Monday, October 15, 2007

climate Nobel 2007


You got to admit that this is cool.

Makes me twice as proud of our students and my colleagues who created last year's First Int'l Conference on Climate & Philosophy -- in 2006, such a step took guts for Americans, particularly in Florida.

Now I extend my condolences to the losers.

My heart goes out to the climate-changer-in-chief, who was in Crawford trying to fire up his chainsaw (but he was out of oil).

I wish I could give his Nazi sidekick a hug, who left to snarl at an undisclosed location in a Blackwater ICBM bunker.

I truly feel for the oil tanker lady, what with Russians telling her that Gringos who torture have zero moral authority, and Turks telling her that they'll like to invade Iraq.

Here's the Nobel Committee's SPEED READ
on why the winner is the winner.

From the Mad Hun in Tampa: congratulations!

In other news, PetroChina is now the 2nd largest company on the planet, after the big Nr. 1, Exxon Mobil. Well, when the water runs out, there'll always be oil. Or not. Meanwhile the bombing of Appalachia for coal continues on this side of the Atlantic, while on the far side, the Eurostar is getting up to speed in the U.K. Sea levels, on both sides, are expected to rise 2 meters/6 feet. And even that estimate may be too low. Oh, and Der Spiegel reports on the U.S. hostility to the Nobel shared by Gore and the UN IPCC. And here is Krugman's media review about republican hatred of the 2007 Climate Nobel.

Last week an odd thing happened in the Climate Seminar. I was testing the honor students on language skills, firing off terms such as "biome" or "bleaching" or "insolation" (with an "o") at them. They flung definitions right back at me, as quick as you could blink.

I only stumped them with truly cruel words such as inselberg, waldgrenze, baumgrenze, and, yes, kampfzone (my favorite), before moving on to another question. Consider E O Wilson and J Lovelock. Both founded new reseach programs. In both cases, the fields of inquiry they opened are not their turf -- Wilson's an entomologist, Lovelock a meteorologist -- and each of the new fields is a fusion of two older fields -- Wilson fused sociology and biology to sociobiology. So what fields did Lovelock fuse? Clearly the Gaia hypothesis is about the Earth; Earth, in Greek, is "geos," so geology is field # 1. And field # 2? Um ... no? Well, think "Gaia" -- what does that stand for, heuristically, conceptually, or (hint!) functionally? No? OK, try this: think about medicine or biology, and tell me what specific discipline deals with functions, oscillations, rhythms, feedback loops, pulses, or the processes that constitute health and life of an organism (or super-organism, for that matter). Blank stares.

Would you believe that quick and articulate students who know their benthos, deme, gyre, and tolerance limit like the backs of their pants, didn't guess "physiology"? I mean what's up with that? Won't this compute? We're talking about Lovelock's simple insight that the biosphere is a self-regulating system, with a persistent yet far-from-equilibrium atmosphere -- that Nature involves cycles (like the carbon cycle) and contains circulation networks (like ocean currents). But none of the honor students linked "physiology" to Earth sciences in the context of climate change. That is profoundly strange.

Only in America. Another cultural marker, then: the set of causes explaining the US Republican delay in grasping CLIMATE CHANGE adds up to the following ingredients -- first, the self-love of First World Babies only interested in themselves or their inner child, blind and deaf to environmental outsides, and thus in cognitive denial of NATURE (Americans on Goethe and Climate Change" 1/10); next, the freeze-frame image of nature by monotheists raised to believe in a creation that's done and hence static ("The Christian Climate Delay" 10/10); and now, the blank stares about physiological aspects of the biosphere -- blank stares that define the mechanical dualists of the Far West who liken nature to a machine or a clockwork and so wouldn't think of geophysiology.

So here you have it. A Nobel and a new word: Geophysiology.

Remember it. Cultural evolution depends on it.

Update 2008:

Here's Gore's televised Nobel acceptance speech (22 minutes)

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