Archive for the 'green/environment' Category

2013-Almost everything that could go wrong did go wrong for the cause of global warming

from

2013 has been a gloomy year for global warming enthusiasts. The sea ice in the Antarctic set a record, according to NASA, extending over a greater area than at any time since 1979 when satellite measurements first began. In the Arctic the news is also glum. Five years ago, Al Gore predicted that by 2013 “the entire North polar ice cap will be gone.” Didn’t happen. Instead, a deflated Gore saw the Arctic ice cap increase by 50% over 2012. This year’s Arctic ice likewise exceeded that of 2008, the year of his prediction. And that of 2009, 2010 and 2011.

Weather between the poles has also conspired to make the global warming believers look bad. In December, U.S. weather stations reported over 2000 record cold and snow days. Almost 60% of the U.S. was covered in snow, twice as much as last year. The heavens even opened up in the Holy Land, where an awestruck citizenry saw 16 inches of snow fall in Jerusalem, almost three feet in its environs. Snow blanketed Cairo for the first time in more than 100 years.

2013 marks the 17th year of no warming on the planet. It marks the first time that James Hansen, Al Gore’s guru and the one whose predictions set off the global warming scare, admitted that warming had stopped. It marks the first time that major media enforcers of the orthodoxy — the Economist, Reuters and the London Telegraph – admitted that the science was not settled on global warming, the Economist even mocking the scientists’ models by putting them on “negative watch.” Scientific predictions of global cooling – until recently mostly shunned in the academic press for fear of being labeled crackpot – were published and publicized by no less than the BBC, a broadcaster previously unmatched in the anthropogenic apocalyptic media.

The heavens even opened up in the Holy Land, where 16 inches of snow fell in Jerusalem

2013 was likewise bleak for businesses banking on global warming. Layoffs and bankruptcies continued to mount for European and North American companies producing solar panels and wind turbines, as did their pleas for subsidies to fight off what they labelled unfair competition from Chinese firms. Starting in 2013, though, their excuses have been wearing thin. China’s Suntech, the world’s largest solar panel manufacturer, has now filed for bankruptcy, as has LDK Solar, another major firm. Sinovel, China’s largest manufacturers of wind turbines and the world second largest, reported it lost $100-million after its revenues plunged 60%, and it is now closing plants in Canada, the U.S., and Europe.

While these no-carbon technologies get buried, carbon rich fuels go gung ho. Last month Germany fired up a spanking new coal plant, the first of 10 modern CO2-gushers that Europe’s biggest economy will be banking on to power its economy into the 21st century. Worldwide, 1200 coal-fired plants are in the works. According to the International Agency, coal’s dominance will especially grow in the countries of the developing world, helping to raise their poor out of poverty as they modernize their economies.

But important as coal is, the fossil fuel darlings are indisputably shale gas and shale oil. This week the U.K. sloughed off the naysayers and announced it will be going all out to tap into these next-generation fuels. Half of the UK will be opened up to drilling to accomplish for the U.K. what shale oil and shale gas are doing for the U.S. – drastically lowering energy costs while eliminating the country’s dependence on foreign fuels. China, too, has decided to tap into the shale revolution – in a deal with the U.S. announced this week, it will be exploiting what some estimate to be the world’s biggest shale gas reserves, equivalent in energy content to about half the oil in Saudi Arabia.

2013 as well marks a turning point for the governments of the world. January 1, 2013, Day One of the second phase of the Kyoto Protocol, saw Kyoto abandoned by Canada and Russia, two fossil fuel powerhouses. With their departure Kyoto became a club for the non-emitters – the Kyoto Protocol now only covers a paltry 15% of global emissions. At UN-sponsored talks on global warming in Warsaw last month, the Western countries of Europe, North America, and Australia refused to even discuss a proposal from developing countries that would limit emissions in the future.

2013 also saw Australia elect a climate-skeptic government in an election that was hailed as a referendum on climate change. Upon winning, the government promptly proceeded to scrap the country’s carbon tax along with its climate change ministry, now in the rubbish heap of history. Other countries are taking note of the public’s attitude toward climate change alarmism – almost nowhere does the public believe the scary scenarios painted by the climate change advocates.

2013 was the best of years for climate skeptics; the worst of years for climate change enthusiasts for whom any change – or absence of change — in the weather served as irrefutable proof of climate change. The enthusiasts fell into disbelief that everyone didn’t join them in pooh-poohing the failure of the climate models. That governments and the public would abandon the duty to stop climate change was in their minds no more thinkable than Hell freezing over. Which the way things are going for them, may happen in 2014.

