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Climate change & 'the afterlife'

There’s an interesting quote from Jonathan Schell in the New Yorker’s recent remembrance of the late author. Schell, who in his book The Fate of the Earth “brought home the sheer reality of what it would mean to explode our atomic arsenals, summoning up not the mainly visceral, personal fear of the duck-and-cover drill but the far deeper horror of a world permanently sterilized and impoverished,” had late in his life come to apply his thinking about nuclear war to climate change. “Both crises,” the article quotes him as saying, “reveal a kind of bankruptcy at the crucial hour of many of the things we place our faith in… . I can easily imagine that in six months the whole earth will be blazing with anger at what’s going on. I can imagine that, but I can’t imagine how it will happen.” 

About a week has passed since the release of the latest and correspondingly more dire report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—things are only getting worse and “no one on this planet is going to be untouched by the impact”—which means about one less week for the world to muster the anger Schell was hopeful about. The media has generally performed well, at least according to Media Matters, which approvingly notes the amount of coverage the report has received from cable outlets like Al Jazeera and MSNBC and even broadcast networks like NBC. CNN largely ignored the report, however, devoting less than two minutes to it, in contrast to the twenty-plus minutes elsewhere; Fox, in giving it more time, also provided “coverage that largely denied the danger of climate change.” (An aside: Roger Ailes, who runs Fox News, was arguably at one time a relative environmentalist, using his position as media consultant to the Nixon administration to encourage the president to promise a Kennedy-esque mission to eliminate water and air pollution in America by 1980.) Related articles and analyses continue to appear, including this BBC item on Exxon’s breezy lack of concern over the impact of new climate data on its profits—although even it “does not dispute that global warming is happening.” 

Would that the rest of the world could be so nonchalant.

Elizabeth Kolbert, who has a typically blunt and uncomforting take in the New Yorker, has long been writing on climate change inaction. In response to last fall’s release by President Obama of the executive order “Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change,” which coincided with a leaked version of the IPCC report, she had this to say

Promoting “preparedness” is doubtless a good idea. … However, one of the dangers of this enterprise is that it tends to presuppose, in a Boy Scout-ish sort of way, that “preparedness” is possible.

As we merrily roll along, radically altering the planet, we are, as the leaked I.P.C.C. report makes clear, increasingly in danger of committing ourselves to outcomes that will simply overwhelm societies’ ability to adapt.  … Thus, any genuine “preparedness” strategy must include averting those eventualities for which preparation is impossible. … As Obama himself put it in a speech…: “Those of us in positions of responsibility, we’ll need to be less concerned with the judgment of special interests and well-connected donors, and more concerned with the judgment of posterity. Because you and your children, and your children’s children, will have to live with the consequences of our decisions.”

How many times that construction has been used as a call to action is impossible to count; as rhetoric it’s become pretty pallid. But as a metaphor it won’t lose resonance because of the deep-seated need for us to believe there will be other human beings to follow us, who will be born long after our own deaths. That’s something Sam Scheffler gets at in his book Death and the Afterlife, which Thomas Nagel reviewed earlier this year. The afterlife, in Scheffler’s conception, is really the “collective afterlife” – the notion of “the survival and continued renewal of humanity after our personal death.” Nagel:

Scheffler believes that … the prospective absence of future persons would itself have major negative consequences for the living. And this reveals that the afterlife, the survival of humanity far into the future, has great importance for our lives in the present. As he summarizes his conclusion: "In certain concrete functional and motivational respects, the fact that we and everyone we love will cease to exist matters less to us than would the nonexistence of future people whom we do not know and who, indeed, have no determinate identities. Or to put it more positively, the coming into existence of people we do not know and love matters more to us than our own survival and the survival of the people we do know and love.” 

The IPCC report, composed according to Kolbert in “a language that might be called High Committee,” doesn’t talk about survival in such cosmic or philosophical terms, but it’s hard to read its excerpts without feeling something like the apocalyptic anxiety that attended life in the cold war (fossil-fuel giants and those with apocalyptic yearnings excepted). It was Jonathan Schell’s belief that, the usual suspects notwithstanding, people aren’t in denial—only that “they lack faith in the system to change anything.” The “how it will happen” thus remains to be imagined. Can something be discovered through the way we think about the people yet to come into existence, as Scheffler presents it, to inspire such imagination?

