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Man-Made Climate Change - Fact or Theory?

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Part 1: Why should we trust in science?

There is an ongoing controversy in the public sphere – and even within the IOPS community – on whether or not climate change is real. And as much as I appreciate the principle of IOPS to respect and include all, and particularly dissenting opinions, I think we should all agree on one thing: that decisions being made by IOPS should be based in reality and rely (at least as much as possible) on fact(1). Or rather, theory. Which brings me to an important distinction; but before I continue let me make one thing clear.

I am not a climate scientist, nor do I pretend to know all the facts or speak for the climate science community. However, I am a scientist; more precisely, I am a biochemist and I have been working in the field of cancer research for the past 10 years. And I would like to share with you – particularly if you do not come from my “world” – my knowledge on how the scientific community comes to an agreement on a specific topic (it could be climate change, but it might as well be any other, say, why we get cancer – to stay within my own field – or how humans have evolved and where our ancestors came from). Actually, evolution is a good example for another “controversy” in the public sphere that has no foundation in science. But more on that later.

I have been working in science for the past 20 years, but particularly in the last decade I have observed a rising distrust against scientific claims and the trustworthiness of the scientific community in general, particularly in the US. The case is a little different in Europe, where trust in science is still a bit higher in general, and where distrust stems from very different reasons than in the US, but even here less and less people want to actually work in science, which really isn’t good news for the future(2-6). And let me also say that I think that the scientific community deserves a big part of the blame here, for not being able to communicate with the public and for being too self-absorbed, for example. And of course there is fraud, there are ‘bad apples’, there is bad science, there are interests, money and careers involved. After all, scientists are people, too. Still, I’d like to make the case for why we should trust in science and how the control mechanisms in science work. 

So how do we actually arrive at scientific claims and predictions like those made in climate science? Let me first insist on one of the most basic concepts in science that is often misunderstood. Or used by some on purpose to distort reality.

Fact - Hypothesis - Theory

Have you ever heard someone say “…yes, but evolution/climate change/you name it is just a theory?” Actually, evolution is a good example for the “it’s just a theory” argument that is used to undermine and obscure the scientific reality and drive people away from science. And it’s the same with climate change.

In science, or I should specify: in my field of the natural sciences, these three words – fact, hypothesis and theory – have a very specific meaning, and in my opinion the scientific community has made a very bad case in explaining the differences in terminology between “everyday language” and “science talk”. Outside of science, you might say climate change/evolution is ’just a theory’ meaning it is a guess or supposition that may or may not be true. You might even use ’hypothesis‘ and ’theory‘ in a similar way, both meaning that you have an idea in your head, maybe based on observations from which you have developed a train of thought and drawn some conclusions that could make sense but are by no means proven to be true. In turn, you might say or hear someone say “a fact is a fact, right? So, if it’s a fact it must be true by definition.” And it follows, then, that if climate change/evolution is not a fact (yet), then it’s just a theory that still needs proof. Until then, nothing is sure.

Because of this common use of these three little words, when you ask first-year students (and unfortunately more and more older ones as well) to put them in order of scientific “value”, the reply very often is theory – hypothesis – fact. Yet, the right answer (again, in my field of the natural sciences; this might be different or less specific in the field of, say, linguistics) is fact – hypothesis – theory.

Fact

Scientific facts are basically observations. Not just any observation, of course, but observations that have been confirmed repeatedly and are accepted as true. For example: Animal cells have a cell membrane – fact. The Spegazzini glacier in Patagonia has shrunk dramatically over the past 30 years – fact.

Hypothesis

So, in science, facts are pretty low on the scientific scale of “truth”. Only when you have observed – repeatedly and reproducibly – several facts are you able to raise a scientific hypothesis.  A hypothesis in “science speak” therefore is a proposition that can be tested by (several) observations or experiments. In order to be considered scientific, hypotheses are subject to scientific evaluation and must be falsifiable, which means that they are worded in such a way that they can be proven to be incorrect.

