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Ch. 1: Introduction: a blue Arctic 
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 Ch. 1: Introduction: a blue Arctic
A Farewell to Ice: A Report from the Arctic
by Peter Wadhams


Please use this thread to discuss Ch. 1: Introduction: a blue Arctic.



Tue Jun 16, 2020 6:42 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 1: Introduction: a blue Arctic
A Farewell to Ice takes its title from Ernest Hemingway’s great novel of the American campaign in Italy in the First World War, A Farewell to Arms, famous for its gritty realism and romance, its condemnation of human idiocy as somehow redeemed by love, its rejection of authority, its bleak horror of battle and loss. These literary themes from Hemingway all find their way into the silent and insidious planetary war that the collapse of polar ice has begun, and into the urgent tale that Professor Peter Wadhams has to tell of the extreme changes these remote regions are suffering.

Dr Wadhams is a remarkable scientist, having first visited the Arctic in 1970 and then returned to the treacherous and seductive realms of glittering ice every year over decades of a highly distinguished scientific career leading the Scott Polar Research Institute at Cambridge University. This haven for polar scientists from around the world has served as a vital base to understand the mysteries of the ice. Scott of the Antarctic gave his name to Dr Wadhams’ Institute after giving his life to the cause of polar science. Scott was among the last great explorers of the age of discovery, dying on the ice after reaching the South Pole in 1912.

Peter Wadhams tells us in this book of his own dangerous adventures on and under the ice. The introductory chapter, A Blue Arctic, begins with his difficult and dangerous submarine voyages to measure ice thickness. His underwater sonar calculations found a highly disturbing 15% loss from 1976 to 1987, published in Nature in 1990, a first portent of how the Arctic is the bleeding edge of climate change. From the former days when ice formed densely clustered floes of thick, heavy multi-year mountains, forming huge pressure ridges that blocked the paths of explorers, the situation now is that the final thin brittle sheets melt after just one winter. At the present rate the world will soon have a blue Arctic ocean, accelerating the catastrophic onset of global climate collapse.

As an aside, the challenge and beauty of polar adventure are encapsulated in one of the greatest poems in English literature, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by ST Coleridge, one of Wadhams’ Cambridge forebears. My commentary on this poem is at https://www.booktalk.org/post84467.html#p84467. Coleridge was taught at Cambridge by William Wales, astronomer to Captain James Cook on his voyages of discovery to the Southern Ocean 250 years ago. Hearing of these great adventures into uncharted wastes inspired the great lines of the 'ice, mast-high, floating by, as green as emerald'. This illustrious university heritage might just help to open up the conversations we need today to save our planet from the perils of warming. In the poem, the heedless murder of the albatross plunges the ship into a magical disaster that the sailors cannot comprehend. Perhaps I am being too imaginative here, but this story seems to serve as a parable for all our foolish destruction of nature, and refusal to see the consequences of our actions.


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Post Re: Ch. 1: Introduction: a blue Arctic
Robert Tulip wrote:
In the poem, the heedless murder of the albatross plunges the ship into a magical disaster that the sailors cannot comprehend. Perhaps I am being too imaginative here, but this story seems to serve as a parable for all our foolish destruction of nature, and refusal to see the consequences of our actions.

Good comparison. If I recall, the mariner shot the albatross just to show he could. I find it ironic that the most common denialist response to the evidence of global warming is to declare confidently that there is no way humans could cause such a drastic change.

Any suggestions how to get hold of the book? Is it basically a choice between Amazon Kindle or getting a paper version?



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Post Re: Ch. 1: Introduction: a blue Arctic
The opening paragraphs of the introduction gives a stunning revelation, when considered from the point of view of the dates. (1976 to 1987)

Climate change was not yet a treacherous phenomenon, let alone the concept of Anthropogenic causes.

Put differently, Wadhams was indeed measuring ice loss but as he writes “ there was a larger picture going on” that he and other specialist were not looking at. For them there was a mystery to solve.

Ocean physics is in part the study of the formation or loss of ice at the earths poles. 45 years ago this measurable ice loss clearly raised some eyebrows. Wadhams is telling us that they were neophytes about the oceans and that a new field of study was to be born, nurtured. It’s fascinating in that they were at the beginning of learning what they did not know. Those pesky unknown unknowns.



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Post Re: Ch. 1: Introduction: a blue Arctic
Harry Marks wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
In the poem, the heedless murder of the albatross plunges the ship into a magical disaster that the sailors cannot comprehend. Perhaps I am being too imaginative here, but this story seems to serve as a parable for all our foolish destruction of nature, and refusal to see the consequences of our actions.