Lawrence Solomon is executive director of Energy Probe, a Toronto-based environmental group. LawrenceSolomon@nextcity.com

Book Review: Bright Future: Abundance and Progress in the 21st century – From Outside the Box, a Positive Vision for the Planet

REVIEW Canberra Times (Saturday 3 February 2007, Panorama supplement, p. 17)

Author: David McMullen
Publisher: brightfuture publications http://www.lastsuperpower.net/bright-future/
240 pp $20

Reviewer: Barry York

As a young long-haired student radical in the late 1960s, I used to gain inspiration from a cartoon that appeared in my university newspaper. The multi-panelled strip commenced with two characters crouched tightly in a sparse door-less little room. One of the characters stretches out his arms, accidentally damaging a wall. He becomes curious and starts making a hole in the wall but his companion is distressed and urges him to desist, lest he damage the room. The final panel shows an aerial view of the scene: both figures are actually confined in a tiny box but outside the box is a beautiful big sunny world. The message was and is clear: creativity requires destruction, a better world only comes from overturning the familiar safe one.

David McMullen’s book is refreshing in that it revives that spirit in consideration of the future. His analysis will jar anyone who uncritically accepts the prevailing ethos of ‘doom and gloom’. He reclaims rational optimism and rebelliousness, rejecting the inherent conservatism of opposition to globalisation and modern industrial society – which he characterises as pseudo-left.

Bright Future is no mere polemic. McMullen’s training in economics informs his view as much as his decades of involvement in left-wing movements. His analysis is essentially a Marxist one, though this is not stated in the book. The text is meticulously researched and there are nearly 700 endnotes to lead the critical reader into sources of substantiation for claims made. The book will either be ignored or, hopefully, will have an influence in promoting debate about the issues canvassed, including, controversially, the author’s support for ‘collective ownership’ as an alternative to capitalism.

The content is wide-ranging but focuses strongly on the question of food production and world hunger, affluence and resource exploitation. Specific issues discussed include GM foods, soil degradation, water, fisheries, non-renewable resources, fossil fuels, global warming, alternative energies, nuclear power, pollution, deforestation and species extinction. He shows how food production can be increased through technological and scientific advance and better management practices.

It is possible he argues, to eliminate hunger by the end of the century ‘The planet’s capacity to comfortably accommodate us’, he says, ‘is limited only by the application of human ingenuity, something we are never going to run out of’.

While not downplaying environmental problems, McMullen’s take is that Nature is remarkably resilient and human impact is minor compared to the planet’s ‘battering on a regular basis from super volcanoes, meteors and ice ages’. Moreover, the affluence of modern industrial societies is what allows for environmental awareness and protection. For example, the best way to save the tropical forests is to integrate the children of subsistence farmers into the modern economy rather than to idealize their way of life.

The author sees capitalism as playing a continuing progressive role in those places still emerging from pre-industrial feudalistic systems and a section of the text dealing with the problem of kleptocracy in Africa is particularly informative and cogently argued. What makes McMullen’s book unusual and important however is that it does not reach the conclusion of those who argue from the Right that material progress under capitalism is our benefactor and that this system is therefore the ‘end of history’.

McMullen points out that affluence under capitalism continues to mask gross inequality and is only achieved through the alienation of wage slavery which chokes personal development and human initiative.

He argues that the continuing industrial revolution creates the conditions necessary for capitalism’s demise. As technological change progressively does away with the old back-breaking, dangerous and boring jobs, making work more complex, interesting and challenging, the need for a capitalist ruling class becomes less and less. More than half the workforce in the most advanced industrial societies now requires post-secondary education. With the automation of the most unpleasant jobs, who needs the profit motive? And who needs what McMullen calls “the master class”?

Collective ownership, he argues, will be ‘the obvious way to go’ and would unleash the creative energies of the individual, ‘freeing the economy from the distorting effects of sectional interest’. This, he says, is ‘real free enterprise’.

The obvious challenge to McMullen’s thesis is that socialism, when attempted under Communist governments, has failed. To this he responds that the experience of such socialism has been limited to places that had barely emerged from feudalism and had not yet developed advanced forms of industrial capitalism. ‘Bright Future’ is a scintillatingly dangerous book; a threat to the stability of walls and boxed thinking everywhere.

ancient myths and their corollaries

Something to think about for world environment day

Alston Chase:

To understand why the ecosystem idea is so broadly popular and so seldom questioned, we must go deeper than politics, to consider the underlying culture, or deep structure of society … Sometimes cultures become dysfunctional …

Ancient Myth #1: There is a balance of nature

Modern Corollary #1a: Ecosystems are “self regulating” and, so long as left undisturbed, maintain themselves in balance.

