Tag Archives: hubris

The Shift Is Happening

This post repeats what for me may be prominent news stories, or at least need to be. If you have not seen them, they need to be seen. The shift is happening, slowly.

Our culture is going to change, one way or another. The hope of many is that the changes can be accommodated, but the process of change will be daunting. This past week, around the world, many millions have been demonstrating in the request for such change.

If the changes cannot be accommodated, they will still happen, only then we will have economic collapse, mass conflict, and mass loss of life.

It does not yet appear what we shall be!

Greta Thunberg was right: There is an alternative to ‘eternal economic growth’: Don Pittis (20190926)

Greta Thunberg has been a tipping point in mobilizing young people — after all, they are the people who will need to live the ensuing culture. The issue is not knowledge — we know what to do, or at least we are gradually finding the models and resources to change the culture. The issue is willingness to do the work.

Managing Without Growth: Slower by Design, Not Disaster (20130415)

From the same source, an economic growth model that we could adapt.

Yet we still exist at a knife edge.

Flooded cities, vanishing sea life forecast in new UN-backed report (20190927)

As many know, the IPCC is a scientific think tank based on consensus, thus sensitive to presenting comments to which all essentially agree. Thus, its predictions are generally on the low side. Gradually their assessments are becoming more dire yet need to be read as the minimal risk of what may occur.

Tackling climate change means purging privilege from politics (20190925)

We must find ways to eliminate, or at least markedly reduce, the discrepancies that keep our society equitable.

And we do a very poor job of assessment.

Make debate great again: How bad political argument is undermining democracy (20190926

As I hope is obvious, a major part of my work is that of presenting skills to diminish polarization in conflict. Here, two philosophers comment on the mechanisms whereby our democracy is failing.

A Knife Edge

Slowly our culture is responding yet we are at a knife’s edge, balanced between the collapse of civilization and the transformation to a more healthy society. It is not yet clear what we shall be. An interesting reflection of a significant day in our modern culture.

How To Transform Apocalypse Fatigue Into Action On Global Warming (201709)

Practical ways of transforming how to shift our defense mechanisms into more productive responses to climate disruption.

Carbon capture: What you need to know about catching CO2 to fight climate change (20190902)

A good summary of the pros and cons of carbon capture. My major reservation is that it is another tool for maintaining our current culture without addressing the need for system change.

7,000 Colleges and Universities Declare Climate Emergency, With a Plan to Fight It (20190711)

Gradually society mobilizes with regard to climate disruption; I only hope for action rather than words. On note, of the 7000 institutions, there is this comment on who is engaged: “The individual institutions that have joined the declaration include five in the continental U.S” — a paltry five from the country which likely has the greatest influence!

Let the children vote? (20190828)

The suggestion is to lower the voting age to eight. Given that many children have significant wisdom, and that they will need to deal with the inefficiencies of the adults of our current society, it may well be a good suggestion.

Great Books: Jim Garrison, PhD on Plutarch’s Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans Part 1 (20190723)

Great Books Webinar Jim Garrison, PhD on Plutarch’s Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans Part 2 (20190828)

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. (Santayana, 1905)” Jim Garrison is President of Ubiquity University and a brilliant historian as well as public speaker. In these two videos, he compares our present culture as reflected in the Presidency of Donald Trump with the lives of Alcibiades (Greek) and Sulla (Roman), two individuals who respectfully precipitated the ending of Athenian democracy and the Roman Republic though their hubris and aggressiveness.

The Climate Movement: What’s Next?

In June 2019, the Great Transition Initiative (GTI) organization sponsored a major forum The Climate Movement: What’s Next? which “takes stock [of] and debates strategy for a vital new phase in the struggle for a livable, resilient planet.” From my perspective, the organization is highly reputable, and I believe the contributions to be very valuable, worth repeating at least in brief précis form.

The contributors were asked to “weigh in on three core questions”:

  • What is the climate movement’s state of play?
    What has worked, and where has the movement fallen short?
  • System change, not climate change?
    Does defusing the crisis require deep structural and value changes, or can “green capitalism” get us there?
  • Do we need a meta-movement?
    Does the climate movement need to build overarching alliances with environmental, peace, and justice movements?

