Monday, October 09, 2006

Reversing global warming - not by any means necessary

Alex Steffen, one of the best environmental writers/activists around, has done it again. In his WorldChanging piece, Carbon Blindness, he has captured so succinctly and eloquently what has been bothering me for so long now, and what is the heart of the problem with mainstream responses to global warming here in Australia – whether it's the Howard government or Tim Flannery:
For those of us who have spent years warning that climate change is a problem of the highest magnitude, these are gratifying days. Politicians, business leaders, labor unionists, celebrities and religious figures all seem, finally, to be listening to the science and beginning to hear its meaning: we must change, dramatically, at once.

This is a Very Good Thing. At the same time, I am beginning to have misgivings about some of the debate emerging around climate change - and perhaps not in the direction you might think.

… What has begun to set off my inner alarm bells is a new meme emerging from the ranks of the newly-converted: fight climate change at all costs. …

What is worrysome… is the idea, which one is beginning to hear all over the political map, that climate change trumps every other environmental issue, or, even more, that climate change is not an environmental issue at all. These arguments usually precede a call for some action which reduces carbon output but has other demonstrably negative environmental impacts, whether that's damming a river for hydropower, launching into a massive nuclear energy program or seeding the ocean to produce a plankton bloom.

…But innovating to solve the wrong problem usually fails as a strategy, and the problem we have today, I believe, is not that our climate is changing, per se, but that we have created an unsustainable civilization which is deeply instable. [my emphasis]
Yes, yes, yes! The are the very sentiments I've been stewing over, and why I'm driven to argue again and again in this blog against nuclear power and the expansion of uranium mining in Australia – and to reject the argument that global warming makes nuclear power 'necessary'.
The climate crisis we face will not be bested through the kind of thinking that got us into the problem in the first place: because, seen with any degree of rationality, the climate crisis cannot be distinguished from the overall planetary crisis of environmental degredation, massive poverty, conflict and inequity of which it is a part.
There it is again - not a new idea, but one we certainly have lost track of: we can't fix a problem with the same ideas/tools/ways that created that problem in the first place! Go read Alex's essay, and thanks to for pointing it out and reminding me to check it this week.

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