Modern Corollary #1b: Since ecosystems regulate themselves, leaving them alone is the best way to preserve them.

Ancient Myth #2: Nature can be “healthy” or “unhealthy”

An old notion, derived from the supposition that nature is like the human body.

Modern Corollary #2a: The goal of preservation policy should be to maintain ecosystem health, which is defined as ecosystem balance.

Ancient Myth #3: In the beginning, all was perfect.

This is the millennia old belief in a Garden of Eden or Golden Age. It has many corollaries, including:

Modern Corollary #3a: Existing species can disappear, but new ones cannot be made; hence, “biodiversity” can only decline.

Modern Corollary #3b: “Native species” are good for the environment, “exotic” species are bad for the environment

Modern Corollary #3c: Native peoples never harmed or altered the environment, but modern peoples, especially technological societies, inevitably damage it.

Modern Corollary #3d: The goal of preservation should be to “reestablish original conditions”

Ancient Myth #4: Nature is sacred

This pantheistic supposition, for centuries embraced by many cultures around the globe, was introduced to the European settlers of North America via Puritan theology, whose views of nature were, in turn, infused by German romantics and religious writers

Modern Corollary #4a: Sound environmentalism must rest on a “biocentric” point of view, not on an anthropocentric one.

– Alston Chase. In a Dark Wood: Introduction to the 2001 Transaction Edition

decarbonisation of the economy

Some reasons for supporting an acceleration of the already established decarbonisation of the economy are that:

  • anthropogenic global warming is real, although we are not particularly clear about the urgency of the issue
  • the oceans absorb vast amounts of CO2 and a particular reason for concern is the biogeochemical effects of this

The environmental issues are real but subsidiary to the need for economic development, particularly in the developing world but also in the developed world.

Politically, the correct position is:

  1. full steam ahead with economic development which means more coal use now because coal is the cheapest energy producing fuel
  2. full steam ahead with R&D, with the goal of decarbonisation of the energy economy, ie. finding a cheap alternative to coal

John McCarthy has said that “He who refuses to do arithmetic is doomed to talk nonsense”. I think he meant science and maths as well as arithmetic.

In this article I present the Kaya identity which provides us with the basic maths required to understand carbon emissions.
Continue reading ‘decarbonisation of the economy’

the missing piece of the climate change puzzle

There are three pieces to the climate change puzzle and so far the mainstream political parties have only grasped two of them. The three pieces are based on misconceptions that many people hold about acting on the issue. These misconceptions are outlined in Chapter 2 of Roger Pielke jr’s book, The Climate Fix:

1) We lack political will
2) We must trade off the economy for the environment
3) We have all the technology we need

Pielke’s book argues at length that each of these assumptions is false. I won’t attempt to duplicate that here but rather illustrate the argument through the stance of the Labour / Green alliance and The Coalition in Australia.

Gillard has announced her intention to tax carbon. This is based on her correct belief that the people want some action on climate change. Given public opinion on this issue her political estimate is that it is more dangerous to do nothing than to do something.

Abbott has announced his opposition to a carbon tax and that, if elected, he will rescind any carbon tax introduced by Labour. This is based on his correct belief that the people will not tolerate any serious infringement of living costs based on a carbon tax. He knows that people will not accept a trade off of the economy for the environment.

Continue reading ‘the missing piece of the climate change puzzle’

remaking the environmental movement

The Long Death of Environmentalism

There are good environmentalists and bad environmentalists. Or, it is more accurate to say that more often than not there are good and bad ideas about environmental questions that exist within the same person. In this article I depict this complex reality in simple terms: good Green and bad Green.

The Green Party has a leader, Bob Brown, who makes things up (that the Queensland floods were the direct responsibility of the coal industry), promotes policies that are incompatible with immediate low cost economic growth (coal is bad) as well as longer term economic growth (nuclear is bad too).

Bob Brown represents the dying Greens, the bad Greens. Sooner or later his ideas will be replaced by good Green ideas. My estimate is that the bad Green ideas have peaked and are now in decline.

Let it be said that concern for the environment is a good thing. The environmental movement has alerted us to the real dangers of anthropogenic global warming, real threats to endangered species, etc. These issues are not the most important issues in the world but they are significant. There is a real need for some sort of environmental political movement.

The bad Green movement may appear to have real strength in Australia, with the Gillard minority government (enmeshed in an alliance with The Green Party) recently announcing her carbon tax plan. Or, as she prefers, her carbon price plan. The appearance of strength is illusory. The politics of The Greens has peaked and Gillard’s embrace of a carbon tax will quite likely contribute to her demise at the next election, whenever that is held.

Internationally, the bad Green movement is on the retreat.

