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The Great Disconnect: the human disease of which climate change is but one symptom

Posted on 7 February 2013 by John Mason

'I grieved to think how brief the dream of the human intellect had been. It had committed suicide. It had set itself steadfastly towards comfort and ease, a balanced society with security and permanency as its watchword, it had attained its hopes - to come  to this at last...'

'...It is a law of nature we overlook, that intellectual versatility is the compensation for change, danger, and trouble. An animal perfectly in harmony with its environment is a perfect mechanism. Nature never appeals to intelligence until habit and instinct are useless. There is no intelligence where there is no change and no need of change. Only those animals partake of intelligence that have to meet a huge variety of needs and dangers.' 

from The Time Machine by H.G. Wells (1895)

 Connectivity. We utterly rely on it. Without connectivity, our civilisation ceases to exist. That's a big statement to make, but I will argue below how, over the past fifty years, many of us have lost the full understanding of its importance, or in many cases have not developed such an understanding. In a destabilising climate, that  detachment becomes all the more problematic.

Some connections we still manage to make with ease. We know that if there is a power-cut, things that run on mains electricity will, in the absence of a generator, not work. We know that if there is a heavy snowstorm then the roads will be paralysed. We fully understand that, if the systems we have devised go down, then disruption to our day-to-day lives will ensue until the problems are fixed, the power reconnected and the snow thaws. We see and feel the connectivity of these systems and plan for them accordingly - candles in the cupboard, a shovel in the car boot during the winter months, and so on.

 Like a human tide....

above: like a human tide... lights on the highway

But what else? What other connectivity do we see? We move as a human tide to and from our places of work or education, daily in and out, flood and ebb. We complete our tasks in return for numbers that are fed to our individual databases: these numbers may then be fed to the databases of larger organisations in return for stuff that we need or want, depending on the numbers available. We need nutrition so we obtain a certain amount of that on a regular basis, a proportion of which is eaten and another proportion of which is kept for a time then taken away to be buried in the ground. We want things so much that we believe that we need them: not tools for some trade or other but gadgets and widgets, to ostentatiously display to others but soon to become out-of-date, passe, to be superseded by later models and put in some hidden place and forgotten about. Some time ago a change in terminology occurred. We were no longer Humans: we became Consumers, processors of stuff. We are still reminded of this change in nomenclature, this reclassification, daily and hourly. In this semi-robotic mode of existence, bombarded with messages that encourage us to consume ever more stuff, we have become part-disconnected from the world out there. How much do we really know of that world and how much do we need to know, and why does that matter?

Bombarded constantly by messages to consume more....

above: bombarded with messages aimed to persuade us to consume more and more...

I live in a small market town amongst the rolling hills of Wales, a country somewhat advantageously situated in the NW of NW Europe, meaning that we stick out into the Atlantic a bit and receive plenty of rain. This is a distinct advantage with agriculture being one of the economic mainstays of the area. But even in a place whose strong link to the land goes back to its founding as a settlement, one sees examples of the Great Disconnect. A few years ago I helped a local group planting fruit trees at a local housing estate. The group got the local school involved and the kids came to help. One lad, in all seriousness, told me he didn't realise that trees were where apples came from. He thought they came from the supermarket. He was quite amazed. A year or two before, fishing on a nearby beach one evening, I was reeling in a dogfish (common at times on our coast) and as it emerged writhing from the surf a passing woman started pointing and wailing "uuugghhh! It's alive! It's alive!" And of course there was that widely-reported complaint to a travel agent a few years back: "No-one told us there would be fish in the sea. The children were startled."

Most people will find humour in such things - especially the latter complaint - but beneath them there lies a more serious problem: a lot of people understand neither the environment nor its vital importance to our continued wellbeing. In the disconnected world, food really does come from the supermarket - in many cases, for the sake of convenience or marketing, processed and packaged beyond recognition. That connectivity between it and the environment is broken, severed. Know about the latest antics of our sports or entertainment celebrities? Sure. Know about the vital minerals required for good quality vegetables to grow? Nope - why should I? The very relevant cast aside in favour of the utterly irrelevant..

