Denning: "when will you stand up and offer solutions?"

In all the Heartland-related kerfuffle recently, I find myself going back to Denning's 15 minute presentation to their conference last year.

Only a free market can bring this kind of change about. We are not going to get this kind of change from interventionist government. Who’s going to advocate for these effective solutions? Do you think Greenpeace is going to advocate for this? Is that what you’re waiting for? Evidently. If free market advocates shirk their responsibility, others will dictate policy. Is that really what you want? When will you stand up and offer solutions? Are you cowards? To recap, in case you missed it: everyone in this room understands climate well enough. It is not worth your time to argue about the third decimal point. Climate is going to change a lot in the next few decades – and policy will be enacted to deal with perceived needs. The political right has been AWOL in proposing solutions to these problems. And the world needs you to be engaged.

Never mind, eat the fruit

"Your God person puts an apple tree in the middle of a garden and says do what you like guys, oh, but don't eat the apple. Surprise surprise, they eat it and he leaps out from behind a bush shouting `Gotcha'. It wouldn't have made any difference if they hadn't eaten it."

"Why not?"

"Because if you're dealing with somebody who has the sort of mentality which likes leaving hats on the pavement with bricks under them you know perfectly well they won't give up. They'll get you in the end."

"What are you talking about?"

"Never mind, eat the fruit."

Douglas Adams, Restaurant at the end of the Universe

Kindred spirits

"... people generally experience a strong motivation to associate themselves meaningfully with groups of 'kindred spirits' to reduce feelings of boredom and loneliness. To cope with and alleviate such feelings of loneliness, people pursue various strategies, including shopping (Rubenstein and Shaver 1980). The desire for human interaction thus may drive some shoppers to stores in which they find salespeople friendly and communicative."

Yue Pan and George M. Zinkhan, “Determinants of retail patronage: A meta-analytical perspective,” Journal of Retailing 82, no. 3 (2006): 229-243. p.231

David Attenborough is an alien robot

Was just trying to find out if it's really true that the USA broadcast of Frozen Planet will not include the last episode, 'on thin ice', when I found the Daily Mail apoplectic and red-in-face: "Moving polar bear footage filmed in Germany! Eight million people tuned in! Show sold around the world! BBC denies it misled viewers!!!" That list should really end with "BBC causes mass jowel-shaking incident among the home counties! A-brbrbrbrbrrbbr!"

It's a technique that's been used in previous BBC wildlife programmes, of course, for filming something that would otherwise be next to impossible. Even in this series, I'm guessing they probably didn't have a tiny side-on camera able to follow this vole. (In fact, obviously not, it would have been impossible.) It's probably my natural leaning towards the BBC's liberal commie outlook, but I didn't feel particularly cheated by that. Actually, in both cases above, I thought, 'wow, that must have been a bugger to set up.'

What could possibly have triggered the Mail to turn the jowel-shaker to 11 on this? Might it be anything to do with the great global warming conspiracy, perpetuated by the final episode's blatant presentation of actual, physical evidence? I mean, did you see the number of scientists who are clearly swindling the taxpayer solely so they can fly around the arctic in cool planes looking sexy and rugged?

Polar bears, of course, are pretty much guaranteed to trigger this kind of reaction. Witness the recent suspension and reinstatement of Charles Monnett, following his devious reporting of seeing four dead polar bears.

Backing off slightly from my own buttons being pushed, there's an interesting comparison to the recent Jeremy Clarkson nonsense. Paul Sinha did a good job on the Now Show: however clumsily, Clarkson was actually making a joke about attempts to provide balance, giving both sides of every story. But the meme that escaped was too good to question for many, with some even calling for legal action. Hmm.

Whether the Grauniad or the Mail, pushing your reader's buttons sells papers. It gives them a little addictive high and makes them feel vindicated in their own beliefs. The long hard slog of building a daily, working relationship with the truth is much less exciting.

Update: Discovery have decided to air the climate change episode, it seems.

Boycott everything you're against!

Jeremy Hardy had a quality rant on the News Quiz last week. I'd missed what he was ranting about - Louise Mensch on have I got news for you sneering at the Occupy protesters:

They tweet about it regularly on their iphones, perhaps in between getting cafe lattes. And they're housing themselves in some very fancy tents. So they're against capitalism, except for the lattes.

Hislop and Merton have a good go, but Jeremy's spot on:

Oh god, if you'd just think more. If caffeine were nationalised or the city was bustling with anarcho-syndicalist coffee collectives, the protesters would go to them, but we have to deal with society as it is. I don't remember before the mass privatisations of the eighties, Tories boycotting the phones, gas, electricity, water or anything made from steel. And to this day, conservatives will post a letter, phone the fire brigade - even use the NHS.

