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Fracking protesters show, a people’s rebellion is the only way to fight #climatebreakdown #StopAdani #EndCoal #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #WentworthVotes for #ClimateAction to stop catastrophic #ClimateChange

Today, the notion of public service seems as quaint as a local post office.

We expect those who govern us to grab what they can, permitting predatory banks and corporations to fleece the public realm, then collect their reward in the form of lucrative directorships.

As the Edelman Corporation’s Trust Barometer survey reveals, trust worldwide has collapsed in all major institutions, and government is less trusted than any other.

As for the economic elite, as the consequences of their own greed and self-interest emerge, they seek, like the Roman oligarchs fleeing the collapse of the western empire, only to secure their survival against the indignant mob.

An essay by the visionary author Douglas Rushkoff this summer, documenting his discussion with some of the world’s richest people, reveals that their most pressing concern is to find a refuge from climate breakdown, and economic and societal collapse.

Should they move to New Zealand or Alaska?

How will they pay their security guards once money is worthless?

Could they upload their minds on to supercomputers?

Survival Condo, the company turning former missile silos in Kansas into fortified bunkers, has so far sold every completed unit.

Trust, the Edelman Corporation observes, “is now the deciding factor in whether a society can function”.

Unfortunately, our mistrust is fully justified.

Those who have destroyed belief in governments exploit its collapse, railing against a liberal elite (by which they mean people still engaged in public service) while working for the real and illiberal elite.

As the political economist William Davies points out, “sovereignty” is used as a code for rejecting the very notion of governing as “a complex, modern, fact-based set of activities that requires technical expertise and permanent officials”.

Nowhere is the gulf between public and private interests more obvious than in governments’ response to the climate crisis.

On Monday, UK energy minister Claire Perry announced that she had asked her advisers to produce a roadmap to a zero-carbon economy.

On the same day, fracking commenced at Preston New Road in Lancashire, enabled by the permission Perry sneaked through parliament on the last day before the summer recess.

The minister has justified fracking on the grounds that it helps the country affect a “transition to a lower-carbon economy”. But fracked gas has net emissions similar to, or worse than, those released by burning coal.

As we are already emerging from the coal era in the UK without any help from fracking, this is in reality a transition away from renewables and back into fossil fuels.

The government has promoted the transition by effectively banning onshore wind farms, while overriding local decisions to impose fracking by central diktat. Now, to prevent people from taking back control, it intends to grant blanket planning permission for frackers to operate.

None of it makes sense, until you remember the intimate relationship between the fossil fuel industry, the City (where Perry made her fortune) and the Tory party, oiled by the political donations flowing from both sectors into the party’s coffers. These people are not serving the nation.

They are serving each other.

In Germany, the government that claimed to be undergoing a great green energy transition instead pours public money into the coal industry, and deploys an army of police to evict protesters from an ancient forest to clear it for a lignite mine.

On behalf of both polluting power companies and the car industry, it has sabotaged the EU’s attempt to improve its carbon emissions target. Before she was re-elected, I argued that Angela Merkel was the world’s leading eco-vandal. She might also be the world’s most effective spin doctor: she can mislead, cheat and destroy, and people still call her Mutti. 

Other governments shamelessly flaunt their service to private interests, as they evade censure by owning their corruption. A US government report on fuel efficiency published in July concedes, unusually, that global temperatures are likely to rise by 4C this century. It then uses this forecast to argue that there is no point in producing cleaner cars, because the disaster will happen anyway. Elsewhere, all talk of climate breakdown within government is censored. Any agency seeking to avert it is captured and redirected.

In Australia, the new prime minister, Scott Morrison, has turned coal burning into a sacred doctrine. I would not be surprised if the only lump of coal he has ever handled is the one he flourished in the Australian parliament. But he dirties his hands every day on behalf of the industry. These men with black hearts and clean fingernails wear their loyalties with pride.

If Jair Bolsonaro takes office in Brazil, their annihilistic actions will seem mild by comparison. He claims climate breakdown is a fable invented by a “globalist conspiracy”, and seeks to withdraw from the Paris agreement, abolish the environment ministry, put the congressional beef caucus (representing the murderous and destructive ranching industry) in charge of agriculture, open the Amazon Basin for clearance and dismantle almost all environmental and indigenous protections.

