Weekend Open Thread

A cyber-penny for your thoughts “¦ and links.

98 Responses to Weekend Open Thread

  1. Mark Shapiro says:


    The astonishing Arctic sea ice volume graph got picked up by Andrew Sullivan in his widely read Daily Dish blog.

    It will draw a lot of comments, and Sully often writes follow-ups from comments.

    What message do we want to attach to that graph?

  2. Richard Miller says:

    I posted this petition before and I noticed that many of the regular participants to this blog have not signed it. Until the climate system becomes even more erratic, it is unlikely that people will be marching in the streets. Right now, petitions are a central way to pressure our leaders.

    I would be helpful if you would sign the petition, send it to your contacts on your email list asking them to sign it, and post it on your Facebook pages?

    The petition will be sent to President Obama and Secretary of the Interior Salazar objecting to the US Department of the Interior’s plan to lease public lands in the state of Wyoming that would provide big coal companies with 758 million tons of coal. Interior will also decide this year about leasing public lands that would provide coal companies with an additional 1.6 billion tons of coal to burn and pollute our atmosphere. Joe posted a report on this a month ago at 2011/ 04/ 14/ export-coal-china/

    I have used’s new petition tool. If enough people sign the petition, then they will send the petition to their 5 million members for them to sign.

    This is an opportunity to draw upon MoveOn’s large email list to put pressure on our leaders, to raise awareness among progressives about this new egregious plan, and also to help push for climate change as a priority issue at

    Here is the link to the petition: sign/ say-no-to-deadly-coal?source=c.url&r_by=163667

    Thank You,

  3. Dan says:

    There was an important news item this past week that received scant media attention in the environmental press. The European Union announced that it was proceeding with what is, in effect, the world’s first carbon import tariff. As of January 1, 2012 the EU plans to require all international airlines flying in and out of the EU to purchase carbon emission permits for each ton of carbon they release above a certain cap. This is a tariff on the importation of a service into Europe, in this case the service is flying passengers in and out of Europe. This will force non-EU airlines (in addition to EU airlines flying internationally) to begin to reduce their carbon footprints. As expected, non-EU airlines are not too happy. The Americans, naturally, are going to sue. The Chinese are threatening trade reprisals. In the end, though, non-EU airlines will have to comply if they wish to fly into Europe, and they will comply because they will not wish to lose market share in the EU. Here is the link to one news report:

    Decades of failure in developing climate policies that work (both domestically and internationally) suggest that a new approach is needed. Carbon import tariffs do not require grand global treaties. They can be negotiated bilaterally. They also have the advantage of protecting domestic industries from unfair polluting competition, which means they are politically feasible. Most importantly, they create economic incentives that encourage foreign countries to reduce their GHG emissions because otherwise these countries will be shut out of export markets. Perhaps, carbon import tariffs are the starting point for a new strategy to control carbon emissions.

  4. NeilT says:

    I take my eye off the Arctic sea ice data for 2 days and it goes into rapid decline.

    I’ve been watching this for 15 years and I’m pretty surprised at what I’ve seen.

    You can also see the melt at barrow where it’s 35F and the surface is melting into pools. The dark line in the distance is the open water on the Bremen map as far as I can determine.

    The point is that the decline in volume which Joe has just been highlighting is going to create more and more rapid transitions from full ice cover in winter to minimal ice cover in summer.

    What we are seeing now is, I believe, one of those indicators Live, IRL.

    It is a hard one to communicate, Extent is so easy and sexy for the disinformers, but we have to find a simple and easy way to communicate that less volume = slower growth in the Autumn and much faster decline in the spring and the energy budget of that is it’s own climate change engine….

  5. Leif says:

    Quest for fire. It would be ironic indeed if the very thing that allowed mankind to transcend the world of animals also closes the book on our future. Will mankind be able to stem our addiction for fire and embrace a sustainable future built on the continual nourishing energy of the sun? Is it all over but the shouting? In keeping with “Rapture Day,” will God/s remove the deniers/chosen from the landscape and allow the rest of us an opportunity to open a new verse, chapter, book for all creatures on Earth? Remember you are there.

    There is a link to the author’s paper and a book in the works.

  6. Lisa Boucher says:

    Neil — Thank you for the Arctic ice image.  Is there a way to see similar images from previous days?

  7. Bill W says:

    Richard at #2, both times I’ve seen you post petition links, the links have been broken, i.e., not clickable. I think it’s because you’ve got spaces after the slashes. It looks like you’ve also entered “”, which doesn’t exist, instead of “”. So, it’s little wonder that folks here haven’t signed your petitions.

  8. Rab says:

    Richard at #2, Bill at #7: Bill is indeed correct; there are spurious spaces in Richard’s URLs. As a fix, if you highlight the URL by click-dragging, place it in the adress at the top of the browser, remove the spaces, it will actually work including

  9. Jeff Huggins says:

    “Make Me Do It”

    There have been a number of great comments in recent days by folks who are fed up with President Obama’s failing approach (and the fact that he’s not even trying hard) with respect to climate change. In the context of those comments, good questions and ideas are being raised.

    I think — and recommend — that that topic and those ideas should be a focus of some upcoming threads. Certainly one of the largest questions — and perhaps THE largest single question — having to do with how we can make much greater progress addressing climate change has to do with the best way possible to prompt President Obama into a much more effective attitude, focus, and approach. He occupies a very high profile and high-leverage position in the U.S. and in the world. A CRUCIAL question for the climate movement is this: What is the very best way to “make him [President Obama] do it”, that is, to make him get his act together on climate change? NOW!

    There can be no doubt that this is a CRUCIAL question. But it’s not getting any serious coverage or discussion, really. Some people would rather just complain, without trying to figure out how to change the situation. Others have — for some really bizarre reason that defies logic if you ask me — decided to grant their votes to Obama no matter what he does or doesn’t do, because “think of the terrible alternative”. Those people totally ignore the real question, which is how to get President Obama’s approach to CHANGE. They’ve forgotten what it means to set conditions and offer someone CONDITIONAL support: “If you do X, I’ll do Y. If you don’t do X, I won’t do Y.” They apparently have never made deals in business, and they apparently don’t have children. They have apparently never read Robert Axelrod’s classic book, ‘The Evolution of Cooperation’.

    The question of how to prompt President Obama to change his approach — to dramatically “up” his approach — is a crucial one. And there are answers to it. But we have to take the time to focus on the question, gather the ideas, and find those that are most likely to be effective. And then we have to ACT on those ideas. Otherwise, we may as well go on vacation. Otherwise, we may as well go to the beach and enjoy the weather. Otherwise, we may as well go on a big bike ride and have fun, several months from now, even as President Obama sticks with his own status quo and even as most Democrats seem to be fatalistically accepting that they’ll “have to” vote for Obama again, with nowhere else to go, even if his performance doesn’t change.

    Indeed, I’m going to make a statement that is well-intentioned but that may cause some people to say “yikes” — IF they overlook my point, misread my intentions, or have a view that some words are simply off-limits. I think I can make this point because I have deep respect for President Obama (in many ways, although that doesn’t mean that he’s not failing in his approach to climate change) and because I have deep hatred towards slavery, as we all do, of course. That said, if I allow myself to use the concept of ‘slavery’ to make the following point, it can be accurately said, in a sense, that we have all apparently become “slaves” to the Obama Administration’s strategy with respect to climate change, if you can even call it a strategy. Far, far, far too many people are saying, in essence, “Whatever the Obama Administration does with respect to climate change — as insufficient as it may be — will have to be good enough. Whatever he dishes out in the way of his approach to climate change is what we’ll have to take. After all, think of the alternative!”

    That is a bad and self-defeating approach, I believe. We should expect and demand more.

    President Obama himself has said (in essence) “make me do it”. So the question becomes, What is the best way possible to “make him [President Obama] get his act together on climate change, now”?

    That’s a question we should be discussing, ASAP.

    (I’ll apologize, again, for drawing on the word/concept of slavery in order to make the point. I’ve done so with complete respect for everyone and with a strong hatred towards slavery itself. But the concept is a clear one: we are in danger of allowing ourselves to become enslaved to whatever approach towards climate change the Obama Administration sees fit and convenient to grant at any given time, and what they have seen fit to grant has been — and is — woefully insufficient, not to mention far less than was promised in the last election. I’ll also say that my point here has to do with the entire Obama Administration, not just with President Obama himself, although the responsibility rests at the top.)

