[Marxism-Thaxis] Climate change politics

2011-01-20 Thread c b
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Date: Thu, 20 Jan 2011 07:20:12 +0900
From: Bill Totten shimog...@ashisuto.co.jp
Subject: [A-List] The Secret of Herding Cats
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by ?John Michael Greer

The Archdruid Report (January 12 2010)

?Granted, it was the season for giving, but I'm not at all sure that
justifies the extraordinary Christmas present Dr David Shearman has given
the climate change denialist movement. Readers of mine who haven't yet
heard of Shearman need not worry; they will be hearing far too much about
him in the months and years ahead.

Shearman, for those who haven't encountered his name yet, is an Australian
scientist who has a long string of publications in the field of global
warming to his credit, and who had an active role in the Third and Fourth
Assessments issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
(IPCC), the international scientific body tasked with sorting out just
what our tailpipes and smokestacks are doing to the Earth's climate. He is
also the co-author of a recent book, The Climate Change Challenge and the
Failure of Democracy (2007).

In this book, he argues that democracy is incapable of dealing with the
global climate change crisis, and therefore needs to be replaced by an
authoritarian world government with the power to force people to do what
Shearman thinks they ought to do.

Those of my readers familiar with the long and inglorious love affair
betweeen a certain class of Western intellectual and the totalitarian end
of the political spectrum already know what to expect from Shearman's
book, and they will not be disappointed. Shearman and his co-author Joseph
Wayne Smith argue that authoritarianism is the natural state of
humanity (page xvi) and that people who agree with their views ought to
form an elite warrior leadership to battle for the future of the
earth (ibid). They propose the manufacture of a new eco-religion out of
the green movement and New Age movement in order to provide social glue
for the masses (page 127), and spend a chapter discussing the training of
natural elites to provide his imagined regime with ecowarriors to do
battle against the enemies of life (page 134). It's all laid out in quite
some detail; very nearly the only thing Shearman and Smith fail to mention
is what symbol will go on their warrior elite's armbands.

I wish I could say I was surprised by the publication of Shearman's book,
or the fact that the Pell Foundation sponsored its publication. The
craving for unearned power that has afflicted intellectual idealists since
Plato's time has cropped up tolerably often in the last few decades of
green activism; the substantial popularity of David Korten's profoundly
antidemocratic The Great Turning (2006) is only one sign among many.
Still, there's a difference of some importance. It takes a careful reading
of Korten's book to notice how his division of humanity into
developmental stages, which just happen to equate to political opinions,
morphs into a claim that political power ought to be monopolized by those
who share Korten's own background and views. Equally, The Great Turning is
as coy about the methods Korten's would-be elite will use to enforce their
power as it is about the reasons why giving that elite unchecked authority
will solve the world's problems. Shearman and Smith have no such qualms;
their totalitarian daydream is right out there in the open.

That in itself points straight to the false logic at the core of The
Climate Change Challenge and the Failure of Democracy.

What failed was not democracy but climate change activism, and the
stunning political cluelessness on display in Shearman's and Smith's book
is a central reason why.

One wonders what on Earth Shearman was thinking when he sent the
manuscript to the publisher. Did it never occur to him that people who
disagree with his views would read the book, and make abundant political
hay out of it? They have, dear reader, and it's a safe bet that they will,
as hostile reviews of The Climate Change Challenge and the Failure of
Democracy are already showing up on conservative websites. To be fair, it
would demand superhuman forbearance for them to steer clear of what is,
all things considered, a climate denialist's wet dream: a book in which a
significant figure on the other side 'fesses up to an authoritarian agenda
extreme enough to support even the wildest accusations of the far right.
Climate change activism is already reeling from a nearly unbroken sequence
of body blows in the political arena, and an even more serious loss of
public support; by the time the climate denialists finish working it over,
using Shearman's book as a conveniently blunt instrument, there may not be
much left of it.

It's worth glancing back over the last decade or so to get a sense of the
way this book fits into the broader process by which climate change
activism ran off the 

[Marxism-Thaxis] Climate Change

2011-01-18 Thread c b
In Ventura, a retreat in the face of a rising sea

Higher ocean levels force Ventura officials to move facilities inland,
an action that is expected to recur along the coast as the ocean rises
over the next century.

