"Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors."

-Jonas Salk

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Thoughts on Avoiding Doom

"Science is not enough, religion is not enough, art is not enough, politics and economics are not enough, nor is love, nor is duty, nor is action however disinterested, nor, however sublime, is contemplation. Nothing short of everything will really do. We cannot reason ourselves out of our basic irrationality. All we can do is learn the art of being irrational in a reasonable way."

- Aldous Huxley in "Island" via Willard

"Ulysses knew that the sirens’ enchanting song could lead him to follow them, but he didn’t want to do that. At the same time he also did not want to deprive himself from hearing their song – so he asked his sailors to tie him to the mast and fill their ears with wax to block out the sound – and so he could hear the song of the sirens but resist their lure. ... It seems that [Ulysses'...] ability to exert self-control is less connected to a natural ability to be more zen-like in the face of temptations, and more linked to the ability to reconfigure our environment (tying ourselves to the mast) and modulate the intensity by which it tempts us (filling our ears with wax)."

- Dan Arielly, via Andrew Sullivan

"Science makes clear that we are transgressing planetary boundaries that have kept civilization safe for the past 10,000 years. Evidence is growing that human pressures are starting to overwhelm the Earth’s buffering capacity.

Humans are now the most significant driver of global change, propelling the planet into a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene. We can no longer exclude the possibility that our collective actions will trigger tipping points, risking abrupt and irreversible consequences for human communities and ecological systems.
We cannot continue on our current path. The time for procrastination is over. We cannot afford the luxury of denial. We must respond rationally, equipped with scientific evidence."
"Our call is for fundamental transformation and innovation in all spheres and at all scales in order to stop and reverse global environmental change and move toward fair and lasting prosperity for present and future generations."

- The Stockholm Memorandum via RealClimate

Appealing to reason is clearly necessary and clearly insufficient
. We must reject calls to ignore detailed, careful rational argument, but we also have to dedicate the whole of our humanity to the required fundamental shift; this requires something other than mere ordinary scientific discourse.


Lou Grinzo said...

I could not agree more with your summation, Michael.

The questions then become:

1. What will it take (aside from ordinary scientific discourse), given the uphill battle we're facing as we fight ideologues and those backed by mountains of FF money?

2. How do we muster those resources?

After fighting this fight for over eight years and watching one public policy missed opportunity after another, I won't even pretend to know the answer to either question.

Michael Tobis said...

Here's one idea.

steven said...

twitter now recapitulates the existing social order. It's lost its disruptive power.

it other words, If I dont follow you, you cant tweet to me. preacher meet choir. If I dont believe what you believe I wont follow you.

Twitter is the worst of all filter bubbles.

Michael Tobis said...

It can be, but the user can at least choose. Google and Facebook are foisting what they THINK your choices are upon you. Additionally, Facebook gets it badly wrong in my experience, but of course I'm not in the target demo. I follow a couple of people I thoroughly disagree with. It's good exercise for the mind.

steven said...


Like you I've always followed people I disagree with. I guess what I'm saying is this. For the most part technology that could have been used to get more talking across divides is being used to maintain order within groups. Initially these technology looks like it they have the ability to radically re shape the vested landscape, but in the end they get co opted.

steven said...

arrg need an edit function

Dol said...

In some ideal world, this is exactly what democracy should do: allow us to make collective, binding decisions we've agreed need to happen, when we know leaving it to individual action won't work. Hell: that's not a complicated principle - something as simple as a shared house cleaning rota follows the same principle.

(That said I guess only communists and students live in shared houses, huh?)

manuel moe g said...

Authoritarianism alert! Denying people the right to be feckless, through the tyranny of a good example. ;-)

Anonymous said...

I know mt has noticed, but the best tactic for the inactivists is to keep everyone's eyes on the slow moving thermometer. You can't have reasonable conversations with people about ethics, human morality, precautionary risk, etc when the conversation centers around month to month anomalies and dead trees. I'm pretty much done with those people, on both sides. If you're not discussing important matters you're now irrelevant.