Continue reading ‘remaking the environmental movement’

debate: A zero carbon Australia: plan or pipe-dream?

A zero carbon Australia: plan or pipe-dream?

This issue will be debated at the next The Monthly Argument

Matthew Wright (Beyond Zero Emissions) will present the Zero Carbon Stationary Energy Plan

Following this Matthew and Arthur Dent (formerly know as Albert Langer) will debate it.

When: Thursday March 10, 2011 at 6:30pm for 7:00pm start
Where: The Dan O’Connell Hotel, 225 Canning Street, Carlton

thought for food

The next Monthly Argument is about a subject of universal interest: food

Date: February 10: “GM crops are good for us”
Time: 6:30pm for 7:00 pm start.
Venue: The Function Room, Dan O’Connell Hotel, 225 Canning Street (corner of Princes Street) Carlton

The “yes” case will be made by David Tribe (of GMO pundit)  and David McMullen, author of Bright Future

The “no” case will be made by Madeleine Love and Jessica Harrison (both from MADGE)

Go to the Monthly Argument site for more detail.

Thou Shalt Not Build Dams – Ever!

The Queensland floods have caused tragic loss of life, vast damage to infrastructure and will cost several billions of dollars. They are among the worst floods in Australia’s twentieth century history. Similar devastation occured in 1918, 1954 and 1974. I know a couple of farmers ‘up north’ and one tells me that after a bad drought comes a bad flood. He adds that this is followed by a couple of good years with ‘bumper crops’. He might be right – I don’t know. At least he is offering a testable hypothesis.

What I do know, though, is that the floods will generate a much-needed public discusion, and hopefully a debate, about the role of dams in flood mitigation. No new dams of significant size have been built in Australia for about three decades. During the recent long drought, the ‘dam’ question arose again but the response from experts and governments was along the lines of ‘Why build a dam if the climate has permanently changed in a way that means there will be less rain in future?’.

Opposition to dams has been a key success in the development of the Green movement and its party since the early 1980s. But to use the term “opposition” understates the situation: it is really ‘demonization’ of dams. In the Green quasi-religion, dams are evil, akin to a Satanic force. Thus, there must NEVER be any new major dams built. Not ever. The Green policy is expressed at their website as a principle: “There should be no new large-scale dams on Australian rivers”. http://greens.org.au/policies/environment/water-inland-aquatic-environments 

Had the Greens been as influential in the second half of the 1970s as they have been since the mid 1980s, it is unlikely that the Wivenhoe Dam, on the Brisbane River, 80 kms from Brisbane, would have been constructed (after years of planning and building, it was opened in 1984). The Wivenhoe was designed, following massive floods in 1974 (on current indications, worse than the present Brisbane flooding), with a flood mitigation function alongside the usual water supply role. Like all dams, it is an example of human beings changing the natural world, by unnatural means, into something very useful and necessary to us in terms of our needs, standard of living and future progress.

During the terrible Australian drought, the Queensland Government moved to build a new dam on the Mary River, the Traveston Crossing Dam. It was seen as necessary to providing reliable water supply to Brisbane. Opposition to it, spear-headed by green activists, was successful and the Traveston dam was never built. Given that the drought had been so severe and gone on for so long, back then the argument that there might not be enough rainfall to justify such a large dam carried some weight to many people. But there were also those who argued convincingly for it and it was only halted because of a decision by the Federal Minister for the Environment in 2009 who was worried about the loss of endangered species (a lungfish, a local turtle and a local cod). In the recent floods, the Mary River peaked (at the town of Gympie) at over 19 meteres. What would have been the flood mitigation impact had the Traveston Corssing Dam been in place?   

To the Green mentality and ethos, changing Nature is destroying Nature, dams are an assault on the ‘delicate balance’ in Nature, an example of human arrogance going ‘too far’. In this regard, the Green mentality and ethos are quasi-religious. The late Michael Crichton put it neatly in a speech to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco in 2003 when he talked of the “remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths’. He said: 

There’s an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature, there’s a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge, and as a result of our actions there is a judgment day coming for us all. We are all energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability. Sustainability is salvation in the church of the environment. Just as organic food is its communion, that pesticide-free wafer that the right people with the right beliefs, imbibe. Eden, the fall of man, the loss of grace, the coming doomsday—these are deeply held mythic structures. They are profoundly conservative beliefs.

(Full text: http://sharpgary.org/ChrichtonCommonweal.html )

It’s good that he identified them as ‘profoundly conservative beliefs’. They are very reactionary beliefs.

