Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The evolving 21st Century Promethean Calamity: "Implicatory" Climate Crisis Denial and Thunberg's GenZ demand to halt Climate Change Black Death

In Greek mythology, Prometheus is a Titan, culture hero, and trickster figure who is credited with the creation of man from clay, and who defies the gods by stealing fire and giving it to humanity as civilization.


Zeus, king of the Olympian gods, sentenced Prometheus to eternal torment for his transgression of giving fire to humans. The Theft of Fire Myth appears in numerous world mythologies.Why human cultures thought that fire was stolen, an evil act committed essentially to empower mankind, is unclear.

What is clear is that Climate Change would not be happening without combustion - without fire albeit contained, controlled, and enhanced through technological advances over a relatively few centuries.

In the Western classical tradition, Prometheus became a figure who represented human striving, particularly the quest for scientific knowledge, and the risk of overreaching or unintended consequences. In particular, he was regarded in the Romantic era as embodying the lone genius whose efforts to improve human existence could also result in tragedy.

At the beginning of the 21st Century in the Western World the theft of fire clearly is associated with overreaching, unintended consequences, and tragedy. Perhaps it offers the quintessential example of "nature" when we speak of "man against nature." And perhaps the "theft of fire" reflects a belief that the gods knew fire was a malevolent demon in attractive disguise offering power and riches to some men, a demon that would destroy man.

What? Do you think that is so much silliness??? Consider this from an opinion piece:


Of course, that is not true of all men in Western Civilization. We can point to Al Gore. Al Gore's presentation, movie, and book about Global Warming is entitled rather ironically "An Inconvenient Truth" precisely because as noted above "at a deep level, the language of climate denialism is tied up with a form of masculine identity predicated on modern industrial capitalism." The basic truth of the situation is economically very inconvenient and therefore politically very inconvenient.


We need to acknowledge a problem with words.

Al Gore's original words were "Global Warming." The Globe (aka the Earth) has a surface of 196.9 million square miles,  or 790,453,002,240,000,000 square inches.  A year has 1,182,600 minutes. What Gore was referring to is that on average all those square inches in all those minutes of each year consistently have become warmer over many decades beginning in the 20th Century.

He was also explaining that this warming is occurring much faster than in prior warming periods that have occurred in the last few hundred million years, periods in which no human lived.

And he told us that for the most part the cause of the warming is fire (combustion) as contained, controlled, and enhanced by men and their capitalist organizations through industrial and technological advances over a relatively few centuries.

With few exceptions the entire advancement of tWestern Civilization was powered by that contained, controlled, and enhanced fire (combustion). Fire is at the core of our economy. It is at the center of our lives. You are able to read this on a "device" because of 'stored" fire.

To keep the Earth habitable for millions of species endangered by the climate crisis including Homo sapiens, the proposal is to undo all those fire-based industrial and technological advances, replacing them where possible, ending them otherwise, all in a couple of decades.

Very inconvenient indeed!

But here's another inconvenient truth. Al Gore started telling us about this 43 years ago at age 28, after being elected to the United States House of Representatives. By 1989, 30 years ago, then U.S. Senator Al Gore, in frustration published an editorial in The Washington Post, in which he argued:

    Humankind has suddenly entered into a brand new relationship with the planet Earth. The world's forests are being destroyed; an enormous hole is opening in the ozone layer. Living species are dying at an unprecedented rate. Chemical wastes, in growing volumes, are seeping downward to poison groundwater while huge quantities of carbon dioxide, methane and chlorofluo-rocarbons are trapping heat in the atmosphere and raising global temperatures.
    How much information is needed by the human mind to recognize a pattern? How much more is needed by the body politic to justify action in response?
    If an individual or a nation is accustomed to looking at the future one year at a time, and the past in terms of a single lifetime, then many large patterns are concealed. But seen in historical perspective, it is clear that dozens of destructive effects have followed the same pattern of unprecedented acceleration in the latter half of the 20th century. It took 10,000 human lifetimes for the population to reach 2 billion. Now in the course of one lifetime, yours and mine, it is rocketing from 2 billion to 10 billion, and is already halfway there.
    Yet, the pattern of our politics remains remarkably unchanged. That indifference must end. As a nation and a government, we must see that America's future is inextricably tied to the fate of the globe. In effect, the environment is becoming a matter of national security -- an issue that directly and imminently menaces the interests of the state or the welfare of the people.

