Peter Singer’s 1975 book Animal Liberation is perhaps the seminal text on awakening human consciousness about nonhuman animals. More of a philosophical tract, it presents an even-handed narrative of why animals’ interests should be considered that is neither ‘good’ not ‘bad’ per se. It’s big idea of ‘the greatest good’ is an effective route to ethical behavior, and it resonates with the challenge of how to get people to care about nature, which – if not cast as satire – is one of the most urgent ideas of the last and the next twenty years:
It is easy to see how bleak accounts of the state of the planet can overwhelm people and make them feel hopeless. What is the point of even trying if the world is going down the drain anyway?
To muster public and political support on a scale that matches our environmental challenges, research shows that negative messaging is not the most effective way forward. As a conservation scientist and social marketer, I believe that to make the environment a mainstream concern, conservation discussions should focus less on difficulties. Instead we should highlight the growing list of examples where conservation efforts have benefited species, ecosystems and people living alongside them.
The promise of positive messaging and marketing language to sway greater environmental sh*t-giving is cynical, but here we are. He’s not wrong, though the degree to which the vision of this kind of promotion will necessarily muster the language of commodity (great cause of said looming catastrophic scenarios) to save the Earth makes the pain in my neck throb. It could also make the messages that feel like Coca-Cola ads that much easier to dismiss from familiarity. Optimism in the face of destruction has its limits, and sometimes we need to look at things as they are and act accordingly. Like adults instead of media companies.
Still, Lost & Found is a good idea. We can do worse than trying to invigorate the public with the wonder of natural wonder, as long as they don’t begin to believe too strongly in its resilience. We can lead the water to horses, but can we make them care?
A can of worms, wrapped in a puzzle, buried inside an enigma, with a little pink flag sticking up, the only thing visible, while the sound of one hand clapping faintly echoes in the background
By the time the subject of the movie finally comes up, we’d already spent half an hour discussing the ossification of our own culture. We talk about how New York City, the place in which Gray set his first five films, has changed so drastically since the mid 1990s; Gray says the Brooklyn of Little Odessa “is totally gone,” and that, while the 1920s tenements in The Immigrant are still there, they now tower above John Varvatos boutiques. Gray specifies that he’s less interested in romanticizing the crime-ridden city of the past than questioning what’s led to the kind of environment in which, he says, one of his friends seems to be the only person actually living in his apartment building on Central Park West, not using it as an investment.
The fundamental issue on Gray’s mind when we talk is how capitalism impacts our priorities as human beings. Saddled with student debt from the moment we set foot in a university, our ability to “study for the sake of learning” is over; instead, we’re “forced to become budding capitalists.” It’s a critique that received major airtime during Bernie Sanders’s campaign, and Gray’s clearly given it some serious thought. “We haven’t figured out a way to monetize integrity, and when you can’t monetize integrity, and you can’t incentivize integrity and incentivize individuality, and you pray at the god of the market, you get a very strange beast that almost consumes itself,” Gray says. “It’s almost like everyone is beholden to this market god, and nobody knows what to do.”
All in one place, this short article has it all. Best of luck to Gray with the The Lost City of Z.
In a society wherein it is the final arbiter, is the market beyond criticism?
Is the very idea that an arbitrary arbitrage of value could be subject to notions of virtue, inspected for justice, honesty, moderation, only now a naive trifle? Question its wisdom and identify yourself as an unschooled radical. We know better, so we say little. Good sense about our prospects in the market gets the better of us and we ‘trim our sails’ and ‘keep our powder dry.’ But these are boats that won’t leave the harbor, stocked with guns that won’t fire. What if we are poised upon the very footbridge that people will one day look back to and identify as the last chance? How many more opportunities can wait? Upsells, upgrades, limited offers, monopolies on that perfect, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, bucket lists… the language of premium experience and exclusivity harkens, tugging at heartstrings, it is assumed, in crass attempts to woo because of course it would. Nothing shall be off limits. But the organs blacken. We feel it but do not fight back. It’s just the market – this is what it does – equanimous and unyielding. It is the only entity that will pursue its truth, and follow the trail wherever it goes. Its judgment is neutral, unbiased, equal opportunity, nonracial and irreligious. Abiding by its decisions relieves the burden to prove anything: the market has spoken. Slowly boiling amphibians may at least have the semblance of regret.
This is the saddest article I’ve read in quite sometime, and extremely well-reported. Right-to-work. The American South is Seoul’s Mexico.
Image: Market Place II by Charles Nkomo
No, not that one – but I love that one. This one, directed at Earthlings, named for our universe’s cultural heart and designed to avoid the worst:
the Paris climate agreement had passed a critical milestone toward adoption. At a UN General Assembly meeting in New York this morning, 31 nations officially signed onto the accord, making it very likely that the deal will enter legal force this year.
