Weekend Open Thread

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"Weekend Open Thread"

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

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51 Responses to Weekend Open Thread

  1. Phillip Y says:

    A question I posted elsewhere (probably under an article that was not directly relevant) within CP, but I didn’t get a response:

    I ask if the mechanical motion of methane bubbles, as it ascends from a shallow seabed, may keep the water liquid even in freezing temperatures (analogous to “freezing rain” in an ice storm). If so, this may constitute a significant positive feedback in its own right. Is this speculation warranted?

  2. Lewis C says:

    Phillip – I’ve yet to read of observations of the effect you describe in a marine environment, but the scientists researching methane output from Siberian tundra melt pools spoke of it specifically, i.e. that so much methane was bubbling out that the pools were unable to freeze.

    The precise dynamics of how the bubbles achieved that effect were not discussed, but it looks to be a subject warranting serious research as a further potential driver of cryosphere decline.

    Maybe it would be worth posing the question on the website ‘Cryosphere Today’ or Skeptical Science ?

    Regards,

    Lewis

  3. Joan Savage says:

    “US nuclear units monitor rising Mississippi River”

    http://af.reuters.com/article/energyOilNews/idAFN0629012320110506

    HOUSTON, May 6 (Reuters) – Nuclear power-plant operators
    are monitoring forecasts for the rising waters of the
    Mississippi River and preparing to shut plants later in the
    month if flooding threatens access to sites or operation of
    plant safety systems, a regulator said on Friday.”
    (excerpt from longer article)

  4. Chris (from Vancouver) says:

    I made the same comment a couple of days ago on another post about the Canadian election win for Stephen Harper’s con’s being bad for progress on climate change legislation.

    Friday April 29th there was a leak on an Alberta pipeline. At first officials said only a few hundred barrels had leaked. Then we had an election on Monday May 2nd. Tuesday May 3rd it was announced that 28 000 barrels had leaked, the largest Alberta pipeline leak in 36 years.

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/story/2011/05/06/alberta-oil-spill-plains-briefing.html

  5. Mossy says:

    Returning to the omnipresent examples of severe weather — We’re hearing a lot about the Mississippi floods, but Bill McKibben’s home state of Vermont is also flooding. Lake Champlain is at the highest level on record, and the ubiquitous “I’ve never seen anything like this,” is quoted in articles.

    See: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42932762/ns/weather/

    Methinks the costs of recovering from all these man-enhanced “natural” disasters is going to impede the “economic recovery” a tad!

  6. Jeff Huggins says:

    Shaken Not Stirred

    Don’t ya just love old movies? It has been so long that I think we can categorize 1974 as old now. I was fifteen then.

    The James Bond movie that year was ‘The Man With The Golden Gun’. (Roger Moore, Britt Ekland, Christopher Lee, etc.)

    In the movie, some great scientist (I think he ends up dead and only played a side-part) had invented some great device for collecting and efficiently concentrating solar energy into electricity. That’s the valuable property in the movie — the one that the good guys and bad guys are competing for. The movie’s context involves the energy crisis. The good guys realize the immense importance of solar energy. The bad guys do too, but they just want to sell to the highest bidder, including the distinct possibility (mentioned in the movie) that the oil folks will want to keep the solar technology “out of the picture”, so to speak, so that solar energy won’t replace oil.

    That was 1974. 37 years ago. In a James Bond movie.

    Alas, in too many ways we haven’t progressed one inch since then. So again, I’d like to ask for, or help catalyze, or (whatever) some serious discussion about what we’ll need to do differently. I assume that many people are having such discussions? I don’t see any signs of them, though.

    In any case, it’s a fun movie if you haven’t seen it or seen it recently.

    Cheers,

    Jeff

  7. Greg Gorman says:

    Both CREDO and Catskill Mountain Keeper sent out an alert regarding an application filed with the Delaware River Basin Commission by Exxon Mobil’s subsidiary XTO Energy for hydrogen development (fracking). The application requests to withdraw up to 250,000 gallons of water every day from the Oquaga Creek, a native trout stream near Cooperstown NY that flows to the West Branch of the Delaware River. DRCB gave 10 days notice of a hearing scheduled on May 11 in Trenton, about four hours from the local NY communities affected by the application. This is being considered prior either NY Governor’s Office or DRBC making a decision to allow fracking in this vicinity. For more information see:

    http://www.state.nj.us/drbc/dockets/D-2010-022-1.pdf

  8. Jeff M. says:

    NPR has a good quick piece reporting on a study that notices the effects climate change is already having on global maize production:

    http://www.npr.org/2011/05/07/135952277/worlds-farmers-feel-the-effects-of-a-hotter-planet

    Good stuff

  9. English Mark says:

    More on food and climate change in the Guardian report on a new paper in Science.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/may/05/food-prices-global-warming

  10. Nancy says:

    I’m very impressed with the students and faculty at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) who are protesting the school’s choice of Rex Tillerson, Exxon CEO, as commencement speaker on May 14. The students invited Richard Heinberg of the Post Carbon Institute to be their green commencement speaker.

    http://www.incitytimesworcester.org/?p=6925

  11. Lisa Boucher says:

    So it looks like Canadian conservatives are better at containing information leaks than petroleum ones.  That reminds me of the perpetual lies from the establishment press about the climate and our heedless tampering with it.

    When will the rich and powerful admit the truth?  On their deathbeds?  Never?

    James Kunstler recent observed that “lying is the new normal” in a society addicted to fossil fuels.  He wrote, “Ignorance is one thing, lying to ourselves all the time, about absolutely everything, is something else.”

    I would like to have some hope for the future, but what I see is a civilization acting just like an addict, spiraling to its demise.

    Or as Elizabeth Kolbert wrote in Field Notes from a Catastrophe (2006):

    “With six billion people on the planet, the risks are everywhere apparent. A disruption in monsoon patterns, a shift in ocean currents, a major drought — any one of these could easily produce streams of refugees numbering in the millions.  As the effects of global warming become more and more difficult to ignore, will we react by finally fashioning a global response?  Or will we retreat into ever narrower and more destructive forms of self-interest?  It may seem impossible to imagine that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we are now in the process of doing.”

  12. Gord says:

    There is a trend that seems to be growing among conservatives. It has to do with personal privacy. Person privacy seems to be at the top or near the top when various policies are considered and decisions made based upon them.

    Recently in Florida a bill that bans pediatricians from asking about weapons in the household where a new baby will live is about to be signed into law. The reason given is the personal privacy of the gun owner trumps asking about the environment the new child will live in.

    In Canada the Harper government banned the long form census saying it was too intrusive into person privacy. The head of Stats Canada resigned as a result saying that the ban will skew all census results in perpetuity. Better the governments at all levels have less information to allocate resources rather than individual privacy be invaded.

    In Toronto, the office of the mayor does not publish the mayor’s schedule. Why? Because the schedule lists the people or groups the mayor is meeting with. These people have a right to privacy.

    There are legit concerns about personal privacy so this is not a rant against them. However, I see a disturbing trend to hide information and data from the public based upon spurious appeals to ‘personal privacy’.