    To be clear, I “hope” that President Obama will “get with it” so I can vote for him a second time, and so I can feel good about doing that. But we should set conditions. We shouldn’t give him a free — and unconditional — ride to the White House for four more years, given his approach to climate change so far. We should make our upcoming votes DEPENDENT UPON a change in his approach to climate change, to take place (and be demonstrated) WELL BEFORE we need to cast our votes next November.

    In any case, I think that this should be a topic of conversation. Others have come up with some great ideas — see the recent thread under the post regarding the L.A. Times article.

    Be Well,


  10. Jeff Huggins says:

    Cover ‘The Stockholm Memorandum: Tipping the Scales towards Sustainability’, issued 18 May by the Nobel Laureate Symposium on Global Sustainability. It’s a great document, and short, developed by a group of roughly fifty folks including (according to my count) 17 Nobel laureates.

    You can find a link to it, and a PDF containing it, on the web at the Symposium’s website:

    Be Well,


  11. MarkF says:

    “Decades of failure in developing climate policies that work (both domestically and internationally) suggest that a new approach is needed. Carbon import tariffs do not require grand global treaties”

    very good news. Thanks.

  12. Monique GRG says:

    Jeff Huggins #9

    Could it be that Mr. Obama says “make me do it” when he means “help me defeat the climate deniers and conservatives”? Could it be that Mr. Obama HAS to say “make me do it” because he needs the rest of us to speak up so our Congress knows we mean it?

  13. Jeff Huggins says:

    Dear Richard Miller (Comment 2) and Others:

    Richard, thanks for your comment, and I signed the petition just now. FYI, there were a couple of extra blank spaces in the link you provided, so the link doesn’t work (as presently shown).

    Cheers for now,


  14. Jeff Huggins says:

    Dear Monique GRG (Comment 12),

    Dear Monique, I agree with both of your points. In other words, the answers are ‘yes’.

    To be clear, none of what I’ve written is meant to suggest that we all shouldn’t do those things. We should. We all need to do as much as possible, and President Obama needs that sort of help too.

    But my point is this: President Obama himself is not doing nearly enough — not even close. We apparently need to use the “make me do it” idea as it applies to him just as much as it applies to anything else. Have you seen him use the bully pulpit much, lately, regarding climate change? Do you even hear him utter the words ‘climate change’ often? Or are we seeing more and more policies that are deeply confusing in light of the climate change problem, e.g., policies that lease more land for coal mining and policies that open up more land for (or speed up the processes of) off-shore drilling?

    In my view, President Obama has become like a high-school football quarterback who, after being chosen as quarterback and elected by the team as team captain, has stopped going to practice, stopped trying his best, dropped the ball on doing what he said he’d do, and reverted to asking the rest of the team to work harder while not using the potential that comes with his own leadership role to its fullest. Apparently he is a bold, charismatic, and creative CAMPAIGNER but not really a bold, creative, committed, and courageous LEADER! But we elected him because he said that HE would be a leader, and he promised to be, and we believed him.

    If what he is doing regarding climate change can be called “leadership”, then the meaning of the word must have changed since I learned it.

    That said, I agree with you that we should also be doing those other things.



  15. Sailesh Rao says:

    Jeff #10: The laundry list of things that need to change in the report filed by the Nobel Laureates in
    shows that Western Civilization needs to become like George Costanza in “Seinfeld” and “DO THE OPPOSITE”. Perhaps, this was what Gandhi meant when he said that Western Civilization “would be a good idea.”

    Given that the problem is so deep rooted and cultural, how can we make President Obama make everyone around the world into George Costanza and “do the opposite”?

  16. Mark Shapiro says:

    ” Carbon import tariffs do not require grand global treaties”

    Indeed, that is excellent news about an excellent idea. It is a crucial idea. It is a required tool.

    Why? it solves a problem the delayers use: “China (and others) will burn coal and oil even if we stop.” It makes excellent economic sense (the polluter pays; fix the externality).

    A carbon import tariff is the perfect reply. And it gets those politically powerful nationalistic juices flowing. In that sense it’s as good as Olympic team competition.

  17. Joan Savage says:

    I’m with Jeff Huggins and Monique GRG on the assessment of “make me do it.”

    That plea shows up in local and state politicians who may personally like a position, but have to be able to justify why an elected representative would endorse the position. We’ve seen that with state representatives that are now clearly anti-hydrofracking, after getting enough emails, letters, and personal visits to their offices.

  18. NeilT says:

    #6 Lisa,

    On the home page

    There is an Archive link towards the bottom for both Arctic and Antarctic

    The Arctic is

    If you’re looking for longer term comparisons there is the Cryosphere today archive, but it’s only concentration so you would need to look at the concentration maps on the Uni Bremen site in comparison with the Cryosphere Today.

  19. Richard Miller says:

    Thanks for letting me know about the problem with the link to my petition.

    I copied and pasted the link here and for some reason several spaces were added. I am not sure why.

    Here is the correct link. Thanks for signing.

  20. Richard Brenne says:

    This might seem off-topic at first, but I’m going to bring it around to climate change.

    On tomorrow night’s 60 Minutes and leading last night’s CBS Evening News Olympic Gold Medalist Tyler Hamilton says he saw Lance Armstrong take EPO, the drug most helpful to bike racers, many times over many years. Two other teammates of Armstrong’s say the same thing and the other great American cyclists Greg Lemond (publicly) and Andy Hampsten (in conversations with me) have also implicated Armstrong, though not as directly, for most of a decade. Armstrong worked with cycling’s biggest performance-enhancing drug doctor for many years, and during the Tour de France intimidated and bullied a far lesser rider who was testifying against that doctor.

    In private conversations with these people and others I’d come to the same conclusion that they had about Armstrong’s drug use because I felt I was talking to the best experts who didn’t each have an axe to grind and none appeared to have anything to gain financially, in fact many had something to lose instead, including the editor of Bicycling Magazine who has also now said he feels Armstrong systematically cheated.

    I’d come to my own conclusion many years ago, and only know is Congress and the media starting to reach the same conclusion, it appears.

    What this teaches me is that the best intuitions of the best experts (who don’t have a large financial or emotional stake in the outcome) are often many years ahead of what can be proven. (By the way, Armstrong points out he’s never failed any of his 500 drug tests, but every expert knows the best cheaters are always years ahead of the tests.)

    In climate change I’ve done this same thing, trying to speak intimately and off-the record (as well as on) with many of the world’s most-respected climate scientists. This off-the-record message that if we don’t change more dramatically than humans have ever changed we’ll bring about our own doom is the one that needs to be communicated by everyone in all mediums everywhere and all the time as much as possible.

    Ironically if we all rode bikes not to compete and not fly everywhere in private jets to multiple homes like Armstrong but rode cooperatively (including pulling children, the elderly and disabled in trailers) we’d be doing a lot of good.

    World-class endurance sports in the last couple of decades especially since EPO has come out have made the world a worse instead of a better place because they’ve perpetuated the ultra-materialistic belief that humans are just a bunch of chemicals (and that this chemistry can be enhanced to improve our performance, earning, fame, status and egos) rather than the heart, soul, spirit and character I feel more truly comprises who we really are.

    Also in every area I can think of (politics, businesses, sports) the richest, most powerful and famous Texans appear to cheat more systemically, brazenly and unrepentantly than anyone (Bush, Cheney, Rove, Enron, the Oil Companies, Clemens, Armstrong, SMU), at least outside Wall Street.

  21. 6thextinction says:

    there has been an alternative to the democratic party for many years now; it is called the green party.

    start voting for them now. start running for offices under their banner, or helping those who might. will they win the presidency? unlikely. will a sizable increase in their membership and election in local and state campaigns send a giant message to obama? what is your guess?

    when will enviros, and other disappointed dems figure this out? and how is your local community doing on climate crisis amelioration? many of those decisions are determined by one vote on the governing body. do you even know the names of those board members, council members, commissioners?

    if not, why are you sitting here reading this?

  22. Jeff Huggins says:

    Dear Sailesh (Comment 15),

    Your point is a great one and your question is a great one.

    I don’t have the answer but am still trying to work on it. Right now the thought “try smarter and harder” comes to mind, but it’s a bit too ambiguous to be of much use.

    That said, I do like the straightforwardness and gravity of the statement by the Stockholm group. The more leaders — scientific leaders, ethical leaders, religious leaders, other thought-leaders, and etc. — that make such statements, the better.