By Tony Barboza The Los Angeles Times January 16, 2011

Construction crews are removing a crumbling bike path, ripping out a
120-space parking lot and laying down sand and cobblestones. By
pushing the asphalt 65 feet inland, the project is expected to give
the wave-ravaged point 50 more years of life.

The effort by the city of Ventura is the most vivid example to date of
what may lie ahead in California as coastal communities come to grips
with rising sea levels and worsening coastal erosion. As the coastline
creeps inland, scouring sand from beaches or eating away at coastal
bluffs, landowners will increasingly be forced to decide whether to
spend vast sums of money fortifying the shore or give up and step

State officials say the $4.5-million project in Ventura is the first
of its kind in California and could serve as a model for threatened
sites along the coast.

Managed retreat, as it's called, is one of the things that we're
going to have in our quiver to deal with sea-level rise and increasing
storms, said Sam Schuchat, executive officer of the California
Coastal Conservancy, which helped fund the Surfers Point project.

Sea levels have risen about 8 inches in the last century and are
expected to swell at an increasing rate as climate change warms the
ocean, experts say. In California, the sea is projected to rise as
much as 55 inches by the end of the century and gobble up 41 square
miles of coastal land, according to a 2009 state-commissioned report
by the Pacific Institute.

For years, the preferred solution to an eroding shoreline has been to
build sea walls or dump imported sand to serve as a buffer. About
one-third of the Southern California coastline and about 10% of the
shore statewide have been fortified with sea walls and other hard

Although artificial barriers may protect property in the short term,
they often intensify the effect of waves, leaving beaches stripped of
sand until they narrow or disappear, permanently altering surf

As a result, beach-armoring projects are increasingly out of favor
with environmentalists and coastal regulators.

At Surfers Point, Ventura officials first knew they had a problem
about two decades ago, when storms started chewing away at the
oceanfront bike path a few years after it was built.

When heavy storms hit, waves ate mounds of sand, washed away chunks of
asphalt and exposed rebar, car parts and junk that had been
underground for decades.

Officials at the Ventura County Fairgrounds, which is on a 62-acre
site next to Surfers Point, initially suggested a buried sea wall. But
environmentalists and surfers fiercely objected, saying that armoring
the shore would protect a parking lot at the expense of the beach and
destroy the point break near the Ventura River that generates the
distinctive, surfer-friendly waves for which the site was named.

After extensive debate, the fairgrounds agreed to give up some of its
property for a plan that would provide room for the sand to shift. It
is based on the idea that beaches are constantly in flux, growing as
the summer's gentle waves bring sand ashore and shrinking when winter
storms scour it away.

It was the right thing to do for all of the residents of the county,
said fairgrounds Chief Executive Officer Barbara Quaid, who prefers
not to view it as sacrificing land but as redirecting its use. Coming
down to the beach and seeing it beautified is a lot different than
coming down and seeing a bike path that's falling into the ocean.

The managed retreat marks a reversal with profound implications for
a state that has for more than a century crammed its most valuable
homes and businesses on the edge of the ocean.

There's the old-school mentality that when nature threatens you, you
fight back, said Paul Jenkin, Ventura campaign manager for the
Surfrider Foundation and a longtime advocate for the project. So this
idea of retreating and moving back was really quite a radical

In the near term, there are a number of publicly owned sites, from a
weathered parking lot hugging a narrow strand at Cardiff State Beach
in San Diego County to a lifeguard station within a few steps of the
surf in San Clemente, where planners might soon have to consider
moving structures out of harm's way.

Such a decision would be far tougher for private property owners, but
they too could eventually be in the position of giving up billions of
dollars of desirable real estate.

The challenge is we have built most of our civilization within a few
feet of sea level or right at the edge, said Gary Griggs, a coastal
geologist at UC Santa Cruz who co-wrote the book Living With the
Changing California Coast. It's either going to be managed or
unmanaged, but it's going to be retreat.


