Category: "HUMAN ELEMENTS"
From one of the wisest fellows who grasp the enormity of Climate Change.
David Roberts. previousely of Grist
..."Most people haven’t taken the time to get familiar with all the ins and outs of climate change. It’s an incredibly complex and politically charged subject with all sorts of contradictory and fragmentary information bouncing around various info-channels. It takes some dedication and a thick skin to get a well-rounded understanding of it and most people have no particular incentive to do so.
So lots of people have a Climate Thing, that one tidbit of info or argument that they read somewhere, or heard somewhere, the thing that somehow resonated with their own concerns and beliefs. It’s the thing they latched onto, the thing they know about climate, like the proverbial blind people surrounding the elephant. They build on it and it becomes their Climate Thing.
A Climate Thing is not always wrong, though it frequently is. Just as often, it’s a kind of distortion, a lens that magnifies one aspect of the issue at the expense of all others. For some people it’s nuclear power. For some people it’s about models, how there was no warming when the models said there would be. For some people it’s Al Gore, or solar power, or consumerism, or population, or “I heard that we’re basically fucked no matter what,” which I’ve heard more times than I can count."....
Maybe one of the key reasons that we can't do anything about the existential crisis of climate change is our inborn optimism....
80 percent of humans are delusionally optimistic, says science
Maybe the reason we can't do anything about the existential crisis of climate change - or, indeed, any of the other existential crises we're facing at present - is that 80 percent of humanity has what's known as an "optimism bias." (If you're reading this, I'm willing to bet you're among the "lucky" 20 percent whose perceptions of reality are demonstrably realistic.)
People who have an optimism bias do irrational things in the laboratory, like systematically ignoring concrete information about risk, reports Scientific American Mind. For example, when test subjects were informed that they had underestimated their odds of contracting a disease or being victimized by a criminal, they failed to revise their estimates, "clinging to their earlier belief that they would probably avoid the bad luck."
In contrast, when test subjects were told they were too pessimistic about a particular outcome, they enthusiastically over-revised their estimate of the odds in their favor.
Other studies have found that lacking the optimism bias is a reliable indicator of depression and anxiety. Humans, in other words, are built to see the world as a sunnier place than it is - it's a survival instinct. This sort of reasoning made sense throughout most of our evolution, when the majority of causes of misfortune - bad weather, communicable diseases, freak accidents - were beyond our control. But now, for the first time in history, we can predict, at least in broad strokes, the decades-hence consequences of our actions. Too bad our brains aren't constructed to do anything about that information.
- Neural Responses Reveal Our Optimistic Bent, Scientific American Mind
The Atlantic April 2012 issue has an article- What Isn't For Sale? that may clarify some aspects why most of us, liberals or conservatives, environmentalists or the Tea Party, do not fully grasp the danger of global warming, We view almost every thing in terms of the dollar, not in the terms of massive floods, or snow-less mountains, or a dead ocean.
Michael Sandel, the author, brings up crucial points how our economic views of our society have distorted most aspects of our lives:
"..Without quite realizing it - without ever deciding to do so - we drifted from having a market economy to being a market economy.
The difference is this: a market economy is a tool - a valuable and effective tool - for organizing productive activity. A market society is a way of life in which market values seep into every aspect of human endeavor."
Over the last few years a number of articles by respectable academics, scientists, and other reputable people told us again and again how much Climate Change, Global Warming, will cost us over time, in the future. It was a monetary assessment of future worth vs. current expenditures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
When people see the potential massive global damage to our Earth in mainly FUTURE economic terms, they dismiss its significance. So it will cost a little more, our growing, massive, economy can handle that. It would not be really so bad, just like inflation...
Some articles said that with the continuous rise in the global economy, the damage to our way of life would be well within a small percentage of our income, so why worry unduly now.
Add to it that most people are not aware of their deep ignorance of the complexity and interconnection of the global climatic balance. And that they truly believe they understand the forces of nature, know enough about the changing weather, and are familiar with the forces impacting cloud formation and even the vastly complex ocean systems. It is, therefore, nearly impossible to penetrate the personal firewall they have erected around themselves so that they would not have to think about the disastrous climatic change we have already entered into.
Here are some of the reasons why many people oppose any real action against global warming:
1. Conservatives are inherently afraid of change partially because of the following:
"The old world is organized;
the new world is disorganized.
The old world is certain;
The new world is uncertain."
President Bill Clinton
2. Human nature is self serving; it is hard to accept reality:
It is the nature of the human species to reject what is true but unpleasant, and embrace what is obviously false but comforting.
One of the key problems in the global warming issue is our inability to grasp dimensions, to grasp the significance of numbers. Unfortunately, most of the US population has little understanding of even the simplest arithmetic, magnitudes and relationships.