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"Can something be discovered through the way we think about the people yet to come into existence, as Scheffler presents it, to inspire such imagination?"

And not just people:  plants and animals too.  I worry about all this a lot but aside from trying to leave less of a carbon footprint and voting for the right representatives and laws, I don't know what to do.  Sadly, I don't think most people or governments have the will to fix the problem.

 "I can easily imagine that in six months the whole earth will be blazing with anger at what’s going on. I can imagine that, but I can’t imagine how it will happen.” "

I can't imagine people being angry when the unreversible future gets here for the simple reason that that unreversible point seems to be almost here and we're not even irritated about it.  Some are mentally  frightened, but not very scared in the physical/emotional sense of "scared".

By coincidence, this afternoon the weather creeped me out. It didn't make me angry, it just made me slightly scared.  I was driving down my street when I noticed a very large piece of paper being blown quickly from the left side of the street to the right,and just as quickly it reversed its direction and blew back from right to left.  The weather report had said tornadoes were possible, and it looked to me as if that tiny little swirl in the air might have possibly been the very beginning of one, a sort of warning of what was to come.  It didn't develop into a tornado, but it was, shall we say, something like the beginning of a Hitchcock movie.  I was made aware ever so slightly of the possibility of great danger ahead.  Quite creepy.  

The tornado didn't develop, obviously.  Such is not what is happening with global warming.  The first world-wide warnings of these weather disturbances and consequences for the Earth came in the 1970s when the Club of Rome predicted all this -- the very slow beginning of a monster trend.  And now in 2014 it's happening.  Some think we might even have already reached the point of no return.  

The question now is how to make people vote for responsible leaders QUICKLY.  What do the psychologists have to say about all this?  Is there no way to make people face the immanent?  Is it just to awful to contemplate?  Do we just feel so helpless that the only thing to do is eat, drink, and be merry today?

Here's Wikipedia about that original Club of Rome report.  It projected several models of the future.  Only one model projected stability.   

The Limits to Growth

The weather here in California is becoming worse - increasingly bad drought and hotter too (today 86 F). 

What depresses me is that we could have done simple things over the last 33 years that would have saved enormous amounts of carbon footprint and instead, did the very opposite.  Instead of increasing suburbanization, clustering housing, stores and venues of employment could have reduced transportation requirements.  Cars became larger instead of smaller with monster SUVs, trucks converted into personal transportation.  Although insulation increased, houses were built larger.  Without even considering photovoltaic solar, houses could have been built facing south to passively harvest the sun's energy with greenhouse type setups.  The bottom line is still, population limits.  And many population questions face us.  How much are we overpopulated? How many people can the earth sustain at our level of consumption, at an African's level of consumption, and what population times consumption setting do we want?  How do we get there?  Chinese type repression, Singapore type incentivization?  What kind of methods to use?  Mass celibacy?  Birth control? Abortion? Overlay those with the cultural and religious paradigms.

I always am frustrated when told I believe in anthropogenic climate change because I'm a liberal and I want all these changes.  Not at all.  I don't want these changes and the attendant sacrifice and work.  I am an engineer, now retired, and when you ignore problems brought to your attention and employ wishful thinking, space shuttles explode.  Right now, space shuttle earth is in trouble.

Some are mentally  frightened, but not very scared in the physical/emotional sense of "scared".

Most of us aren't very imaginative.  I saw this on a very small/micro scale during the depths of the recent recession.  People who had been living a middle-class life would lose their jobs, burn through their savings,  and ultimately lose their house.  They would come to us for assistance.  They hadn't imagined that such a thing could happen to them: "the poor" were someone else, not them.  Things had always worked out before: why weren't they working out now?

