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Man-Made Climate Change 2: The Hockey Stick and the Attack on Climate Science

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After my last blog on the scientific method, I’d like to write today about the ongoing attempt by vested interest to discredit climate change and carbon emission. Using the example of the “hockey stick” graph, I will try to describe in detail how the propaganda machine surrounding the science of climate change or global warming has been working for several decades now to discredit the science linking climate change to human activity, particularly in the US. In Europe (I am European and therefore confident that what I say regarding my continent is correct, but I believe I might as well have said “in the rest of the world”) there is virtually no serious debate over whether or not global warming or climate change is one of the, if not THE biggest challenge we face today.

 There are of course discussions on the details of the impact of human activity on the climate and the predictions for the future – and in some areas of the debate a consensus on what is going to happen hasn’t yet been reached by the scientific community – and of course there are a lot of discussions on the political implications of climate change. And more often than not European countries promise more than they actually do, or use climate change as a means to push their own agenda, for example by investing heavily in nuclear power. Enough material for several more blogs, I am sure. But in general, the leaders of European countries know of – and believe in – the dangers we face. The main stream media here frequently discuss climate change related issues(1), even though – from our point of view here – not nearly enough in light of the gravity of the situation. Propaganda here also exists, but with a different spin. Germany, for example, announced last year and end to nuclear power by 2022, greenwashing the fact that this would mean at least an intermediate return to coal until renewable energy sources are sufficiently developed. But at least there is some serious discussion on how to deal with climate change, and the basic facts are not disputed. Unlike in the US.

I can understand that as a US citizen you can get the impression that “less and less people believe in the premise that C02 emissions are causing climate change”, or that “less than 50% of people buy into the sham that is man-made global warming” and that therefore you come to the conclusion that we should all focus on issues that “are already considered fact by the masses” so we are not wasting time and effort on issues that will only distract us from the “real” challenges ahead. If you only have access to the US media (although there are very good sources such as Democracy Now!) and if you get bombarded day after day by the concerted effort of politics in general, right-wing politics in particular, heavy-weight industry and their billion dollar propaganda machine, you may easily be persuaded that indeed there are at least legitimate doubts as to whether or not this is all true, and that a big part of the US (or even the world’s) population today has taken a step back from the theory of man-made global warming. However, an estimated 400 million EU (15 core countries, not 27) citizens, and the majority of the Japanese (and other developed Asian countries) and Latin American population – and let’s not forget the other half of US citizens either – as well as the entire scientific community beg to differ.

So, why are so many Americans convinced that “climate change is a hoax”, and how come they think that the rest of the world agrees? I think the story surrounding the “climate gate scandal” is a good example on how propaganda is done, particularly in the US:


Climate gate

“Climate gate” started in November 2009, when a server at the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia was hacked and thousands of emails and computer files from climate scientists around the world were stolen and copied to various locations on the Internet. This took place just weeks before the Copenhagen Summit on climate change in December 2009, which would have been the first opportunity to make progress on dealing with climate change in years. Emails of Michael E. Mann(2) (who was one of 8 lead authors of the "Observed Climate Variability and Change” chapter of the IPCC(3) Third Assessment Report from 2001) were featured prominently in the attempt to discredit climate science across the board. The emails were selectively leaked and quoted with phrases taken out of context and strung together to make people believe that climate change was indeed the big hoax that Senator Inhofe(4) would like Americans to believe. Almost certainly this was an attempt to distract policy makers and to take their eye of the ball at this critical moment in history and potentially set all of us back years in confronting the problem of climate change.

Professor Mann became a particular target for the right-wing media and bloggers who accused him and others of “hiding the data that did not support global-warming claims” or “hiding the temperature decline”, arguing that the emails showed that global warming was a scientific conspiracy, in which scientists manipulated climate data and attempted to suppress critics. Because Professor Mann’s emails seemingly contained words or phrases which “disproved” the theory of climate change, his whole work came under scrutiny.

One of his studies came under particular attack because it contained a graph which was highlighted in the 2001 IPCC Third Assessment Report as supporting the mainstream view of climate scientists that there had been a relatively sharp rise in temperatures during the second half of the 20th century. It became a focus of dispute for the climate change deniers precisely because it was such an iconic figure, since it was so easy to understand and visible.


The hockey stick graph

The famous – or rather, the now infamous – hockey stick graph was produced by Mann and his collaborators more than a decade ago (in 1999)(5). At the time, it was an attempt to extend the temperature record back in time, since widespread thermometer records around the globe are only going back a century. From these records we know (and here we can say, without a doubt, because temperature measurements are direct evidence) that the globe has warmed by 0.8°C (1.5 F) in the past century. But what was not clear – and what is still disputed by the climate change deniers today – is whether this raise in global temperature is a consequence of human activity or whether it might occur naturally, or even whether this change in global temperature is at all unusual.

To answer this question the group around Mann used indirect measurements, so called proxy data that allow climate scientists to estimate how the climate has changed further in the past. Proxy data are, for example, data from tree rings, coral layers, or ice cores from polar and high regions. The data, or rather, these probes were not produced by Mann’s group itself, but are the result of a community wide effort by literally thousands of paleoclimate scientists around the world who have collected these probes or evidences over decades. In reference to my last blog on why we should trust in science, this is another example for how the scientific community is working together to develop a scientific theory. Groups like that around Mann take advantage of this wealth of data to synthesize the information contained within these records.

From these proxy data Mann determined that the globe was relatively warm about 1000 years ago, then cooled into the “little ice age“ (17th to 19th century), which would be the downward tilting handle of the hockey stick. The blade of the stick would then represent the warming of the planet over the past century. And the alarming conclusion from the data was that the current warmth appeared to be unprecedented as far as the records allowed them to go back (1000 years) at the time of the study (in 1999!).


The “Serengeti” strategy

The way in which Michael Mann and his research came under attack by the climate change deniers and the media in the wake of “climate gate” is best described by what Mann calls the “Serengeti” strategy. “Serengeti” strategy refers to the attempt to isolate a single scientist and try to make it sound as if the entire burden of proof for a complex scientific theory (theory here describing a “fact” or reality in non-scientific language, see last blog) stands and falls with this particular scientist or study; much like the lion in the Serengeti that cannot go for the entire herd but singles out this one isolated zebra. So, the attackers set up the straw man that climate science is like a house of cards resting on a single, more than 10 year old “hockey stick” study and a single scientist, thereby completely misrepresenting the whole field of climate science. In reality, climate science is much more like a puzzle that is almost filled in: there are still details scientists are trying to figure out, a couple of pieces are still missing, but the picture can be seen very clearly already.

Michael Mann is not the first scientist who came under attack in such a way. On the contrary, there has been a long standing effort to attack scientists, and particularly IPCC scientists, to discredit climate science. In 1995, Benjamin Santer, a climate scientist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California who played a role in second IPCC report, was fiercely attacked by the media (particularly the Wall Street Journal(6)) to discredit his work and challenge his integrity, in other words, to smear him. And the same now happened to Mann because the hockey stick graph had become this iconic symbol for climate change.

The tactic is also by no means new, the tobacco industry already used this strategy back when they tried to discredit science that linked tobacco smoke with human health problems such as lung cancer(7). In the case of climate change, it is the fossil fuel industry (with the gracious help from the automobile and other heavy industry) that now tries to deny the influence of their product on the global climate, and those who try to fool the public and discredit the science are allied with fossil fuel industry front groups and organizations – according to Mann, a small number of think tanks like the Koch brothers and other conservative foundations.

The propaganda strategy that is used serves a double purpose: on the one hand, the straw man makes it seem that the science depends on one person or one study only, misrepresenting the science and casting doubt on an entire field in order to distract (or shall I say brainwash?) the public, when in reality we can live very well without this one study and it does not change the overall picture. On the other hand, it sends a signal to the scientific community meant to scare scientists not to take part in public discourse by threatening that, should they take part in the public discussion, the same will happen to them: their science will be discredited, and their character will be smeared and ridiculed.


What the hockey stick really means for climate science

It cannot be stressed enough that the hockey stick study is only ONE piece of evidence for the larger theory of anthropogenic climate change (see part 1 of this blog). There are literally dozens of independent lines of evidence using different techniques, methods, probes or prediction models and relying on different data sets. What makes a theory scientific is that there are many independent scientific groups around the globe that come to the same conclusion: that humans are responsible (at least in great part) for the warming of the planet. Only because there is such a vast body of evidence does the scientific community accept the theory of climate change. Contrary to what the media will make people believe, climate science is not based on, nor does it stand or fall with ONE single thirteen year old study. On the contrary, since the study was published in 1999, many other studies(8) have come to the same conclusion.


The climate gate investigation

In response to “climate gate” eight (8!) separate independent investigations (amongst them the British Parliament and the highest authority for scientific misconduct, the National Science Foundation), looked at all the claims that climate change deniers made about Mann and came to the conclusion that there was NOTHING to it, that all accusations were fabricated(9). Several scientific associations (e.g. the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Meteorological Society and the Union of Concerned Scientists) also released statements supporting the scientific consensus that the global mean surface temperature had been rising for decades, and that "based on multiple lines of scientific evidence, global climate change caused by human activities is now underway and is a growing threat to society"(10). It might also surprise you to know that even amongst Republicans there are some who have taken a pro science rational approach, and who came out in defense of Michael Mann and climate science: Senator John McCain, Arnold Schwarzenegger and House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), amongst others.

However, the climate change deniers had reached their goal, as it took 2.5 years to conclude the investigations and, in the meantime, at least in the US the climate change deniers gained ground and had achieved to sidetrack any serious public discussion and to suppress any serious attempt to deal with the problems in time.


The propaganda continues

I think “climate gate” is a good example for the concerted effort to discredit science. Much has been achieved, particularly in the US. The number of people believing in climate change in the US has gone down while evidence has gone up in the past years. Conservatives have decreasing faith in science, and the most educated had the highest increase of skepticism(11). But climate change denial and science skepticism in general is no longer a domain of the right.

What can be done to restore trust in science? Scientists are at an inherent disadvantage, because for one they are only trained to do science, while the propaganda machine of Conservatives has been very successful in fooling the public on how science actually works. Many people in the US seem to believe that the goal of scientists is to just confirm each other’s opinion, when in fact the way to get ahead in science is by proving the other wrong, by finding the anomalies or showing something new, and not by reinforcing the prevailing paradigm! Scientists therefore are the true skeptics who, whenever new evidence comes out, try to find the holes in the evidence.

Scientific findings are neutral and scientists are not (or shouldn’t be) policy makers. Scientists have to ensure that – before policy makers even come together – a worthy and INFORMED discussion can be had, including the public, which is based on science and evidence. However, that seems no longer to be possible in the US, where we can no longer have a public debate on the reality of the problem, only on our reaction to it.