The corporate world, of course, finds it easier to function with a disconnected populace, which is why it has promoted and continues to promote such disconnection. The more disconnected people become, the less awkward questions they are likely to ask. Indeed, the less questions full stop. Climate change denial is just one symptom of the greater malaise here: as long as people think all the environment represents is some place you go on vacation, in corporate eyes everything is fine. It is to their advantage to have people who think that the environment is quite irrelevant and that all environmentalists are nutters. They exist to make as much money as possible from you - the people - and that's a whole lot easier if people stop asking questions and stick to watching the football or the soaps, replete with those essential advertisements.

How some people seem to see the environment

above: how some seem to regard the environment..

This was not always so. One only has to go back forty years here in the UK to reach a point where it was normal for most people to grow their own vegetables: the high streets of our towns were dotted with small, independent traders selling quality, nonprocessed foodstuffs. Much food, especially fruit and veg, was seasonal and there were always things to look forward to depending on the time of year, provided the weather played ball. Thus, we grew up well aware of the connections between seasons, weather and food. Perhaps I could be accused of hankering for the past, of wanting to turn the clock back. Guilty. I miss such times: today I see in their place crowded supermarket aisles full of stressed-looking people trying to make sense of the ridiculous amount of 'choice' on offer. I see small packets of 'fresh' green beans in the depths of winter that have individually done more air-miles during their brief existence than I have done in my lifetime. Boxes of attractively-packaged gloop crammed with salt and additives, their identification often prefixed with 'farmhouse' (surely the correct spelling is 'factory'?). Yes, I want to turn the clock back. Not to living in a cave garbed in stout hessian, I hastily add, but back to a time when communities and small independent traders thrived and everything was less energy-intensive and, well, manic, headlong, polluting and, yes, less disconnected.

There are bits of today I would hang onto and bits of yesteryear I would ditch. Advances in communications and medicine would be in; pollution 1950s-style would be out. But pollution, 2010s style, would also be out. 'What you cannot see cannot harm you' is one of the most dangerous sayings out there. You cannot see hydrogen sulphide gas, but at concentrations of a few hundred ppm (at which level you cannot smell it either) it can be deadly poisonous. We have replaced the choking smogs of the 1950s with an insidious and slowly accumulating pollutant, carbon dioxide. It is invisible, but its effects are becoming ever more plain to see as trapped energy continues to build up in our oceans and atmosphere. And there will come a point where - if nothing is done about it - we will all be reconnected rather abruptly, be it via violent storms, sea level rise or food shortages and spiralling costs.

butterfly pollinating hawthorn

above: everything out there is interconnected: feeding insects pollinate flowering plants, for example - a vital connection in plant reproduction...

To my mind, we have two options regarding the Great Disconnect. We can a) make the reconnection ourselves at a relatively gentle pace over the coming years - this is the stuff the Transition Movement is all about - or b) we can carry on with this manic, headlong, polluting and disconnected state of living until it is done for us in a much less subtle manner as physical processes start to pull the plugs. We can either work with the environment or against it, but whilst pondering the choice to make, remember that the absolute bottom line is that if the environment dies, it takes Mankind with it. A healthy environment provides us with breathable air, drinkable water and all our food: the supermarket is merely one of several middlemen. We need to be connected to it. With that in mind, of the two options, I rather like Plan A. I'm doing my best to implement it in my own life, and perhaps not surprisingly, life feels a lot less stressful. One of the most powerful antidotes to stress is reconnection with Nature: this is often stated and I can confirm it from personal experience. But if we all adopted it, what would you keep and what would you leave behind?

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Comments

Comments 1 to 30:

  1. The environment wins when people rise to confront injustice. "The Tide" (protest song).

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O2Rm9uX9sPA

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  2. annienimad #1 - I like No One's Slave, No One's Master -

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=06WfMzlKEtQ

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  3. If we do continue on this path to destruction, future scientists, eons from now, will locate our suicide gene in the rubble. Man will have proved to be hedonistic to the detriment of civilization.