The laws of physics are as unforgiving as the laws of economics.  If the seeds already have been sown for bad things to happen to our climate, the laws of physics assure us that they will happen.  But because we haven't seen them happen to us before, we can't imagine that they'll happen.

Here is Bertrand Russell on the fallacy of induction:

"And this kind of association is not confined to men; in animals also it is very strong. A horse which has been often driven along a certain road resists the attempt to drive him in a different direction. Domestic animals expect food when they see the person who feeds them. We know that all these rather crude expectations of uniformity are liable to be misleading. The man who has fed the chicken every day throughout its life at last wrings its neck instead, showing that more refined views as to the uniformity of nature would have been useful to the chicken. "

 

I see two novelties in the impending global warming disaster that make it incomparable to, say, the 20th century world wars. One is the diffuse responsibility and the disconnection between actions and consequences. I fly internationally, subSaharian Africa countries suffer from increasing bouts of drought and famine: the connection is quite remote! (I have yet to bring up the "sin of flying" in confession!) The other novelty is that we do not know how it will end. Wars end with peace treaties, but how does one end a phase of  increased hardships in poor countries due to the way of life of people in rich countries? What will we do with hundreds of millions of refugess fleeing countries struck by famine? How will we keep people from being driven to dangerous despair? I fear that the political problems indirectly caused by climate change will quickly overtake the problems directly caused by global warming.

I'd like to dissent, gently, from Stanley Kopacz's view that population growth is the base of the problem. Herman Kahn showed 30 years (or more) ago that poor people don't take up much of the world's space and resources. What we are running out of is enough of those things to satisfy rich people. If everyone had a house like the Gateses, Florida would be well under water already. When Kahn wrote, the fact and theory were that rich people were increasing and multiplying. Now that they are decreasing and concentrating maybe we have bought a little time. In other words, a few superrich Kochs can be sustained at a level satisfactory to them if the rest of us will obligingly switch from steak to pasta. Population problem solved.

You got a problem with that?

 

malthus, paul erlich, club of rome.  When will we humans realize we cant predict the future...

Air resistance goes up as the square.  A car moving at 70 mph must push 16% harder against the air than at  65 mph.  Work performed is force times distance and that's fuel expended.  How many Americans exceed the speed limit?  How many Americans care?  I travel 65 mph on the highway and get passed by everybody and their grandmother.  If we can't even inconvenience ourselves enough to obey the law, what chance does the climate have?

 

It is true that in principle overpopulation is not a problem - it would suffice to rebalance population and resources. For example, the population in Africa is increasing rapidly, the land is poor, and droughts are decreasing food resources. The population in the US is comparatively very sparse, and they could decrease their consumption by a factor of 3 on average and still be in the ball park of typical developed nations. So, one theoretical solution would simply be to bring two thirds of a billion people from Africa over to the US and reduce per capita consumption by a factor of 3. 

But that's not going to happen. As long as people do not travel freely, we have to look at their situation from a more restricted viewpoint. Take Tanzania for example: reduced arable lands because of climate change, increased population. What are they to do? They can take preemptive measures - birth control - or continue to increase their population and face the natural consequences of insufficient resources: infant mortality, famine, war, refugees flooding neighboring countries. Either way, population will necessarily come to be in balance with the amount of food and water available, so the question is then whether it is preferable to control poulatio size by famine and war or by birth control.

Or maybe hope that the US (and other rich countries) will welcome starving Tanzanians with open arms. In principle, it is possible.

 

I agree with the thoughts andsentiments expressed above. Claire has put things especially well. Present political arrangements, both here in the U. S. and abroad, radically insufficient to respond to climate change, whether induced by human activity or otherwise. It is hard to see any successful response that will not be widely and vigorously opposed. New, internationally enforced coercive policies are apparently required, but who has the insight and will to design and enforce them is by no means evident. And even with the best of circumstances, success cannot be guaranteed. Nonetheless, inaction is irresponsible. And we all must be prepared to make difficult sacrifices for the sake of the good of future generations of people.

One caveat about Jim Pauwles' comment that the laws of physics are as unforgiving as the laws of economics. I know of no laws of economics that are as impervious to human efforts too modify them as are the laws of physics.

