Wednesday, December 12, 2007

the abominable Gringo Square


-- Update 12/13:

The Bali conference has been extended; a EU-led consensus of developing and developed nations has been reached; the U.S. is left behind as the last climate Humean of the planet; the U.S. pulls an Ayn Rand (the limp noodle version) and whines that saving world climate "would be too costly"; the UN thinks they're at the brink of agreement; but the U.S. rejects hard pollution limits because Adam Smith would reject them, too. A humbling post by H. Klein, Bush vs. Humanity at UN Climate Change convention, is at Alternet.

Klein blogs,

The news out of Bali reads like this: the whole world has come together to collectively try to solve mankind's biggest looming problem while the most selfish, greedy power on the globe, the U.S., sabotages every effort. The hatred being generated towards America is unlike anything I have ever seen in my travels, which started in 1969 and have included 4 filled-up passports, almost 100 countries, and over 6 years of living abroad.

-- Original post 12/12:

Today students are turning in term papers (finals week); depending on whether they are more interested in political philosophy, philosophy of science, or ethics, they write on (A) how climate change is a market failure, (B) how the Gaia hypothesis evolved to geophysiology, or (C) whether Deep Ecology is the value system of the future. This was the humanities version of the first climate seminar here (IDH 3100). Later this week a friend from geology and I will generate the syllabus for next term's science version of the climate seminar (IDH 3350). Next academic year the climate seminar at USF will be its own didactic unit, with its own course number.

Halfway around the planet, the UN is in the second week of climate talks at Bali. Here's the Intl Herald Trib's take 12/2 on the eve of the summit. Here's the FCCC's Bali-themed website. Here's the site of the United Nations Climate Change conference in Bali Dec 3-14. Here's the site for webcasts. Worth a look is the Bali Communique by global business leaders, a UK initiative. This resonates with another UK initiative, by British firms urging action on climate, as NY Times reported 11/25. Very cool: the UK Enviro minister John Hutton declared in Berlin on 12/10 the UK government project to switch over ALL British households to a wind energy fed power grid by 2020. Here's more on the UK wind power revolution in the Independent 12/12. On 11/30 NY Times reported on a study by McKinsey consultants detailing how the U.S. can cut 28% of greenhouse gases. Meanwhile the UN Environmental Programme warns that nonaction means poverty. (The UNEP report is here.) As yet, there's no deal in sight in Bali, at least this is how it looked on 12/10. And on 12/7 China scolded the US for not cleaning up its act.

So it appears the Bali conference started off auspiciously, with the new, better, and enlightened government of Australia signing on to Kyoto, what with the cool Aussie Environment minister and all, but unfortunately the United States plays the biospherical asshole again, calling the proposed global emission reduction of 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020 as "totally unrealistic" and "unhelpful" . Makes one wonder who is totally unrealistic and unhelpful here ...

There's a Bali blog by the good folks at the New Scientist.

Climate change is the perfect philosophical storm, which conspires against everything mainstream U.S. culture represents -- call it


at the upper right,

Adam Smith
-- market failure? no way! --

upper left,

David Hume
-- stop hockey sticks! mistrust causal forcing! --

lower right,

Ayn Rand
-- solidarity? you mad? dontcha love freedom? --

and at the lower left,

the red-eyed Baby Jesus with fangs
-- wreck nature,

pray for rapture,
and don't be left behind!--

The superstructure of college teachers, who, with few exceptions, tend "to slander the outward," as Emerson put it, reinforces the Gringo Square. Over climate change, U.S. college teachers flunk: a sorry blend of narcissism and skepticism; consumerist chickenshits with PhDs but no imagination. The Postmoderns sneer and snicker ("scientists? bunch of liars!"); the Analytics gasp, frown, and scoff ("holistic patterns? that's, like, so over."); and both teams have been driven into the defensive. So Gaia grins and looks at her watch. O, it's late, look at that -- already payback time!

Miami Herald wrote 11/28 on what global warming will cost Florida, a good first step but too blue-eyed given the AR 4 scenarios. The Guardian reports 12/6 that more than half of the Amazon will be lost by 2020 (the WWF report is here). Destroying peatland releases vast amounts of CO2, so New Scientist posts 12/11. Associated Press reports 12/12 that the Arctic melt has now broken five historic records. Yup, tipping point, baby! There may be no ice on the North Pole in five year's time ... imagine that.

Enough for today. Next week I'll give a few lectures overseas on climate change, cultural evolution, and Enlightenment. A more important lecture is this: Al Gore's 12/10 Nobel Prize acceptance speech. Oh, and a fellow Regensburger, the Pope, declared today that he really hates me.

Update July 2008:

... well, maybe His Holiness doesn't anymore. The "he really hates me" link --if you checked you'd know -- goes to an article with the title "The Pope condemns the climate change prophets of doom," by S. Caldwell, 13 Dec 07, in the Daily Mail. So I felt rather condemned by the Pope, which made me sad, since we're both from Regensburg (he taught there; I studied there). But -- tempora mutantur, Summus Pontifex Ecclesiae Catholicae Romanae et mutantur illis. Turns out His Holiness retracts the papal condemnation of the Mad Hun and his Gaia-loving ilk: AP reports 12 July 08 that Pope Benedict XVI said Saturday he wants to wake up consciences on climate change during his pilgrimage in Australia.

Excuse me while I gloat.

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