Although they are all available on the single website, I have decided to list them individually to highlight the scope of the discussion.

The Climate Movement: What’s Next?

Opening Reflections, Bill McKibben

A good summary of the shift from naiveté to the strong emergence of the climate justice focus of modern environmentalists. If we are to survive as a species, major changes are needed.

The Larger Struggle: Mitigating Capitalism, Hans Baer

A discussion of the complexity of many players at the table, with a major emphasis on the need for a new type of socialism offering true reform of the huge issues facing our civilization.

Charting how we get there, Guy Dauncey

A very good summary of the many steps (via a developmental model) that will be required for us to move to a healthy outcome, recognizing how grim the situation actually is and yet focused on solutions rather than despair.

Life-affirming carbon capture, Neva Goodwin

A response to the growing consensus of the need to remove massive amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, some methods very positive (mainly orientated to soil restoration), others very dubious and dangerous (mainly promoted by the fossil fuel industry).

Report from the European front, Virág Kaufer

The climate debate in most European countries is at a crossroads, caught between progressives and political agendas, many of which are “hostage to the corrupted and corporate-captured national governments.”

Bringing the force of the law, Hermann Ott

A hard look at the need for strong assertion against those who “suffocate new developments and prevent them from growing,” implementing compliance with existing regulations together with writing new and better laws for climate protection.

Being the change, change the world, Karl-Ludwig Schibel

“[T]he only way to win is to act on the changes we want to see in the world.”

The dramaturgy of transformation, Mimi Stokes

A fascinating description of how we, as well the ancient Greeks, have failed to address our hubris, and how our cultural hopes of colonialism, capitalism and technology have reversed into tragedy, for all, including elites and deniers. Using the modern theory of tragic fates, we need to turn our wounds into gifts, creating a new global culture and planetary civilization.

Planetizing the movement, Tom Athanasiou

“I have been asking people what they think has changed in the last year, and why. Most seem to agree that something has definitely shifted. . . . We are in very serious trouble, and there is no way forward unless we admit it.” Yet, we need a meta-movement — we need to get serious about transitional justice, a truly international justice system.

The movement enters a new phase, Jeremy Brecher

“The climate movement in the US and around the world has gone through two main phases and is entering a third: . . . [first] the confirmation of man-made global warming. . . . [and second] a direct action movement . . . using civil disobedience targeting fossil fuel infrastructure to mobilize opposition.” The third “represent[s] a shift to using direct action techniques against governments and politicians, and expresses the massive activity around the Green New Deal (GND) in the US and Leap Manifesto in Canada. The article explores the strengths and weaknesses of the GND, the possibility of a meta-movement that will unite the various disparate parties.

A caring economy is key, Riane Eisler

“[T]o bring about systems change and effectively address climate change requires a closer look at the question of change from precisely what kind of system to what kind of system. . . . Through today’s technologies of destruction and exploitation, traditions of domination may lead to our species’ extinction. But we can change our course and bring about a Great Transition if we focus on root causes rather than symptoms.”

Renewables are not enough, Kerryn Higgs

“The biggest obstacles to success in limiting global warming to 2°C above pre-industrial (or, even more hopefully, 1.5°C) are the vested interests that oppose this endeavor. The problem is political. . . . No real solution can be established while corporate capitalism remains the dominant economic system almost everywhere on earth. It’s a system that demands consumption for the sake of expansion rather than serving actual human needs.”

On personal and political agency, Karen O’Brien

A brief yet comprehensive description of the nature of system change.

Moving from resistance to repair, Vicki Robin

“The climate movement has excelled at resistance but is missing a crucial, essential element: a focus on repair. It is clear about what it is against, but largely mum on a restoration project equal to the scale of climate change damage. . . . we humans act upon the earth for our benefit, but we do not act with the earth for healing all life. What is the earth healing path?” We need a justice movement that repairs for future generations.

Imploding the carbon economy, Gus Speth

“[S]omething is happening here today. The level of public, media and political attention is not nearly where it should be, but there some hopeful signs of movement in the right directions.” We need “an induced implosion of the carbon economy. , , , Our job is to make it happen, using all the tools we have.”

