TDB today: 2014 – Won’t get fooled again

by Gareth on January 8, 2014

In my first post of the year at The Daily Blog, I abuse the lyrics to a great old rock song, and express general disbelief that new post-election boss will be any different to the old one.

We are living beyond our environmental and resource means. All our current prosperity and the ecosystem services that make it possible are being stolen from future generations. Delaying action is just making the final bill bigger, and the ultimate damage worse.
We face an existential crisis. If we screw this up, we screw up our entire civilisation, yet we have politicians of all stripes and ideologies who simply don’t take the climate problem seriously.

[The Who, of course]

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

jh January 8, 2014 at 11:28 pm

Too much blaming capitalism. We should start blaming humanity, remembering we were, until yesterday, hunter gatherers; nature controlled us. Now we are industrialised human but our minds are still in the past.

nigelj January 10, 2014 at 2:13 pm

I agree jh no point blaming capitalism, but Im not sure what your point really is. Theres no point blaming any ideology or person for global warming. Nobody set out to deliberately or negligently warm the climate, although there was evidence a considerable time ago that there was a possibility we were warming the climate (Arrhenius 1895). All economic ideologies can cause trouble to the environment.

I guess you are suggesting many people haven’t really realised the impacts that industry can have? Maybe, but there has been the ozone layer problem, and pollution is nothing new. Maybe the scepticism or blame is more just guilt or fear that we have done something really big, and terminal.

I think theres also this hatred some people have of environmentalism and government rules, taxes or carbon schemes, a hate which has both an ideological and political component.

This is more about what we do now. For a time I thought reducing emissions was hopeless, and we might have to rely on geoengineering, but a new study shows trying to reflect sunlight could make things worse.

jh January 10, 2014 at 11:11 pm

My point is that progressives are capturing the climate change issue and like to blame capitalism as though people in their natural state are sweet environmental things who have become corrupted. Evolutionary psychology dispels the myth of the noble savage and the human relationship with the environment is and has always been economic.
http://evostudies.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/Johnson_Vol3Iss2.pdf
Not only that but progressives by supporting immigration and open borders end up using growth is good arguments.

nigelj January 12, 2014 at 12:08 pm

JH, thanks for the link and I have read it. I dont personally accept the noble savage thesis. One read of Jared Diamonds books or an anthropology text shows how weak this idea is. However obviously we have to respect the environment.

We are somewhat evolved or genetically evolved for short term drives, but clearly not exclusively. Your own link notes we do look ahead as well. I think the long term drive is concern about offspring and the survival of the species.

I think our evolutionary biology is therefore complex, combing several drives ,and it varies from person to person. Tendencies like liberalism / conservatism / tea party ideologues are party innate, and vary from person to person.

Regardless of short term concerns there are now emerging signs of severe climate change and this will soon focus the mind on even very long term issues. None of us want a ruined planet. Like the article says we need to be aware of and work within our short term drivers. However it doesnt make sense to be totally ruled by these.

Circumstances may force a less material lifestyle or it may evolve Im not sure there is much point debating that issue too much. In my view a healthy balanced materialism might be the goal but we dont want to go back to horses and carts. Right now I think the focus should be more on how we resolve the problem in a technical sense and at what costs.

The costs may be less than we think. The ultimate lifestyle or balance of materialism will emerge on its own.

jh January 10, 2014 at 11:20 pm

This quote;

It is my thesis here that in pursuing perfect adaptation the
evolutionary process has built into each member of the human
species an instinct for short term gains so strong that no prescient
individual, committee, religion, or private organization has so far been
able to conceive or effect a cultural milieu that could adequately
balance the short term instincts of human individuals with the long range needs of the species. (Potter, 1995, p. 107).

the biofarmer January 16, 2014 at 10:01 am

“the evolutionary process has built into each member of the human
species an instinct for short term gains “.

Exactly which component of human behaviour is the most obvious manifestation of this instinct would you say?

Superstition . . . or rationality?
We seem to possess both in more or less equal parts.

Or is superstition instinctual , while rationality requires a conscious , self-aware, considered effort?

Thomas January 11, 2014 at 6:45 pm

Capitalism tends to optimize the creation of markets (needs and wants generation) and matching these needs with goods and services while optimizing profits for the shareholders of the business community.

It works like an evolutionary process in a generally purpose free environment. This works while no existential supply constraints on resources are encountered. But this is no longer the case. We have reached the limits to the form of growth our economy has been predicated by over the last century.

It is now time that we undertake a revision of what it means to live as a member of the human species. We can either slide into a Darwinian shoot-out where the strongest (best armed) shall survive (and tackle the supply constraints of our one-planet species later), or we can negotiate a settlement that would allow some form of graceful landing over the next century into a new and sustainable arrangement.

Capitalist principles may well serve us very well for the descent into sustainability but we must assure that we factor a long term plan into the accounting process of the capitalist machine. We must set prices according to a realistic cost of resources and thereby set firm bounds.

The laws of Physics set firm bounds to our endeavors anyway and we do not bemoan this. The sustainability constraints of our planet should work and be respected in the very same way!

The evolutionary skill of a free market society can then within these constraints look for optimal solutions fitting these parameters. This is what an ecologically constrained and guided and socially responsible free market should do.

nigelj January 12, 2014 at 10:39 am

Thomas you are talking some sense. Capitalism is a good system but free markets and gdp growth curves dont recognise negative externalities like environmental costs.