With the exception of Costa Rica, no government has the policies required to prevent more than 2C of global warming, let alone 1.5C. Most, like the UK, Germany, the US and Australia, push us towards the brink on behalf of their friends. So what do we do, when our own representatives have abandoned public service for private service?

On 31 October, I will speak at the launch of Extinction Rebellion in Parliament Square. This is a movement devoted to disruptive, nonviolent disobedience in protest against ecological collapse.

The three heroes jailed for trying to stop fracking last month, whose outrageous sentences have just been overturned, are likely to be the first of hundreds. The intention is to turn this national rising into an international one.

This preparedness for sacrifice, a long history of political and religious revolt suggests, is essential to motivate and mobilise people to join an existential struggle. It is among such people that you find the public and civic sense now lacking in government.

That we have to take such drastic action to defend the common realm shows how badly we have been abandoned.

 George Monbiot is a Guardian columnist

Press link for more: The Guardian

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“Let’s start designing the future that gives us a future” #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #WentworthVotes #StopAdani #EndCoal #ClimateChange now #ClimateBreakdown #TheDrum #QandA

“Let’s start designing the future that gives us a future”

The United Nations says we have 12 years to take action against climate change, to avoid global disaster.

It’s the greatest design challenge in history, says Nicolas Roope.


The climate is in trouble and we’ve now been given a deadline by the UN to pull our proverbial socks up and try to avert a catastrophe.

I’ve already had nights of sleeplessness and worry, with that heavy feeling of inevitable doom. But that worry won’t change anything. We have to move on and do something about it.

The clock’s ticking.

We already know we can turn our washing machines down a few degrees, change to efficient lighting (Plumen of course) and reuse shopping bags. But it is now the time to ask what more we can do to scale the solutions that so often feel out of reach by individuals, and the sole preserve of governments and legislators. And more specifically, what can designers and architects do to accelerate an at-scale response to the problem?

Finding efficiencies in each individual product and project is a good start but how can these binary digits become viral phenomena?

So that the force doesn’t come from pushing, campaigning and regulation, but from the warm rush of exuberance, cheered by global applause?

It is now the time to ask what more we can do to scale the solutions that so often feel out of reach

First we need to look at where we are and how we got here.

One way to do this is by using my favourite graph, the Kubler-Ross Change Curve, which charts the mental journey we go through when processing grief or trauma.

For the environment, the chart starts about a decade ago – there was a real awakening, with the subject really surfacing in the mainstream. But quickly the clarity was diluted and became vague through the clever antagonisms of anti-fact propaganda. Add to that the tendency of organisations to greenwash and you can understand the eventual despondence and fatigue.

It became too complicated, too tiring, too scary, and we all entered a period of denial.

I’m hypersensitive to light bulbs obviously, so over this period I noticed a huge resurgence of Edison-style lamps.

They were everywhere, as a collective “fuck you” to climate change, a swan song to a bloated inefficient technology that really had no place in the enlightened world.

Beef, the least sustainable livestock, also had a huge resurgence, with modern quality burger joints popping up in every corner.

We weren’t going to acknowledge climate change, let alone do anything about it.

No, we were going to surf our Range Rovers into oblivion in a hedonistic puff of carbonised smoke.

That period was followed by frustration and depression, as the majority finally accepted the problem was real, but the scientific community and media organisations were still rooting out the final naysayers.

Frustration and depression often happen when you feel like you’ve been tricked and conned by those in authority. Remember the financial crash? How no one saw it coming?

But look back at the graph. There’s hope. Because when the facts of a challenge or a change finally settle, there’s a change of mindset, a new mood for the challenge and a new will to overcome all the barriers that hitherto seemed unsurmountable. I want us to focus on this part.

Stop pretending that attaching a windmill to a tower block is going to fix anything

What we can do, as designers, architects, culture makers, symbol creators, desire directors, is to stop telling half-truths.

Stop designing things that ride the environmental story, with a lack of real intent or impact.

Stop pretending that attaching a windmill to a tower block is going to fix anything.