What’s most surprising to me is how effective the propaganda was in convincing the US public that it is, in fact, the scientists who have the well-funded machine behind them and who are gaining personally by coming to these conclusions. The reality is that most scientists live very modest lives. People often forget that, for every full professor you see on TV, there is an army of technicians, undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and assistant profs who do the actual lab work, who collect and analyze the data, who carry out the experiments and who depend on the results for their PhD thesis, publication records and the small chance of getting a full time position at some point in their lives. Trust me, I know. I have worked in Germany, Japan, Spain and France, and I think I have a good overview of how the majority of scientists in this world live. A Spanish postdoc earns 1000-1500 EUR per month. Italy used to be comparable, but is now getting worse. One of my colleagues from Poland earned 900 EUR/month as an assistant professor. And those millions of grant money that you might have heard about do not go into the pockets of the Principal Investigator. The money is always bound to paying for technical equipment and/or the lowly salaries of the numerous staff. Scientists in Europe also have a different standing in society compared to those in the US. While our work is generally recognized as socially relevant, it is by no means a career one chooses in order to become wealthy. The career prospects are abysmal.


So, what would all these people gain by falsifying data and conspiring to convince the public of a made-up threat? This would truly be the biggest, most successful, self-denying conspiracy in the world.


Another incomplete list of references

 (1) I challenge you to do a little experiment: go to the English site of spiegelonline.de, one of the main stream news sources in Germany (traditionally a “left” journal, although that can be disputed nowadays) and put in the search terms “global warming” or “nuclear phase-out”. See what happens. And keep in mind: these are only the articles that have been translated into English. http://www.spiegel.de/international/search/index.html?suchbegriff=nuclear+phase-out 

(2) A lot of what I am describing here I took from an interview with Michael E. Mann himself on Sam Seder’s Majority Report:  http://majority.fm/2012/04/25/425-michael-mann-climate-wars/ 

(3) The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a scientific intergovernmental body established by (amongst others) the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme. Its mission is to provide comprehensive scientific assessments of current worldwide scientific and socio-economic information about the risk of climate change caused by human activity, its potential consequences, and options for mitigating the effects. Thousands of scientists and other experts contribute (on a voluntary basis) to writing and reviewing reports, which are reviewed by representatives from governments of more than 120 countries, with summaries for policy makers. The IPCC does not carry out its own original research, nor does it do the work of monitoring climate or related phenomena itself. The IPCC bases its assessment mainly on peer reviewed and published scientific literature. National and international responses to climate change generally regard the UN climate panel as authoritative.                                          

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intergovernmental_Panel_on_Climate_Change, http://www.ipcc.ch/)

(4) Senator James Inhofe’s opinion is so outlandish, it really is enough to just google his name to get an overview. But if you’d like to have some fun, try these:



(5) http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/pubs/millennium-camera.pdf 

(6) http://stephenschneider.stanford.edu/Publications/PDF_Papers/WSJ_June12.pdf


(7) http://truth-out.org/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=1665:merchants-of-doubt-how-a-handful-of-scientists-obscured-the-truth-on-issues-from-tobacco-smoke-to-global-warming

(8) http://www.skepticalscience.com/broken-hockey-stick.htm

(9) The eight major investigations covered by secondary sources include: House of Commons Science and Technology Committee (UK); Independent Climate Change Review (UK); International Science Assessment Panel (UK); Pennsylvania State University first panel and second panel (US); United States Environmental Protection Agency (US); Department of Commerce (US); National Science Foundation (US)

(10) Henig, Jess (2009). "FactCheck: Climategate Doesn't Refute Global Warming". Newsweek. 11 December.

(11) http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=conservatives-lose-faith-in-science-over-last-40-years




Discussion 87 Comments

  • David Jones 15th Jun 2012

    Nice article Verena! I'm rounding off a PhD in theoretical physics and what you say about the "small chance of getting a full time position at some point in their lives" and the "abysmal" career prospects is all true.

    I'm probably getting out now, before going down the postdoc route, not because I don't love science (I do) but because I don't fancy spending ten or so years as a nomad, with no remote guarantee of a job at the end of it. I see this lifestyle exact a hefty toll on many researchers' personal relationships.

    I know many scientists. They are not engaged in a conspiracy against the public. Rather, they are willing to endure a lot of unnecessary crap because they love science and are committed to searching for the truth.

  • Verena Stresing 15th Jun 2012

    Hi David,
    thanks a lot for the nice comments and suport! As sad as it is, I can totally understand you for wanting to get out! I am on my third postdoc, no position in sight ever here in France. I am way too old now, and my CV is not typically French (too much time abroad, doctorate from Germany, not France). In my case, the nomad life-style was a choice, and I am in a relationship with someone who has a position at another University in France. So one full position, one researcher on short contracts with no prospects: the typical fate of a couple where both are scientists and in need of a position. I guess you are right: it very often is a choice between the job and the relationship.

    I hope that these stories will make the few "climate change conspiracy" followers among us see that the vast majority of scientists do their job out of pure interest and love for science and, as you say, are committed to searching the truth, which absolutely contradicts the ridiculous "conspiracy" theory, where thousands of scientists would have to be in it... and for what?

  • David Jones 15th Jun 2012

    Hi Verena,

    Thanks for sharing your experiences. I should probably add that while I just painted a very noble picture of the scientist, as humble servant of social progress and searcher for truth, I do somewhat question that notion and encourage other scientists to do so too. I wrote an essay about that on my blog a while back - it's intended to be somewhat provocative (!) but might be of interest: http://freedomthistime.wordpress.com/2012/03/04/the-myth-of-the-scientist/

  • Peter Lach-Newinsky 17th Jun 2012

    Thanks Verena, a good analysis of so-called 'climate gate' and corporate manipulations/propaganda campaigns. Maybe we should out the 'think tanks' and PR companies behind such standard corporate 'doubt-and-delay' strategies? Good Australian book on this is Sharon Beder's Global Spin. The Corporate Assault on Environmentalism (rev edition 2000, Scribe Publications, Melbourne). Or a movement of corporate non-cooperation/civil disobdience among scientists? Thanks again.

  • David Jones 17th Jun 2012

    @Peter "Or a movement of corporate non-cooperation/civil disobdience among scientists?"

    Yeah, I think that needs to happen. I think more Scientist need to start walking away from the global state capitalist ecocide machine, rather than continuing to allow themselves to be co-opted by it (the article I linked above was an attempt to provoke them into doing so!)

    Here's one place we could potentially start from with any outreach for that: http://www.sgr.org.uk/

  • Verena Stresing 17th Jun 2012

    I totally agree with you guys.
    Although I would like to say that most scientists (and let's not forget the students and technicians) really do their best and really believe in neutral, independent research. And do it for science sake. And a lot of small companies do really great work and are not just interested in "shareholder value".
    But I agree that their needs to be more awareness.

    I recently came across a job offer for a position as a lab technician at Monsanto Crop Science here in France. Naturally, I almost jumped off my seat. And you should have seen how it was worded: to ensure global food supply and how we need to help starving people in the Thirld World... Now that's another perfect example of propaganda, and it totally doesn't surprise me that a 19 or 20-year-old technician fresh out of school would fall for the add and apply and be convinced of working for the good of humanity... how is this to be avoided (other than by already teaching about Monsanto in school, which of course won't happen)?

    The problem is very often not the established scientists who fall for some grant offer by a powerful multinational, and then are expected to deliver results (which of course happens). I think, the problem starts much earlier than that and on a much lower level. And as much as I can blame the PI for taking the grant money, I just can't condemn the 20-yearl-old for falling for the Monsanto offer...

    Just some thoughts. That doesn't mean, of course, that I disagree with (some research) Scientists being co-opted by the ecocide machine or that we should think of a corporate disobedience strategy. In fact, I'd be very interested in that!

    • David Jones 17th Jun 2012

      "Although I would like to say that most scientists (and let's not forget the students and technicians) really do their best and really believe in neutral, independent research. And do it for science sake."

      I completely agree, the real question though is whether "doing their best" as part of the present system is really good enough, can really be justified. Personally, I don't think so (that's also part of what's behind my "getting out now" decision). I think a great many scientists potentially agree with me on that (?) (that "the dominant culture is killing the planet", to borrow Derrick Jensen's words) but are afraid to "come out" and say it alone.

      "I think, the problem starts much earlier than that and on a much lower level."

      Yes, also agree with that 100%. Many years go into molding a "scientist" - the process begins back during childhood. If you read the article I lined, I give my take on this "molding" process there. Some of it is personal, but the general process is perhaps familiar to most "scientists"?

      What you say about propaganda is all true, you even chose the expression "working for the good of humanity", which is almost exactly how I put it in my article (I talk about "the scientist"'s wish to "serve mankind"). This is what many scientists really want to do, but they are very often cynically exploited for it, in ways the younger researchers in particular don't always perceive.

  • Brian Cady 17th Jun 2012

    Is there a need for a global scientists guild/union?

  • Verena Stresing 17th Jun 2012

    Hi David,
    it's funny, I read your article (and liked it) and totally wasn't aware that I was using almost the same expressions!
    I am a big fan of Derrick Jensen (why is he not in IOPS??).

    "the real question though is whether "doing their best" as part of the present system is really good enough, can really be justified. Personally, I don't think so"

    Maybe you are right. Maybe it isn't good enough. And it is also true that many scientists really get molded to the point where they are so focused on their own little field of research that they forget the big picture.

    I wonder, though, what the solution should be. Don't get me wrong, I totally understand anyone who wants to get out. However, don't we (in Science) need people like you in particular? What's going to happen, if the people who are aware of the problems and "resist" the molding are the ones leaving? Don't get me wrong, this is not meant as even a bit of criticism, I am just playing the thing out in my mind...

    I recently listened to an interview with Derrick Jensen http://majority.fm/2012/02/24/224-author-environmentalist-derrick-jensen-2/ which I thought was really good.

    I think you are right that many many scientists agree with Jensen's message. But, as is often the case, there is not enough discussion on what we really have to do to change the system. How do we start? What would it look like!

    Jensen suggests some very concrete things we could do, but honestly, for a real change of the system, we need a majority on board (at least that's what I think). So we are standing in front of the usual dilemma: we need to change the system NOW, but we first have to educate and convince people, and this takes more time than we have...

    I have tried very hard in my own lab (in France) to convince people that nuclear energy is NOT GREEN... I mean, this is such a glaringly obvious point. And still, among 50 well educated scientists, I couldn't convince anyone, except the 3 people who were already on my side. Propaganda is so unbelievably strong... a friend of mine calls it "deep programming" and I think that's exactly right. So what to do?