A climate emergency plan, Anders Wijkman

“While the tone of the debate has changed, people in general—here I include most policymakers—do not fully understand the difference between “incrementalism” (the weak mitigation policies so far pursued) and “transformation” (the deeper mitigation we desperately need).” Major actions in multiple domains are needed.

A Strange Culture

Acedia3My news sources have recently been dominated by American politics related either to a) what to do about the Mueller report or  b) speculation about presidential promises of the hopeful. For the most part, I have lost interest in both of these as I have no way of discerning important information from speculation. Canada is also gearing up for election so Canadian news also has lots of promises. However a small number of articles have attracted my attention, so I offer a potpourri on this occasion — we live in a strange culture of fearfulness, laziness, and self-righteousness.

Leading the Public into Emergency Mode: Introducing the Emergency Climate Movement (201905)

A well-written statement of what needs to happen for our civilization to survive the coming apocalypse. As evidenced by the Extinction Rebellion success in the UK and the increasing number of cities throughout the world who are at least espousing a climate emergency, we are gradually moving in this direction.

Scared About City Chemicals? Don’t Be. She Did Every Test in the Book. (20190528)

An excellent article on the complexity of our exposure to toxic chemicals within our environment. The title unfortunately belies the seriousness of the issue; in particular, the article names our cultural ignorance of a) at what level do we consider chemicals to be toxic as well as b) our even greater ignorance of synergistic interaction between toxins.

The Wealth Detective Who Finds the Hidden Money of the Super Rich (20190523)

A fascinating description of how much money is hidden, and how it is hidden, by the world’s wealthy. As of 2016, the top 0.1% hold 20% of American wealth and the top 1% hold 39%, surging (more than doubling) after the economic decisions of the 1980s. For me, these are staggering figures, and an indictment of the ills of capitalism.

More Climate Truth

Problems2This post is a series of articles I have found recently that illustrate for me the complexity of what we must deal with as a culture. I shake my head in wonder, and sometimes struggle to stay out of despair. Even in despair, I choose to be function in contemplative action.

A Look at Past and Future Climate Change in Less Than a Minute (20190218)

Two graphics that illustrate the changes in average temperature over the 20th and 21st centuries. Simple, impressive.

re: Generation (20190218)

An excellent article regarding our failure as a generation to respond to the existential crisis of climate disruption — we need now to support our youth as they stand up to our acedia. Hopefully they will manage better than we have done.

Rethink Activism in the Face of Catastrophic Biological Collapse (20190304)

The second in a series (the first is also online). Both express the vulnerability needed to come to terms with the possibility of our collapse as a species.

The strongmen strike back (20190314)

An excellent article on the rise of authoritarianism throughout the world. I am currently in a small group exploring issues of Power & Privilege; what I recognize from this article is that I am currently only exploring the tip of the iceberg.

The Gentrification of Payments (20190317)

The complexity of the issues whereby power infiltrates systems astounds me.

Here’s Why America Is Dumping Its Trash in Poorer Countries (20190309)

I assume it is also likely true of Canada. The denial of garbage is another illustration of the complexity we must overcome if we are to survive, let alone thrive, as a species.

Deep Earth: A Subterranean Galapagos Expands The Tree Of Life (20190203)

An amazing description of life existing in places where I would not have thought possible. The resiliency of life astounds me such that I imagine that even if we destroy ourselves, life will persist. Who knows — maybe in another billion years archeologists will wonder who we were.

I’m Right!

How we polarize!

The past three blog posts have been fueled by James Hoggan’s book I’m Right, And You’re An Idiot[1]. In conversation with Hoggan, David Suzuki (Canada’s leading environmentalist) asked: Why aren’t people demanding action on environmental issues? To address this question, Hoggan set out to interview a large number of some of the world’s leading thinkers, specifically individuals who study human communication, to gain their perspective on this failure.

As mentioned in Ways To Contribute, I am involved with the Suzuki Elders in exploring how to use this information in the management of difficult conversations. In Finding Common Ground and How Conflict Escalates, I proposed a simple (perhaps difficult?) methodology for this. Yet I also want to give credit to Hoggan for the immense amount of exploration he undertook.

