A quick heads up that the Royal Society of New Zealand’s panel discussion series on the theme of The Age Of Resilience starts tonight at the Auckland Museum at 6pm. French and NZ experts will consider the “economic conundrum” of transitioning to a low-carbon economy and at the same time deliver a “high and sustainable level of human well-being”. On the panel are Pierre Ducret (see the NZ Herald today), Dr Suzi Kerr, Professor Catherine Larrère and Fraser Whinerary. Kim Hill will be in the chair, and the evening is being recorded by Radio New Zealand for broadcast next month. More details at the RSNZ web site, and you can download a flyer here.
Two further sessions are being held in Wellington and Christchurch: in Wellington tomorrow night on Climate in-justice? and Christchurch next Tuesday on The Anthropocene Challenge. Details and flyers from the RSNZ here. An interesting series — and if you can’t make the live recordings, all three will be on Radio NZ National in September and October as part of the Talking Heads strand.
Dale Jamieson is a philosopher long acquainted with the work of climate scientists. His recently published book was begun 25 years ago, “an avocation that became an obsession”. He used to joke when asked why the book wasn’t appearing that he was waiting to see how the story ended. Then it dawned on him after the failed 2009 Copenhagen conference that there was no ending, and certainly not a happy one. The continuing journey is largely a matter of salvaging what we can from the wreckage. The book’s title sets the stark picture: Reason in a Dark Time. Why the Struggle Against Climate Change Failed – and What it Means for Our Future.
Not surprisingly with such a title the book is not a call to action but rather an invitation to understand our failure and to think about what we might learn from it and how best live in the changed world we are creating.
Jamieson proposes a variety of reasons for our failure. Scientific ignorance is one. He recalls British scientist and novelist C.P. Snow’s famous “two cultures” claim in 1956 that the British political and cultural elite, educated in the humanities, was quite ignorant and even contemptuous of science. The “two cultures” are alive and well in the United States today, including among the political elites. In particular the weight of peer-reviewed science is often not grasped. Jamieson presents an illuminating explanation of the process of peer review which enables the incremental advance of solid science. It is scientific ignorance which has allowed climate change denial to find a foothold, aided by powerful corporations anxious to prevent or delay action which might affect their profitability.
Continue reading “Reason in a Dark Time”
Science journalist Gaia Vince left her desk at Nature and spent two years visiting places around the world, some of them very isolated, where people were grappling with the conditions of what is sometimes described as a new epoch, the Anthropocene. It dates from the industrial revolution and represents a different world from the relatively settled Holocene in which human civilisation was able to develop. Adventures in the Anthropocene tells the story of Vince’s encounters with some remarkable individuals and their communities. It also includes lengthy musings on the technologies the future may employ as humanity faces the challenges of climate change, ocean acidification, population growth, resource depletion and more.
Vince goes to the front lines of the human battles. In a remote village in Nepal she describes the extraordinary work of Mahabir Pun who gained a university scholarship in the US and returned years later to bring computers and Wi-Fi to the children of his village. It’s a fascinating story, full of hope for development in his region. But it’s also precarious. Electricity for the computers comes from a small hydro-scheme fed by glacier water. In the same chapter Vince points out that the warming rate in that Himalayan region is five times greater than the global average and the glaciers are melting. Once they are gone there is no meltwater and no power. Levels have already been diminishing in the once-deep stream near the village.
Continue reading “Adventures in the Anthropocene”
In my post at The Daily Blog today — Facing the future – no Bridges too far — I take a look at the Royal Society of New Zealand’s latest information paper about the need to move New Zealand to a green economy. There’s a yawning gulf between the rational world view embodied in the RSNZ’s paper and the policy settings adopted by the current government. Which comes as no surprise…
Below the fold I’ve embedded the infographic designed by the RSNZ to accompany its paper. It’s well worth taking a look…
Continue reading “TDB Today: Facing the future – no Bridges too far”