Mon 30 Nov 2009
A new poll indicates that growing numbers of Republicans don’t believe global climate change is real.
The quality of anecdotes, alas, is also showing steady declines:
Lisa Woolcott, another Republican poll respondent, said she doesn’t think that burning fossil fuels is “causing all the global warming,” adding: “We can’t control what happens in the atmosphere.” But Woolcott, a physician’s assistant who lives in Kansas City, Kan., said she supports the idea of a bill that would cap the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions and doesn’t think the United States should predicate its actions on what other nations do. “We need to do what’s best for us,” she said. “I don’t think we should back down.”
No, I don’t know, either.
But it brings up a pretty fair point about public opinion, as a detector of trends in attitudes as the basis for policy. Attention to global warming has much to do with pending legislation, of course, the opposition to which itself mirrors hardening opposition to Obama. But reliance on governing by public opinion would vary by the same factors – the ebb and flow of legislative priorities, the relative popularity of leading politicians. What won’t change is our relationship to growing problems, that are in-progress, tied to our behavior and representative of the need for broad changes in the disposition of society. Public opinion and good policy are not two great tastes that go great together; they may coincide; they may switch off being in the lead from time to time. But while public opinion shouldn’t be ignored, developing good policy must not be. How we do elevate policy considerations without basing them on public opinion or giving short-shrift to both?
You can always never force people to be informed and have opinions on non-local phenomena.
Fri 27 Nov 2009
Gustave Flaubert, the French novelist who wrote what many consider to be the first modern novel, won a prize for his essay on mushrooms when he was fifteen. Twenty-two years later he published Madame Bovary: Moeurs de Province (trans: provincial mores), which was immediately prosecuted by the French government as an immoral work. His narrow acquittal of the charge was a lamp in the corner clicking on an era of literary candor that seems foreign in the present day, where, having grown accustomed to the merely salacious, our immorality greatly takes the form of indifference. Of course, no one ever gets charged.
Anyway, opening MB at random, here’s a bit from Part Two, from a translation with a note a the fronts which reads: This edition reprints the translation of Madame Bovary by Eleanor Marx Aveling (1855-1898), daughter of Karl Marx, whose tragic life bears some ironic parallels to that of Flaubert’s heroine. << Go figure.
The druggist was beginning to cut the wax when Madame Homais appeared, Irma in her arms, Napolen by her side, and Athalie following. She sat down in the velvet seat by the window, and the lad squatted down on a footstool, while his eldest sister hovered round the jujube box near her papa. The latter was filling funnels and corking phials, sticking on labels, making up parcels. Around him all were silent; only from time to time were heard the weights jingling in the balance, and a few low words from the chemist giving directions to his pupil.
“And how’s the little woman?” asked Madame Homais.
“Silence!” exclaimed her husband, who was writing down some figures in his waste-book.
“Why didn’t you bring her?” she went on in a low voice.
“Hush! Hush!” said Emma, pointing with her finger to the druggist.
But Binet, quite absorbed in looking over his bill, had probably heard nothing. At last he went out. Then Emma, relieved, uttered a deep sigh.
“How hard you are breathing!” said Madame Homais.
“Well, you see, it’s rather warm,” she replied.
So the next day they talked over how to arrange their rendezvous. Emma wanted to briber her servant with a present, but it would be better to find some safe house at Yonville. Rodolphe promised to look for one.
All through the winter, three or four times a week, in the dead of night he came to the garden. Emma had on purpose taken away the key of the gate, which Charles thought lost.
To call her, Rodolphe threw a sprinkle of sand at the shutters. She jumped up with a start; but sometime had to wait, for Charles had a mania for chatting by the fireside, and he would not stop. She was wild with impatience; if her eyes had done it, she would have hurled him out of the window. At last she would begin to undress, then take up a book, and go on reading very quietly as if the book amused her. But Charles, who was in bed, called to her to come too.
“Come, now, Emma,” he said, “it is time.”
“Yes, I am coming,” she answered.
Then, as the candles dazzled him, he turned to the wall and fell asleep. She escaped, smiling, palpitating, undressed.
Check it. Out.
Thu 26 Nov 2009
We’ve heard of ‘isms’.
These are some ‘ings’, (gerund-based activities) to consider after you have spatchcocked the turkey. While many double as pejorative adjectives, a majority seem to have something else in common.
Wed 25 Nov 2009
Sometimes, it takes being green to be able to say what you mean.
Tue 24 Nov 2009
So… the Earth is headed for 6C of warming.
Emissions rose by 29% between 2000 and 2008, says the Global Carbon Project.
All of that growth came in developing countries, but a quarter of it came through production of goods for consumption in industrialised nations.
The study comes against a backdrop of mixed messages on the chances of a new deal at next month’s UN climate summit.
According to lead scientist Corinne Le Quere, the new findings should add urgency to the political discussions.