    This is censorship / secrecy by the back door. The idea that we can use privacy concerns to keep people ignorant so questions can’t be asked seems to be gaining ground.

    Watch for this trend. If I’m correct, we should see much more of this phenomenon going forward.

  13. Peter Sergienko says:

    I realize this is a local thing, but I know there are quite a few Oregonians who read and post here. The link below is to a DEQ page that includes a survey on climate change science and greenhouse gas emissions policy. I took the survey yesterday and the deadline to participate is May 31. The survey is both thoughtful and surprisingly open-ended. Please complete it and pass the link on to fellow climate hawks in Oregon. There are opportunities to post narrative comments, which is just terrific. If there is a word limit to the narrative anwers it must be fairly large–I failed to exceed it.

    http://www.deq.state.or.us/aq/climate/index.htm

  14. mark says:

    Interactive and zoom-able maps and satellite photos about the possible change in the course of the Mississippi River. will it be “Captured” by the Atchafalaya?

    http://www.mappingsupport.com/p/gmap4.php?q=https://sites.google.com/site/gmap4files/p/news/mississippi_course_change.txt&ll=30.417887,-91.201416&t=h&z=9&label=on

    Maybe we dodge the bullet this time…. last I checked projected flow at Red River Landing (1.9 million ft3/sec) is well within the 3.0 million ft3/sec design parameters. Assuming the design was a good one, everything works as planned, and there is no more rain we should be spared the much bigger economic disaster of a river-channel flip.

  15. dbmetzger says:

    Protesters Demand End of Japan’s Nuclear Power
    More than a thousand protesters took to the streets of Tokyo on Saturday to demand an end to all nuclear power in Japan. The demonstration comes a day after Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s decison to shut down the country’s Hamaoka nuclear plant. http://www.newslook.com/videos/311144-protesters-demand-end-of-japan-s-nuclear-power?autoplay=true

  16. Richard Brenne says:

    Mark (#9) – That is a great and important issue that I first became aware of thanks to links in comments here last week (yours first? – then Wit’s End).

    As an example of how helpful such links are, I was riding up a chairlift on Oregon’s Mt. Hood looking at the rapidly disappearing White River Glacier (that has lost 60% of its volume since 1900) with an Army Corps engineer on Sunday and we talked about that.

    He gave me no memorable quote about that (he seemed about as aware of it as readers here have become), but did say that he wouldn’t give me his name so I couldn’t quote him directly, but that many in the Army Corps feel that rebuilding New Orleans is not a good idea – it will just keep flooding.

    Add to that this concern that it could be left high and dry in relation to the Mississippi and thus as America’s most critical river port. . .

    On the one glimmer of good news regarding New Orleans front, the hilarious Harry Shearer (Spinal Tap member and many Simpson’s characters) made an excellent documentary about New Orleans and the Army Corps corruption that has kept it underwater and from completely rebuilding. I saw the documentary and spoke with Shearer about this, and the one glimmer is that the bayous and marshes that comprise the landscape of New Orleans are actually growing and can rise relative to the bedrock of places like Manhattan.

    While the documentary is excellent (I’m talking to Shearer about making a climate change documentary – his skills are that good), I’m afraid it is tilting at windmills (that could help pump out the water). My sense is that the Army Corps has the impossible, thankless task of protecting a doomed city. Of course there could be corruption also, but that is a much smaller concern relative to the laws of physics, geology and hydrology that mostly determine New Orleans’ fate.

    My own list about water relative to New Orleans’ that anyone can add to (or subtract from) if they’d like:

    The Mississippi River levees don’t allow silt from floods to regenerate the bayous (some spillways are slightly reversing this).

    Dams on the Missouri River where most of that silt comes from don’t allow that regeneration.

    New Orleans is naturally subsiding.

    The weight of the city is adding to that subsidence.

    The pumping of water adds to that subsidence.

    The pumping of oil and natural gas in the region is adding to regional subsidence.

    Thousands of miles of shipping canals and canals to install and service oil and natural gas wells and pipelines create more open water relative to the marshes of the bayous.

    The nutria or beaver-rat hybrid imported from South America for fur farms (that never profited anyone, except global nutria numbers) can eat an estimated 25,000 acres of marshland a year.

    The BP and other oil spills can kill grassland as well.

    Sea level has risen 8 inches in the next century and could rise 3 to 5 feet by 2100.

    Global warming means a greater likelihood of higher sea surface temperatures that can intensify hurricanes when they form.

    Other factors? Anyone? Beuhler?

  17. Richard Brenne says:

    Also eight posts below is another epic thread under the heading “Paul Gilding on The Great Disruption.”

    The CP heavyweights (at least figuratively) weigh in (again figuratively) including Merrelyn Emery, Ed Hummel, John McCormick and most notably Lewis C. Coming from his original comment at #24 we had a bit of a spat but then all of us came to a consensus as Merrelyn suggests we all can. Really epic stuff. The link:

    http://climateprogress.org/2011/05/05/paul-gilding-the-great-disruption/#comments

  18. Jeff Huggins says:

    DEFINITELY (and Thanks Nancy)

    Joe and CP, you should definitely cover (ahead of time) the issue that Nancy suggested (in Comment 10) about Rex Tillerson doing the commencement address at WPI. If you read the article at the link Nancy provided, it sounds like a great (and necessary) drama taking place now and in the coming two weeks. It will be quite interesting if both Tillerson and the other guy speak. And it will be quite interesting to see what the students do. Bravo to those students at WPI!

    Cheers,

    Jeff

  19. Daniel Bailey says:

    @ Phillip Y @ #1

    You may want to read this article, based on this study.

  20. mark says:

    Even if it all works right this time, I wonder if US Army Corp will get this event’s flood damage to the control systems repaired before climate change delivers the next 500 year flood in…. a few years from now.

  21. Cindy Franklin says:

    Goldman Sachs owns 49% of the parent company of the company which is proposing building a shipping terminal on the pristine Northwest coast TO SHIP 48 Million metric tons of coal a year to China!!

    “It’s more than a little bit ironic and challenging that, at the same time that Deutsche Bank was declaring coal a dead man walking, the Arch Coals and Peabodys see their future as the geometric expansion of coal-fired power production around the world,” said Macfarlane. “It’s no success to have our climate impact being offshored.”

    http://climatesolutions.org/press-room/press-clips/coal-peabody-defends-asian-coal-shipments-in-west-coast-port-battle

  22. MarkF says:

    “Tuesday May 3rd it was announced that 28 000 barrels had leaked, the largest Alberta pipeline leak in 36 years.”

    Alberta is heading straight and fast towards a very large problem with water shortages.

  23. Christopher Yaun says:

    Burning Down the House

    #16 RB re New Orleans: First off I am native south Louisiana and my first love is anything delta. New Orleans has a host of other problems many manmade. Foremost is this issue of lying to ourselves brought out by LB in #11. NO has been doomed since we built the first levee and nothing we humans do can stop the the river from going down the Atchafalaya Basing when the right weather pattern overwhelms the levee system. We almost lost it in 1973 (74?).