You may remember that the Paris agreement—an international pledge to limit us to 2 degrees Celsius of global warming, by weaning every nation off fossil fuels—was adopted at an international summit in December 2015. But before it can go into effect, it needs to be formally ratified by 55 countries that together account for 55 percent of global carbon emissions.
The accord received a major boost earlier this month, when the United States and China, two carbon behemoths that together account for nearly forty percent of global emissions, jointly announced their intention to ratify the deal. Before today, 27 other nations that collectively represent some 2 to 3 percent of global emissions had also signed on.
This is the tipping point we were looking for, to try to put off that other one. So many other wires have been tripped in setting off the renewable energy cascade, we might as well formalize the shift. Many difficulties still afoot and Team Fossil is going to fight even harder, but this is continued progress to be promoted and echoed.
Choose your metaphor, but on the other side of decades-long collusion charges, professional climate change deniers in Congress want answers about the groups, people and states with the temerity to seek answers:
Following a months-long standoff between the House Science Committee and state attorneys general conducting an investigation into Exxon over climate change denialism, Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) has called a hearing to affirm his right to subpoena the state officials overseeing criminal investigations.
Smith, a noted climate change denier, has made repeated demands that the attorneys general and several environmental groups turn over their communications about Exxon, accusing them of embarking on an “unprecedented effort against those who have questioned the causes, magnitude, or best ways to address climate change.” The attorneys general, as well as the activist groups, have refused to comply with the committee’s requests, setting up a battle over subpoena power.
In a June statement, the committee’s ranking member, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), said that Smith’s demands were “not about legitimate oversight,” but that the committee was “harassing” attorneys general investigating Exxon.
While Smith has previously conducted investigations into the executive branch and scientists funded by Congress, now the chairman has issued subpoenas to two state attorneys general conducting a criminal investigation. He made a wide-ranging request for communications the states had with each other, environmental groups, and the federal government about an “investigation or potential prosecution of companies, nonprofit organizations, scientists, or other individuals related to the issue of climate change.”
Can you say protecting the rights of the accused not to even be accused? Check the fine print in the Bill of Rights, I think we missed something. Oh, and Smith – chairman of the House Science Committee. Orwell was piker.
Exxon Mobil Corp. ramping up its lobbying in support of a carbon tax, marking a shift in the oil giant’s approach to climate change, mais pourquoi?
It’s still unclear exactly why Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude Walker gave up on his efforts to obtain documents from ExxonMobil that could have shed light on whether the fossil-fuel behemoth violated anti-fraud laws. Climate hawks were hoping that Walker might be able to find smoking-gun evidence that ExxonMobil swindled its shareholders about the magnitude of the threat climate change posed to its bottom line.
Climate hawks were also hoping that Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey–who, along with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, has trying to get to the bottom of whether ExxonMobil committed fraud–might be able to make headway as well, but Healey has reportedly decided to stand down until ExxonMobil’s twin legal challenges to her efforts are resolved.
What if Healey and Schneiderman also decide to walk away from the noble effort to hold ExxonMobil responsible for its obstruction of climate justice? If so, could it be due to concerns that they cannot win this fight in the court of public opinion?
The news about Walker’s abandonment of his efforts to obtain documents from ExxonMobil broke right around the same time that the Wall Street Journal reported on the CO2 conglomerate’s push to get other fossil-fuel powerbrokers to support federal revenue-neutral carbon tax legislation as the “first-best policy”
So… they’ve always advocated for a carbon tax, but quietly until now. The expectation that, under the next president, a broader climate debate might take place is giving them some incentive to look as though they had been engaged in something other than claim change denial since the 1970’s. They never stop playing games.
Image: A river in Egypt.
Rapid ice melts and calving glaciers are resulting in a dark snow phenomenon in Greenland. Look at these images in the Guardian and tell yourself over and over again that nothing is happening:
For most of us, science is an abstract subject but aerial photography is a powerful tool to translate what environmental science is telling us. It brings a different perspective to environmental problems. You can be very clear or very abstract to make images that are inspiring and beautiful, images don’t have to be read straight ahead. It’s sort of like teasing the viewer … to find clues in the image,’ say [photographer Daniel]Beltrá
In another coincidence I just noticed, this is the 1,001st post on the site.
I guess if that’s how we’re going to see things. But it would be better to state at the outset that every instance of disbelieving, climate change skepticism rises from the deliberate misinformation campaign devised by fossil fuel extraction companies when their own research began to tell them that the delicious smell from the kitchen was their own bacon frying:
New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman released the results of an investigation that found one of the world’s largest coal companies had misled the public and its shareholders about the risks climate change could pose to its bottom line.