    One of the reasons that such statements are helpful is this: When it comes time (i.e., five or more years ago!) that mass protestations and responsible civil disobedience become necessary to start moving the needle, such statements give those efforts moral credibility, support, justification, and so forth. When groups and people such as the NAS, the IPCC, the Royal Society, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the group at this year’s Nobel Laureate Symposium on Global Sustainability, the American Chemical Society, the Geological Society of London, the Dalai Lama, and many others are saying what they’re saying, there becomes a clear moral imperative to take action. (Read also the remarkable statements in the great book, ‘Moral Ground: Ethical Action For A Planet In Peril’, edited by Kathleen Dean Moore and Michael P. Nelson.) Thus, if some group of protesters does something (hopefully responsible and sane) to bring a halt to the construction of a new coal-fired power plant or to confuse and delay yet another auction of lands to be used for coal mining, even as those actions might be illegal according to our presently-written laws, they are likely to be “on the right side of” the actual ethical question, i.e., justified and responsible (of course depending on the circumstances and what is actually done). Indeed, by being so darn passive and enabling in the face of the risks and harms that we (broad society) are presently imposing on other peoples, future generations, other species, and ourselves, we are dropping the moral ball, so to speak. We’re engaging in a passivity that itself is immoral, under the circumstances. We seem to be headed in a direction where the most responsible, empathetic, and ethical people will have to get used to spending time in jail — after trying to stop a new coal plant or something — while the least responsible and least ethical people continue to reap big bonuses by pumping oil and marketing hamburgers (a reference to the food and larger ‘life’ problem, of course).

    There seems to be a growing divergence between what is ‘legal’ and what is genuinely responsible and ethical, in a growing number of areas of human activity. Those people who realize this will, hopefully, have the clearest minds when trying to figure out the best ways to improve the system, if it can be improved, or the best ways to proceed if the system itself can’t be improved.

    Of course, I’m reminded of many quotes from Gandhi, from Martin Luther King, Jr., from Thomas Jefferson, and others. One great quote — I’m sure you’ve heard it before — goes something like this: It’s not a sign of health to be well acclimated to a sick society. (I’ve forgotten the gentleman’s name who said it, and I certainly can’t spell it without having it in front of me.)

    What’s striking to me is how little academia is doing — in the public forum anyhow — to make the situation clearer to the public and to call out loudly for responsible action. Hardly a peep.

    Anyhow, perhaps we should get together sometime soon and share notes and ideas?

    Keep in touch,


  23. Richard Brenne says:

    6thextinction (#21) – I’ve enjoyed your many comments and note that your appropriate disdain for all forms of capitalism extends to the letters as well.

  24. Snapple says:

    Several of the scientists at the Stockholm meeting also led the recent workshop at the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy.

    Werner Arber is the head of the Pontifical Academy. Paul Crutzen was at both meetings, and was an organized of the Vatican workshop. V. Ramanathan was at the Stockholm meeting and helped organize the Vatican workshop.

    Today the astronauts on Endeavor had an audience with the Pope. He called to them from the Vatican Library.

    Astronaut Mark Kelly told the Pope:

    “On Earth, people often fight for energy; in space we use solar power and we have fuel cells on the Space Station. You know, the science and the technology that we put into the Space Station to develop a solar power capability, gives us pretty much an unlimited amount of energy. And if those technologies could be adapted more on Earth, we could possibly reduce some of that violence.”

  25. Steve Bloom says:

    Attention Arctic sea ice watchers:

    This multi-year graph of sea ice extent is the main one to watch. Note that at the moment this year is at best in third place. The sea ice horse race is fun, and I agree that conditions seem primed for a sharp decrease, but bear in mind that nobody actually understands sea ice behavior well enough to correctly anticipate abrupt change. As Maslowski says, one year it will just (mostly) disappear all of a sudden, maybe this year, but maybe not.

    I should add while current ice conditions are important, a gigantic factor in all of this is the weather the Arctic will experience over the next few months, and in particular the degree of cloudiness (less clouds = more ice melt). Accurate weather forecasts over such periods are problematic, to say the least.

    That said, a repeat of summer 2007 Arctic weather given today’s ice may well be enough to do the job. But how likely is that?

    Obviously CP will be covering major developments in addition to giving periodic updates, but for the detailed blow-by-blow see this blog.

  26. catman306 says:

    What if that Camper fellow is right and the rapture happens this evening and tomorrow there are about 1000 piles of clothing where the richest 1000 had been at that moment? They are the most righteous humans alive and should be raptured away. The rest of us will would have to fend for ourselves. Are we up to the task?

  27. NeilT says:

    #24, Steve,

    Yes I was watching that….

    But it seems the Uni Bremen is 1 day ahead and also has a different multi year line.

    On the Uni Bremen site 2011 is just about in #1 place.

    The overheads with mark 1 eyeball are interesting to read too. I found there was a disconnect between the Barrow webcam and what was reported on the overheads. Till the clouds lifted and you could see to the horizon.

    I’m not saying that we will be ice free this year. It is far too dependent on the weather as we saw in 2006. What I am saying is that the volume angel is playing out right now and we should recognise that as it is happening, rather than a decade later when everyone has moved on and it’s all old news anyway.

  28. David Stewart says:

    The world’s largest mining company – BHP Billiton – has this week announced it will go ahead with the creation of the largest open cut mine in the world to exploit the huge mineral deposit in South Australia known as Olypmic Dam. It will take 6 years and $30billion to remove 350 metres of overburden. (No mention is made of how much carbon will be emitted during this exercise). A key consideration appears to be the company’s belief that there will be 793 nuclear reactors in operation around the world by 2030 (as against 439 currently). BHP Billiton were one of the first companies to be given the go ahead to resume oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico back in March this year. They appear to have all bases covered.

  29. Jeff Huggins says:

    Snapple (Comment 24),

    Thanks for that. That’s a remarkable video. There’s a longer (full) version of it on the NASA website. It’s quite interesting, and appropriate, that the topics include sustainability, peace, considering future generations, conscience, and related matters, even including a discussion of the paper-thinness and fragility of the atmosphere, solar energy, and human fighting over resources. Yet it’s also interesting that nobody — none of the astronauts, or the Pope — actually referred to climate change by name. Here again we have people talking in grand terms that, depending on who you are, can be interpreted almost any which way you like. There was no specific and explicit mention of ‘climate change’ or ‘global warming’, even as some of the vague comments danced around the issue. Have we all been trained to make sure that we use phrases and words that are so vague that they won’t offend anyone or cause us to have to face our very real problems?

    Oh well, at least they didn’t call for perpetual GDP growth or for us to go shopping to help the economy.

    (Actually, it was a remarkable discussion, and I recommend it.)

    Be Well,


  30. Joan Savage says:

    As Big Hurricane Season Looms, NOAA Chief Calls Satellite Cuts a “Disaster”
    The loss of Earth-monitoring satellites impairs scientists’ ability to track hurricanes–and they are predicting a lot of them this year

    Key quote:

    “The region’s surface waters are 2 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the average of this time of year, providing an extra burst of fuel to developing storms. Meanwhile, the current La Niña weather pattern — expected to remain in place through early summer — reduces the wind shear that can hinder hurricane development.”

    [CP has previously covered the weather satellite cuts.]

  31. Joan Savage says:

    Leif (#5)

    Maybe our species should be called “Homo combustus” or equivalent.
    The species’ preoccupation with fire is quite distinctive.

    I’m partial to the idea that our brains developed during a selection for cooperative hunting and gathering (“Born to Run”), rather than from eating cooked meat.

  32. Anna Haynes says:

    Critique my 6+ min. Ben Santer “how to get reliable climate info” interview, please? Details here (link)

  33. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Sailesh #15 and Jeff #22. I agree about doing the opposite but not about making Obama make everybody do it. Appealing to the top dog is a symptom of the disease we are all suffering from, a surfeit of top down, dominant hierarchies which over time dispirit, demoralize and produce utter dependency with occasional outbursts of anger and frsutration, the passivity you mention and the frustration you express Jeff.

    The answer is organize, organize into self managing groups (no leaders, no bosses) who work to a collectively agreed set of goals. When people work in this form of organization, they generate high levels of intrinsic motivation, positive affect and creativity that fuel creativity and innovation which increase the positive affect and the motivation. All you have to do is get started, ME

  34. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Jeff, you also mention the deadly silence from our many academics. Somebody once wrote a great book called ‘The Last Public Intellectual’ or something like that, discussing the death, about the end of the 1970s, of our long tradition of intellectuals taking part in our civic discourse.

