Monday, October 15, 2012

the american climate silence

superstorm Sandy NASA pic via Colossal

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Studying the cultural dimension of climate change puts you in a strange spot.  On the one hand, one studies something that's bad.  The root-cause of climate change is a disconnect from reality.  Anthropogenic climate change has thus a cultural dimension, and it consists in a willful collective maladaptation to biospherical structures.  This maladaptation is noticeable in nearly all cultures on the planet at present, but it is worst in the United States--the greatest national per capita GHG emitter with the least climate policy on the planet. This turns us into the greatest jerks in the history of civilization, into thieves stealing the future from the world's children.  And that's bad.

On the other hand, when studying this cultural dimension, I try to connect the dots into status reports of the present with their historical roots and their prospective branches.  Which means I make up stuff--and claim this making-up-of-stuff as a rational and methodological right in Philosophy, for Philosophy is not and never should be reducible to Science.  The risk, though, one runs with such imaginative dot-connecting is that one's sketches are not only sketchy (which is perfectly good, and which is what they're actually supposed to be), but also flat-out wrong (not so good).  In light of the climate crisis, I maintain that one can, No, one should speak of an American Disenlightenment, and that it deserves to be studied just as we study the European Enlightenment of the 18th century.  But since the 21st century is ongoing, its events are fluid; things may happen that might just turn US climate denial into a fleeting aberration.  That would be good from the perspective of world civilization and Mother Nature, but, frankly, it would be bad for me.  Because I study it.

My "Amerigenic Climate Change--an Indictment of Normalcy" is in a 2012 textbook, B Williston's Environmental Ethics for Canadians, published by Oxford in Toronto, and there I stick my neck out by claiming American mainstream culture is different from the rest of the world on four counts: first, it's really religious, in an evangelist worship of the baby Jesus way; second, it's really capitalist, in a  corporations-are-people-too worship of the Adam Smith way; third, it's really individualist, in a liberty-and-independence-and-screw-you-too worship of the Ayn Rand way; and fourth, it's also really skepticist, in an if-it-doesn't-stare-me-in-the-face-it-must-be-false worship of the David Hume way.  Years ago I came up with this idea, the American square of flawed cognition, and I've kept working with it.

So imagine my relief at seeing the Romney-Ryan ticket.  This is the perfect embodiment of the Disenlightenment: the one a former sidewalk-evangelist, who as a kid accosted people in France telling them to lay off coffee and wine for the sake of Jesus, and who was raised with a silver spoon in his mouth and moved up in the Adam Smith world with the skills of Gordon Gecko in Wallstreet and the rage of Richard Gere in Pretty Woman--and the other a hard-rocking, iron-pumping fan of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.  And both of them dismiss climate change like David Hume once dismissed causal powers.

It gets better.  The other camp in the 2012 US presidential race, the Obama-Biden ticket, and the only one that is not in climate denial and that represents at least the faintest of hopes that the US will eventually catch up with other developed nations on the planet and implement a climate policy, has also been silent about climate change throughout the election.  This is so amazing that words almost fail me.  Yes, of course it's bad, but at the same time, it is a boost to "Indictment of Normalcy". Whew.

All the chapters, including the notes on contributors and the introduction, for Global Ethics and Climate Change, are now at Continuum/Taylor & Francis.  Rewriting an essay this month on Anton Amo, the Black Wolffian in the German Enlightenment, for the Wiredu-volume made me think more about the heuristic potential of African Sagacity for this century's Civil Evolution.  Amo's ontological concept of the interactive and energetic fleshfield (honam in Akan) is the key.  Amo rocks.  Work on The Philosophy of Climate proceeds apace.  The next post should be about the Climate Acceleration.  Until then.

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