The following are some of the major points with which Hoggan grappled. Most are from his Epilogue, and all are direct quotes, with the interviewee named (JH denotes Hoggan’s commentary). [Square brackets are minor changes I have added, hopefully without changing the meaning.]

  • Few of us are truly evil — and good people sometimes [strongly disagree] for good reasons. (JH, p. 215)
  • Democracy works only if reasoned debate in the public sphere is possible. (Jason Stanley, p. 98)
    • While contention lies at the heart of democracy, it must be constructive contention. (Marshall Ganz, p. 115)
    • [People] don’t need not agree on the solution or on the problem. They don’t need to understand each other, trust each other or even like each other. But they do have to recognize that the only way to move forward is together. (Adam Kahane, p. 123)
  • It is through narratives . . . that people learn to access the moral and emotional resources we need to act with agency in the face of danger, challenge, and threat. . . . [This] is one of the most important lessons set out in I’m Right. (Marshall Ganz and JH, p. 174)
    • At its most basic level, I’m Right is about how we tell stories and how we treat each other. (JH, p. 115)
    • To create powerful persuasive narratives, our starting point must be rooted in an attitude of empathy, respect, and compassion. (The Dalai Lama, p. 211).
  • People don’t start out mired in hostility. The situation evolves. . . . Our defense mechanisms kick in . . . and this provokes . . . eventual gridlock. (JH, pp. 214-215)
    • It is hard to know who and what to trust. (JH, p. 216)
    • An important key is to hold our beliefs lightly [so that we are open to new possibility]. (JH, p. 215)
  • Facts and reason are fundamental to healthy public discourse, but in our overheated adversarial public square, facts are not enough. (JH, p. 217)
    • The initial strategy . . . must be inquiry, . . . [exploring] what truly matters to people [the emotional energy]. (JH, p. 218)
    • We must appeal to people’s values and speak from a moral position, . . . encouraging debate about matters of concern. (JH, pp. 217-218)
  • A well-crafted . . . narrative helps tear down barriers of propaganda and polarization. This theme of emotional communication is grounded in the Golden Rule of treating others the way we want to be treated. (p. 219-220)
    • If we seek change, we should learn to use speech for its highest purpose — moral discourse. (JH, p. 222)

I propose that the methodology I suggested in earlier posts satisfies what Hoggan has identified, especially in providing narrative and compassion, and provides constructive contention.


[1] Hoggan, J. (2016).  I’m right, and you’re an idiot: The toxic state of public discourse and how to clean it up. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers.

What Are We Thinking?

DroughtSeveral articles have recently struck me as indicators of where we currently are with respect to global warming. Some of the articles focus on the impact; two focus on the insanity that drives us. What are we thinking!?

I remain convinced that the major issues underlying global warming are those of:

  • acedia — our laziness, fearfulness and self-righteousness that prevents us from engaging in the most important issue of our species. There are, of course, reasons (good reasons, many of which were addressed in my earlier blogs), but reasons don’t count! Results count.
    • it is our acedia that stops our cooperation, the attitude that: “I’m willing to work hard on these issues if to my advantage, or if you are!” We see this with our international agreements — Russian, Turkey, and the United States (accounting for about 30% of the greenhouse effect) not engaged in the Paris Agreement. And the Paris Agreement is only an agreement to do something about the problem; if Canada’s duplicity is any example, we are a long way from actual results.
  • evil — this is not a topic we as a culture want to address, yet it is undeniable to me that evil exists. It shows up in greed and in the disinformation processes that feed our inactivity.

Many small positive actions occur, many, but we still have not reached our own tipping point as to when we will move rapidly to resolution. Perhaps we will do so in time to prevent catastrophe for our civilization, perhaps for our species. Perhaps not.

I almost need to laugh, perhaps cry!

Cape Town water supply near ‘point of no return’ as reservoirs run dry (20180118)

A number of articles within this link point to the impact of global warming. Cape Town (South Africa) is considering mandatory limitation of water usage. China is refusing to be the dumping ground for plastic waste, especially plastic bottles, thereby forcing other countries to deal with their recycling products.