    • David Jones 18th Jun 2012

      "However, don't we (in Science) need people like you in particular? What's going to happen, if the people who are aware of the problems and "resist" the molding are the ones leaving?"

      It's a hard decision. As I said earlier, I like science. I'm not so bad at research, maybe I could get a postdoc position somewhere (I've been somewhat encouraged to try). But there's a bit more to it than I initially let on. I'm finding it increasingly hard to care about what I've actually been trained to research. I'm off having nice thoughts about particles while the fate of the species is being decided. I feel a little like Nero, playing the violin while the city burns!

      Also, part of "resiting the molding" is recognizing that the institutional structures themselves may function like a straightjacket, to prevent you from saying or doing anything within them that could decisively help. My intentions might be good, but institutions have intentions too. What if the point of say research grants is to buy off scientists? What if governments are saying "Okay, we'll give you a little money to go away and think about what you like, so long as you keep providing the goods - the technology to fuel the death machine we get our power from." Should scientist just meekly go along within that framework? I dunno, like you I'm just playing things out in my mind here.

      "I have tried very hard in my own lab (in France) to convince people that nuclear energy is NOT GREEN..."

      An article on nuclear power from you at some point would be cool. I'm very ignorant about that. There are some pretty high profile "green" scientists strongly advocating it e.g. James Lovelock.

  • Verena Stresing 17th Jun 2012

    @Brian: A "global concerned scientists guild" would be great. But I thing there is already a Union of Concerned Scientists in the US... I am just not sure how concerned they really are?

    • David Jones 18th Jun 2012

      "There are nine hundred and ninety-nine patrons of virtue to one virtuous man."

    • 18th Jun 2012

      im not a financial member of the union of concerned scientists but i do follow them - they take the issue of climate change very seriously, but unsurprisingly have a reformist approach. this isnt a criticism given most groups like them are reformist in nature, ie identify 'friendly' political representatives and promote them; rally members to petition political representatives and serve an awareness raising role. very much on the environmental side of things, and concerned with more than climate change, but this is a prememinent issue and things like this:


      are just as important, since they too are an element of the climate change 'train'.

      for what they are, as a mainstream science based organisation, i respect them :-)

  • James Wilson 17th Jun 2012

    Thanks for both posts Verena.

    Thought I might drop this in here as well. Seems apt.


  • Gerry Conroy 17th Jun 2012

    Just to add a bit on the employment issue that came up above - from a book I still have to read.

    'The resulting professional is an obedient thinker, an intellectual property whom employers can trust to experiment, theorize, innovate and create safely within the confines of an assigned ideology. The political and intellectual timidity of today’s most highly educated employees is no accident.'

    That's a quote from a book by physicist Jeff Schmidt.
    Disciplined Minds: A Critical Look at Salaried Professionals and the Soul-Battering System That Shapes Their Lives

    Another quote:

    'These jobs require strict adherence to an assigned point of view; and so a prerequisite for employment is the willingness and ability to exercise what I call ideological discipline.'

    Upon publication of Disciplined Minds, the American Institute of Physics fired author Jeff Schmidt...

    Continued here:

  • Alex Lewis 18th Jun 2012

    thanks Verena for this post and that Jensen interview. that was one of the best interviews i've heard with him, that is, by an interviewer with both an open mind but asking critical questions.

    as much of a fan of DemocracyNow as i am, i was once disappointed with the handling of a Jensen interview. what was to be an full show was bumped for a special on Hermann Scheer, just deceased at the time, an advocate for renewable energy that has helped bring Germany into a top spot in photovoltaics. it struck me as ironic as vast fields of solar panels now account for about 3% of the energy consumption and is the strategy Jensen challenges as greenwash. does that make it all bad? well, to consider…

    "We can have electricity and a world devastated by mining, or we can have neither (and don't give me any nonsense about solar: you'll need copper for wiring, silicon for photovoltaics, metals and plastics for appliances, which need to be manufactured and then transported to your home, and so on. Even solar electrical energy can never be sustainable because electricity and all its accoutrements require an industrial infrastructure)." Derrick Jensen

    from the interview you posted

    "it's not so important what we want but what is real and what is possible"

    i find this to be a big problem. there's a lot of info on what is not working, and as you point out, that's not even in the debate. "there is virtually no serious debate over whether or not global warming or climate change is one of the, if not THE biggest challenge we face today."

    but even with that, we're not really addressing what is even possible. sure, the internet is useful. is it sustainable? i'll gladly give it up in trade to grow some veggies and raise a family on a healthy planet. how many solar panels and wind mills does it take to run a transit system if we rid ourselves of cars? and what has to be destroyed to create that? who has to be destroyed? does it even make sense? we're used to variety and mobility (in certain cultures) but does it actually work without ongoing destruction to maintain that? destruction that ultimately leads to our demise with incremental suffering to those in less 'civilized' cultures along the way.

    one thing he didn't quite articulate about technology but hinted at in the pottery analogy and further… we often think of technology as computer chips and refrigerators, but technology is about creating methods to improve our lives. flying around in planes might seem pretty useful, but if it comes at the expense of our environment, other humans and non-humans, and the future existence of our species… then maybe it's not so useful.

    • David Jones 18th Jun 2012

      "we often think of technology as computer chips and refrigerators, but technology is about creating methods to improve our lives. flying around in planes might seem pretty useful, but if it comes at the expense of our environment, other humans and non-humans, and the future existence of our species… then maybe it's not so useful."

      Sure, scientists need to have the conversation about "appropriate technology" too. Their silence on this important topic is deafening! Since you like my ramblings Alex, here's something recent by me on that: http://freedomthistime.wordpress.com/2012/03/22/is-science-of-any-value/ I even quoted Feynman in it ;-)

    • David Jones 18th Jun 2012

      Or, as Hayao Miyazaki puts it in Laputa: Castle in the sky

      “Now, why was Laputa destroyed?
      I know perfectly well.
      There’s a song in the valley of Gondoa:
      “We need roots in the Earth;
      Let’s live with the wind;
      With seeds, make fat the winter;
      With the birds, let’s sing of spring."
      No matter how many weapons you may have,
      or how many poor robots you use,
      you can’t live separated from the ground.”

    • Alex Lewis 18th Jun 2012

      nice article David. and Miyazaki quote :)

      "Look at the world today and it is clear to anyone that our scientific knowledge has outpaced a thousand-fold the collective wisdom to safely apply it."

      it seems to me the fossil fuel era has allowed a massive explosion of industry and various technologies with reckless abandon. and with that a population boom. but, we're living in bubble. on our current course it will pop, and will be pretty ugly. our wisdom has been buried beneath the next phone app. we've commodified life. trees are products, not forests full of life and critters and habitats. we have no respect while cities and convenience offer the illusion of control. it's like holding an orange inside a vase but unable to pull your fist out past the opening. if we just let go, turn it upside down, the orange comes right out. or, at some point the fist become so locked in position, there's no option but to shatter the vase only to find the orange has decomposed and no longer eatable.

      to borrow from Jensen

      "The world is saying look you have a choice, you can either fix it or I can fix it, and if I fix it you are not going to like it because I'm going to throw everything away. And everything means most of us."

    • David Jones 18th Jun 2012

      Alex: "bubble" is the word. Here's a fun article for you about how dubious it is to assume we'll be able to maintain the present fossil fuel energy bonanza. It contains an eclectic mix of scary graphs and ponies made out of gerbils strapped together!


  • Alex Lewis 18th Jun 2012

    breaking these up...

    and why isn't Jensen on IOPS? hmm. how inviting is it? and how supportive are the founders of his work?

    as Michael Albert once said "but I only wish there were no primativists…however there are…"


    "Criticism: One small branch of anarchism called primitivists, condemns Parecon for including work and workplaces, inputs and outputs, production and allocation and takes for granted the continuation of industrial civilization.
    Response: Of course parecon takes for granted that human societies will continue producing goods and services and that there will be work in workplaces with inputs such as resources, intermediate goods, and labor - but also people and social relations. And also outputs in the same categories, including produced goods and services - but also people and social relations, waste, and pollution. 
    Parecon takes these things for granted because not having these things would kill most of the world’s population and leave the few who survive with horribly restricted existences. 
    Work, workplaces, and inputs and outputs accompany social life of all types. To escape alienation, oppression, and ecological degradation by doing away with industry and workplaces - much less all institutions - is to solve one problem by creating even more extreme problems, including a gigantic graveyard of unnecessary corpses. Is it possible that one day the technology will exist so that all the food and other material needs of human beings will be instantaneously available without an ounce of human effort needing to be expended? Who knows? But at a minimum it is true that such technology will not exist for a very long time, that until that time we will need to provide for these human needs, and that there are various ways to do so: most of these ways are oppressive, unequal, undemocratic, and non-participatory. Parecon is offered as a way that has the opposite characteristics."

    perhaps Jensen finds Parecon a little uninviting and mathematical. or perhaps it is curious that the 4 social spheres of Parsoc do not include ParEcology, while ecology is part of the mission, it seems like a bit of an afterthought and not integral. but well, primitivists are a small branch… minor characters.

    is it crazy to listen to trees?


    • Alex Lewis 18th Jun 2012

      how long DO we have?

    • David Jones 18th Jun 2012

      "how long DO we have?"

      Yes, VERY important question here. This seems to be the main source of real disagreement amongst climate scientists. Almost nobody disagrees with anthropogenic warming, but there is a lot of uncertainty regarding how bad it will get how soon.

      I've heard opinions all the way from things like "We still have time to act, but we need to so soon and decisively" to "It's already too late to stabilize the climate and billions of people are going to die in the next few decades as it moves to a new hot state. We can still aim to have a billion or so surviving human beings, if we act soon and decisively."

      What do you reckon Verena?

    • 18th Jun 2012

      no (its not crazy to listen to trees). i can stare at them for hours, but damned if i can understand the language of rustling (leaves).

  • David Jones 18th Jun 2012

    And this is why there needs to be more discussion on "ParEcology". Say the extreme end of the "climate chaos" spectrum is realised. Can you really expect a rational democratic system like Parecon to emerge in a world where billions of people are fighting for survival? Maybe that's the point of some of the "primitivists"?

