Thursday, April 24, 2008

Kierkegaard on trying hard

"There is, for example, a man in Copenhagen. He travels by ship to London and back in the greatest comfort and ease, “and,” says the pastor, “this was his North Pole expedition. No, he did not reach the North Pole, but he tried.” “It is perfectly clear,” expounds the preacher, “that if you are going to make an expedition to the North Pole and live in Copenhagen, you must first of all leave Copenhagen. This man did that. On the other hand, no one has yet reached the North Pole anyway. Even those who have gone the farthest have only made an effort. But so has this man. To travel to London is also an effort.” Wonderful, tremendously popular! And to take a ride to the city park on Sunday afternoon, leaving one’s home, is also an effort aimed at discovering the North Pole: ergo, we are all striving! This is the way all of us have become Christians, and paying Christians to boot!"

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This is where I part company with many environmentalists. With 6.5 billion people going to 9 billion, much of the environment is unsavable. But if we warm significantly more than 2°C from pre-industrial levels -- and especially if we warm more than 3°C, as would be all but inevitable if we keep on our current emissions path for another decade or so -- then the environment and climate that made modern human civilization possible will be ruined, probably for hundreds of years. And that means misery for many if not most of the next 10 to 20 billion people to walk the planet.

Joseph Romm

Suicidal environmentalism

If the scientists are correct, our planet is going to change. And I don't know about anyone else, but my gut feeling is that there aren't enough people who want/are able to contemplate the necessary changes in their lifestyles to stop it.

Maybe we need a change of approach. Maybe we need to be, as Alaistair McIntosh says, planetary hospice workers instead of pretending that anything we can do will stop it.

Maybe the environmental movement needs a bit of 'doom and gloom' and maybe the bad news is the only thing worth listening to: focusing on small changes in our lifestyles might be life affirming and positive for our frame of mind, but maybe we also need to consider/plan/think about what we're going to do if the changes are as expected and we haven't been able to reduce emissions by the necessary rate.

And maybe the truth is that the only way that the majority of the world can survive is if their problems are removed: i.e. us.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Peak Internet

From a friend:

Because everything is getting privatised, public libraries are now underfunded, and books aren't being maintained. Instead, they're being converted into binary code and kept on computers (ever heard of 'peak internet'?). How much of the accumulated wisdom of humanity will get lost when the power goes out?


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Church and climate change

Don't Panic!

This is helpfully written on the wipe-clean cover of the Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy. I'm wondering whether it should also be written on the bible (and I'm starting to wonder whether Douglas Adams was having a snarky dig at the bible with that).

In church this morning, a chemistry professor at the university was preaching. What she preached about doesn't really matter, although it contained a lot of chemistry (which was strangely acceptable, this church is a very academic place). Anyway, at one point she was talking about Climate Change, and said something along the lines of "Climate Change is a fact, and sometimes when we think about the implications of our behaviour, it sends us a bit crazy. But the important thing to remember is not to panic - because God is in control."

I have a few questions:

1. Is she saying that we shouldn't be trying at all or just being realistic?

2. Even if we accept God is in control, since when have people been immune from the effects of sin? Is it not possible that God will leave us to lie in the bed we've created by burning fossil fuels?

3. What happened to repentance and the call to life-changing behaviour anyway?

This whole Christianity thing is starting to sound like a dance where we find ever more reasons to avoid dealing with the responsibility and eventually the effects of our actions.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Neither are we

“Tibet is not free! Tibet is not free!” I’m afraid, my friends, that neither are we. Our commitment to our national culture supersedes our commitment to our faith. We do not live in an oppressed nation. We do not serve an oppressive God. Yet we allow ourselves to complacently exist in a culture that focuses on self and satisfaction of personal desires.
Kimberly Roth

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

food, waste and climate change

Curiously, some of the major results of our Local Food Lent experiment were caused by becoming a paid writer. That is a bit of a broad generalisation of what I do, but I do get paid a bit for submitting regular environmental blog posts. I now read a lot more and think a lot more about what I read.

For example, last week I learnt that:

1. 50% of all food is wasted between the farm and the plate. Of the food that reaches our kitchens, 30% is thrown away uneaten (I'm not clear whether this is included within the 50% or not). This amount of food is sufficient to meet the half of the annual imports of food for the continent of Africa. This is almost a criminal waste when there are parts of the world where the poor are rioting over food.

2. If you measure the energy balance of food, it costs far more in calories to grow and transport them than we get from the food. Which when you stop and think about it is crackers. We'd be better off learning to survive on drinking petroleum, it'd be a lot more efficient. Sadly it appears that driving a short distance to the shops may well be more energy efficient than walking if you eat a lot of meat.

3. At least one respected climate scientist is reported to have said that the IPCC's recent target for CO2 in the atmosphere is far too high. This is the concentration in the atmosphere beyond which it is going to be really hard to get things back to normal - the tipping point. And if he is correct, we are within a hair of this point already. So rather than attempting to find political solutions which allow a 'sustainable' amount of CO2 growth in the future, the truth might be that we need to dramatically reduce the absolute concentration of CO2 and not just reduce the rate of increase. This would require a dramatic decrease in our standard of living one way or another - we either do it voluntarily or have the effects of climate change do it for us.

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Green Politics

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Response to JeremyY

JeremyY posted an important post over on YAR which I wanted to respond to, but unfortunately the comments have been closed. Please have a look over there to see what it was all about.


If you were to ask the professor the qualitative difference between 'being gay' and 'being black' he might say that 'being black' is something that happens to you at birth, whereas 'being gay' is a lifestyle choice you take on at some point in your life. I don't know, maybe I am putting words into his mouth.

For many people, anal sex (for example) is just fundamentally wrong because the anus is not for that function and the vagina is. So if your professor believes that the essence of being gay is the desire to do something which he characterises as 'anatural' then he puts that on a different level to being black. Of course, there are many others who believe that their sexuality is part of their being and not something they take on by 'doing' anything in particular.

The problem is, as correctly pointed out above, that this identification of behavioural sin has led to numerous injustices against gay people by the church - which would not be acceptable if they were against other groups.

And I guess what I want to say is this: it is OK to believe that other people's behaviour is sinful and/or unacceptable. I can think of a huge pile of things which I find unacceptable in other religious traditions, for example.

What is not OK is to deny me the rights and privileges you enjoy because - and only because - you find my actions abhorrent. Society functions largely because people ignore the things they find abhorrent in others, how are you deciding that this particular aspect of my life is more abhorrent than anything else? If you are going to deny gays an equivalent legal instrument to recognise long term fidelity, are you also going to deny the reality of Hindu marriage because you find some of their rituals disgusting?

We need to reframe the discussion so that it no longer revolves around the level of offence some people feel about other people's behaviour.

Once we have done that, we need to carefully listen to the needs and hurts of gay people and attempt to meet their demands where they are legitimate and constructive, which I believe they mostly are.

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