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  4. A great article on an important subject. Thanks.

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  5. In keeping with the musical theme, one of mine, wrt to all that is done 'in our name.'

     

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0dy56N5_d8

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  6. "The corporate world, of course, finds it easier to function with a disconnected populace, which is why it has promoted and continues to promote such disconnection."

    That strikes me as a sweeping generalisation. Could you be more specific about the entity here described as the "corporate world"? Could you provide any evidence for this alleged desire by this "corporate world" to promote a 'disconnect' amongst the populace?  

     

    It seems easier to point to the resulting *effect* large corporations have upon the populace i.e. easing the drudgery of every day life to the point that knowledge of the realities of farming or fishing has diminished to the point of non-existence, but that effect is surely a by-product of their existence not a coherent designed goal by any single entity. 

    For example I guess one could easily argue that the abolition of human slavery is a by-product of the "corporate world", but would one credit that entity as having that as an intial motivation?

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  7. Gardening (one of the main themes the Transition Movement) helps to reconnect. I am a software developer and I would like the world to keep communications technologies, medicine, and other hightech things, but I also would like to learn not to be too dependent on these things as fas as basic needs are concerned. Transition calls this "resilience" (stability to say global financial, global weather, etc. hasards)

    Gardening personally helps me to balance my office job and body movement and social activities. The garden I participate in, is a mixture of "Schrebergarten" (private garden on public ground) and community garden (on private or public ground): it's public ground and the city (Munich) provides basic services like preparation of the soil, organic fertilizers, water pump, big tools and organic seedlings, ond off you go, caring and harvesting. I am so fond of this concept, that I created a an internet forum for all the 1000 gardeners of the concept, hoping this helps to ease cooperation among people who might not meet, because some are in the garden during the morning, some during lunch break, some in the evening.

    Also, this kind of gardening helps to reduce CO2: you eat more vegetables (less animal products) simply because they abound, if you go there by bicycle, there is no CO2 for transportation; the water is pumped manually, so there is no CO2 for irrigation; since it's organic, there is no CO2 for huge effort on dangerous genetic crops and no CO2 for fertilizers and fertilizers and also no nitrous oxides from chemical fertilizers; also there is no packaging, no supermarkets, no intermediate cooling, little waste, ultimate freshness and it's movement (no need for workout on machines) and it's social (other gardeners). 

    Picture: Krautgarten (location Riem near Munich; there are several locations, LINK ):

    KrautgartenKrautgarten

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    Moderator Response: [RH] Hot linked URL that was breaking page format.
  8. Hi John

    thanks for this. I am currently reading through "Future" by Al Gore, which looks at similar themes.

    I live also in the UK at present. You will find many similar minded people at Navitron. 

    I decided a while ago at least if I could not influence people I would change my owm lifestyle...

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  9. Guys -

    I'm a great supporter, reader and follower of Skeptical Science - the website that uses peer-reviewed science to counter, again and again, the misinformation of climate denialists the world around.

    So what is this piece dong here? It's patently not about science. But it does have a rather sly political message of the sort that denialists will seize on to discredit SS: "there you go, we told you they were just pushing a leftie/hippy/tree-hugger agenda".

    I'll say this just once. The biggest threat we face in the war against ignorance and denialism is slipping away from a mono-focus on hard science. As soon as there's any hint of politics, we're lost. That's why, for instance, The Guardian - for all its great work in the environmental space - carries no weight with anybody who isn't a paid-up lefite... denialists dismiss any rational arguments as a work of political cant.

    Please, John, I urge you to re-think and not to publish this type of article again.

    (Aside from that, this post is not original: the sustainability people have expressed these thoughts - in better prose - elsewhere. My favourite: http://economicsofenough.blogspot.co.uk/)

    Dr Jonathan M

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  10. DrYew, I agree.