Good comparison. If I recall, the mariner shot the albatross just to show he could. I find it ironic that the most common denialist response to the evidence of global warming is to declare confidently that there is no way humans could cause such a drastic change.

Hi Harry, Your comment reminds me of my studies in existential morality, especially the existential themes of care, finitude and facticity. These are ideas brought into stark urgency by the collapse of the Arctic ice.

These existential themes mean that understanding the human situation requires that we ground our philosophy in concern for our relationships with finite facts. This differs from the old infinite imagination of religious myths of afterlife and a transcendent God, which generate an obsolete, dangerous and evil morality, giving false emotional comfort while distracting us from the impacts of our beliefs and actions.

When climate deniers express their false confidence that our planet is too big for us to have any effect on it, they are rejecting human finitude as a moral principle, and in effect continuing the old false memes of transcendental religious fantasy and its corrupt schemes of social control. Their attitude is grounded in the emotional assumption that planetary resources are infinite. That false belief could partly be sustained before the modern industrial epoch, although even in the stone age human action already began to cause mass extinction of animal species.

Continuing this infinite mentality today with the accelerating power and reach of modern technology reflects the old flat earth fantasy of refusal to engage with the finite facts discovered by science. Coleridge’s parable of the albatross hung around the mariner’s neck points to this infinite attitude that feels it can transgress with impunity against unknown boundaries. Seeing the shooting of the sacred bird as a transgression presents a natural sense of the sacred, very distinct from how religions have tried to capture and control sanctity in church buildings and traditions. The transcendental does have a valid place in religion, but only when properly grounded in immanent temporal reality, as explained by natural science.

The moral turpitude of indifference to extinction is a key reason why I insist that evidence and logic must be the highest moral values in a coherent existential philosophy. The complexity of natural biodiversity is of priceless value. Species have taken hundreds of millions of years to evolve, and their loss irretrievably degrades local ecosystems and our whole planetary community of the web of life, human and natural. Allowing the Arctic to melt would cause irreversible global tipping points that will grossly amplify the moral tragedy of mass extinction, while also deeply imperilling human security.

Harry Marks wrote:
Any suggestions how to get hold of the book? Is it basically a choice between Amazon Kindle or getting a paper version?

I am reading A Farewell to Ice on Kindle for PC, which I find very convenient, much as I love the feel and smell and look and sound and material presence of paper.


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Post Re: Ch. 1: Introduction: a blue Arctic
Robert Tulip wrote:
These existential themes mean that understanding the human situation requires that we ground our philosophy in concern for our relationships with finite facts. This differs from the old infinite imagination of religious myths of afterlife and a transcendent God, which generate an obsolete, dangerous and evil morality, giving false emotional comfort while distracting us from the impacts of our beliefs and actions.


You have given me quite a bit to think about here. But it is directly relevant to the on-going reassessment within Christianity. The whole idea of transcendence is having to be integrated with a more functional theology. It used to be a "direction" (up, by contrast with the horizontal relations between people, essentially) and this lent itself to, as you say, imagery of the infinite. One might say we are now having to think of relations more like spherical geometry, in which "wherever you go, there you are" (as a prominent explainer of Zen puts it). Or, perhaps, in which
Quote:
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time. - T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets


One of the guideposts of the revised theology is wildness. The notions of God as "wholly other" may emerge more from wildness than from imagery of impenetrably prescient invisible control. Wildness is our origin and, in some sense, our destination. We are shaped by it, but also we are shaped for it. To be able to inhabit our cozy world of light-switch convenience with enough understanding to be subjects of wildness, i.e. agents of wildness, without being destructive agents as exploiters of wildness, that is a tall order but begins to be seen as a worthy objective.

Warfare should have been sufficient clue that we needed to re-learn our innermost identity, but it wasn't. So now we see if our intelligentsia can learn to see itself not as above and superior to the unlettered hoi polloi of democracy, but as salt and light. Instead of the directors of the aimless hordes of cannon fodder, holding the reins of power, we have no choice but to become humble supplicants on behalf of a life with the wild rather than against the wild.

