Lack of Environment

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

Electronic toys of mass distraction

with 8 comments

I must credit recent subscriber xraymike79 with apparently coining this term, in his recent post, entitled ‘Mankind’s Infantilism and the Death of the Planet‘. However, before clicking, please note that this contains adult themes that some might find disturbing.  For example, here is just a snippet:

This Earth is all we really have. Start caring for it and respecting it with the same reverence and homage we pay to our electronic toys of mass distraction, i.e. TV, iphones, video games, computers, etc.. Know that this culture of self-worship and materialism is sending our species to the dustbin of failed evolutionary experiments, most certainly by the end of this century if not mid-century. The evidence is all around us if only we care to open our eyes.

Now is probably not a good time to admit that I have been tempted back to Sky with a 75% reduction on my subscription for 9 months.  However, the above chimes with an item written by John Hulburt, posted on Learning from Dogs yesterday, entitled ‘E Pluribus Unum’.  For example, take this:

We know we’re in trouble when our legislatures have been purchased, when faith in our financial system has been willfully damaged, when political leaders engage in childish tantrums to get their way regardless of anything or anyone else, when awareness of moral reality has become meaningless and when we fail to appreciate the depths of a looming abyss. What do we gain by purposefully destabilizing our economy, reopening settled social issues and blatantly risking our inclusive future as a species for a mess of pottage?  Who do we think we are?

Good questions, gentlemen. Who do we think we are; and when are our politicians going to stop lying to themselves and us?  Here is a quote from James Hansen in Storms of my Grandchildren:

Ladies and gentlemen, your governments are lying through their teeth. You may wish to use softer language, but the truth is that they know that their planned approach will not come anywhere near achieving the intended global objectives. Moreover they are now taking actions that, if we do not stop them, will lock in guaranteed failure to achieve the targets they have nominally accepted. (p.184)

Hansen then goes on to at least six ways that governments are planning to fail (because they assume carbon capture and storage can be made to work fast enough to prevent catastrophe), by encouraging (1) construction of new coal-fired power plants; (2) construction of new plants to turn coal into oil; (3) development of tar sands (the dirtiest of all unconventional fossil fuels); (4) exploration for fossil fuels in wilderness areas; (5) hydraulic fracturing despite methane release; and (6) opencast coal mining everywhere. For more on this topic see: ‘Hansen says we should FART‘ (i.e. fundamentally alter resource trajectories).

It is little wonder, then, that Thomas L Friedman, writing in the New York Times on Sunday, said this:

Face it: The last four years have been a net setback for the green movement. While President Obama deserves real praise for passing a historic increase in vehicle mileage efficiency and limits on the emissions of new coal-fired power plants, the president also chose to remove the term “climate change” from his public discourse and kept his talented team of environmentalists in a witness-protection program, banning them from the climate debate. This silence coincided with record numbers of extreme weather events — droughts and floods — and with a huge structural change in the energy marketplace.

What was that change? Put simply, all of us who had hoped that scientific research and new technologies would find cheaper ways to provide carbon-free energy at scale — wind, solar, bio, nuclear — to supplant fossil fuels failed to anticipate that new technologies (particularly hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling at much greater distances) would produce new, vastly cheaper ways to tap natural gas trapped in shale as well as crude oil previously thought unreachable, making cleaner energy alternatives much less competitive.

Friedman’s ambivalence to hydraulic fracturing (elsewhere in his piece) may be deeply flawed but, sadly, I think his analysis of recent history and prediction of what Obama will now do are both probably right.

Therefore, it is also little wonder that James Hansen’s Fee and Dividend system is not being taken up: because it is not in the interests of big business to take it up. It is only in the interests of the Environment; and the Environment does not seem to matter. See Hansen’s recent ‘Fork in the Road’ [PDF].

The Earth is being sold to the highest bidder and most of its inhabitants are too busy distracting themselves to even notice. The whole thing is like an episode of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror

8 Responses

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  1. It’s how people think, and how they emote, and their highest values, that are at fault. Souls themselves have to be reassessed. Once a soul has learned to disrespect logic, it’s over.

    Patrice Ayme

    13 March 2013 at 03:00

  2. I think you are being a bit hard on the human race, I would point to our evolutionary trait of being opportunist. It is a quality that has allowed for our survival and moved us up from being cat food, it means we become inventive and resourceful. We have found ways to live in deserts and icesheets without any natural adaptations.

    It comes with problems- we may find an abundance of bird eggs which we will gobble up and even find a way to preserve for the lean years but will also wipe out the resource with our efficiency. Eating high fat foods allows us to store food for lean times as well but when lean times are eliminated we keep on eating. And when we are offered 75% reduction on our Sky subscription we take that opportunity.

    So should be be surprised if politicians are opportunist? Should we be surprised when we take the better paid job and use that wealth to fill our lives up with potential promise of pleasure and wellbeing?

    The other trait that may destroy us is optimism – wishful thinking- whether it be that it is worth storing food because we will be alive in the coming winter, or that there is a loving caring god or that CCS will work, or oil is not running out or the prospect that Sky will broadcast a few things worth watching and the subscription fee was worth it.

    The things that will destroy our civilisation are the things that have made us amazing. Resourcefulness, adaptability, inventiveness, the ability to exploit any situation to our benefit and the optimism to build it.

    julesbollocks

    13 March 2013 at 13:07

    • Hi Jules. Thanks for these comments, with which I am mostly in complete agreement. However, if anyone is being hard on the human race, it is not just me.

      Martin Lack

      13 March 2013 at 16:18

    • Too hard on the human race, Jules! Plutocracy, by itself, goes the destruction job. Just look at the astounding corruption in the USA State Department about the XL Keystone pipeline (which I stridently denounced on my site 6 months ago). It’s worse than ever.

      Patrice Ayme

      14 March 2013 at 06:03

      • Hi Martin and Patrice- humanity can be a f*cking idiot- I agree, but my point is the thing that will destroy us is the qualities that make us brilliant. It is our ability to exploit a situation that has allowed us success, the challenge is not to focus on the target- i.e. humanities opportunistic and optimistic nature but to re harness it in a positive way.

        It reminds me of some scrougers and crooks – if only they turned their inventiveness to avoid work and get something for nothing into to doing something creative the would be a real success.

        julesbollocks

        14 March 2013 at 11:00

  3. [...] again, as I did in my previous post, I must credit xraymike79 as the source of the title for this offering, as it also featured in [...]

  4. [...] 2013/03/13: LoE: Electronic toys of mass distraction [...]


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