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Dispatches from the Front Line of the Apocalypse 
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Post Re: Dispatches from the Front Line of the Apocalypse
Yes, this realization from scientists is most welcome--that our blundering into a climate crisis is the result of an overall disregard of natural systems. New technologies alone won't fix what is wrong; practices and attitudes must be revamped. A focus on grassroots, meaning soil, trees, and all plants is a particularly relatable one for humanity, because it draws on deep emotional attachment.



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Mon Dec 17, 2018 8:37 am
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Post Re: Dispatches from the Front Line of the Apocalypse
DWill wrote:
Yes, this realization from scientists is most welcome--that our blundering into a climate crisis is the result of an overall disregard of natural systems. New technologies alone won't fix what is wrong; practices and attitudes must be revamped. A focus on grassroots, meaning soil, trees, and all plants is a particularly relatable one for humanity, because it draws on deep emotional attachment.

The problem of climate change is about changing human thinking, which means having conversations about the philosophy, ideology and religion that got us into this mess of global warming. My view is that such conversation tends to happen at a very superficial level.

The ideology of emission reduction presents itself as strategic analysis of the climate problem, but in my view it draws too strongly from the Marxist idea of class struggle by painting the fossil fuel industries as class enemies. It is better instead to focus on new transformative technology, as I describe below, based on a philosophical understanding of the psychological syndromes that got us into this mess.

The simplicity of popular front politics makes emission reduction attractive as a climate strategy, but its theory of change is defective, which means a focus just on cutting carbon emissions can never achieve the objective of stopping global warming. At the simplest emotional level fire is money, so telling people they cannot burn things will not work.

A much deeper analysis of human psychology is required if we are to actually work together cooperatively to create a liveable future. The problem, the cause of global warming, is that human culture has created its own worlds, but these cultural worlds are not compatible with the real natural world that gives us light and life. This contradiction between culture and nature is called alienation. Resolving human alienation from nature is highly complex, and is the basic requirement to achieve sustainable development.

At root alienation is a religious problem, that our culture has constructed false beliefs and treated them as true. My view is that this problem of false belief is precisely described by the Biblical myth of the fall from a state of grace into a state of corruption. An ecological reading of the Bible, building upon scientific ideas such as the need to restore soils, can see the framework of nature as the basis of what the Bible calls the reconciliation of all things, the restoration of a state of grace. That is a painful and difficult suggestion, not least because religion has been used to separate and confuse people, where the real task is to bring people together in connection to a deeper truth of nature.

The challenge of revamping practices and attitudes to focus on grassroots, meaning soil, trees, and all plants, should, as you say, be a particularly relatable one for humanity, because it draws on deep emotional attachment. A practical way to achieve this goal is industrial production of biochar to restore degraded soil, making biochar an essential starting point in a theory of change for climate restoration.
My view is that the best starting point for global climate restoration is the Mississippi River. NASA developed a technology called offshore membrane enclosures for growing algae (OMEGA). These membranes are large plastic tubes, which could be deployed in the big river to convert polluting agricultural nutrients into algae, so the river flows clean into the sea and the nutrients can be put back on the land. The algae can be pyrolised, a heating process without oxygen that converts it into the superb carbon fertilizer known as terra preta, or dark earth biochar.

Production of dark earth at scale is the best way to remove carbon from the air and store it in agricultural soil. Such a process should pay for itself, with profit from sale of biochar fertilizer used for industrial research and development. The omega bags can gradually be scaled up as run of river technology, targeting the repair of all the dead zones of the coastal waters of the world where nutrient runoff causes biological damage.

Eventually, this waste water treatment process can be deployed in marine environments, firstly in sheltered coastal locations and then in the open sea, scaling up to convert nutrient into algae for fuel, food, feed, fish, fertilizer, fabric and forests. My calculation is that operation of such industrial algae production on 1% of the world ocean would be enough to reverse global warming and stabilise the climate.


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Post Re: Dispatches from the Front Line of the Apocalypse
The latest dispatch is that scientists are comparing our current situation with the last interglacial period, the end of the Eemian 125,000 years ago, a time like the Holocene.

Get this. Temperature was about the same as today but sea level was up to thirty feet higher, apparently caused by the collapse of the West Antarctica Ice Sheet. A small "nudge to budge" seems to have lifted sea level by eight feet per century. All that kaboomy carbon we are stuffing into the air could make the rise this century even faster.


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Post Re: Dispatches from the Front Line of the Apocalypse
Robert Tulip wrote:
The problem of climate change is about changing human thinking, which means having conversations about the philosophy, ideology and religion that got us into this mess of global warming.

Of course it isn't clear that this mess was the result of any philosophy, ideology or religion. In fact it looks like the blind result of microbes who stumble upon a particularly rich food source, and just go on doing what they normally do. So far we have approached the problem, as a species, with not a lot more intelligence than an amoeba shows.

Robert Tulip wrote:
The ideology of emission reduction presents itself as strategic analysis of the climate problem, but in my view it draws too strongly from the Marxist idea of class struggle by painting the fossil fuel industries as class enemies. It is better instead to focus on new transformative technology, as I describe below, based on a philosophical understanding of the psychological syndromes that got us into this mess.
To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. The fossil fuel industry would not be treated as enemies if they did not behave as enemies, using subterfuge and deception to fool people into further behavior that is, in fact, self-destructive. There is no deep understanding of psychology necessary to understand denial of inconvenient truth.

Robert Tulip wrote:
The simplicity of popular front politics makes emission reduction attractive as a climate strategy, but its theory of change is defective, which means a focus just on cutting carbon emissions can never achieve the objective of stopping global warming. At the simplest emotional level fire is money, so telling people they cannot burn things will not work.
The false dichotomies of both sides of the geoengineering debate are sickening. Both sides seek to tell other people how to live their lives, but neither looks for the win-win in which actual costs of externalities are reflected in prices so that decentralized action can take whatever action makes most sense.

Robert Tulip wrote:
A much deeper analysis of human psychology is required if we are to actually work together cooperatively to create a liveable future. The problem, the cause of global warming, is that human culture has created its own worlds, but these cultural worlds are not compatible with the real natural world that gives us light and life. This contradiction between culture and nature is called alienation. Resolving human alienation from nature is highly complex, and is the basic requirement to achieve sustainable development.
Well, avoiding driving off the cliff while we think deeply about it would be a sensible first step. The labyrinth of cultural worlds may be terrible at accommodating the natural world, but that doesn't mean we have to sort out all the complexities to avoid doing ourselves in with suicidal behavior.

Robert Tulip wrote:
At root alienation is a religious problem, that our culture has constructed false beliefs and treated them as true. My view is that this problem of false belief is precisely described by the Biblical myth of the fall from a state of grace into a state of corruption. An ecological reading of the Bible, building upon scientific ideas such as the need to restore soils, can see the framework of nature as the basis of what the Bible calls the reconciliation of all things, the restoration of a state of grace. That is a painful and difficult suggestion, not least because religion has been used to separate and confuse people, where the real task is to bring people together in connection to a deeper truth of nature.
I promise you that yob culture will be persuaded to pay carbon taxes long before it will be persuaded to give up mythology. Much of the "separation" and "confusion" that religion brought was aimed at taming empire, the control of other humans for the purposes of the elite ruling by violence. Rule by violence is a simple example of humans just doing what came naturally rather than applying reflection about what makes life worth living. It is such mindlessness that is our immediate threat, not alienation from what comes naturally.

Robert Tulip wrote:
The challenge of revamping practices and attitudes to focus on grassroots, meaning soil, trees, and all plants, should, as you say, be a particularly relatable one for humanity, because it draws on deep emotional attachment.
For a minute there I thought it was Wendell Berry posting from Australia.

Robert Tulip wrote:
A practical way to achieve this goal is industrial production of biochar to restore degraded soil, making biochar an essential starting point in a theory of change for climate restoration.
Then I was asked to have a deep emotional attachment to industrially produced biochar. Umm, lost me on that little zigzag.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Production of dark earth at scale is the best way to remove carbon from the air and store it in agricultural soil. Such a process should pay for itself, with profit from sale of biochar fertilizer used for industrial research and development.
It will pay for itself much faster if it gets compensated for saving Florida.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Eventually, this waste water treatment process can be deployed in marine environments, firstly in sheltered coastal locations and then in the open sea, scaling up to convert nutrient into algae for fuel, food, feed, fish, fertilizer, fabric and forests. My calculation is that operation of such industrial algae production on 1% of the world ocean would be enough to reverse global warming and stabilise the climate.
Just don't lose sight of the fact that the 1 percent with the richest resource flux is a fair share of the coastal environments. The idea that we have to turn our shores into algae farms in order to avoid reflecting the true costs of our fossil fuel usage strikes this economist as a species of madness. I am not against such algae farms, but I want them to be the result of a rational weighing of costs against benefits, rather than a determination to enable mindlessness for as long as possible.