Robert Tulip wrote:
When climate deniers express their false confidence that our planet is too big for us to have any effect on it, they are rejecting human finitude as a moral principle, and in effect continuing the old false memes of transcendental religious fantasy and its corrupt schemes of social control. Their attitude is grounded in the emotional assumption that planetary resources are infinite. That false belief could partly be sustained before the modern industrial epoch, although even in the stone age human action already began to cause mass extinction of animal species.
The moral ability to find myself in others, on which Christianity is based IMO, is grounded, as you say, in the ability to find a path for all of us in rational acceptance of our finitude. Religion has always understood the gift of mortality to be integral to the gift of meaning, but now we are meeting it in the everyday and the common life, not only in far-off time and sporadic convulsions of violence.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Continuing this infinite mentality today with the accelerating power and reach of modern technology reflects the old flat earth fantasy of refusal to engage with the finite facts discovered by science. Coleridge’s parable of the albatross hung around the mariner’s neck points to this infinite attitude that feels it can transgress with impunity against unknown boundaries. Seeing the shooting of the sacred bird as a transgression presents a natural sense of the sacred, very distinct from how religions have tried to capture and control sanctity in church buildings and traditions. The transcendental does have a valid place in religion, but only when properly grounded in immanent temporal reality, as explained by natural science.
Yes, I think this is correct, that the infinite has become an image for impunity, and I see no alternative to viewing this process as one of fantasy, in its essence. Where once we had stories of impunity due to power over other people, and I think of Camus' "Caligula" as an example, we now must tell stories of impunity as corrupt and destructive fantasy about the nature of human life together. Ibsen's "Enemy of the People" is a good start on how this looks in a world where honesty is easily sacrificed to immediate gain. There is no stronger touchstone than honesty for the emergence of a new relation to wildness.

Robert Tulip wrote:
The moral turpitude of indifference to extinction is a key reason why I insist that evidence and logic must be the highest moral values in a coherent existential philosophy. The complexity of natural biodiversity is of priceless value. Species have taken hundreds of millions of years to evolve, and their loss irretrievably degrades local ecosystems and our whole planetary community of the web of life, human and natural.
There are layers of irony in the term "priceless value". It comes from our inability to think about value except in terms of price, so that we turn to apophatic terminology, in essence. The same incongruity of "rational" thought with the true nature of things is found in the old saying that a cynic "knows the price of everything and the value of nothing."

We are in a position to be technically capable of tearing up our existence by the roots and throwing ourselves out on the asphalt to perish slowly in the heat. In the process we will destroy the most marginalized (from the warped perspective of our struggle for status) life first, and proceed from there to the less and less marginalized until there is nothing left that we derive true value from, and we suffocate even the things we thought were important in these days of hubris.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Allowing the Arctic to melt would cause irreversible global tipping points that will grossly amplify the moral tragedy of mass extinction, while also deeply imperilling human security.
The strange slow pace and cumulative drama of the GHG threat is unlike anything recorded in our history or our mythology. We can only understand it using means that, to the average person, resemble mystical mumbo-jumbo. An "apocalypse" is an unveiling, and it calls us to examine ourselves and our self-understanding. Much of Western society is now convinced of our peril, but outside of scientifically oriented circles they do not see it with any clarity or take on board the implications for the commonality of our fate and the degree of mutual obligation at the heart of our relationship with the wild world we emerged from.



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Post Re: Ch. 1: Introduction: a blue Arctic
100 degrees F (> 37 degrees C) inside the Arctic Circle yesterday. Probably for the first time ever.



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Post Re: Ch. 1: Introduction: a blue Arctic
Robert Tulip wrote:
In the poem, the heedless murder of the albatross plunges the ship into a magical disaster that the sailors cannot comprehend. Perhaps I am being too imaginative here, but this story seems to serve as a parable for all our foolish destruction of nature, and refusal to see the consequences of our actions.

I suppose we are all like the wedding guest accosted at the start of the poem by the mariner, who needs expiation through telling his tale. We want to get on with our business--go into the wedding celebration and not be bothered by troubles. But the mariner holds the wedding guest spellbound, and at the end the listener has become a "sadder and wiser man." Whether we'll undergo any lasting change is unknown.
Quote:
These existential themes mean that understanding the human situation requires that we ground our philosophy in concern for our relationships with finite facts. This differs from the old infinite imagination of religious myths of afterlife and a transcendent God, which generate an obsolete, dangerous and evil morality, giving false emotional comfort while distracting us from the impacts of our beliefs and actions.