So many unrealistic remarks are made in the media and the blogging world about changing energy from oil, gas and coal to alternative energies, it almost boggles the mind.
At a previous blog I mentioned the magnitude of the energy humanity consumed, as calculated by Dr. Lewis, with the hope to open our minds to the trillions in investments and the decades it takes to make any useful impact on the energy story:
The numbers are huge, the growth in population and consumption are so staggering that one would expect some fast and meaningful actions by Congress, by the Federal government and governments around the world to act. But nothing even started. So many years after Kyoto we are still arguing how important GW is and how much we should spend to slow it down. Most global leaders are politicians without knowledge of technology and especially the complexity and fragility of the environment. But they do not know it, and would not admit it to themselves either.
Without some demand from the population to seriously fight GW most "leaders" talk, and wait, and that is what is happening for a long time. Lack of understanding by the public lull the public into apathy. Lack public outcry combined with lack of leadership by governing bodies around the world, and we are continuing to dig ourselves into a deeper hole re. GW.
Again: this lack of public interest to learn, to understand, leads to apathy and being enclosed in our own little world while the global climate is steadily deteriorating.
If you have some desire to learn, to grasp, to be involved, please listen carefully to the two YOUTUBE explanations below on basic numbers, and how they impact our world.
I like you to read this short story about the life of three millions very poor Indian rat-catchers to feel what is life for hundreds of millions of people far away from the Western world. These are some of the people who want a better life that more energy can give them. How can we reconcile their needs and the need to curtail aggressively the rapid rise in global GHG?
Think about it.
In Man vs. Rat, the Humans Get a New Edge
U.S.NEWS & WORLD REPORT ‑ www.USNEWS.COM • JANUARY 21, 2008
A modest advance in rat‑catching technology is improving people's lives in rural India
By Anul Chopra
This is a story about how the development of a better mousetrap‑more like a rat trap, actually‑is helping some of the poorest of the poor in India, raising their incomes and so enabling their children to go to school.
Chinnapayan Krishnan, 41, is a rat exterminator. He belongs to the Irula community, a low‑caste tribe that for many centuries has provided the rat catchers in India's southern Tamil Nadu state. Local farmers hire the Irulas because rats can consume up to a quarter of their crops. For Krishnan and others, rat catching is both their source of modest income‑ the equivalent of 5 cents a rat‑and a key source of food. Rats may provide most of the Irulas' meat and grains (recovered from rat burrows), usually consumed at one meal per day.
Wiping sweat from his brow, Krishnan stands with his rat‑extermination paraphernalia on an arid patch of farmland. In a hushed tone, he asks everyone around to be still. "They can sense us," he says softly, pointing at the spot where a rat has burrowed nearby. "They are very clever creatures." Krishnan plugs two nearby rat holes with dirt, blocking possible escape routes. Then, using a rudimentary‑looking device, a metal drum with a hand‑operated air pump, he blows a torrent of smoke into the burrow. Seconds later, Krishnan reaches in and pulls out a stunned, mangy rat by its tail.
This, believe it or not, is progress. For the Irulas, a disenfranchised community of 3 million people, even simple technology can improve their lives. For ages, Irulas have relied on a traditional fumigation technique: Rats are caught by lighting a fire in a clay pot that covers the mouth of a rat burrow. The rat catcher physically blows air through a small hole in the bottom of the pot to send the smoke into the rat burrow. The rats are retrieved unconscious or dead. But this method is inefficient and hazardous. More than half of the time, the targeted rats manage to get away before being overcome by the puffs of smoke. The Irulas often suffer burns, and smoke inhalation leads to respiratory and cardiac disease. For this and other reasons, Irulas are believed to have a life expectancy of just 45 years.
A few years ago, a Chennai‑based nongovernmental group, the Center for Development of Disadvantaged People, designed a smoke‑producing device that incorporates a hand‑operated air pump, which forces a greater volume of smoke into burrows more quickly than possible using the traditional clay‑pot technique. The device both speeds the job and makes the process less hazardous by reducing the rat catcher's smoke exposure. The World Bank recognized CDDP's achievement with a Global Development Marketplace award and a $98,500 grant to provide the device (made locally) to over 4,000 hula families in Tamil Nadu villages like Sirigumi, which lies 50 miles from Chennai.
One step at a time. The impact has been remarkable. Krishnan has quadrupled his daily catch to as many as 20 rats, increasing his daily earnings to $1 from 25 cents. For the hulas, who have a literacy rate of just 1 percent, even that small amount of extra money means they can afford to send their children to school instead of putting them to work. "The hulas are a great example of how bringing technology to the rural poor can help them improve their lives one step at a time," says Siri Terjesen, a professor at the Neeley School of Business at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth; who has visited the Irulas to study the impact.