“Based on our knowledge of recent trends and the time it takes to change energy infrastructure, I think that the Copenhagen conference next month is our last chance to stabilise at 2C in a smooth and organised way,” she told BBC News.
But don’t worry about all those nasty emissions that will have led to the increase, or the fact that they are from carbon-based fuels sources,which are finite, because we’ve got a 100-year supply of natural gas to rely on!
I saw the ad last night, and it’s pure amazing with an extra dose of stupid. There’s got to be a link somewhere. But just watch football on Thursday – you’ll see it. The Natural Gas coalition or whatever is really proud of themselves. We’re saved! The mother is telling her baby daughter not to worry, because we’ve got 100 years’ worth of natural gas to burn! The amazing unasked question, about her baby’s children and their children… oh yeah: screw them.
Mon 23 Nov 2009
Or cementing, if you like. An American Business Community that was way late on the short-sighted-ness of sprawl, commercial real estate and exotic financial instruments (but big on INNOVATION!) is now working to defeat healthcare reform legislation because it will… slow down the climate change legislation juggernaut. Synergy!
Corporate front groups and large business trade associations are funneling their resources into defeating health reform. Even though health reform will lower costs for small businesses and boost worker productivity economy-wide, it appears that corporate entities influenced by major polluters are hoping that the defeat of health care legislation will slow President Obama’s agenda and derail their true enemy: clean energy reform.
The West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, which is largely backed by the coal industry, candidly revealed this strategy in a letter released today to Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Robert Byrd (D-WV). The Chamber of Commerce demanded that the senators use “their clout and seniority” to obstruct the health reform debate until cap and trade legislation is taken off the table and the EPA is barred from regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant. As Ken Ward of the Charleston Gazette noted, Rockefeller has already rejected a similar proposal of blocking health reform unless the EPA stops reviewing mountaintop removal permits. The coal lobby has also pressured West Virginia state legislators to pass resolutions opposing clean energy reform.
I’m kind of even bored with my own impulses toward snark on this, and maybe that’s a good sign. It’s simply not amusing, the way in which major financial interests in this country align their loyalties with short term infringements on their power instead of taking a longer view toward sustainable, if lower, profitability. That is the trade-off they choose to see. But it’s not a trade. It’s a fail. They appear wiling to sacrifice both for neither, as though activating some kind of compass in their Solomonic wisdom survival pack. But you have to wonder, the survival of exactly what?
Plus, in what kind of country is the true enemy clean energy reform? Explain your answer.
Fri 20 Nov 2009
As in the line from Mr. Zimmerman. If you weren’t paying attention, you’d think this was off-topic.
In, uh… celebration isn’t the right word but, of California deciding that locking people up is more important than educating them, we re-visit Michel Foucault’s 1974 tract, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. While not at all required reading, it can be fun. If you see it in Barnes & Whatever, it’s worth picking up and reading the intro wherein he describes a mid-eighteenth century instance of a condemned man being drawn-and-quartered. Really, the things you pick up.
This is from the 3rd section of Part Three, entitled Panopticism:
If it is true that the leper gave rise to rituals of exclusion, which to a certain extent provided the model for and general form of the great Confinement, then the plague gave rise to disciplinary projects. Rather than the massive, binary division between one set of people and another, it called for multiple separations, individualizing distributions, an organization in depth of surveillance and control, an intensification and a ramification of power. The leper was caught up in a practice of rejection, of exile-enclosure; he was left to his doom in a mass among which it was useless to differentiate; those sick of the plague were caught up in a meticulous tactical partitioning in which individual differentiations were the constricting effects of a power that multiplied, articulated and subdivided itself; the great confinement on the one hand; the correct training on the other. The leper and his separation; the plague and its segmentations. The first is marked; the second analysed and distributed. The exile of the leper and the arrest of the plague do not bring with them the same political dream. The first is that of a pure community, the second that of a disciplined society. Two ways of exercising power over men, of controlling their relations, of separating out their dangerous mixtures. The plague-stricken town, traversed throughout with hierarchy, surveillance, observation, writing; the town immobilized by the functioning of an extensive power that bears in a distinct way over all individual bodies – this is the utopia of the perfectly governed city. The plague (envisaged as a possibility at least) is the trial in the course of which one may define ideally the exercise of disciplinary power. In order to make rights and laws function according to pure theory, the jurists place themselves in imagination in the state of nature; in order to see perfect disciplines functioning, rulers dreamt of the state of plague. Underlying disciplinary projects the image of the plague stands for all forms of confusion and disorder; just as the image of the leper, cut off from all human contact, underlies projects of exclusion.