    MR. GO (Mississippi River Gulf Outlet) built by none other than the USACOE to bypass the Mississippi and expedite shipping into New Orleans has allowed salt water to intrude into the marshes east of NO and accelerate their death. Mr GO never lived up to it’s promise, (Houston, Atlanta, Gulfport and others beat NO as the ports of choice). We have been trying to close MRGO for 30 years. After Katrina it was decided that it could be sealed. I think we are still waiting.

    Fly into NO and notice the scars in the marshes surronding the city. The native Red Tide Water Cypress forest were all harvested in the 20th century leaving these terrible scars. The Cypress will never grow back in any time frame that humans understand. Those swamps are dead!

    Grand Isle, How I loved Grand Isle, I spent all my childhood summers there. Katrina scored a direct hit and wiped the place almost clean. It looks so stupid now with all the new mansions on 12foot pilings. Our friends the USACOE rebuilt the beaches at cost of $40million. First they pumped in seven miles of new sand, then they layed 7 miles of 12 foot diameter sausages (sand bags?), three of these, then pumped sand and planted grass to build a beach dune….7 miles long. I wondered why Grand Isle was worth all this expense? Look at a map and discover that Grand Isle is the last dry land before New Orleans. When the sea takes Grand Isle….New Orleans is the next dry land. That $40million beach was the last levee before New Orleans.

    I visited Grand Isle February 2010 for the first time in 30 years. We stopped on the bridge leaving the island, watches a couple of families fishing and hundreds of Dolphins and Pelicans feeding in the bay. I wonder if any of that wildlife survived the oil?

    Dead zone! The dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico caused by nitrogen runoff from the heartland. Hypoxia? Is that the correct word. Chemical Alley, Port Fourchon, but those are another story.

    20-30 years from now we will look back and recognize New Orleans as the “Coal Mine Canary” warning us about the environmental disaster that is the Anthropocene. Humans exploit pristine wilderness to extract minerals and gain access to world markets while destroying the environment.

  24. Christopher Yaun says:

    Burning Down the House

    On the May 5th CP post regarding “Greenland” I posted the following response. The theory that hurricanes transport heat from the equatorial Atlantic to the high latitudes may be an unexplored idea. I was hoping that a reader might have some additional information. Here is my comment from May 6th:

    SA: Yes, it is always more complicated than even the most learned scholar can grasp, but us lay folks have to start somewhere.

    Heat Transport…..not heat transfer….heat transfer is a comparison with a Carnot Engine.

    I meant to suggest that hurricanes serve to transport heat away from the equator. Maybe something like keeping the tropical oceans from “boiling” to use an emotional, sloppy, lay term.

    Since we humans replaced natures spirits with the gods and then again with God and then put the Sun at the center and finally ourselves back at the center of the universe….we have this nasty habit of interpreting everything from a totally human (read “selfish”) perspective.

    Since 2010 was an uneventful hurricane season, meaning that no hurricanes made landfall on US soil, we have decided to say it was “record inactivity”. But that may be wrong. In fact, 11 of the 19 Atlantic hurricanes, and maybe some tropical storms that were never named, moved due north transporting enormous amounts of heat from the equatorial Atlantic to the Arctic especially Greenland.

    Now I am just a lay person….but I own two homes that are a few feet above high tide….and if the observed acceleration of the melting of Greenlands ice is a direct result of AGW….I suspect “record inactivity” of the 2010 Atlantic Hurricane Season may have been a total disaster the impact of which creeps in every increasing slow motion.

    Here is reference from RealClimate that might lend a more learned study of the idea of hurricanes as heat transport. Judging by the language it appears to be a new and unexplored idea.

    From RealClimate.Org
    11. Thomas says:
    24 Apr 2007 at 3:56 PM
    Well, I am only a meteorologist in tiny switzerland. But when I first heard of that study let’s say 4 or 5 days ago one question arose quite fast: As Hurricanes are quite a good way for the atmosphere to move energy near the tropics to the mid-latitudes or, or to put it in another way: get rid of the ‘too much energy’ in the tropics…. well where does this energy go if there were no more hurricanes? Would all be compensated by other means?
    [Response: Excellent question. Actually, there is some interesting work being done by Matt Huber of Purdue, following up on some earlier ideas of Emanuel’s, suggesting that the role of TCs in transporting heat from equator towards the poles may be more significant than previously thought–it also allows for some interesting, though admittedly somewhat exotic, mechanisms for explaining the “cool tropics paradox” and “equable climate problem” of the early Paleogene and Cretaceous periods, i.e. the problem of how to make the higher latitudes warm without warming the tropics much, something that appears to have happened during some past warm epochs in Earth’s history. Feedbacks involving the interaction between greenhouse warming, TC behavior, and its associated impact on poleward heat transport in the ocean, could potentially do the trick. -mike]

  25. Richard Brenne says:

    Christopher Yaun (#24) – That is an excellent line of discussion, and I was going to direct you to Kerry Emanuel’s work when I then saw him mentioned in Mike’s answer to you. You might e-mail Kerry (look in the MIT directory) and if he answers you might share his response with us. In addition to what is known, I’d go to Emanuel for the best current conjecture about what might be going on, because that could take years or even over a decade to prove.

    As I’m sure you know thermohaline circulation of oceans such as the Atlantic’s Gulf Stream are the other prime (and more consistent) means of transferring equatorial heat toward the poles, and I believe El Nino is also important. Any further comments/clarifications/link/sausages?

  26. Richard Brenne says:

    Christopher Yaun (#23) – In my comment above at #25 I was thinking “That’s a great comment by this Christopher guy. I’ll respond to that (#24) and then to that amazing comment at #23 responding to my bringing up New Orleans” and then I find that that was from you as well!

    Thanks for the great additional insights into the region. Very sophisticated stuff. I always felt it was classic Louisiana humor that their most destructive canal would be named “Mr. Go”. (Mississippi River Gulf Outlet canal built from 1956 to 1965 that naturally widened from an average of 650 to 1500 feet, closed in April, 2009 after Katrina’s storm surge used it to flood water into the New Orleans area but scheduled to re-open with surge barriers in place next month.)

    I just wanted to tell you how sorry I am for the loss of your home habitat. The New Orleans, Gulf, bayou and Mississippi mouth areas are some of the most unique and beautiful on the planet, both culturally and naturally.

    I love my hometown Portland, Oregon area as much as anyone I know, but other than our Native Americans Louisiana has a longer, richer and more ethnically and culturally diverse tradition than maybe anyplace in America. And the food!

    Portland (and Vancouver and Victoria BC, Seattle and every coastal community) will someday suffer at the hands of a Cascadia Subduction Zone Earthquake that will knock down an estimated 26% of Portland’s buildings including the most historic brick and masonry ones and probably knock a number of our beautiful bridges out of commission forever.

    As sad as that will be, it still pales in comparison to what has been done and will be done to your homeland. Thank you, Christopher, for your wonderfully heartfelt writing about it, and again you have my most heartfelt condolences for your loss.

  27. catman306 says:

    What’s bad weather where I live? (NE Ga)
    Thunderstorm, flash flood, tornado, hurricane, flood, snowstorm, hard freeze, draught, wildfire.
    The future weather here will surely include frequent extreme examples of many of these.

