Sunday, December 13, 2009

Live, from Copenhagen, Part Three


The Climate Summit is half-way there, and, like Zeno's Paradox, you wonder how many half way's will get us anywhere. Bill McKibben asserts that 100,000 citizens marched through the streets of Copenhagen, with many more holding similar marches and vigils all around the world. Indeed, the number 350 is everywhere, as if "parts per million" is the new gold standard for morality against which we must all be measured. But, of course, we know morality is relative. In one of the side events at the Bella Center this week, serious scientists reported that data used to set such standards are also relative, with studies revealing that in many areas of the globe the actual situation is worse than what has been used for the baseline and that in those areas 350 may not be enough.

In parallel with that disconcerting concept is an interview from our Ocean=Climate website (www.oceanclimate.org)wherein another serious scientist strayed from his principled objectivity to muse on his feeling that the situation may not advance without direct action! His concern was that scientists have made the case for the people to judge and that, as citizens, only overt demands for change, public awareness millions strong, will reach the politicians effectively enough to make the difference.

It is easy enough to characterize political indifference to such demands as cynical response to the need to be re-elected or the influence of "vested interests," but it is nonetheless dismaying that representatives can ignore so stubbornly the needs of their constituents, whether for health care or strategies against global warming.

The nay-sayers argue that the science is not definitive and the crisis is not real. They worry about the "damage" done to our way of life if the scientists are wrong. Fair question. But they never look to the converse to ask what if the scientists are right, and we have done nothing? What does that imply for the perpetuation of our way of life? The only other concept I can remember from my philosophical education is Pascal's Wager, and I for one believe it's probably best to hedge your bets about the existence of God or whatever plague of locusts or emissions that in Her wisdom He has inflicted upon us.

Obfuscation and obstruction are indirect action, passive strategies that play upon fear and uncertainty. What is evident here is active engagement, in the plenary sessions and on the streets, one hundred thousand one hundred thousands with the courage to face the future.

1 comment:

Stocky said...

Jared Diamond in "Collapse" provides a very good set of stories about those cultures that heeded the problems ( Easter Island, Mayans)and those that actually turned their habits around and survived ( Japan). I hope positive incentives are adopted because the negative ones don't seem to scare many . Best Stocky