To Tom Blackburn:  I think I did mention that it was a problem of the number of people times their consumption rate, not purely population. I agree with what you are saying.   If the entire population of the earth lived as americans, the game would already be over.  The chinese, with their new wealth, are starting to live as americans.  Since so many people want to live like americans, it behooves us to set a better example.

 

 

To Bruce: thousands of lives are saved every year because weatherman tell us where and when tornadoes will probably occur and where hurricanes will make landfall.  European meteorologists with a good model and a a supercomputer predicted the westward jag of Sandy. There is such a thing as cause and effect.  If you smoke six packs of cigarettes, you will probably become sickly.  I know one heavy smoker who made it to her eighties.  I know a lot of people who are dead or sickly from it.  When will people realize that actions have consequences and we have a good idea what those conaequences will be?

A friend of mine attended a speech given by Sandra Day O'Connor in Arizona a few years ago where she proclaimed that in the future, wars will be fought over water.And though she did not say this,  my fear is that we ourselves in the West will do the unthinkable;use food and water as a weapon against our enemies.That this was unthinkable in the past ,something those evil communists do, does not strike me as  unthinkable today. The oft heard  phrases "let them eat sand" or "they can't eat oil" so gleefuly articulated, makes me think that  what was once an obvious  ethical  red line  in no longer perceived  as an obvious ethical red line.More like a wish?I hope I'm wrong.

Can Catholicism provide, if not THE model, a model?  We have monastic communities that work simply, share and pray, all communally.  If the parishes and the rest of the Church could jetisson the strongly hierarchical, centralized power model, perhaps a way of life more simple, satisfying and efficient could be shown to the rest of America.

Problem is that the environment issue is wholly politicized between Repbublicans and Democrats. Similar to abortion. Political gain is the objective. Reality has nothing to do with it. In the sixties and seventies there was a groundswell for support for clean air and a better environment. It was very effective. At that time New York City was like Bejing is now. It is truly amazing how the air is so much better now. Incinerators were abolished and all kinds of controls were put in place. 

Ted Hesburgh was very much in the forefront on those days. He provided as much leadership for the environment as he did for Civil Rights and World Peace. We need to roll him out and lead the nation again. 

 

Problem is that the environment issue is wholly politicized between Repbublicans and Democrats. 

I do strongly agree with this.  In some ways it might be even worse than abortion, in that those at the top of the power and financial pyramid are strongly invested in the status quo.

I think what's necessary is to find ways to harness the genius of the marketplace and capitalism, rather than declaring the marketplace and capitalism to be the enemy.  If consumers, companies and nations perceive that it is in their self-interests to do what is environmentally responsible, they will do it.  I suppose that is the theory underlying cap-and-trade.

To Jim Pauwels:  The genius of the marketplace will not be harnessed unless incentives are put in place and maintained over decades.  Incentives for wind and solar are put in place and then expire according to the whims of the politics at the time.  I would prefer a carbon tax rather than cap and trade.   Simple and direct, at least to me.

Remembering what a force for good, Hesburgh was reminds us how misdirected our clerical leadership is today. Now more activity is on the abortion front rather than on social issues like jobs, hunger and the environment. Ted Hesburgh was able to do a lot of good despite William Buckley. The bishops in this country have been more aligned with politics than in justice for the downtrodden. Hopefully, the Francis revoution will change this. 

Rose

 

A friend of mine attended a speech given by Sandra Day O'Connor in Arizona a few years ago where she proclaimed that in the future, wars will be fought over water.And though she did not say this, my fear is that we ourselves in the West will do the unthinkable;use food and water as a weapon against our enemies

The future is here! I live right next to Lake Superior, the largest fresh water lake in the world and the issue of selling water, and ethics associated with the practice have been getting attention as of late.

The Ontario government has systematically made its water resources vulnerable to private takeover and control (Intervenor v.22 no.1 & Intervenor v.22 no.5&6, dereg issue, print only).