    • 18th Jun 2012

      you beat me david :-)

      no, and yes; i think that is the point of primitivists. they have a negative sense of the current human condition (as socialised, with existing structures of society that support and reproduce it). and the view is bleak.

      the vision of iops is a pathway, if taken up by large numbers at local sites everywhere, toward something less exploitative than the present system - including less exploitative of the environment, but my suspicion is that this remains an anthropocentric prioritising, of 'save the environment in order to save humanity'.

      primitivists tend to include deep ecologists (as against environmentalists) and the argument there is, stop destroying, stop bleeding the planet of resources and life just because. because it is not 'ours' to do so. and there is a presumption shared by many that ecological collapse will bring with it the economic and social collapse of human societies. i'm afraid, at this point, i consider the view a realistic one - but i'm keen to see this change.

      in the case of collapse, there will be little to no use for the structured/organised version of parecon. the most bleak outlook, i guess, is tribal societies with conflicts over scarce resources, but i really dont think this an inevitability. and tribes themselves function on the basis of community participation - but abuse of power on the basis of the usual standards (religion, sexuality, gender, age, etc) is possible in any tribal community.

      unfortunately, white australia and the rest of the world has chosen to pay little attention to what can be learnt (and reverred) from the indigenous communities of this country. multitudes of peaceful 'nations' (with internal punishments not much more brutal than what we still see carried out informally by law enforcement of western democracies), whilst living fairly harmoniously with the earth. harmoniously enough that human impact had virtually ceased to be a detrimental shaper of the environment.

      sometimes i think, at least judging by discussions i've had in the past, that some primitivists opt for the position because it is an easy rejection of 'all' positions that can be problematised (including iops), while not being in a position of 'having' to engage the lived experience of it. and then there is the misreading of primitivist position, perhaps because of some poor presentations of it on the net, that there is something of a wish for collapse in order to 'correct' the population 'problem' and rid the world of capitalism the 'easy' way (thank you mother nature). i really dont like that presentation of it. its weak. it allows people to defer their own personal responsibility in fully engaging the problem and acting beyond the personal change of low wattage light globes, owning a back up generator, tents and talking about hunting for survival.

      have we strayed too far? sorry.

    • David Jones 18th Jun 2012

      If we strayed too far with "primitivism" it's my fault, 'cos I started it!

      I'll reserve judgement on it until I've read one of Jensen's books (my idea of 'summer reading' haha). My hunch is I won't agree with everything he says, but will find plenty of valuable insights not explored elsewhere. Which I'll then steal and pass off as my own ;-)

    • Alex Lewis 18th Jun 2012

      for the record, though. jensen does not consider himself to be a primitivist.

    • David Jones 19th Jun 2012

      Thanks for clarifying Alex, this exactly is why I need to read a book of Jensen's before I make these sorts of comments! I've heard him say in interviews that he thinks of "civilisation" as the problem. He defines "civilisation" as something inherently expansionary (the expansion of resource importing cities) so yeah, it's then unsustainable *by definition*.

      Assuming the human race survives, I'm interested to hear what role (if any) he thinks the discoveries of the last few hundred years can/should play in future human societies organised along alternate lines. I don't want to see the baby thrown out with the bathwater.

    • Stephen Roblin 21st Jun 2012

      Hi David,

      "ParEcology"...I haven't come across it. Is there discussion some where?

    • David Jones 21st Jun 2012

      Hi Stephen,

      "Parecology" is not formally defined elsewhere on the site, as far as I am aware. For example, there is no dedicated "ecology" section in the forums. The point some of us are making here is that there perhaps it should be. For example, Peter comments further down:

      The conversation above has inspired me. Thank you everyone. All the arguments that need airing so badly in IOPS where, indeed, ParEcology seems 'somewhat of an after-thought' when it should be at the centre, given human/humane survival is at stake. Not to mention the need for an evolutionary leap into One World Consciousness, a spiritual-economic-political-eclogical revolution as has never been attempted. Exciting times. Tick tock. As the clock ticks, will Joe & Mary Blogs see the light and come to the party of revolution or continue to play follow the leaders over into the abyss as in so many collapsed/overshot civilisations before?

      If THESE are the stakes, should not IOPS, at the very least, say so? Loudly. Clearly. Internationally. Poetically. Make it a central part of the Vision, theory, strategy, organisation? At the moment IOPS is more tack-on environmentalist than radically ecological IMO. Can we change that for a start perhaps?

      My fear is that this wonderful discussion is going to get lost here in the long tail of Verena's geat blog, so why not come on over folks to the EARTH project for further subversive discussion in the quiet of our own 'oikos' (home/household)?"

      The EARTH project is here:

      http://www.iopsociety.org/projects/ecological-action-reconstruction-theory-hub .

      It'd be great if you wanted to join us. Perhaps in light of these comments we should start a thread at EARTH, on what role ecology should play within parsoc. Should it occupy a more central position within the vision? Would love to hear your thoughts there RE that :-)

  • Verena Stresing 18th Jun 2012

    Guys, such an interesting conversation! Unfortunately, due to time difference US/Europe, I gotta work! But I'll definitely join in later!

  • James Wilson 18th Jun 2012

    FZ once said that the most abundant element in the universe is not hydrogen, it's stupidity.

    Just grab some Heinz baked beans, a twelve gauge, Bandoleer and tin dog food and we'll eat your dog bury our dead or eat them instead, it's entirely up to you.

    When our grandkids, kids, finally get what we deserve...

    Has anyone seen my plectrum?

    Primitivism? Too late for that? I'm conversing in a world developed by the military. Boooomm!

    Carpets eat plectrums you know!

    Listen to the kids at end of Smith's rendition of After the Gold Rush. They're sound very small.

    Johnny Winter thought he'd have to give up music when the company making his picks went out of business.

  • John Vincent 18th Jun 2012

    "How long DO we have?"

    I received the following response to an email sent to a former neighbor who teaches group facilitation methods and participatory strategic planning:

    “I've been very concerned about climate change for a long time, but became particularly concerned when I took the John Steinbeck cruise in the Gulf of CA and one of the naturalist postulated that the human species had 25 - 30 years to exist!

    "I think ultimately it is a religious question of how we choose to face our own death as a species - with wars for resources or with a collective sense of compassion and support. We have a choice.”

    I was struck by its fatalistic attitude, at least its acceptance of the inevitability of our self-inflicted destruction, coming from an up beat individual who focuses on the potential of human interactions to construct positive strategies. How many others embrace the inevitability of climate change destruction and believe our only choice is how we face it? I suspect there are many.

    IOPS has its work cut out for it if it wants to play a significant role in demonstrating that a different outcome is possible and achievable. It will need to help build a mass movement to bring about that alternative. It’s a big task, especially here in the United States the center of the destructive power of concentrated capital and climate change denial where the mainstream press focuses on economic recovery and people are concerned with maintaining their current standard of living.

    Perhaps IOPS can become the group facilitator bringing together the various organizations concerned with climate change to develop the mass-movement-building strategies that will be necessary to ensure our survival. It’s certainly one of the more immediate concerns facing the international world.

    • Alex Lewis 18th Jun 2012

      "How many others embrace the inevitability of climate change destruction and believe our only choice is how we face it? I suspect there are many."

      i've heard that by many, but generally not by those actually engaging in some way to change it (so your source is particularly troubling). i otherwise view that as a cop out, conveniently allowing one to do nothing, and coming from folks in more privileged societies. "forget about it, there's nothing you can do" -keep consuming and just live your life. nothing you can do? well, what have you tried?

      but further, i find that completely offensive. if you've given up, then by all means face your death now. but don't make that choice for the rest of us, future generations, or the polar bears or the forest. quit sucking this planet dry while people and critters struggle for survival if you're so keen on meeting your maker. harsh?

    • 20th Jun 2012

      hmmm ... perhaps thats not the only kind of fatalism.

      i think it possible to be fully engaged and yet totally realistic about the bleak circumstances of a particular phenomenon or context. i will not see the end of animals being abused en mass by industry in my lifetime, but that in no way changes my path as a motivated activist. yes, some people think me negative, but i argue i'm a realist - i engage things as realistically as possible so that i know what i'm dealing with and, hopefully, am more effective. but no denying, its depressing. thing is, if i make any difference at all, then its worth while. every animal, without exception, matters, and you cannot gauge your impact on those around you through time (particulalry if you have had the good fortune to hold occassional teaching positions where social change topics are relevant).

      the environment is the same. yes, some/many are detaching from the issue, and eschewing community responsibility by either denial/ignorance or a certain kind of fatalism, but its what you do with your knowledge that counts. and yes, how you choose (and act) in the time you have.

      is this any different to someone being told they have a terminal illness? yes and no (i guess). again, the outcome varies greatly according to the choices made, and some people even go into remission from what was considered a terminal state due to the radical lifestyle changes they make. so anything is possible, but i bet not a day goes by that they dont think differently about their world compared to before being confronted with the reality of a precarious existence. yes, anything is possible, and maybe my eco-pessimissm will be proven wrong :-)

      humans seem to have an emotional 'fail' switch when it comes to death, individual or societal. infact, not even parecon can 'manage' the notion of society dieing (it seems) :-) but confronting these challenges openly can only lead to greater appreciation for life in the broadest sense, as against individualist notions of 'my life' and loss of life of those one knows - all ego centric perceptions. i think.

      alex, my fatalism is upsetting to others so i keep it to myself. perhaps there are others like me who balance being as active as 'citizen' life allows while treading the emotional waters of realist-fatalism ... (BUT 25 to 30 years seems ridiculous to me, unless there is a meteor, volcano or other very significant natural event none of us yet know about!)

    • David Jones 20th Jun 2012

      Alison, I'm so glad you decided not to 'keep it to myself' in this instance. I think a lot of us have similar feelings about the world we find ourselves in. Have you read this yet: http://www.zcommunications.org/when-chomsky-wept-by-fred-branfman ?

      It is a beautiful tribute to a beautiful man. I almost cried reading it. I think many of us who are cognisant of what goes on in the world today feel like Winston Smith - we don't expect real change to come soon, but we labour on still, in the hope that those to come can build on what we do today. In many ways, it is a cruel ago for us to live through.

      You write "is this any different to someone being told they have a terminal illness?". Interesting. Thich Nhat Hanh uses exactly the same metaphor:

      “Without collective awakening the catastrophe will come. Civilisations have been destroyed many times and this civilisation is no different. It can be destroyed. We can think of time in terms of millions of years and life will resume little by little. The cosmos operates for us very urgently, but geological time is different.

      If you meditate on that, you will not go crazy. You accept that this civilisation could be abolished and life will begin later on after a few thousand years because that is something that has happened in the history of this planet. When you have peace in yourself and accept, then you are calm enough to do something, but if you are carried by despair there is no hope.

      It’s like the person who is struck with cancer or Aids and they learn they have been given one year or six months to live. They suffer very much and fight. But if they come to accept that they will die and they prepare to live every day peacefully and they enjoy every moment, the situation may change and the illness may go away. That has happened to many people.”

