Saturday, July 18, 2015

It's Blogger Leprosy

Write a post about Greece or Harper, the NDP or the F-35, just about anything and readers will post comments.  Sometimes just a couple, sometimes a lot.

But there's one topic that seems to always turn readers mute - climate change. That logging thingee shows that plenty read it but nobody wants to get into a discussion or a debate or even just tell me to shove off.  It's like they read it, jump into some hole and pull the lid tightly down.

As the science keeps pouring in it's obvious that this is the most important issue to us as a country, a people or as family members and individuals.  It just could be what takes down our global civilization.  In fact there's quite a good chance of that, a real probability.

What perplexes me most is that this is Canada!  We still have options, mainly adaptation strategies, that have long been foreclosed in most other nations. If we chose not to act those options will slip through our fingers too. Is that what we want not just for us but also for our kids?

Most of the people who read this self-identify as progressives and are politically engaged even as they jostle to champion parties and leaders for whom this is nowhere near the top of their political agenda.

I'm not saying we can turn this off or roll it back. Those illusions left me a long time ago. That said there are things that can be done to bolster our society, to improve our vital social cohesion, to reinforce our essential infrastructure to meet these changing and demanding conditions if we can overcome the inertia, this miasma that now blocks any effective action.

It's going to take energy to overcome that inertia and to build that energy we need engagement and discussion, debate and, if possible, consensus on what we all must demand from our political caste.  Yet even that modest beginning seems to elude us.  I can't understand why.


Anonymous said...

I email jokes to friends and family across Canada also to Europe on a regular basis.
More times than not , one sent joke means another joke received.
When I send an article on global warming I never receive a reply.
The recipients of my emails are either parents of grandparents.
I have to conclude that they are in a state of personal denial.
They are willfully ignorant of the state of the climate other than when it effects their travel arrangements.
Willful ignorance is rampant amongst most populations.
The western populations be it the masses or the one percent have self interest at heart.
Self interest be it the masses or the one percent is the word of the day.
It is not too hard to realise why this is.
We are surrounded by advertising, media and political ambition that pushes the masses this way.
We live in a world where the populous will drive twenty kilometers to save $5 on an item that is on sale!
We live in a world where the populous considers window shopping , entertainment.
All mainstream political parties are the same; we have little chance of change.
The left wingers demand just as much as the right wingers from our environment.
Whilst I refuse to give up; I feel that we, the human race, are fucked.

Anonymous said...

Stop with the drama queen thing Mound.

Toby said...

Frequently, the reason I don't comment is that I have nothing to add, nothing to argue with. Some subjects are so well reported that there is nothing to say other than Amen!

Pamela Mac Neil said...

So, is what you're upset about, that people don't comment that much when you write about climate change?

Anonymous said...

Closet , denialists?
Should an article appear on this site stating the wrong doings of Steven Harper or Christy Clark , the comments would writhe with condemnation and malice.
Why do we not have the same outrage against the ravages of global warming?
Is it because we, society, is not willing to make the sacrifices that we need to make to protect the planet?
Is a simpler lifestyle so repugnant?
Dare I say that those under the age of 70 that were born in North America have never seen a world without the privileges of life such as a car, home ownership, fresh fruit and veg 12 months per year exotic vacations etc?
Just what are YOU willing to give up to protect the planet?
Whilst I think we are screwed I intend to give the Greedy Bastards Club as rough a time as aI can.

The Mound of Sound said...

@ Toby. What I need is for people to get engaged with this incredibly difficult issue. That's what I'm trying to do. I tried to explain it in this post on Thursday:

I've seen that, when we get a critical mass - not even that large - engaged, a few committed people can take on Enbridge, Kinder Morgan, even Beelzebub himself.

Yet when it comes to climate change and the significance of it to Canada, the Canadian people and generations not yet born, we go limp, silent.