For three years, the Ontario government has been paving the way for privatizing Ontario's water and sewage utilities. Numerous legal changes (Bill 26 and especially Bill 107) have served to both establish the rules for, and exclude the public from, future decisions about privatization of water and sewage plants by Ontario municipalities. (See "Is Public Control of Water on the Chopping Block?". Intervenor v.22 no.1, Jan/Feb 1997, print only, for a fuller discussion of this issue, including the privatization experience in England and Wales).

Water pollution rules have been weakened and Provincial monitoring and enforcement staff laid off (36.2% at the MoE and 40% at the MNR as of April 1998, Intervenor v.22 no.5&6). All of this, combined with crippling funding and program cuts and downloading of responsibilities, puts the financial squeeze, and the political heat, on municipalities. Previously public services, including water, could well be privatized and become available only to those who can afford to pay.

Despite public opinion surveys showing over 75% support for continued non-profit, public control of water in Ontario, the Province has forged ahead with this coordinated strategy.

Equally apparent is the strategy and agenda of the international water industry. With over 10 years experience in taking control of publicly-owned water around the world, the international water industry is now made up of multinational operations often structured as conglomerates. These corporations include water, electrical and gas (including pipeline) utility companies, large consulting, engineering and construction firms, and large financial institutions including banks and investment firms.

http://www.cela.ca/article/selling-our-water-water-taking-lake-superior

 

 

 

Stanley,

Everyday, weatherman recognize the fact that they might be wrong, eg there is a 30% chance of rain, but it actually rains or it doesnt.  And even laymen can predict the weather a few hours early:  it seems like rain today.  Also, what about all the weathermen and models that did NOT correctly predict the westward jag of Sandy.

Climate prediction has 2 big problems

1)  It takes a long time to observe the actual climate and then adjust the models.  Since this field of study is in its infancy, the models are at best rudimentary and 

2)  Climate has many moving parts including volcanic ash, water vapor, oceans, none of which we claim to be able fully understand let alone predict, yet some claim climate is a "settled science".  No science is ever settled.

Bruce, climate and weather are different. See the 1-minute cartoon in http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2012/01/the-dog-is-the-weather/

 

There hasn't been a great deal of attention since people find it hard to keep attending to cries of "the sky is falling." I suppose in places that have experienced a noticeable increase in temperature over the last 15 years, the report has a certain cred. But for those who can't help but notice the stats on fewer hurricanes and tornados and cooler temps, the report makes little sense. In case no one has noticed the existence of scientific papers and projects has never been a reliable means to get the rank and file really interested. So, if the sky is falling a bunch of us will be surprised and perhaps rue the day we didn't take heed. If the sky is not falling, we can probably count on the climate change folks to keep issuing warnings.

Bruce, I have no problem with the fact that there are other factors that affect the surface temperature of the earth.  What is illogical is to say that CO2 doesn't.  It has played a major role since the snowball earth catastrophe 2.65B years ago.  The present climate science predicts climate change as an inevitability.  The only question is how much.  There are a number of feedbacks, positive and negative.  To believe that they will all align to save our consumption lifestyle is wishful thinking and depending on a crap shoot.  As an engineer, I have to recognize risk and deal with it.  Even if the weatherman were only correct 1/3 of the time (they're much better than that) about tornadoes, if I get a warning on my phone, I'm headed for the basement.  To wait for a complete 100% perfect system of prediction is to wait forever.  There is nothing that has caused the bracketed uncertainty in this science to significantly widen.  If anything, climate science is getting better and better as it studies the interactions of air and ocean.  We shouldn't wait for the human population to crash to a few million before we say, "I guess those guys were right".  One more thing, uncertainty in climate science is able to go in the bad direction as well.  If we are to engineer tge future, we should reduce uncertainty, not increase it.

To John Feehily, what cooler temperatures?  Hot records outpace cold records at five times the rate that would occur sans global warming.

"Can Catholicism provide, if not THE model, a model?"

The church is the *opposite* of what a model would be, given its fight against birth control.  Latest example: the foot dragging in the Philipoines, one of the poorest counties in the world, with one of the fastest growing populations in Asia - 96 million people.