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  11. Dr Yew

    I assume your response is a joke.

    It's not a very good one.

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  12. John, I’m very grateful indeed to you for this fine essay. I personally share with you a dismay at how fast so many of us have lost these connections, as I also know the satisfactions of reconnecting to nature in this simple way of growing some of your own food. These are important thoughts you’ve set down—of the utmost importance—that positively need to be brought up and thought about deeply by all of us these days.

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  13. DrYew@9

    Our main focus here remains on the science and on countering misinformation. But the challenge that we face in addressing climate change is not just a technical one, values matter. Even science journals like Nature have political editorials, for example, the recent one on the Keystone XL pipeline, not that I agree with it.

    All of the contributors to Skeptical Science do it for free. We are driven by varied motives and have many diverse viewpoints, but I think it is fair to say that all of us want to see the slide into a climate crisis halted. That has led me into a lot of reading outside of hard science—on politics, economics, philosophy, psychology and even sociology—in an effort to try and understand why policy changes are so slow in coming. If only it were as easy as pointing out that some people on the Internet are wrong about the science.

    I believe that John Mason is quite right in pointing out how many of us have become detached from the natural world. I don't share all of his views (nor he mine) and I don't think that the kind of lifestyle he lives is a realistic one for most of us; the great majority of people are going to have to continue to live in big cities. I am currently working on a couple of articles that look at the disconnect that many of us have in connecting our knowledge of climate science to climate action. See, for example, this non-science opinion piece in the Royal Meteorological Society journal Weather.

    I disagree with you when you say that we need a mono-focus on the science. As somebody (Swift?) said: You can't reason somebody out of a position that they didn't reason themselves into. Similarly, we can't rely on just hard-sciencing our way out of a problem that we didn't hard-science our way into.

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  14. tlitb1,

    "Could you provide any evidence for this alleged desire by this "corporate world" to promote a 'disconnect' amongst the populace?"

    I didn't  say it was deliberate, did I? It is, as you said, an effect. Take advertising, for example: it creates via clever messaging an effective illusory projection in order to sell stuff to people that they do not necessarily need. The deliberate bit is creating the advertising message. The effect is to further disconnect people from actuality. This is promoted not to disconnect people but to make money, which is the raison d'etre for corporations. They may not desire to further disconnect people, but neither do they seem to have much concern that they are in the business of doing so: in the race to rake in more numbers than the competition that conscience-related bit has fallen by the wayside, a bit like the environment!

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  15. Dr Yew,

    Why do you suggest that recognising that the environment is of vital importance to Mankind's continued existence is the sole territory of left wingers or hippies? Conservatives need to eat, drink and breathe too!

    In fact, the reality is that it was the organised climate science denial movement who first projected the climate change issue as a right versus left debate. By doing so, they created the polarisation that still infests the online blog-wars. Events will catch up with this tactic at some point: like gravity, the laws of atmospheric physics don't care a hoot which guy you voted for! 

    In the meantime, there's room, I think, for a bit of philosophy here and there, because half the problem does stem from the way many view the world and the wanton consumerist lifestyles that many westerners (both left wing and right wing) have become accustomed to.

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  16. DrYew


    The hard science of Climate is a necessary precondition for dealing with AGW, but it is not a sufficient condition.  Because the problem is fundamentally psychological in nature. You correctly point out the type of reaction denialists (n fact many conservative types) have to supposedly 'touchy feely stuff' ,  their particularly psychological reaction.

    But John's piece, although expressed as a personal narrative, is dealing with a different psychological effect. Disconnect is something I suspect most Westerners are afflicted by.

    So there is a conundrum. Do we not discuss something like this because it will  trigger a negative reaction in some people, even if the topic is meant to address  a psychological issue in another group of people for whom thinking about this might be highly beneficial?

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  17. An apology to future generations.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WD5xFKulrNk 

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  18. From an email this morning from a friend in New Mexico:

    "Conservation is getting nowhere because it is incompatible with our Abrahamic concept of land. We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.