      I found his book "The World We Have: A Buddhist Approach to Peace and Ecology" very helpful. Perhaps anybody feeling overwhelmed by the gravity of today's situation might like to give that book a go?

    • David Jones 20th Jun 2012

      ^ Oops, should say "cruel age" of course, not "cruel ago"!

    • Alex Lewis 20th Jun 2012

      throwing something in. hella tired at the moment, so not much on words (maybe later :) - but one more jensen reference. thresholds. what will come? don't know. what is your threshold? fuck the future. we have no idea. what are you willing to fight for here and now?


    • 23rd Jun 2012

      hi David, sorry i've not been able to keep up with things (IOPS generally), and its a little frustrating because its this kind of blog and discussion that i feel is so important.

      i'm not familiar with the person you refer to as using the terminal illness analogy, but it seems a natural one to make ... yes, civilisations come and go, and looking at graphs of their rise and fall its easy to see that ours hit its peak sometime ago, and who knows what now - plateu for how long? its surreal to be 'in that time'.

      history doesnt really repeat in the simplistic manner we might suggest with a throw away phrase, used to retain some significant lesson from the past (really, it is all the small lessons that need retaining, but no one is reiterating these). my favourite thing is to go camping - so i can get a clear sense of myself, my relationship to nature (such that it is) and the space between us and the stars - immense, like time. so, no, it doesnt matter if you look at it in this abstract way, but:

      i couldnt care less about maintaining a sustainable environment for the perpetuity of the hman species. that is a side benefit to not destroying it for the existing species who have done naught to foul, deforest, flood, and otherwise erode their only home. we are responsible for this, and they are not. my children already need to take responsibility, albeit not like an adult. but some. i couldnt care less that a human never sees another polar bear in the wild, but i do care about what it is like for the polar bear who drowns as it starves and sets off desperately in search of ice and food ... and i imagine this inescapable path of slow death too easily. in that abstract view of geological time, where some will certainly survive, billions will suffer and each will be an entity experiencing intensely. that is immensely troubling to me. i'm not looking to 'save' the environment for those who come after in order to have more of us (to perpetuate), i'm arguing the need to save entire ecosystems in their own right because we've no right to destroy them for the sake of our ravenous lifestyles and inefficiencies. not sure how clear it is that i'm coming from a different angle than standard (light green) environmentalism.

      i've been making posters for anti fur protests this week. looking at the thousands of animals i've seen images of, and there are literally millions of them, knowing each suffers as intensely as my companion animals, and as my children or me. so, unfortunately, its no comfort to me to know that the earth 'goes on'. and i do lie awake thinking about these things, but then i get involved in things to keep from becoming bitter.

      ... i just read the article on chomsky/orwell's winston before hitting 'submit'. not sure if what i wrote is even relevant now. but in any case, every person, every thing (every tree) matters. whatever the relative time frame. something is hurt. i guess it ties into that article rather well, but i didnt intend it to (only just read) and sorry for the rant! going to watch the sandra white video tomorrow (promise) :-)

    • 23rd Jun 2012

      thank you alex.

      "im incredibly priveleged, and its my responsibility to use that privelege to bring down the whole system. otherwise im not worth shit." Jensen

      rarely do you find someone as honest and raw, not the least performative - utterly sincere. damned if i can see people listening though. hell, the posting members in the most 'senior' positions here arent fully cognisant of how their privelege plays out, and they're aspiring to fight the 'good' fight. but fight what? for who? and why?

      so long as it is myopically anthropocentric in nature (sorry, but its the right word - obsessively human centered in understanding from start to finish) then however 'good' people think the fight is, its already lost.

      but jensen explains that better than i can.

      thank you ... time to try to sleep, with help, this weeks activism has raised ghostly, ghastly spectres in my head.

  • 18th Jun 2012

    thank you for another great post Verena.

    The Real News Network is taking the issue very seriously and recently began discussing climate change (and denial) with those who work most closely on the science of it, inviting viewers to send their questions and challenges so ongoing dialogue could develop. in hopes, i guess, of addressing viewers' concerns and missunderstndings of the issue. regrettably, the ones that should be watching have their tv channels firmly fixed on FOX news type media :-(

  • Alex Lewis 18th Jun 2012

    "Perhaps IOPS can become the group facilitator bringing together the various organizations concerned with climate change to develop the mass-movement-building strategies that will be necessary to ensure our survival. It’s certainly one of the more immediate concerns facing the international world." -John

    "the vision of iops is a pathway, if taken up by large numbers at local sites everywhere, toward something less exploitative than the present system - including less exploitative of the environment" -alison

    how inviting are we right now? a challenge for IOPS: open the gate. quoting someone "there are many amazing grass roots community groups and organisations already active and doing great things that fit within the parecon ethos" but right now we still have quite the Z community. can we start approaching these groups with massive respect without advising or requiring them to hop on board with everything parecon and fanfare, and make this a better place to network? a place to listen to each other without a top-down feel (which i feel), letting go a bit to find some answers together?

    that is, if we're truly interested in a mass movement.

    • John Vincent 18th Jun 2012

      "but further, i find that completely offensive. if you've given up, then by all means face your death now. but don't make that choice for the rest of us, future generations, or the polar bears or the forest. quit sucking this planet dry while people and critters struggle for survival if you're so keen on meeting your maker. harsh?" - Alex

      Yes, a bit harsh, my former neighbor added solar to her home 2004 and also wrote in her email response:

      "I'm working with Alameda County Sustainability and they have kept C02 emissions at the same level as 8 years ago and are working to reduce the by 20% by 2020 and 80% by 2050. There is good work being done."

      But the points are: there are many good people who understand the reality of climate change, are even doing something about it, but still believe it and species destruction is inevitable; these people and, the “grass roots community groups”, as you suggest, are the ones to “start approaching… with massive respect without advising or requiring them to hop on board with everything parecon and fanfare, and make this a better place to network… a place to listen to each other without a top-down feel… letting go a bit to find some answers together”.

      That would be a good place to start.

    • Alex Lewis 18th Jun 2012

      thanks John. and apologies for harshness. i'm aware my humor is a bit wry, or perhaps gallows. that's my way out of feeling offended over something i take serious. and mean no harm to you or your friend.

      as for species destruction being inevitable. it is of course ongoing, if stepping from a human-centric viewpoint, and not a future destination.

      "That would be a good place to start." :)

      peace to you

  • Verena Stresing 18th Jun 2012

    Hi everyone,
    this is a really inspiringconversation here!
    From what I can see, we all agree on the main point: that really we are facing a very urgent crisis. And all of us want to do something constructive.

    As to the question of how long DO we have?
    I don't know. But I often wonder: could we know? I mean, we have incredibly powerful climate-change models and computers that calculate for month and get fed every data available. True, the predictions they come up with are not always 100% accurate, but I still think they give us a pretty good picture of what's ahead. And in the end it really doesn't matter if the best or the worst of all predictions will come true... what does it matter if the process takes a century longer or "only" leads to more suffering in Africa (making this up as I go).

    So, why can't we use these models and use them for something even more productive, like feed them with all kinds of scenarios that we can up with to stop climate change NOW?? I've never see this done.
    Sure, there are models telling you that if we stop CO2 emissions now, then we can prevent global warming by x.y degrees or other rather punctual things. But has anyone ever calculated how much copper/lithium/etc is really needed to create solar panels to provide electricity world wide?
    For example: do you know about the desertec project? Where are the detailed studies on this one? The two-sided calculations that factor in extraction of resources and output (not to mention political implication, since this project is on African ground but supposed to provide energy to the West)

    I know what Derrick Jensen has to say to that, and I am not saying I agree or disagree, I'm just saying I think that the models we have are not used in that way enough. We predict the catastrophy, but how accurately can we predict how to prevent it? What would it REALLY take?

    With respect to the discussion "should we give up already or go down fighting":

    I have to say, I sometimes feel like a total schizophrenic. Objectively thinking, I guess deep inside I think even if it's not too late, we will at least have to pass through a time of absolute chaos (starting now I guess) before things can get better. But I'd never think of giving up. First of all, there is something to it that activists are happy people, because the mere fact that you are doing something and that you have stopped just taking it lying down is really liberating. Then there is the "community" effect, the feeling of being understood, and even of intellectual challenge when people don't agree. All good things.

    I also believe in "small steps", so whatever step we can take in the right direction is better than doing nothing. Even if it's not enough. That's also why I have no problem with organizations that focus on just one issue or try to bring in politicians. It's not what I want to do, but someone has to do it.

    What frustrates me the most is the "denial" problem that David talked about. Great article, by the way. I mean, you can see what happened with this blog: we, the people not in denial, start discussing, but the blog was intended for the few members who actually disagree with the premise. But unfortunately, either these people haven't even read the blog (because it goes against their deepest believes, or because they just didn't see it) or somebody read it, disagreed, but didn't find it worth the discussion. I am fairly certain that it didn't convince anyone. Yet, the only technique I have is throwing facts at them. I just don't know any better. David, I agree with the analysis on denial in your article, but unfortunately, even there people didn't really showed techniques on how - on a practical level - do we get people out of denial? It's a frustrating challenge, really.

    I think it would be great if IOPS could become "the group facilitator bringing together the various organizations concerned with climate change to develop the mass-movement-building strategies". We should all work for it together.

    Peter: is your EARTH project at IOPS going in that direction, or is it more "discussion" oriented? Should we all think about forming an environmental group with an action plan within IOPS?
    To me, one of the strongest points of IOPS is the possibility to work internationally (even though IOPS was meant to be based on local chapters). I think we need to get out of the local corner (in addition to local chapters), because this really is something that concerns us all.

    • Peter Lach-Newinsky 18th Jun 2012

      "Peter: is your EARTH project at IOPS going in that direction, or is it more "discussion" oriented? Should we all think about forming an environmental group with an action plan within IOPS?

      To me, one of the strongest points of IOPS is the possibility to work internationally (even though IOPS was meant to be based on local chapters). I think we need to get out of the local corner (in addition to local chapters), because this really is something that concerns us all."

      Verena, the EARTH project ain't my baby, I want it OPEN OPEN OPEN FREE FREE FREE, as self-managed an affinity group as all my good comrades in there want to make it. So PLEASE come there, ye members of Eco-doom and hope, Verena, John, Alex etc (David and Alison are already there) and let's make it what we want it to be.

      The conversation above has inspired me. Thank you everyone. All the arguments that need airing so badly in IOPS where, indeed, ParEcology seems 'somewhat of an after-thought' when it should be at the centre, given human/humane survival is at stake. Not to mention the need for an evolutionary leap into One World Consciousness, a spiritual-economic-political-eclogical revolution as has never been attempted. Exciting times. Tick tock. As the clock ticks, will Joe & Mary Blogs see the light and come to the party of revolution or continue to play follow the leaders over into the abyss as in so many collapsed/overshot civilisations before?