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Post Re: Dispatches from the Front Line of the Apocalypse
Harry Marks wrote:
Of course it isn't clear that this mess was the result of any philosophy, ideology or religion.
Happy Christmas Harry.

The moral legitimacy of political and economic structures is asserted through arguments that claim rational justification, enabling government by consent. This is why stories provide meaning, functioning as myths.

Technological progress as the key to sustaining human happiness is the core myth of the modern world, with its assumption of perpetual exponential economic growth. My view is that this myth of progress can’t be simply opposed, because it has such great momentum and even coherence in its values of abundant prosperity.

Instead, the direction of technological progress has to change to deliver ecological stability as the basic evolutionary necessity of durable stable fecundity. I think such a paradigm shift is possible through a move to using the world oceans to regulate planetary temperature. This needs discussion because the alternative is general conflict and collapse.
Harry Marks wrote:
In fact it looks like the blind result of microbes who stumble upon a particularly rich food source, and just go on doing what they normally do. So far we have approached the problem, as a species, with not a lot more intelligence than an amoeba shows.
No, comparing humans to microbes is far too cynical and despairing about the potential of human intelligence. While it is true that our political systems have derived their values more from the reptilian parts of our brains than from our faculties of reason, it should be entirely possible to recognise that intelligent discussion is the only adaptive quality with any hope to save our world from the peril of a warming catastrophe.

My view is that this problem of evolutionary intelligence is well described in the Gospels, of all places, which contain an underlying message of the need for humans to evolve to base our lives more on intelligence than on irrational emotion. For example the Christian idea that justice is grounded more in love than in revenge is supremely intelligent. Inability to use the story of Christ as a framework for intelligent conversation reflects the level of irrationality in our world, but transformation is always possible.
Harry Marks wrote:
The fossil fuel industry would not be treated as enemies if they did not behave as enemies, using subterfuge and deception to fool people into further behavior that is, in fact, self-destructive. There is no deep understanding of psychology necessary to understand denial of inconvenient truth.
While on the surface that analysis seems reasonable, it has the unfortunate consequence that the world will burn while we bicker about whose fault it is. A more effective path is likely to be one of forgiveness, assisting the fossil fuel industries to engage constructively on a path to remove the dangerous added carbon in the air. The Christian theme of restorative justice recognises that good results come from reconciliation between enemies.
Harry Marks wrote:
neither looks for the win-win in which actual costs of externalities are reflected in prices so that decentralized action can take whatever action makes most sense.
While use of price signals seems a high-minded strategy, I don’t think the world has time for it. We need to work together to remove the excess carbon from the air as the primary security danger for the planet. Decentralised action generates healthy ecosystems, but that simply will not happen if there is no space for such action, if any pristine environment is degraded by the effects of warming. An industrial mobilisation is needed to stop the amplifying feedbacks that are now looking like a canoe in search of a waterfall.
Harry Marks wrote:
avoiding driving off the cliff while we think deeply about it would be a sensible first step.
Now the irony in this comment Harry is that your strategy of using price signals is based on deep thought, but carries the risk of foolishly blundering over a cliff. My suggestion to mobilise industrial action to remove carbon from the air is directly aimed at preventing driving off the cliff, while also generating a conversation about existence.
Harry Marks wrote:
The labyrinth of cultural worlds may be terrible at accommodating the natural world, but that doesn't mean we have to sort out all the complexities to avoid doing ourselves in with suicidal behavior.
True, there is no time to wait in view of the accumulating wrath of Gaia. However, debate on the most effective path is important, since if the current agreed policy framework of emission reduction as the primary way to prevent global warming won’t work, and is crowding out discussion and research on possible alternative paths using carbon removal, then this is one complexity that is well worth untangling or at least slicing through. Even while we attempt this Gordian task, it is valuable to discuss how the cultural worlds of religion can be reformed to accommodate the natural world. My view is that the separation between culture and nature is a primary dysphoria, if I may be permitted a big word.
Harry Marks wrote:
yob culture will be persuaded to pay carbon taxes long before it will be persuaded to give up mythology.
The challenge is more to reform myth by injecting a note of rationality, seeing a reformed scientific Christianity as an ethical path with potential to broker good climate policy. I fear you are too sanguine about the prospects for taxing carbon, which means impeding the human ability to burn stuff as a way to get rich. The Promethean love of fire is so deeply entwined with the idea of progress that overcoming it seems to require elite trickery, a highly risky tactic.
Harry Marks wrote:
Much of the "separation" and "confusion" that religion brought was aimed at taming empire, the control of other humans for the purposes of the elite ruling by violence.
Perhaps, but the greater confusion and separation generated by institutional religion arose from the alliance of throne and altar, the use of religion to deliver imperial stability by a combination of coercion and consent.

What you call ‘taming empire’ also generally involved serving as a social enforcer for the state, displacing rebellion and heresy into conformist channels. I personally regard this function of religion in maintaining social stability as highly important, but the task now is to recognise that stability only survives when it is open to change. We should throw open the debate about how religion has generated a brittle and fragile culture that needs to be softened up to change, in view of the tectonic cultural tensions now in evidence.

Reconciliation, respect and dialogue are essential for an evolutionary reform agenda of incremental change to religious ideas, rather than a revolutionary political upheaval. Giving ground to constructive conversation about change is essential to enable conservative institutions to stop opposition hardening into intransigence. In the case of climate policy, the only result of upheaval would be conflict, which would prevent any effective action to remove the dangerous excess carbon. That is why conservatives are very stupid to stick with their denialist placeholder, which is morally equivalent to Holocaust Denial.
Harry Marks wrote:
Rule by violence is a simple example of humans just doing what came naturally rather than applying reflection about what makes life worth living. It is such mindlessness that is our immediate threat, not alienation from what comes naturally.
This reminds me of one of the key themes in Christianity that I see as a mark of cultural evolution, its insistence that we use language as our primary adaptive trait, using the word to rise above primitive instincts that generate emotional conflict, instead seeing love and forgiveness as the shared path to redemption. I was discussing the alienation of culture from nature, seeing nature in a larger picture as cosmic order. That is entirely different from use of nature to mean the natural man as ruled by irrational instinct. Instead the point is to recognise that scientific reason, with its vision of cosmic order, is central to reconciling culture and nature.
Harry Marks wrote:
For a minute there I thought it was Wendell Berry posting from Australia. Then I was asked to have a deep emotional attachment to industrially produced biochar. Umm, lost me on that little zigzag.
Wendell Berry is an American mystic environmental poet. He was born in 1934, the same year as my dad, who shared his love for the romantic transcendental tradition from Emerson and Thoreau and Whitman in American poetry. Yes, I do like Berry’s ideas, and my MA thesis was on the ethics of place, a theme which echoes his environmental concern.

But in the context of the apocalyptic threat of climate change, my sense is that Berrian attitudes are too passive, slow and disengaged, except in the rather futile area of consciousness raising. I am interested in practical action that engages the transcendental mystery. That is why I see the collapse of soil complexity as a primary danger, a sort of portal into ecological consciousness, a starting point in a theory of change and program logic that can engage capitalist minded people while taking a first step on the arduous path to a transformed mind.

My advocacy of terms like industrial biochar, geoengineering and carbon mining is a deliberate poke at the soft-headed mentality of the agrarian poets who imagine a beautiful return to primitive natural harmonious values, failing to provide any practical suggestions about what to do with the monolithic momentum of modern urbanity.
Harry Marks wrote:
[biochar] will pay for itself much faster if it gets compensated for saving Florida.
yes, that is true. A friend of mine commented today that we don’t have time to establish markets for the amount of carbon that we need to pull out of the air. So I think you are right, that governments need to pay to store carbon. But I do think this can be managed in a market way, like superannuation. Transforming carbon into useful products like biochar is an investment in future productivity, since adding carbon to soil lifts agricultural yields.