    Maybe Americans need to be introduced to climate chaos by asking themselves:

    What bad weather has been known to happen where I live? What would living in a time of frequent extreme weather be like?

  28. William P says:

    Again I want to appeal to this blog and its readers to turn the page in climate activism.

    We count ourselves as reality based people, yet we cannot seem to come to the completely supported conclusion that fighting CO2 emission growth is: 1. not succeeding due to the huge power of making more and more money. 2. Even if tomorrow everyone in the world became believers in the dire results of emissions, we have too much carbon up there already and its impacts are unfolding in an unstoppable way.

    Some will say this is defeatism and plain negative thinking. But, as Lovelock points out in one of his recent books, when the doctor comes into the room and delivers the sad news that our loved one is terminal, do we condemn the doctor as being a defeatist?

    We have all contributed in large or small ways to bringing our planet to its current diseased state whereby it cannot control its temperature to support plant and animal life as before. With our money-making carbon emissions we have overwhelmed our beautiful, self-regulating planet. She is headed for her “hot” state now, do what we may.

    So what should occupy us now? Some scientists believe that man can survive the coming cataclysm, true, in only perhaps one-tenth our present numbers.

    We can and should shift our emphasis to facilitating this survival to preserve the best of our creations and insure that survival is successful. Even if survival is possible on an earth with decimated food production, it is very much not a sure thing.

    Secretary Clinton herself yesterday addressed this fact indirectly without naming the culprit – global warming. She ominously warned of worldwide chaos that can result from nations limiting and hording food supplies. We already see this happening. It can cause governments to collapse and leave we know not what in their places, she suggested.

    The clear outlines of a very potential Mad Max world can be seen now.

    Again, we may not succeed, but on the other hand we must not stand by, simply wringing our hands over each new outrage of the Deniers and the Avoiders. But this is how we are spending our energies, instead of getting to work on a plan to bring man through on the other side of this self-imposed climax.

    Let’s get to work. If not people like Climate Progress participants, who?

  29. Vic says:

    “Mechanical defects” or cracks were found in the protective casings of 37 control rods at the Kozloduy nuclear plant in Belgium.  As a result, the operator ordered the replacement of all 61 control rods and their casings at the 1,000-megawatt reactor number 5. 

    This is the second such incident at Kozloduy within the past year, after similar cracks were found in 31 control rods of the number 6 reactor.

    At that time, all of the control rods and casings were similarly replaced and the plant’s chief executive was sacked.

    http://www.nuclearpowerdaily.com/reports/Cracks_found_in_protective_casings_at_Bulgaria_nuclear_plant_999.html

  30. Vic says:

    Bulgaria sorry, not Belgium.

  31. Prokaryotes says:

    Berlin may offer tax breaks for electric cars after all

    To subsidize or not to subsidize: The German government has been torn over using taxpayer money to kick-start the market for electric autos. But its resistance now appears to be waning.

    Just days after German Economics Minister Rainer Brüderle spoke out against electric car subsidies, rumors are afloat that the government does indeed plan to commit billions of euros to put a million e-cars on the road by 2020.
    http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,15051420,00.html

    Bruderle also visits climate sceptic meetings-

  32. Clare says:

    Just for your interest for those up in the Northern Hemisphere-

    Jim Hansen arrives in NZ this week:
    James Hansen will be touring New Zealand …giving a public lecture entitled “Climate Change: a scientific, moral and legal issue” in Auckland, Palmerston North, Wellington, Dunedin, Gore and Christchurch. Coal and lignite will be a major focus of his visit, and he’ll be participating in a symposium on “the future of coal” in Wellington on May 17th. Solid Energy’s CEO Don Elder will also be there, which should guarantee an interesting divergence of opinion. Hansen will also visit Southland to see the site of Solid Energy’s proposed lignite developments.
    Hansen’s tour is being sponsored by a number of groups, including 350.org, Greenpeace, Organic Systems NZ, Oxfam, The Pure Advantage (business leaders group), the Institute of Policy Studies, and a number of interested academics and individuals. Announcing the tour, Jeanette Fitzsimons, spokesperson for the coalition bringing Dr Hansen to New Zealand said “Dr Hansen will explain why we cannot get climate change under control and preserve a decent future for our grandchildren unless we leave most of the remaining coal in the ground”.
    from:

    http://hot-topic.co.nz/jim-hansen-to-tour-nz-dates-announced/

    Clare

  33. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Gord #12. Very important observation. Thats why we need Wikileaks more than ever before, ME

  34. catman306 says:

    I’m reposting this from the Extreme Weather Video thread so more people can see this and realize that in the US grain belt there’s only one more week left to plant before it’s too late. The growing season is only so long.

    Killing Waters in the Heartland
    It doesn’t have to be a flood to be a threat

    It’s too wet to plant even where there is no flood

    http://www.dailyimpact.net/ 2011/ 05/ 05/ killing-waters-in-the-heartland/

  35. Hans G Ehrbar says:

    Last Friday at a fundraiser for the people arrested for
    civil disobedience during the PowerShift conference, the
    brave six from Utah told the Salt Lake City audience about their
    experiences and their thinking. Many of them said their
    goal was to tell our leaders to do more because of climate
    change. Although I admire their commitment and bravery and
    encourage everybody to contribute money for their legal
    defense, I think making our leaders finally listen is a
    wrong strategy. It is like taking a bullhorn and telling
    the captain of a supertanker to turn the ship around. A
    supertanker can turn only very gradually, there is nothing
    the captain can do about its turning radius.

    What is needed is a re-engineering of the supertanker
    itself. Here the supertanker metaphor fails; it is not
    possible to re-engineer a supertanker at sea. But our
    society does not consist of metal plates, our society is
    made a reality and reproduced every day by people, and
    people can change their behavior in an instant.

    It does not always mean heroic acts of self-sacrifice, it
    can be as little as bringing up topics of conversation with
    friends and family which differ from what is usually talked
    about in polite company, taking the bus instead of the car
    even if it takes more time and is more expensive, spend your
    free time not in a movie but in a climate change event, etc.
    There are hundreds of things each of us can do differently,
    let nobody tell you that there is no alternative, that we
    have to wait for Obama or even the powershift kids to save
    us.

    Some things may be uncomfortable but not all the necessary
    changes are illegal or dangerous. Giving up the illusion
    that we can save the environment while preserving capitalism
    and growth, that we can continue our resource-intensive
    lifestyles if we only switch to solar electricity and
    electric cars, that our consumption decisions are our
    private matter and it is ok to fly if we can afford it,
    recognizing that time spent debating with friends and family
    and building social networks and organization is a good and
    necessary investment because none of us can do it alone,
    etc, this may be new and therefore uncomfortable but it is
    part of what the greatest crisis in the history of humankind
    is demanding of us.

    Everyone will have to make their carbon footprint much
    smaller. But if those of us who are aware of the danger use
    all their energies to make their own carbon footprints
    smaller, then we are abandoning our brothers and sisters.
    The main purpose of our actions at this point in time must
    be to change the social structure. I am not flying not only
    because I don’t want to be personally responsible for the
    future death of children somewhere on this planet, but also
    because I want the airline companies to go bankrupt. I am
    using as little electricity as I can so that I won’t give
    RMP the excuse to build more fossil or nuclear power plants.