No less significant, perhaps, this modest rural innovation has brought a sense of pride to a people characterized as "untouchables" for their lowly caste status. "Everyone wants to abandon their lives as rat catchers‑a miserable existence that only brings shame," says Krishnan. "But this rat trap gives a sense of hope to our community that we, too, can have productive lives."
But even at a cost of just $25 (versus 50 cents for the traditional clay pot), the device is out of the reach of most Irulas. CDDP Director Sethu Sethunarayanan says he hopes the Irulas will be able to obtain microcredit loans to afford the devices. With over 100 million small farmers in the Tamil Nadu and neighboring Andhra Pradesh states, this kind of technological advance is in great demand. Farmers around Sirigumi prefer using rat catchers rather than poisons, which they know can hurt soil productivity and pose a risk to animals and humans.
As shadows lengthen in Sirigumi, Krishnan walks home with his prized catch. He enters his tiny mud but with a straw roof and dirt floor, carrying the malodorous carcasses in with him. He reminisces about awful times when there was nothing but wild fruit from a parched bush near his home with which to feed his nine children. "My children don't go hungry these days," he says, handing over the dead rodents to his wife. "They feast."
I just finished translating a real story about some of the personal horrors experienced in the Holocaust in Germany for a friend of mine. He was in those horrific death camps and his knowledge of Hebrew is not as good as mine. I was born and raised in Israel.
My friend personal experience and the translation itself brought to reality, gave me a better grasp, of the human dimensions, not just statistics of the suffering in WWII. Not only did 6 million Jews brutality used as slave labor to advance the German war machine, starved to death on one hundred calories a day, and dehumanized at each step of the way. Fifty million people died in agony, most of them civilians, during that horrific period.
But all of that human suffering would be nothing in comparison to the projected, and possibly hard to reduce, human casualties from the developing global warming.
We are talking about carbon tax, we are talking about how much will it cost us, we talk about better technologies to cut GHG emissions, but we actually are doing nothing since it does not yet sink in. It does not sink in since we are rejecting reality. And we talk about it in sterilized mode. We talk as if human life, human suffering are just numbers.
The projection of human migrations on mass scale, hundreds of millions, the projection of human suffering have been coming from many scientists, from national leaders, from experienced military generals, from the ex. Director of the CIA, from many sensible people with no axe to grind who are concerned about the future of humankind, including the suffering in the USA. And we do not listen and thus our Representatives do not hear it from us.
This is just a remainder that people can cause immense suffering. That tens of millions of German and Japanese and from other nations had been very capable of looking at things from their own narrow point of view and did not care about tomorrow and human life as long it was not theirs. Human nature did not improve in the last half century.
Time to stop the arguments and start cooperating for the common survival of humanity. What happened in the Holocaust, what happened in Rwanda and the Sudan in our time- and in WWII, would be nothing compared to the projected suffering expected due to global warming.
Cold, theoretical discussions are not fruitful, and would not cut human suffering in time.
Again: Hundreds of millions would suffer terribly from the result of GW.
Should we continue to discuss it or start to cooperate to reduce the coming immense human suffering?
One of the most powerful, persistent, and overwhelming hindrance to our national ability to reduce GW is our arrogance. We believe we are due special consideration in the world.
This may be even the most significant element in our inadequate response to GW.
We think that whatever we have we have created, and we believe nature is here to serve us.
But that is not how the world operates. Nature does not care what we say or believe. Nature continues to respond to the unbalance we have created in its delicate natural cycles.
Our arrogance may stem from the immense, seemingly unlimited gifts nature gave us when we took over the US. Huge forests were covering much of the land, mighty rivers supplied us easy, low cost transportation, and all the minerals, oil and natural beauty were not yet used or destroyed.
We got the impression that we made all this wealth, and that we can use it as we wish. We ignored nature; it was here for us to use and abuse. It was seemingly unlimited.
Some thirty five years ago Professor Ian L. McHarg told us at UCLA environmental program that you must design WITH nature, not against it. This visionary architect and planner published his first book: Design by Nature, in 1969. In this book he projected his massage clearly against the traditional way that urban development must be imposed upon the landscape.
His craggy face was full of emotions when he discussed how irrational is the way we build our communities and also houses on angry coastlines. How much destruction will rivers continue to cause us as their floods overtake houses so near the flood plains?