Who is Guilty of Climate Crimes? (20180216)

The basis answer is that we are all guilty. However, some aspects stand out: the extreme right, the fossil fuel industry, the media, and the major industrial countries (Canada, my country, included).

Arctic temperatures soar 45 degrees above normal, flooded by extremely mild air on all sides (20180222)

The highest weather station in the world, about 400 miles for the North Pole, has warmed to 43°F in the dead of winter! In addition to feedback loops that further increase Arctic warming (and loss of more ice), thus impacting the entire weather system of the northern hemisphere (the jet-stream impact), there is also the massive release of methane from permafrost and seabed melting, the rise of sea level (as the Greenland ice field melts), and the slowdown of the global ocean conveyor belt effect. These are just some of the effects; we simply do not know what tipping points will be reached and when.

Coral reefs will transition to net dissolving before end of century (20180223)

Another factor in loss of both beauty and a basic food chain component — in addition to warming being destructive of coral, the acidification also is weakening the underlying sedimentary structure of the reefs. Our world food supply is thus at risk.

Climate science deniers’ credibility tested (20180301)

This is the greatest crime — the controversy created by the massive disinformation processes we have unleashed in the past 50 years!

An Economy That Works

Economy1I mentioned last post that I am no longer posting. However, every once and a while I come across a link that I think is so important that I believe it needs to be acknowledged (and disseminated) — this one is: an economy that works.

We are badly in need of a way to understand the nature of modern economy such that we develop a maturing of our culture. I think this is: it explains the impact of neoliberalism and the changing nature of our economy, especially the rise of gross dissatisfaction in how we live our lives. It also strongly advocates, amongst other suggestions, the need for a guaranteed basic income, a concept and process that is gradually being shown to markedly improve living conditions, despite the fears that it will encourage people to become lazy.

Having researched laziness as part of my PhD, I strongly believe that people are not naturally lazy, that they only move in this direction when they become overwhelmed with their lives and give up, conditions that are being augmented in major ways by our current economy. What is suggested here is actually a prescription to reduce laziness while improving human lives in many ways, perhaps ending the insane ways in which we create poverty and dissatisfaction in our lives, even reducing global warming via an effective stance to our culture.

Guy Standing on an Economy that Works for Everyone (20161126)

It is a long article, and well worth reading.

The Clock Is Ticking

CO2Clock2What to say this week? The clock is ticking, in many ways. Certainly the news is dominated by the political scene in Washington DC, with the criminal allegations associated with the Trump-Russia morass. It seems that Mueller is operating with very sophisticated skill, creating massive anxiety. Essentially this is as it should be — an ineffective investigation would do more harm than good. But it is certainly complex.

The major difficulty is that such an investigation is slow, and the climate clock continues to tick. The report by Dahr Jamail is excellent and comprehensive (as usual), documenting the many ways, the increasing ways, in which we are in trouble. Meanwhile the Trump administration continues to dismantle the efforts to respond — sad. And all the more reason to sort the Trump-Russia muddle.

And on the lighter side, some interesting links concerning the complexity of our culture.

All of the this complexity would be fascinating, if the consequences were not so painful.

Global Warming

Dahr Jamail – Scientists Warn of “Ecological Armageddon” Amid Waves of Heat and Climate Refugees (20171030)

Jamail is a very reliable source, and here provides a summary of the current status of our planet. It is not good news.

New science suggests the ocean could rise more — and faster — than we thought (20171026)

Three new studies that indicate the dangers of continued fossil fuel usage, more and faster if we continue our present course. As usual, each report portrays more and more danger as we get better and better data.

The Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: from 25 years of inaction to a global transformation for public health (20171030)

Global warming is having major impact now, as well as in the future.

Trump to auction off a vast swath of the Gulf of Mexico to oil companies (20171024)

Continuing our present course, and a reminder of the BP disaster.

The Political Scene

The Daily 202: 10 takeaways from Mueller’s shock-and-awe gambit (20171031)

A comprehensive summary of the revolving issues as of 20171031. Overall, I find the issues difficult to follow, but this is fairly good in keeping me up to date.