After several years of investigations, Schneiderman reached an agreement with Peabody Energy that won’t require the company to admit it broke the law and does not entail a fine or other penalty. Instead, Peabody must file revised shareholder disclosures to the Securities and Exchange Commission with new language acknowledging that “concerns about the environmental impacts of coal combustion…could significantly affect demand for our products or our securities.”
The agreement comes just days after Schneiderman issued a subpoena to ExxonMobil, kicking off an investigation into whether the oil giant has misled investors and the public about the basic science of climate change for decades. Exxon has denied any wrongdoing. While the two investigations have some similarities, Exxon could face tougher penalties than Peabody, said Andrew Logan, director of oil and gas programs at Ceres, an investor advocacy group. The allegations against Exxon stretch back much further in time and could potentially be more serious, so the attorney general could pursue more aggressive action against the company, Logan said.
The Exxon practice is the actual real story here, one that goes back to the late seventies. The companies were no fools; they invested their own money in real research because they wanted to know the truth. They just decided that it was more important that you didn’t know. And that you questioned any attempts by the government to reign in your freedom. They even gave you a few things you could say.
Framing the practice of climate deception as ‘no duty’ to be truthful with investors may make it seem like a victimless crime, we’re all adults here and all’s fair in love n’ bidness, but c’mon.
It is enough to say that economics and environmental opposition have made building the Keystone XL Pipeline impractical. What this outcome may portend for the fates of other fossil fuels as the economics change may bare a little more fleshing out:
The company behind the Keystone XL pipeline has asked the US government to put its review of the controversial project on hold.
TransCanada says the pause is necessary while it negotiates with Nebraska over the pipeline’s route through the state.
The move came as a surprise as TransCanada executives have pushed hard to get approval.
Environmental groups oppose the 1,179-mile (1,897km) pipeline, saying it will increase greenhouse gas emissions.
Maybe they’re pulling it until President Carson can approve the
travesty project. But perhaps the reckoning is that neither version of green opposition is sufficient to turn the tide against an legacy energy source – that the power of both and maybe every meaning of green is necessary to make the difference
Consider the names we’ve had for it already: the greenhouse effect. Global warming, and it’s corollary, AGW. Climate change. Treating a planet warming from CO2 like a parlor game, and especially by using the tobacco industry, to see how long we can maintain our ignorance up to and even about whether anything can be done about it takes special effort. And Exxon has had their best people on it since the 70’s:
There’s a sense, of course, in which one already assumed that this was the case. Everyone who’s been paying attention has known about climate change for decades now. But it turns out Exxon didn’t just “know” about climate change: it conducted some of the original research. In the nineteen-seventies and eighties, the company employed top scientists who worked side by side with university researchers and the Department of Energy, even outfitting one of the company’s tankers with special sensors and sending it on a cruise to gather CO2 readings over the ocean. By 1977, an Exxon senior scientist named James Black was, according to his own notes, able to tell the company’s management committee that there was “general scientific agreement” that what was then called the greenhouse effect was most likely caused by man-made CO2; a year later, speaking to an even wider audience inside the company, he said that research indicated that if we doubled the amount of carbon dioxide in the planet’s atmosphere, we would increase temperatures two to three degrees Celsius. That’s just about where the scientific consensus lies to this day. “Present thinking,” Black wrote in summary, “holds that man has a time window of five to ten years before the need for hard decisions regarding changes in energy strategies might become critical.”
Those numbers were about right, too. It was precisely ten years later—after a decade in which Exxon scientists continued to do systematic climate research that showed, as one internal report put it, that stopping “global warming would require major reductions in fossil fuel combustion”—that NASA scientist James Hansen took climate change to the broader public, telling a congressional hearing, in June of 1988, that the planet was already warming. And how did Exxon respond? By saying that its own independent research supported Hansen’s findings? By changing the company’s focus to renewable technology?
That didn’t happen. Exxon responded, instead, by helping to set up or fund extreme climate-denial campaigns.
It’s not enough to know this, nor to merely compare it to the efforts of Big Tobacco. It will require a systematic dismantling of Big Oil because as presently organized, only it will decide when or if anything is to be done. Listen to the presidential candidates on the right. Big Oil’s work has been done and done well. The best tactic – accuse your opponents of what you yourself have been doing – remains operable. The charge that scientists support climate science because it brings in big grant money is not only laughable in terms of the profits realized by research scientists in the energy companies employ, not to mention by candidates for higher office.
As much as they blame other forces, it is rapacious capitalists that threaten capitalism, though the misery is amplified by the fact that so many canaries will have to be tried and executed before we understand how dangerous the mine is.
Via Erik at LGM.