As has been pointed out many times at this site, it is indicative of our strange times that opposition to dams, as a matter of principle, can be seen as left-wing. What is the traditional practice of left-wing parties in power on this question? What is the left-wing theoretical foundation for a policy on dams?

In practice, revolutionary left-wing parties in power – such as the communists in Russia/Soviet Union in the 1920s and 1930s and China in the 1950s and 1960s – were gung-ho in the building of dams. They did so because making a revolution is about changing things for the better, raising the standards of living and opportunities for liberation from wage slavery. To borrow from Karl Marx, it’s about ‘unleashing the productive forces’ – not forcing them into a sustainable relationship with Nature. It’s about an attitude based on “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!” – not ‘tread gently – Nature’s resources are finite’. But this is ‘red’ politics, not green. The Chinese revolutionary Mao Zedong was so into dams that in 1956 he wrote a poem about his dream for the Yangtze:

“Great plans are afoot:
  A bridge will fly to span the north and south,
  Turning a deep chasm into a thoroughfare,
  Walls of stone will stand upstream to the west
  To hold back Wushan’s clouds and rain
  Till a smooth lake rises in the narrow gorges
  The mountain goddess if she is still there
  Will marvel at a world so changed”.

http://www.discoveryangtze.com/Yangtzediscovery/old_man_river.htm 

In chapter 1 of The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx expressed his enthusiasm for the revolutionary consequences of the rise of the new bourgeoisie in transforming Nature and extending human horizons. He said:

It has been the first to show what man’s activity can bring about. It has accomplished wonders far surpassing Egyptian pyramids, Roman aqueducts, and Gothic cathedrals; it has conducted expeditions that put in the shade all former Exoduses of nations and crusades.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/communist-manifesto/ch01.htm 

It is unlikely that he would not have been as awe-inspired by the wonders of large-scale dam construction and the range of benefits on such a vast scale arising from dams: the capture and storage of safe and reliable water supply, generation of hydro-electricity, irrigation, flood mitigation and recreational uses (all on a scale unimaginable in Marx’s time).

The Wivenhoe Dam on the Brisbane River worked effectively in mitigating bad floods around Brisbane in 1999 but, alas, despite its 1.4 million megalitre flood mitigation capacity (on top of its water supply capacity of 1.1 million megalitres) it could not stop the extensive damage that occured during the current floods. And to return to the opening point of this article, there needs to be debate about all this. To what extent did the Wivenhoe mitigate the flooding of Brisbane? How much worse would it have been without that mitigation capacity?

There is good stuff on this at Catallaxy  http://catallaxyfiles.com/2011/01/11/would-dams-reduce-flooding/ 

I know that it will be argued that dams are ‘so 1950s’ but that is not an effective argument unless the proponent can offer something new and better. And, no, the state imposing compulsory water storage tanks in homes is not something better. I live in a trendy inner city suburb and a few of my neighbours have multiple storage tanks in their gardens, a reflection of their susceptibility to climate change alarmism. (They no longer have that glow of self-righteousness about them but will no doubt keep the tanks in place).

An area that interests me greatly is geoengineering and its possible roles in controlling rainfall. I have no expertise in it or in hydrology. But I do know about politics and the politics that declares, as a matter of principle, that there must be no new large dams is a dogmatic, conservative and reactionary politics. It is highly unlikely that adherents of such green politics would support greater funding for research into geoengineering solutions – indeed, geoengineering is abhorrent to them – let alone new dams with enhanced flood mitigation capacities, as appropriate in flood prone regions.

It always strikes me, when these issues arise, how backward the social system of capitalism really is. Human lives and billions of dollars are lost yet only a pittance is invested into research and development into geoengineering, let alone dams, and even that is contested by the reactionaries.   

Climate Change: Is Nuclear Power the Answer?

Videos from the November Monthly Argument Debate, held in Melbourne, Australia. Visit the Monthly Argument website for more information about the speakers, links to relevant reading etc.

It’s also worth visiting Barry Brook’s site Brave New Climate which contains several really interesting, and informative threads in which Brook and others discussed the issues with Arthur Dent (aka Albert Langer) in the week leading up to the debate: Here are links to two of those threads: Two Nuclear-Solar Dialogues in Melbourne Next Week and Electricity Costs Exhibits

Climate Change: Is nuclear the answer? (excerpts – 8 minutes) from Monthly Argument on Vimeo.

Part 1: Climate Change: Is Nuclear power the answer? from Monthly Argument on Vimeo.

Part 2. Climate Change: Is Nuclear Power the Answer from Monthly Argument on Vimeo.

no pressure …..mmm ….

How out of touch … how nutty …. how arrogant and stupid have these people become ?