    The dreadful decline of our universities into corporatized, money making machines has induced the same dynamics of dependency and fight/flight in our academics as you find amongst workers in any such structures. They quote the textbooks without question and do everything possible to ensure job security.

    Hopefully, as the climate worsens, we will see more academics and scientists following the example of Hansen and reviving the great tradition of public intellectuals, ME

  35. Chris (from Vancouver) says:

    From Vancouver’s independent online news source, and wonderfully green and left leaning.

    This has happened this past week in the region near the tar sands in Alberta. Forest fires already in this year have destroyed a town, and caused plenty of evacuation, including oil workers. Some 7,000 residents fled last weekend when a wildfire fanned by high winds destroyed more than 450 homes and businesses. Shouldn’t this northern region still be covered in snow? Or at least it used to be in the good old colder climate of a few years ago.

    The first few lines from the news article:
    Wildfires ripping through Alberta’s boreal forest or what government officials call “freakish” firestorms are really a snapshot of how warming global temperatures and intensified insect infestations will change the nation’s boreal forest, say scientists.

    In the last week nearly 100 wildfires, battled by 1,000 forest fighters, have shut in billions of dollars worth of oil and gas facilities and forced the evacuation of 2,000 oil workers from Fort McMurray to Peace River.

    One raging inferno, driven by 100 kilometre winds, destroyed a third of the community of Slave Lake north of Edmonton. That smoky region is also chock full of dead trees killed by the mountain pine beetle, another harbinger of changing global weather patterns.

    Despite expenditures of $800-million a year and some of the world’s best fire fighting crews, the amount of forest area burned in Canada has doubled since the 1970s due to global warming. That now amounts to 2 million hectares a year, an area half the size of Nova Scotia. But the area burned by fires varies from year to year.

    “Climate change is already impacting our forests,” adds Flannigan. According to his research the annual area destroyed by fire could double again by the end of the century. Some fire forecasts for Alaska, B.C. and the Yukon expect fires to increase five-fold, and all due to warming temperatures.

    And from CBC News

  36. Vic says:

    6thExtinction @ 21,

    I whole-heartedly agree with your call for Americans to vote for the Greens party in next year’s election. It’s what they’re there for after all. Albert Einstein would’ve voted for them I’m sure, as he knew only too well what it means to keep doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different outcome. 
    Last year in Australia we had an election where both of the two major parties where treating climate change as some sort of dirty word. Come election day there was a large swing away from both of them towards the Australian Greens party. As a result we ended up with a “minority government” in which the Greens now actually have some sway in political outcomes. You may have heard that Australia is now moving towards placing a price on carbon emissions, an outcome that almost certainly would not have occurred if not for the increased power of the Greens. 

    They cop all sorts of flak from uncle Rupert’s propagandists of course, but are able to give as good as they get. If you have a few minutes to spare, do brighten up your day a little and take a look at Greens leader, senator Bob Brown dishing it out to Murdoch’s minions, where he goes so far as to label them “hate media” , and don’t they just hate it ! 

    7 minute version…
    15 minute version…

  37. 6thextinction says:

    merrelyn emery #33

    you are so right re top-down organizations and self-managing ones. thank you the excellent description of both. sadly,, while not completely allowing self-managing, did encourage individual organizers to choose their activities, and then left 99% of the decision-making up to them, but since merging with 1sky, has become a top-down organization, at least in my state.

    as such, i predict it will be less successful in the u.s. this year than the previous 2 years. because 1sky was a u.s. only non-profit, there will not be an established hierarchy in other countries and so they should be able to organize in the same self-managing manner as they have been.

    cp readers may tire of my continual plugging for, but it is the only global warming movement we have.

  38. Jeff Huggins says:

    Christianity and Climate Change

    In recent days, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences published its report, and Pope Benedict XVI spoke with astronauts on the space station about Earth, sustainability, our responsibility to future generations, environmental stewardship, peace, and related matters. These two events also reminded me of a recent Encyclical Letter, ‘Caritas in veritate’, which I had read at the suggestion of a friend, and a joint statement by Pope John Paul II and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, in June 2002, which I read in the book ‘Moral Ground’.

    I list these four resources below, with links to three of them and a reference to the fourth, for those interested.

    The point of this comment is this: In my view, it would be pretty darn hard to read, listen to, and consider these materials, taken together, and come to any conclusion other than that these leaders of the Christian faith feel that humans should and must be responsible stewards of the environment, strive for human and environmental sustainability, ensure the stability and health of Earth’s life-systems and resources for the benefit of future generations, and do so in ways that are equitable to all peoples. This includes facing and addressing climate change.

    Granted, if someone reads any single document, and if he/she tries to avoid the above-mentioned conclusions by way of ambiguities or perceived loopholes, it’s quite possible to do so. But the four items, when taken together, greatly diminish any ambiguity, shut the loopholes, and make the matter reasonably clear.

    In the interest of positive activism, I’d recommend several things:

    First, that the Catholic Church should state its view more briefly, accessibly, and even more clearly. By (humbly) suggesting this, I’m not trying to define the view myself, of course. Instead, it seems to me that a very important view is contained in these four resources, taken together: If so, and given the vital importance of our climate change problem, that view should be spelled out more accessibly and clearly.

    Second, that climate and environmental organizations should request that the Church’s leaders in the United States state, and be clear about, the Church’s view regarding humankind’s responsibility to face and address climate change in order to preserve a healthy, stable, sustainable, and friendly climate (and environment) for future generations as well as to avoid bringing harms unfairly on billions of humans presently living. It would be quite odd, and credibility-crushing, if Catholic leaders in the U.S. had views that were different from those of the Vatican, related to global environmental issues.

    Third, that politicians who claim to have “religious values” but who deny the reality of climate change or deny our responsibility to address it, be asked by voters and the media to reconcile their views regarding climate change with their so-called religious values. Put another way, or as an example, if Newt and Wife don’t think we need to worry about, or address, climate change, I think they should be pressed to reconcile that view with the views expressed in the four documents/resources listed below.

    In sum, it seems that responsible religious leaders are beginning to speak out (finally) about environmental issues, including (or at least strongly implying) climate change. We should press for clarity and for religious leaders to play more vocal and responsible roles in prompting humankind to take responsible action.

    The Items:

    Pope Benedict XVI Talking to Astronauts

    Astronauts (STS-134 and Expedition 27 crews) in a seventeen-minute discussion from space with Pope Benedict XVI, May 21, 2011:

    Statement Published by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences Regarding ‘Fate of Mountain Glaciers in the Anthropocene’

    A PDF file with the statement itself can be found and downloaded from the following site:

    ‘Caritas in veritate’, Encyclical Letter of Pope Benedict XVI

    Steering the Earth Toward Our Children’s Future: Joint declaration by Pope John Paul II and the Ecumenical Patriarch His Holiness Bartholomew I, made following their June 2002 symposium on religion, science, and the environment.

    (See pages 51-54 of the book, ‘Moral Ground: Ethical Action For A Planet In Peril’, edited by Kathleen Dean Moore and Michael P. Nelson, which also includes statements from The Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, and many others.)

  39. paulm says:

    Puma releases ‘true’ carbon emission cost
    By Peter Marsh in London
    Published: May 17 2011 08:40 | Last updated: May 17 2011 08:40

    Puma has become one of the first global companies to release what it thinks is the true cost of its carbon dioxide emissions. The company says the cost is more than three times higher than the current price for permits under European environmental legislation.

    Findings by consultancies PWC and Trucost show that the true cost of the company’s emissions of greenhouse gases is at €66 ($93) a tonne.

    Compare this with the current price of carbon dioxide permits under the European emissions trading scheme of €17.

    Professor Alyson Warhurst, chief executive of Maplecroft, an environmental consultancy, said the figures showed that the cost of carbon dioxide permits “did not reflect the true cost” of emissions when global warming was taken into account.

  40. Clive says:

    Dear Jeff Huggins (comment #22)

    “It is of no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society”

    This is the quote you were looking for, I think. It was by J. Krishnamurti, who, despite the name, was definitely not in the Guru business.

    Krishnamurti was greatly concerned with the destruction of the environment, which he described very passionately many decades back. Taking the liberty of paraphrasing the essence of his words, he said man was destroying the environment because he has no relationship with it. There is really only one crisis, not many, and that is the crisis in human consciousness. All mankind’s problems stem from there; they are a result of his greed, his desire for power, his fear, his pursuit of illusory security. These are all manifestations of the self, the ego. Because Man is divided in himself, he cannot help but create a world that is divided, separated into nations, religions, beliefs. And when there is separation there must be conflict.