My view is biochar is just the start of carbon removal. I think it will be possible to store algae at cubic kilometre scale in fabric bags resting on the bottom of the ocean, creating a productive hydrocarbon bank that can gradually be utilised for a myriad of economically useful activities, unlike the current suggestion of burying CO2, which is all cost and no investment. Miami will be one of the first American cities to go under if we let the Antarctic collapse, as discussed in the link from my last comment. That is a security problem.
Harry Marks wrote:
Just don't lose sight of the fact that the 1 percent with the richest resource flux is a fair share of the coastal environments.
My suggestion is a gradual ecological expansion of marine algae farming in enclosed bags, starting in rivers and moving to coastal bays and then out to the open sea, echoing the evolutionary path travelled by hippos as they turned into whales.

Many coastal regions, notably the Gulf of Mexico and the Great Barrier Reef, suffer from excess nutrient causing dead zones due to agricultural runoff. The purpose of enclosed algae farms in such regions and their rivers is precisely to utilise this damaging nutrient, returning it to productive use in order to restore these ecosystems to health in a circular economy.
Harry Marks wrote:
The idea that we have to turn our shores into algae farms in order to avoid reflecting the true costs of our fossil fuel usage strikes this economist as a species of madness.
That is a misconstrual Harry. Algae farms should only be located in places where they provide ecological benefit. My friends in the Ocean Foresters and Marine Permaculture organisations are already starting this work with giant kelp.

My view is that fixing the climate will require industrial intensification of these processes through giant floating photobioreactors on the NASA OMEGA model to deliver the controlled scale of carbon removal the planet needs.

Your talk of avoiding costs of fossil fuels reflects the false logic that carbon removal should not be done because it is a moral hazard to the central task of emission reduction. That reasoning is false because there is no way that emission reduction can scale up to achieve climate restoration, which is what the planet needs, and which can only be achieved through carbon removal, which probably needs strong cooperation with the fossil fuel industries.
Harry Marks wrote:
I am not against such algae farms, but I want them to be the result of a rational weighing of costs against benefits, rather than a determination to enable mindlessness for as long as possible.
Your term “mindlessness” deserves discussion. I think you mean the frontier pioneer mentality that assumed resources were infinite, and that economic growth could continue at exponential scale for ever with no concern for management of waste. That is obviously a heedless and mindless attitude, but the reality is that waste can always be managed as an input to new economic processes, generating a circular economy rather than a linear trajectory to infinity.

Shifting CO2 from waste to asset is in my view central to sustaining economic growth. Especially as we consider the immense scale of the world ocean, more than a billion cubic kilometres in size. The area, nutrients and energy of the oceans can be tapped to enable a quantum evolutionary jump for humanity into a new era of sustained growth in harmony with planetary ecological values.


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Post Re: Dispatches from the Front Line of the Apocalypse
Robert Tulip wrote:
Even while we attempt this Gordian task, it is valuable to discuss how the cultural worlds of religion can be reformed to accommodate the natural world. My view is that the separation between culture and nature is a primary dysphoria, if I may be permitted a big word.

My general view is that humans are practical, survival-minded creatures that haven't changed much since arriving at Sapiens-hood. I don't believe that there truly is a more nature-attuned state of being to get back to, one that prevailed in our early evolution. The myths and religious expressions of native groups may make us think that some fundamental change occurred to our disposition toward our environment, but humans have made big alterations in environments for tens of thousands of years. The unsustainability of nomadic hunting and gathering is one cause advanced for the beginnings of agriculture. I think that only realization of necessity can drive any effort to rescue the planet. This might be accompanied by spiritual insights and revival of some religious ideas, but these won't be the drivers.
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That is obviously a heedless and mindless attitude, but the reality is that waste can always be managed as an input to new economic processes, generating a circular economy rather than a linear trajectory to infinity.
Shifting CO2 from waste to asset is in my view central to sustaining economic growth. Especially as we consider the immense scale of the world ocean, more than a billion cubic kilometres in size. The area, nutrients and energy of the oceans can be tapped to enable a quantum evolutionary jump for humanity into a new era of sustained growth in harmony with planetary ecological values.

I'm all in favor of the "waste is food" mantra of circular economic thinking, and I don't mean to criticize your idealistic vision. When we talk about a market for carbon, the capacity of such a market is the crucial unknown. Will the market be large enough to absorb so much extracted carbon? We don't know. It strikes me there are many possible uses for recycled glass, to cite an example, and certainly a huge supply of bottles and jars, but currently in the U.S. many municipalities are discontinuing acceptance of them for recycling. The market isn't there. Closing that loop will take strategy, or in this case possibly something drastic like a revolution in consumer habits.



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Post Re: Dispatches from the Front Line of the Apocalypse
DWill wrote:
humans are practical, survival-minded creatures that haven't changed much since arriving at Sapiens-hood. I don't believe that there truly is a more nature-attuned state of being to get back to, one that prevailed in our early evolution.
That may be true, but I am not advocating some return to an idealised past, I am pointing out what is necessary for human flourishing in the future. It is a fairly simple scientific fact that anything that is not sustainable will stop. Living out of harmony with nature is not sustainable, so the broad ethical economic task today is to figure out how to live in harmony with nature, not as some agrarian utopia but as a realistic scientific appraisal of cultural and technological evolution.
DWill wrote:
The myths and religious expressions of native groups may make us think that some fundamental change occurred to our disposition toward our environment, but humans have made big alterations in environments for tens of thousands of years.
Again yes, with the extinction of the megafauna of the New Worlds Exhibit A. Humans killed off the previous apex species when we arrived in Australia and America, and the subsequent wistful nature worship in indigenous spirituality may reflect sentiments that were not universally practiced. These ecocides were the start of the Anthropocene. The main difference today is we have the technical capacity for our manipulation of nature to be far more rapid and intrusive and dangerous. But I do think that alongside this heritage of carnage there has also been a growing sense that an attunement to nature is necessary for enduring stability. That sentiment appears in the Bible with the line in Rev 11 that the wrath of God is against those who destroy the earth.
DWill wrote:
The unsustainability of nomadic hunting and gathering is one cause advanced for the beginnings of agriculture.
My sense of the causes of the rise of civilization is that locations suited for cultivation of cereals enabled growth of sedentary populations, which in turn pushed nomadic traditions to the margins while enabling the technology of metal, agriculture and writing to advance. I think there is great merit in the old Yuga myth picked up by Hesiod and Ovid that human history since what we now call the dawn of the Holocene (aka the end of the ice age) can be understood as a steady descent in quality of life from an original golden age through successively worse ages of silver and bronze to a current iron age.
DWill wrote:
I think that only realization of necessity can drive any effort to rescue the planet. This might be accompanied by spiritual insights and revival of some religious ideas, but these won't be the drivers.
It is an interesting chicken and egg problem, defining causality of social reform between material factors and ideas. The problem is that until people are inspired by ideas there is no way that anyone can recognise necessity. Without someone telling the fools to stop in a way that compels attention they will march over a cliff. There is a line from Hegel that freedom is the recognition of necessity, indicating that ideation that ignores material causality is morally bereft, and that spiritual creativity grounded in enlightened understanding is the essence of freedom. Marx wrongly inverted Hegel to define history as the dialectical materialism of class struggle, seeing ideas as epiphenomena without causal power compared to the material economic base. That is just dumb, since without a story to tell them why no one does anything.
My view is that the Bible story of apocalypse provides the best source to explain the necessity of stopping climate change, as a jolt to awaken people from the sleepwalk to oblivion, while building upon the precedent of an established way of thought. Such a scientific reform of the Bible, reading the apocalypse as an allegorical description of our current world situation, needs purely rational existential thinking. Interpreting all the supernatural dross as parable for the actual reality of a burning planet can use lines like 2 Peter 3:10, which says the earth will be burnt up, or Luke 21:25 which sees the inability to deal with the angry sea as a defining mark for social transformation.
DWill wrote:
I'm all in favor of the "waste is food" mantra of circular economic thinking, and I don't mean to criticize your idealistic vision. When we talk about a market for carbon, the capacity of such a market is the crucial unknown. Will the market be large enough to absorb so much extracted carbon? We don't know. It strikes me there are many possible uses for recycled glass, to cite an example, and certainly a huge supply of bottles and jars, but currently in the U.S. many municipalities are discontinuing acceptance of them for recycling. The market isn't there. Closing that loop will take strategy, or in this case possibly something drastic like a revolution in consumer habits.