Stop talking about eco retreats at the end of a long haul flight.

To change anything we need to get beyond the confusion and the empty virtue signalling.

We need real impact.

Shell has suggested the idea of sucking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere with new technology it is funding. But on further reading you realise that it would take hundreds of thousands of these suckers to make any meaningful impact. And who’s going to pay for that?

No one of course, which is precisely why it’s not a solution.

How can a technology that costs trillions to run day and night operate when it’s only a cost on the national balance sheet?

When you buy a tank full of petrol, you’re not paying to spew out tons of carbon, you’re buying the transport miles.

You’re buying the benefit of getting somewhere.

The CO2 is a bi-product.

So to create a shadow industry – to balance every car, plane and power station burning stuff in the world – would reach an impossible scale of economies.

Perhaps it could work if the costs were offset by taxation on users but that’s a political quagmire unlikely to pass.

This situation shows the systemic nature of the problem.

So many interrelated activities make the behaviours and interdependencies hard to unlock. And yet, as creative thinkers, designers are incredibly well skilled to establish new codes and systems.

Designers are so often in the business of creating desire, of providing the fuel for dreams that drives so much production, commerce and construction.

Why can’t we coral this skill, to infect everyone with a lust for the truly progressive objects, projects and experiences?

Great design doesn’t just make things more usable and elegant, it elevates them and makes them cool

In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell talks about how the smoking habit was perpetuated through cultural memes.

The individuals most likely to smoke at the start were the most gregarious and popular social animals, the ideal to which others aspired.

The cigarette therefore became a signal of social potency and status through this association, ensuring its uptake and spread across the masses who wanted to bathe in the reflected status.

Designers don’t just create arbitrary things outside culture’s context, they pull the levers of reference and narrative, to reflect the zeitgeist and to create directionality, to pull people in who want to associate and identify with this direction and inferred values.

This is most obvious perhaps with fashion, where the designer’s expression becomes a cultural artefact and symbol for the label’s underlying status and values.

The consumer buys into this and they themselves get to fly the flag as a wearer. It’s a logical step therefore to see how fashion designers have a key role to play in shepherding opinion, with their acute grasp of our attention and the alchemic skills they have for conjuring allure.

Louis Vuitton’s window displays this summer featured a beautiful patchwork of solar panels, a kind of aestheticising of these otherwise utilitarian objects. But the statement was helpful –  there are €5000 jumpers and there’s stopping the world from melting. And they’re both cool, says Louis Vuitton.

This is what we have done with Plumen – used design to encourage a reappraisal of the bulb as a technology and commodity, a way of calling out category indifference, but also provided something really positive, a beautiful and efficient product that gives the user real pleasure.

More than that, it gives a symbol of hope.

Bound up in Plumen’s genesis is the idea that making a lovely light bulb is one thing, but helping the world see a positive future, where sustainability and pleasure are not necessarily at odds with each other, is something that will help grease the wheels of change and move us from despondence to exuberance for building this new world.

So many people still believe living better will come at a heavy cost.

With the light bulb at least, we’ve helped to break that spell. And we’re certainly not alone.

Let’s all just get serious about how we can take responsibility for both the problem and the power in our hands to tackle it

Tesla has been the poster boy of this philosophy.

It changed the automotive business, because it made the electric powertrain cool. And when you make things cool, you give everyone permission to own one and to actively align with these new symbols.

Without Tesla I don’t think we would have seen Volvo announcing to go all electric for another decade.

We need to create a new landscape where we have permission to care and permission to act.

That’s exactly where design needs to come in.

Great design doesn’t just make things more usable and elegant, it elevates them and makes them cool.

Coolness may seem trite and superficial in the face of climate change, but it is the very cultural trigger that creates this much needed permission.

It is the difference between partial uptake and things going truly mainstream. Coolness drives the market, drives adoption of new behaviours and transforms the unusual into the normal.

There are already some examples of significant change happening that should give us encouragement and hope.

Look at the speed of change in how we eat.

Vegetarianism is going mainstream, fuelled by social-media feeds that break with clichés and traditions of vegetarian food dramatically.

This dramatic, visible change signals a new culture and therefore new space for new identities.

