Frustrated by the polarised debate on human-caused climate change Gareth Morgan and John McCrystal set out to evaluate the evidence for themselves. On the basis of this book, they apear to have been relentlessly open-minded in this quest…and in the end, they conclude that yes, we do need to be concerned. It is totally against the spirit of the book to point this out – but Gareth Morgan is noted for coming to his views independently and skeptically, plus he is an economist and – all other things being equal 🙂 – reasonably fond of economic growth – so if he thinks human-caused climate change is an issue we need to take seriously, it really is most likely that we do. But read the book – it ought to be convincing for anyone with an open-mind.
Morgan and McCrystal also take some shots at greenies and environmentalists for taking an irresponsible role in this debate, muddying the science with their keen-ness to use it when it suits to butress attacks on consumerism and capitalism that are primarily ideological (don’t worry they also take aim at fossil-fuel industry-funded deniers).
I think this criticism raises some valuable points for the green/environmental movement.
We’ve done a fair bit of criticising contemporary capitalism in this blog. One of the follow-up questions we have been asking ourselves all along is: “if not capitalism, then what?’
Well yes. If not life as we know it, with all its enormous ‘reality’, complexity, and slow-turning, apparently unstoppable power and momentum – then what? And how do we get from here to there? It’s quite a topic for a couple of part-time bloggers to tackle. The hubris! But then we’re not tackling it on our own – human society is always and inescapably a collaborative venture – we’re hitching a ride with the thinkers whose work we’ve commented on, hopefully in return bringing it to some who would not otherwise have met it.
So where have we got to so far, in our hitching, in our answer to this big question?
Ingolfur Bluhdorn’s ideas about the politics of unsustainability seem to paint an accurate picture of the state of mind of the developed world. We recognise the need for change but absolutely refuse to change. An ecological doublethink pervades our politics.
In attempting to make sense of the current condition of the world “in the areas of ecological politics, green politics, political economy, and social change,” it seems to me that challenging the ecological doublethink is what well sharp has been all about for these past two years.
COP15 in Copenhagen has made a “modest start” to dealing with climate change – according to participants such as UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and NZ climate change ambassador Adrian Macey.
Oh, the irony of such half-hearted spin … COP1 took place in Berlin in 1995. Now, fifteen conferences later we’ve finally got around to making a start.
In fact, of course, Copenhagen has simply been a failure followed by much dissembling. Action has been deferred yet again by the politicians and their sheepish accomplices who have found it too hard to be decisive. They have chosen to leave “making a start” to someone else at some point in the future.
When, as everyone knows, it will all be far too late.
This is – let’s be honest – dangerously self-destructive behaviour: a recognition of the need for change hand in hand with an absolute refusal to change. It is the politics of unsustainability in the most disastrous form imaginable.
‘Stakeholder theory’ originated in the academic literature of organisational management but it has taken a remarkably strong grip on the liberal democracies of the West.
For example, a quick search of the .govt.nz web domain shows New Zealand government ministries, departments and agencies generate a profusion of stakeholder documents. From Ministry for the Environment to the Treasury to the Human Rights Commission, from the Ministry of Culture and Heritage to the Customs Department to the NZAID agency, you could easily drown in stakeholder feedback documents, policy statements, surveys, updates, reports and reviews.
The same holds for the UK and Australia (at federal and state level) too: There are stakeholder consultations, events, sessions and workshops for every group imaginable.
This is the way government now engages with citizens: carefully managed consultation rather than politicisation.
A central theme of green politics has always been the importance of the local, captured in the familiar slogan ‘think globally, act locally’. Advocates of relocalisation see “the local production of food, energy and goods and the local development of currency, governance, and culture” as the way to “strengthen local communities, improve environmental conditions and social equity.” With its focus on coping with peak oil and climate change, the Transition Towns project has a similar objective.
Greg Albo (2007) describes how these ‘eco-localist’ ideas emphasise
a host of approaches that … rest on some mix of community and cooperative economics, semi-autarchic trade, local currency systems and direct democracy in enterprises and local government. … In this vision, ecological balance is restored within decentralized communities by the need to find local solutions. (p.344)
Climate change is what is known as a ‘wicked’ problem . That’s not a street term – it is a formal academic term for problems which suffer from:
— incomplete description,
— changing parameters, and
— complex interdependencies,
to which we might add
— a limited time frame to reach solutions,
— the lack of a single authority to implement solutions, and
— our own involvement in generating both problem and solutions.
Furthermore, a solution to one part of a wicked problem can reveal or cause new aspects of the problem.