When climate deniers express their false confidence that our planet is too big for us to have any effect on it, they are rejecting human finitude as a moral principle, and in effect continuing the old false memes of transcendental religious fantasy and its corrupt schemes of social control. Their attitude is grounded in the emotional assumption that planetary resources are infinite. That false belief could partly be sustained before the modern industrial epoch, although even in the stone age human action already began to cause mass extinction of animal species.

There are probably several inputs toward GW denialism. I have not thought of religion as being at the top of the list, but have no facts to support a different cause. I am fairly sure that Donald Trump's dismissal of GW isn't based in his religion. On the other hand, in the few cases where people have held onto nature as the priority and not sacrificed it for material betterment, sacredness, rather than a rational appreciation of finiteness, might be the key element. Gods and spirits and what have you--maybe that's what works. It's a different result than emerged from Christian monotheism, although it also is true that the "ours to exploit" mentality that can be derived from Genesis has an antidote in the very same book--God saw his creation, and it was good. I note as well that Coleridge's tale of sin and expiation is set within a Christian framework.
Quote:
Continuing this infinite mentality today with the accelerating power and reach of modern technology reflects the old flat earth fantasy of refusal to engage with the finite facts discovered by science. Coleridge’s parable of the albatross hung around the mariner’s neck points to this infinite attitude that feels it can transgress with impunity against unknown boundaries. Seeing the shooting of the sacred bird as a transgression presents a natural sense of the sacred, very distinct from how religions have tried to capture and control sanctity in church buildings and traditions. The transcendental does have a valid place in religion, but only when properly grounded in immanent temporal reality, as explained by natural science

I agree with that, although I'm unsure about science being the ground. Coleridge and Wordsworth feared the cold rationality of science, while being very interested in what it was revealing. Thoreau is my best model for the balance of the transcendental--which I think of merely as the poetic--and the scientific. Even he, though, couldn't escape participating in the withering away of the natural landscape. He supported himself as a surveyor, work that is needed for what we call development today. Thoreau was a natural scientist and one of the earliest practitioners of ecology. Today, natural science/ecology and applied science are at loggerheads, with all of the money and influence being with the latter.

In addition to belief in the infiniteness of resources, our culture believes in the infiniteness of human ingenuity. We think we can get ourselves out of whatever scrapes we face, because we believe we have so often done so by our amazing technology. Even those who fully accept the GW thesis may think this is the ace in the hole. The problem with refuting that belief is that our technology has indeed produced good results--make that spectacular results. What we always miss due to our native egotism is that the benefits have not accrued to other species, only to ourselves.
Quote:
The moral turpitude of indifference to extinction is a key reason why I insist that evidence and logic must be the highest moral values in a coherent existential philosophy. The complexity of natural biodiversity is of priceless value. Species have taken hundreds of millions of years to evolve, and their loss irretrievably degrades local ecosystems and our whole planetary community of the web of life, human and natural. Allowing the Arctic to melt would cause irreversible global tipping points that will grossly amplify the moral tragedy of mass extinction, while also deeply imperilling human security.

Unfortunately, it is hard to be hopeful, i.e. full of hope. By any indication of past performance, only our own security matters, so any benefits to other species would be incidental. We have many ways of deluding ourselves that it is safe to proceed down the path that has already produced mass extinctions.



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Post Re: Ch. 1: Introduction: a blue Arctic
Robert, DWill, Harry you guys are amazing :appl: . The first half dozen posts in this thread should be broadcast globally. You three are spot on. Thank you.



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Post Re: Ch. 1: Introduction: a blue Arctic
Harry Marks wrote:
You have given me quite a bit to think about here.
Great! We have had some superb conversations over the years Harry. I think putting the facts of climate science into an existential philosophical worldview is essential to appreciate why only a finite factual framework can make our thinking systematic and rigorous.

I have been working rather ambitiously on a scientific article with the title Large Scale Ocean Based Algae Production: A Personal Research Journey. I just received comments from an ocean scientist politely explaining why many of my assumptions and suggestions are not feasible. Although that is disappointing, and means my ambitious ideas are not immediately realistic, I am happy to have this reality check. Trying to engage directly in scientific fields where I lack expertise is obviously a hard ask. But it has been an interesting way of thinking for me. The philosophical ground is where I can defend my views more adequately, looking at big picture policy implications. Even so, a fertile creative imagination can help open productive conversations to liberate discussion about practical priorities and alternatives. My genre is more utopia than dystopia, using utopian imagination about the boundaries of the possible to open people’s minds and create hope in rather bleak circumstances.

