In your wildest schemes...
January 19, 2015 9:28 PM   Subscribe

Australian comic artist Sam Wallman (previously) has released a scary/optimistic new piece that looks at Climate Change.
posted by AzzaMcKazza (29 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
Can we as a society really make such radical political, and social changes? Even if it's an absolute necessity?
posted by Jernau at 10:01 PM on January 19, 2015


I came close to posting it myself today. Agree with much of it, but I would've changed the subtitle to "The free market won’t stop climate change, but its failure is inspiring the people who will try to go in the right direction and get crucified for it". Because even the Most Communist of Economists believe in continuing Growth, and in the long run, it's Growth that will kill us.
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:02 PM on January 19, 2015 [6 favorites]


It's kinda woo-woo for my taste but I'm mostly going to save my ire for the denialists who are trying to kill us all rather than someone on the right side who is a bit granola.
posted by Justinian at 10:04 PM on January 19, 2015 [6 favorites]


I have limitless ire.
posted by aubilenon at 10:10 PM on January 19, 2015 [4 favorites]


It's actually totally hopeless. Really.

We're going to find out how bad it could be, because the system cannot stop itself and has no compelling reason to do so. Even when things get horrible we'll keep going, because we are all on life support with no real alternative.

We 7+ billion people do not think. We cannot think. We are not, collectively, a rational actor capable of making decisions. Capitalism and runaway growth are an emergent property of human existence; they're not someone's plan or idea.

Cancer cells die when the host dies. And that's probably what we are.

Some of us are quite nice individually, though.
posted by argybarg at 10:13 PM on January 19, 2015 [16 favorites]


The British experiment highlighted in the cartoon as something being carried out - but not identified - was SPICE, which was cancelled in 2012.

An ongoing feasibility study apparently still exists. The "military company" mentioned (but not identified) in the cartoon is the relatively small Marshall Aerospace, which primarily works on maintaining and converting both civilian and military aircraft ( totally makes sense that a company like that would work with SPICE) - it no longer works with the project.

I wish the cartoonist had included more specific references and proper citations, it would have helped with the accuracy and persuasiveness of the piece.
posted by Bwithh at 10:17 PM on January 19, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm holding out for benevolent AI, benevolent aliens, or the Singularity.

I'm hopeful, but I'm also not having kids, and I don't bother too much about flossing.
posted by mrjohnmuller at 10:20 PM on January 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


That's one of the things I was referring to when I called it kinda woo-woo, Bwithh. SPICE.

Cancer cells die when the host dies. And that's probably what we are.

... Agent Smith?
posted by Justinian at 10:22 PM on January 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's got a lot more scary than optimistic, so I guess it's keeping in line with the crisis. This way of life is fucked. The only question is how much longer can it go on? By "it" I mean exponential growth of capitalism. That engine is getting bigger, stronger, and hotter all the time. Just keeps going up up up.

It's a race for renewables to supplant fossil fuels. There's the scientific hurdles and the political hurdles, and frankly I'm not sure which aspect presents the most challenges. IF we can supplant fossil fuels in time, we'll keep on keepin on. If we don't, I fear that modern nations will basically fall down to third world status. And then who's in charge will be a matter of who has the most guns. And if we get to *that* point, the silver lining is that we'll almost certainly stop most of our carbon production. The downside being it'll be the apocalypse. Maybe a mild apocalypse, but *everything* would certainly change.

This stuff is really frightening. If not for myself, but for my kids. I can kinda sorta imagine squeaking by the next three or four decades, but my kids are gonna outlast that by double. By that time....who the hell knows what the world's gonna be like?
posted by zardoz at 10:32 PM on January 19, 2015


IF we can supplant fossil fuels in time, we'll keep on keepin on.

Energy isn't the only issue, unfortunately. We've already blown through four of nine 'planetary boundaries'. We're running out of arable land, forests, clean water, species, and nutrient cycling capacity, not just overrunning our carbon emissions.

