Showing posts with label climate change. Show all posts
Showing posts with label climate change. Show all posts

Thursday, February 04, 2021

Why the one percent wants climate change (a conspiracy theory)

My book is free on Kindle April 9

Let's discuss one of my conspiracy theories. First I'll tell you my biases. I believe that humans cause climate change just as much as I believe that humans hunted mastodons to extinction. I believe that Easter Islanders denuded their islands of vegetation prior to ending their days knocking over big stone heads. Since I also believe that the Japanese learned to manage their forests rather than denude them, I believe we should manage climate change rather than dither-about denying it. To do so effectively will require a massive amount of human cooperation and will. Without cooperation and will, other resolutions to humanity's problems will result in far more more human misery.

Climate can change for a variety of reasons. I take on faith that human activity is the main cause of current climate change. Climate science is complex and I'm no expert. I believe what I do because what I've seen matches my general science knowledge. For example, when I watch Neil Degrasse Tyson discuss climate change in his Cosmos episode on Venus, it fits with other things I know about science. On the other hand, when I hear a critic call Neil Degrasse Tyson a shill, I wonder who this critic shills with his false claims. In my view, climate change denialist arguments use cherry-picked data to back their claims. They've put their money into slick persuasion rather than sound arguments.

I also take on faith that humanity has both the technology and the ability to reduce the effects of climate change. We can't stop what's happened or what's going to happen, but we can certainly slow it down and adapt to it. What we can't do, is ignore it. Doing so would result in calamities far greater than the inconveniences we'll face if we put our efforts into tackling climate change now.

Technology and ability aren't enough however. A firm will and cooperation are required tools as well. At the moment these tools are in short supply amongst human societies. But I think attitudes can change.

Historian, Walter Sheidel writes about social collapse in his 2017 book. He shows how hunting and gathering societies must cooperate to survive. People in such societies own little besides clothing and tools. Once people began farming and herding, surpluses developed. Where there are surpluses, humans tend to create hierarchy, one result of which is Capitalism. People in hunting and gathering societies owned little besides clothing and tools. Once people began learning to farm and herd, surpluses were able to develop. Where there are surpluses, humans tend to create hierarchy, one result of which is Capitalism.

Sheidel notes that survival level societies are less innovative than hierarchical ones. Indeed, innovation was one of the advantages of our Capitalist society. During the Cold War, this advantage was promoted in public service announcements which claimed that Capitalism is superior to Communism because it encourages competition resulting in innovation and greater choice for consumers.

Now that communism is not considered the threat it once was, it might be worth considering what can be accomplished with cooperation. I believe when societies become overly hierarchical, power bottle-necks competition and opportunity, and causes poverty and ill-health. Where hierarchy was once an advantage, now it gives diminishing returns. As more and more wealth and power is held by fewer and fewer people, competition and innovation must diminish as well.

In any case it's time for my conspiracy theory. Most Americans haven’t seen significant wage increases since the early 1980s. However those in the top 20 percent have found life fairly easy. One thing, there's what, eight billion people on the planet now? Fixing the climate will mean sacrifices, and even if we make them, what will we do about all those people?

I remember a biology class experiment using two fruit fly couples. We put them in a closed environment, gave them plenty to eat and drink, and let them do their thing. They reproduced and then they reproduced some more. Soon there were generations of fruit flies living in a little closed dish. Then a couple of them died. And then they all died. They befouled themselves. Their garbage killed them. Like us — we’re getting plastic into everything. It's in shellfish. It's in fish. It's in us. So even if we start fixing the climate, we’re still drowning ourselves in our own garbage. What if Ebola or something killed most of humanity, then we wouldn’t have to do anything about climate change. Right? If we just sit back and distance ourselves from the rabble then maybe they’ll all kill themselves and solve the problem for us. And if a poor girl like me can have such a thought, imagine what wealthy people think. They’ve got more to lose than me, nicer houses, nicer cars, etc. (actually nannies like me just have school debts, not cars and houses).

And even for people who aren’t wealthy, trying to wrap your mind around all the problems humanity currently faces is enough to wish humanity extinct. Mostly. Naturally one would want a few people around and if one were rich, hung out with the cool kids, or had insider knowledge about the conspiracy, one might be able to avoid personal catastrophe oneself. But it doesn’t need to be a conspiracy, there are other ways to deny climate change. Waiting for Jesus is a good one. But I think it’s time to face up to it. If we work together we can handle this. Or die trying.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Studebakers and Capitalists

When I last visited South Bend, Indiana, I assumed it was for the first and final time. But karma doesn’t work that way. It puts one in situations one never expect for reasons one rarely understand. Karma brought me here once more. Last time I was here there wasn’t time to visit the Studebaker Museum across the street from our accommodations at the Avanti House. But this time we ventured inside.