I am not going to bore you with an example like: does sunlight affect tomato size? I know you can imagine the answer to that one, and of course, hypotheses raised in climate science are much more complex, and therefore much more difficult to answer. But bear in mind two things: a scientific hypothesis is never based on just one observation, but has to be supported by many “facts” or experiments. One experiment alone is not sufficient to prove a hypothesis, because there is always a chance that you made an error somewhere along the way. What you can say is that your results ’support’ the original hypothesis. This means that every experiment that you carry out to ‘prove’ a certain hypothesis has to be repeated several times and has to consistently show the same result. Not only that, but other groups have to be able to repeat the same experiment in their own environment or lab, and come to the same results as well. This is what we call reproducibility.

Moreover, it is usually not enough to ‘prove’ a hypothesis by only one type of experiment. You have to come up with different experiments using different techniques that all come to the same conclusion. To pick a (simplified) example from my own work: Let’s say our hypothesis is ‘gene x causes bone cancer’. This hypothesis is based on the observation that people with bone cancer, who have donated samples of their tumor, have high amounts of gene x in their samples, while biopsies from healthy donors don’t show this phenomenon. Now we can carry out a whole battery of experiments in order to test this hypothesis. For example, we can introduce gene x into normal cells that otherwise don’t cause cancer, and inject these cells into mice (Sorry for all animal rights activists, but this is how it’s done. And I personally know no scientist who likes doing it. A discussion on animal rights issues can/should be had another time.), and see if the mice now develop cancer. Or we can use our cells with gene x in cell cultures (cells in petri dishes, no animals involved) and test how they behave compared to the normal cells. Do they move faster? (this is a hint that they are more aggressive). Do they resist better to chemotherapy drugs? (this is another experiment and another hint). And on and on. Five such experiments (reproducible, done several times) that come to the same conclusion (e.g., yes, cells are more aggressive/cancerogenous) may support our hypothesis and may lead to one single publication in a peer reviewed journal. This can take on average between one and three years. Peer reviewed means that it will be read and evaluated by at least three external reviewers, who are scientists and experts in the same field of science, before it can be published. And I can also tell you from experience that many, many scientific studies don’t make it to publication, because the reviewers judge them to be not scientifically sound enough or lacking in experimental proof.

And this is only the very beginning for our hypothesis of ‘gene x’. Now, we have to prove and prove again that gene x behaves the way we predict over and over again, and other groups all over the world have to do so as well. With different animal species, different cells, different cell types, different techniques. Hundreds, if not thousands of experiments. Then we should also test the counter argument: if we ‘switch of’ gene x in aggressive cancer cells, will these cells become less cancerogenous? And so on. Until there is a general agreement within the scientific community that, yes, gene x is very possibly a player in the development of bone cancer. However, there are other factors (environmental and so on) that may also play a role, and other groups will take care of that field of research.

Theory

Once we have several such hypotheses (in some cases, only one hypothesis might be enough, but this is not the rule) we might start calling it a theory. In other words: a scientific theory summarizes a hypothesis or group of hypotheses that have been supported with repeated testing. To scientists, a theory is a coherent explanation for a large number of observations or facts (a scientific fact being an observation that has been confirmed repeatedly and is accepted as true) about the natural world. It has to be internally consistent and compatible with the evidence, firmly grounded in and based upon evidence, tested against a wide range of phenomena, and demonstrably effective in problem-solving. So basically, something is not called a theory until it has been confirmed by many independent experiments.

The transition from a hypothesis to a theory is fluent, and even scientists are not very specific in their use of words. This is actually one of the biggest problems in science: although we’d like to be specific, we don’t always stick to our own terminology, mixing “contemporary” use of words with their scientific meaning.

So in the case of climate change, we find both the hypothesis and the theory of climate change used in publications, and sometimes they refer to the same thing. But in any case, no matter what word is used, whatever observations are presented, they have been tested, and tested, and tested again before they are even called a hypothesis. Basically, if evidence accumulates to support a hypothesis, then the hypothesis can become accepted as a good explanation of a phenomenon. One definition of a theory is to say it is an accepted hypothesis. So, next time somebody says “but xyz is only a theory”, a million alarm bells should go off inside your head and a voice should start screaming: “it IS a theory! So it’s based on hundreds and hundreds of facts, repeated and verified by many different people and many different techniques!”