Which just goes to show that the BBC really is a leftie-liberal hornet's nest. That aside, though, Jeremy's making a pretty good point.

Hypocrisy finger-pointing crops up regularly in climate arguments. Al Gore probably holds the title for most pointed at, but my favourite is Watts calling Copenhagen `a day that will live in hypocrisy' because politicians used a lot of cars. The hypocrisy stemming, presumably, from all the carbon used to put the thing on, rather than rich and powerful people having big cars.

Hypocrisy finger-pointing is very effective: the message gets out there, and its source won't matter at all if it sticks. In a globalised world, there are two morally consistent positions: amorality or suicide. Everyone else has to put up with being tangled in the daily moral quagmire of a globalised economy. On that, looking forward to cheering myself up watching blood in the mobile.

Year zero-and-a-bit

Endings and beginnings: always good times for leaning back in one's chair, squinting at the middle distance and indulging in turgid wiffle. CiB'll hopefully get back to actual topics at some point, but for now I've just got to go with the turgid.

A little over two weeks since the thesis got handed in, the ol' noggin is starting to poke a whimpering nose out into the world again. Five years, that trip was. Learned stuff? Probably. Mostly I just majored in the universe.

Well, that's not strictly true. Exactly the opposite too: something so arcane ended up in the thesis that I can't really explain it to myself, let alone anyone else. Having no viable answer when someone asks what your PhD's about: fairly normal while you're doing it. I'm finding people to be less patient with non-answers now I've actually written it all down and handed it in. Still, I'll leave talking about all that until after the viva. Who knows how that'll go?

In the meantime: what the hell happened to the world? I was tunnel-focused on the PhD for a while there, and when I looked up, everyone was running round in circles wailing. Is the world ending? Yes? Oh. Well... I shall manfully, er, man the keyboard, up to the power outages at least. They'll take my cordless mouse from my cold dead etc. If the power does go, I'll probably just sit here anyway. What else am I gonna do?

You can tell there's a crisis brewing: there are gurus everywhere. Pontification indices are through the roof. A marketplace of Ideas and Systems lines the walls of the black hole we're being sucked into. You can pick n mix any bunch of them: who knows what might work? What I like about the Occupy Wall Street movement is its simplicity. It trails all the usual protest baggage, and I sincerely hope the SWP are still doing their sterling work of bus-putting-on while wondering whether it's that shift in class consciousness they've been so patiently waiting for.

But the simplicity is inescapable. There's been a massive, furrowed-brow pause after everyone - everyone - saw the financial sector get thrown truly unbelievable amounts of money. The numbers were large enough that it didn't seem possible it was real: surely just created by fiat, not the same stuff used to pay for healthcare, jobs? The effects, of course, have turned out to be quite real. One of the most collosal state bailouts in history (proven effective) has somehow segued into Attack of the Tories, and not just in the UK.

I understand almost none of it. I've been trying, but there are still wopping great blobs of ignorance stuck to my visor of, er, understanding. Heh. It's taken two weeks, as I say, for me poor brain to develop any sort of curiosity, but - wow - it's improving a bit now, and isn't the world offering up a whole heap of brain-food? Well done world for all that collapsyness.

The most fundamental question is still as I nihilistically moaned after watching Age of Stupid: are we any better than bacteria in a petridish? It's a nihilistic-sounding question, but it isn't. If it turns out our intelligence helps us not at all, we'll just enter into a collapse phase - maybe a death phase if we're ingeniuous enough to properly sterilise the planet. Our ability to see it coming or invent ways to avoid it may have zero effect. We'll just get to watch. We'll combine that with a little denial that any limits exist at all: some of the bacteria in the petridish will argue the petridish itself is a socialist subterfuge that does nothing but limit true bacterial potential - shortly before they run out of nutrients or choke on their own waste.

After the Indonesian Tsunami, there were no shortage of clerics willing to blame their flocks for straying from God. No amount of actual physical evidence is going to convince some people. Perry doesn't feel obliged to pause even for a moment, despite his state burning (though it's good to see scientists boycotting his state's attempt at direct scientific censorship. I'm sure WUWT would have covered such a blatant, direct attack on free scientific speech... oh, no, turns out they didn't.)

Ach. None of that helps, does it? The gurus are all shouting at the same time, power structures are doing what they do. People like me are here blogging, or knocking up goodies for our own guru CVs, depositing at the bank of whuffie. How - how - do we get from here to... where? A hundred year's time with carbon output stabilisation well behind us? There's probably enough carbon in the ground for us to carry on if we like: peak etc won't save us. Easily 1000ppm by 2100, and who knows how high we can aim if we really put our minds to it?