I hate posting such negative stuff, though, even when it's important to raise the alarm, because I feel like people often use "it's hopeless" as an excuse to not care about environmental issues. Whether we can completely avert these environmental catastrophes or not, we can always change the trajectory a little, improve things for a few species or landscapes or neighborhoods, push back on the encroachment of development and industry on wild spaces in our communities.

We can't be so attached to the outcomes of our actions, like it isn't worth trying if we know it won't work; it's especially dangerous to get overly attached to outcomes at the national and global scales, where our individual actions are unlikely to make a substantial difference in the scheme of things. It's still worth trying, it's still the right thing to do, and we should do it even when it feels hopeless. Small improvements are still improvements. I'm not a religious person but one of my favorite quotes is from Martin Luther: "Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree." That idea keeps me going even when I can see no possible way for us to self-arrest our ecological free-fall.

Anybody who feels hopeless after reading things like this should go out and get involved in a local environmental issue tomorrow. Go to a town hall meeting about fracking, or developing a wetland, or restoring a native ecosystem. We'd all be much better off doing that than spilling another ten thousand words about how there's no hope for humans on Earth.
posted by dialetheia at 11:07 PM on January 19, 2015 [14 favorites]


I feel like people often use "it's hopeless" as an excuse to not care about environmental issues. Whether we can completely avert these environmental catastrophes or not, we can always change the trajectory a little, improve things for a few species or landscapes or neighborhoods, push back on the encroachment of development and industry on wild spaces in our communities.

I'm much less worried about a few species or development than I am about suitable crop temperature regions coupled with suitable crop sunlight/night ratio (plants are fussy about such things), and there being enough pollinators still surviving to allow food to be produced in 2060 or 2075, or whatever.

Our commitment to warming, right now, is gigantic. We are above 400ppm of CO2, and because of the time delay effect of the buildup of temperature due to greenhouse gas effects, even if we cut all our emissions globally to zero RIGHT NOW TODAY AS YOU READ THIS we have 30-60 years of global warming effects that we can't stop no matter what we try to do.

I don't use "it's hopeless" to not care. I make regular conscious choices to limit my impact on this planet. But whatever happens in my lifetime, it's the kids in elementary school today who get to deal with the shit that comes after that. That's our legacy, no matter how many tiny trajectories get changed.
posted by hippybear at 11:29 PM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


I see your point, and of course I'm very concerned about the broader climate issues too (I'm an ecologist, believe me I'm freaking out!). But those tiny trajectories mean climate mitigation: a wetland's flood protection, the difference between survival and extinction for an important plant species, a vital refuge for native pollinators, or an important resting place on a migration route for a keystone bird species. These things are all interconnected and the more connections we can keep in place, the less bumpy our ecological ride will be as our climate changes. Complex food webs and landscape diversity (as opposed to monocultures and development) grant our ecosystems resistance and resilience to the kinds of changes you are rightly worried about.

Besides, people taking local action means people actually thinking about and engaging with the planet they live on, not just our built environments and human systems, which in my experience tends to make them consider the environmental consequences of their actions a bit more carefully. All the better if they involve their kids; some of my happiest early memories are from a stream restoration project we did in elementary school. It had a profound impact on my values and on my career development to be exposed to this stuff so early, and I hope kids everywhere can get exposure to projects like that. Maybe it would put them in better shape to deal with the mess of a planet we're going to leave them.
posted by dialetheia at 11:52 PM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]




This is pseudo science almost as bad as climate change denial. Look how it makes "activist" statements and "scientific" statements then blurs them together as if the two are the same to render their (terrible) activism with a veneer of "objectivity" and enable them to just call anyone who disagrees a "denialist" and so no need to consider their actual arguments.

Anyone who uses the ridiculous meaningless garbage about "infinite growth on a finite planet" is talking pseudo-science as bad as climate change denial its a neo-malthusian argument that is trying to kill people every bit as much. Its loaded with a threat of violence and anti-innovation sentiment.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 2:46 AM on January 20, 2015


Look how it makes "activist" statements and "scientific" statements then blurs them together as if the two are the same to render their (terrible) activism with a veneer of "objectivity" and enable them to just call anyone who disagrees a "denialist" and so no need to consider their actual arguments.