The video below (entitled “No Pressure”) depicts kids being blown up for not agreeing to take action to reduce their carbon emissions. It was produced by the 10:10 organisation which has since apologised (sort of) and taken it down.

According to Forbes Magazine it “was underwritten by a number of major corporations as well as the UK government”. It’s definitely not a spoof.

Just posting it here because it’s so extraordinary. While it’s true that the reaction from nearly all climate change organisations has been that it was a “mistake”, “tasteless” and “only feeds the denialists” , it’s also true that those who produced it are not regarded as part of the lunatic fringe of the green movement. It was actually put together by Richard Curtis (writer of Four Weddings an a Funeral, Notting Hill, Love Actually, and the Mr. Bean sitcom). Frannie Armstrong (known for her film “Age of Stupid” and the person behind the the 10:10 organisation) said of the video :”We ‘killed’ five people to make No Pressure – a mere blip compared to the 300,000 fictional people who now die in my imagination each year from climate change.”

And by the way, these two articles by Warren Meyer at Forbes Magazine are quite sensible and interesting:

denying the catstrophe:the science of the-climate skeptics position

why blowing up-kids seemed like a good-idea

Monthly Argument debate

The next Melbourne “Monthly Argument” debate is today (September 9, 2010).  Apologies for the late notice!  Full details below (you will need to scroll down!)

The debate topic is:  “Renewable Energy: should we make the switch?”

It won’t be a debate about climate change (whether it’s happening), but about what should be done about it.    In this context, it’s worth taking a look at a recent post at Skeptic Lawyer : Climate change, scepticism and elitism (also read the comments) and perhaps drop over to Larvatas Prodeo to read Robert Merkel’s extraordinary reaction to it:  The Intellectual laziness of climate skepticism.

I really want to write more about this, but it’s too late at night now.   Suffice it to say that the post at Skeptic Lawyer (which was written by Legal Eagle) was not in fact an attempt to make a case against the scientific argument for climate change.  It was much more about the anxiety associated with not wanting to just go along with the majority voices on the matter,  the pressure to conform,   and the concerns of the author that any rapid attempt  to slash carbon emissions will hit the poorer sections  of  society very hard.  It was a long and thoughtful post – but it hit a raw nerve among the LP people.   I think it was remarks like this which did it:

Further, ordinary people should not be criticised for being sceptical. If you are asking people to change the way in which they live fundamentally, in ways that could impact them greatly, you should not ask them to be unquestioning. There is a real arrogance on the part of the likes of Hamilton and Monbiot which makes me recoil from their agenda.

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One of the participants in the Insight program made an interesting observation to me beforehand. He said, “I’ve noticed that scepticism tends to be class-based. Middle-class, university educated people are far more likely to accept that climate change is happening. Working-class people are far more likely to be sceptical and concerned.” There is a deep elitism at the heart of the writings of some who suggest the shape of the policy responding to climate change (eg, Clive Hamilton, George Monbiot). The sly inference is that working-class people are stupid bogans who don’t know any better, and that they should let their betters guide them in what is to be done.

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When an issue gets politicised like that I get very worried. I must confess that I don’t really understand why the Left has decided that it will swallow climate change policy whole (which is distinguishable from the question of science). I know that one of the ideas of climate change policy is the idea that we should consume less and be a less capitalist society (which clearly fits into many leftist ideas). But surely another concern of left-wing people should be the perpetuation of the class system and the deepening of the divide between rich and poor. To me, it seems that anyone who is left-wing or progressive should also be concerned about potential effects of some suggested climate change policies on less privileged members of society, and that they should be concerned about the possibility of an elitist society if we institute the suggestions of commentators such as Clive Hamilton or George Monbiot. If we implement any policy, I believe we have to be really careful that it doesn’t create a more unequal society.

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One of the audience members of the Insight program said her worry was that climate change science is being used by some to stifle development in poor countries so that they are kept “carbon neutral”. It’s a form of elitism, perhaps even an environmental neo-colonialism – “We know what’s best for you poor brown people, you have to stay in mud huts because it is a carbon neutral way of existence.” It buys into the whole myth of the “Noble Savage“. That’s not a fault of climate change scientists, as Professor Schneider pointed out in response.


Some sceptics are concerned about the way in which science is being used to push various political barrows in ways that might disadvantage those who are less economically secure or vulnerable. That is a progressive concern.