    Changing individual behavior is necessary for changing the
    social structure, but it is not the same as changing the
    social structure. Indeed, it is incredibly difficult to
    change a social structure. If I take the bus, the roads
    will have fewer cars and therefore those with cars will
    benefit. Therefore I have to ask myself: what else do I
    have to do in addition to taking the bus so that my effort
    is not stolen by those who don’t care or don’t know that
    they make the planet unliveable? If the airline companies
    go bankrupt, what can we do so that the employees are not
    punished for the wrong investment decisions of the airline
    owners? Is it ethical of me to stay nonviolent if the enemy
    is violent? Many questions of this kind need to be asked
    and resolved if our aim is to change the social structure in
    which we all live.

    I am spending Mother’s day, for mother Earth, writing this
    email for three reasons:

    (1) because I need you to tell me where I am off
    (2) because everything I do will be in vain if not many more
    people join the movement,
    (3) because the new society we have to build will not
    only have me in it but you too.

    If the masses were to focus their strategic skills and
    ingenuity not on sports or reality TV but on the task of
    changing our social structure and the role each particular
    individual can play in this, then we all would be amazed how
    quickly things will indeed change.

    Hans G Ehrbar
    Associate Professor
    University of Utah

    Here is the web site for donations for the people
    arrested at the PowerShift conference

    http://www.peacefuluprising.org/action-alert-donate-to-the-power-shift-30s-legal-fund-20110429

  36. Mickey says:

    I noticed a few were commenting on the Conservatives winning a majority in Canada who are probably the least environmentally friendly party. I wouldn’t take their win as an endorsement of doing nothing on climate change. In fact climate change was barely mentioned during the campaign. Living in the GTA where they picked up several seats and enough to win a majority, this is the sense I got from talking to people. People were sick of minority governments and they wanted stability. Also Canada came through the recession better than others so many voted for whom they thought was strongest on the economy. Finally the NDP surge in Quebec catipalted them ahead of the Liberals. This caused many progressives to flee to the NDP in Ontario thinking they were the best party to defeat the Tories when in fact this just split the vote. Many right of centre Liberals (we call them Blue Liberals) were spooked by the thought of an NDP government so they bolted to the Tories. On the positive side Canada elected its first Green MP so next time around she will likely be in the debates meaning climate change will be an issue.

    I think the lesson here is if the topic isn’t discussed don’t assume people will automatically vote for the party with the best plan. On this issue Canadians lean to the left, but on issues like taxes or crime more to the right. Also, another lesson is people vote based on what will impact them most in the next few years not 20-30 years down the road. The same reason people in their 20s don’t think much about the Pension crisis although they should. That is the greatest challenge for climate change as the changes in one or two years won’t be that big and natural factors such as El Nino or La Nina will probably have a greater impact, but over the long-term it will have a greater impact.

  37. Ian says:

    Professor, thanks for your post. I agree with most of your propositions. I’ll take you up on your offer to challenge you.

    Of course changing the social structure is something we need to do. I’m sure you’ve asked yourself the next logical question: how realistic is that? I think most of us would agree its extremely unrealistic. Yes, we can make lots of incremental changes in our own lives to affect those around us. Then if those people start making changes there could be a snowball effect. COULD is the operative word there. Yeah, there are lots of things that could happen but if one just casually glances at human history, it’s clear human beings do not voluntarily make drastic changes. They do it when its absolutely necessary. This is a topic which has been discussed many times on this website and many others and I’m sure you’ve heard these arguments before.

    I found it interesting when you said you don’t fly because you don’t want to be responsible for the death of future children somewhere. By your own logic, you already are. I already am. Everyone is. Yes, you are minimizing your carbon footprint. But you still use carbon. You still eat food from a store. Live/work in buildings powered by coal. You would have to be 100% self-reliant to not be responsible. Of course reducing one’s own carbon footprint is a good thing but using it as a point of moral authority doesn’t make sense to me.

    You talk about giving up on the illusion of saving the environment while being able to preserve capitalism. It’s very possible there are many more illusions at work of which we have no awareness. You ask is it ethical to stay nonviolent? Okay, well what if morality doesn’t matter or doesn’t exist? What if being moral is just being selfish? Do any of us care how many people died during the Revolutionary War? Or WWII? What if all our soldiers decided that they couldn’t kill anyone because its morally unjust? Does anyone care about those who died building the infrastructure of our country? Or those who die from accidents or disease making any of the thousands of products we rely on daily? No. No one cares about that. The only thing that matters is results.

    If you are so concerned with being responsible for the deaths of future children, then why are you even considering your own selfish morality? Why are any of us considering that? Logically, it seems we should consider realistically what is absolutely necessary to prevent climate catastrophe and then execute that plan.

    If we did this, and it involved violence, then what? Who would care in 50 years? No one. Okay, so, what if we actually started resorting to violence? People all across the world would be outraged and the entire environmental/climate change movement would be condemned as lunatics and people would do anything possible to separate themselves from those who seem in any way violent or aggressive. This would make those remaining in the environmental movement committed even more to non-violence and obedience. Hence, violence is not an option.

    So non-violence as a tactic has nothing to do with morality or ethics. Using violence weakens the climate change movement. However, what if violence is, on some level, necessary to stop climate catastrophe? But we have all been indoctrinated to believe that violence is immoral when it really isnt? That is an illusion stronger than the one you mentioned.

    So, this is why you and I are reduced to posting on CP this morning. Because there really is almost nothing significant we can do.

    Sorry, this came out very rant-ish. I’ve been doing that too much lately. Feel free to ignore this post.

    -Ian

  38. espiritwater says:

    Last night and saw this documentary on Fracking– extraction of gas using enormous amounts of very toxic chemicals. The movie was called “Gasland” and it really shocked me! Fracking is taking place in several states out West– Wyoming and Colorado (I forgot the names of all the states), down south in Louisiana and a few states up North. There aren’t just one or two gas sites here and there. No. According to the maps they showed, there are numerous fracking sites in each state– perhaps half of each state– and each individual site covers miles of underground shale rock. Once they do the fracking, all the gas is released, contaminating creeks, streams and wells up to 50 miles away, I think they said– contaminated not only with gas but also all the toxic fracking fluids which were dumped down into the fracking holes. It all seeps back up. It was unbelievable!

    They showed old Cheney riding some kind of electric scooter, dressed in very expensive clothes, laughing about something– similar to the laughs I’ve seen on ExxonMobile’s CEO’s face– that very large, fat CEO, laughing as the whole planet heads toward a Venusian state– a hot, dead planet– mostly because of their devilish policies and mis-deeds.

    The movie was very, very upsetting! The waters in surrounding areas are so contaminated it kills the wildlife. It showed several scenes of people holding a lighter next to the water and the water catching on fire– at creeks, out of peoples’ tap water, out of wells, etc. They said the water smelled like turpentine! The Fracking companies bring in free drinking water, in huge containers for the farmers on the promise they keep quiet about it. It showed where Cheney fixed loopholes in the clean air and water laws for oil/gas companies so they can contaminate as much as they like and not be held accountable.