    I think it is clear that as long as these separations exist, we cannot work together to meet the many challenges facing us.

    Thus, the only way for all the chaos of society to come to an end, Krishnamurti said, the only real solution of the endless problems that mankind creates, – that is a transformation of human consciousness. That seems to me self-evident.

    Less easy to understand is Krishnamurti’s insistence that each of us is totally responsible for all the problems of the world. Not the Americans, not the politicians, the capitalists, etc. I quote:

    “We are each one of us responsible for every war because of the aggressiveness of our own lives, because of our nationalism, our selfishness, our gods, our prejudices, our ideals, all of which divide us. And only when we realize, not intellectually but actually, as actually as we would recognise that we are hungry or in pain, that you and I are responsible for all this existing chaos, for all the misery throughout the entire world because we have contributed to it in our daily lives and are part of this monstrous society with its wars, divisions, its ugliness, brutality and greed – only then will we act. ”


  41. paulm says:

    Re 38 the real cost of ghg…

    I suspect that most offsets are also 3 to 4 time below the actual cost of the footprint.
    How can a 1000km airline flight be offset for around $20?

  42. Judith says:

    Merrelyn 33 and 34. You are so right. As today so aptly proved, looking for a savior to rescue us from our mess is not very productive. Nor is waiting for an intellectual father figure to straighten everybody out with the facts. Instead of looking to Obama, the next P.h.d, or even Jesus to leap in front of the train for us, we’d better figure out fast how to build some new track. Starting now, today, with each one of us.
    I personally have stopped fuming about the next idiot congressman and started talking to neighbors. What will we do?
    Stop mowing, Stop driving alone to the store or to work, stop using pesticides, plastic bottles, and tons of other petroleum based products, start trading food, clothing, or whatever instead of buying more. I know, its not the big picture or grand scheme, but at least it can happen today. We do have to change and that has to start where we live.

    The question is, how big is your circle of influence. Obama has a huge audience, but what is his real circle of influence. I would venture a guess that every person who reads this website, connected to the people he or she actually affects on a daily basis with his presence, ( family, friends, coworkers) who he has built a level of trust; taken all together, we have as large a circle of influence as say, a few congressmen. Add the circles of influence that those friends and family members have and we touch circles of influence larger than the president can alone.

    Get to work.

  43. Leland Palmer says:

    Here’s a recent paper, which uses a state of the art atmospheric chemistry model to predict much stronger positive feedback from indirect atmospheric chemistry effects of large methane releases, than from the methane itself. They are talking about several hundred percent increases in stratospheric water vapor, for example, increased methane lifetime of roughly 100 percent for very large releases, and large increases of tropospheric ozone. The hydroxyl radical, by their modeling, decreases in the troposphere, where it is needed to oxidize methane, and increases in the stratosphere. The positive feedback factor that they calculate (eta) ranges from 1.5 for small releases, up to 2.9 for large ones.

    Strong atmospheric chemistry feedback to climate warming
    from Arctic methane emissions

    Here we apply a “state of the art” atmospheric chemistry transport model to show that large emissions of CH4 would likely have an unexpectedly large impact on the chemical compositioof the atmosphere and on radiative forcing (RF). The indirect contribution to RF of additional methane emission is particularly important. It is shown that if global methane emissions were to increase by factors of 2.5 and 5.2 above current emissions, the indirect contributions to RF would be about 250% and 400%, respectively, of the RF that can be attributed to directly emitted methane alone.

    It’s a very important result, IMO, which could provide a bridge from mild CO2 based warming to runaway methane and atmospheric chemistry change based greenhouse heating.

    It’s a very different atmosphere that they are talking about, with sustained methane release rates of 4 to 13 times those of today. Stratospheric water vapor and stratospheric hydroxyl radical increase, tropospheric hydroxyl radical decreases, and tropospheric ozone increases, leading to indirect warming several times that of the warming from methane itself.

    It’s particularly worrisome because this appears to be an honest result, resulting from a fair query of a state of the art atmospheric chemistry transport model.

    If this work holds up, it may help explain the strong positive feedback of past apparent methane catastrophes including the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum and the End Permian mass extinction, I think.

    There are still questions about whether methane will in fact be released fast enough to activate these feedback loops, from the melting permafrost and shallow methane hydrate deposits.

    But, do we want to gamble the future of the biosphere on the probability of such difficult to predict large scale events?

  44. Richard Brenne says:

    Clive (#38) – Beautifully said! I completely agree, though my ego refuses to. . .

  45. English Mark says:

    Over the pond the drought in East and South england continues with little rain. More information onn our remarkable April below – winter turned directly into summer without passing through spring it seemed

  46. English Mark says:

    Stress on UK agriculture is resulting with a further upward tweak on prices

  47. Adam R. says:

    Nuclear plant workers release unknown amount of radioactive tritium into Mississippi River

  48. Solar Jim says:

    The construct of globalized corporate investment paradigms and nation-state military weapon system procurements (based on uranium and fossil hydrocarbons) are engaged in pervasive public deception that “climate change” is linear and manageable. It is not manageable and it is not linear. The past is not prologue, but a point on a curve. Planetary response to a century of contamination, via creation of carbonic acid gas by oxidation of lithosphere materials which then acidify the biosphere/ecosphere, is now observed as exponential.

    A plausible scenario for this decade then follows. Trillions of dollars of human capital and labor of the fossil burning paradigm could change in investor perception from asset to liability.

    Good luck with that. It is downright financially depressing, yet would be spiritually liberating. Remember Liberty, and that petroleum is not an “energy resource” (hint: it is matter).

    Anyone for thinking the unthinkable about “controlled fossil/fissile bankruptcy restructuring” instead of proceeding with unfolding disasters brought to us by what Native-Americans call “The White Man?”

    Over one hundred countries call for moving now toward 350. Yet the USA can not even remove a paltry $2 billion annual subsidy (of tens of billions in the US) for fossil fuel. Think about that. An eventual and unavoidable ecologic/economic “rapid adjustment” will be staggering, unless an alternative is mandated “by the people.” Of course, investor-owners also substantially own governance by purchase of political power via corporate control of Federal Reserve Notes through legalized graft (that we the people have mandated). So there is “a problem.” Earth we have a problem, we are corrupt by governance. We are massively contaminating ourselves: physically, economically and politically.

    Nice to see some awakening of the church. Until they command a global restructuring their words (and solar installations) will not be moral enough. Does the church condone partial morality? And what is that: slow murder by contamination?

  49. Leif says:

    Energy storage with instant on/off potential grid stabilization, yields 5 times the amount of energy induced.


    Good quote, Clive @ 38. Nice follow thru. Right down the middle.

    Perhaps it is time for a new political party with a new name. The Humanitarian Party.

    Throw of the shackles of Dem., Rep., Tea, even Green.

  50. Chris says:

    We need to challenge the Obama Administration on its greenlighting the exporting of Powder River Basin coal to Asia. Coal cos. are already looking to set up an infrastructure in the U.S. for massive exporting – once it sets into motion, we will be fighting a truly uphill battle.

    Union of Concerned Scientists “Prevent the Expansion of Dirty Coal Mining on Public Lands” petition here:

    Detailed article on the subject here:

  51. Sailesh Rao says:

    Merrelyn #33 and Clive #40: Correct, eventually change has to occur within each one of us and society has to become the “opposite” of what it is now: collaborative instead of competitive, nonhierarchical instead of hierarchical, and composed of butterflies instead of caterpillars. But, to get there from here, we likely need a catalyst.

    Obama promised to be that catalyst and then surrounded himself with Goldman Sachs alumni to desperately prop up the caterpillar pyramid that’s engulfing, consuming and polluting the planet. The disappointment, especially among the youth, is palpable. We need to find a different catalyst around which we can self-organize to upset the caterpillar status quo.

  52. Jeff Huggins says:

    Thanks for the quotes and great comment, Clive (Comment 40). And thanks to everyone else, too, for the great recent comments.