Just 11 years later, a minority of Americans elected George W. Bush President, despite the fact that Al Gore won the popular vote nationwide. The American political system rejected his call that the indifference to Global Warming must end because of the menace to the interests of the state and the welfare of the people.

Of course as Gore said the people see their future welfare, their future well-being, one year at a time which effectively assures the sacrifice of the well-being of future generations when it comes to Climate Change. Fighting Climate Change means we must act in ways well beyond our abilities, ways totally unacceptable to vast numbers of people around the world.

Major generations of the Western world
Greta Thunberg's accusation is that with regard to preventing a climate catastrophe everyone alive is at best only paying lip service (meaning "an avowal of advocacy expressed in words but not backed by deeds") to what must be done to save her Generation Z and those generations that follow. Except ominously nothing follows "Z"in the alphabet. One must wonder what spell was cast to assure GenX was so named (see chart to the right).

Thunberg's words were rather straightforward:

    You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I'm one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!
    For more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you're doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight.
    You say you hear us and that you understand the urgency. But no matter how sad and angry I am, I do not want to believe that. Because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil. And that I refuse to believe.

Regarding the angry-men response to Thunberg, environmentalist and author Bill McKibben observed:

    Greta has said from the start that people attack her because they can’t attack the science; that seems undeniable.
    The attacks reveal the hollowness — intellectual and moral — of the climate-denying right.

McKibben was referencing another term - "Climate Change Denial" - which appeared  in the United States and other parts of the Western World to describe a basic adult human reaction when confronted with the choice between the corporate explanations and those of Al Gore.

Ironically, the use of the word "climate" came into being because "Global Warming" had to be replaced with the term "Climate Change" because people thought "Global Warming" referred to the daily weather at their house, weather that included snow, sleet, and cold days. It was confusing. So in their minds "Global Warming" didn't make sense, particularly as a supporting argument for undermining their lifestyle and the economy that sustains it.

Of course, "climate" in the context of the whole Earth is not a uniformly understood concept. For the average person, in the winter one might travel from, let's say, icy Chicago to balmy Miami. That travel is because, as we all know, in the Winter the climate in Chicago is cold and in Miami its warm ...well, the weather is warm.

Scientists can try to communicate with the general public and you get the Wikipedia entry on "climate" (feel free to skip on when your eyes glaze over reading this):

    On Earth, interactions between the five parts of the climate system that produce daily weather and long-term averages of weather are called "climate". Some of the meteorological variables that are commonly measured are temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind, and precipitation. The climate of a location is affected by its latitude, terrain, and altitude, as well as nearby water bodies and their currents.
    In a broader sense, the "climate" of a region is the general state of the climate system at that location at the current time.
    Climates can be classified according to the average and the typical ranges of different variables, most commonly temperature and precipitation. The most commonly used classification scheme was the K√∂ppen climate classification. The Thornthwaite system, in use since 1948, incorporates evapotranspiration along with temperature and precipitation information and is used in studying biological diversity and how climate change affects it. The Bergeron and Spatial Synoptic Classification systems focus on the origin of air masses that define the climate of a region.

So in the end we have something called "Climate Change Denial." There are different forms of "Climate Change Denial" and most every adult is a "Climate Change Denier". Very few are in "literal denial" - the rejection of the science. Some of us are "interpretive deniers" - meaning those who say yes the facts are true but Climate Change is a natural fluctuation or greenhouse gas accumulation is a consequence of Global Warming, not a cause - but they are not really the problem.

Unfortunately at some level most of us are engaged in the far more dangerous "implicatory denial." In consciously or subconsciously engaging in implicatory denial we minimize the psychological, political and moral implications of the facts as they apply to us. We disassociate the causes from the "I" or "me" (or even the "you" for those who wish to be consistent, so long as "you" aren't some soulless corporate bigwig).