It's been a lot cooler where I live in Oklahoma. The rest of my family lives in greater Boston and they've been plagued with cooler temps and more winter weather as well. Oh, by the way, I know the difference between weather and climate.

To Crystal, I'm talking about the core, basic, communal values.  Top down management, of course, is another thing altogether.

Stats on cooler global temperatures: http://www.scilogs.de/klimalounge/files/gistemp_nino_100.jpg

Indeed, you can see that the last couple of years were cooler than 2010, and that the previous few years were cooler than 2005. But if you step back and look at the diagram as a whole, that's cold comfort...

Boston and OK are two points out of thousands, of course.  Any relatives in Alaska and California.  By the way, I'm in the Pocono mountains and I saw -7°F.  Cold, yeah.  But not the -25°F I saw in 1982 and 1995.  I told people who complained here about the cold that they were floridafied by the warm temperatures of the last decade.

Is there any way we can deal with this problem by awarding federal contracts to Lockheed Martin, Northrup Grumman, Boeing, SAIC, Raytheon, General Dynamics and Hamilton Booze Allen? If there is, we can deal with the problem.

Tom Blackburn, you've found the path forward. Yes, we can.

 

I used to be a logic teacher.  Looking back at the logic courses in those days, I think their greatest deficiencies  were in 1) not teaching more about *why* humans are inclined to certain kinds of thinking errors, 2)  how scientific method works, and 3) not teaching the the rudiments of probability theory and how statistics works and doesn't work. People then and now have graduated not knowing that although man is a rational animal, he is also an intrinsically irrational one at times, and they don't learn how to be critical thinkers when they need to be.

Scientists usually learn something about scientific method within their disciplines.  But it is very unusual even for college graduates to learn *why* the method works and what its limitations are.  (Even scientists don't learn about its limits, a subject covered by philosophy.) 

There is a general lack of understanding,  especially in otherwise intelligent and well-educated people, of what statistics can and cannot do.  Because of this lack even smart people graduate unable to make knowledgeable decisions about voting on many, many issues because the people do not understand how to evaluate the uses --  and the misuses of statistics -- especially by special interests who regularly try to con the general population. 

That's the main reason, I suppose, that I'm very grateful for the emergence of Nate Silver as something of an authority as a statistician.   He doesn't just make forecasts -- he presents the data needed to describe accurately just what is happening, and then he uses the data to make the forecasts.  He's a great antidote to wishful thinking.  There are no more villages.  The world has simply gotten too big and complex for us to rely only on our own observations and those of a few journalists when we form our opinions.  The least we can do to eliminate our own unreliable opinions is to become better informed by people like Nate who have both the data at hand and the mathematical knowledge for forming forecasts.  Making forecasts isn't all of what we need to do -- Nate won't tell us what we *ought* to do.  But he and his colleagues can help us avoid errors. 

Another problem  with decision-making that's been mentioned is lack of imagination.  We literally lack enough images stored in our memories to help us interpret new experiences.  While our culture produces great movies with great images-- especially of alien worlds, movies aren't particularly good at giving us patterns of *internal* human experience, the sort of patterns of human thinking and behavior which we form by reading and forming images of realistic stories of all sorts, the sorts of stories generally found in novels and short stories.  (Theatre and TV make us form images of external behavior, but it doesn't especially reveal *internal* patterns of thought, except for Shakespeare, of course).  Without sufficient understanding of other people's internal reactions and motives -- without having ready patterns to explain the great variety of human behavior --  including those of opinion-makers and politicians, we'll continue to be out of touch with the the most important forces operating in the world, i.e., other people, especially the powerful ones.

Here's Nate's new blog.  The blog covers all sorts of topics.  He started out making forecasts about sports and was so successful he changed the face of baseball.  Fortunately, he's branched out into other areas such as politics and sociology, and he promises to branch out even more.mmYes, you conservatives, good as he is, he could probably use some competition to present some other possible models.  Then we might figure out just what is happening in climates world-wide and what we should *probably* do about it all.  