To speak of bleak, these problems raised by the fragility and sensitivity of the Arctic are top of mind for me. I am working in my paper to balance technological and strategic discussion, which is quite a challenge.
Harry Marks wrote:
It is directly relevant to the on-going reassessment within Christianity. The whole idea of transcendence is having to be integrated with a more functional theology.
Your phrase “functional theology” will seem out of place to many in a discussion of the melting Arctic. “Functional theology” is not only out of place at first sight, scientists would often see it as an oxymoron, self-contradictory, since theology is generally seen as lacking any practical function due to its pervasive fantasy assumptions. Yet perhaps these big mythological stories from religion can help us to step back from the immediacy of science and politics to place the urgent ethical issues of allowing our planet to collapse around our ears in some sort of strategic context.

Language about “transcendence” is exactly the metaphysical mentality that scientists traditionally find hardest to engage with, due to its associations with escaping reality into comforting fantasy. I like your idea of exploring a functional theory of transcendence as a way to reassess Christianity. For example, in terms of Arctic collapse, we can see the previous long-lasting orderly natural stability of the ice over the last few million years as existing under the grace of God, while the sudden current death spiral of polar ice results from the depraved state of corruption that humanity has inflicted upon the planet. The practical ecological function of theology can be to work out how to transform a state of corruption into a state of grace.

I find this sense of natural transcendence seen in stable planetary order the most meaningful and coherent way to interpret metaphysical language about grace. Strong Biblical support for this line of thinking comes from the line in Revelation 11:18 which says the wrath of God is against those who destroy the earth. Enlisting theology to explain why we should not destroy the earth is entirely functional, as a way to mitigate wrath, interpreted in terms of natural collapse.


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Post Re: Ch. 1: Introduction: a blue Arctic
Robert Tulip wrote:
I have been working rather ambitiously on a scientific article with the title Large Scale Ocean Based Algae Production: A Personal Research Journey. I just received comments from an ocean scientist politely explaining why many of my assumptions and suggestions are not feasible. Although that is disappointing, and means my ambitious ideas are not immediately realistic, I am happy to have this reality check.
I'm sorry to hear that the expert take is discouraging, since your purpose sounded excellent and promising. If the reality check indicates proper directions for improvement, you still may end up playing a great role in rescuing us all.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Trying to engage directly in scientific fields where I lack expertise is obviously a hard ask. But it has been an interesting way of thinking for me. The philosophical ground is where I can defend my views more adequately, looking at big picture policy implications. Even so, a fertile creative imagination can help open productive conversations to liberate discussion about practical priorities and alternatives. My genre is more utopia than dystopia, using utopian imagination about the boundaries of the possible to open people’s minds and create hope in rather bleak circumstances.
Still, it might be a signal to you that market incentives are likely to make a bigger difference than heroic imagination. Many scientists and engineers cooperating are likely to solve problems that a few cannot defeat.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
It is directly relevant to the on-going reassessment within Christianity. The whole idea of transcendence is having to be integrated with a more functional theology.
Your phrase “functional theology” will seem out of place to many in a discussion of the melting Arctic. “Functional theology” is not only out of place at first sight, scientists would often see it as an oxymoron, self-contradictory, since theology is generally seen as lacking any practical function due to its pervasive fantasy assumptions. Yet perhaps these big mythological stories from religion can help us to step back from the immediacy of science and politics to place the urgent ethical issues of allowing our planet to collapse around our ears in some sort of strategic context.
In particular, theology strives for a unity of values, a perspective that allows all of our simple motivations and all of our fundamental tasks in life to be integrated into an overall relationship. The Good. Such a perspective, or at least the learning on the way to it, can shed considerable light on our relationship to our values, where reason and instinct are often at odds. A functional theology has to let ideals thrown up by reason give way at times to practical considerations, but without simply abandoning "the Good" and the quest for it. As a simple example, "there is neither male nor female" according to St. Paul, but that ideal has to be modulated appropriately to reject the status difference while permitting the biological differences.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Language about “transcendence” is exactly the metaphysical mentality that scientists traditionally find hardest to engage with, due to its associations with escaping reality into comforting fantasy. I like your idea of exploring a functional theory of transcendence as a way to reassess Christianity. For example, in terms of Arctic collapse, we can see the previous long-lasting orderly natural stability of the ice over the last few million years as existing under the grace of God, while the sudden current death spiral of polar ice results from the depraved state of corruption that humanity has inflicted upon the planet. The practical ecological function of theology can be to work out how to transform a state of corruption into a state of grace.
Some values and their instantiations, such as modes of relationship, can transcend others. We all understand how the value of good health transcends the signals provided by discomfort and even pain of exercise. Imagery of a "transcendent reality" (like, say, whoever set the key physical constants in the universe) can serve as a consistent evocation of the transcendence of morality when it conflicts with esthetics. But our stories meant to convey that process are breaking down under the weight of implausibility. The biggest reassessment in theology is to import the cruciform relationship of Jesus to history into the narratives about God's nature. First Jesus became God, and now God is becoming Jesus.

