Tuesday, February 24, 2009


This evolving picture of a clarifying, but still uncertain, threat leads back to a persistent question confronting scientists who are eager for action by society. As Ralph J. Cicerone...put it in an interview two years ago: “Does it take a crisis to get people to go along a new path or can they respond to a series of rational, incremental gains in knowledge?”
-- from Climate ‘Embers’ Burning Brighter by Andy Revkin.

Another approach is suggested John Hagan:
Instead of focusing on "saving the environment," we need to focus on "sustaining human well-being."
Speaking yesterday about the world in 2050, Martin Rees said we need to value or grandchildren at least as much as we do ourselves. We need to 'act now' on climate change -- in his view primarily, but not only, with massively increased investment in clean energy and CCS [bigger, perhaps, even than this] -- or else the 22nd century risks being one of irreversible disaster. [1]

Rees contrasted the time horizon of European medieval cathederal builders, who believed the world to be only a few thosand years old but who thought and planned hundreds of years ahead, with the modern view in which we -- or at least those who are educated -- understand the universe to be billions of years old and have billions of years to go and yet actually behave as if the future could be discounted almost completely. [2]

This highlights the need for new ways of imagining the unity and simultaneity of a much greater range of existence than current cultural practice usually allows. Now, how to make THAT sound less like New Age gobbledygook?

“That sound you hear is the sea … I mention it because the sound is so strange, so unlike the sound of the sea, that if you didn't see what it was you wouldn't know what it was." - from Embers by Samuel Beckett


[1] Rees quoted Thomas Friedman's claim that the U.S. petfood industry spends more on R&D than the energy industry. He said his own favourite green energy technology is a massive DC grid connecting Europe to solar power from the Sahara.

[2] A good part of it looks like a re-run of remarks made here. I recently commented on some of Rees's other observations here.

Image: Nasa

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