Manafort and the Dominoes: Here’s Why Donald Trump Is Losing Sleep (20171031)

Fascinating the ways of shifting evidence and the intricacies of investigation.

Miscellaneous

Rabbi Sacks on Leonard Cohen and parsha Vayera (20161118)

Fascinating description of the last song by Leonard Cohen, and the search for love and peace.

The Improbable Origins of PowerPoint (20171031)

A fascinating history. I was very surprised to learn that PowerPoint was originally an Apple product.

A Very Old Man for a Wolf (20171030)

The complex story of mankind and wolves; sadly the wolves usually lose.

The Need For A Coup, Part 2

Complexity3This is my second and concluding post on the need for a coup. Earlier I noted Schmookler, in The Parable Of The Tribes, suggesting that a civilization based on power (the original basis by which civilizations emerge) is not sustainable: it demonstrates neither synergy, enhancing the welfare or all, nor viability, sustainable in its continuing existence.

Schmookler also notes that justice could be the antidote of power, thereby underscoring both synergy and viability. Justice requires:

  • “where power is exercised . . . it should not be used to benefit the wielder of power at the expense of the health of the system as a whole” and
  • “where different parts of the system have conflicts of interest, the conflicts should be resolved not by their differences in power but by some moral principle which, if always followed, would ultimately be to the benefit of all in the system.”

As a species, we have not yet demonstrated the capability of synergy and viability — world governance, such as it is, is by tenuous cooperative agreement, the limits of which have been demonstrated by Trump’s threat to withdraw from the Paris agreement. Again, simply as one example of the many instances of inequitable dynamics, Trump’s stance is that of power; it is not that of justice. Nor is power a stance of cooperation; it is a stance of domination! And it is not sustainable: either it is stopped, or the system itself will deteriorate to the point of collapse (e.g., the predictable outcome of global warming).

So how then does one deal with such insanity, in which it is necessary to develop power over power, and yet act justly. I have seen nothing in the past years to suggest an effective outcome. All of the efforts of the social movements of the past century (including feminism, racial discrimination, the environmental movement, et cetera) have been the attempt of the “people” to get the “1%” to cooperate, and have had only limited success.

Much of what has been suggested thus far is in the nature of civil disobedience. And whereas I believe it is an important tool is opposing power, it is the attempt of the weak to convince the strong to desist certain actions. It does not seem to offer any significant shift in the maturity of the strong, certainly not those who function from the power of domination.

Thus my suggestion that we need a coup! But in contrast to most coups where one form of domination simply replaces another form of domination, we need a coup in which justice replaces domination. And the coup needs to be international, including all of the major powers of the world. Although I often use the USA as an example, I am not naïve in believing that it is the only source of difficulties on this planet.

Furthermore, the only examples of sustainable justice of which I am aware have been within indigenous cultures — cultures that have resisted civilization, albeit without great success up to this point. Our track record of “civilized” process has not been very successful otherwise.

And hence, my best guess is that such a coup must come from indigenous sources, as the power to resist domination and act justly. Again in my limited exposure to cultural issues, it is the native people of North America who seem most apt to engage in sustained resistance (witness Standing Rock and Kinder-Morgan). They also have a cultural heritage that honored justice in much richer fashion than has European-based culture.

Thus my hope . . .

Links Of Note

Two Dark American Truths From Las Vegas (20171002)

Gun violence in America, explained in 17 maps and charts (20171002)

These two links discuss the ineffectiveness of modern attempts to limit the use of power, both in preventing individual tragedies and in developing just resolutions to such forces that underlie these tragedies.

U.S. Climate Change Policy: Made in California (20170927)

An interesting example of how the interplay of legality and power work in our culture. To quote the lead-in: “A peculiar confluence of history, legal precedent and defiance has set the stage for a regulatory mutiny in California that would reverberate throughout the country.” Legally, California can regulate independently of national concerns, and controls at least a third of the auto industry, with a sizable impact on how industry must react. I am reminded of a statement that our culture has a legal system, perhaps sometimes a justice system.