Envirologue by Dave Hansford

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Envirologue: Too Big to Fail – Why National will Never Act on Climate Change

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  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Stamper Stamp,

    she'll be right mate, no worries...

    To quote Prof. Richard Lindzen of MIT:

    would that also be the Prof. Richard Lindzen from the Libertarian think tank the Cato Institute (Funded largely by the Koch bros of Koch industries - big investors in the petroleum industries)

    and the same Prof Lindzen who is well 'Fisked' here at Skeptical Science

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7886 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Rowe, in reply to Stamper Stamp,

    We've been told not to feed you but when faced with such ignorance...

    First - Lindzen is not credible https://www.skepticalscience.com/skeptic_Richard_Lindzen.htm

    Second - if the warming so far is around .85C "a few tenths of a degree" then even that has triggered a runaway feedback loop of melting in the Arctic. Do some proper research around that - and not just from your "business as usual" scientists who think it's a conspiracy (ie: over 95% are lying!) to ramp up tax.

    Third - Let's pretend for a moment that there is no climate change at all. If you think the current "infinte growth on a finite planet while destroying every last eco-system on the panet in the pursuit of massive profit" system will not eventually end our existence anyway then you are deluded.

    What pisses me off is that all the morons that ignored and contributed to the problem will be knocking on my door when the shit hits the fan - they'll be out of luck well and truly then.

    NZ • Since Apr 2015 • 27 posts Report Reply

  • Amanda Wreckonwith, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    I initially read that as ‘well Fisted’

    Well Lindzen does talk out of his arse so there’s no reason to be unduly concerned…

    Since Sep 2012 • 171 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Amanda Wreckonwith,

    This approach is very appealing but I wonder how quickly you think we will get to this point?

    Some days I don't think we will. We select the people to manage our country based on a popularity contest inevitably decided by the amount of money that each side can apply to marketing themselves. Nothing to do with ability to make worthwhile decisions. On that basis we're fucked.

    Some days I think folks really do get it, they are tired of seeing their services degraded to fund tax cuts we don't need while critical part of our economy and ecology are sold to the highest bidder. And yes they will vote for someone to put a stop to that shit.

    I can't change the minds of all the voters but I can and do have the conversation with folks about if they voted and who they voted for and what they expected from those they voted for.

    Some days that feels worthwhile.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4450 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Stamper Stamp,

    To quote

    Why don't you quote the 97% of scientists (99% of scientists in the field, ie climatologists) who think such statements are probably corrupt and certainly bollocks.

    But no, you will continue to only read and quote those sources who match you preconceived (and factually wrong) ideas.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4450 posts Report Reply

  • Dave Hansford, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Look I get your ideological hatred of the neoliberal doctrine. But I’m sorry you are shifting into an extreme ideological position yourself and frankly that is distorting your view.

    China is far from any kind of neoliberal ideology and while elements of Western Europe are neoliberal huge parts of it are incredibly socialist and can and have run neoliberals out the exit door.

    As for India and Africa, neither could be described by any ideology as simplistic as “neoliberal”.

    Hi Bart: I don't think it's remotely "extreme" to point out the deleterious effects of our prevailing economic and political doctrine, and the fact that it will effectively prohibit any meaningful action to help limit the upheaval of climate change. These things seem to me, to be part of any intelligent progressive conversation.

    China has adopted many economic and labour policies straight out of the Chicago School. I never expressly mentioned India, but in fact, it is fats becoming synonymous with the enterprise culture. Likewise, I didn't imply that ALL of Africa was neoliberal, but the economic blackmail and overthrow of the new South Africa is a matter of historical record (Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine recounts it in detail). You're right; much of western Europe still maintains a vestige of managed economy (Britain is not one of them), but like our own, many societies struggle against an agenda of privatisation, cuts to public spending, and the erosion of labour laws (witness the epic strike by French media to protest public broadcasting cuts). Poland remains, of course, a Chicago poster boy...