    In Clive’s Comment 40, he talks about a necessary transformation in human consciousness. Others also feel that a transformation is necessary (e.g., Sailesh and many others, though still far too few). It’s interesting and encouraging that the first section title in the recent statement from the Nobel Laureate Symposium on Global Sustainability is this:

    “I. Mind-shift for a Great Transformation”

    This is why we have to question and doubt (to put it mildly) whether slow incremental changes to the status quo (add a new technology here, adjust a tax rate there, get rid of a few subsidies over there) will get us anywhere. It’s also why we have to question and doubt whether a subtle “playing of the political game” — “My goodness, don’t mention the words ‘climate change’ in your speech today, you might upset someone!” — is the way to go. (And of course it’s not.) The danger with slow incremental changes, Band-Aid approaches, and playing the political game as usual — all done with a happy face — is that it gives the impression to people that those approaches will suffice, which is not only a dangerous impression, it’s also dishonest. People take cues from each other (humans are a very social species) and very, very, very few people will ever have enough scientific and other understanding to “get it” on their own — that is, to understand climate change, its implications, and the strong need to act. So if President Obama proposes policies and approaches that are insufficient in the first place (which they are), and then proceeds to compromise them from there, and then doesn’t try very hard to actually educate the public, and then gives up on those policies, and then acts as though much lesser policies still count as making good progress, and does it all with a smiley face, and asks us to have more “hope”, the whole drama (and it’s really not much of a drama) gives the impression to most people that that rate of progress will be “OK” after all. After all, if the really smart folks knew that such a rate of progress was deeply insufficient and that big problems were on the way, they’d DO SOMETHING about it (people assume): they would insist on more progress and find some way to make it happen. So the President’s approach sends a false message to people. The President is not much different from the media in that sense.

    Cheers for now,


  53. MarkF says:

    some progress

    “Boston is now home to the world’s largest commercial wind-blade testing site, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
    The Wind Technology Testing Center officially opened yesterday inside what looks like a massive airplane hangar in Boston’s port.
    The seemingly minor ceremonial event is actually quite significant for the U.S. wind industry and could improve the timeline for wind turbine technology development in the U.S.
    In the past, large-scale wind blades under development in the U.S. had to be shipped out of the country for testing, usually to Europe, because the U.S. had no testing facility of its own that could accommodate a commercial-scale wind turbine blade longer than 50 meters, according to the DOE.
    The Wind Technology Test Center, which is partnering with the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), can test blades up to 90 meters long–the anticipated largest blade size that wind turbines may begin to use in the coming years.
    To put that size into perspective, an NFL-regulation football field is just under 110 meters, including the end zones”

    ……by Candace Lombardi

    Read more:

  54. Badgersouth says:

    Speaking of droughts…

    “Texas drought has farmers on the ropes — West Texas farmers and ranchers struggle to survive the worst drought in the region since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s”, LA Times, May 22, 2011,0,675045.story

    This well-written article includes a powerful graphic of drought conditions in Texas and surrounding states overlaid with the locations of wlldfires from April 1 to May 17.

  55. catman306 says:

    Leif, I got some 4K Google hits for ‘humanitarian party’ but zero hits for ‘inhumanitarian party’.
    Probably it’s a code name for the GOP as currently practiced.

    The Republican Party has become the Inhumanitarian Party.

    Fixed it!

  56. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Clive #40, Sailesh #51 and Jeff #52. Krishnamurti was absolutely correct but I fear, with great respect to you all, that he has been misinterpreted. The root cause of the damage we are still doing is not internal to the individual person, it lies in the dominant form of organization we have adopted in the industrialized West. That is what he means by a “profoundly sick society”.

    I have written here before about these genotypical design principles that determine how we are organized, (either top down or self managing), and thus our dominant forms of behaviour, (either self interest and greed or cooperation and care for the common good). I am not writing empty theory here. Change of design principle has been tested innumerous times over the last 70 years and we have communities and business orgs working on the second principle out there right now.

    Yet, almost every single time in this forum, these principles are (mis)interpreted to mean ‘human nature’, change of consciousness etc. Why is that? It is because we have lived in these maladaptive structures for so long that we have come to believe people are individual, closed systems.

    Solid social science says otherwise. It demonstrates that people are neither competitive nor cooperative – they are capable of both. The evidence is that they are open, purposeful systems who constantly transact and influence each other. How they are organized determines the dominant form of transaction. Please stop blaming the victims – the planet is not the only victim. We are all victims of the first design principle; a sick system hurts all us, ME

  57. Clive says:

    It was good to see Krishnamurti’s words resonate on this forum. I would like to reflect on the various responses to my mail, and give a reply soon. In the meantime can I present this ‘story’ that Krishnamurti once told. Actually I may have posted it before, with no response. The words are mine, from memory:

    “Imagine that suddenly one had a magic wand. Imagine that the nature of that magic was that when waved over the Earth, it undid all the damage mankind has done. It brought back the forests, the wetlands, with all the diversity of life. It cleaned up the oceans of all the rubbish and contamination. It restored the rivers and lakes to their original pristine state. It healed all the scars of the land, did away with air pollution, brought back the pure richness of the soil. It cleaned the excess carbon dioxide from the air. And so on.

    What would be the point of using that wand; would we not be back to our present position in 20 years or so?”


  58. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Sailesh #51. Do we need a catalyst? Judith #42 says ‘no’. 6thextinction #37 apparently didn’t but now unfortunately has been taken over by the majority and maladaptive form.

    Wasn’t one of Obama’s slogans “Yes, we can”? He didn’t say “Yes, I can”. The fact that people had such expectations of him shows the dependency that dominant hierarchies induce.

    Perhaps we all need to say “Yes, WE can” 100 times a day until we all start going out and getting organized in our neightbourhoods and communities. People spontaneously do it after disasters. Isn’t our current level of disasters sufficient to have a go at it? ME

  59. Ziyu says:

    I found a new solar heat engine design that seems pretty cheap since the overall design doesn’t require expensive materials or parts. Is there any way to build one of these to test it out on the small scale?

  60. An Australian Government appointed scientific group, The Climate Commission, released a useful report today (Monday, AEST), The Critical Debate, written by Dr Will Steffen.

    The Commission’s website is:

    The report is available at

    There are a lot of news reports in the Australian press about it. Including:

    The report is very up-to-date and filled with graphics. The budget approach to climate targets in chapter 3 was the best (clearest) explanation of this concept and its implications for policy that I’ve seen.

  61. Brent Roberts says:

    Just saw a rather interesting (and terrifying) website called Other than the stuff about planetary alignments causing earthquakes, (which I think is unlikely) is there any seriously flawed science in is description? What do you think of it?

  62. Sailesh Rao says:

    Merrelyn #58: A catalyst is something that accelerates the change. Change can occur without the catalyst, but it is likely to be a lot slower. The holocaust is nearly complete for the tiger, the lion, the elephant, the jaguar and numerous other magnificent species and I think that we can use a catalyst – if there is any.

    The catalyst could be a person or a thing or a focused challenge that engages the youth of the world such as in the Great Power Race ( ). I firmly believe that the latter is a surer catalyst than Obama as he is tied down with Lilliputian strings by the US Congress.

  63. paulm says:

    @60 Brent, there is going to be a big decline in population and species. It may even happen before 2050.

    The decline will probably start around 2015 due to food shortages and mass disruption form unrelenting extreme events.

  64. prokaryotes says:

    Tornadoes hammer central U.S.
    String of storms leave path of destruction and death in several states

  65. Matt says:

    The Australian Climate Commission (ACC hehe) has released its Critical Decade report.

    Full report:

    Key messages:

    Nothing new here for readers of CP, to be honest, but it is a government finally attempting to clarify and explain the problem and the need to act. I like the layout too.

  66. Clive says:

    First, I just want to make it clear that I am not trying to tell anyone what to do, how to act. That is the responsibility of each individual. I am enquiring into the assumptions we have made about what constitutes effective and right action.

    Merrelyn #56: I have no doubt Krishnamurti has been misrepresented, many times. The question arises: who decides what is the truth, who has ‘really understood’? One cannot use his words as any form of authority (as he said many times). In fact we cannot accept ANY authority when enquiring into what is true and what is right action (scientific authority is another matter perhaps). So we need to consider each others’ words on their own merit.

    We have to find out if human nature is capable of change – although I prefer the term transformation. I mean really find out, actually, not just discuss it intellectually. If it is not then we are truly doomed. The trouble is that overwhelmingly people try to fix the problems (if they do try to fix them) from within the framework of the present human nature/consciousness. And, as we can observe, that merely creates new problems, and continues the chaos.

    Sailesh #51: What do you mean by catalyst? A new leader? A new ideology? A new political party? We have had all those in abundance, and where have they led us? Surely as long as we look for something external to solve our problems, (both inner and outer) then we are paralysed? As long as we look for help, guidance, then will we be able to make this transformation in consciousness that is so obviously necessary?