It is difficult to maintain plausibility for a narrative of God as creator, though many find it unproblematic. Setting that aside, we still have a relationship of awe, dependence and a sense of the holy with "Creation", i.e. nature. That natural relationship is a vital element of a sustainable relationship with life itself, as we are coming to realize. We are now finding that we got the whole relationship of freedom wrong, by demanding an external material freedom at the expense of our moral and relational freedom.

The trauma we have inflicted, and continue to inflict, on our physical environment is a reflection of the trauma inflicted by Europeans upon "primitive" people, who were allowed to be only a means to Eurocentric ends. Not that Europeans bear some particular guilt - it was just the extension of the craving to sit atop domination systems, to put the necks of "other people" under our knee. And virtually every culture has had some version of domination systems: it is an unreflective extension of our will to seek our goals unhindered by the needs of others.

Which brings us to your proposal to rise from a state of corruption to a state of grace. I find it useful to think of grace as one of my ministers explained it, in my youth. There is no fundamental difference between the grace we admire in an accomplished dancer and the grace of God shedding unmerited favor on people. If we can sufficiently balance our urges for comfort and security with the needs for grace created by living in competition and community, we can achieve a common life that is graceful. But it must be choreographed by visions of possible harmony and beauty replacing violence and domination. And if we can do that with other people, we can learn to draw the circle wide enough to include other species and all of nature.

Too bad we start in the face of such a world-historical crisis, but maybe that has the potential to lend a sacred status to our efforts to live in harmony with nature. As we know from "Tribe" and some of the other recent readings here, the survival of the civilization can give a transcendent sense of meaning to what steps we take for its sake.

Robert Tulip wrote:
I find this sense of natural transcendence seen in stable planetary order the most meaningful and coherent way to interpret metaphysical language about grace. Strong Biblical support for this line of thinking comes from the line in Revelation 11:18 which says the wrath of God is against those who destroy the earth. Enlisting theology to explain why we should not destroy the earth is entirely functional, as a way to mitigate wrath, interpreted in terms of natural collapse.
I agree that nature's stable order conveys a sense of grace, and led us into some of the most human endeavors. It was the effort to solve calendar problems created by the disjunction of lunar and solar years, permitting forecasts of the calendar, that gave us much of the basis of mathematics. I don't think wildness per se is a useful image of that order, but it is a doorway back to the needed humility and awe that can put our cravings and ambitions into a needed perspective. We have the guns to shoot all the rhinoceroses in nature, but we do not have the means to bring them back if we do so. A certain kind of relationship with ourselves and each other is crucial to solving the problems created by our material masteries.



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Post Re: Ch. 1: Introduction: a blue Arctic
Harry Marks wrote:
One of the guideposts of the revised theology is wildness. The notions of God as "wholly other" may emerge more from wildness than from imagery of impenetrably prescient invisible control. Wildness is our origin and, in some sense, our destination. We are shaped by it, but also we are shaped for it. To be able to inhabit our cozy world of light-switch convenience with enough understanding to be subjects of wildness, i.e. agents of wildness, without being destructive agents as exploiters of wildness, that is a tall order but begins to be seen as a worthy objective.
A key way to develop interest in the importance of the Arctic is to link the objective science with theories of cultural value that people can relate to. Part of the problem of disengagement from climate science may be that the scientific method has strongly embedded its notion of objective facts as separate from subjective values, and the process of integrating fact and value – saying why the Arctic is intrinsically important – is still unfortunately only beginning. Explaining the sacred in terms of the natural idea of wildness is a perfect example of this integration of fact and value. Seeing the objective independence of wild nature as having sanctity generates the potential for a theology that has as yet only partially been imagined in Christian traditions, although pantheist traditions have language about the web of life that needs to be better respected among conventional believers in God.