The truth is "we" avoid taking action on the scale required even though the information is clear. "We" refuse to accept responsibility for not responding.

Implicatory denial allows us to use a reusable coffee cup at the airport just before we climb on an airplane.

We feel even somewhat better when we read How Guilty Should You Feel About Flying? in The New York Times because all the rationales are in there for us. The weirdest part of the article is that it talks about "global civil aviation" and passenger miles. Nowhere does it even mention military aviation which is the largest component of aircraft CO2 emission which would give us one more way to rationalize. All of which requires repeating the paragraph from above...

With few exceptions the entire advancement of the United States and Western Civilizations was powered by that contained, controlled, and enhanced fire (combustion). Fire is at the core of our economy. To save the Earth, the proposal is to undo all those fire-based industrial and technological advances, replacing them where possible, ending them otherwise, all in a couple of decades.

What that really says to our civilization is to have all airline corporations ground most aircraft permanently. We know that won't happen that way. We also do know that to effectively achieve that "we" must never again get on an airplane...and never again drive a car with an internal combustion engine...and never again....

"We" are not even thinking like that.

Even when three massive hurricanes in a five-year period displace our retired in-laws living on the Gulf Coast, "we" will not be thinking like that. Even if our sister and family lose their home in the third major wildfire of the year in Southern California, "we" will not be thinking like that. Even when the low-paid janitor in our office loses his grandmother to heat stroke in one of the now annual extreme heat waves, "we" will not be thinking like that

"We" choose to refuse to acknowledge our implicatory climate crisis denial  "We" minimize the psychological, political and moral implications of the facts as they apply to us - a disassociation. "We" refuse to accept responsibility for not responding. "We" avoid taking action on the scale required even though the information is clear.

Greta Thunberg's generation does have a reason to be angry. The members of the international movement Extinction Rebellion explain it: "We are facing an unprecedented global emergency. Life on Earth is in crisis: scientists agree we have entered a period of abrupt climate breakdown, and we are in the midst of a mass extinction of our own making."

What do we do in response? Two celebrities of my generation, Jane Fonda, 81, and Sam Waterston, 78, got themselves arrested in a Washington, D.C., march advocating action on the Green New Deal. That's  nice. But they didn't walk to D.C. And nothing in the Green New Deal rises to the level of immediately grounding most aircraft permanently or immediately prohibiting the use of non-electric cars.

The Green New Deal as crafted by the Democratic Socialists - you know, AOC and Bernie Sanders - is far more about people having jobs and good pay next year than about immediately grounding all aircraft to save GenZ members from death in 2065. Implicatory denial anyone?

We must begin to use words that reflect the truth. It is a climate emergency, climate crisis or climate breakdown to be discussed in terms of the impacts of environmental collapse and global heating which in inevitably lead to inequality, migration and wars over scarce resources.

Because there was no significant responsive affirmative action from his fellow wealthy American men to Al Gore's plea in 1989, it is too late to prevent many impacts of environmental collapse and global heating, impacts which in the next decade will kill people and create economic stress, impacts that cannot be avoided by action taken in the next 10 months or 10 years.

Young people are facing the 21st Century Promethean Calamity. Action taken in the next 10 months or 10 years will reduce impacts on generations living in the year 2100. That doesn't include members of the generations listed in the chart above, except a few (by then) very old Millennials and Thunberg's GenZ, and their offspring.

Thunberg is telling the rest of us to at least try to wrap our heads around the truth about our choices. It is surprisingly hard for those of us in Jane Fonda's and Sam Waterston's Silent Generation. Given the technological advances that occurred in our lifetimes, it is easy to believe that clever people will invent ways to directly alter factors like the CO2 levels. Of course, that is just an extension of the implicatory climate crisis denial we've engaged in since Gore began holding hearings in 1976....

  
 
  The 21st Century Climate Change Black Death is happening now.
                                                                                                          If you're new to this blog here's the link to the listing of the 30+ previous posts in the Blog regarding Climate Change and the Environment.

This post is a part of a series:  climate change black death surrounds us 

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