A scientific theory is valid as long as there is no evidence to dispute it. In the case of evolution, which is correctly called the ‘theory of evolution’ there is no scientific evidence that suggests that the theory of evolution is incorrect. No matter what you may have heard otherwise. And you never hear a scientist say the ‘hypothesis of evolution’ because we have long moved past the point of hypothesis. Evolution is one of the best documented theories that are out there. There simply is no dispute in the scientific community on whether or not evolution is true. No peer reviewed journal has ever published a serious article putting forward an alternative theory (or even hypothesis) that explains even remotely as well as evolution how life has evolved on earth. If that were the case, you can believe me that hundreds of labs would jump and run for the opportunity to reproduce data that are this important and fundamental to humanity. Science, in that respect, is a very democratic process, if you will, in which everybody can participate and contribute. But it sometimes does a very bad job transmitting the results to those who haven’t participated!

Climate science is still a young field, compared to evolution for example, or geology. Therefore, a lot of questions are still open, and of course, climate models from the beginning of the studies weren’t always accurate, and some were outright wrong. We neither had the techniques or computer models, nor the body of data that have accumulated over the past 20 or 30 years. However, the basic idea, or hypothesis, of climate change has not changed over the past 20 years. I remember that, in 1988, when I was about to graduate from high school, we spent a whole year in chemistry class discussing climate change, greenhouse gases, acid rain and so on. The predictions back then were horrible, the ozone layer would be gone by 2020, we would go blind from UV rays if we went outside unprotected, the climate would get hotter, and so on. Some of these predictions have turned out to be exaggerated, for sure, but not that much, actually. In some cases, the reality today is even worse than what was predicted back then. Water levels are rising faster and the arctic ice cap is melting much faster than predicted. In fact, it can be argued that overall, predictions have been too conservative, if we take for example the IPCC reports, which have been consistently too careful in their predictions(7,8).

Because of the overwhelming body of data combining rising surface temperatures, ocean temperatures, sea levels, etc. some people now have started saying: yes, global warming is a fact (meaning a theory in the scientific sense), but it is not clear whether it is man-made or not. Here, again, I have to disappoint: this is pure propaganda, since there is no such debate within the scientific community. There are a lot of discussions, of course, on details, models and predictions, but no serious disputes on whether (a) climate change is real and (b) human activity has a significant part in it. In fact, these two things are closely linked by scientific evidence (which will be discussed in another blog).

Of course, if a theory is valid as long as there is no evidence to dispute it, then theories can be disproven. This is the very basis of science: there is no absolute certainty. Not ever. However, so far, nobody has come up with a better theory (or rather, hypothesis), reproducibly tested and peer reviewed, that explains what we have experienced over the past two decades. It would be a huge relief if somebody did.

Since this blog is already quite long, and the aim was to present some background on how the scientific community works, I am going to conclude with a couple of remarks:

First of all, this article does not distinguish between climate change and global warming, nor did I really go into the ’man-made’ controversy or present a lot of ’facts’ on climate science. I wanted to leave this for my next blog, where I intent to write more about climate facts and the consensus within the climate science community, and about how propaganda is done using the example of ’climate gate‘ and the famous hockey stick graph. In fact, while discussing the need to be precise and specific when using scientific terminology, I actually fell for the current propaganda and decided to use ’climate change’ and not ’global warming’ in almost all occasions without defining the scientific meaning of both terms. Sometimes, ’global warming’ would probably have been more accurate. However, the term ’global warming’ has now been hijacked by the “climate change deniers” and almost demonized, and is being used to turn people against the science behind this theory by insisting, for example, that, because some cooling is observed in some areas of the world, the whole theory must be wrong. Therefore, it has almost become a reflex for me to use the more linguistically “neutral” term climate change. There you have it: propaganda in action.

So it seems that both terms ‘global warming’ and ’climate change’ are loaded and make easy targets for skeptics who want to downplay the role of human activity. I read somewhere, and I agree with this, that  scientists should present more precise scientific terms to the media and the public, such as ‘enhanced greenhouse effect’, ‘changes to atmospheric composition’, ‘climate disruption’, and ‘human climate forcing’. These terms are less controversial and less politicized than either ‘global warming’ or ’climate change’.