    This discussion naturally leads us to this question: what is the nature of this transformation of consciousness? How can it come about? Perhaps at this stage there will be complaints this is “off topic” and too philosophical. Or perhaps not. But really it is the only question.

    Even if somehow we manage to scrap up some sort of partial solution to climate change, I am sure that I do not need to inform all of you on the forum there is a plethora of other crises about to overwhelm us. I will not even list them. And we are creating new ones all the time with the power of our advancing technology – nanotechnology, genetic engineering, the marriage of electronics and the brain, I am sure many of you know more about these things than me. Where is the intelligence and compassion to guide our use of these things? Rather than the present driving forces – greed, the lust for power, competitiveness?

    To put it simply, I suggest that society IS us. We have created all the inhumanity of the systems, the corruption of religions and institutions, it is the human mind that has created all this. And unless the mind changes fundamentally, then society will not change, and it will continue in its destructive ways.


  67. Mark says:

    Joe, you’re one of my heroes! Thanks for CP, and alas, I’m hoping you can do yet another thing with it…. I’m getting busier and finding it hard to keep up. Somedays I’m interested in some current event, other days politics, and other days just plain old earth science. Does your blog environment allow you to tag your own posts with some general categories, so users can filter what they read based on the tags?

    Keep up the great work!

    [JR: Thanks. I am switching over to tags next week as part of a massive redesign. I hope this will prove better than the categories, but I really don’t know.

    But I don’t expect people to read every post. Like you, people are interested in different things, sometimes on different days. I’m probably going to be shooting for around 8 to 10 posts a day, including the news Roundup. Where]

  68. Mark says:

    @Clive (66), you asked “what is the nature of this transformation of consciousness? How can it come about?”

    In my experience working with teens, they learn best when they make choices, have to live with the results, and someone’s around to point out the connection. Applied to climate change (and all those other crises), that picture ain’t pretty. I mainly find hope by imagining how our cultural mythos will change. Will the Noah story end with “Go forth and subdue the earth” or “Go forth and take care of the Earth, and keep control of yourselves so you stay in balance with creation’s limits”?

  69. Sailesh Rao says:

    Clive #66: Good questions and I’m glad that we’re having this conversation. We have also had numerous individual transformations – the Himalayas are full of meditating rishis – and where have those led us? Does social transformation occur through a multitude of spontaneous individual transformations (society IS us) or does individual transformation occur as a result of social transformation (organizing through the second principle)? Einstein addressed this precise question in his thought provoking essay at

    but, I’m not sure that his prescription of socialism would go down well in the modern era.

    In the Cosmic Fig Tree story in the Rig Veda, the lame child who opts out of the misery and suffering accumulated by those wishing under the tree attains happiness through detachment paired with compassion.

    Detachment without Compassion leads to apathy while Compassion without Detachment leads to Empathic torture.

    Detachment satisfies the individual’s need for freedom, while Compassion satisfies his/her social need to connect.

    But, I’m no doubt just a blind man describing the Elephant:

    Thanks for all the great comments.

  70. Iain says:

    May 21, Rapture.
    I had a giggle about a story shared with me. I have not confirmed the authenticity of the story but I found it to be brilliant.

    A group of Canadian college boys headed to the bible belt of the US and found themselves many customers willing to pay for the care of their beloved pets post-May 21. I don’t really care how they pulled it off, but apparently they earned in excess of $150,000!

    True or not, it is a funny story. Religion takes advantage of us non-believers at every corner…despite having no fixed religion as being the majority in spiritual beliefs in North America. Giving it back sometimes feels good, if only briefly.

  71. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Clive #66. “We have to find out if human nature is capable of change”.

    Clive, please go back and read my comment #56. You may be interested in my latest paper ‘Fiddling while the planet burns: the scientific validity of chaordic systems thinking’, that has just been published online in the refereed journal ‘Systems Research and Behavioral Science’ at Wiley. I can’t work out any other way of informing you about this without violating their guidelines for use.

    There is as much misinformation in social science as there is about climate science but I assure you that we do not have to speculate about human consciousness. There is a solution to changing current behaviour patterns but I doubt we have time now to put it into action on the grand scale that is now required.

    Zetetic from the Creationist thread, you may also be interested if you are lurking around on this thread. No offence taken but I do know how science works and I practice it, ME

  72. PurpleOzone says:

    Cuccinelli has filed in court to challenge the EPA to reconsider findings that greenhouse gases are harmful. The legal brief is justified mainly on account of EPA didn’t consider ‘climategate’ (sic).
    The brief refers to a lot of other similar cases or something.

  73. Clive says:

    If I may start with another quote from Krishnamurti:
    “If a madman were to arrange the affairs of the world, he couldn’t do a worse job”

    Mark #68 It may be that hope keeps us asleep, is a factor in inhibiting us from fundamental change. Does hope prevent us from seeing things as they are? Are we frightened of facing the facts? Surely we cannot act on what is until we actually see it, clearly, without turning away from it?

    Sailesh #69 I doubt if those fellows in the Himalayas are truly transformed. I have seen them, and they are merely following a tradition. They are comparing themselves with some image of what transformation means. So they are still conditioned. Surely transformation implies freedom from all conditioning?

    I am concerned with with meeting the issues of daily life, not retiring from the world. I think we are all concerned with what is the right action, – with regard to climate change, yes, but also with regard to the whole issue of living. Transformation cannot be apart from action, can it?

    I will read the essay by Einstein, thanks – but I think it is clear that if anyone tries to impose ANY prescription on the world, he will just meet tremendous resistance, opposition. That is exactly what the world is, a violent jumble of conflicting ideas, ideologies, identifications, religious beliefs, political persuasions. I cannot see that there is any possibility of change by throwing in another one!

    Sailesh, the story of the blind men and the elephant and the Buddha contains a tremendous truth for me. It tells us that our present perceptions are limited. Being limited, they must lead to more confusion and division. By perception, I mean thought, because thought is the very heart of our problem (I don’t mean technical, necessary thought). It is thought that has divided the world. Thought that has created the self, the ego. Seeing this, seeing that thought (which is me) MUST be limited, whatever it approaches – that is all that is needed for transformation.

    Merrelyn # 71 – I was not aware that I was speculating about human consciousness. I only have to observe myself to see it as it is. One does not have to be very learned, go through a lot of reading and academic study to understand oneself. And oneself is the world. The whole book of life is within me, if I care enough to read it.

    However, I will read the paper, if I can, and get back to you. And what part of #56 is it that you are referring to in particular?

    Thanks so much to all those participating in this enquiry


  74. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Clive, the problem is not inside the individual, the person. People change their behaviour in different environments. An organizational structure functions as an environment for the people who live and/or work within it.

    Dominant hierarchies which are everywhere in our society from our rep democracies to most of our workplaces and still many of our families, induce competition, self interest and greed, those behaviours that are rapidly destroying our people and our planet.

    It doesn’t have to be like this. We know how to change those organizational structures to ones in which people’s behaviour changes to cooperation and caring for each other and the planet. And it happens quickly, ME

  75. Richard Brenne says:

    Couldn’t both Merrelyn and Clive be right?

  76. prokaryotes says:

    Japan Meteorological Agency
    Tropical Cyclone Advisory #31
    15:00 PM JST May 24 2011

    SUBJECT: Category Two Typhoon In Sea East Of Philippines

    At 6:00 AM UTC, Severe Tropical Storm Songda (975 hPa) located at 12.5N 130.2E has 10 minute sustained winds of 60 knots with gusts of 85 knots. The cyclone is reported as moving west northwest at 9 knots.

    Storm Force Winds
    50 NM from the center

    Gale Force Winds
    170 NM from the center in northeastern quadrant
    150 NM from the center in southwestern quadrant

    Dvorak Intensity: T3.5

    Forecast And Intensity
    24 HRS: 13.2N 128.0E – 75 knots (CAT 3/Strong Typhoon)
    48 HRS: 15.1N 125.4E – 80 knots (CAT 3/Strong Typhoon)
    72 HRS: 17.7N 122.9E – 85 knots (CAT 4/Very Strong Typhoon)

    Sat animation of Songda as it undergoes rapid intensification

  77. Sailesh Rao says:

    Clive # 73: Yes, the world is a violent jumble of conflicting ideas, ideologies, identifications, religious beliefs and political persuasions. This is why I believe that we need a “catalyst” to align human efforts sufficiently. Here’s a short video from Simon Sinek on this subject:

    Richard Brenne #75: Correct, I also think that they are both right. I think of it as two views of the same elephant. Third is the view that as long as the stoking and fulfillment of “desires” is the objective function of mankind in its mistaken “pursuit of happiness”, the current mess is inevitable, regardless of how society is organized. And, fourth is the view that “separation” of mankind from Nature results in ruination as Charles Eisenstein points out in the Ascent of Humanity. Fifth is the view that as long as humans consider themselves “superior” to other life forms and consider themselves biologically sculpted in the spitting image of God, they will stupidly kill off all “worthless” life forms and commit hara-kiri. Sixth is the view that as long as humans seek infinite life expectancy in the impermanent material realm, they will drive the life expectancy of other life forms to ZERO and thereby extinguish themselves (shades of the Second Law of Thermodynamics).