Further, ordinary people should not be criticised for being sceptical. If you are asking people to change the way in which they live fundamentally, in ways that could impact them greatly, you should not ask them to be unquestioning. There is a real arrogance on the part of the likes of Hamilton and Monbiot which makes me recoil from their agenda.
One of the participants in the Insight program made an interesting observation to me beforehand. He said, “I’ve noticed that scepticism tends to be class-based. Middle-class, university educated people are far more likely to accept that climate change is happening. Working-class people are far more likely to be sceptical and concerned.” There is a deep elitism at the heart of the writings of some who suggest the shape of the policy responding to climate change (eg, Clive Hamilton, George Monbiot). The sly inference is that working-class people are stupid bogans who don’t know any better, and that they should let their betters guide them in what is to be done.
When an issue gets politicised like that I get very worried. I must confess that I don’t really understand why the Left has decided that it will swallow climate change policy whole (which is distinguishable from the question of science). I know that one of the ideas of climate change policy is the idea that we should consume less and be a less capitalist society (which clearly fits into many leftist ideas). But surely another concern of left-wing people should be the perpetuation of the class system and the deepening of the divide between rich and poor. To me, it seems that anyone who is left-wing or progressive should also be concerned about potential effects of some suggested climate change policies on less privileged members of society, and that they should be concerned about the possibility of an elitist society if we institute the suggestions of commentators such as Clive Hamilton or George Monbiot. If we implement any policy, I believe we have to be really careful that it doesn’t create a more unequal society.
One of the audience members of the Insight program said her worry was that climate change science is being used by some to stifle development in poor countries so that they are kept “carbon neutral”. It’s a form of elitism, perhaps even an environmental neo-colonialism – “We know what’s best for you poor brown people, you have to stay in mud huts because it is a carbon neutral way of existence.” It buys into the whole myth of the “Noble Savage“. That’s not a fault of climate change scientists, as Professor Schneider pointed out in response.
Some sceptics are concerned about the way in which science is being used to push various political barrows in ways that might disadvantage those who are less economically secure or vulnerable. That is a progressive concern.

*****************

Tonight’s Monthly Argument will be around the issue of the cost of  slashing carbon emissions by attempting to move to renewables in the near future.   The fact is that you can “believe in” climate change (ie  accept that there seems scientific to be evidence of AGW ) , without also believing that the best thing to do is to take measure to reduce carbon emissions right now.   The latter belief does not automatically follow from the former.  But this has been obscured  by all the shouting about “deniers”  and also by the underlying ideological stance of that section of the green movement which is anti-development, and sees humanity as needing to atone for its hubris in thinking  it could conquer nature.

( btw  Sceptic Lawyer also has a post about today’s “The Monthly Argument” which ties it in with the attack on Legal Eagle by  Robert Merkel:  The Monthly Argument strikes again)

Copy of mail-out from “The Monthly Argument”

Announcing our September Debate!

Renewable Energy: should we make the switch?

Thursday September 9, 6:30 pm for a 7pm start. Dan O’Connel Hotel, 225 Canning Street, Carlton.

(http://themonthlyargument.wordpress.com/ )

Have a look at our speaker line up!

Lead speakers:

John Daley (from the Grattan Institute) (“yes, we should switch”)

versus

Alan  Moran (from the Institute of Public Affairs) (“no, we shouldn’t switch”)

Battle of the think-tanks predicted! It should be fun!

Panellists:

Arthur Dent (aka Albert Langer)

Matthew Wright (Beyond Zero Emissions)

Austin Williams (Director of the Future Cities Project, (UK) )

Cam Walker (Friends of the Earth)

On this topic it would be difficult to put together a better line up (we can’t resist a bit of a boast!)

It should be a great evening. The debate begins at 7pm sharp and will conclude at around 8:15pm. There will be an opportunity during the debate itself for questions from the floor, and afterwards it will be possible to stay on to socialise and continue the argument informally with members of the audience, and with at least some of the speakers.

The aim of the Monthly Argument is to promote political liveliness, lift the level, raise the temperature and  create something very different from both the “ABC conversation” events, and from the repetitive discussions which occur within the various political tribes

We’re attempting to bring back something of the spirit of the ’60’s “Teach-Ins”.

Hope to see you there.

Time and location details:

Date: Thursday September 9

Time: 6.30 for 7.00pm. The debate will end around 8.15pm.

Venue: The Function Room of the Dan O’Connell Hotel 225 Canning Street (cnr Princes St) Carlton (Melway 2B J4).

Free admission. No need to book.

The Monthly Argument – raising the political temperature

(Second Thursday of the month at the Dan O’Connell)

0488 532 559

http://themonthlyargument.wordpress.com

Monthly Argument debate on immigration (videos)

Two videos of the first Monthly Argument debate are now available. The topic for this first debate was “Immigration: Should we apply the brakes?”

The first video is short (just 6 minutes of excerpts).  The second one is the entire debate (almost 90 minutes).