The world situation is that climate stability requires removal of 6000 cubic kilometres of carbon from the air. That may require some drastic economic reorganisation, but it is a finite and achievable and necessary task that could be completed within a century. Once people recognise carbon removal on that scale is necessary, finding the most productive ways to do it will generate demand in ways that are compatible with market systems, with higher economic rate of return than monuments like cathedrals or armies or CO2 geosequestration.

Carbon is the main ingredient in bitumen, plastic and soil, so vastly expanding infrastructure using these materials with carbon mined from the air is likely to be the key agenda for climate restoration.


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Post Re: Dispatches from the Front Line of the Apocalypse
Robert Tulip wrote:
I think there is great merit in the old Yuga myth picked up by Hesiod and Ovid that human history since what we now call the dawn of the Holocene (aka the end of the ice age) can be understood as a steady descent in quality of life from an original golden age through successively worse ages of silver and bronze to a current iron age.

I tend toward pessimism, yet I'm more likely to see this metallic history read in reverse. Hardly any culture, it would seem, goes negative on its origins; rather, it idealizes the society of its forebears because it needs icons.
Robert Tulip wrote:
DWill wrote:
I think that only realization of necessity can drive any effort to rescue the planet. This might be accompanied by spiritual insights and revival of some religious ideas, but these won't be the drivers.
It is an interesting chicken and egg problem, defining causality of social reform between material factors and ideas. The problem is that until people are inspired by ideas there is no way that anyone can recognise necessity. Without someone telling the fools to stop in a way that compels attention they will march over a cliff. There is a line from Hegel that freedom is the recognition of necessity, indicating that ideation that ignores material causality is morally bereft, and that spiritual creativity grounded in enlightened understanding is the essence of freedom. Marx wrongly inverted Hegel to define history as the dialectical materialism of class struggle, seeing ideas as epiphenomena without causal power compared to the material economic base. That is just dumb, since without a story to tell them why no one does anything.

That's a good argument. Having been poking around in the circular economy, I feel that such a vision of economic life could have an appeal to modernity that religious narratives might not come up to. A practical, down-to-earth vision based in the imaginative power of the circle, symbol of completeness and eternity.
Robert Tulip wrote:
DWill wrote:
I'm all in favor of the "waste is food" mantra of circular economic thinking, and I don't mean to criticize your idealistic vision. When we talk about a market for carbon, the capacity of such a market is the crucial unknown. Will the market be large enough to absorb so much extracted carbon? We don't know. It strikes me there are many possible uses for recycled glass, to cite an example, and certainly a huge supply of bottles and jars, but currently in the U.S. many municipalities are discontinuing acceptance of them for recycling. The market isn't there. Closing that loop will take strategy, or in this case possibly something drastic like a revolution in consumer habits.

The world situation is that climate stability requires removal of 6000 cubic kilometres of carbon from the air. That may require some drastic economic reorganisation, but it is a finite and achievable and necessary task that could be completed within a century. Once people recognise carbon removal on that scale is necessary, finding the most productive ways to do it will generate demand in ways that are compatible with market systems, with higher economic rate of return than monuments like cathedrals or armies or CO2 geosequestration.

Carbon is the main ingredient in bitumen, plastic and soil, so vastly expanding infrastructure using these materials with carbon mined from the air is likely to be the key agenda for climate restoration.

Those are also good points. There is no way we can predict either future obstacles or clear pathways, given the way that evolution unfolds. This is all like catching the most promising wave.

Merry (as we say here) Christmas, Robert.



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Post Re: Dispatches from the Front Line of the Apocalypse
DWill wrote:
I tend toward pessimism, yet I'm more likely to see this metallic history read in reverse.
In fact, when studied in depth, this metallic history is supremely optimistic. It is best known through the Biblical dream of Daniel, of a great statue with a head of gold, arms and chest of silver, belly and thighs of bronze, legs of iron, and feet of mingled iron and clay. Plato also uses this myth as his Noble Lie in The Republic.

The real original myth in the Indian source tells of a cycle of Ages called Yugas, each lasting 24,000 years, with the low period of the Iron Age followed by about ten thousand years of ascent to a new Golden Age. My reading is that this myth corresponds precisely to the observable long term planetary climate cycle, and that such observation and memory could in fact have been possible in India.

Astronomically, the marker is the changing date of the perihelion, the point where earth is closest to the sun. I explain this at some length in my recent essay on The Precessional Structure of Time.

As to your point about seeing the metal history in reverse, that correctly describes the mythology of technological progress, from stone through copper, bronze and iron to ever more productive and powerful metallic discovery and invention. The two myths contradict each other. The religious belief in fall suggesting an ever increasing alienation between humanity and nature, while the scientific belief in progress suggests increasing human capacity. I think it is useful to see the two myths in tension, given the potential for both myths of fall and progress to tell a story of collapse into global conflict driven by climate apocalypse, and for their reconciliation to become a basis to understand and prevent the risk of collapse.
DWill wrote:
Having been poking around in the circular economy, I feel that such a vision of economic life could have an appeal to modernity that religious narratives might not come up to. A practical, down-to-earth vision based in the imaginative power of the circle, symbol of completeness and eternity.
In terms of my description of the Yuga as reflecting the climate cycle, I think it is possible for religious story to provide such a practical circular vision, based on an accurate astronomical understanding of the natural planetary climate, and how modern technology has sent the climate haywire so we need to get back on track.

Speaking of the circle as a symbol of completeness and eternity, the symbol known as the ouroboros, my daughter told me a funny story of getting a bicycle puncture on a country ride and being told to find a snake and stick its tail in its mouth as a temporary repair.

But seriously, my view is that any vision of economic life can only achieve completeness when it is part of a cosmology, so what we need now is to reframe the paradigm of cosmology at the terrestrial level, which is entirely the purpose of the climate Yuga story. My fear is that ideas such as the one you mentioned of the circular economy lack political traction precisely because they don't tell a complete story.
DWill wrote:
There is no way we can predict either future obstacles or clear pathways, given the way that evolution unfolds. This is all like catching the most promising wave. Merry (as we say here) Christmas, Robert.
I think we can predict the obstacles and pathways to climate restoration, even if there is an inevitable large factor of uncertainty.

We also say Merry Christmas in Australia, but I prefer Happy Christmas because there is a sense that merriness means drenched in alcohol, allowing us to ignore reality, where I prefer an attitude of unrelenting realism. Happy Christmas and best wishes for the New Year.


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Post Re: Dispatches from the Front Line of the Apocalypse
Robert Tulip wrote:
Happy Christmas Harry.

And a Merry Christmas to you (without alcohol, if you prefer - our family merry-making is substance free, but I need to get back into the American lingo after 20 years of Happy Christmas, because we will be headed home soon).
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
Of course it isn't clear that this mess was the result of any philosophy, ideology or religion.
The moral legitimacy of political and economic structures is asserted through arguments that claim rational justification, enabling government by consent. This is why stories provide meaning, functioning as myths.
Well, I thought the idea was that you were saying this "rational" superstructure was causing the abuse of the environment. I would beg to differ. The abuse is caused by side-effects of highly attractive technologies which people are highly motivated to use.

That aside, the rational justifications don't overlap much with the myths that work as stories, in my hastily considered view. Some myths grow out of rational explanations, like Lincoln's analysis of why secession is not a good option for democracy. But they generally don't make good stories.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Technological progress as the key to sustaining human happiness is the core myth of the modern world, with its assumption of perpetual exponential economic growth. My view is that this myth of progress can’t be simply opposed, because it has such great momentum and even coherence in its values of abundant prosperity.

Whether we like it or not, the pace of expansion has declined from the glory days. Adjusting to this "secular stagnation" is one of the big challenges facing the next 10 years.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Instead, the direction of technological progress has to change to deliver ecological stability as the basic evolutionary necessity of durable stable fecundity. I think such a paradigm shift is possible through a move to using the world oceans to regulate planetary temperature. This needs discussion because the alternative is general conflict and collapse.
The idea that technology will spontaneously change to deliver ecological stability is an engineer's pipe dream. Technology responds to incentives. Externalities are, by definition, excluded from incentives unless the government steps in to charge for them.