Uh, I don't see anything of the sort. Perhaps you could give an example.

its a neo-malthusian argument that is trying to kill people every bit as much. Its loaded with a threat of violence and anti-innovation sentiment.

What a stupid thing to say. I bet you didn't even bother to read the entire thing. At the very least it appears you've completely missed the point of one of the comic's key visual metaphors.
posted by Quilford at 3:55 AM on January 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


When Stern said "climate change is a result of the greatest market failure the world has ever seen" he did not mean that market mechanisms had failed, but that they had not been tried. Environmental costs are important costs and where they are not priced due to public good/ externality problems they will be ignored or unreliably counted by consumers and firms. Market mechanisms such as Pigovian taxes or tradeable permits are a solution to such problems. The carbon intensivity of production is not fixed. With appropriate price signals and yes, related innovation, climate change can still be arrested. Of course, vested interests are a huge barrier, as is political tribalism. But market mechanisms work. Trot marketing pamphlets not so much. But they're not meant to.
posted by hawthorne at 4:29 AM on January 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


At the end of the book "Hot", the author says that we will be back with a mid-19th century standard of living, only (optimism here) with our current knowledge base intact. I wish there were other, more concrete yet non-dramatic portrayals of what this sad new world will be like. I think part of denialism is the inability to weigh cultural inertia against our lack of informed imagination. (If nothing else, let's learn more about what 19th century daily life was like.)
posted by mmiddle at 4:29 AM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Society does have a "whole-body response" capability that can come in to play, but it hasn't for climate change. Look at the concept of "the war effort" in the US, Russia, the UK, Germany etc. when they believed they faced an existential threat. We haven't done anything like that for climate change, much less (I imagine) for any of the other planetary boundaries linked to above.

As a result I think we've accepted many self-imposed constraints that make the problem harder. We have to balance development priorities and human rights against the impact of deforestation, for example; and I'm definitely not saying that's a bad thing in this specific case.

To take another example: Carbon capture and storage, which is vital if we want to go 'in reverse' from 400ppm CO2. There is no commercial case for it. The policies that were supposed to make CCS viable, like CERs, and cap-and-trade schemes like the ETS, are not working. The number of CCS projects being launched year-on-year is declining.

This is where the comic is spot-on in my opinion: why did we choose a market-based solution? Why not a vast government-funded infrastructure build-out? Why not "CO2 bonds"? Why not issue a new tax-free commodity-backed currency denominated in tonnes of stored CO2?

Because these are all solutions that are too expensive outside of a total-war mentality, aren't market based, go dead-against the "Polluter Pays Principle", may have a negative social impact by increasing inequality, etc. They're probably all bad ideas.

For me the evident failures of the approaches to date mean that everyone is rapidly scrabbling for new ideas. Some of them may not be great, but what I think we really, really need is for this whole-body response to kick in, and then make hard choices about what we're going to sacrifice, especially in the developed world, to try and make things less awful. Of course I don't think violence is part of the solution—and innovation surely is—but how can anyone disagree that something big and radical is called for?
posted by ianso at 4:31 AM on January 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


One way or another, the current form of capitalism will end.

But I expect it's going to take some sort of massive collapse for that to happen. Whether that's a market collapse, a governmental collapse, a health/environmental collapse or a disruptive technology remains to be seen. How big the human tragedy (or, I suppose, triumph if we're extremely lucky) will be also remains to be seen.
posted by Foosnark at 6:22 AM on January 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


"Nothing we do matters, but all that matters is what we do."

(That was quoted by a Russian woman demonstrating in Moscow on behalf of gay rights, interviewed by Jason Jones on The Daily Show, and attributing it to 'an American movie.')
posted by mmiddle at 6:50 AM on January 20, 2015


> And then who's in charge will be a matter of who has the most guns.

Plus ça change...
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:43 AM on January 20, 2015


oneswellfoop: even the Most Communist of Economists believe in continuing Growth

Well, except for the whole Degrowth movement.

Hawthorne: With appropriate price signals and yes, related innovation, climate change can still be arrested.