As Denning so awesomely spent 15 minutes at Heartland pointing out, too many people are AWOL from the debate: `the petridish is socialist'. It would be good to have them back. (Or it would be good for someone to convince me that somehow heading towards 1000ppm co2 by 2100 is just fine, we need do nothing.)

I found myself looking back to old journal after I finished and was rather surprised how much I wiffled about God. The whole God thing's cropped up before, but only because atheists are angry at God for not existing - and that gives secret pretend atheists like me cover for writing about it. What's odd is - talking of beginnings and endings - I started this ridiculous academic trek from South to North over fifteen years. 1996, a box-room in Bournemouth, winter drizzle on the skylight, just getting ready to go the job-centre having moved there the week before. And through so much of that time, up to relatively recently, I'd openly use the word, and clearly didn't consider myself an atheist. I look back and wonder: did it all just fade away?

It's probably more just that the word has too much baggage. But I thought I'd better mention it cos I suspect there's going to be more wiffle about it here. To quote Vinay: 'When they say `why?' what am I supposed to say? That I thought that the god I saw in all beings needed a place to live and something to eat?' Hmm, dunno if that's it. Dunno what I'm on about really. Brain bit like porridge.

Weeelll... not going to go down as the most eloquent blog post ever, but thought it best to get the fingers moving. I'll try and focus a little more from now on. Must do better.

The Pin of Doom

The Pin of Doom (red, bottom right) nears its journey's end. That board started the year with nine months on it. That was about nine months ago, coincidentally enough. The Pin of Doom took little steps, the months fell away. It feels a little like I might be stuck in a thesis-version of Zeno's paradox: I swear I can only ever get half-way toward hand-in.

In another coindinkidink, we got two romanesques in the veg box today. I think I shall probably not make a habit of blogging about the veg box contents.

Right: onto the next halfway-there....

You just can't get the rioters these days

Comment on Jonathon Jones' article about the Shard: "and nobody thought to burn it down while they had the chance. You just can't get the rioters these days."

Funny, earlier today I was wondering what would have happened if anyone had headed for parliament or the City rather than Foot Locker? Well, it would have clearly counted as political. Does Parliament have armed guards?

I'm also noticing in myself a slight reluctance to post anything like the above: surely I'm now on a sliding scale towards going on a social networking site and almost nearly hinting that I think the Shard should be attacked. Which I'm not. But I wouldn't necessarily like to joke about it since I'm now somewhere between zero and four year's worth of naughty by even hinting at it. And since it seems any carefully developed system of sentencing can just be set aside if our political masters deem it inconvenient. (We'll see how the appeals get on, I guess.)

Neither Cameron or May seem in the slightest bit interested in even maintaining a pretense of political separation from either the courts or the police. They're happily carrying on a theme running all the way from Thatcher's coordination unit for national police during the miner's strike, really taking to heart the sort of utterly self-assured, cheery vandalism that NuLab nailed so well. It's like watching the entire political establishment go senile.

We get to watch

Just watched `age of stupid' for the first time. Plenty of the politics of the film up for question, but the basic message? Pete Postlethwaite's future archivist says -

We wouldn't be first life-form to wipe itself out. But what would be unique about us is that we did it knowingly.

Not that I think we'll wipe ourselves out, but - we did it knowingly? Texas suffers its worst drought and a strong contender for the U.S. presidency thinks prayer is the solution. That's pretty much exactly our approach as a species. We will carry on right through to the end of this century convinced that reality is whatever we want to believe it is.

I hope Hayek is wrong. I suspect he isn't. He thought the idea of social justice was a dangerous illusion. His suspicion of intellectual elites, of engineers and scientists, had the same source. If he's right, the totality of human society - the fabric that actually sustains us - is far beyond whatever intellectual structures we believe ourselves capable of creating. We're ants at best.

Watch the path that global carbon output is taking. The (perhaps far from adequate) two degree target? See the pic I've included from the Copenhagen Diagnosis. If you like, be amused by the gap between accusations of corruption against climate scientists and the awesome silence following, say, Roy Spencer: `I view my job a little like a legislator, supported by the taxpayer, to protect the interests of the taxpayer and to minimize the role of government.'

So I can't help but think Hayek's right, and Age of Stupid is right too: we're entirely capable of wiping ourselves out, because at root we're no better than bacteria turning the ocean anoxic. We're unique only because we get to understand why it happened. Only because we get to watch.

PhD update: green blob likes red blob

Just to settle any qualms the universe might be having about the hard-earned tax-payers' money spent on my education: here's a most pathos-imbued moment between two of the poor little proto-blobs I've been torturing. Green blob likes red blob. A lot. In a slightly smothering way. Red blob is far from sure about this.

Combined with the random pics, how could anyone refuse to give me another degree? Five weeks, five days until they kick me out on the street, should probably get on with it.

I don't think I've got the hang of this `develop your online presence' thing.

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