Within the museum’s walls are some very shiny and cool old cars, mostly Studebakers. But there are also old horse carriages. Studebaker began as a blacksmith shop. Later it built carriages. Ultimately, the company decided to hedge its bets by manufacturing automobiles in addition to carriages in case “horseless carriages” were more than a passing fad. Studebaker’s first car was electric, a quiet vehicle that didn’t foul the air. But the public demanded gasoline powered cars. In time Studebaker made those exclusively.

Among the museum’s carriage collection are several that transported American president’s. Of these carriages, two provided the last rides taken before their riders were assassinated. A somber coincidence perhaps. Karma can do that.

If the museum can be said to tell a story, the story is this. Companies have natural life cycles. Studebaker began as a simple blacksmith shop. It took risks, but also gave the public the products it desired. It grew from a one-person business to become a major automobile manufacturer. However, when its fortunes changed in the 1960s, it went out of business. This is capitalism in its pure and natural form. It takes risks, pleases consumers, competes and innovates.

There is a myth that circulates among us. It’s that markets should be self-regulating and free. Economist Robert Reich points out that markets have always had their rules, such as those governing bankruptcy and loan terms. Karl popper notes that without regulations, seemingly free markets would develop consumer strangling monopolies. Markets should serve consumers, not profiteers. I believe the free market myth is a disguise for class-entitlement thinking. Too much winning convinces some of the wealthy that they are deserving of what falls to them. Because they deserve what they ultimately get, class-entitled people are willing to bend rules by seeking favorable treatment from the government and others. When they talk about a free marketplace, they mean one free from environmental rules that force their industrialists to pick-up after themselves. It’s like they say, “We make chemical products. The remaining hazardous waste is an unintended byproduct that’s not our problem.” Staying focused on the product and not on the damage it causes, leads oil company executives to bury reports on climate change while misinforming the public.

There are some who say capitalism works best when it’s unregulated. I don’t believe it. We live in a complex world. Regulations are sometimes needed. Studebaker began small, gave the public what it wanted, took risks, changed with the times, grew large, then died a natural death. This is how it should be.

Unfortunately the same wealthy men who advocate unregulated marketplaces also advocate tax breaks and handouts for themselves. These wealthy men feel entitled to special advantages. They’ve forgotten that capitalism is entwined with risk. In order to convert more oil into money, some of these men misinformed the public about climate change. The lies have worked to some degree, but the tide of opinion has changed — most people are now convinced that climate change is real and imminent. Sustainable, green technologies are being birthed and implemented. Ultimately businesses based on obsolete petroleum technology will decline and die. That’s how capitalism is supposed to work. Competition drives innovation and innovation drives economic growth. Dinosaurs that prefer lying to competing and innovating deserve to disappear.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Bad Argument

 Some, while admitting that climate change is real, argue that it isn't a big deal, that human causation hasn't been proven, and that doing something about it would cause job losses and hurt the economy. Apparently these people don't read newspapers, or if they do, they read the ones that use very small words. Science has known about climate change and the human activity causing it for over 5o years. The science is entertainingly explained in under an hour in the Cosmos episode, The World Set Free

A July 8, 2015 Guardian headline  states, "Exxon knew of climate change in 1981, email says – but it funded deniers for 27 more years." Why do you suppose Exxon did that? Let me take a guess. Because it would cause job losses and hurt the economy. That's oil industry jobs and the oil industry economy. 

Keeping a secret for 27 years in order to protect your business model is shortsighted. It would have been more sensible to diversify and develop other energy sources. Had Exxon done that, today it would be an industry leader in renewable energy. But it chose to be dishonest and self-serving instead.

Many of the politicians who argue that climate change interventions will cost jobs and hurt the economy receive major funding from oil industry associates. But that, in itself, doesn't make the argument  a bad one. It's true that climate change interventions will cost jobs and effect the economy. The effects will be primarily in the energy sector, although not all of it. Those portions of the energy sector invested in renewable energy will instead create jobs and thrive.

The argument is deceptive because it doesn't take the entire economy into account. Climate change is already affecting the economy's agricultural sector. Droughts, floods and crop-killing heat waves are happening now and will become worse. Climate change will devastate jobs and economies far beyond what can be gained by protecting the status quo. It's time to cut the crap and act responsibly.