    All I could think of while I watched it was the children (kids nowdays): when they grow up the land they inherit will have no/very little water which they can drink. With mountain top removal contaminating water and especially with the Fracking business– which keeps expanding– it’s very likely kids nowdays will be able to survive. Fracking covers HUGE areas!! The EPA was called in and they said they saw no reason to do anything (as usual!)– no data proving the contamination was due to the fracking. Really, really sick world!! The wells and streams were fine before the fracking started but black/brown/yellow, toxic, and explosive after the fracking, yet EPA saw nothing wrong.

    Cheney also got a bill passed so his oil/gas buddies could do their destruction on PUBLIC lands. The guy who did the documentary had someone shooting a scene of him wearing a gas mask while standing in front of numerous, tall, smelly fracking sites. He had a gas mask on, playing his banjo, and singing, “this land is your land, this land is my land, from the gulf stream waters… ” and to the side you could see these tall, majestic ancient rocks with inscriptions made by our ancestors (fossils)– this old, old, ancient public grounds with all this gas fracking sh__ all over the place. It would have been funny if it weren’t so tragic. He said he could go wherever he liked because it was public land. No “no-trespassing” signs. Public land with fracking crap all over the place. Our Earth really is being destroyed.

  39. Joan Savage says:

    Mark (#14)

    The map link is awesome. Thanks!

    Based on the Army Corps “Project Flood” plans and regional newscasting around New Orleans, they are definitely headed for an opening of the Morganza Floodway, most likely by Wednesday, May 12, if not earlier.

    So are you interested in whether or not the Mississippi might carve that into a more permanent main channel?

    If the river fits the “Project Flood” design, opening the Morganza splits a maximum 3,000,000 cps main channel flow into two equal parts, putting 1,500,000 cps in the Morganza and 1,500,000 cps that gets further split between Lake Pontchartrain (250,000 cps)via the Bonnet Carré that has already been opened up, and the main channel past New Orleans (1,250,000 cps).

    Here’s a link to the Project Flood summary
    http://www.mvn.usace.army.mil/pao/bro/misstrib.htm

    There’s been a lot of local press in Louisiana about it, such as in the Times-Picayune in New Orleans. The Houma paper was urging people to make plans to move over a week ago.

  40. Hans G Ehrbar says:

    In response to Ian 37:

    (1) Yes it is difficult to change the social structure.
    But it is not impossible. I don’t think the snowball
    effect of many individual changes in behavior will to it.
    It needs a plan, and it needs a social force which is
    strong enough to do it. If environmentalists would get
    the labor movement on their side, this would make
    a huge difference.

    (2) I know that my buying food from the grocery store
    causes the future death of children too. I cannot stop eating.
    But I can stop eating beef, and I can stop flying.
    This is what I am doing.

    (3) I call the idea an illusion that we can save the environment
    and continue to grow our economies. You do not need to
    be an Einstein to see that this is an illusion. And if we
    can no longer grow, we cannot have capitalism either.
    I deliberately called them illusions, because these are simple
    facts which everybody can understand, except many trained economists (I teach at the Econ Department, and unfortunately, economics
    as it is taught most places today is part of the problem,
    not part of the solution).

    (4) I do believe that morality exists, it is not just
    something we invent but some things are clearly bad.
    Many of the economic decisions done these days
    are indeed immoral. Again you don’t have to be a genius
    to see this.

    (5) I don’t believe that the only thing that matters is
    results. If we lose our humanity trying to save the planet,
    we have lost. It is necessary to fight, but this does
    not mean anything goes.

    (6) You say there is nothing significant we can do. I think
    there is lots of significant stuff we can do. We in Utah
    are trying to prevent tar sand and oil shale development in
    Utah. We have a huge copper mine right at the edge of the
    Salt Lake City metropolitan area, and we are trying to force
    Rio Tinto to stop polluting our air and the Great Salt Lake.
    It is mind boggling how much needs to be done and can be done
    which really makes a difference. We will probably not prevent
    major climate catastrophe, but what we achieve now will make
    a big difference to the decimated post-crash population. We
    must give the proof now that other development paths are possible than
    greed and profit.

  41. Ian says:

    Hans, thanks for your reply. Here is my reply to your reply.

    1) There are lots of things which are “not impossible.” It is “not impossible” that next week our civilization will decide to act aggressively on climate change and do everything we possibly can to stop it. It is “not impossible” that an asteroid will hit the earth next week and none of this will matter. To me, it doesn’t seem useful to hope for very, very close to impossible things to happen. There are many, many, many very useful things our civilization could be doing to improve itself and almost all of them are not being done, or not being done on a scale which would be helpful.

    2) Then you haven’t recused yourself from responsibility, according to the logic you presented in your original post. Again, I think your efforts are admirable but merely reducing one’s carbon footprint does not give one any kind of moral authority or expertise.

    3) I agree with you. I think it is an illusion we can save the environment and the economics of endless growth. I wasn’t taking issue with this illusion. I was trying to point out that if you are looking for illusions to dispel, there are other, more potent and dangerous ones working on our minds all the time. The “environment vs. economy” illusion is one that has been addressed many times before and is still being debated endlessly to no positive effect.

    4) Before life existed, there was no such thing as morality. One could successfully argue that morality “exists” but only as chemicals and energy in the brains of conscious creatures. I won’t go any further because this is a discussion which veers greatly outside the scope of Joe’s blog.

    5) So, by your logic, all soldiers during the US Revolutionary War / Civil War / WWI / WWII have lost their humanity. I’m not trying to force you into some trap by suggesting you are anti-american. What I’m implying is that there are very clear situations which have existed in human history in which killing is not only morally acceptable but eventually viewed as heroic. During WWII, essentially it was “anything goes” and winning / “results” was the only thing that mattered. I don’t know if our current situation demands these actions but it is something we shouldn’t dismiss outright as being morally deplorable.

    6) Now we are getting into semantics. “Significant” is subjective. From the perspective of activists and citizens of SLC, stopping Rio Tinto would be a significant victory. From the perspective of our global economy and ecology, that would be very insignificant. There have been many cases throughout history in which the rights of communities have won over corporate interests. In the context of our global civilization, how many people care about those specific cases and how much overall momentum is there for peoples rights over corporate rights? Virtually no one cares and very little momentum. Again there is a big difference between small victories feeling significant emotionally and them actually being significant in the context of human history.

    Hans, I know this post will make me seem like a very not nice person and a stick-in-the-mud. I’m not trying to be that way at all. I’m just trying to point out that it can be very easy to spend time time hoping about things which are “not impossible.” I think that stopping Rio Tinto is significant in terms of improving the health and safety of the people in SLC.

    I think any actions which actually help people, make them safer, increase their chances of survival are really, really great. On this, I think we can agree.

    Hopefully I didn’t come across as being very mean. Thanks, Hans.