      If THESE are the stakes, should not IOPS, at the very least, say so? Loudly. Clearly. Internationally. Poetically. Make it a central part of the Vision, theory, strategy, organisation? At the moment IOPS is more tack-on environmentalist than radically ecological IMO. Can we change that for a start perhaps?

      My fear is that this wonderful discussion is going to get lost here in the long tail of Verena's geat blog, so why not come on over folks to the EARTH project for further subversive discussion in the quiet of our own 'oikos' (home/household)?

      (PS, David, as an anti-nuclear activist and Chernobyl victim from way back, happy to provide some thought on nuclear and the 'green nuclearist' confusionists (Lovelock, Porrit, Monbiot, Flannery etc) at some other point. My blog at memengineering is quite full of the stuff...)

    • Alex Lewis 19th Jun 2012

      ugh. i remember reading about that desertec thingy. how offensive could it get? sure if we were designing, we might say, one billion people only and relocate to the last fruitful regions with a one-time shot at exploiting the land and animals for our purposes with the massive destruction needed to create the infrastructure (and allowance to maintain) while establishing our slavery through balanced job complexes… that might make sense. did i mention we have to get rid of a few billion peeps?

      but where do we get such models to calculate "how much copper/lithium/etc is really needed to create solar panels to provide electricity world wide?" i guess we can ask the gates foundation to fund that (thank dickens).

      what's that statistic? the US comprises five percent of the population but consume 25 percent of the energy?

      but it would be good to know. might be a slap of reality on what's possible.

      fine, fine, Peter, i'm there :)

    • David Jones 19th Jun 2012

      Thanks Peter, I'll spend some more time over at your blog educating myself.

  • Verena Stresing 18th Jun 2012

    sorry for the blue... don't know what happened? Is this a bug?

  • David Jones 18th Jun 2012


    So, you wrote this:

    "David, I agree with the analysis on denial in your article, but unfortunately, even there people didn't really showed techniques on how - on a practical level - do we get people out of denial? It's a frustrating challenge, really."

    That there is a tough cookie! The most honest answer I can give you is "I would not have started from here". Most unhelpful, I know! But as Sandra White said in her talk, we currently lack the prerequisites for making the necessary sacrifices: strong communities and a broader culture that sufficiently values the Earth and its ecosystems. Rather, we live in an increasingly atomized society and our culture, our "psychic space", has been severely polluted by decades of propaganda.

    The solution would be serious community organizing to undo the damage. Unfortunately, the level of serious organizing needed could take decades to bear fruit. We don't have decades :-( Still, I think we should try to make the best of a bad situation, for all the reasons you gave. We should plan for the worst and hope for the best. Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will. Solidiversity!

    • Alex Lewis 18th Jun 2012

      read your article on denial too, David. again, enjoyed. seems every time i read one of your articles i hear much of my own mind being articulated. (and thanks for the Donnie Darko link in there, hahaha!)

      "Activists and scientists can scream data until they are blue in the face and they will never change the mind of somebody in denial"

      i'll throw out some things on what is a tough cookie to crumble. in particular, scientists can define over and over, but it means little to most people as they aren't scientists. there's always the option for doubt (which is always true of science) and corporate media does a damn good job of keeping that doubt on the forefront. 98% of climate scientists agree that climate change is man-made? so what. we have an option out. and in times of economic fear, having job security is more appealing than changing everything.

      as activists or just as human beings interested in social change, people do pick up on passion. but this, as you allude to by community reference, generally needs to be personal. we do need local. we also need music and art that carries the message. these things ignite passion and have, i think, always been part of revolution. connecting with that?

      there's always going to be folks that simply won't budge. they'll rationalize till they are dead like white supremacists still trumpeting 'the south will rise again'. i don't bother with them much. and there are those that are 'winning' through our destructive capitalist model. don't bother with them either. but, i talk on a daily basis with everyday well-intentioned people. i'm finding more and more resonance for the need to do something these days, as well as folks that ARE doing something in their own way. but three things i hear the most in denial concerning capitalism and environmental destruction:

      1. there's nothing you can do.
      my question… what have you tried?

      2. i don't know, i still have hope.
      curious answer. that is like, i hear what you are saying but i'm sure it will all work out. that is, it will work out without ME doing anything. Obama will fix it. corporations are getting more green. people have been through bad stuff before and we're still here.

      that's a pretty big shut off from history in current convenience. so i might ask about women's rights, labor rights, civil rights. but it's hard, if someone hasn't thought about that before. they can get on board in the moment, but by tomorrow they still don't need to give a shit. it take some serious effort fostering those relationships.

      3. ahhhh! i don't want to think about that.
      wow. seriously, i've had that reaction many times. an out an out conscious denial. i know those things exist but i don't want to know. i don't want the responsibility. again, rather convenient, but not someone i'd engage too much with more at the moment.

      like Verena says, it feels like we might have to go through chaos before things can get better. and yes, we're there now i'd say, but some are really hurting from it more than others. but, it does seem like so many people need to actually experience hardship before it becomes important. it is, otherwise, someone else's problem. so how do we bring people to compassion and responsibility? it's our responsibility above all, if we recognize injustice and destruction and are in a privileged enough circumstance to contribute to the remedy. suppose that's what brings us here. but part of what really brings me here has been the help of others, and the availably of others. because of my teacher Rachael, reading howard zinn, derrick jensen, watching democracynow, knowing i'm not alone. we can build by being available.

      the best way i can think of is to start networking better with those already taking responsibility. those not in denial in many related fields. and there are many. and we don't have them here yet. and honestly, i think we're running the risk of being a bit vanguardist in the current state of things. clearly i'm not a 100% parecon guy. i think it holds good ideas. i think there are many dedicated folks to solving problems out there that need to be invited and heard from. but we must approach with respect. locally, yes. direct invitation both locally and non, yes. Caragh du Toit's mission statement as a possible invitation letter, yes. other ways, yes. open to suggestions, yes.

      rant off for now. ok :)


  • David Jones 18th Jun 2012

    An interesting variation on your #3 response I've encountered several times is:

    4. ahhhh! i don't want YOU to think about that.

    Seriously, a lot of friends I've tried to have these conversations with worry that I'm "carrying the world on my shoulders", that these things are too much for me (or anyone) to handle, so I'm better off forgetting about them. They mean well, but I'm just not built that way. Like Verena said earlier:

    "I'd never think of giving up. First of all, there is something to it that activists are happy people, because the mere fact that you are doing something and that you have stopped just taking it lying down is really liberating. Then there is the "community" effect, the feeling of being understood, and even of intellectual challenge when people don't agree. All good things."

    For me #4 is asking me to surrender any sense of control I have over my future. Sorry friends, not gonna do it! Thing is, I'm not sure my friends are "built that way" either. Seems like by following their own advice, they have to live as half a person, 'cos they know on some level they're fooling themselves, walking this double-think tightrope the whole time.

    Personally, I'm willing to take the risk of going a bit crazy (!) for the chance to live as a whole person.

  • Peter Lach-Newinsky 19th Jun 2012

    Re Desertec and all other hi-tech quick fixes (including nuclear), my friend Ted Trainer from the Uni of NSW has a useful paper arguing that renewables cannot sustain current consumer societies. Hope the link works:


    Apart from the detailed quantitative arguments Ted gets into, I'd also mention two additonal aspects: (a) the concept of NET energy (or 'energy return on energy invested': EROI) blows most of this hi-tech stuff out of the water, i.e. subtract all the (fossil and polluting) energy needed to mine and make the materials (embodied energy), build, maintain and decommission the hi-tech solar/wind/nuclear from the energy produced and do you have any NET energy left or are you in deficit? Also known as the entropy principle. Answer: small is beautiful.

    (b) Mega-centralised equals inherently un-direct-democratic, huge dependence on a priestly caste of experts... Answer: small is beautiful. Direct democracy needs decentralisation. There are no anarchist nukes or mega centralised solar parks possible.

  • Verena Stresing 19th Jun 2012

    @Alex: to quote you :"there are many amazing grass roots community groups and organisations doing great things that fit within the parecon ethos. can we start approaching these groups with massive respect without advising or requiring them to hop on board with everything parecon and fanfare, and make this a better place to network? a place to listen to each other without a top-down feel (which i feel), letting go a bit to find some answers together?

    I agree, and I think they all have a point, and even the bigger, more commercial movements are good.
    Personally, I think mass movement is our only real chance, because of the limited time we have left...

    I was thinking of starting a discussion within IOPS on what you call the "top-down" feel. I have the opposite feel, a bottom-up feel, which is better than top down, but can be as rigid!

    What we need is a bottom-up PLUS horizontal approach, and if we want to generate a mass movement with the participation of other organizations, then we should think about making IOPS a place where they can get linked with each other AND with the members, so that a group can have a page or something like that. I am not sure yet how this could look, or even if it's workable, but I think we should develop ideas.
    And as you say: without overwhelming everyone right away with parecon principles.

    I myself am not a parecon expert, I am learning about it, I do like what I hear, but I often think that focusing primarily on new economic structures won't do it, while the effort to prevent/soften climate-change consequences will require such a MASSIVE economic change anyway, that everything else will just fall into place. Maybe that's naive of me. I have the feeling that - right now - there are two movements that are the most urgent for our all survival: the anti-war movement (because let's face it, we may be bombed into oblivion before we have the chance to do something for the environment) and climate-change/ecology.

    I don't want to sound as if I don't support any economic restructuring efforts, I'm just thinking other stuff might be more urgent... (or maybe that's just because I am stuck as usual in my little science corner...)

  • John Vincent 19th Jun 2012

    What's it going to take?

    Assume the statistic on Desertec is correct: By 2050 three earths will be needed to meet the human demand for resources. Even if they are off by one there is a problem: you can't sustain the current world economy, the United States can't retain its hegemonic imperial status, and the advanced industrial nations can't maintain their current standards of living without even more destructive resource wars.

    Writing on the unsustainable cost of empire the historian William Appleman Williams wrote in 1980:

    "It is now our responsibility. It has to do with how we live and how we die. We as a culture have run out of imperial games to play. Assume the worst. Empire as a way of life will lead to nuclear death (or today environmental destruction). Community as a way of life will lead for a time to less than is necessary. Some of us will die. But how one dies is terribly important. It speaks to the truth of how we have lived."

    He was talking about creating a community defined quality of life as opposed to maintaining Western defined standards of living. Current demands for resources and energy can't be maintained and therefore either can our current standards of living in the developed nations. Its our responsibility to change that.

