Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Our Bodies Our Selves

[readers, this is a post started two months ago that I may never complete but that starts a bunch of interesting thoughts. And what is this blog, if not a catalyst for reflection? So I present to you, for the first time though likely not the last, an incomplete blog entry on motives and agendas:]


the so-called "environmental debate" has some pretty fanatical devotees on both sides. I was recently directed to http://www.noteviljustwrong.com, which [...incomplete]

...critical thinking is key, then. We must always always ask, who stands to gain from this point of view? Of what benefit is it to the involved party to espouse such a radical stance?

...noteviljustwrong has an entire movie that I have yet to watch, but their opening page asserts that "the World Health Organization lifted its ban on DDT in 2006, but Al Gore and his allies will not accept that verdict any more than they will accept the science that discounts theories about global warming. They are determined to blame humans for everything." So I looked it up. And indeed, here is the WHO press release:

...which is amazing. That said, the Neo-cons seem to put no faith in the relative authority of the UN or the Nobel Prize (to say nothing of their utter disdain for government), so it's funny to say in one breath that government can't be trusted and then turn around and use governmental edicts as evidence for your argument. Can't have it both ways, I don't think.

But this leads me to question, or at least admit, my own motives: why am I so interested in trying to preserve the environment?

1) First and foremost, I am concerned for the future of my own family, of my child (or possibly children, at some point). I want the beautiful world around me to exist and not be deteriorating and falling apart for my daughter when she grows up, and for her own family.

2) As well, ages ago I concluded that suffering is a result of the actions of humankind, so that my actions (yes, good or bad) can have an effect on *your* life, and on the lives of countless people I will never even meet (see http://btbowen.blogspot.com/2007/10/restating-case.html). So for example, cancers and other environmentally-caused sickness are to some degree the result of the poisons we as a species are spewing into our biosphere. God isn't to blame for suffering; *we* are, and so I want to try to diminish my responsibility, such as I can, for the suffering of others. In a similar way, if I buy new clothes from a company that uses sweatshops (e.g. watch the documentary "China Blue"), I'm contributing to the suffering of unknown numbers of people who live in deplorable conditions. So I try always to buy my clothes second-hand: it's not a perfect solution, but it's a good step, I think, and it's within my financial means.

3) In a backwards kind of way, I suppose my motivation could be financial, maybe. I find that being "environmentally conscious" does help save money, and that's useful for our family at this juncture. As well, I occasionally think about going into journalism, so doing all this writing is both good practice and also potentially good for my portfolio. That said, I don't make money from the blog and it does take hours and hours of work.

* * * * *

[flash forward]

4) 09.12.09 - it's two months later and I'm still mulling over this motivation problem. Why are climate deniers really so very interested in "disproving" climate change? Do they think we'll be blown back to the dark ages? Do they resent not feeling like they really have any choices left, or do they feel like they're being told what to do? I, for my part, have begun to conclude that maybe my own interest in the environmental causes stems from the fact that I feel like a bit of a black sheep: I don't totally feel like I fit in, even now, in society as it has been erected, and so maybe my underlying motivation for championing environmental causes is that I think maybe I'd feel more comfortable - like I'd finally found "home" - in those self-same dark ages. Do I eschew technology? I do not. Do I constantly wish that i were doing something other than watching TV or checking my email, and that the people around me didn't buy into a culture I find so repulsive? yes. Our western culture makes me uneasy at best and terrified and nauseated at worst.

...so it seems to me that maybe the battle over the validity of the environmental argument is a battle of identity: namely, that each of us self-identifies either as being successful by society's standards, and therefore welcomed, or a loser, and therefore shunned. What's at stake when we dig down under the threat to our lifestyles that the environmental movement could be, is in fact the very sense of who we are, which has taken us our lifetime to construct.

* * * * *

So what does noteviljustwrong stand to gain? Well, for one thing, they have a big retail section (http://www.noteviljustwrong.com/shop). But - and I think this is the real underlying motivation - noteviljustwrong really represents a particular way of life and standard of living, and a resistance to being forced to change. And that's fair enough, really. But I think the thing they're missing is that no one (and here I'm talking about North Americans, and still only generally) really *wants* to make massive changes to the way they live. Environmentalists, though, I think understand that either we can change now of our own free will, or we can be forced to change when the conditions on the planet make the status quo impossible.

Noteviljustwrong's opening pseudo-manifesto includes the phrase "They are determined to blame humans for everything." Putting aside a discussion of whether or not humans are in fact to blame for everything, this assertion is defensive. It suggests that they feel they are not beng treated fairly, and that their [...and here the entry stopped back in October, when I saved it to my desktop and vowed to come back to it].

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

the climate change hoax

You may have seen this story somewhere in the last couple days: http://www.cbc.ca/technology/story/2009/11/26/climate-change-hack.html. Essentially, some very prominent "climate change scientists" from the UK's Climatic Research Unit had their emails hacked and posted online, and those emails seem to suggest that these scientists have been fudging the numbers on climate change to make the situation seem more dire than it may in fact be.

In response, climate change deniers and agnostics are having a triumphant HA moment, and it's not the first time. In December 2007, a number of UN climate change scientists were revealed to have been fudging some of those self-same numbers too.


Eventually, I'll get 'round to posting my article on motivations - who stands to gain from the two sides of this showdown? - but for now, I'd like to make a point:

Nothing - nothing! - changes the fact that a finite planet cannot hold infinite resources. It's against the laws both of logic and of physics, and it's not possible. So... we're still going to run out of oil, whether we've peaked already or we won't do so for another century; it's impossible for there to be an endless supply. Potable water is still under imminent threat: the way we're poisoning our water, we don't have an infinite supply! As the head of the Council for Canadians Maude Barlowe asserts, "the wars of the future... will be fought over water."

We humans are not being kind to the planet, and the validity of climate change science will not change that fact. Just look at the rates of extinction of species, the state of the Great Barrier Reef, the pollutions of the oceans, etc. etc. etc., and you'll have a hard time denying it.

The human species has overreached our carrying capacity, and we can't just keep continuing to grow and grow. It's insane to think that exponential growth using up a finite resource can go on forever - that doesn't make any sense (see Easter Island - our canary in the coalmine). If nothing else, realize that all species go extinct, and that our time will come too.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

two new articles

I'll admit it: I like when people do all the work for me. But also, these two articles say what I would try to say in a much more articulate manner. A couple of Facebook friends posted these links today, and I wanted to pass them on.

caveat: Canada's record on the environment is horrifyingly abysmal.

...and here's an infuriating one about Harper. Apparently we're just too naive and idealistic and we should be lowering our standards so we can reach our goals without needing to change...