Robert Tulip wrote:
comparing humans to microbes is far too cynical and despairing about the potential of human intelligence. it should be entirely possible to recognise that intelligent discussion is the only adaptive quality with any hope to save our world from the peril of a warming catastrophe.
I would not dispute the potential. But we are doing a spectacularly bad job of responding to that potential.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
The fossil fuel industry would not be treated as enemies if they did not behave as enemies, using subterfuge and deception to fool people into further behavior that is, in fact, self-destructive. There is no deep understanding of psychology necessary to understand denial of inconvenient truth.
While on the surface that analysis seems reasonable, it has the unfortunate consequence that the world will burn while we bicker about whose fault it is.
This is what we call a shift of the basis of argument. You want to blame the people who are disgusted with the fossil fuel industry, and when it is pointed out that the industry has earned it, you then shift to arguing that blame is not the main issue. You raised the topic.
Robert Tulip wrote:
A more effective path is likely to be one of forgiveness, assisting the fossil fuel industries to engage constructively on a path to remove the dangerous added carbon in the air. The Christian theme of restorative justice recognises that good results come from reconciliation between enemies.
The problem with this proposal is that corporations are not people, and, lacking souls, do not ever respond to efforts for restorative justice. Many now believe that their obligation is to avoid any such relating, seeking profit monomaniacally. You mentioned that you have had experience with the oil companies that matches this prediction precisely. You hold out the hope that discerning a particularly constructive technological path will lead them to take it, but you have neglected the basic step of thinking like them to see whether that would make any sense to them.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
neither looks for the win-win in which actual costs of externalities are reflected in prices so that decentralized action can take whatever action makes most sense.

While use of price signals seems a high-minded strategy, I don’t think the world has time for it.
You are imposing the false dichotomy of using price signals vs. your strategy. I have noted many times that they are in fact complementary. There is a serious question whether the world has the time to fail to use price signals, since they would vastly increase the likelihood of using NET.
Robert Tulip wrote:
We need to work together to remove the excess carbon from the air as the primary security danger for the planet. Decentralised action generates healthy ecosystems, but that simply will not happen if there is no space for such action, if any pristine environment is degraded by the effects of warming. An industrial mobilisation is needed to stop the amplifying feedbacks that are now looking like a canoe in search of a waterfall.
Nobody follows the money like industry follows the money. You may continue to believe that governments will pay for NET, but if they can't even bring themselves to price in the externalities, it seems unlikely they will spend massive amounts of taxpayer funds to invest in a supposed path of environmental restoration. Work with your allies.
Robert Tulip wrote:
your strategy of using price signals is based on deep thought, but carries the risk of foolishly blundering over a cliff. My suggestion to mobilise industrial action to remove carbon from the air is directly aimed at preventing driving off the cliff, while also generating a conversation about existence.
This risk is in your excessively combative imagination. Just to state the obvious one more time, it would provide incentive to follow your plan.
Robert Tulip wrote:
debate on the most effective path is important, since if the current agreed policy framework of emission reduction as the primary way to prevent global warming won’t work, and is crowding out discussion and research on possible alternative paths using carbon removal, then this is one complexity that is well worth untangling or at least slicing through.
Actually what you are calling debate is counterproductive, since it attempts to impose the idea that there is one "path". Decentralized action by corporations with publicly imposed incentives is likely to follow hundreds, maybe thousands of paths. This is not a corporation deciding if it will sell internal combustion or steam engines, it is the whole kit and caboodle of converting various forms of energy into useful tasks.

Robert Tulip wrote:
The challenge is more to reform myth by injecting a note of rationality, seeing a reformed scientific Christianity as an ethical path with potential to broker good climate policy.
There is a fully fledged, functioning branch of Christianity with complete integration of scientific understanding and woefully little appeal to those lacking college education. If you think your mythological proposals will do better with either crowd, I want some of what you have been smoking.
Robert Tulip wrote:
I fear you are too sanguine about the prospects for taxing carbon, which means impeding the human ability to burn stuff as a way to get rich. The Promethean love of fire is so deeply entwined with the idea of progress that overcoming it seems to require elite trickery, a highly risky tactic.
Now I really want some of that stuff.

Robert Tulip wrote:
We should throw open the debate about how religion has generated a brittle and fragile culture that needs to be softened up to change, in view of the tectonic cultural tensions now in evidence.
There is some justice in that charge, but religion has managed to drag itself along in the wake of social change and made some remarkable strides. The brittleness of culture seems to be more reflected in religion than created by religion.

Robert Tulip wrote:
conservatives are very stupid to stick with their denialist placeholder, which is morally equivalent to Holocaust Denial.
There was a time recently when conservatives did not try to follow denialist strategies. This changed for exactly one reason, which is the plutocratic subversion of the Republican party. They found the tools who would use their money, and fomented a strategy of lying and blustering, until the most incredible liar and blusterer we have seen in 100 years of politics became the perfect tool of the strategy. It isn't often in social studies that a significant phenomenon can be laid entirely at the feet of one factor.

Robert Tulip wrote:
I was discussing the alienation of culture from nature, seeing nature in a larger picture as cosmic order. That is entirely different from use of nature to mean the natural man as ruled by irrational instinct. Instead the point is to recognise that scientific reason, with its vision of cosmic order, is central to reconciling culture and nature.
Fine words, but the thought/instinct duality is the same as the order/chaos duality. When we have learned to produce our food and shelter and culture without wanting to do it more easily, then we can set about having a culture that is all about nature. In the meantime, people and corporations will respond to incentives because that is how humans function.

Robert Tulip wrote:
the context of the apocalyptic threat of climate change, my sense is that Berrian attitudes are too passive, slow and disengaged, except in the rather futile area of consciousness raising.
I quite agree with you, but you see he is advocating that everyone have the consciousness that you want governmental leaders to have: to choose pathways that liberate human flourishing by working with, not against, nature. It seems we have passed the point of being able to turn the social pathway over to enlightened leaders, and need to transform consciousness as well. I don't think Berry's ideology will do that quickly enough, but I think it would be a good idea for policy explainers to look to their own spiritual needs, and they will find that Berry has a lot of wisdom for them in that quest. Right now the Murdochs and Ailes and Kushners and Kochs are driven by a truly pathetic quest for social status, and as a result are willing to sell their fellow humans for a Bentley. No wonder their boy looked like he knew what he was doing - to the suckers they have been bilking for decades.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
biochar will pay for itself much faster if it gets compensated for saving Florida.
yes, that is true. A friend of mine commented today that we don’t have time to establish markets for the amount of carbon that we need to pull out of the air. So I think you are right, that governments need to pay to store carbon.
Actually I never said that. What I have argued is that a market price on carbon dumping will also create big money for NET. Not having time to establish the markets is a complete canard. What we don't have is the political will - so you are trying to sneeze up a hurricane to propose that the government instead invest massively in NET. The political will is no more likely to materialize.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Transforming carbon into useful products like biochar is an investment in future productivity, since adding carbon to soil lifts agricultural yields.
Might work, but it will happen faster with incentives to reduce externalities.

Robert Tulip wrote:
The purpose of enclosed algae farms in such regions and their rivers is precisely to utilise this damaging nutrient, returning it to productive use in order to restore these ecosystems to health in a circular economy.
This strikes me as sound. Might work to rely on it. I wish you luck. In the meantime, quit trashing other possibilities.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
The idea that we have to turn our shores into algae farms in order to avoid reflecting the true costs of our fossil fuel usage strikes this economist as a species of madness.
That is a misconstrual Harry. Algae farms should only be located in places where they provide ecological benefit. My friends in the Ocean Foresters and Marine Permaculture organisations are already starting this work with giant kelp.
Well, no, it isn't a misconstrual. You are advocating the path be pursued on a commercial basis, and commerce takes whatever is available. It's true that it is easier to regulate an industry not yet created, but soon it will be out there putting lobbyists in place, and then the bolsheviks will knife you menshevik Ocean Foresters and get on with their passion for making money.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Your talk of avoiding costs of fossil fuels reflects the false logic that carbon removal should not be done because it is a moral hazard to the central task of emission reduction.
No, it really doesn't, and your astonishing persistence in claiming that it does reflects a complete inability to work with other people and other ideas. (Similar to the true meaning of "NIH" which is "Not Invented Here." If it isn't yours, it must be rubbish.)

Robert Tulip wrote:
That reasoning is false because there is no way that emission reduction can scale up to achieve climate restoration, which is what the planet needs, and which can only be achieved through carbon removal, which probably needs strong cooperation with the fossil fuel industries.
You are going to tell me again that we can't charge for carbon because we need the Koch brothers on board, but you have seen how quickly the fossil fuel industry chooses the path that will save the environment. They care neither diddly nor squat for the environment, as you know very well.