Anyone who has read this blog the past six or seven years won't suggest this is "about me." I've had a very rich life on three continents and, at times, in dangerous circumstances. None of that is going to do anything to make a difference in what we, and you of what I consider my "younger" generation, my kids and theirs are facing.

I'm not proud of all of my past and I have a temper that has betrayed me from time to time but that's of no moment whatsoever. I'm desperately trying to energize a lot of the really good people I've met to get behind this problem, make their leaders put it where it belongs, atop their legislative agenda.

As for being a drama queen, I can only point to my last, quite large, lawfirm where the students began calling me "Leo." I didn't know what they were getting at until it came out that it was an acronym for "Large Evil One."

If anyone thinks the science that keeps pouring in, week in and week out, is melodramatic then they've got a serious problem, one that has knock on effects to others.

There is a reason this is not first and foremost on the agenda pile of the Libs and NDP and that's because of you.

But here's an offer. If you want to step out behind your cloak of Anonymity, I'll be happy to put you up at my place for a night and then we can air our differences in private. Sound like a plan?

Troy Thomas said...

In my own case, it's burnout. I try to write on climate change, but there's little fire within, anymore. I might write a thousand words, and they're not what I want said, at all.
I speak with people, all the time, and they have trouble understanding. They speak of solutions, but I always tell them, any solution you can think of, it probably doesn't already go far enough.
What we need is radical change. Revolution.
We probably need to stop what we are doing, today. Give up our luxuries, and live in a new world of rationing. All of us. Not just us plebs, but the rich and powerful, too.
But this idea is so radical, so revolutionary, so counterintuitive to the current major ideology in the world, today, that it could only provoke ridicule, anger, and violence even merely suggesting it.
Climate change is daunting. I want to say more and more, but I become less and less comprehensible the more I try to say. I become weaker the more I argue.
But that's just me. I can't speak for others.

The Mound of Sound said...

@ Pamela. It's not that supposed progressives don't comment "enough" it's that they rarely comment at all. I was engaged in the Save the Coast campaign almost from the outset. At first there weren't all that many of us and, for a while, I never thought there would be. Yet, as we discussed, debated and argued with others, our numbers swelled. What we were fighting for struck a chord that already existed in so many others. They were just waiting for an invite and then they got engaged, brought in others, and energized what became, long before any of us really appreciated it, a movement at once both diffuse and cohesive.

I was floored when the petro-pols began speaking of "social licence" as an absolute prerequisite to pipeline/supertanker development. Social licence - in other words it's our call - every First Nation and all the rest of coastal British Columbians. Will they betray that vow? Of course they will unless they fear us more.

I wouldn't have believed we could have succeeded so well. There's this powerful feeling in coastal communities that we've finally got traction and that resistance isn't futile. It's not the field of "drama queens."

We know we can't count on the government, even if it is one of the opposition parties, to change any of this but we all feel stronger in today's "resistance."

The Mound of Sound said...

Troy, what can I say? Rarely have I felt so much on the same page with another online friend. What makes it so interesting is that we see so many of these challenges/threats through different experiences and ridiculously different cultural influences. That's the sort of distinction that usually, instinctively puts people on guard,builds walls no matter how subtle, but I've known you long enough that I automatically try to translate, to imagine everything you describe without my culture's filters.

The thing is, Troy, look at the campaign we're waging against Northern Gateway and Kinder Morgan. Look at how unfocused that was just a few years ago.

Now, don't take this the wrong way (if there is one) but I powerfully believe a big step forward would to recruit northern FN's people to come to southern BC - not to protest or campaign or give anyone some excuse to be pissed off - but simply to be available to meet with non-native supporters of the tanker ban and ex[lain what's really at stake for First Nations, and all British Columbians in the north. I guarantee you this. Done properly this effor will generate virtually unresistable support, first in the north, second along the coast, and finally the Lower Mainland. And I can't think of a better fellow to handle that final stage than you, Troy.

Think about it. Contact me at

Rural said...