    -Ian
    ianwittenber@gmail.com

  42. Hans G Ehrbar says:

    Dear Ian,

    you write in #41: “There are many, many, many very useful
    things our civilization could be doing to improve itself and
    almost all of them are not being done, or not being done on
    a scale which would be helpful.” I agree, and the
    conclusion I am drawing from this is that this is not an
    accident. These many things are not being done because the
    capitalist system is not wired to do them, therefore we have
    to change the system.

    I think your reply to this is that it is near impossible to
    change the system. I agree that it is difficult, but the
    system is not as strong as it seems. It is riddled with
    contradictions.

    Here are two examples what I mean by such contradictions.

    (1) It is not certain if the Utahns will be able to force
    Rio Tinto to adopt cleaner mining practices. But Rio Tinto
    wants to expand their mining operations at the same time
    that Salt Lake City airshed is a non-attainment area under
    the Clean Air Act, and at the same time that copper prices
    and other raw materials prices are rising. This may give is
    some leverage. If we manage, this will have repercussions
    for all mining operations around the world. But even if we
    don’t, this is an excellent opportunity for the many
    activist organizations in Utah to work together and to
    inform the public and build knowledge in their own ranks.
    This gives us opportunities to build our organization
    independent of the Democratic Party or Academia or Big
    Green. (As you can see, in the back of my mind I am always
    thinking about it what is necessary to change the system.)

    (2) Some workers are in danger of losing their jobs because
    of the switch to renewable power, others gain new jobs.
    Some are willing to work with the climate movement because
    they want healthier work places. Lots of opportunity to
    play out our tactical skills. Workers are a powerful force
    because they can go on strike. They are really the only
    counterforce we have in our system agaisnt the corporations.
    It is becoming harder and harder for the corporations to pay
    off the US workers, especially since the US dollar is about
    to lose its status as world money. More contradictions. We
    live in interesting times and things can change very
    quickly.

    Of course there is no guarantee that we can prevent climate
    disaster. Tim DeChristopher said at PowerShift:

    It is probably too late for any amount of emissions
    reductions to prevent the collapse of our Industrial
    civilization. And this doesn’t mean … there is nothing
    left to fight for. … Because that collapse we are on
    track for, there is a huge range of what that is going to
    look like. And that collapse could be an opportunity for
    us to build a better world on the ashes of this one. It
    could be an opportunity for mass reflection and to decide
    that “maybe greed and competition weren’t the best values
    to be basing our civilization off of.”

    This gives me hope that my work will not be wasted
    even if we cannot prevent climate catastrophe.

    Hans

  43. 6thextinction says:

    #28 William P; #35 Hans; #37 Ian

    Thank you all, for a conversation that is so needed here.

    James Hansen, who kept gathering proof of global warming and believed that efforts to combat its effects would thereby follow, is now getting arrested protesting mountain top removal.

    Ian, your arguments against individual actions are proof that you are one of the hundreds of thousands of people who consider themselves environmentalists, but there is no sign of any change in their lifestyles.

    Pablo Casals put it perfectly: “The situation is hopeless–we must take the next step.”

    Please keep posting those next steps, and never mind the data on the hopelessness, since the first seems to be in short supply, while the hopelessness seem to be everywhere.

    My latest conversational change to talk about population and global warming every time a person mentions a birth. It’s not suggested for the faint of heart.

  44. 6thextinction says:

    P.S.. The above effort is the micro; working on the 9/24 action for 350.org is the macro.

    Telling people about 350.org is important, as still so few are aware of it, including your governmental representatives.

  45. Mike # 22 says:

    Hans @ 35, “Giving up the illusion that we can save the environment while preserving capitalism and growth, that we can continue our resource-intensive
    lifestyles if we only switch to solar electricity and electric cars,”

    a) I don’t think anyone is saying that buying a Nissan Leaf and using solar electricity will be effective, “if we only switch”, at sorting this out. It is something people can do, it is an opt out choice, but no one is saying “do this, that fixes it”. However, the experts do say that an electricity program which includes Smart Garage (or some variant), 80 million plug-ins, residential energy efficiency, utilization of available rooftops, cheaper PV, base load solar thermal, wind, and HVDC transmission to move it is about as affordable as BAU and does sort out about 40% of the problem.

    b) Neither am I aware of anyone credible who is framing this as “saving the environment while preserving capitalism and growth”.

    c) “Resource-intensive lifestyle” is a problem. Resource extraction technologies are a blight, but not the main issue; CO2 is. But again, every progressive I am aware of wants to close materials cycles, and stop making holes.

  46. Hans G Ehrbar says:

    Mike #45:

    I am a fan of solar electricity and electric cars, but
    I still think that we need big changes in life style too.

    Nature knows how to recycle everything and not leave any
    waste products behind, but human technology is far from
    this. We are extinguishing species and filling what is left
    with bio-accumulating poisons. We are replacing low-entropy
    ores with high-entropy garbage dumps. This is not
    sustainable. What you call “closing the materials cycle”
    is a highly nontrivial matter.

    I agree that greenhouse gases are the most urgent issue,
    but these other issues are not far behind. To resolve
    them we need a steady state economy which implies
    basic changes in lifestyle. Much more free
    time, better education, more time for friends and family,
    more art and beauty and less vroom. In my book this is a better life,
    not a worse life.

    Good night everyone, it was good to talk to you all.

    Hans

  47. Ian says:

    Hans, thanks for your reply.

    I agree with your individual points regarding opportunities for change. Yes, those are good places where small, incremental change can happen. However, I don’t think one can highlight those as opportunities for systemic change. To think that would be to ignore the entire history of the labor movement in the US.

    There have been times when workers were far more motivated and united than they are now and were not able to achieve the nearly the amount of systemic change for which we are currently looking. Yes, of course the labor movement did A LOT of good, but it was over a long period of time with various swells of motivation and action. But, time is absolutely not on our side and neither is public interest (nor has public interest ever been).

    Additionally, what do you think the environmental movement has been attempting for the past 30 years? They have won many small battles and one or two big ones. Where has that gotten us? Again, we can look at individual, isolated successes, but I think it is dishonest to think these feed into a genuine movement for systemic change.

    Also, I am confused by the overall thrust of your post. The examples you give of potential successes are things that basically support the continuation of industrial civilization but in an altered form. Then the quote from Tim DeChristopher when he espouses the benefits of its collapse. I don’t understand what it is that you believe. If you think industrial civilization is going to collapse, then wouldn’t it be more useful to help increase peoples chances of survival, instead of giving them false hopes about saving it?

    Also, this is for Hans and 6thextinction, both of you basically resorted to saying that I am “hopeless” but didn’t bother rebutting the points in either of my posts. This is just an ad hominem argument and has nothing to do with whether I’m actually being realistic or not. 6thextinction, your suggestion to ignore facts is discomforting. I would rather spend my time actually helping escape a sinking ship than waste my time bailing out water with a teaspoon and claiming everyone else is “hopeless.”

    This is what I was talking about when I said morality is selfish. It is extremely easy to sit on the moral high ground and throw judgments at people, but it is difficult to actually help people deal with what will potentially be a serious disaster. I would rather be hopeless and helpful than hopeful and useless.

    Maybe I’m wrong though. I’d like to hear more of everyones thoughts. Thanks to everyone for their responses.