Here is a commentary I recently read that sets out these issues of the value of wildness quite well.
Quote:
INTEGRAL ECOLOGY by Sarah Bachelard
The famous speech by Chief Seattle includes the words: ‘This we know, all things are connected, like the blood that unites one family. This we know, whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves’. This notion of the inter-connectedness of natural systems and life-forms, the sense of the ‘web of life’, has become a commonplace of ecological understanding. What we do to the soil by way of agricultural or mining practice will affect the waterways that receive their run-off, which will affect the oceans into which the rivers run, which will affect marine life (both plant and animal), which will affect the livelihood of coastal communities perhaps in quite far distant places, and so it goes.
All this now seems so obvious that we wonder how western modernity has managed to remain seemingly oblivious to the consequences of our economy’s heedless exploitation and disruption of the great chain of being. Part of what has blinded us, perhaps, is the fact that the earth system has (historically) been so vast in relation to human culture and action, that we haven’t imagined ourselves capable actually of exceeding planetary limits, or unleashing irreversible damage. And perhaps compounding this is the fact that more and more people do not experience a lived, daily connection with the natural world. Many of us spend most of our time indoors, in temperatures we control artificially, obtaining our food neatly packaged from supermarket shelves and our water at the turn of a tap. We don’t experience our daily dependence on the well-being of the earth, the fruiting of berries and grains in due season, the springing up of water in wells and streams. So we forget that, as the founder of ecological economics Herman Daly once said: ‘The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment, not the reverse’.


Harry Marks wrote:

Warfare should have been sufficient clue that we needed to re-learn our innermost identity, but it wasn't. So now we see if our intelligentsia can learn to see itself not as above and superior to the unlettered hoi polloi of democracy, but as salt and light. Instead of the directors of the aimless hordes of cannon fodder, holding the reins of power, we have no choice but to become humble supplicants on behalf of a life with the wild rather than against the wild.
Harry, you and hopefully others may be interested to read the sermon I gave this morning touching on this topic of the pathological relation between warfare and human identity. The steady loss of Christian cultural knowledge means that many would not recognise your reference to salt and light from the Sermon on the Mount, even though the context of the city on the hill has been such a foundational American image. Your theme of prayer for the wild presents a jarring paradigm shift from conventional dominion theology, which continues to locate morality in the context of taming nature rather than finding our place within the ecological web of life. The psychology of intellectual superiority that you mention generates a tone of patronising condescension in much analysis which shuts off conversational dialogue. Finding the voice of humility is elusive because it is such a hard thing to do, constantly veering into the damaging paradox of being proud to be humble, or the ineffective approach of remaining silent.


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Post Re: Ch. 1: Introduction: a blue Arctic
Harry Marks wrote:
The strange slow pace and cumulative drama of the GHG threat is unlike anything recorded in our history or our mythology.
I beg to differ. The Biblical account of the apocalypse has a similar slow pace and cumulative drama, “a thousand years as a day for God”. That is why I think it is helpful to analyse climate change against religious frameworks of apocalyptic mythology, such as Saint Peter’s line that it won’t be water but fire next time.
Harry Marks wrote:
We can only understand it using means that, to the average person, resemble mystical mumbo-jumbo.
The only reason why the simple physics of the greenhouse effect might look mystical to some average people is because the vested interests of the fossil fuel economy have seen the call to stop emitting as an existential threat to their businesses, and have sown confusion in response, working from the nicotine/sugar playbook.

I see the blame for this as equally resting on both sides. The climate activist movement has largely rejected geoengineering as a climate solution on spurious moral hazard grounds, instead saying the only solution is immediate decarbonisation. Denialism is an emotional reaction against this unrealistic revolutionary ultimatum. The underpinning problem is that decarbonising the economy is too small, slow, expensive, risky and divisive to be an effective climate solution, but politicians have not been able to recognise that geoengineering – cutting solar radiation and CO2 levels – offers the only viable alternative. Both sides maintain faith in spurious placeholder strategies which offer partisan political traction while doing nothing to stop the rolling climate juggernaut.