Well Mound, I cant speak for others but in my own case its a combination of "what more can be said" and "what can I really do to change things" other than my continuing efforts to highlight Harpers anti environment / anti science actions in this regard. Will a different government be more supportive of the efforts to clean up our act, maybe. Let us hope that the Greens get strong enough support to hold the balance of power, voting green where they have a reasonable chance of getting elected is one of the most practical things we can do at this point in my view.

Lorne said...

Don't forget, Mound, that news stories and blog posts offer additional information that each may use in his her own battle against the single biggest threat to our collective existence. That, in itself, makes them valuable. Without a well-informed populace, nothing can or will change.

Hugh said...

BC has had a carbon tax and a carbon credit scheme since 2008. After dipping in 2009, GHG emissions in BC appear to be on the rise again.

The Mound of Sound said...

The sense I'm getting is that a lot of us now view climate change with a measure of resignation, a battle already lost. I have two problems with that. First is what it means to our grandkids. Second is what it means to humanity in all those other nations less advantaged, more vulnerable than ours.

If, as some data is suggesting, 2014 marked the beginning of the great warming ("catch up")event that we've been told to expect for years we can expect to see some dramatic change starting very soon.

We've been told there'll be this point at which every year becomes hotter than the hottest year in the previous 150-years (since record keeping). The Caribbean is one of the places that's supposed to begin. By 2040 we're all supposed to be in that new climate condition.

Maybe we can't stop it now. Maybe we've already triggered too many "self-reinforcing natural feedback loops" that evidence runaway (natural) global warming. The promise was always that, if we could only keep warming to no more than 2C we had a reasonable chance of avoiding runaway global warming. Maybe we just plain got that wrong.

I don't know. There's a lot of uncertainty. People keep running the numbers, adding new research to the existing mountain of reports, and a lot of it is pretty negative.

Here's the thing. We have to adapt to what's coming. That is going to require a good deal of change - social, economic, even military. These present issues we need to discuss and debate. What do we want? What do we need? What are we willing to give up in exchange?

If we can't forge some sort of powerful consensus, those decisions will be made for us and we probably won't be pleased with the outcome.

The Mound of Sound said...

@ Lorne. That's true enough, I suppose. I would have hoped that more of us would have coalesced around some effort to compel our leadership to respond to this in both adaptation and mitigation. We still have some options in our country that others have lost and we need to preserve those but that's going to take a collective will that doesn't seem to be gaining any traction.

@ Hugh - British Columbia is facing no end of problems meeting its carbon reduction commitments. Our forests were once a massive carbon sink and they're now a carbon bomb, itself a self-reinforcing natural feedback loop. Warmer winters triggering pine beetle infestation, beetles causing the die off of many thousands of square miles of forest all along the Pacific coast of Canada and the US, hot and dry conditions turning those trees into tinder and the inevitable forest fires releasing soot and CO2.

Governments which formerly kept those forests on their emissions books when they were carbon sinks want them gone now that they're a carbon bomb.

Now Crusty wants to develop fracked natural gas, which creates an added emissions problem. She disingenuously claims that BC deserves a carbon credit for that because it will allow Asia to wean itself off coal.

Dana said...

We're monkeys.

The grove of trees across the valley is on fire.

But my tree isn't.

If my tree was on fire I'd leave it. Even though I really like this tree I have no idea how to put a fire out so if it catches fire I'll leave it.

We're monkeys with an inflated sense of our importance and no evolutionary capability to generate a plan for something that isn't an immediate threat.

I think Guy McPherson is right.

Anonymous said...

Good to mention Guy McPherson. Note that he has a prominent link to suicide prevention lines on his blog because he is aware of the despair among many scientists that nobody listens. For a start, he has dealt with it by moving off the grid.

Here’s another guy who had to move . ..

Willy said...

My kids and their friends are in their early 40s, working hard, making good bucks raising young children. The rare times that I get to sit with them and have a discussion about politics or more frequently now climate change, I am shocked at how little they are aware of what is happening to our country politically or what is happening to the earth and the real threat to our basic existence.