They are different projects, then, but not incompatible ones. We see them coming slowly together, and it is the peculiarity of the nineteenth century that it applied to the space of exclusion of which the leper was the symbolic inhabitant (beggars, vagabonds, madmen and the disorderly formed the real population) the technique of power proper to disciplinary partitioning. Treat ‘lepers’ as ‘plague victims’, project the subtle segmentations of discipline onto the confused space of internment, combine it with the methods of analytical distribution proper to power, individualize the excluded, but use procedures of individualization to mark exclusion – this is what was operated regularly by disciplinary power from the beginning of the nineteenth century in the psychiatric asylum, the penitentiary, the reformatory, the approved school and, to some extent, the hospital. Generally speaking, all the authorities exercising individual control function according to a double mode; that of binary division and branding (mad/sane; dangerous/harmless; normal/abnormal); and that of coercive assignment of differential distribution (who he is; where he must be; how he is to be characterized; how he is to be recognized; how a constant surveillance is to be exercised over him in an individual way, etc.). On the one hand, the lepers are treated as plague victims; the tactics of individualizing disciplines are imposed on the excluded; and, on the other hand, the universality of disciplinary controls makes it possible to brand the ‘leper’ and to bring into play against him the dualistic mechanisms of exclusion. The constant division between the normal and the abnormal, to which every individual is subjected, brings us back to our own time, by applying the binary branding and exile of the leper to quite different objects; the existence of a whole set of techniques and institutions for measuring, supervising and correcting the abnormal brings into play the disciplinary mechanisms to which the fear of the plague gave rise. All the mechanisms of power which, even today, are disposed around the abnormal individual, to brand him and to alter him, are composed of those two forms from which they distantly derive.
Bentham’s Panopticon is the architectural figure of this composition. We know the principle on which it was based: at the periphery, an annular building; at the centre, a tower; this tower is pierced with wide windows that open onto the inner side of the ring; the peripheric building is divided into cells, each of which extends the whole width of the building; they have two windows, one on the inside, corresponding to the windows of the tower; the other, on the outside, allows the light to cross the cell from one end to the other. All that is needed, then, is to place a supervisor in a central tower and to shut up in each cell a madman, a patient, a condemned man, a worker or a schoolboy. By the effect of backlighting, one can observe from the tower, standing out precisely against the light, the small captive shadows in the cells of the periphery. They are like so many cages, so many small theatres, in which each actor is alone, perfectly individualized and constantly visible. The panoptic mechanism arranges spatial unities that make it possible to see constantly and to recognize immediately. In short, it reverses the principle of the dungeon; or rather of its three functions – to enclose, to deprive of light and to hide – it preserves only the first and eliminates the other two. Full lighting and the eye of a supervisor capture better than darkness, which [it] ultimately protected. Visibility is a trap.
Thu 19 Nov 2009
But Exxon, as they are now known, won’t even see that. From Grist, this ad from the 60’s:
Wed 18 Nov 2009
It brings to mind the quote attributed to Niels Bohr. The details are disputed but, either he was visiting a friend or a friend was visiting him, and upon seeing a horseshoe placed luck side up in his garden, the friend asked,”you don’t believe in that, do you?” To which the famous physicist responded, “No, but I’m told it works the same even if you don’t believe in it.”
Today, Little Tommy Friedman serves up a similar riposte in a pretty good column. It’s all rah-rah energy technology, but he’s right, echoing Bohr, about whether one believes in global warming.
Tue 17 Nov 2009
Posted by editor under climate
, society1 Comment
Increasingly, [if you've got] green [it] means that you’ll probably get by, while others, because of geography or more likely a lack of resources, deal with the fallout from your resource over-consumption. From the dotearth blog:
the climate divide.” This is the reality that the world’s established industrial powers are already insulating themselves from climate risks by using wealth and technology accumulated through economic advancement built on burning fossil fuels, even as the world’s poorest countries, with little history of adding to the atmosphere’s greenhouse blanket, are most exposed to the climate hazards of today, let alone what will come through unabated global heating.
Like so many things, this situation is highly unjust. But that doesn’t mean it cannot be moved by a sense of social justice. Doing something about a situation you know doesn’t or won’t effect you personally is the definition of conscience, and hundreds of millions of people live by its code. It’s the way poverty and racial inequality were finally addressed in this country – not simply because so many people got fed with living in poverty or being discriminated against. But also many other people were sufficiently appalled by both or either that they, too, decided that the collective we had lived through, seen and profited from this situation enough, and cast their lot with the cause of justice.
Of course, there were many people still, not more but many, who felt that those who suffered might yet should suffer more, who were unmoved by the bigotry and oppression and who didn’t want to move too quickly against these or any other injustices. Not quite yet or maybe not at all. And they are still with us, and can be counted on to slow down the climate change debate by emphasizing what we will lose by addressing its root causes. But this is not the collective we, present or future. To unravel the ambivalence about global climate change from a general lack of conscience on other matters would be difficult. And maybe it’s just a coincidence. But it’s probably a greater divide, one we know well, one whose challenge has several times inspired us. And may well again.
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