FiveThirtyEight  

Sorry to go on at such length, but I'm trying to save the world.  Sigh.  :-)

Ann - if I may take the liberty of adding to your list of decision-making problems: I've found that among the great blessings of this particular forum is that it stimulates study, conversation and reflection.  I think there is a dearth of all three of these in our world, and that impoverishment leads to poor decision-making.

 

the afterlife, the survival of humanity far into the future, has great importance for our lives in the present. As [Scheffler] summarizes his conclusion: "In certain concrete functional and motivational respects, the fact that we and everyone we love will cease to exist matters less to us than would the nonexistence of future people whom we do not know and who, indeed, have no determinate identities. Or to put it more positively, the coming into existence of people we do not know and love matters more to us than our own survival and the survival of the people we do know and love.” 

I recall that the textbook in which I read Beowulf, a very long time ago, noted that its belief system was a core of paganism with a thin film of Christianity overlaid atop it, and that this could be seen in the characters' desire for fame, the pagans' version of human immortality.  

Tolkien, who was immersed in sagas and epics, weaves this longing into the Lord of the Rings, in which the glorious accomplishments of long-dead or -gone heroes are remembered as sung lore, and there is a poignant scene in which Sam wonders whether the deeds of Frodo will ever be remembered in a song.  In another passage, Gandalf, the personification of wisdom, notes that destroying the Ring is an obligation to future generations; for this reason, hiding the ring isn't sufficient: the quest to destroy it must be undertaken, even though it seems the height of folly.

 

JIm P. --

@11:23   I couldn't agree with you more.

@11:4o  Have you read Seamus Heaney's translation of Beowulf?  I think it shows very clearly an influence of Christianity on the warriors..  In fact, it shakes the belief that fame is most important.  As I read it, Heaney's version shows that with the advent of Chrstianity there were  highly ambivalent feelings towards war that were overwhelming in their intensity.  I couldn't get very far into it .  it was just too heart-rending to hear a great warrior's lament for his dead young warrior son.  An anti-war work if there ever was one.  (I feel the same way about the Anead -- yes, there are courageous heroes, but fame really isn't worth the horror.)

Oops -- I meant The Iliad.

Oops -- I meant The Iliad.

The Iliad is tragic but tales of later real life battles like Thermopylae and Marathon were kind of the opposite, I guess.

yes, there are courageous heroes, but fame really isn't worth the horror.

Ann,

It's the hero's choice.

Re: Beowulf

 

It has been a long time since I read it but Sparky Sweets at Thug Notes has an awesome summary! My daughter turned me on to him! Too cool and really on point.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xh8akuq-MDI

In his analysis, he suggests that the main themes are the play between human and monster suggested by the etymology of Beowulf's name (Man - Wolf)

He actually cites Nietzsche who said that whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. If you stare into the void long enough into the abyss, the abyss also looks into you.

The danger is becoming a beast like the ones he is fighting. 

 

 

 

 

He actually cites Nietzsche who said that whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. If you stare into the void long enough into the abyss, the abyss also looks into you.  The danger is becoming a beast like the ones he is fighting. 

George - one of the key themes of the Lord of the Rings, too!  

 

John P, ==

The big problem is that the hero, the decider, decides for the others, (these days the lower-level leaders and the grunts) who would not have made the same choice.  In modern warfare generals and colonels don't fight on the battlefield the way that the mythhological heroes did.  

I am not a pacifist, but the glorification of war is a sin.  A very big one.

Let me return to the problem of climate change.

However desirable the "curricular" changes some of you have suggested may be, courses in formal ligic, statistics, etc. are not much of a response to the seriousness of the threat of climate change. As is widely kn own, formal logic and statistics don't deal with garbage any differentlly than they do with sound information. As they say, "garbage in, garbage out.

But let's try a thought experiment. What is the minimum material resources that a person, any person, needs to live a good life? Suggested readings: 1, the book of Exodus; 2 Epicurus, "Letter to Menoeceus," 3. More's "Utopia." "Exodus" tells us that God provides enough for His people. Epicurus and More's Hythloday tells us that we need much less than we are accustomed to think we do.