Their responsives are respectfully condescending, explaining that they are just trying to get by and raise their kids the same way I did when I was their age. Or as one of their friends said a month ago, "yes we get it, but life has to go on".

At which point I lost it saying with eyes bugged out of my head "You are mising the point, it doesn't".

Then somebody asks who won the game last night and are the burghers ready and I go play with my grandkids.

There are no rain forests or pristine coast lines to save in Mississauga, just interst rates and day care spots.

The Mound of Sound said...

Dana, I've wrestled with McPherson's predictions. It began well before I was directly aware of him. It began with the loss of Arctic sea ice; the retreat of the glaciers; the drying of the tundra and the resultant fires releasing black soot across the north, especially the Greenland ice sheet; the thawing of the permafrost releasing CO2 and methane; the melting of seabed methane clathrates releasing methane to the atmosphere. All of these things appeared to me to be "natural feedback loops" that, as I understood it, we were hoping to stay within 2C in order that they would not be triggered. Yet here they were, self-reinforcing, one playing off all the others, steadily worsening, the nature and territorial range of their impacts growing ever wider. It's almost as though nature didn't get the memo about the 2C thing.

It seems some, like James Hansen, were right. That 2C target is way off mark. It's 1C, if that for we're already at 0.8C and these self-reinforcing natural feedback loops, some 50 of them by McPherson's latest count, have already occurred. Yet, while we're at 0.8C today, our existing atmospheric carbon loading will continue to warm the planet for generations and we have already locked in 1.5C of warming even if we cut off all emissions today and that's not going to happen.

We're still focused on emission cuts which, while helpful, still results in further carbon emissions to increase the existing atmospheric carbon loading, increasing that locked in 1.5C.

So if, at 0.8C we have already set off 50-natural feedback loops what does this mean in the context of our existing atmospheric carbon loading and the proposed and disturbingly vague partial emissions cuts? Who knows, maybe we can somehow limit man-made warming to 2C but nature, through natural processes we cannot arrest, is bringing its own emissions to the party (tundra and forest fires, thawing of permafrost, seabed methane) along with other warming phenomena such as the loss of Arctic sea ice albedo.

Not only are we still going ahead with GHG emissions while trying to slow down (sort of), now we've got nature behind us giving us a huge shove. There's not a lot of confidence left that we'll meet our 2C target in any case so maybe nature's contribution from runaway global warming is moot.

That certainly seems to be McPherson's view. He sees in those 50 mutually-reinforcing natural feedback loops evidence that he argues can only be interpreted as mankind having lost this fight before we were even ready to step into the ring. You heard him, he said it's over, maybe as early as 2040.

2014 the warmest year ever. 2015 expected to be hotter yet by a large margin. 2016 expected to see the pace of warming continuing to set absolute records. Some say we're on the threshold of the "great warming" event that's been long predicted.

Did you read that piece I put up yesterday about the overdue subduction event on the Cascadia fault? In the final three paragraphs there was a discussion of how we're great at imagining future disasters but not in a way that helps to avert them:

"The Cascadia situation, a calamity in its own right, is also a parable for this age of ecological reckoning, and the questions it raises are ones that we all now face. How should a society respond to a looming crisis of uncertain timing but of catastrophic proportions? How can it begin to right itself when its entire infrastructure and culture developed in a way that leaves it profoundly vulnerable to natural disaster?"

Maybe as a people, as communities, as individuals we lack some quality or trait essential to meeting crisis of this magnitude. Maybe our civilization, now global, is now genuinely self-extinguishing. If, as McPherson insists, that is so can you imagine when people - families, communities - have to finally confront that reality? What will we say to each other?

The Mound of Sound said...

Hey, Willy. I know what you're dealing with. My kids are younger than yours but they seem to think much the same.

My eldest daughter is getting married in a few months and they want to have kids. It took me a good while to figure out a response.