There are deep reasons, as strong as gravity and electromagnetism, why government is needed to save the environment. There are no counterexamples at any level of human society larger than the village, including your precious sewage disposal analogy. It is astonishing to watch you limp along claiming that the government must save us while denying that the government can respond rationally to an environmental externality. Do you not see what is as plain as the nose on your face?

Robert Tulip wrote:
Your term “mindlessness” deserves discussion. I think you mean the frontier pioneer mentality that assumed resources were infinite, and that economic growth could continue at exponential scale for ever with no concern for management of waste. That is obviously a heedless and mindless attitude, but the reality is that waste can always be managed as an input to new economic processes, generating a circular economy rather than a linear trajectory to infinity.
Look, sewers and sewage treatment were not created by the fertilizer industry. Take your head out of the sand. Quit advocating for mindlessness.



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Post Re: Dispatches from the Front Line of the Apocalypse
Robert Tulip wrote:
DWill wrote:
Having been poking around in the circular economy, I feel that such a vision of economic life could have an appeal to modernity that religious narratives might not come up to. A practical, down-to-earth vision based in the imaginative power of the circle, symbol of completeness and eternity.
In terms of my description of the Yuga as reflecting the climate cycle, I think it is possible for religious story to provide such a practical circular vision, based on an accurate astronomical understanding of the natural planetary climate, and how modern technology has sent the climate haywire so we need to get back on track.

There is a question of the necessity of the kind of mythos you describe. I think it is possible that we have been so conditioned by the workings of science, that we don't require narrative frames from religion to help motivate action. This may seem an odd thing to say, with religious fervor being judged as increasing in much of the world, but that fervor seems more about social and political fracture lines than it does about excitement over foundational mythic stories. Witness evangelicalism in the U.S.

Whether religious or not, people I think will not respond well to myths such as the Yugas from India, even when the myth is presented as based in reality. For me, credibility is diminished by the claim that our climate foolery is disrupting an eternal climate cycle, which disruption should compel us to restore the natural cycle. This is not to mention that if traditional myth is really so powerful, people would find a way to grab on without any tutoring; they would have done so by now.
Quote:
Speaking of the circle as a symbol of completeness and eternity, the symbol known as the ouroboros, my daughter told me a funny story of getting a bicycle puncture on a country ride and being told to find a snake and stick its tail in its mouth as a temporary repair.

That's a neat story and I'll remember it next time I have a flat. Those are few and far between with the heavier tires I use. I picture Australia as abounding in thorns that can become road hazards for bikes, but this may not be true.
Quote:
But seriously, my view is that any vision of economic life can only achieve completeness when it is part of a cosmology, so what we need now is to reframe the paradigm of cosmology at the terrestrial level, which is entirely the purpose of the climate Yuga story. My fear is that ideas such as the one you mentioned of the circular economy lack political traction precisely because they don't tell a complete story.

What would be the means of performing such a feat of inculcation? I see that as even more challenging than the technical front.
Robert Tulip wrote:
DWill wrote:
There is no way we can predict either future obstacles or clear pathways, given the way that evolution unfolds. This is all like catching the most promising wave. Merry (as we say here) Christmas, Robert.
I think we can predict the obstacles and pathways to climate restoration, even if there is an inevitable large factor of uncertainty.

In the most general of ways, we might be able to predict a short way into the future, but regarding specifics and in the long term, we're at sea. Prediction is a tool that is useful for finding out that we were wrong and adjusting course accordingly.



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Post Re: Dispatches from the Front Line of the Apocalypse
DWill wrote:
There is a question of the necessity of the kind of mythos you describe. I think it is possible that we have been so conditioned by the workings of science, that we don't require narrative frames from religion to help motivate action. This may seem an odd thing to say, with religious fervor being judged as increasing in much of the world, but that fervor seems more about social and political fracture lines than it does about excitement over foundational mythic stories. Witness evangelicalism in the U.S.
Indeed, some of us aging Jesus freaks would like to see a little excitement about foundational Christian myths for a change.

Looking at Europe as it goes more and more secular, it appears that science is providing an over-arching worldview to the extent that any one exists. When it comes to linking choices to structures of meaning, science is not doing so well, but it is certainly playing a role. Humanism seems to be the main alternative to religion for this guidance function, and its narrative of tolerance and individual seeking seems to be generally acceptable, but weak when it comes to hard moral choices like accepting refugees on a large scale.

DWill wrote:
This is not to mention that if traditional myth is really so powerful, people would find a way to grab on without any tutoring; they would have done so by now.
That's an interesting question to raise, for many reasons. One is that mythology has never been monolithic, anywhere, at any time. People tend to "grab onto" the part that works for them, and authorities promote the part they want ordinary people to respond to.

Another is that what defined success for a mythos narrative in the past may no longer constitute success today. Humanity was overwhelmingly rural until almost the time of World War II, and culture had no access to mass media except in print. There was no George Carlin or Stephen Colbert to mock claims to authority, no starlets and supermodels to promote unrealistic standards of beauty, no Pentagon Papers to give journalists the ability to hold leaders accountable at the level of deliberation.

The non-fiction book "New Power" suggests that a whole new approach to power is happening in our time based on the abilities granted by internet connectivity. This approach resembles religion in many ways - it is owned in common by individual participants, not by empowered decision-makers, and it is activated by "super-participants" who devote themselves to its social process.

DWill wrote:
In the most general of ways, we might be able to predict a short way into the future, but regarding specifics and in the long term, we're at sea. Prediction is a tool that is useful for finding out that we were wrong and adjusting course accordingly.

That sounds like an economist talking. Yet even on a five to ten year horizon, the major forces, the known unknowns that we can make a good try at predicting, require a degree of policy commitment that demands transparent rationales and benchmark goals that can be used to decide if the strategy is making sense.



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Post Re: Dispatches from the Front Line of the Apocalypse
Robert Tulip wrote:
Many coastal regions, notably the Gulf of Mexico and the Great Barrier Reef, suffer from excess nutrient causing dead zones due to agricultural runoff. The purpose of enclosed algae farms in such regions and their rivers is precisely to utilise this damaging nutrient, returning it to productive use in order to restore these ecosystems to health in a circular economy.

Speaking of circular economy, I'd be interested in hearing what an economist thinks of this newer, trendy presentation of green philosophy. There is this feeling of attraction to it, but I know from experience that infatuation can blind one to less sexy features under the surface.

Yes, having an economy in which little waste is surplus is a wonderful idea, but in the paragraph quoted and in other places I seem to see a "the more the merrier" element in your thinking, Robert. If burning things for fuel creates waste carbon, or if raising animals and plants flushes nutrients into waterways, so what? We can capture all of that and make useful products from it. As I understand it, closing loops is about accommodating waste, but it isn't about making waste an asset that has to go finding markets for itself. There needs to be a balance in every part of the production cycle, under the control of market demand, and to introduce a large blob in any part of it creates a choke point. So that is why it wouldn't work, in my view, to partner with the fossil fuel producers on climate change if that partnership consists of going right down to the wire with extraction and burning. Even if the carbon could be recaptured--a huge if--it's not as though the product could be plugged right in to what we're calling a circular economy. That's the cart before the horse.



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Post Re: Dispatches from the Front Line of the Apocalypse
There are a couple of topics from the Negative Emission Conference that I still want to write up, especially on oceans, moral hazard and law, after replying to Harry about these broader philosophical and economic issues around climate change.
Harry Marks wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
The moral legitimacy of political and economic structures is asserted through arguments that claim rational justification, enabling government by consent. This is why stories provide meaning, functioning as myths.
Well, I thought the idea was that you were saying this "rational" superstructure was causing the abuse of the environment. I would beg to differ. The abuse is caused by side-effects of highly attractive technologies which people are highly motivated to use.
A 'claim of rational justification' does not mean the statement is actually rational, but also includes rationalisation, deception and the entire panoply of mythological tricks. There are several levels of the causal relationship between ideology and climate change. I agree with you that the immediate motivation for technological abuse of the environment, the material cause, is simple material desire to make money. There are also higher levels of causation at work in these abusive relationships.

The claims of moral legitimacy of abusive actions rest on deeper problems in ideology than filthy lucre alone. These days the desire to be a rich pirate needs at least some moral cover in order to get away with it successfully. The ideologies of climate denial are complex. They are partly generated through the cultivation of popular resentment against alleged liberal elites, due to associated hostility toward progressive politics from romantic traditionalists. Another big contribution to the spread of denial is the confusion deliberately created by the fossil fuel industry on the tobacco model, another is the religious agenda that displaces salvation into a supernatural heaven, and I am sure there are several other factors too.

