take it seriously. But, first, I had to ascertain if this 60% was correct. Yes, it appears to be true as this national survey does show the weak support. Before jumping to conclusions (as a denialist would do), I wanted to understand the possible reasons for this difference between meteorologists and climatologists, this difference between meteorologists and most scientists in general. At the top of the websearch results, I came across the the following article (included below is some excerpts from the article and three helpful comments). To summarize, there are fewer meteorologists supporting anthropogenic global warming because many of them have never studied climatology and many weathermen (and weatherwomen) have no formal scientific education.

Are meteorologists climate experts?
Columbia Journalism Review asks “Why don’t TV weathermen believe in climate change?”

Meteorologists are not required to take a course in climate change, this is not part of the NOAA/NWS [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/National Weather Service] certification requirements, so university programs don’t require the course (even if they offer it). So we have been educating generations of meteorologists who know nothing at all about climate change.

[ . . . ] 

And yet weathermen remain trusted by the public in spite of their lack of actual qualifications:

In the fall of 2008, researchers from George Mason and Yale universities conducted the most fine-grained survey to date about what Americans know and think about climate change….

When asked whom they trusted for information about global warming, 66 percent of the respondents named television weather reporters. That was well above what the media as a whole got, and higher than the percentage who trusted Vice-President-turned-climate-activist Al Gore, either of the 2008 presidential nominees, religious leaders, or corporations. Scientists commanded greater credibility, but only 18 percent of Americans actually know one personally; 99 percent, by contrast, own a television. “Meteorology benefits from the fact that we’re just about the only science that has an individual in people’s living rooms every night,” says Keith Seitter, the executive director of the American Meteorological Society. “For many people, it’s the only scientist whose name they know.”

There is one little problem with this: most weathercasters are not really scientists. When Wilson surveyed a broader pool of weathercasters in an earlier study, barely half of them had a college degree in meteorology or another atmospheric science. Only 17 percent had received a graduate degree, effectively a prerequisite for an academic researcher in any scientific field.

This is but one reason — among many — about why the public, especially conservatives, remain uninformed and disinformed about global warming (see “No wonder polling shows more people don’t know the scientific evidence that humans are warming the Earth has grown stronger”).

And yet, for all the misinformation and disinformation they are exposed to, the public still want very much wants government-led action to curtail greenhouse gas emissions:

  1. gmo says:

    It is worth mentioning again that not all “weathermen” are “meteorologists”, as in not everyone who presents the weather in the media has studied the science like in getting a degree in meteorology/atmospheric science. I did not check into the details of the linked studies, but I had thought the numbers were higher for degreed meteorologists and so was a bit surprised. Still many indeed do “get it”, but it is depressing since so many do not, and such people may be the only connection to many in the public with atmospheric science.

    Besides the weatherman (even the one with the solid science background) not necessarily being well-educated on climate in general, I think many meteorologists conflate weather prediction and projections for climate similar to how many in the general public do. Weather prediction has been steadily improving, but there is still plenty of uncertainty, and I believe many meteorologists simply incorrectly sort of assume that there cannot be much certainty in climate projections.

    It may be like if a sailor doubted rising sea levels simply because he spends all his time on oceans with storms, swells, waves, and still water – as those are what he well knows, he simply did not bother to think that there are other ways to know sea level is rising than by looking over the edge of the boat.

    It makes some sense that the public trusts the weatherman on climate (yes, even in spite of all the “only job where you can always be wrong” quips) like was noted more than any politician, even Gore. It would be nice to be able to utilize that trust. That points toward a strategy of highlighting the lack of credibility of the lost like John Coleman and hopefully getting those who understand the science to teach it at least some.

    Meteorologists who think they will lose credibility talking about climate change because it is politicized should consider that if they explained it then it may become less politicized. Also, their not talking about it can lend credence in people’s minds that it is not a relevant issue.

  2. To best understand television, you must know about the consulting services of Frank Magid Associates – just about every TV station will get consulting from them. Until Magid says it is OK to talk climate during the weather segment, it is not going to happen.

    http://www.magid.com/ consulting/ local_television/ index.asp
    TV weather forecasters are professionals that serve a highly competitive broadcasting business model. The TV business pulls in advertising from so many businesses that are connected carbon consumption – every automobile ad, oil company ad, even travel are all vested heavily in the lie. They are required to ignore the science, it is just a business decision.

    That is just the way it is.

  3. 32. Dean: “To paint the majority of meteorologists with a broad brush as buffoons who are incapable of udnerstanding climate science is a bit harsh.”

    It is unclear to me that that is what is happening above. Pointing out the irrefutably obvious point that a meteorologist lacks the expertise to pontificate on the subject of climate science is scarcely the same thing.

    Persons who lack expertise but insist on making declarative announcements that are predicated upon an authority that they do not possess are committing an informal logical fallacy, the argumentum ad vericundiam or “argument from false or misleading authority” http://www.fallacyfiles.org/authorit.html.

    As the article above fairly clearly describes, there is a significant body of persons with a background in meteorology who pose that background as a basis of authority upon which the are authoritatively qualified to pass legitimate judgments upon the scientific findings of climate researchers. Their doing so is a bald-faced argumentum ad vericundiam.

    Now, I’ve taken graduate level courses relating to differential geometry, but that does not make me a researcher in physical cosmology. At best it qualifies me to accurately report what real researchers in the field have come up with. (A qualification which a very few people in the peer-review process agree with, since I’ve actually published on the subject. I’ve some legitimate authority in the areas of logic, critical thinking, and philosophy of science.)

    However, an undergraduate class in physics (of which I’ve had a few) does not make me a physicist. By the same token, an undergraduate class in climate science — WHICH IS MERELY AN OPTION, NOT A REQUIREMENT for students of meteorology — does not qualify said students as experts. It would not qualify them as experts even if said class was a requirement. (And, of course, it is still not, in general, even required.)

    So yes, any thoughtful person with integrity can, with varying degrees of success, accurately report the facts as established by actual researchers — Al Gore is a nice example of this, both for his successes and his failures. But no such person, with no more established expertise than what you describe, is in any position to pass a scientifically legitimate judgment on the subject.

    But such illegitimate judgments are exactly what we are seeing, from persons who will pose as experts on a subject in which they have no legitimate authority what-so-ever. This is not a blanket condemnation of meteorologists; it is a blanket condemnation of poseurs, some of whom use their standing as a “meteorologist” to mask their ignorance with a veil of authority that they do not possess and have done nothing to genuinely earn.