I told them that the world today is not the world in which they were born any more than the world in which they grew up is apt to be available to their children as they grow up. Because of that, prospective parents today have a unique and awful responsibility that never befell me.

I said it's not my business to tell them what they must do but I do insist that they properly inform themselves of the latest science as to what lies ahead for what would be the "normal" lifespan of a child they might bring into the world. Then I told them I wanted to hear what they will tell their child/children in 2030 or 2040 if the predictions of McPherson and others prove to be accurate.

They've said my terms are reasonable. However, like you, I don't know when or even if they'll respond.

If we can't find some common ground I'm considering the idea of changing my will to skip a generation, cut out my kids, and leave everything to their children in trust because I fear they'll need it most.

The Mound of Sound said...

See, look at that. There are things for us to discuss, ideas to be exchanged, new thoughts to introduce and toss around. I'm somewhat encouraged by this dialogue.

Anonymous said...

The response of all of us to the (very likely) substantial climate change offers (me) a tantalizing glimpse into human (mine included) psychology “living” experiment:
a. denial
b. procrastination
c. envy
d. greed
e. responsibility
f. guilt
g. hope
Feel free Mound to continue with other letters of alphabet…

I am also of opinion that the future of humanity is bleak, alas 100% extinction is far from certain.

Dana said...

Indeed, what *will* we say to each other?

Given the propensities so far historically demonstrated I suspect some of the things we'll say to each other will be things like 'give me all your stuff or I'll kill you' or 'turn your life over to jeebus (insert favourite invisible superhero here) or I'll kill you' or ' this is your fault I'm going to kill you'.

There will certainly be pockets of kindness and compassion, as there always are, but what predominates in human behaviour will continue to predominate.

The global rightward/authoritarian/militaristic tilt is the preparation. I'd rather a different kind of global tilt would happen but unconscious fears and greed run this species more than does conscious love and compassion.

But I'm full of shit so who cares.

Purple library guy said...

Well, I used to respond to such posts with moderate frequency, but I wouldn't want your point to be inaccurate. Guess I'll stop now.

Dana said...

Promises, promises, promises.

The Mound of Sound said...

Jesus, you two. Knock it off.

Dana, there's one real issue I'm having with McPherson. The web page sidebar about suicide seriously creeps me out. It makes the whole thing feel a bit cultish. Even if his worst predictions come to pass there's no need to start implanting suicidal thoughts in his readers'minds. 2040 is still a good way off and I have about a zero chance of seeing it. A lot of people younger than me will rise to Valhalla when Loki makes their brakes fail or Thor strikes them with lightning. Odin sees to these things, don'cha know?

Even if, at some point in the course of this century, we are toast, there's a lot of good we can do in the meantime.

If checking out does become a viable option I think we'll know when we get to that point.

Anonymous said...

That 'point' is a different locus for different persons.

I have no problem with that sidebar. I wouldn't have a problem with that sidebar anywhere really.

Dana - too lazy to change accounts. Sold the cottage today. G'night.

Steve said...

We have an 84 year plan to do something sometime somewhere somehow, what more do you want. (How about a JFK like Moonshot)

Anonymous said...

Speak of the environmental issue to people, especially those known, and they recoil. Most don't think it is a problem. When ever those people who proposed an idea or change down through the ages, they have met with blanks. Some even went to jail or where institutionalized. I'm sure there are those out there, who would like to do the same to people who recognize climate change. Submitted...Anyong

Northern PoV said...

For many its cognitive dissonance writ large.
For others: Too depressing to comment on because we lost the climate battle a long time ago.

Real Q now: Will we face the deluge as a (1) socialist collective or a (2) capitalist everyone-for-themselves nightmare. (Hint: we are headed to (2))

The Mound of Sound said...

@ Anyong - the "boiling frog" syndrome.

@ NPoV - I just can't bring myself to embrace apocalyptic visions. I will, however, maybe pick up a few more boxes of .308 Win.