[Marxism-Thaxis] Climate Change Sceptics on the Left

2010-09-01 Thread c b

Burn, Baby, Burn
Climate Change Sceptics on the Left
Andrea Levy | August 16th 2010 | 1

Illustration by Ben Clarkson

Although the scientific community has never been more united in its
conviction that climate change is well on the way to rendering planet Earth
a vastly less hospitable place for most species including our own, doubt
about the gravity of the problem is, paradoxically, on the rise. Recent
polls in the U.S., the U.K., and Canada reveal that fewer people take the
threat of climate change seriously than was true five years ago.

One likely reason is the insidious effect of the ongoing campaign - largely
orchestrated and funded by the fossil fuel industry and drawing support from
a cast of pundits and politicians such as right-wing columnist George Will,
Lord Nigel Lawson, Czech President V?clav Klaus among others - to sow doubt
about the very existence of the phenomenon or at least about the
contribution of human activity to it, and minimize the deleterious effects
forecast by a host of prominent scientists.

The contrarians don't all line up with the forces of reaction, however.
Alexander Cockburn, veteran left journalist, long-time columnist for The
Nation, co-editor of the iconoclastic online journal Counterpunch, resigned
this year from a more than forty year stint on the editorial board of the
New Left Review over the publication of Mike Davis' Who Will Build The
 Ark? a reflection on the implications of climate change, as the lead
article of the illustrious journal's 50th anniversary issue.

It's curious that Cockburn, who has certainly been embroiled in numerous
controversies on the Left, would be prompted to quit his place on the board
over an essay on climate change, but there are few issues that get Cockburn
as hot under the collar as global warming. And while he is by far the most
extreme in his wholesale denial of the very problem of climate change,
Cockburn is not the only prominent leftist to dismiss the urgency accorded
global warming by progressives of all stripes.

To name only two noteworthies, York university's David F. Noble, historian
of science and technology, critic of the corporate usurpation of the
university and occasional contributor to Canadian Dimension, is equally
irate over the Left's attention to climate change. And Slavoj Zizek, one of
the most prominent left-wing intellectuals in the world today, dubbed the
Elvis of cultural theory, has at times likewise articulated a rather
agnostic position on global warming.

Each of these thinkers, who articulate and reflect a real, if marginal,
minority opinion on the Left, come at their climate change scepticism from
different angles: Cockburn maintains that global warming is a non-existent
threat based on flawed science, in support of which claim he approvingly
cites naysayers such as Patrick Michaels of the right-wing Cato Institute,
fingered as a paid consultant of the fossil fuel industry, who discounts
predictions of rising sea levels and melting ice caps. Against the
prevailing scientific consensus, Cockburn insists that, There is still zero
empirical evidence that anthropogenic production of CO2 is making any
measurable contribution to the world's present warming trend.
Like peak oil, another hypothesis Cockburn rejects out of hand, climate
change is, in his view, a fiction fostered by capital as part of a strategy
to profit from higher energy costs at the expense of the poor, north and
south, a notion which bears more than a passing resemblance to the type of
conspiracy thinking he else- where excoriates. He treats the Left with
contempt not only for being hoodwinked by the dogma of global warming, but
also for being na?ve in seeing it as a tipping point in the direction of
radical social change.

Noble's emphasis is somewhat different, although he pursues the general
theme of climate change as a false crisis fabricated by elites for their own
purposes. Tracing the history of the corporate world's warming to the issue
of climate change, he depicts it as a deliberate and successful effort by a
fraction of the ruling class and its minions to co-opt and derail the
anti-globalization movement of the 1990s and re-establish the hegemony of
the dominant ideology.

If the corporate climate change campaign has fuelled a fevered popular
preoccupation with global warming, he writes, it has accomplished much
more. Having arisen in the midst of the world-wide global justice movement,
it has restored confidence in those very faiths and forces which that
movement had worked so hard to expose and challenge: globe-straddling
profit-maximizing corporations and their myriad agencies and agendas; the
unquestioned authority of science and the corollary belief in deliverance
through technology, and the beneficence of the self-regulating market.

He is especially contemptuous of the Left for adopting what he sees as an
uncritical view of science in relation to climate change, one which