Here's the experiment. Assume that these minimums are not really sufficient. What else does a person need and why?

Presume (a) that your list is sufficient but far shorter than the one we actually live by, especially in the developed countries, and (b) that the threat of climate change is real and serious, then what steps would one take to reduce what we actually consume back to the level of what is essential for us to function as normal human beings over a lifetime?

Now take the results of this exercise and plan a political and legal regime that is both fair to all concerned, including future generations, and effective.

My own hunch is that nothing short of some form of global martial law has a plausible chance of being effective. I have no way to determine how fair it could reasonably be expected to be.

My main point here is that, without addressing the matters of genuine need versus the simply desirable, of constructing a regime that would distribute the available resources fairly, and a coercive power that would effectively enforce the distributional regime, there can be no effective response to the kind of environmental threats that are presently predicted.

Only experts can make reasonable predictions about what resources in what quantity are likely to be available in the coming decades. But all of us bear some nontrivial responsibility for getting ourselves ready for major changes and preparing others to accept them.

Only experts can make reasonable predictions about what resources in what quantity are likely to be available in the coming decades.

 

Yes, like the "experts" who devised the 5 year plans for the Russian economy.  No "expert" knows whats is better for me than me (or maybe my wife).  Central planning eliminates human freedom, something which each of us possesses because of our God creating us 'in his image and likeness'.

Now take the results of this exercise and plan a political and legal regime that is both fair to all concerned, including future generations, and effective.  My own hunch is that nothing short of some form of global martial law has a plausible chance of being effective. I have no way to determine how fair it could reasonably be expected to be.  My main point here is that, without addressing the matters of genuine need versus the simply desirable, of constructing a regime that would distribute the available resources fairly, and a coercive power that would effectively enforce the distributional regime, there can be no effective response to the kind of environmental threats that are presently predicted.

Bernard - naturally, this would be a non-starter, politically.  We can barely agree on requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets and gun owners to lock up their guns.  I would say that, if anything, Americans are becoming increasingly more unruly and libertarian from one generation to the next.

If we really want to make a difference (rather than simply adapt to worse environmental conditions, which is the "default" option and which, as I've commented here before, is what I think is actually possible), I think we need to work with instinctive human behavior rather than try to change it.

Up above, I mentioned cap-and-trade as one very modest example.  Stanley Kopacz correctly noted that it is an example of government policy, and that many other types of fiscal and regulatory policy - taxes, credits, regulatory penalties, etc. are also possible.  I don't really know if a carbon tax or the cap-and-trade scheme are particularly good ideas, but I am convinced that fiscal and regulatory interventions are one piece of the puzzle.  

I believe that another piece of the puzzle is entrepreneurs finding ways to profit from environmental responsibility.  If on-road-vehicle carbon emissions are part of the problem, then inventors will need to come up with practical solutions.  People will still need flexible, affordable and safe transportation, and we have invested trillions of dollars in carbon-fuel transportation infrastructure.  Battery-powered vehicles, it seems to me, are nearly there already.

I understand that industrial pollution in the developing world is a prime contributor, perhaps THE prime contributor, to the problem.  Well-meaning Americans with a concern for the environment can do very little politically to solve that problem.  Again, I believe what is needed is a set of environmentally responsible products and services that serve the self-interests of polluters.

 

I would be more assured of individuals making the right choices if Americans were properly informed.  A small part of the media like FSTV and LINK covers the topic well.  Most corporate media ignores climate change.  GOP-TV obfuscates, elides and lies.  At the same time, advertisements seduce and delude people into wanting things they don't need.  The automobile is an artificial need resulting from the suburbanization of the US.  What would happen to the US economy if we only bought mostly what we really need?  For an interesting exchange between a physicist and economist on economic growth and energy limitations, try

http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2012/04/economist-meets-physicist/

 

Bottom line: somebody has to figure out a no-growth steady state economy.

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