Capitalism has to evolve to meet these challenges while staying as true as possible to its basic principles. Unfortunatly there are political forces that resist any change to capitalism at all.

eltoro January 14, 2014 at 1:12 am

You chaps can pontificate all you like about how to deal with climate change and I don`t necessarily disagree with any of your views but lets just take a snapshot of the world as of now and I mean now the late tv 1 news.
Tonga ripped apart, Australia suffering yet more extreme heatwaves and devastating fires not to mention your standard drought in cattle and sheep farming areas causing farmers to shoot their stock. (Oh and apparently the 40+c deg could cause some discomfort to the tennis champs in Melbourne). Then lets venture to to the N American continent. Drought in California, extreme cold in the mid west (yet again in past few years) just a follow on from Sandy and numerous other extreme, record breaking events to many to mention just in the past decade. Oh I won`t go on to other parts of the planet like the Philippines, various states of Europe, China etc, etc, etc.
I`m sure you are well aware of the events, the cause and the human and monetary cost of these events that will ultimately impact on us all whatever station in life or location we occupy.
Oh and just as a closing note I see the terrible situation some NZ holiday makers are having to endure in the Wanaka, Queenstown area. Rain, wind and cold temperatures have devastated their holiday plans. Havn`t been able to get out on the lakes in the luxury boats and have had to resort to movies, pubs and restaurants for entertainment.
Seems to me there is a total disconnection between what is occurring planet wise and everyday life in NZ.
The time for pontification has long past. What I mean is if this is .85cdeg of planetary warming and 1 and 2 degs is just around the corner giving some thought to what we may do about it by 2020 or 2030 or thereabouts is just not an option.
Strong and decisive leadership would be great both worldwide and locally right now. Don`t see it happening, do you.???
Oh well been nice talking. Turn out the light when you leave thanks.

the biofarmer January 16, 2014 at 9:54 am

“Strong and decisive leadership would be great both worldwide and locally right now. Don`t see it happening, do you.???”

Of course not. It almost never happens. Short term expediency rules ; at least in politics.

On the other hand , individuals are free to provide leadership if they wish; but nobody has to follow right?

So the reality is that at some time in the distant future the human population will become adjusted to the resources available to support that population.

Does anyone see a problem with this? The world in which this scenario occurs is probably unimaginable to us living today but that is not through lack of imaginative powers. We simply have no idea of what the world in 200 years time will be like. That has always been so .
So why the weeping and gnashing of teeth now? I’m sure that my great-great- grandparents did not indulge in sack-cloth and ashes on my account. Neither should they have done so.

Tony January 14, 2014 at 10:22 pm

You forgot to mention the dead bats falling out of the sky:

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=11184070

I’m sure Rodney Hide will be informing his readers about this in his next opiniion piece no doubt expressing his moral outrage.

noelfuller January 14, 2014 at 10:42 pm

Maybe it is black humour or just an accident but when I followed your link and read about bats falling in heaps at the bottoms of trees I then noticed a green banner across the top of the page “A new way to compost”.

eltoro January 16, 2014 at 10:07 pm

“I`m sure my grandparents didn`t indulge in sack cloth and ash`s on my account”.
I`m deeply saddened that your grandparents didn`t give a toss about their children`s or your future. Probably explains your current attitude. But hey you are in a happy little bubble so good luck to you and yours if there are any.
For my part my parents and grandparents indulged themselves in a couple of world wars and when that was sorted got really involved in rebuilding a future for us kids and any future lineage.
Unlike you I do see an avenue and will make the effort to bring about change in political, technological and social attitude in the hope that there is a future worth having not in 200 years but now.
To trivialize the obvious occurrences and threats that exist today that are backed by solid science and physical evidence is paramount to committing genocide.
No doubt you will want to respond to the above but don`t expect anything further from me. I`m off to Oz to see the grandchildren who by the way are experiencing WORLD record breaking high temperatures.
Funny that. NOT. Wonder how Mr “Climate change is a load of crap” Abbot is getting on in his air conditioned residence. (Now there`s a fine upstanding decisive leader. Only problem he has is that he is wrong).
Bye.

the biofarmer January 17, 2014 at 9:28 am

“I`m deeply saddened that your grandparents didn`t give a toss about their children`s or your future.”

You made that up , and it is completely wrong. I did not mention my grandparents , with whom I spent a lot of my childhood, and from whom I received a great deal of education (my grandmother was a teacher).

I’m perfectly happy , in view of your deliberate distortion of what I actually said, that we can expect no more from you on this . That seems entirely appropriate.
If I have that wrong , and it was not deliberate , and it was in fact a reading comprehension problem on your part , then I apologise.

Bob Bingham January 17, 2014 at 5:24 pm

New Zealand is in a relatively good position compared to some. I have been exchanging comments with a guy in Florida who is trying to convince people and himself the sea levels are not rising. He is most probably in real estate. I don’t think we should be rebuilding Christchurch on the same low ground but Gerry Brownlee may be right and there is time to pay off a mortgage before it floods and in any case it would have taken a very brave politician to come out and say lets start again on high ground.

the biofarmer January 18, 2014 at 8:06 am

It should be the Regional Councils , responsible for the implementation of the RMA and the promotion of sustainable practices, that are regulating the building of houses in the flood plains.

The flood plains are frequently our most fertile soils; covering such soils in houses and concrete has to be stupidity.

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