Environmental science bamboozled

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Environmental science bamboozled
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In a recent interview on Australian Televsion (ABC) David Suzuki lamented his failure to achieve anything positive as an activist on environmental issues.  He admitted his fame and popularity as a TV expert on numerous scientific matters but regretted that his ability to influence and change things  didn't reflect his celebrity status.  He didn't attempt though to explain why. 


With regard to the environment he recalled how, in the seventies everything seemed marvelous  and everyone appeared to be on board with environmental awareness.  There were campaigns to save forests, stop oil pollution, save the seals and so on.  Leading politicians threw their weight behind such campaigns, and gave  verbal support.  All appeared to be going well.  (As a skeptical viewer I couldn't help wondering though whether anything  was actually done, or was it just talk.  "They  cut down all the trees and put them in a tree museum," as Joni Mitchell sang, "and charged all the people a dollar and a half just to see 'em.")    But thirty years later, said Suzuki,  with the onset of economic crisis,  the politicians changed their tunes, and suddenly interest in the environment, and climate change, took a back seat or disappeared altogether.  He regretted this.  He was angry about this.  Why should politicians lose interest in environmental matters just because the economy entered difficulties?  Why should concern about climate change, which after all was scientifically proven, and threatened the whole planet, become something not to talk about just because of economic problems.  Our existence was at stake!  If the economy was not geared to dealing with this issue we could be doomed!  


He talked about the way in which so-called sceptics with regard to climate change and the science behind it, had managed cleverly and subtly to discredit the science completely by a mass campaign of undermining  and raising  doubts about the science - saying the scientists only postulate climate change they haven't proved it  and so on- and how the oil companies  had poured millions of dollars into efforts to question the science without actually discussing what it said or why it said it.  He praised the second President  Bush for his contributions to the negative side of all this, but forgot to mention this same President's contribution to religious  belief, lies and hypocrisy in general and war in Iraq. Not that this particularly distinguishes Bush from any other US President. 


But the striking thing about this interview, where Suzuki was talking very frankly, was that how all his activist life, despite all his scientific know-how and countless honorary degrees for his scientific contributions,  he just can't join up the dots.  He can't see that separating the environment  from the economic system  and wanting it treated as a special issue will never go anywhere.  Never has gone anywhere; was always just glib and green talk by politicians when the economy seemed okay, but disappeared altogether when the economy hit hard times.  Suzuki feels let down.  Perhaps, if he'd ever thought about it properly and scientifically, he might have reached the pretty obvious conclusion that capitalism is at fault here, because capitalism can't afford to do anything about the environment because profits count first, and they're on the dive.  And that to see "environmentalism" as a compartmentalized matter, as if freed from bourgeois economic constraints, is foolish and unwise.


 Is it not sad to see such an honoured and famous scientist  bamboozled by capitalist ideology to such an extent he doesn't even identify capitalism as the driving force behind all the disasters besetting humanity and the planet?   It reminded me of Bertrand Russell wanting to ban the bomb. 


global warming and floods

I think that the link between threats to the environment and the inherent decay of capitalism could well be a difficult one to make for a respected scientist. I would say that in my very limited circles, workers I know are relatively clearly conscious of the link between environmental disasters, greed, profits and the priorities of the capitalist system.

I think that it's becoming more and more evident that we are now engaged in a climatic change that has a strong man(capitalist)-made component to it and that this presents a serious danger to us all.

It's not just the "biblical" (PM Cameron) flooding that's affecting large areas of Ireland and Britain at the moment. This is a global problem with different symptoms and California at the present is bone dry ("Welcome to Chinatown").

The flooding in Britain shows the neglect and compartmentalised approach of the bourgeoisie to a problem that can only get worse and that can only be confronted and tackled by a joined-up and centralised approach going to the basics of the problem - an approach that capitalism is incapable of. Even withhin capitalism, the Dutch bourgeoisie had the sense some 60 years ago to invest heavily in machinery, men and planning for flood defences and their civil engineering for water and flood management is second to none. But this is an exception and in itself is only partial and dealing with symptoms. The flooding in Britain at the moment is more like a long, drawn-out New Orleans.

In an interview on TV John

In an interview on TV John Redmond MP for Wokingham, a rich hamlet on the Thames, if not shortly to be under it,  blamed India and China and the burning of coal  which the Brits no longer  do - a lesson for everyone! - for Global warming and the floods in S. West England,  and said England should take care of its own flood defenses and not worry about the rest of the world; and that Global   Warming and Climate  Change weren't scientifically proved and probably didn't exist anyway because there was even more rain in Britain 258 years ago than there is now, so that proved it.  And he was indignant when somebody laughed at what he said. 