It is important to see there is no genuine science in climate denial. The factors all combine into a myth, a framework of meaning, a story that enables believers and friends to ignore conflicting rational evidence and claim rational justification. But irrational does not mean illegitimate, since there can be a grain of validity within the dross of absurd beliefs, especially in religion.

It is equally important to note that climate activism also operates at a popular mythological level. The emotional belief in the primacy of emission reduction is particularly resistant to evidence and logic, due to how it is embedded in a shared political and cultural strategic vision of an innovative decarbonised world. While decarbonisation tells a lovely story, its theory of change is impractical, and needs to be negotiated and placed in a scientific framework of carbon removal.

Another big myth in climate change is that because the science is settled on the greenhouse effect, the methods to address it are equally settled. That is a myth in dire need of busting. Climate science is settled, pointing to highly dangerous and disturbing forecasts for the planet, but prevailing responses are woefully inadequate. Discussion about the whole strategic and security policy framework for climate change should challenge the myth that doubling down on emission reduction is the only viable path.

The point on which you seem to differ is about how technological abuse asserts a moral justification, deflecting moral concern about climate effects. The only way to rule without consent is direct autocracy, and that remains a long way off in modern states. Of course, consent can be obtained through deception, and that is a major part of the climate change denial story.
Harry Marks wrote:
That aside, the rational justifications don't overlap much with the myths that work as stories, in my hastily considered view.
I was talking about claims of rational justification, many of which are farcical. No one tells anyone to believe something because it is untrue. Instead, advocates must pretend that lies are truth in the brave new world. Even Trump claims his beliefs and arguments are perfectly rational and credible. Almost no one says their own belief is a myth, simply because myth generally means untrue belief. I support the shift of the definition of myth to include all beliefs that generate a sense of meaning and purpose, not only those which are now seen as obsolete or false.

Even Young Earth Creationism functions as a claim of rationality, even though its mythological bubble is so easily punctured by the slightest acquaintance with facts. This bubble of patriarchal dominion is unfortunately well suited to the destruction of the planet.
Harry Marks wrote:
Some myths grow out of rational explanations, like Lincoln's analysis of why secession is not a good option for democracy. But they generally don't make good stories.
You are using rational explanation more narrowly, to mean argument based on evidence and logic, whereas I was talking more broadly about claims that include those based on lies, social plausibility and gullibility. Your dispute about whether a "rational" superstructure is causing the abuse of the environment turns on this point, that objective irrationality is no bar to claims that false statements are rationally justified. The justification process always needs a good story, and the weaker the data the greater the need for an inventive storyteller.
Harry Marks wrote:
The idea that technology will spontaneously change to deliver ecological stability is an engineer's pipe dream. Technology responds to incentives. Externalities are, by definition, excluded from incentives unless the government steps in to charge for them.
Nothing is spontaneous in technology. But incentives are not the only driver. The technology for the moonshots did not arise from market incentives, but through the cultural vision of President Kennedy, with his clear articulation of safely sending a man to the moon and back as a moral challenge to show America’s greatness and sense of purpose. The next US President should announce in 2021 a similar Apollo-scale plan to achieve global carbon neutrality by 2030. That political leadership would be the best thing to create incentives.
Harry Marks wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
comparing humans to microbes is far too cynical and despairing about the potential of human intelligence. it should be entirely possible to recognise that intelligent discussion is the only adaptive quality with any hope to save our world from the peril of a warming catastrophe.
I would not dispute the potential. But we are doing a spectacularly bad job of responding to that potential.
That pervasive failure is why I think climate change needs a step back to see a bigger vision, to explain the interlinked paradigms that are now hurtling us toward the abyss of extinction, to see how factors in science, religion and politics need a combined paradigm shift to enable our species to adapt to the peril of climate change by preventing a hothouse earth, and to see how we can deliberately evolve into a qualitatively higher level of social intelligence, building upon existing precedents.
Harry Marks wrote:
You want to blame the people who are disgusted with the fossil fuel industry, and when it is pointed out that the industry has earned it, you then shift to arguing that blame is not the main issue.
No, that is a misconceived critique. I am hardly blaming climate activists for causing climate change, when the fault for that sits squarely with our fossil fuel economy. But the point is that reversing climate change cannot be achieved through the current UN primary strategy of decarbonisation, since the political reality is that the result of that path will be intense political conflict and delay of any action. Doubling down on emission reduction won’t work. The Paris Accord if fully implemented will cut Business As Usual emissions by 10% by 2030. That is a fine and noble ambition, but the remaining 90% of the required net zero emission target by 2030 should be designed in cooperation with the fossil fuel industry, using their skills, networks and resources, speaking softly and just carrying carbon tax as a big stick.
Harry Marks wrote:
corporations are not people, and, lacking souls, do not ever respond to efforts for restorative justice.
I had some fascinating discussions around this theme of restorative justice when I was working for the AusAID Mining for Development aid program. Corporations need a social licence to operate, and see agreement to moral values as essential for their public reputation and share value.
Harry Marks wrote:
Many now believe that their obligation is to avoid any such relating, seeking profit monomaniacally. You mentioned that you have had experience with the oil companies that matches this prediction precisely.
My inability to get a hearing is more about the fact that my ideas for climate restoration look at first glance like science fiction, so I have to talk to other people, like here, before I will be in a position to discuss with investors. I think the insurance industry may be best placed to broker these investment discussions. With our iron salt aerosol proposal we see insurance, shipping, fishing, tourism, chemicals, energy, mining and banking as potential industry partners.
Harry Marks wrote:
You hold out the hope that discerning a particularly constructive technological path will lead them to take it, but you have neglected the basic step of thinking like them to see whether that would make any sense to them.
Bill McKibben’s 2012 article on Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math shows that Business As Usual is a recipe for global catastrophe, so the fossil fuel industries will need a new business model to avoid the fate of Kodak. It is not about thinking like oil companies, but rather finding people who can pitch to them in a way that makes business sense.
Harry Marks wrote:
You are imposing the false dichotomy of using price signals vs. your strategy. I have noted many times that they are in fact complementary. There is a serious question whether the world has the time to fail to use price signals, since they would vastly increase the likelihood of using NET.
Price signals can speed up the shift from fossil fuels to renewables and carbon removal. That is mostly a good thing in principle, but in my view is secondary to the main task of securing industrial scale investment in carbon removal. It is a question of political economy, whether the quid pro quo of going easy on emission reduction can be leveraged to generate greater focus on carbon removal, which scientifically is the main agenda for climate stability and restoration. I agree price signals complement NETs in theory, but my worry is that people are too stupid, and this oppositional policy debate will only generate heat without light, while the climate steadily worsens and nothing is done to physically remove the carbon timebomb.
Harry Marks wrote:
Nobody follows the money like industry follows the money. You may continue to believe that governments will pay for NET, but if they can't even bring themselves to price in the externalities, it seems unlikely they will spend massive amounts of taxpayer funds to invest in a supposed path of environmental restoration. Work with your allies.
I was very pleased to see that Ocasio-Cortez is supporting “massive investment in technology that could directly remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere” (link). My friends working for climate restoration see that as the main takeaway from the Green New Deal, something that could be picked up by a centrist Democrat President for 2020. Trump has already put in place tax breaks for carbon removal, so I expect to see this theme steadily escalate, especially if industry can use legitimate scientific argument to present carbon removal as a valid path to enable less pressure for emission reduction.
Harry Marks wrote:
[Price signals] would provide incentive to follow your plan.
Sure, but at the risk of antagonising potential major allies. A negotiated solution would see governments providing incentives for carbon removal, supporting least cost abatement like the Australian Emission Reduction Fund, with threats of a carbon price targeted only at recalcitrants, aiming to minimise the popular odium that tax and spend carries as a big government policy model.
Harry Marks wrote:
what you are calling debate is counterproductive, since it attempts to impose the idea that there is one "path". Decentralized action by corporations with publicly imposed incentives is likely to follow hundreds, maybe thousands of paths. This is not a corporation deciding if it will sell internal combustion or steam engines, it is the whole kit and caboodle of converting various forms of energy into useful tasks.
The ‘one path’ I am talking about is the goal of climate restoration, which is now mostly ignored in favour of the unworkable focus on emission reduction alone. The scientific debate should focus on the practical balance between emission reduction and carbon removal as methods to stabilise the climate. To use a Gospel metaphor, climate stability is the hard and narrow path to salvation, while failure to remove enough carbon from the air is the broad and easy path to destruction.
Harry Marks wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
The challenge is more to reform myth by injecting a note of rationality, seeing a reformed scientific Christianity as an ethical path with potential to broker good climate policy.
There is a fully fledged, functioning branch of Christianity with complete integration of scientific understanding and woefully little appeal to those lacking college education. If you think your mythological proposals will do better with either crowd, I want some of what you have been smoking.
No need to be rude Harry. Yes, I do think a paradigm shift in religion is possible and necessary, and no, I don't believe that progressive Christianity fully integrates science. Plato already made the cycle of the Golden and Iron Ages the focus of his popular mythology. Even if people don’t yet see it, this framework can be integrated with modern astronomy as a way to explain Christianity, producing an evolutionary planetary cosmology that is better than what you call the ‘complete integration’ alleged for progressive Christianity.
Harry Marks wrote:
The brittleness of culture seems to be more reflected in religion than created by religion.
I think that brittle culture is caused by false belief, for which religion is a prime culprit.
Harry Marks wrote:
There was a time recently when conservatives did not try to follow denialist strategies. This changed for exactly one reason, which is the plutocratic subversion of the Republican party. They found the tools who would use their money, and fomented a strategy of lying and blustering, until the most incredible liar and blusterer we have seen in 100 years of politics became the perfect tool of the strategy. It isn't often in social studies that a significant phenomenon can be laid entirely at the feet of one factor.
Republican corruption is a big part of the story, but not all of it. The arrogance of the climate change movement imagines that doubling down on decarbonisation is a winning strategy. That arrogant overreach by the left provides the germ upon which plutocratic mendacity flourishes.
Harry Marks wrote:
[Berry] is advocating that everyone have the consciousness that you want governmental leaders to have: to choose pathways that liberate human flourishing by working with, not against, nature.
That is a level of cultural evolution that will take centuries or millennia, considering the entrenched trauma in human psychology.
Harry Marks wrote:
It seems we have passed the point of being able to turn the social pathway over to enlightened leaders, and need to transform consciousness as well.
The problem I am trying to discuss is the content of a transformed consciousness required to fix the climate. That faces strong contestability, for example on the extent we should build on Christian precedents. I’m not sure of this dichotomy you present between leadership and consciousness. An enlightened leader with a persuasive story for a theory of change can transform social thinking from the top.
Harry Marks wrote:
I don't think Berry's ideology will do that quickly enough, but I think it would be a good idea for policy explainers to look to their own spiritual needs, and they will find that Berry has a lot of wisdom for them in that quest.
You are suggesting, and I agree, that climate change can only be fixed as a spiritual problem. That is a totally radical idea from the perspective of the secular ideology that sees spirituality as false consciousness.
Harry Marks wrote:
Right now the Murdochs and Ailes and Kushners and Kochs are driven by a truly pathetic quest for social status, and as a result are willing to sell their fellow humans for a Bentley. No wonder their boy looked like he knew what he was doing - to the suckers they have been bilking for decades.
Much as I respect social conservatives, your comments here are sadly correct. I still read Murdoch’s Australian, but it has steadily escalated its support for crank rejection of climate science, explaining why an Australian conservative government minister recently said the general public see the political right as climate deniers, homophobes and anti-women, and plan to kick them out in the May election.
Harry Marks wrote:
biochar will pay for itself much faster if it gets compensated for saving Florida.
Good point. Climate is the primary security problem. It is an apocalyptic madness to think it would be okay to let Florida sink.