     

    "There is no other way for land to survive the impact of mechanical man, nor for us to reap from it the esthetic harvest it is capable, under science, of contributing to culture.

     

     

    "That land is a community is the basic concept of ecology, but that land is to be loved and respected is an extension of ethics. That land yields a cultural harvest is a fact long known but latterly forgotten.

     

     

    "Such a view of land and people is of course subject to the blurs and distortions of personal experience and personal bias. But wherever the truth may lie, this much is crystal-clear: our bigger-and-better society is now like a hypochondriac, so obsessed with its own economic health as to have lost the capacity to remain healthy. The whole world is so greedy for more bathtubs that it has lost the stability necessary to build them or even to turn off the tap. Nothing could be more salutary at this stage than a little healthy contempt for a plethora of material blessings.

     

     "Perhaps such a shift of values can be achieved by reappraising things unnatural, tame, and confined, in terms of things natural, wild, and free."

     

     

    Aldo Leopold
    (1948)
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  19. Dr Yew, you have a point but if you have the majority on the same page in relation to climate science, what then ? and while Andy seems to think we can all live in cities and install a few solar panels and spinning windmill blades, I don't think that will work, assumig you are trying to keep < 4 degrees cooler world.  If less than 4degress is not the end game, what is it ?

    It would be nice to see some firm numbers on the the destruction just doing that would cause, having everyone buy a new electric car, even if powered with renewables, billions of them ?  

    This seems one small step in perhaps providing a debate to what will the future have to be like ?  My partner and I are doing the modern version of Thoreau's iconic Walden, albeit with a Dam instead of a pond :)  as an expermineton in living a more simple existence for that very reason, we think there are no other options for the future but would love to see some informed debate with numbers.

    There was a similar piece here

    https://theconversation.edu.au/living-off-the-grid-is-possible-but-its-not-enough-to-fix-climate-change-10929

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  20. Skeptical Science is not in danger of losing its focus.  However, as a few comments have suggested, in a way, we err when we separate what we can do from what we should do. There is no perfect agreement on a scientific perspective of anything – that’s what makes Skeptical Science so valuable – so why must we demand perfect agreement and separation on the subject of ethics; what we should do? 

     

    I fully support the publication of this article and appreciate both the supportive and non-supportive comments.  After all, nobody is forced to read what they are not  interested in are they?

     

    Is Dr. James Hansen to be criticised because he speaks about his concern for his grandchildren?

     

    I could go on and on but want to keep this short.

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  21. I agree with skymccain, and I'll add that dialogue, as painful and slow as it is, is essential to the successful operation of a democracy over the long haul.

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  22. Interesting. Came back to see what else was commented.

    but Dr Yew???..."patently not about science. But it does have a rather sly political message of the sort that denialists will seize on to discredit SS: "there you go, we told you they were just pushing a leftie/hippy/tree-hugger agenda"

    I'm sorry, but I saw nothing unscience, sly, or something to seize on to boggle us stoned pigs.  I thought John's article was a delicious blend of where we are and what could happen, without stuff that boggles a statistical mind. Unless, of course, Yew consider the psychology of humanity a flabby soft science, ya, that'll connect Yew to a few good people...

    Thank you to the gardeners, and those antidotes about apples and such.  I wish those antidotes weren't true, but alas, the ignorance is the most boggling thing of all. Living in the country, snow drifted up to my windows, I am grateful for the water if it melts down into my well. Those are my dots.

    The connectedness is there, it's real, and despite those who don't see it, feel it, honor it, or protect it, it is still there, and will starve them during a great drought, or drown them on the seashore.

    If anything John, we need more of this expression about the reality of thought and action. Thank you.