    None of this is "distorted". It's out there, it's real.

    Nelson • Since Apr 2008 • 28 posts Report Reply

  • Dave Hansford, in reply to Amanda Wreckonwith,

    History should teach you that attacking ideologies is hopeless. What works is is making the ideology irrelevant.

    For New Zealand it’s as simple as deciding that “no thanks we don’t want to fuck up our environment” and voting accordingly. No impossible ideological revolution required.

    And that's worked a treat for the last 30 years, hasn't it?

    Nelson • Since Apr 2008 • 28 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie,

    In a move motivated by common sense, the Dunedin City Council has just voted to divest its shares in fossil fuel extraction companies.

    A council staff-developed ''socially responsible investment policy'', which governs the council's $82.5 million Waipori Fund, ended up passing, with seven councillors and Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull in favour and seven councillors against.

    There's a powerful lobby group down this way who believe that big oil will make us all filthy rich. Filthy maybe... rich, no. This group insists that the majority of Dunedinites support their view which could be paraphrased as suck it up, or frack the fuck out of it before it's too late.

    Luckily we have some councillors with common sense. But that won't necessarily stop big oil from doing their best to screw up our coastline.

    Mr Cull said the suggestion Anadarko or Shell would be less likely to base their operations in Dunedin if the council divested from fossil fuels was a ''myth''.

    ''I have personally asked both companies what the criteria would be for setting up a support base ... and they say proximity and ease of use.

    ''They don't care how many Christmas cards we send them, they don't care what our investment policy is.''

    He also disputed the suggestion divesting from fossil fuels was hypocrisy, saying it was about supporting alternatives.

    I live in Blueskin Bay where we're doing our best to take climate change seriously. Our little area has one of the highest solar energy uptakes in the country; plans are progressing for NZ's first community owned windpower installation; we practice "buy local" and almost everyone grows their own veges. It's a nice place to live.

    We're only 1,000 households or so, but major changes in thinking often start small. Our example is unlikely to influence the neoliberals, but it will hopefully rub off on other small communities around the country.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1381 posts Report Reply

  • Amanda Wreckonwith, in reply to Dave Hansford,

    And that’s worked a treat for the last 30 years, hasn’t it?

    Well, I sort of implied that in my question to Bart...

    Was the Clark government equally responsible for this neoliberal road we are travelling down? Will Andrew Little be any better? Will the unions be amenable to the massive changes we have to make?

    I hope that you will be using your third post to lay out the 'revolution' you think is necessary to change the course we are currently on.

    Since Sep 2012 • 171 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Amanda Wreckonwith,

    Was the Clark government equally responsible for this neoliberal road we are travelling down?

    Yup. But not quite as bad as the Nats. Under Clark, Labour allowed treasury to make many of the key decisions about policy with pretty bad consequences.

    But they also introduce working for families and balanced the budget well enough to put money away for the future - so not perfect but not as bad as this current corrupt bunch.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4450 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Alfie,

    There’s a powerful lobby group down this way who believe that big oil will make us all filthy rich. Filthy maybe… rich, no. This group insists that the majority of Dunedinites support their view which could be paraphrased as suck it up, or frack the fuck out of it before it’s too late.

    Yeah, I get the feeling that if the Great South Basin did actually come to fruition, we'd be less Norway and more Nigeria. Even if NZ set up its equivalent of BNOC - aka a Kiwibank of energy - to ring-fence the profits in NZ, which would be unlikely under the current orthodoxy, I suspect the financial benefits would be overrated.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5415 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Dave Hansford,

    And that’s worked a treat for the last 30 years, hasn’t it?

    I'm sorry show me an election in the last thirty years where people actually voted for our environment as a central issue.

    New Zealand elections are traditionally decided on the basis of which crowd sounds like they will give the individual voter more money. It is the most simplistic and venal motivation and it has been targeted by the two major parties consistently. And it has worked because the conversations have always been about what's best for the individual personally now.

