Islas Encantadas, Humanos Antideluvianos
More news in the run up to openDemocracy´s debate on the politics of climate change.
To the Galapagos islands from 12 to 20 March, where I will research the impact of anthropogenic climate change on one of this most wonderful biome...
Wings of change
In preparation for openDemocracy's forthcoming debate on the politics of climate change, campaigners and others are already wrestling with the question of what actually works.
Could some of them take a green leaf out of the UK government's book? The idea may not be as unlikely as it may seem once you read this report.
Bush the Greenie
In this week's edition of The Economist, "Lexington" asks Should George Bush go green? (subscription only).
Embracing greenery, says Lexington, "would be good for Mr Bush, good for the Republican Party, good for relations with Europe, and, above all, good for the environment".
Many people would say Bush describing himself as an environmentalist sounds ludicrous. But is the prospect really so way out?
Climate and health debate
The World Health Organisation estimates that 150,000 deaths each year can be attributed to the effects of climate. Will this figure rise as a result of global warming? What do we know about the likely effect of climate change on our health? And how should we manage new risks?
So goes an introduction to three articles on climate and health prefacing a live debate in London on 8 March.
The articles are worth reading for the contrast in thinking they display and the way they rehearse issues, or claims, that are not always well spelt out.
Greenpeace blows up the French
"WHEN I visited America during my time working for Greenpeace International in the 1990s, time and again people would say to me 'we really don't approve of the way your organisation blew up that French ship', or words to that effect".
So begins Jeremy Leggett's review of Michael Crichton's State of Fear in the 5 March edition of New Scientist.
How could it be, Leggett asks, that Americans got the French secret service's sinking of the Greenpeace ship the Rainbow Warrior (and killing of a Greenpeace photographer) the wrong way round so consistently? He encountered the phenomenon in no other country and concluded it was something cultural.
To anyone who has worked in an international environmental organisation, says Leggett, Crichton's "horrific assault on sanity" will evoke feelings that veer between hilarity and deep disgust.
Crichton's book is high on the best seller lists, and will surely be made into a blockbuster film. On his way home from Arizona, says Leggett, he checked the airport bookshop:
"I found State of Fear in pride of place. Nearby were Beyond Iraq - the Next Move: Ancient prophecy and modern day conspiracy collide, and Generation Kill: Devil dogs, iceman, captain America, and the new face of American War. Like I said, it's all about the culture. A true reason for a state of fear".
Not a happy time for environmentalists then. But has it ever really been much better? In my first piece for openDemocracy, I wrote that environmentalists and other reality-based humans need to start from the position that they have already pretty much lost. Drugs won the "War on Drugs". Terror wins the "War on Terror". The question is: where do you go from here?
[See RealClimate.org for an itemisation of Crichton's mis-representation of climate science]
What counts as activism?
Vee Artemis, writing in the climate change forum, reminded me of a discussion about the nature of activism on Paul Kingsnorth's blog. She wrote:
"Whilst our 'leaders' shilly shally and debate, all over the world people are getting on with their own ways of tackling the climate change problem, using local, small-scale, sustainable initiatives. As with so many of today's problems, the way to tackle them is actually to think SMALL rather than big."
In reply to comments on his blog, Paul wrote:
"Kris posted...asking what counts as Activism and what doesn't. Does knitting a scarf, or making a cup of tea, count? Do a myriad of small things - buying recycled paper, writing letters to the council, living without a car - add up to more, in the end, than going on a march and shouting 'troops out' at passers-by? Is cushioning ourselves - and each other - against the mental and psychological fallout that comes with trying to change the world, part of the process of trying to change it?"
"In my world...writing counts as Activism. It gets people, including me, thinking and hopefully, doing. I'm sure that even the most hardcore Activismist would concede that, say, Noam Chomsky 'sitting on his arse' in his Massachusetts office writing thousands of words a week probably comes under the 'Activist' banner."
Stymied by overactive tea-making? While you sit comfortably, you might like to add small thoughts or big suggestions to the discussion...
Will the world little note?
“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us…that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth”.
51,000 casualties. 278 words. Abraham Lincoln, speaking in 1863 on a battlefield in the American Civil War, pledged to fight to the end for the abolition of slavery
Now, contemporary US citizens have an opportunity to join a battle their government has avoided, starting with The People’s Ratification of the Kyoto Treaty. 253 words.
Will it go far? Ross Gelbspan has hopes.
But, in Operation Squander,
the launch of Kyoto, a major milestone in the
battle against the world's biggest environmental problem, can't provoke a major
response from the U.S. green community, what can?"
openDemocracy will debate the politics of climate change – its failures, its discontents and its opportunities – from April to June 2005, ahead of the G8 Summit.
Kyoto and the politics of climate change
Today the Kyoto Protocol comes into force, and new political battles start.
The Protocol is intended to be a first step in limiting man made emissions of greenhouse gases contributing to climate change, with the rich countries making the first move.
One political battle concerns the United States, which has less than 5% of the world’s population and is responsible for a quarter of global emissions but is not taking part. Another concerns the role of developing countries, which are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change and whose emissions are rapidly increasing, but which have no commitments under the Protocol.
This spring, openDemocracy will feature a global debate on climate change. Running from April to June, it will focus on the politics of climate change - ahead of the G8 meeting and the UK assumption of the European Union presidency in July, and beyond.
To mark the coming into effect of the Kyoto Protocol, openDemocracy is opening its archive of articles on climate change. You can read Julian Baggini on Greens and climate sceptics, Paul Rogers on Climate change and global security, Benito Muller on Where justice and realism meet, Grover Norquist on The right to be different and not be straightjacketed by Kyoto, and me on The daze after tomorrow, Einstein’s Gravediggers, Energy wars and future of planet earth and on why climate change may be more serious than a tsunami.
More to the point, in advance of the upcoming debate, you can post your views on what you think the key issues and concerns are (including why you don’t think there is an issue of concern, if that’s what you think), and what needs to be done.
Your views will help shape the debate. And the debate, in edited form, will be presented to the leaders of the world’s most powerful countries and made freely available worldwide on the web.
Opponents say the Protocol will hamper economic growth. The British government doesn’t agree. It has claimed a leadership role in what many consider the biggest challenge facing this generation. But little more than a week after it supported a scientific conference which concluded that there is no safe level of emissions, Britain said it would allow its industrial sector to increase emissions by as much as 9%, thereby putting its commitment to Kyoto in doubt.
What chance for a serious politics of climate change? In part, it's up to you.