     

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  23. Mason made a good point when he wrote, "You cannot see hydrogen sulphide gas, but at concentrations of a few hundred ppm (at which level you cannot smell it either) it can be deadly poisonous." Ozone, a Green House gas, makes for an even sharper point. G.M.B. Dobson, the "Dobson Unit" man wrote, “Fabry and Buisson, [4], in 1912, made careful measurements of the absorption coefficients of ozone and compared these with the absorption of sunlight by the atmosphere. From their measurements they concluded that there was about 0.5 centimeters of ozone in one vertical thickness of the atmosphere” (google the Wikipedia article on Dobson at  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G._M._B._Dobson, go to Ref 3, and click to get to his article on "40 years’ research on atmospheric ozone at Oxford: a history”; the quote above is in the Introduction). Ozone, in the stratosphere, protects all living things by absorbing the Sun's lethal ultraviolet radiation. Present in concentrations as small as a few parts per million in the air we breathe at ground level, it destroys our lungs. Incomplete combustion of fossil fuels like gasoline and diesel produces Ozone.  

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  24. From the Durban addendum on the Interfaith Declaration on Climate Change presented to Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of UNFCCC in Durban, Nov. 2011:

    "While Climate Change is a symptom, a fever that our Earth has contracted, the underlying disease is the disconnection from creation that plagues human societies throughout our world. We, the undersigned, pledge to heal this disconnection by promoting and exemplifying compassion for all creation in all our actions."

    Signed:
    Archbishop Desmond Tutu
    Ela Gandhi, Honorary President of WCRP (granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi)
    Bishop Geoff Davies, Executive Director of South African Faith Communities' Environment Institute (SAFCEI)
    Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, Catholic Church and Chair of KwaZulu Natal Inter Religious Council (KZN IRC)
    Dr. Mustafa Ali, Secretary General of African Council of Religious Leaders
    Bishop Michael Vorster, Methodist Church of Southern Africa, Natal
    Rev. Jenny Sprong, Methodist Church of Southern Africa
    Rev. Emmanuel Gabriel, Methodist Church of Southern Africa
    Stewart Kilburn, HIV 911
    Saydoon Sayed, World Council on Religions for Peace (WCRP) Coordinator, Secretary of KZN IRC
    Rev. Sue Britton, Anglican Church of South Africa
    Rabbi Hillel Avidan, South African Union of Progressive Judaism
    Professor Hoosen Vawda, Nelson Medical School
    Cannon Desmond Lambrechts, National Religious Association for Social Development
    Dr. Sylvia Kaye, Secretary of Bahai Faith of South Africa
    Dhunluxmi Desai, KZN IRC and Southern African Hindu Maha Sabha
    Sr. Agnes Grasboeck, Sisters of Mariannhill/ WCRP
    Jerald Vedan, Buddhist Representative for Inter Religious Council
    Pundit Raj Bharat, Atman Universal Movement and WCRP
    Martina Grasboeck
    Fauzia Shaikh
    Sister Usha Jeevan, Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University
    Seelan Moodliar, Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University
    Isaac Wittmann, Young Adults in Global Mission - Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
    Kristin Opalinski, Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa
    Rev. Lumka Sigaba, Methodist Church of Southern Africa
    Jaine Rao, Climate Healers
    Dr. Sailesh Rao, Climate Healers
    Mark Naicker, Catholic Youth
    Stuart Scott, Interfaith Declaration on Climate Change
    Paddy Meskin, President WCRP South Africa / Secretariat for KZN IRC
    Moulana Abdullah, Inter Religious Council on Peace - Tanzania
    Mahomed Yussuf, Sunni Jumait
    Maulana Mahomed Ebrahim, Sunni Jamait Ulama
    Priscilla McDougal, United Church of Christ
    Shamim David, Inter Religious Council of Zambia
    Mantanta Wasim, Inter Religious Council of Zambia
    Sheikh Idrisa Mtembu, Muslim Association of Malawi
    Sheikh Saleem Banda, World Assembly of Muslim Youth
    Adam Makwinda, World Assembly of Muslim Youth
    Fred Kruger, National Religious Coalition on Creation Care

     

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  25. Interesting - a broad church there, so to speak. Personally I come at this from an observational, science-based position, but I do think people of almost all persuasions are increasingly recognising that something has gone badly wrong. I know some very conservative people, politically-speaking, who also hold this view and are searching for answers. The simplistic 'left versus right' argument that some tend to put forward looks even weaker in the light of your above post.