    • David Jones 19th Jun 2012

      "Empire as a way of life will lead to nuclear death (or today environmental destruction). Community as a way of life will lead for a time to less than is necessary. Some of us will die."

      Are those the only choices? Is "less than is necessary" an inevitable drawback of more communitarian ways of living? I am trying to see a "third way" here. I'm thinking of people like Vandana Shiva: I've heard her claim in talks that modern forms of organic permaculture farming can give yields per-acre competetive with (or even superiour to) today's oil intensive agribusiness. And in ways that don't degrade the soil but improve it.

      Does anyone know more about this? Can we feed everyone or not? 'Climate chaos' is a game-changer of course - there'll be less productive land. How much less?

    • 23rd Jun 2012

      are people aware that there is more than enough agricultural output right now for everyone on the planet? the short fall that results in famine is a matter of choice - we choose to direct MOST of the worlds agricultural output (and antibiotics) to the food animal industry, and to biofuels. then there is the land clearing so cows can graze and people can eat burgers.

      if you are interested in the actual quantities of fresh water, fossil fuels and plant agriculture required to produce equivalent caloric values, of plant versus animal products, let me know and i'll provide. the single greatest thing an individual can do to reduc their carbon foot print is shift toward a plant based diet. so its good for people with no food, the environment, your health, and the animals, who bare the greatest cost as their suffering in industrialised farming practices is the greatest capitalist 'externality' without shame.

      if any of that needs elaborating/referencing, im happy to - but i know people 'hear' that 'tune' as some kind of offensive ideology (or something). so i wont push :-)

      people talk about fossil fuels running out, and fresh water shortages, but rarely mention the depleting supplies of mined fertilisers; but the most finite resource right now is topsoil. i think the communitarian based, permaculture approach is the only feasible path if we are talking about sustained life and health (i very much like V Shiva). the growth in popularity of farmers markets in city/suburbs of built up western democracies is a good sign, perhaps, that some people are looking for this kind of produce and shift. in the case of agriculture, its not just about stopping practices that do damage, but beginning new ways that rebuild (the structure of the soil and the health of the surrounding area).

      the 'consuming 2 or 3 earths' stuff is relevant, but we shouldnt seek to maintain that consumption by new practices, or through a radically reduced population (though it would help) - most human consumption is waste and stupidity.

    • John Vincent 23rd Jun 2012

      Hi Alison, I agree with you; it is a matter of how we choose to use and allocate resources and sustain ourselves through agriculture, and if we had functioning participatory societies adhering to the values advocated on this site those choices would lead to what is necessary to sustain everyone. There is definitely a tremendous amount unnecessary processing and waste in our agricultural and food industries that could be changed. The fact that agricultural land is used for biofuels instead of food production is a sign that things are out of balance. There is a better way that needs to implemented.

    • David Jones 24th Jun 2012

      Alison, I'm aware that there enough food today in aggregate (it's even a food surplus I think?) and it just isn't being distributed properly (e.g. lots of developing nations with under-nourished people are forced to grow cash crops for export, as a result of economic coercion by the IMF and their ilk - it's sickening).

      I was only worrying about whether or not this abundance of total food could be maintained *in the future* or not. When I say "climate chaos is a game changer" my fear is that deserts will spread and the amount of productive agricultural land will fall quite a bit. Also, if we stand back and allow ecosystems to collapse (fish stocks for example) we may be unable to feed everyone on the planet in the coming decades (currently 7 billion people and increasing).

  • Verena Stresing 19th Jun 2012

    John, I agree. But we still need to move the masses. And I guess everyone here knows how people react when you tell them that they can't maintain their standard of living! And throwing facts at them isn't going to convince them to let go.
    I once had a reaction by a woman here in France to the little group of 50 lost people (including me) who went on the ONLY anti-nuclear energy demonstration here in my city after Fukushima. She passed by us, then started yelling: What do you want? You want us to go back to candle light??

    I mean, I'd like to say: uh, yes, if that's what it takes, but of course I didn't, because she already couldn't deal with the reality of maybe installing some wind turbines ("but they are ugly").

    So, again: how do we get people out of denial, and how do we support/initiate/organize a mass movement that deals with the first real steps of changing the system?

    Is having an intermediary solution (everyone concentrate on "green" energies like solar, wind, etc, and get rid of fossil fuels and coal for good), even if that means Desertec or similar, better than nothing? Is it at least going to slow down the death spiral?

    Or should we go full out "primitivist" (which in my opinion will just really scare people off).

    How do we develop an action plan?

    • John Vincent 19th Jun 2012

      David & Verena,

      Certainly those in the West, especially the U.S., will need to do with less, but perhaps Williams had it it wrong: less but not less than necessary to ensure a decent life.

      I think there is a lot to be learned from people like Vandana Shiva. I think it was she who said that the problem isn't the ever increasing number of people on the planet but how they choose to live. Williams was basically saying the same thing.

      The American farmer Joel Salatin would agree that "organic" farming gives yields per acre greater than that of oil intensive agribusiness. He advocates going beyond what is typically thought of as organic today. He's a clever guy.

      Convincing people to revise their cultural expectations, conserve energy, change habits, do with less, simplify, travel less, etc. is a huge undertaking since it conflicts with the current need for continual growth and new markets, and the propaganda that's drummed into our heads starting at an early age. I suspect the biggest hurdle will not be the general population but overcoming the governing elite, who set fiscal policy and who are obsessed with economic and military security. That's were the need for a mass movement comes in, or maybe communitarianism, and the values and goals of IOPS, needs to come first - overcoming capitalism and empire along the way. It's not going to happen overnight, but it will need to start happening soon.

      I agree, coal and fossil fuel consumption needs to go. Offhand I don't remember the exact statistic but I think burning all of Canada's shale oil will more than double current atmospheric carbon; that would be catastrophic. Again, if coal and fossil fuels are eliminated, doing with less, at least in the beginning, will be necessary.

      I like the technology behind Desertec as long as it is used to equitably satisfy the demands of the earth's entire population and not just those in the West.

      I'm not sure understand what primitivism represents, but I don't think we should forsake the knowledge of science and our technological advancements, and I don't think we can all live off the land, our city's are too large for that and it's not necessary. Americans do need to stop consuming 25% of the planet's resources though, it's not sustainable.

      How do we generate an action plan? I think that should be a primary task for IOPS when they have their first international meeting. That would be an exciting challenge to look forward to.

      Thanks for your blog Verena.

  • John Vincent 19th Jun 2012

    Correction: Canada's Tar Sands, not their shale oil.

    • David Jones 20th Jun 2012

      Thank you John, I will check out Joel Salatin's work at some point.

  • Peter Lach-Newinsky 20th Jun 2012

    Yeah, Joel Salatin, what a fantastic rotational system mimicking savannah systems to produce loads of beef, chicken meat, eggs and soil fertility! (Beautiful chapter on his farm in Michael Pollin's The Omnivore's Dilemma.)

    David, you asked for anti-nuclear stuff, so here's part one of an essay from my blog 'We're Rational You're Emotional and Other Nuclearist Myths', written in April 2011 in response to George Monbiot joining the 'green' nuclearists after Fukushima (just go to next post for Part 2):

    http://peterlachnewinsky.wordpress.com/2011/04/06/were-rational-youre-emotional-1/ .

    (The essay also has some thoughts on science. And thanks for the tip on how to avoid the blue bug, hope it works.)

    • David Jones 20th Jun 2012

      Thanks Peter, I just gave both parts a read. What exactly is being 'dispersed' from nuclear plants? I wasn't aware of this problem, it sounds ominous. The impression given is that all the radioactive waste can be safely isolated and buried. Apparently this is a lie?

      Sometimes nuclear apologists will say, yes, we understand that Chernobyl and Fukishima were unsafe, but they were very old plants. The new plants have many more safety features - they are 'safe'. I have a couple of concerns RE that:

      1 - What ensures they are 'safe'? We presently operate under a highly complex, centralised industrial system able to maintain these plants. Is it wise to assume we will continue to do so? If civilisation undergoes some level of collapse, such that we then operate at lower levels of complexity and centralization, do formerly 'safe' plants become 'unsafe'? What happens if a nuclear plant is simply 'left to its own devices'? (e.g. left without electricity)

      2 - Aren't a lot of nuclear plants built BY THE COAST? (they need water for cooling). Isn't a likely consequence of climate change RISING SEA LEVELS? Is anybody else bothered by that?!

  • Dave Jones 20th Jun 2012

    To everyone on this thread: I am another Dave Jones (from USA) and will try to get a picture up soon to avoid confusion. I am encouraged to meet others who see the connection between ecology and IOPS. I would go so far as to say it should be every anti-capitalists first point of attack at this moment in history.

    I am directly involved in a struggle where these questions you all have been asking are part of our direct, daily experience. Here in Montana coal is King and we are trying to stop it's export. Climate change is central to our argument but the general population is thoroughly saturated in free market ideology. Activists using reformist strategies have been losing for decades but resist change as well.

    The coal struggle is just a prelude to Tar Sands.I believe the Alberta Tar Sands must be our "line in the sand" ,our crucible on which we succeed or fail in building a new consciousness, culture and society. If you agree (or would care to discuss it in more depth) I have started a Tar Sands Project and there is also discussion at EARTH project.

    I envision 10,000 activists, indigenous and non-native together, committed to non-violent civil disobedience at the mine site. People all willing to face arrest to shut it down. From that moment on we could believe in building something new on top of the "ideological rubble" left in capitalism's wake.

    The current Rio Summit is broadcasting far and wide the failure and poverty of the current process. We should be capturing that momentum, the radicalizing effect, and directing it towards the next phase. Many people are beginning to understand "greenwash" and see that time is running out.

    Someone with a good perspective, IMO, is Joel Kovel. He wrote Enemy of Nature; The End of Capitalism or the End of the World?

  • Verena Stresing 20th Jun 2012

    Hi Dave,

    I so completely agree with you on the Tar Sands issue! Unfortunately, I am sitting in Europe, so direct activism is a bit difficult, but I'll support you in whichever way I can.

    Then of course, there is the story of fracking (and I've seen that there is a project already on IOPS). I recently read an article here in Germany that they've started with fracking in Germany as well!! I can't remember where exactly, but given that Germany is very densely populated, It just can't be good... unfortunately, I don't think the movie (Gasland) has made a lot of impact in Germany yet... people are not aware.

    By contrast, Germans are in general pretty well informed on nuclear energy issues (and I am not saying there isn't a lot of propaganda, green- or brainwashing or room for improvement, but compared to the US or France, for example, at least people are sensitive to the problem!)