What I wanted to achieve here was raise awareness for the difficulties of the scientific community in communicating precisely and effectively with the media and the public, while at the same time making a very complex field of research accessible to the general public. I count myself as part of the public here, since the field of climate research is so vast and complicated, that it is impossible for me to understand the complex models, calculations, experiments and results in all detail, even if I tried to read the major publications in the field. Just like most of you, I depend on what is presented to me in summarized and simplified form by the media and organizations or other institutions. However, being a scientist, I have insight into the scientific process, and I know about the difficulties in communicating with others about complex issues.

So, to sum up, should you believe that man-made climate change is real? Yes you should. Because it is a fact… or rather a pretty accepted hypothesis. In other words: it’s a theory!

 

A short list of references, by no means complete…

  1.  IOPS actually has a position (if only interim, as everything so far, but I do hope we will agree on keeping this in) on global warming or climate change, that is expressed in its Vision statement (under Ecological): “The organization seeks new ecological relations that recognize the urgency of dealing with diverse ecological trends such as resource depletion, environmental degradation, and global warming, not only for liberation, but for survival, and that therefore facilitate ecologically sound reconstruction of society
  2. http://www.ipsos-mori.com/Assets/Docs/Polls/sri-pas-2011-summary-report.pdf 
  3.  http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/blog/2010/jun/23/survey-eu-scientists-dangerous-eurobarometer
  4.  http://news.yahoo.com/conservatives-losing-trust-science-study-finds-114401347.htm
  5. http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/9/11/2754356.pdf
  6. http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/flash/fl_239_en.pdf
  7. See what Noam Chomsky has to say in an Article from Feb 2012 (http://www.nationofchange.org/losing-world-1329237182) :

‘At about the same time, the International Energy Agency reported that, with rapidly increasing carbon emissions from fossil fuel use, the limit of safety will be reached by 2017 if the world continues on its present course. “The door is closing,” the IEA chief economist said, and very soon it “will be closed forever.”Shortly before the U.S. Department of Energy reported the most recent carbon dioxide emissions figures, which “jumped by the biggest amount on record” to a level higher than the worst-case scenario anticipated by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  That came as no surprise to many scientists, including the MIT program on climate change, which for years has warned that the IPCC predictions are too conservative. Such critics of the IPCC predictions receive virtually no public attention, unlike the fringe of denialists who are supported by the corporate sector, along with huge propaganda campaigns that have driven Americans off the international spectrum in dismissal of the threats.  Business support also translates directly to political power.  Denialism is part of the catechism that must be intoned by Republican candidates in the farcical election campaign now in progress, and in Congress they are powerful enough to abort even efforts to inquire into the effects of global warming, let alone do anything serious about it.

In brief, American decline can perhaps be stemmed if we abandon hope for decent survival, prospects that are all too real given the balance of forces in the world.’

8. http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/09/26/faster-than-predicted/

Discussion 18 Comments

  • 28th May 2012

    Excellent discussion. One of IOPS's more pressing actions in the near future should be to assist existing environmental organizations by helping broaden global awareness of the pending catastrophe of man-made 'climate disruption' and the limited time available for meaningful action. The growing distrust of science in the United States is serious problem to be counteracted.

  • Will Henry Lapinel 28th May 2012

    IOPS members are divided on whether it's man-made or not?? I'm genuinely shocked.

  • 28th May 2012

    It would be interesting to poll IOPS members to determine just how many question whether 'climate disruption' can be contributed to human activity. If IOPS members are divided on the subject it would be important to discuss it further to see if a consensus can be reached among the membership; it is not something we should be divided on.

  • Verena Stresing 29th May 2012

    Hi everyone,
    Thank you very much for your kind remarks!
    I feel, though, I have to make clear that I never meant that the IOPS comunity is really divided on this issue! I really hope we are not! There were a couple of remarks made by a few members in some Forum discussions that made me write this. But for all I know it could be only two or three members who actually doubt climate change!
    However, if this helps to just convince two people, who then convince others they know, I'd be very happy.
    Also, I thought that since the blogs are public, people who are not yet members might stumble over it.
    I wanted to write another blog on "climate gate" and the propaganda tactics surrounding this issue. What is your opinion on that? Would you be interested in reading something like that?

  • 29th May 2012

    I think a blog on the propaganda tactics surrounding climate change would definitely be worthwhile and I'd like to read it.