Sweet Hayek, hear our prayers!
posted by sneebler at 7:48 AM on January 20, 2015


I still think the answer to a lot of environmental woes is a smaller human population.
posted by Gwynarra at 8:25 AM on January 20, 2015


Sorry if my previous comment was snarky, but I don't think this: "[Stern] did not mean that market mechanisms had failed, but that they had not been tried." is correct.

If you look at what free-market think tanks like the Heartland Institute in the US and the IEA and Global Warming Policy Foundation in the UK spend their money on, it's not on educating the public about using market mechanisms to correct carbon emissions. Instead they devote a large part of their budgets to anti-science propaganda. I take this as a sign of how disconnected they are from reality.
posted by sneebler at 8:27 AM on January 20, 2015


> the answer to a lot of environmental woes is a smaller human population.

I do too, while turning my mind firmly away from how that could be achieved in time.
posted by jfuller at 8:39 AM on January 20, 2015


One "solution" would be for a large number of us to shrink our energy and consumer footprints to a smaller, more sustainable size. Many will see that as a fate worse than death anyway.

(Solution in quotes because I'm wary of proposing solutions, and I have no idea whether this is remotely possible for urban populations.)
posted by sneebler at 9:18 AM on January 20, 2015


I still think the answer to a lot of environmental woes is a smaller human population.

This is like saying that the way to solve my money problem is to increase my income. Well, yes, but the details are where the difficulty lies.
posted by Justinian at 1:31 PM on January 20, 2015


"Nothing we do matters, but all that matters is what we do."

Actually, I think it's "If nothing that we do matters, then all that matters is what we do." And I don't know where it comes from originally, but I heard it first on Angel: the Series.
posted by suelac at 3:29 PM on January 20, 2015


fwiw...
also btw, i have noticed an editorial shift at the washington post (bezos?) and with bloomberg; so you could cynically say billionaires trying to stop global warming so they can continue skiing in davos (under armed guard) but if that places them in the 'reality-based community' then, welcome!

that said, it's gonna take massive amounts of denouement...
Century Later, the 'Chinatown' Water Feud Ebbs - "Los Angeles began taking water from the Owens Valley nearly a century ago, inspiring the movie 'Chinatown'. But the fight that ensued may soon be over."
Mr. Schade, 57, his pursuit of Los Angeles finally over, celebrated the moment by announcing he was retiring as the chief enforcement officer for the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District. In that role, he installed cameras and air pollution maintenance stations across the lake bed, haranguing the city to step in whenever air pollution standards were violated.

No less striking, Los Angeles, after years of filing lawsuits against the basin asserting that the damage was not the city’s fault, is showing remorse.

“The city has accepted its responsibility,” Mayor Eric M. Garcetti of Los Angeles said in a ceremony marking the agreement last month. “We took the water.”

From one perspective, the agreement between the Great Basin district and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power was a technical one, reflecting advancements in the science of controlling dust.

Yet more than that, the agreement — along with the public contrition expressed by a new mayor, who arrived in 2013 — was a critical turn in a long-running tale that has at times riveted this state. It is a clash of cultures and regions, between a teeming metropolis and a sparsely populated expanse of mountains, valleys and lake beds, where temperatures range in a single year from 10 degrees to 120 degrees or more. About 31,000 people live across the three counties that make up the water basin — or about one person per square mile.

“We are very different people,” said Ron Hames, a member of the Alpine County Board of Supervisors and chairman of the Great Basin board. “In my county, we don’t have a bank. We don’t have a Starbucks. We don’t have a single stop light. There are 1,172 of us — depending on the day.”

William W. Funderburk, a Los Angeles lawyer who is vice chairman of the Department of Water and Power, said he was struck upon arriving by the tense atmosphere between the two sides. He and Mel Levine, a former member of Congress who is president of the department’s board, were the lead delegates to the negotiations.

“There was no trust,” Mr. Funderburk said. “It’s not an understatement to say that resolving Owens was similar to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Bad blood had just been passed on through the generations.”
that is all :P
posted by kliuless at 6:25 AM on January 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


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