    I was thinking of writing another blog on the nuclear energy myths (like: it's safe!! it's emotional), but from what I can see, there are probably people here who are better informed than me...

    Dave: we are more and more people here who "see the connection between ecology and IOPS and think it should be every anti-capitalists first point of attack at this moment in history". I couldn't agree more, and I think IOPS should reflect that (preferably already in its main goals!)

  • Peter Lach-Newinsky 21st Jun 2012

    Verena, I for one would welcome something by you on nuclear energy myths. Much confusion seems to have been sown even among progressives by the likes of 'green' nuclearists like Lovelock (also anti-renewables and now for fracking and conservative governments), so the myths seem to need more deconstructing.

    For David and anyone else interested, Dr Susan Wareham gave this useful summary as a talk just after Fukushima in March last year:

    http://www.mapw.org.au/files/downloads/Nuclear-power_SW_March2011.pdf .

    David, to your questions: radioactive particles are 'dispersed' in low quantities from nukes in normal operation (leading to higher child leukemia rates around plants in Britain; this is official) and in huge quantities during frequent accidents and occasional meltdowns.

    Radioactive waste: there are NO functioning radioactive waste dumps anywhere in the world; the problem has lain unsolved for over 40 years because it is basically unsolvable; this is one reason highly radioactive waste like spent fuel rods is mostly stored in unsafe conditions at all nuclear plants; as we speak spent fuel pool No. 4 at Fukushima (containing, I think, 80 times the radioactive cesium the Chernobyl meltdown emitted) has no roof at all and is in danger of collapsing at the very next earthquake (and if the wind happened to be blowing from the north east would wipe out Japan as a functioning society and contaminate the whole northern hemisphere more than Chernobyl did).

    Safety: the world, including the US, is full of these 'old' reactors, many of them the same as the ones at Fukushima. The industry purported 'safety' of the 'new' ones is, be definition, unproven. (How many more meltdowns before we reject the decades of corporate and state lies about nuclear 'safety'?) To me the basic ethical question in all this is: if something could, even with purported 'low' risk, possibly contaminate large regions with toxic radioactive particles for many generations, who has the ethical right (in contrast to the power) to say this is 'acceptable'? An informed public would never accept this. Neither does the insurance industry BTW, nuclear plants would never be built if governments did not take over the financial liabilities; another case, as with fossil fuel subsidies, of us being forced by the corporate state to subsidise our own ecocide.

    Water: yes, some nuclear plants have already been forced to shut down when river levels have dropped too low for them to keep up the cooling.

    And DavE, great to see you here on this thread too! I agree with your 'first point of attack' notion, and DavID has argued that point well vis-a-vis Michael Albert on the shit-has-hit-the-fan thread after Michael's recent blog. (Michael hasn't responded to David's point though).

    • 23rd Jun 2012

      hiya Peter, just something on waste dumping - saw something not so long ago about nuke waste being dumped very very deep underground in salt mines of USA. the salt 'regrows' around the containers and seals it in. its inert and presumably no one in the future will have need to drill straight down. and its a geologically sound space re earth movements. thats not a defence, just reiterating my recollection of their description. i couldnt help but wonder what the pressure could be on the drums in the end ... but i guess the salt stops crystalising once it gets up to the object.

      im far less impressed about the australian governments plans to dump waste on indigenous lands in the northern territory. pretty typical (for here). and next to no outcry from the australian public (also pretty typical here).

  • Dave Jones 21st Jun 2012

    There exists a very erie documentary on a Scandanavian nuclear waste repository deep underground. It asks the question: Might some future generation stumble upon this unaware of the danger?

    The Lovelock position is "least of two evils" and I understand his logic. If nukes were the ONLY way to avoid tipping points...? I don't think the science is clear enough to make that call but I am a layman. We kow some hard choices lie ahead.

    As for Tar Sands, I think it is a good place to develop praxis, to put theory into practice and learn how to do real organizing with an anti-capitalist critique as the basis. We need to contact Naomi Klien and see if she would do a seminar.

    • John Vincent 21st Jun 2012

      Dave, have you had any discussions with Bill McKibben or the 350.org group about your Tar Sands project? I've exchanged a few emails with Bill; the last when I took issue with something he said on DemocracyNow: he referred to Obama as progressive which I though was absurd. 350.org is trying to work within the limits of the political system by appealing to the democrats that voted for Obama and are now disillusioned. While they've attracted a lot of attention I don't think they'll have any significant long-term successes if they limit their movement this way.

      Anyway, curious what your experience has been, if any, has been.

  • David Jones 21st Jun 2012

    Howdy folks. Peter mentioned the EARTH project further up and Stephen Roblin has just posted this to me:

    "Hi David,

    "ParEcology"...I haven't come across it. Is there discussion some where?"

    Just letting you all know that I've started a thread over at EARTH where we can all discuss that:


  • Verena Stresing 21st Jun 2012

    Hi Dave,
    re your comment: "There exists a very erie documentary on a Scandanavian nuclear waste repository deep underground. It asks the question: Might some future generation stumble upon this unaware of the danger?"

    This is actually not a new question. I've heard of linguists discussing the question how to warn future generations of the dangers of nuclear waste stored somewhere in a mountain in Germany - it must have been 20 years ago.
    If you think that the half-life of plutonium 239 is 24,000 years... well that means we need safe storage for crap that we have already produced for the next 24,000 to 240,000 years (actually, it's longer than that, because only after 20 half lifes the radiation is considered to be more or less 0). Languages, cultures societies etc develop much more quickly than that... so what do we do? We can't just hang a sign up at the entrance to some mountain... in what language? Or using what sign?

    That's the problem with nuclear energy. People try to keep the discussion limited to "is it safe" and what would we do if it was PERFECTLY safe?? Who cares. Neither does the uranium or plutonium we need grow on trees(meaning the peole who get it for us -in Niger for example- are basically enslaved by us by a nuclear neocolonialism and suffer from contamination) nor do we know what to do with the waste. So really, we don't even need the discussion on the safety of reactors, earthquakes etc. Just the waste and colonialism aspects are enough reasons to get out... I always try to focus my arguments on those points when I talk to someone who is pro nuclear, because most of the time they have never even thought about where the stuff actually comes from, or where it goes when we're done.

    It would be FANTASTIC to get Naomi Klein and 350.org on board! And maybe the guy who did "gasland"... Even if 350.org is "mainstreaming". Doesn't matter to me. At least they have visibility. There is a nice organization in France that has brought 940 (small) French organizations and more than 50,000 members under one roof.

    We should think about joining or inviting grous like that to join us...
    As usual, the "we need more members" problem!

    • 23rd Jun 2012

      i thought this when i signed up Verena - this was a top down membership drive rather than bottom up of individuals and groups already in a 'participatory' mode of action. i figured the best approach, particularly for gaining better representation demographically, would be to engage groups already doing a variety of good works. BUT having read so many comments elsewhere, it is clear that is not what IOPS is for.

      we are thinking change and engagement with a sense of immediacy, but the people at the steering wheel are in organisational mode, and may stay that way. with no sign of 'give' i dont think groups would be happy to come on board here when they have little to gain but are expected to sign onto a crede and lose their group identity.

      i could be totally wrong about this, and hopefully i am, because i think IOPS could be a great space for groups and individuals to mix, learn and share. its just the feeling i've developed from reading engagements elsewhere.

  • Verena Stresing 24th Jun 2012

    Hi Alison,
    I still believe we can do good stuff, even if we begin as an "organization". I agree with you with the "organizational mode" but I still think we can go further. It might take a little while, and in the mean time we can organize in the EARTH hub and make parecology a central issue. People will jump on board, for sure!
    Don't give up so soon!
    I really enjoy your posts, and you are one of the few women I've met here, and that makes me doubly happy... why are there always so few??

  • Peter Lach-Newinsky 25th Jun 2012

    So many good points being made in this thread. How enjoyable to have some substantial discussion, folks.

    Dave, re nuclear as way of avoiding tipping points or not, there would be so much to say against. Hopefully Verena will expand on her comments and write that anti-nuke blog. Just in brief: nukes cannot be separated from the total nuclear cycle (uranium mining, fuel processing and reprocessing, power plants, waste dumps, decommisioning etc) and can you imagine all that without immense fossil fuel use and emissions? What nukes plus fossil fuels mean is that we get both: a world both fried by fossil fuels AND also radioactively contaminated by nukes/mining/weapons proliferation.

    Ali, re nuclear waste in salt mines, just three things. (a) A salt mine used for 'safe' storage of low and medium-level nuke waste in Germany called Asse II has been found to contain radioactive salt water; the German government in 2010 thus promised to remove all the stored radioactive waste.

    (b) There is no functioning, safe and secure waste facility for high-level radioactive waste anywhere in the world. Meanwhile they continue to produce this crap in increasing amounts. I would not know of a better definition of criminal activity.

    (c) This crap is dangerous, as Verena pointed out, for hundreds of thousands of years; while the techno-fix and engineering paradigm is based on the fallacy that something can be 'contained'and kept separate from the biosphere for that length of time by clever engineering, the basic ecological truth is that all the main domains of the biosphere (soil/biota, hydrology, atmosphere and lithosphere) are in constant interaction and cannot be separated. Even the cycles of the deep lithosphere (e.g. salt mines) are thus linked, sooner or later, with the hydrological and other cycles of earth... Humans and other biota will suffer. Hope this helps.

  • Verena Stresing 25th Jun 2012

    Peter, I get the feeling you know more than me... still want me to write that blog (or write it together?) I also wanted to bring Johannes Karlinger in, who knows a lot about the German nuclear phase out...

    • Peter Lach-Newinsky 25th Jun 2012

      Gonna try for some multilingualism like Verena did in Spanish. Give you Mono-Anglos some pause for thought, hee hee. Vive l'internationale!

      Jawohl Verena, waer dufte, wenn du den anti-Kernkraft blog schreiben wuerdest. Bin oft in Zeitnot (schreiben, auf dem Hof arbeiten...), du wahrscheinlich aber auch? Vielleich kann ja der Johannes helfen. Aber bin gerne beriet, irgendwann zusammen etwas zu schreiben wenn du willst.. Angesichts der Verwirrung von einigen hier ueber Atomkraft, denk ich, dass so ein blog dringend noetig ist. Angesichts von Chernobyl/Fukushima, bin ich ehrlich erstaunt. (Bin auch selber gerade dabei, ein 'Ecology 101' blog oder Resource zu versuchen, denk das koennte vielleicht nuetzlich sein...Hab schon ein 'Capitalism 101' geschrieben, aber auf meinem persoehnlichen blog veroeffentlicht, nicht hier). Alles Gute.