    Asking the public to vote on the basis of what's best for the country long term is something none of the political parties have been brave enough to do since forever.

    It has nothing to do with a particular ideology and talking to the public about ideology is a quick way to get them to catch up on sleep.

    And yet a hell of a lot of folks are actually willing to talk about long term goals for themselves and for NZ. Talk about that and you might have a chance. Rant about neoliberal conspiracies and they will walk away and vote for nice Mr Key.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4450 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    And yet a hell of a lot of folks are actually willing to talk about long term goals for themselves and for NZ. Talk about that and you might have a chance. Rant about neoliberal conspiracies and they will walk away and vote for nice Mr Key.

    Once again, I cite the LifeHacker article on how best to counter science denialism and other political misconceptions. According to that article, “big bang” approaches seem to come across as preachy and only reinforce existing prejudices, so the inoculation approach might be a lot more effective.

    The only big bang approach that I know of that can shift attitudes would be a truly astronomical one beyond everyone’s control, such as an economic bubble burst or the outbreak of war.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5415 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Kumara Republic,

    Once again, I cite the LifeHacker article on how best to counter science denialism and other political misconceptions.

    It's an interesting idea, but it does seem to be limiting its scope to "vaccinating" children against misinformation. It's not a practical manual on changing an adult's mind.

    Also, much of the scope of this problem is outside the realm of purely scientific decision making. I thought Dave made an interesting point in claiming that the powerbrokers of neoliberalism were not themselves denying climate change. They just don't care. I don't know to what extent that is true, but it puts focus on another facet of the problem. It's not just about making people aware of climate change - that seems to be a battle that is slowly being won. It's not even about ascertaining the main causes - again a battle that is progressing too. The biggest failure in resistance has been in identifying the viable alternative solutions which might actually halt or reverse the process. Humans do, after all, have a voracious appetite for energy. I don't mean that no solutions that would actually reverse the process have been found - the obvious one that would work is to stop making so much CO2. But is it viable in the common understanding? Are the consequences such that our species could accept them? That's not an easy question.

    The problem here is that there is no simple one solution. There are many solutions. They overlap and interact.

    David has turned his focus on one of the biggest problem/solution pairs - the question of what is even driving all this demand for energy so far beyond what is sustainable? He identifies the current political ideology as a big part of it. I'd say that I'm not really aware of a successful ideology in the past that has been any better, so I have to agree with Bart a little bit that identifying neoliberalism as an enemy of the environment is not that helpful in the direct fight against climate change. Unless there is some viable alternative. Again, there are many, many possibilities.

    But that doesn't mean the question shouldn't be asked, or the enemy identified. I'm enjoying Dave's series on neoliberalism, and hope it can continue constructively. To me, the question is about what kind of alternative political system could we have that isn't so idealistically far from where we are now that it's just a distant utopian dream, and yet different enough that it might actually change the greatest shortcomings?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Amanda Wreckonwith, in reply to BenWilson,

    or the enemy identified

    The enemy is us.

    Until we recognise that simple fact nothing will change

    Since Sep 2012 • 171 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Furthering that thought, it seems clear to me that the 20th Century’s major contender as an alternative, worker oriented socialism, is not better than neoliberalism, when it comes to the environment. The environment was never its focus. In terms of its industrial goals, it has never really been any different to capitalism. This is probably why it was so successful, because it was not so different. It did not demand any kind of reduction in output, indeed it often promised greater output, seeing this as the driver of human prosperity. The only real difference was the focus on equality. It still placed work, and it’s synonym, energy, as one of the greatest social goods. It was always predicated around growth. It still is. If there is ever argument between our slightly-more-socialist Labour Party and our slightly-more-neoliberal National Party about the economy, it’s about what will create the most growth, rather than about capping growth at some sustainable level. Then it’s about how it’s shared out. If socialism is any better environmentally, it might be out of a sense of fairness about who suffers from pollution, who should pay for it. But nowadays they pretty much leave that to the Greens to agitate for.