Peter Wadhams provides an excellent simple summary of the allegedly mysterious physics of global warming in Chapter Five, which I will simplify even further when I get up to that chapter shortly.
Harry Marks wrote:
An "apocalypse" is an unveiling, and it calls us to examine ourselves and our self-understanding.
This illustrates why it is so interesting to analyse the current planetary collapse against the Biblical framework, looking to explain the symbolism of Revelation against a purely scientific empirical model. I believe such an integrating synthesis of science and religion is essential to put climate change into a story with a practical theory of change that can resonate with mass culture, unlike the current divisive placement of climate policy within a purely secular context.
Harry Marks wrote:
Much of Western society is now convinced of our peril, but outside of scientifically oriented circles they do not see it with any clarity or take on board the implications for the commonality of our fate and the degree of mutual obligation at the heart of our relationship with the wild world we emerged from.
Peter Wadhams aims for a simple clarity in A Farewell to Ice. The sensitive fragility of the Arctic makes it the canary in the coalmine for the planetary future. I don’t agree that ‘scientifically oriented circles’ now have the required clarity. That vision will not arise until the world sees that immediate geoengineering is essential to prevent economic and ecological collapse, recognising climate change as the primary security problem facing the world.


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Post Re: Ch. 1: Introduction: a blue Arctic
Robert Tulip wrote:
sermon I gave this morning touching on this topic of the pathological relation between warfare and human identity.
Your theme of prayer for the wild presents a jarring paradigm shift from conventional dominion theology, which continues to locate morality in the context of taming nature rather than finding our place within the ecological web of life.

It was a beautiful sermon. Thanks for the link. My son, who is a vegetarian, helps me to see the moral dimension in seeking the good of nature for itself, rather than just relating to it all as a treasure to be plundered. I have been thinking, since reading this thread, about the difficulties of engaging with wildness. I am so busy with scrambling for my goals within society that I scarcely have time for the wild. But my wife loves the mountains, and the whole family treasures our times hiking in the past, and this summer as we have been avoiding the city and avoiding the pleasures of company, we have been plunging back into the wild. I am not quite ready yet to hunt buffalo with bow and arrow, but even small rituals like avoiding any damage to plants off the trail, or packing out the bits of trash that others have left, help me feel a oneness with the rugged and majestic places of nature.

The common theme with the sermon is not too subtle. Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the momentum of Zechariah's prophecy, seeking to proclaim and establish peace. And in the same way we merely need to be at peace with nature, taking some but giving as much, serving as the reflective mind of nature and its spokesperson, rather than trying to grab and control what it has to offer.

Dominating nature probably makes a lot of sense if you are desperate. But I think instead of the people in Kenya who structure their life around the ability to find honey, and contrast it with the fur traders of the American west who hunted the mighty herds of bison almost to extinction, and the droll, playful sea otters the same. We have it within our power to save humans from the kind of desperation which turns them into exploiters and despoilers. And from there, the next step is to re-integrate ourselves into a sustainable, continuing balance with the rest of nature.

Robert Tulip wrote:
The psychology of intellectual superiority that you mention generates a tone of patronising condescension in much analysis which shuts off conversational dialogue. Finding the voice of humility is elusive because it is such a hard thing to do, constantly veering into the damaging paradox of being proud to be humble, or the ineffective approach of remaining silent.
I expect that you are right about this, but I have generally found that if you come at a problem in terms of cause and effect and the constraints we face together, that one does not have to be claiming superiority in order to focus attention on the problems we face in common. We have Dr. Anthony Fauci in the U.S., for example, who is all about the facts of the covid pandemic, and, at least to my eye, never seems to come across in an arrogant way. He doesn't seem to want to promote himself as an authority, but he does, constantly, plead for acknowledgement of, and response to, the facts of the situation.



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Post Re: Ch. 1: Introduction: a blue Arctic
Robert Tulip wrote:
I see the blame for this as equally resting on both sides. The climate activist movement has largely rejected geoengineering as a climate solution on spurious moral hazard grounds, instead saying the only solution is immediate decarbonisation. Denialism is an emotional reaction against this unrealistic revolutionary ultimatum. The underpinning problem is that decarbonising the economy is too small, slow, expensive, risky and divisive to be an effective climate solution, but politicians have not been able to recognise that geoengineering – cutting solar radiation and CO2 levels – offers the only viable alternative. Both sides maintain faith in spurious placeholder strategies which offer partisan political traction while doing nothing to stop the rolling climate juggernaut.

I have yet to read much of the book, but am looking forward to carving out some time. I note that Wadhams devotes a good deal of space to geoengineering and am curious whether he sees geoengineering as I do: a necessary means to buy time as we transition to a non-carbon economy. So the choice isn't between geoengineering and decarbonization; rather, geoengineering delays more drastic warming as we put in place renewable energy and/or more nuclear energy. Given the political difficulties of employing geoengineering, it is likely, anyway, that countries would agree to it only as a temporary measure rather than as permanent regulation of climate.



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