The Atlantic article I linked above about the Green New Deal has a joke about biochar, calling it a BAD climate policy - Boring As Dirt. I personally find soil very interesting, on the Christian model of the last shall be first and the meek shall inherit the earth. Few are meeker than soil microbes but we depend on them absolutely. I think that biochar will prove a key investment for agribusiness, especially if their choice is improve soils with carbon or pay up for a carbon tax.
Harry Marks wrote:
a market price on carbon dumping will also create big money for NET. Not having time to establish the markets is a complete canard. What we don't have is the political will - so you are trying to sneeze up a hurricane to propose that the government instead invest massively in NET. The political will is no more likely to materialize.
I am happy to see people advocate for carbon markets, it’s just that I am not convinced that increasing the price of fossil fuels is necessarily the decisive factor in climate stability. It is conceivable that too much political oxygen can be used up in this quest for a carbon price, given the intransigence of its opponents. The main thing should be progress on new technologies that may not need a carbon price.
Harry Marks wrote:

Robert Tulip wrote:
The purpose of enclosed algae farms in such regions and their rivers is precisely to utilise this damaging nutrient, returning it to productive use in order to restore these ecosystems to health in a circular economy.
This strikes me as sound. Might work to rely on it. I wish you luck. In the meantime, quit trashing other possibilities.
I am not trashing other possibilities, I am just explaining my view on the likely balance of technologies for climate repair. It is not trashing renewables to ask if their climate benefit has been oversold. No one has claimed that renewables can remove carbon, except indirectly such as use of solar to power direct air capture. That is perfectly fine if people can make it work. America’s agribusinesses should be able to work out how to mine carbon and nutrients from all the pollution they dump in rivers.
Harry Marks wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
The idea that we have to turn our shores into algae farms in order to avoid reflecting the true costs of our fossil fuel usage strikes this economist as a species of madness.
That is a misconstrual Harry. Algae farms should only be located in places where they provide ecological benefit. My friends in the Ocean Foresters and Marine Permaculture organisations are already starting this work with giant kelp.
Well, no, it isn't a misconstrual. You are advocating the path be pursued on a commercial basis, and commerce takes whatever is available. It's true that it is easier to regulate an industry not yet created, but soon it will be out there putting lobbyists in place, and then the bolsheviks will knife you menshevik Ocean Foresters and get on with their passion for making money.
Korea, Indonesia and China already have vast coastal seaweed farms. A key climate benefit of these operations is localised ocean cooling, so it is something that should be used in locations at direct risk such as in the ocean currents flowing into coral reefs. Here are some recent studies https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/a ... 6X18303126 https://m.tau.ac.il/~agolberg/pdf/2017_6.pdf

Robert Tulip wrote:
Your talk of avoiding costs of fossil fuels reflects the false logic that carbon removal should not be done because it is a moral hazard to the central task of emission reduction.
No, it really doesn't, and your astonishing persistence in claiming that it does reflects a complete inability to work with other people and other ideas. [/quote]You personally may be unfamiliar with the moral hazard thinking in climate change, but I assure you that it is a widespread primary blockage to carbon removal technology. The problem is not that advocates of new technology can’t work with others, but rather that they are excluded by this sort of pernicious moral hazard thinking which is used to block investment and approvals.
Harry Marks wrote:
It is astonishing to watch you limp along claiming that the government must save us while denying that the government can respond rationally to an environmental externality.
Another misconstrual. I have hardly denied governments could respond rationally, I have simply observed that by and large they don’t do so. I remain of the view that government has a central role in providing the enabling conditions for private investment, and simply wish they would fulfil that proper task.
Harry Marks wrote:
sewers and sewage treatment were not created by the fertilizer industry.
True, but water supply and sanitation does require primary roles for the private sector in provision of goods and services, and is often delivered in public private partnership. The sanitation model for climate change is that we clean up our shit after emitting it. There is a doctrinaire assumption going around that the sanitation model can’t work for climate because prevention of emissions has to be the sole policy, which could be caricatured as rather like issuing everyone with a bum plug. My look at the numbers indicates that emission reduction can only deliver a tiny proportion of the required carbon removal, but the climate movement is generally in a state of denial about this situation.


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Post Re: Dispatches from the Front Line of the Apocalypse
Worth considering is the recent Atlantic cover article,
"Why Are We So Angry?" by Charles Duhigg. The connection may seem tenuous, but in regard to what fuels people to demand change from government and business leaders, the writer tells us righteous anger is the key. I think this view is closer to correct than the one that cites embrace of religion, broadly defined, as the prerequisite for citizen enlistment in the cause. The latter development is unlikely to lead to action, if it is even possible to conceive such a spiritual awakening happening.

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/ar ... er/576424/



Sun Dec 30, 2018 8:56 am
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