    Obviously the Green movement does have some actually different ideas. Their movement is predicated around sustainability as an ideal. Mostly, they seem to focus on environmental sustainability, though. It seems to me that economic sustainability is at least as important, since that’s a measure of what humans do, rather than what they don’t do. It’s no surprise to me that they have to contextualize themselves within the capitalist framework that both neoliberals and worker-oriented-socialists dominate. They can’t ignore growth as something most of the population of the world is attuned to wanting.

    But how can we do growth without using more energy? What actually is a sustainable level? It’s probably a lot higher than most people realize, at the moment. Well in excess of renewable energy currently set up and available. Maybe even in excess of an enormous and sustained effort dedicated to producing nothing else for decades.

    Are there other ideas? I’m genuinely curious. Is the Green movement the be-all and end-all for environmentalism, or is there some lesser (and less radical) idea out there that might serve at least some improvement to our voracious need for growth?

    ETA: Or, as Bart seems to be suggesting, is every solution piecemeal? Fix this, fix that. Keep doing it. Eventually everything is fixed. Technology saves us by finding new energy sources and techniques for saving it. I find it hard to believe this can work. Mostly because it hasn't, for the longest time. Even when we have exponential growth in resources, as we have in, say, computational power, we always find that our appetite can keep up. It's only a year after getting the latest most powerful gadget ever invented that we're lamenting how it's not fast enough to do what we want. If we save on household heating, then we can put the money into building a bigger house, which costs more to heat. We make a huge hydro plant giving massive amounts of cheap power. So we build a humungous smelter to suck it all up, giving a bunch of jobs. We frack, find tons of oil, so we build a whole lot more cars and roads.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to BenWilson,

    I thought Dave made an interesting point in claiming that the powerbrokers of neoliberalism were not themselves denying climate change. They just don’t care.

    These guys (mostly middle aged white guys) are not actually stupid nor are they the kind of folks like stamper who only accept data that fits their preconceptions.

    So yeah from what I've seen they accept the science and the data.

    But they also think that doing business is more important and that "the market" will sort it out, even if that involves a lot of poor people dying, that is simply "the market" working as intended.

    What I am describing is of course a psychopath.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4450 posts Report Reply

  • Amanda Wreckonwith, in reply to BenWilson,

    It’s only a year after getting the latest most powerful gadget ever invented that we’re lamenting how it’s not fast enough to do what we want.

    Even when it's perfectly capable... The power of marketing is immensely powerful. That's one thing to address in the long term.

    The solution must be piecemeal - The problem is multifactorial.

    Such a solution however, can only work with some massive, overarching, long term plan.

    ... and now that every neocon has spluttered into their coffee, removed their invisible hand from their sore genitals and started to furiously type a response, I will take my leave and tend my garden...

    Since Sep 2012 • 171 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to BenWilson,

    is every solution piecemeal?

    I guess that probably does characterise my attitude now.

    I'd argue that there are several socially responsible, free market democracies to look at for ideas, particularly in western Europe. None of them are perfect but the best ones make no claim to being prefect.

    One feature is that in most of the best countries the government is a compromise of ideologies rather than a single dominant one. This appears to force the governments to discuss and reach the best compromise rather than slamming through the latest ideological fix.

    For me the best approach would be to look around the world and see what seems to work, talk it over with multiple informed groups, and try out policies that might work. If they don't work then stop them and try something else.

    In each case doing what works is more valuable than doing what fits some theory or ideology.