    It doesn't matter, senso stricto, whether the world was created or came into being via geological processes (the evidence tells me the second one). We can discuss that at our leisure after solving the big problem of our time - making sure it still feeds, waters and oxygenates us into the long future, and to do that the climate needs to be relatively stable.

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  26. Trevor_S@19

    while Andy seems to think we can all live in cities and install a few solar panels and spinning windmill blades

    I don't think I quite said that.

    I have been influenced by Stewart Brand's take on the environmental advantages  of most of us living in dense cities (ie, not suburban sprawl). This report from the Brookings Institute has some numbers and this Guardian article comments on the generally smaller carbon footprints of urban versus rural dwellers.

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  27. @John Mason at 12:47 PM on 8 February, 2013

    Thanks for the reply.

    "I didn't say it was deliberate, did I?"

    I inferred you had in mind a deliberate intent specifically from the “...which is why [*it*] has promoted...” in the segment I quoted.

    I can understand speaking of observed large scale movements, tendencies, and even non-sentient chemical reactions in an analogous way to intention, but I always want to find out more, and question, when the author who uses them seems only to move within that analogous thinking without surfacing too often as you do to me.

    I want to know what you think when you say things like, as in your reply to me, ...

    "...but neither do they seem to have much concern that they are in the business of doing so..."

    "...that conscience-related bit has fallen by the wayside..."

    You seem to be clearly talking about motivations, or absence of good ones, in perceived powerful entities that you have a contrary position to.

    If that entity is best described as the "corporate world", then I would say that the "corporate world" is something that would more likely follow the dread "invisible hand" of Adam Smith. 

    i.e. be doing, or thinking, nothing. ;)

    i tseems to me that the corporate world is something that allows the luxury of detaching from modern society and speculating about what it is to be “disconnected”.

    Is that even a valid concept?

    The concept of “disconnect” implies there was previously a “connection” whereas I suggest if you were rather specifically arguing for a new method of connection then that would have greater resonance.

    I currently think that large scale economies and the “corporate world” have offered large parts of modern humanity the ability to find the time to make considerations of how best to “connect” to whatever they want to choose to connect to ;)

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  28. BTW. To the some who question the benefit of cities may I suggest some resource material?

     

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn16819-city-dwellers-harm-climate-less.html http://www.scientificamerican.com/cities/

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  29. I have to agree with the author - there is a fundamental disconnect between commercial decision making and science based - or even common sense based - understanding of the interconnectedness of people and the environment. Commercial decision making is about costs, competitiveness and profitability. There are legal obligations but limited ethical ones. There is no innate ethical framework there that requires deferring to science based reality. Climate policy, assessed in light of the commercial implications, is seen as imposing a burden of costs and regulations via government policy. Government policy is something seen as amenable to influence using familiar tools - lobbying, tankthink, PR and advertising, mostly focusing on and exacerbating economic hopes and fears. There is no requirement to defer to science or even to be fair minded or even truthful in the use of those tools of influence. In many respects what they are doing is no more than would be expected of them. But our elected representatives and community's leaders work within a framework where science based reality and truthfulness about it should not be dismissed or ignored. Commerce is doing what commerce does, but politics is letting us down. Politicians who act as the political voices of commerce, above the wider, longer term interests of their constituents have given opposition to action on climate a respectability and legitimacy it otherwise wouldn't have.

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  30. This is a great article. It has been criticised by some commenters for not being scientific enough. Well, OK, but it does highlight some of the reasons why it's difficult to explain scientific concepts to ordinary, everyday people.

    There is a general malaise in society today, and this article points very clearly to the reason for it.

    I think I might summarise these ideas on my own blog and link to this article. More people need to read it and give it serious thought.

    Thanks for publishing it here.

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