    I believe that all six views describe the same elephant.

  78. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Oh dear! Science loses another battle. Never mind, it will win the war, ME

  79. Clive says:

    Richard #75 – I hope we are not arguing, presenting opposite views. By thinking together it should be possible to arrive at what is true.

    Merrelyn #74 – Am I right is thinking what you are saying is: change man’s environment and his nature will change?

    Clearly there is some truth in that. People respond to a better work place with greater production, children are happier in educational environments that are not focused on endless competition. Leaving the congestion of the city for the quiet space of the wilderness, we feel different, lighter. Yet I would not say that these examples represent a fundamental change in consciousness. I do not see any evidence that such environmental changes can eliminate the self and all its manifestations.

    Hmmm – the example comes to mind of the various revolutions in history, including the communist revolutions. However well intentioned they might have been, in the end man’s nature always asserted itself, and recreated society in its own image. Is that not so?

    Merrelyn, I also am saying “it doesn’t have to be like this”. But as long as people focus on social, environmental change alone, on outer reformation, while ignoring the inward revolution, I am afraid the outlook for the world will remain very grim indeed. Because our actions will continue to create confusion and destruction.


  80. Clive says:

    Sailesh, all these views that you mention are all factors, certainly. But I have to question this idea that we need a ‘catalyst’ to change. As long as people look to an outside agency to change – a religious belief, a new technology, a new idea, a new leader, does that not indicate they are not really serious about changing? Are they are just lazy, waiting for someone else to do the work.

    We have seen a great many leaders in history. Like Genghis Khan, Hitler, Stalin, and they have been ‘effective’ in their way! Ok, I am cherry picking, but can you name any leaders who have actually changed the world fundamentally? [ you are going to say Martin Luther, aren’t you :-) ]. Leaders become leaders because they are hungry for power, and can that ever bring about goodness and right action?

    We have to become ‘a light to ourselves’, only then can we act from intelligence. To follow another can never be intelligent, surely?

    What do you say?


  81. Clive says:

    This thread of discussion started from a quotation from J Krishnamurti, and I would like to present another one here. Not in the spirit of authority, but he has a way of putting things succinctly and movingly. It is incredibly relevant when we look for right action with regard to climate change, and all the disasters pouring through the door. Incidentally there is a book by him called “On Nature and the Environment”

    “ A new consciousness and a totally new morality are necessary to bring about a radical change in the present culture and social structure. This is obvious, yet the Left and the Right and the revolutionary seem to disregard it. Any dogma, any formula, any ideology is part of the old consciousness; they are the fabrications of thought whose activity is fragmentation – the Left, the Right, the centre. This activity will inevitably lead to bloodshed of the Right or of the Left or to totalitarianism. This is what is going on around us. One sees the necessity of social, economic, and moral change but the response is from the old consciousness, thought being the principal actor. The mess, the confusion, and the misery that human beings have got into are within the area of the old consciousness, and without changing that profoundly,every human activity – political, economic or religious – will only bring us to the destruction of each other and of the earth. This is so obvious to the sane”.

  82. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Clive #79. I am writing specifically about the impact of the two genotypical, organizational design principles on human behaviour.

    I know it is difficult to believe until you see these things in action but when we change the design principle in an organization from a structure based on the first principle (DP1) to one based on the second principle (DP2), people’s behaviour changes rapidly. And that behaviour includes affects and beliefs as well as the more observable phenomena such as cooperation and forms of communication.

    We have been routinely doing this for many years now and the results are well documented. The real human nature is to be purposeful, not nasty, not nice, but purposeful. In DP2 structures, people work together as the responsible purposeful systems they really are and they grow psychologically in the process. You can find some of this stuff at and Hope those links work, ME

  83. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Clive, I mainly agree with you @80. The USA has generated a cult of ‘leadership’, even calling their CEOs ‘leaders’.

    I believe there is a form of genuine leadership that involves very good ideas that people adopt bcause they are genuinely good ideas for everyone. But that form of following is voluntary and intelligent. It is not to be compared with following what your CEO says when if you don’t, you lose your job. That is simply dependency, a very maladaptive dynamic, and we are awash with it, ME

  84. Sailesh Rao says:

    Clive #80: Perhaps, I can make myself clearer with a concrete example for what a “catalyst” could be. During this Spring semester, our NGO, Climate Healers, issued a design challenge to the Engineering community for a stored energy solar cook stove that can be deployed in villages surrounding forest regions of India and throughout the world with the aim of minimizing firewood usage. Students from the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Iowa, Iowa City, took up the challenge and worked on a solution during the semester. Here’s the web site for the challenge:

    The first prototype of the “Hawkeye” cook stove was unveiled earlier this month in Iowa City. It was clear that the Iowa students had poured their all into the project, learned a lot, but they were somewhat disappointed that their cook stove prototype didn’t work as expected. There were a couple of issues in the prototype: the solar concentrators were not very effective because the students tried to polish the aluminum sheets in their machine shop. Secondly, they used wet sand in the storage medium which was resulting in the steam clouding up their energy intake path. But, the great part was how motivated and dedicated the students were. Their guide, Prof. H. S. Udaykumar told us that the students were working pretty much on their own throughout the semester. And, Prof. Udaykumar is eager to rework the design in the fall with a fresh batch of Mechanical Engineering students.

    We’re still waiting for the report from Iowa, but the report from the UC Berkeley students is on the E4C web site. The Berkeley students also had a great presentation on Thursday, May 12 at Blum Hall on the UC Berkeley campus.

    One lesson we learned during the project is that it is difficult to coordinate a collaboration across college boundaries. However, as you can see from the Berkeley report, this project has ignited the students with so many great ideas pouring forth, which brings me to the proposed “catalyst”.

    During Fall this year, Climate Healers would like to sponsor a contest for student groups working on this problem in various Universities perhaps under the aegis of Engineers for a Sustainable World, and perhaps as part of a Mechanical Engineering Design Project course as the U Iowa students are doing. Each student group will be paired with a village in the Kumbalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary area of Rajasthan, India. We envisage that the designs would be judged by the Engineering Community at Engineering for Change (ASME, IEEE and EWB members) and the top 3 entries will be facilitated to visit India and build their solution in their village, hosted by local NGO partners. The villagers will select the winner based on how much use the cook stove receives in the respective households. If none of the solutions get used on a consistent basis, then the contest continues until such solutions are found.

    Such a purposeful task seems to channel the energies of the students (the Iowa and Berkeley students were working day and night without anyone prodding them to do so), gets them motivated to understand the lives of the forest dwellers since their goal is to get them to use their design. It seems to go well with what Merrelyn has observed in #82 and #83.

    Of course, if there are obvious flaws in what we are proposing to do, please feel free to point them out. Thanks!!

  85. 6thextinction says:

    me #82 and all joining this conversation:

    if any of you have worked in many groups, you’ve recognized (without knowing it) merrelyn’s dp2 structure’s typical form and results, but i think we who are lucky enough to have the experience conclude it is the make-up of the group, or the stars’ alignment, or timing, or some such piece of luck. i wish i had heard of this years ago and am anxious to learn more about it. thank you for educating us.

  86. Merrelyn Emery says:

    6thextinction, I am just so delighted I found CP I just want to contribute whatever I can, ME

  87. Clive says:

    Merrelyn #82 – I would not dispute that human behaviour can be modified. And obviously belief systems, values can change. The human mind can be conditioned in various ways, through various techniques, usually variations of reward and punishment – otherwise how could there be advertising and propaganda? But up to now the hard core of the self, the centre of thought and activity, has remained (except perhaps in a few individuals).

    Do you think the self can be wiped away by the impact of organisational design principles?