Lack of Environment

A blog on the politics and psychology underlying the denial of all our environmental problems

What on Earth are people protesting about?

with 10 comments

It seems to me that an awful lot of people are protesting about the wrong things:

People protesting about solutions
In the course of yesterday’s post, ‘Ignorance is the enemy of humanity’, I linked to an item on Climate Denial Crock of the Week that highlighted a report in the UK’s Guardian newspaper suggesting that a group of ultra-conservatives “is ramping up an offensive on multiple fronts to turn the American public against wind farms and Barack Obama’s energy agenda” .
See http://climatecrocks.com/2012/05/09/its-clean-cheap-and-creates-jobs-and-that-is-exactly-why-windbaggers-hate-it/.

Therefore, it seems, in addition to having to deal with an organised campaign to deny the reality of the problem of anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD), we must now deal with an organised attempt to prevent the implementation of solutions to that problem? Just how crazy can things get?

Sadly, I fear they could get a whole load more crazy yet: The prudent path towards a sustainable future for humanity and the unintended ecocide of many other species (as a consequence of atmospheric pollution, habitat destruction and ocean acidification) – not to mention the wilful over-fishing of our seas – appears to be strewn with many obstacles including pride, arrogance, stubbornness and ideological adherence to the principle of the free market.

When it came to preventing a hole in the ozone layer from getting out of control, the international community demonstrated that it could act appropriately in order to prevent ecological catastrophe. However, what many do not realise is that this was only possible because the multi-national manufacturers of the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs – that had done and were doing all the damage) already had alternatives ready to replace them. For some reason, senior executives in the Energy business seem remarkably reluctant to do the right thing and – just as we did when we realised how dangerous asbestos is – stop mining fossil fuels.

The reason of course is money: Up until now, there have been huge profits to be made in the refinement and commoditisation of fossil fuels; and no incentive to spend money to make alternatives financially viable. However, the solution to their profits being squeezed should not be to make customers pay ever more ridiculous prices; the solution should be to find a cheaper and sustainable product to sell.

People protesting about trivia
If you want to know whether what you are worrying about is important, ask yourself if it will matter in 100 years time. Some things that would have passed this test were the abolition of slavery; and all efforts to extend the right to vote to adults irrespective of wealth or gender. Things that fail this test include pension provision and retirement age (as per the protests in London yesterday).

What is the matter with all these people? Just how bad do things have to get before people will stop worrying about the petty issues of their individual lives; and start worrying about how the way in which we all live our brief lives is impacting on the almost unimaginably long history of life on Earth? Like a person in a car locked in an air-tight garage with the engine running, the Earth’s entire ecosystem is slowly being asphyxiated. How is it possible for people not to notice what is happening? What possible reason do we have for not turning the engine off?

Since we cannot spend our way out of a debt crisis, economic growth may be our only hope. However, we need to wake up to the fact that the only people who think perpetual growth on a finite planet is sustainable indefinitely are economists. No-one is demanding that we all go back to living in caves but, unless we take significant action to prevent ACD, that may well be where our descendants will end up. Despite the brain (as opposed to bowel) evacuations of people like Simon Carr on the website of the Independent newspaper, ACD is not like the Millennium Bug (or any other manufactured scare story). As James Hansen said in a recent article in the New York Times newspaper, “Global warming isn’t a prediction. It is happening. “. Focussing on the insanity of not pursuing alternatives to fossil fuels now that we know burning them is causing the problem, Hansen says:

Canada’s tar sands, deposits of sand saturated with bitumen, contain twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history. If we were to fully exploit this new oil source, and continue to burn our conventional oil, gas and coal supplies… Sea levels would rise and destroy coastal cities. Global temperatures would become intolerable. Twenty to 50 percent of the planet’s species would be driven to extinction. Civilization would be at risk.

Anyone who has witnessed an outdoor cremation will be familiar with the smell, which is enough to put you off barbecues for quite a while… Therefore, bearing that thought in mind, I will leave you with another:
It is time for humanity to wake up and smell the coffee because, unless we do, we may instead soon wake up and smell the toffee!

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10 Responses

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  1. I am very grateful that James Hansen is working to bring people’s attention to the Tar Sands.

    Unfortunately, any Canadian debate about the Tar Sands, and the pipelines that are hoped to sprout from it, never mentions climate change. We debate the economic benefits, the jobs, the risks of pipelines, the use of water, lately we’ve argue about the “Dutch Disease” effect. But all of that needs to be put in the context of climate change. The final argument against the Tar Sands is that if we burn it all, that’s 4 tenths of 1 degree Celsius just from extracting and burning the oil from this one source!

    I look forward to the day that countries begin to boycott Canada for it’s irresponsible exploitation of the Tar Sands. Don’t know if it will ever happen, but I can dream…

    jpgreenword

    12 May 2012 at 11:08

    • Thanks JP. Over on 350orbust, Christine has a good explanation for why the logical arguments of us “radical environmentalists” with our “foolish ideology” and our“new religion” never get a mention in Canada: This is because the leaders of Canada’s government think they are the only ones that have not been duped by foolish ideology and faith in a false god. Unfortunately, they are too busy checking the value of their stock market investments to realise how wrong they are…
      See http://350orbust.com/2012/05/11/northern-gateway-pipeline-not-a-pretty-picture/

      Martin Lack

      12 May 2012 at 16:39

      • Thanks for the link. I read a few posts on 350orbust and have bookmarked the site. One more to read : )

        jpgreenword

        12 May 2012 at 22:08

  2. I feel like a cracked record (possible emphasis on the ‘cracked’), but I believe that the trouble is quite simply that those who ‘lead’ us are all too aware that we face serious problems; but they don’t want to be the ones who actually have to stand up and face them: It’s much easier to get people riled-up and vocal about trivia such as revamping the House of Lords (something else that has waited for decades but which, unlike climate change, could be put off for decades more without real harm), or rising fuel prices (wake up, people – the price of everything is going to rise whether you like it or not because oil has peaked!)…

    As for where we’re headed? ‘Hell in a handbasket’. Why? Because this is most definitely the Age of Stupid.

    pendantry

    12 May 2012 at 21:47

    • Thanks for these comments (and the proof-reading expertise). If you are right, then, when the consequences of their inaction become more obvious, those who lead us will have to do some explaining to their own children and grandchildren.

      Martin Lack

      13 May 2012 at 15:45

      • Bah. TWLU will always find a way to spin their actions such that they did the best they could. They are, after all, experts in the field — which is why they are where they are… While that excuse should always be legitimate for all-too-fallible humans, the reason I have a problem with it in their case is that they claim that they have all the answers, which is why we should vote for them, as opposed to the other bunch of worthless losers; but when it comes to the choice of action on something important, or fiddling while Rome burns, out comes that worn old fiddle.

        pendantry

        13 May 2012 at 17:00

      • Maybe that is why we can’t get leaders to take action NOW: because any change (or lack of change) in emissions we make today won’t be “felt” until decades from now. This makes any criticism easier to ignore.

        jpgreenword

        13 May 2012 at 20:18

  3. [...] to alternative energy systems boil down to “Not In My Back Yard” protests (i.e. small-minded NIMBYism). For the record, I would much rather live next to a modern waste incinerator than an old unlined [...]


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