Few listened to him. We ignored nature. And our governments, at all levels, continued to allow massive developments in unstable natural areas. The accompanying destructions have been so common, we are not even aware that we could have prevented many of them.There are some improvements, but limited. We continue to strip mountain tops to get our dirty coal with triple devastation: of the landscapes, of the air (local pollution), and massive GHG emissions.
We still believed that we are entitled to take from nature whatever we can. I read recently about a home owner in a flood plain that twice lost his home to floods, twice the federal government paid to rebuild it, and now he wants to do it the third time. And he believes he is entitled to be compensated for his stupidity, actually arrogance. He said he loves the beauty of being so close to the river.
And this American arrogance also shows its head when we are unwilling to reduce our massive emissions of GHG. We that emitted over 30% of all ACCUMULATED GHG TO DATE still believe we should not make any meaningful sacrifices to reduce GW.
But nature will continue on its way; global warming will continue to accelerate, global temperatures will continue to rise while we are arguing about it in Congress and the media.
There is a possibility that humanity is approaching the limit of our ability to manage the complex and interwoven global mechanisms we are so dependent on. It is also possible that our human limitations are inborn and our minds are more limited than we believe. Often good, knowledgeable people make major errors.
The recent near collapse of the financial markets, and our inability to grasp and act to reduce the escalating danger of global warming suggest to me that humanity is in great risk. Our world may be too complex for us to manage sensibly. And our old ways of dealing with national and international problems may no longer work.
Why did we not act earlier? Rational people would!
The current collapse of the global financial mechanism should not have been a surprise to economists, to the financial system, legislators and government. Ten years ago we got a very scary lesson, the collapse of Long-Term Capital Management hedge fund. During one tense weekend there was a danger that the global financial markets would collapse with the failure of that huge hedge fund. How could we ignore that lesson? May be we are unable to grasp this kind of danger despite having large numbers of highly regarded economists in academia, government and the financial markets. This is not just politics, both parties were deeply involved.
Look at that immense risk: "Long-Term Capital Management, used its $2.2 billion in capital from investors as collateral to buy $125 billion in securities, and then used those securities as collateral to enter into exotic financial transactions valued at $1.25 trillion", [NYTimes]. This is an immense ratio of nearly 600 to one! Banks are allowed to extend loans at a ratio of up to fifteen to one.
This is like me going to a bank offering them a thousand dollar in collateral, and asking for a loan of a half a million dollar so I can speculate in unregulated securities. Incredible!
The rescue of the global economy occurred during the Clinton administration guided by Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin. "In a statement issued after markets had closed, Mr. Rubin said the Treasury Department had been closely following developments related to Long-Term Capital. Congressional Republicans also announced they would hold hearings exploring all aspects of the hedge fund industry, including regulation and supervision." [NYTimes].
"Mr. Rubin disputed the idea that hedge funds should be regulated like banks and put under some form of Government control. '' I don't think it is a question of reining people in,'' Mr. Rubin told reporters in Washington. But he said Long-Term Capital's situation had raised some concerns. ''There are questions about disclosure and other issues, and my guess is there will be a lot of discussion and debate about that,'' Mr. Rubin said." [NYTimes]..
This kind of speculation opened the gate to others: "just don't worry, all will be ok" type mentality. We had clear warning, many in power said they would investigate but nothing happened to limit the range of immense speculation. Why? Not everybody is corrupt, stupid or self serving. There are many good people.
It is very complex, there are a number of causes, but there is also a possibility that we are basically unable to do much better. Here are the views of two scientists about our limited ability to think:
1. "Any modern investigation into how we think must illuminate why we're so bad at it. " We're totally committed to a view of how the mind works," she says - in short, we believe people are rational - "but most of the time, human behavior isn't based on an explicit, rational, considered decision." And our irrational tendencies are all too apparent. "[The mind] makes us make systematic mistakes over and over again, as individuals but also as societies."
Rebecca Saxe, specializes in Social Neuroscience at MIT
2. "People tend to assess risk like cavemen did. We pay heed to immediate threats - a rabid dog or poisonous snake- while ignoring abstract ones, such as pollution."
Arnon Lotem, Tel Aviv University, Dept. of Zoology.
This last point may be one of the key reasons why we can not deal realistically with long range problems. People who are concerned about global warming see it as a distant event and so do inconsequential things to reduce it by being green at home, which gives them satisfaction but can not make any difference on a national scale. Individually we may be unable to think the problem through. And thus are somewhat complacent and do not raise the substantial public outcry that drives bold political actions.
One of the most difficult things is to admit the limitation of one's knowledge and capabilities. We should not ignore our limited capabilities. We need to understand and accept them so we can compensate for our limitation.
IT IS CRITICAL TO KNOW WHAT WE DO NOT KNOW, AND OUR OWN LIMITATIONS.