    There may be only a few members in IOPS who doubt climate change is real but there are many more outside the organization who need to be persuaded to take it more seriously.

    Thanks for you effort!

  • Verena Stresing 29th May 2012

    Thanks John, I'll do it then! The absence of comments here actually leaves me to believe that climate change really is not an issue within IOPS, and I will make that clear in my next blog! I hope it will be of interest, even to people who already know and agree completely...

    • Peter Lach-Newinsky 29th May 2012

      As one of the above-mentioned who know and agree completely, I'm looking foward to that article, Verena. And I think your blog was a useful balloon to test the waters at IOPS. In case you (or John) might be interested: at the EARTH project here at this site we have been discussing various aspects of Climate Chaos and Peak Oil and their possible ramifications for ecological reconstruction, social liberation and theory.

  • Verena Stresing 30th May 2012

    Hi Peter, thanks for your kind words! I'll definitely check out your project!

  • 1st Jun 2012

    Thank you for this post Verena - its not just the issue of climate change that can be pointed in the direction of this post since the scientific method has been well covered (for a quick and general read).

    it is very sad that the interests of media, government and corporations are not properly recognised in such public debates as climate change, and that the scientific community itself is less than well equipped to handle negative public relations events, ie there are valid and scientifically explainable reasons for aberrations in weather, sea levels and other typical atmospheric markers; trying to hide results that dont fit with a super simple message of what climate change means to the public is a disaster waiting to happen.

    Unfortunately, the mainstream media does not tend to provide scientists adept at translating their science to the public with enough time to explain things properly. So the sound-byte culture rushes on, leaping from one headline and single statement anchor, to another; waiting for skeptics to tear to pieces the abridged interviews and executive summaries of reports, with little come back available from those who do their research well, but lack training in aggressive media spin practices.

    Due to the large variety of challenges we face, and poor practices humans engage, I'm hoping the issue of ecology will be understood quite broadly here at iops - the term ecology has been used instead of environment, so i am hopeful :-)

    thanks again.

  • Peter Lach-Newinsky 2nd Jun 2012

    Just en passant, a good point, Alison, about IOPS using the term 'ecology' more than 'environment'. That also motivated me. I think it may have been good ole Murray Bookchin who first had some stimulating things to say about the difference between (radical) ecologists and (liberal) environmentalists back in the 70/80s.

  • Verena Stresing 2nd Jun 2012

    Hi guys,
    Alison, thank you for your comments. You summarized exactly what I wanted to do: raise awareness for the scientific method. And I agree that it's not only the media that is to blame, it's also the scientists. Often they just don't take the public discussion seriously enough (and my guess is that at least some scientists think it's beneath them to explain things properly).
    On the other hand, once the media has got hold of a (politically) controversial topic and the propaganda starts, it is very difficult to get through to the public with just "mere" facts. And scientists are really not equipped to deal with this kind of sophisticated propaganda methods. Many of us are incapable of explaining their research topic to a broader audience without using their specific terms and vocabulary, or even just to make their research interesting to others. And many also don’t take the time. I have always admired scientists who were able to do that.
    And then, when you get only 30 seconds in the media to explain a very complicated and very broad field of research, of course, you have lost. I’ll write my next blog on the climate change propaganda specifically, because it really is a scandal how this topic is being treated in the US media.
    Peter, I find your discussion on ecology vs environment very interesting. I actually wasn’t aware that these two terms were used so differently (or have such different meaning attached to them) in English. I guess I use them in the same way. Not that I don’t see a difference, ecology is certainly the broader term, but, for example, if you use the German word “Umweltschutz” for “protecting the environment”, you don’t just mean not to use plastic bags or not littering. It goes much further than that. And in France, the term “ecology” is used everywhere, they are very big on “eco” farming, food and so on, and everybody cares about these issues. On the other hand, there is virtually NO awareness about the environment. The propaganda in favour of Nuclear energy is so strong, there is no public discussion on the impact on the environment. It already starts with there being no recycling here at all, everything is just dumped in one big container, while Germany is very big on that.
    I think this could make a good discussion in another blog or Forum. It shows again how important it is to know how things are perceived in public (and discussed in the media), there are certainly big differences between countries (and languages).