The films of fairly well off people being removed from flooded English suburbs and pretty country lanes contrast well this year with the perennial films of floods in Jakarta  - population between 10 and 28 million, depending on  how you measure the city - which last for two months annually at this time of the year, cause numerous but largely uncounted deaths (mainly of slum people in disgusting slum conditions along side rivers and streams which serve as bathrooms, sewers and rubbish dumps, in which dams formed from jettisoned  plastic  bags regularly cause additional problems to the stinking mess) and god knows what diseases on top of all the deaths,  because who cares what happens to slum dwellers anyway?  And  even if you did care, what could you actually do that would help; apart from getting rid of capitalism, which isn't on the immediate agenda anyway is it?  The only reason Jakarta, and Bangkok too, not to mention the tragic Phillipines,  can get away with their flood problems and the misery it causes mainly for the poor, is  because the climate is warm, poor people in the tropics are accustomed to a larger portion of misery than  are their western counterparts and also  appear to have no recognizable voice, or no voice that is recognized.by the bourgeoisie and its media. Thus the breath taking  problem of sinking tropical mega-cities - not to mention London and other cities built at or below sea levels - looks likely to remain for a long time, and may never be solved, even by a triumphant proletariat.


But there is something tragically and sadly consoling in seeing climate change problems coming home to roost in those parts of the rich world that brought it about in the first place.  Being flooded out is no fun.  Being flooded out in a Northern winter is worse.  Having expensive property destroyed by stinking flood water is a much bigger and more unbearable disaster  than having your bamboo, corrugated iron and palm leaved shack blown away in the wind and rain.  If austerity isn't a sufficient wake up call for us all, than perhaps climate change will help do the trick. Though I suppose they're no substitute for consciousness?  But Wokingham going under....wow, that's a first!  Now that's serious!  Look out John Redmond.  Your cosy secure world is under threat!  


Whether deliberately or not

Whether deliberately or not John Redmond had got it wrong regarding there being more rain 258 years ago. What's being said it seems to me is that this is the most rainfall since records began 258 years ago - which is not the same thing at all.

I take Fred's point about the misery spread by the effects of this rainfall and flood - a lot of the country is now like a sponge that can absorb no more water - is relative and basically the same whether you live in Britain or Singapore for example. The sewers here are overwhelmed and shit and potential disease are swirling around the flood waters. Twenty to thirty years ago all local and water authorties cut back on river and ditch maintenance on orders from central government and this hasn't helped. But the idea that regular dredging anywhere could have made any difference to the levels of flooding today is fanciful to say the least.

Cameron's statement yesterday that "money is no object" in dealing with the floods is already being heavily qualified today and there are serious problems immediately confronting the British state now regarding the maintenance of its infrastructure in the face of problems today and those to come.

Somebody standing up to his

Somebody standing up to his knees in filthy black water in his well furnished kitchen was interviewed on TV.  He wasn't angry but certainly seemed down and out.  Previous floods in was it 2007 had meant that he hadn't been able to be re-insured after them, to pay for this flood!  Insurance companies being far to canny to insure clearly apparent risks twice!  

 How would he  manage, he was asked. He doubted that he would. What would he do?  Pause.  But no explosion of outrage. He said that his house and others like it should never have been built in the place where they had been built right on the river.  It was all a ghastly mistake.

  It seemed like he needed someone to blame, but didn't know exactly who to lay the blame  on.  The architect; the builders; the insurance companies  or the government?  Who should he blame?  


But why not blame capitalism, with its maniac fetishism of home ownership as the be-all and end-all of human existence especially in the once advanced western economies, now crumbling gradually into oblivion like the railway at Dawlish.   Wasn't it a fetish of MrsThatcher   that the UK become a proud nation of home owners, everyone boss of their own castle, rather than go sniveling and groveling    around as council house tenants.  The irony that council house tenants fell for this in large numbers and set about purchasing the very council house they'd previously been accustomed to sniveling around in as tenants, went largely unnoticed!  



 But all this is to miss the real point of the flooding, which, as a UKIP spokesperson said  were actually retribution from god in retaliation for the legalisation of gay marriage.  Was he thinking of Noah, I wondered?  Was he suggesting Noah was gay? Surely not!  But as usual god was generous and undiscriminating  in his retribution punishing not only gays but whole areas of the country so as to include respectably married straights as well.  


I wondered about gentle Somerset, home of the ancient mariner,  now turned into a wonderland water world of idyllic lakes and pastures green.    Was it chock-a bloc with gays I pondered?  Well, Coleridge was a poet and lived there and poets well...enough said!   But Somerset as the Sodom and Gomorrah  of  S.West England, rather than as the proud bastion of Arthurian legend,  with gays camping it up all over the village greens  rather than knights in shining armour defending the exploited or whatever they did. Well it didn't quite jell  together.  Could it be the UKIP spokesperson had got it wrong?  As a political party they may be the very spearhead of bourgeois theorizing about society  - shoot all immigrants, the unemployed, the irreligious, all Tory voters and of course all  red hot socialists like Ed Milliband and his communist cohorts who crowd out the opposition benches of a once proud parliament, and ditch the filthy garlic -munching Europeans as soon as possible - but homosexuals as rain-makers well it doesn't make sense. 

But the bourgeoisie in their increasing desperation and despite rocketing stock exchanges, soaring like high-fever temperature charts,  have to find someone to blame for all the mess they've led us into,   and will search out any scapegoat from god down to the lowliest old age pensioner or unemployed youth, rather than admit any deficiency in their magical economic system. But their excuses wear thinner and thinner as we sink  beneath the waves and brandish our union jacks!  Try not to get them wet!