Both videos can also be watched and/or downloaded from the Vimeo website.  (Debate Excerpts:  here . The entire debate  here.)  I’ve embedded them both here but I think that some people will find that the longer video loads much faster at the Vimeo site.

Immigration debate: exerpts from Monthly Argument on Vimeo.

Immigration: should we apply the brakes? from Monthly Argument on Vimeo.

First Melbourne “Monthly Argument” debate this Thursday

Details in brief:

Topic : “Immigration: should we apply the brakes?”    Monthly Argument logo1

Speakers:

Sinclair Davidson (Institute of Public Affairs)

Chuck Berger (Australian Conservation Foundation)

Panel:

Date: Thursday,  August 12

Continue reading ‘First Melbourne “Monthly Argument” debate this Thursday’

small minds for a backward social system – time to think BIG!

Australians face a federal election in which the consensus among, and bi-partisan approach of, the principal parties is to aim to be small. We’re being told that inadequate infrastructure and public transport, along with a ‘water shortage’ (in the south east of our continent) and crowded shopping centres, are the product of too many people. As our population growth is predominantly fuelled by immigration, this means ‘too many immigrants’. It’s a familiar cry, usually originating on the overt far Right but for the past couple of decades reinforced by a pseudo-left concern about the carrying capacity of Australia.

It doesn’t seem to dawn on the opponents of immigration and population growth that trains might be over-crowded because there aren’t enough trains or that infrastructure is under pressure because governments are too incompetent and lacking vision to provide them. As for water, our north is drenching and a body of water the size of western Europe is gradually making its way south. In Victoria, the Mitchell River floods every seven years or so, causing millions of dollars in damage to towns and crops, yet it must not be dammed under any conditions. It is in a national park, after all. Who cares that such a dam would greatly alleviate Melbourne’s water crisis.

Not surprisingly, the State and Federal government leaders prefer to blame ‘too many people’ rather than themselves.

Of course, they are not racist. ALL immigrants are too blame.

The Greens are usually referred to in the mainstream media as a left-wing party that is more compassionate. Yet they too argue for less immigration and, in case readers are not aware, they support the deportation of all asylum seekers who are found not to be genuine refugees, just like the two principal parties.

(I have been wrong on this in the past, arguing for mandatory detention. In reassessing my position, largely through people at this site, I realize now that if you don’t think outside the box, you’re likely to be imprisoned within it). (An original quote by me – not bad, eh?)

The glorious objective to which Australians are meant to unite behind and aspire to is….. be small. Yep. Small. A vast continent, with vast natural resources, a mere 22 million people. Think small. Be small. The idea of 38 million by 2050 has scared the bejeezus out of the reactionaries.

What this confirms to me is that capitalism, for all the talk about its affirmation of free enterprise and its supposed commitment to development and material progress, is one social system that has way outlived any usefulness.

In a nation with vast resources, we still have homelessness and poverty, including Indigenous people who in remote areas live in appalling conditions. We have pensioners who die in summer from heat exhaustion and in winter from the cold. (I’m all for the Australian Medical Association which, to the horror of the Nature Worshippers, proposed that governments subsidize air-conditioners for pensioners during the summer months).

We brag of one of the highest rates of home ownership in the world, yet one third of the ‘home owners’ virtually work for the banks to pay off unfair mortages and interest rates – 90,000 are under threat of losing their homes – while another third simply can’t even put a depopsit on a house.

Oh for a left-wing party, or candidate, to point out that this only makes sense under capitalism, that the vast natural resources of this continent can feed and clothe many more people than a meagre 38 million. Let’s aim for a BIG Australia, one that sees itself firmly as part of inter-connected humanity, building bridges rather than closing borders. Stimulus package anyone? How about a bridge from Indonesia to Australia – a good way to defeat the evil people smugglers. How about some government investment at Broome and then let the people’s creativity loose. This just won’t happen under capitalism any time soon.

A left-wing party/candidate would at least raise the perspective that says the problem is that private ownership of means of production, and the ways in which production is organised under that system, is the main obstacle to thinking bigger than we ever have before.

You want free enterprise? Support social ownership of social wealth and support the reorganisation of production along democratic lines so that alienation is reduced.

The culture of a society reflects its social system in general terms. Recognition of this fact is an important step toward changing things. It takes conscious effort to see it, and to work at an alternative. Leftists generally are not submersed into the dominant outlook and that is why, for one thing, they are optimistic as individuals. This strikes those who are unable to think outside the box, to escape the weight of the reactionary hegemony, as weird.

Time to think BIG. To move beyond pre-History. To reach for those stars.

We really ain’t seen nothin’ yet.