  • Peter Lach-Newinsky 2nd Jun 2012

    Verena, I don't know what Alison thinks, but to me the ecology vs environmentalism distinction isn't all that often made in English either. I'm fairly sure quite a lot of IOPS people wouldn't make it. As I mentioned, I think it largely stems from Murray Bookchin, anarchist and social ecologist (died 2006). I think the difference crucial and I'm glad the IOPS Vision stresses ecology, not the environment. I'll try and briefly say why.

    The core words already express the differing assumptions. 'Environment' (German: Umwelt) implies a separated entity 'surrounding','outside', 'external' to society/economy as seen from the perspective of that society. The latter is thus implicitly prioritised, and nature is split up and reified into an 'environment' separate from us. 'Ecology', in contrast, is rooted in the Greek 'oikos', the logic of nature's 'household', in which society/the economy is always embedded and upon which it is dependent. Here nature is prioritised, and we are part of it.

    Thus environmentalists (or conservationists, German: Umweltschuetzer), tend to a fragmented, single-issue focus on various shifting environmental issues which are seen as separate and manageable by the current, or reformed, social and economic system via markets (liberals, Greens) and/or state regulation (social democrats, Greens). They are always appealing to those in power to be 'reasonable'. The socio-economic system itself is not seen as the root cause of the environmental issue(s). Economic growth (capital accumulation), the profit motive, class structures, the experts of reductionist science etc, all are uncritically accepted as simply given. Environmentalists are usually either passionately non-political or for some form of technocratic and 'green capitalism'.

    Ecology, in contrast, has implicitly radical implications for changing our societies and economies. It looks at the latter holistically from the viewpoint of the biosphere and finds them wanting not just superficially but in their very anti-ecological structures. Obviously limitless capital accumulation and resource consumption, the very basis of this system, are incompatible with the functioning of the biosphere, at least as it has so far evolved. Bookchin's point is that there is an inherent connection between critical ecological insights and revolutionary theory and that ecology can provide important guidelines for the construction of an ecologically sustainable, post-capitalist society (e.g. cherishing diversity, decentralisation, self-reliance, bioregional federations...)

    Besides peace and anti-nuclear work, I've been active in local eco-activism for over 30 years, trying to save this or that important ecosystem or fend off some disastrous environmental threat. However, I've never been comfortable with the environmentalist label and always tried to push my environmentalist friends towards seeing the bigger, systemic, picture, usually with little success.

    Hope that helps.

  • 8th Jun 2012

    peter, that was fantastic :-) and i'd love to hear about the sorts of things you've been involved in sometime.

    i feel less and less like a low lying island awash in turbulent waters!

    to describe just a little further the different terms used for these quite different approaches, deep eologists may be described as 'dark green' and this is associated with direct action activism - Earth First! being one of the earliest manifestations (i cant recall the first collective that this grew out of). thats not to say you have to be violent to commit to direct action; that is one of those dreadful stereotypes, like peoples presumption about black bloc.

    Silent Spring by Rachel Carson was pivotal in raising awareness of the complexity of problems and the notion that they are all related, or relatable in outcome. a real driver for the early eco direct action movement. Paul Watson left Greenpeace to form Sea Shepherd, reflecting frustration with single issue (at the time - anti nuclear) environmentalism with a reformist approach. his project was to develop a broader direct action engagement, with awareness raising secondary to the actual task of physically preventing (ocean) wildlife and habitat destruction.

    environmentalists are referred to as light green and, as Peter said, work within the dominant system, pushing at boundaries somewhat, but only to garner enough attention to assist the agenda to reform.

    the dark green/light green distinction has developed some value judgements. all organisations compete for space to some extent in the social sphere - for attention, volunteer time, charitable donations, media attention and even legitimacy relative to one another. i've had greenpeace fundraisers speak badly about sea shepherd on the phone. i provided sufficient information for the caller to be somewhat reticent about their approach. deep ecologists complain, rightfully, that environmental groups have undermined their actions by signing off on projects that should never have proceeded (when they needed more support, not more chronic compromise).

    i've been following the castor protests in germany (i think i spelt that right?) and it appears that issue brings together a wide range of people representing different approaches to activism (in particular, protest and direct action); and the presence of black block anarchists in anti fascist marches has always impressed me. i'm in a country where activism is almost always frowned upon, but our recycling programs are excellent - i'm so surprised germany is not a leader in that area.

    in the past i've referred to myself as an environmentalist because its what people recognise, but i think more and more that i am missing an opportunity to make a political comment, and engage a conversation (potentially). this is how i came to embrace labels around animal rights. i realised that i wasnt labelling myself in a regressive fashion (categorising and limiting) but opening opportunities and making clear my politics, which i happen to believe in very deeply. i was worried that people would pre judge me because of the stereotypes they clung to - so i aim to prove them wrong (mostly).