    Slamming some ideology as being to blame for everything seems pointless to me and likely only to prevent conversation. Even the worst of ideologues can have some good ideas.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4450 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Amanda Wreckonwith,

    The power of marketing

    First against the wall ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4450 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    There's not really much point worrying about the beliefs of actual psychopaths. The part of neoliberalism most direly in need of deconstruction is what in it appeals to the bulk of people who aren't psychopaths. It is, after all, a solution. It claims to be able to solve some social ills, or at least it claims the futility (or suboptimality) of trying to solve them in other ways. That wouldn't even be needed if it was only for psychopaths. It seems to me that debunking them is the hard way of doing it, rather like proving God doesn't exist to the devout. As noted above, that often only strengthens belief. More powerful is to talk about other ways. Neoliberalism won't be brought down by criticism, it will be superseded by alternatives, if it ever changes at all. I can't think of any major idea change that has ever worked differently, outside of mathematics. People will defend their crappy building if it's the best one around, no matter how many shortcomings it has. If it's not the best, though, then eventually people move to the better one.

    Mind you, we're talking about a building inhabited by people who will tear down anything better, or never even let it be made. Or buy it and run it down. So I guess I don't know what's the best strategy. Maybe, as you suggest, just keep making your building better.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    The power of marketing

    First against the wall ...

    I thought that was the bankers?

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1381 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    In each case doing what works is more valuable than doing what fits some theory or ideology.

    Slamming some ideology as being to blame for everything seems pointless to me and likely only to prevent conversation. Even the worst of ideologues can have some good ideas.

    It's worth noting (typical for an old philosopher like me) that piecemeal social engineering is itself also an ideology. So it's hard to take the line you have and be consistent. It's still possible that massive ideological change is the most efficient and effective move. There certainly are circumstances under which radical change is the only way forward. I've spoken many times about how incrementalism can be suboptimal when approaching a local optimum, usually in the context of drug reform, but it's true in general for all multimodal optimizations. We could be trapped in a neoliberal local maximum, and the only way out is to go downhill and find a bigger hill to climb up, one baby step at a time. Which is not to say that incrementalism is a crappy algorithm, it's one of the best, fastest converging methods there is. But there is NO known general method of optimization that solves the problem of local optima efficiently, and insisting that hill-climbing is optimal at all time is simply false.

    Which is why I ask: Is there a better hill nearby? Where? What does it look like?

    I think the social democracies of Europe are a good example but certainly not perfect. They have a number of peculiarities that make them quite unlike NZ. For starters, they're all in Europe, with all the physical advantages that confers. Also, they are generally very, very hostile to immigration, with highly homogeneous populations. Lastly, they've been that way for centuries. But they're something, at least.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Amanda Wreckonwith, in reply to Alfie,

    I thought that was the bankers?

    Nah - they were poisoned the week before.
    (Sorry - it was pissing down so had to retire indoors)

    Since Sep 2012 • 171 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Rowe, in reply to BenWilson,

    But how can we do growth without using more energy? What actually is a sustainable level? It’s probably a lot higher than most people realize, at the moment. Well in excess of renewable energy currently set up and available. Maybe even in excess of an enormous and sustained effort dedicated to producing nothing else for decades.

    Are there other ideas? I’m genuinely curious. Is the Green movement the be-all and end-all for environmentalism, or is there some lesser (and less radical) idea out there that might serve at least some improvement to our voracious need for growth?

    Any form of growth is suicidal - these magical alternate energies don't come from fresh air, they have to be mined and constructed which makes heat and releases CO2. The only alternative is moving to a more pre-industrial way of life. Some of that sucks - I like my comforts as much as the next guy, I'm using a computer FFS! But it will be the only way to mitigate the worst effects - and it probably won't do that as most climate disruption is already baked in.

    It takes so long to turn the ship around - one example is that it takes around 50 years to decommission a nuclear power station. Most nuclear power stations are next to coastlines and/or rivers. Do we really think that in 50 years those nuclear power stations won't be affected by rising seas and more extreme weather. Want to gamble on it? Look at Fukushima to see how nuclear disasters mix with the ocean - and now today we hear that forest fires will release radiation around the Chernobyl disaster area.

    Green politics is defunct because it operates within the (never to be questioned) industrial civilisation model. There isn't any political solution because the whole political system is completely unable to see outside of itself.

    NZ • Since Apr 2015 • 27 posts Report Reply

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