Thursday, December 17, 2009

A New Destiny for Mankind?

Climate Change is not my main topic, but from time to time I allow it to intrude here, always to say the same thing: That pouring gook into the air can't be a good thing, especially when the gook needs to be bought from the Saudis and Ilk; and that the way to stop pouring the gook is to invent better alternatives. Alternatives that people will use because they're better and cheaper, both, so that at the end of the move people and their world will all be better off.

The strident part of the climate-change doomsayers don't see it that way, however. The folks I sometimes poke fun at as the Church of Climate Change don't wish us to move forward. They wish us to move backwards: stop flying airplanes, stop eating food that grew or lived further than down the road, sit in the dark - and also, since they've got very bad consciences - the rich world needs to transfer enormous sums of money to the poor. The poor, you see, had great lives until the White Man came along and ruined it all, a crime for which he must now pay.

And of course, the believers in this will themselves be the clergy and power-brokers in this latter day caricature of a religion.

Lest you think I'm inventing any of this, read George Monboit's column from Copenhagen yesterday: "This is bigger than climate change. It is a battle to redefine humanity It's hard for a species used to ever-expanding frontiers, but survival depends on accepting we live within limits."
Humanity is no longer split between conservatives and liberals, reactionaries and progressives, though both sides are informed by the older politics. Today the battle lines are drawn between expanders and restrainers; those who believe that there should be no impediments and those who believe that we must live within limits. The vicious battles we have seen so far between greens and climate change deniers, road safety campaigners and speed freaks, real grassroots groups and corporate-sponsored astroturfers are just the beginning. This war will become much uglier as people kick against the limits that decency demands.
He elaborated in a followup comment:

That is a reactionary position. It says inequalities must stand. The poor shall remain poor and the rich rich.

Perhaps then you could explain why I call for redistribution.

The battle is precisely between those who wish to defend the poorest and weakest people from exploitation and those who wish to rip their lives apart in the pursuit of profit. Is that really so hard to understand, if you don't bend your mind to misunderstanding it?

Monboit is an important journalist. He's a scientist with a PhD and an author. He's not just some bleary-eyed graduate student who hasn't yet confronted the grown up world, nor an elderly blogger who never did. He's more radical than many in his camp, true, but many of them admire him for it. He also dislikes Israel and works at a newspaper that detests Zionism, and this conflation of themes may or may not be a coincidence. Rather not, I think, but that's a topic for a rainier day.

Interestingly, the Economist published a thoughtful rejoinder to Monboiot, five days before his column:

Today “The Leopard” is best-known for a single line: “If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.” It is a fine line, but it is also one that can easily be misinterpreted. Today’s European leaders talk about things changing, but in ways designed to appeal, all too often, to the side of Europe that is old, tired and anxious. Buzzwords of the moment include a “Europe that protects” (a phrase recently used by both President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany). It is a horribly defeatist slogan. What about a Europe that makes its citizens strong, or one that equips them to compete? Europeans can live off their inherited wealth for a bit longer, and many still lead largely enviable lives. There is much that is fine and even noble about Europe, including its ambitions to reduce social inequalities. But Europe’s rivals are young and hungry. The old continent should resist the allure of a genteel surrender.

Ultimately, the Monboits of this world aren't important; human nature is stronger, if not in Europe then in Asia. Yet before the defeatists fade comfortably away, let's remind ourselves that one of the most noble things about humans is that they insist on striving.


Anonymous said...

'pouring gook in the air can't be a good thing'

Yes, very true. We should expect every factory to put a greenhouse on the roof. Run the factory smoke past a lot a green stuff, set a meter to check emissions. Wouldn't cost much.


Anonymous said...

Greenhouses on factory chimneys ... hmmm -

great idea??? - makes me wonder what evolution would come up with to help make the plants survive all that stuff in such a concentrated form. I would bet heavily on the side of those that argue that mankind's experts have still no idea what is all part of that gook and how it reacts in contact with "nature".