  • Verena Stresing 13th Jun 2012

    Hi Alison,
    I should have cleared that up: I am German, but I live in France, and I don't always make it clear what country I am speaking of (sorry for that).
    So just to clear up: Germany is (at least on the face of it) very anti-nuclear energy. Always has been, the Green party basically came out of the anti-nuclear energy protests in the 80s...
    Recycling is also very big in Germany, in fact, I do think they are leader in that respect. There is a joke that Germans - when they throw away an old tea bag - separate the metal clip from the paper label and open the bag to throw the tea into the compost...
    But that is not to say that there aren't problems, of course. The German population is also being used by politicians who'll push their agendas. Germany has officially declared last year that they will end all nuclear power in favor of green energy until 2022. The reality is already starting to look differently, though. Nuclear power is being substituted by coal, not water or solar or wind energy. Energy prices are going up, the big energy companies are starting to sue the state, etc. etc.
    It's all a big mess and a huge issue with many many sup-topics. That's why I always have the feeling that - as a single person - one has to concentrate on something (without obviously losing the big picture out of sight).

    France, where I live, is different. Here, it's all about food. Recycling is practically unknown (it's known, of course, but nobody does it) and the state doesn't provide enough incentive or infrastructure. Even I don't separate plastic from paper anymore, because there just is no container to throw it in anywhere near my house, so recycling becomes a complicated issue.
    The nuclear energy question is even worse in France, the population has been so perfectly deceived by the propaganda that they still believe that first of all, France needs nuclear energy, because it makes them energy independent (what a joke), that France gets 80% of their energy from nuclear, so without it the system would break down and people would have to go back to candle light (when in fact they confuse energy with electricity, and only 17% of energy comes from nuclear), and - worst of all - that nuclear energy is "green" energy...

    Your discussion (with Peter) is very interesting to me, by the way. I really like learning about your definitions and the "labeling" issue.
    I have a very scientific approach to things (kind of like an occupational hazard, I guess), I don't even think about these issues until somebody points them out to me. They are important, though.
    I'll write more on that later, for today, I'd just like to say that I am really happy with the conversations that we can have here, and that it really is about learning how others approach these issues.

  • Rabadán Eliseo 13th Jun 2012

    hello colleagues of IOPS society, greetings from IOPS Spain

    I am a teacher at high school in Santander, Cantabria,Spain.

    Me and other teachers: POrtugal,Denmark,Slovenia and other next new partners, are making a draft to apply for a EU Comenius from 2013-14 until 2014-15 school years

    Students are aged between 15 to 17-18.

    The tile of Project is
    Sustainability and Justice in the global village

    I should like to know if some of you here in the blog are also teachers in high school at France and should be interested to join the project.If so, please contact me to this email
    erabadan@yahoo.com
    Then I can send you more details.

    One of my targets is to introduce IOPS programme to the Project activities...

    Thanks so much
    Eliseo Rabadan

  • Verena Stresing 14th Jun 2012

    As an afterthought: Eliseo, I will publish your project proposal on the French IOPS site, if I can (I am the administrator, but I haven't yet figured out how it works...).
    That way, all French members can see it.
    Are you interested in Germany and Austria as well?

  • Tom McNamara 18th Jul 2012

    Very good article. As a teacher I'm ashamed to admit I even learned a thing or 2.

    Courage, bonne chance et à bientôt.

    Salut

    Tom

  • Verena Stresing 19th Jul 2012

    Hi Tom,
    thanks for the compliment and right back at you! I quickly scanned through all of your recent articles and always wanted to comment (no time!!). I hope we can intensify exchange in the French chapter. I might send you a message to that respect, if you don't mind (since this is not the right place for that kind of discussion)