    -Ian
    ianwittenber@gmail.com

  48. wili says:

    “I would rather spend my time actually helping escape a sinking ship than waste my time bailing out water with a teaspoon”

    The problem is that there is no other ship to escape to. And, as you point out in a manner of speaking, we are all busily bashing holes in the hull of the ship we are in by burning fossil fuels.

    It is important to me to try to minimize the speed at which we individually bash holes, and minimize their number and size…

    I just think that once you see what you are really doing, it just doesn’t seem very fun to continue, any more than you have to.

    This isn’t some moral high horse. It is obviously inadequate.

    If you or anyone else sees a clear way to have a greater impact on the whole rolling, sinking mess, let us know. I do activism, mostly in a small way, in my neighborhood, place of employment, city, state…

    But it is becoming clear that we are now staring at a post-hope environmentalism. It may become hard to gain lots of recruits with that slogan, I know. But I think it is the only honest view of the nature of our current predicament.

  49. Hans G Ehrbar says:

    Dear Ian,

    you are asking important questions in #47,
    therefore let me try to clarify.

    (1) You say “I agree with your individual points regarding
    opportunities for change. Yes, those are good places where
    small, incremental change can happen.” The main message
    which I tried to illustrate with my individual points is
    that the system is riddled with contradictions. If US
    imperialism can no longer afford buying off the US working
    class this may introduce changes which are not just
    incremental. Here is another contradiction: they try to
    lower their dependency on oil by promoting biofuels, these
    biofuels cause food prices to rise, which is an important
    factor of the rebellion in the middle East and Africa, and
    the more democratic states will reduce oil output which
    raises oil prices even more. Things are not always going
    the way those in power want them to go. This is why I think
    it is wrong to assume now that it is hopeless to work for
    systemic change. Big changes can happen very quickly.

    (2) You are saying the labor movement is not very motivated
    to push for radical change. I know. My point is that
    the labor movement would have the power to introduce
    radical change if they wanted to. And I think it is possible
    to convince them that this is a battle worth fighting.

    (3) You say: “I would rather spend my time actually helping
    escape a sinking ship than waste my time bailing out water
    with a teaspoon.” Wili #48 already answered this: it is not
    possible to escape the sinking ship. We are all in this together.
    The best way to prepare for the difficult times ahead is to work for
    a better society now, because this will create solidarity
    and strengthen the social fabric.

  50. Ian says:

    Thanks for replying, wili and Hans.

    I regret using an analogy (of the sinking ship) because they’re never perfect and easily get misinterpreted.

    wili, in your version of the analogy the ship is the earth and our environment. I was thinking of the ship as industrial civilization. Yes, of course we have no other planets where we can escape. But human beings could do fine without industrial civilization.

    It just comes down to what we each believe about the future. I don’t like to make assumptions about others, but wili, it seems you believe it is an all or nothing future. It is either venus syndrome or utopia. I know you don’t actually believe this, but that is what is implied by your statements. We either spend our time being activists and save everything and anything less means we are hopeless and don’t care at all.

    Again, I am also confused about the tone/thrust of your post. You ask if anyone sees a better way forward. That’s the point I was trying to make. There is no better way “forward” within the context we’ve been provided by our current form of industrial civilization. But there are completely alternate routes which are mostly not being considered.

    Yes, you do activism and that is great you are trying. But, like you said, it (activism/hope) is inadequate. I would like you to think about what it is you are hoping to happen. You don’t have to post your answer, but when you come up with one, then consider how realistic it is. Chances are, it is either not very realistic to execute or sufficient to solve the problem. None of the solutions to this are.

    It is hard to gain recruits for this AT ALL with ANY SLOGAN. It has nothing to do with whether or not we use the word “hope.”

    Hans, again, your points are contradictions. I don’t know what it is you are trying to say or what you believe.

    1) I mostly agree with you here. Industrial civilization has lots of weaknesses which will be exposed and magnified. However your mention of biofuels as a place where we can “work for systemic change” doesn’t make sense because there’s nothing any of us can do to affect middle east unrest or agricultural policy one way or another. Those things (along with many others) are collapsing under their own weight.

    2) Again, I could say any number of groups would have the power to introduce radical change. Its possible to do many things. We should consider how realistic those possibilities are however.

    3) Here is where I really don’t understand what you are trying to say. So you think that if we don’t unite the labor/environmental movements to do some unknown thing to save industrial civilization then the entire planet will be destroyed? I know that’s not literally what you think, but I can’t figure out what it is that you are trying to say.

    I would ask you, as well, to think about SPECIFICALLY what it is that you think needs to happen to save whatever it is that you want to save. Now think about how realistic that plan is.

    Here is what I believe: there is no realistic plan to save civilization. Yes, people have come up with great plans to do that (Joe) but no one is executing those plans with any amount of seriousness or urgency that is required. Yes, one can point to small incremental changes that are positive, but again even if you counted all those small changes, they would not add up to a sufficient response.

    It seems industrial civilization will collapse due to a number of factors, climate change being an extremely important one. This collapse will do more to reduce carbon emissions than environmentalists (or any group) have ever been able to achieve. This collapse will also put a lot of people into a lot of danger if they aren’t prepared.

    This is what I am thinking about. I am thinking about people whose lives will be threatened and I am trying to put myself in a better position to help as many people as I can.

    Yes, the A1F1 (and A1F2, etc.) scenario of BAU emissions is scary. But again, realistically that won’t continue because industrial civilization will most likely collapse instead of emitting constant CO2 for a hundred years. Yes, the melting permafrost is EXTREMELY scary, but if we are so concerned with stopping that then our objective should be to forcibly take down industrial civilization as quickly as possible in order to curb emissions. Again, there is no realistic plan to do this.

    Of course I am making a lot of assumptions and I will most likely end up being wrong. But this is the most REALISTIC assessment I can make based on available information. When I see everyone else hoping for the tiniest, most remote possible chance of salvation and accusing us REALISTS of being HOPELESS, all I can do is shake my head. I want to make a better civilization, just like you. But I don’t see any way of doing that by hoping everything will be okay. If am hopeless then so be it.

    This is my last rant ever. Sorry for this post, Joe.

    Thanks again.

    -Ian
    ianwittenber@gmail.com

  51. Mickey says:

    I would argue that the business community needs to be involved to. The reality is the labour movement is generally viewed in a negative light by most Americans. It may be positively viewed amongst those on the left, but they are a minority in the US and you cannot succeed if you don’t have the public onside. The right wing ideologues will never come onside, but as long as the movement to deal with climate change only appeals to the left, it will go nowhere. It needs to appeal to the moderates, independents, and centrists and if it can get them onside, it can be quite successful. I would even reach out to those on the right that favour lower taxes and smaller government but yet believe in strong environmental action. Contrary to what some think one can be a conservative and still favour action against climate change. In Europe, most governments today are centre-right yet favour strong action on climate change. Here in Canada, the provincial government of British Columbia is on the right yet introduced a carbon tax and in California you had Arnold Schwartznegger who was a Republican and favoured action on climate change. The Tea Partiers represent the extreme right, not the moderate right.