The door has opened for people who didn’t fit the “veggie” picture. With the shift comes an acceleration of change and the much needed growth in scale.

Livestock is a huge CO2 contributor.

Making vegetarianism attractive to billions is as much a design challenge as it is culinary. And the project is already well underway.

A Vegan Burger

We can  also find solace in other recent seismic shifts.

For better or worse, we live in a world where we can shape-shift faster than ever.

The 12-year timeframe the UN report has given us all to make a meaningful reduction in emissions is longer than it took Apple to get the smartphone concept into the hands of more than half the world’s population.

No legislators were needed to drive this meteoric rise, just the intense allure of technology, shaped by compelling design.

Perhaps we should be asking Jony Ive and Tony Fadell for some tips about how to start a revolution of this magnitude for the good of the planet?

The role of design in driving these shifts can be oblique. But scratch the surface and it’s there.

Take for instance air travel.

Technologists agree that alternative fuels for aviation are way off.

The energy density in batteries makes long distant flights an economic impossibility for this weight-sensitive mode of transportation.

So designing a new kind of plane isn’t helpful because the limit is technological. But rejuvenating domestic destinations for the staycation is something architects and designers can do, so people don’t need to head to the airports in the first place.

In the UK, we’re already seeing our neglected seaside towns become attractive destinations again.

In 2017, a national survey revealed a 23.8 per cent rise in UK holiday planning. That’s a lot of unreleased carbon. If the true cost of flying increases for consumers, you’ve got an even more compelling reason to stay at home.

The technology is there to make remote meetings as good as those in person, but so many still feel compelled to fly across oceans to commune in the flesh. Surely this too is a design challenge. Create new kinds of meeting spaces to enhance the virtual experience and shape the rituals for a new way to conduct the face to face in virtual space. Another move to pull some more planes out of the sky.

Off-shore wind already is trading at £52 per megawatt against Hinkley Point’s £92. But on-shore is a great deal cheaper to construct and service. However communities resist them because they don’t like a blot on the landscape – a design challenge if ever I heard one, and one I’m working on as it happens.

Freaking out isn’t going to help anyone.

Let’s all just get serious about how we can take responsibility for both the problem and the power in our hands to tackle it.

Not just as designers but as global citizens, as parents to every subsequent generation, let’s engage the complexity.

Let’s learn where the biggest impacts can be made so we’re not wasting time and resources, and let’s not leave space for empty gestures.

It is an incredible moment in human history, whether it’s something we come to look back at fondly or with regret

World politics is clearly unfit for purpose for a problem of this scale.

It’s never had a problem like this to tackle, where the entire world community faces such a common enemy.

Our divisions have been a source of power because a common enemy is galvanising. This time we really do need to come together.

While the rise of populism is dark and daunting, we need to remember one thing very clearly.

We as designers can make things popular. And if we shape new modes, behaviours, products, buildings, ideas, words, looks to create popular movements, we’ll hear a change of tune from our leaders. When they know we all care and we all think progressiveness is cool, they’ll turn. Soft power, turning hard and with it another step towards material change at the required scale.

Design is already global.

Everyone, everywhere engages with it in some form, and uses its many tools and techniques. It reaches beyond borders and language. We just need to stop ignoring it, or pretending the little we do is enough.

This is perhaps the biggest challenge humankind has ever faced, and also perhaps its most exciting.

We can join together like never before, to write the rules of a new world.

It is an incredible moment in human history, whether it’s something we come to look back at fondly or with regret.

So let’s start designing the future that gives us a future. Now.

Press link for more: Dezeen

Limiting Global Warming to 1.5°C Will Require Deep Emissions Cuts #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #StopAdani #EndCoal #WentworthVotes for #ClimateAction Stop #ClimateBreakdown #TheDrum #QandA

By Climate Central

The Paris Climate Change Agreement set a goal of “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C (3.6°F) above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C (2.7°F).”

In that agreement, world leaders asked the IPCC, the preeminent climate science body, “to provide a Special Report in 2018 on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways.”

After being formally approved by all the UN country representatives, that special report was released this week.

Human activities have already warmed the planet about 1°C (1.8°F) since the pre-industrial era, defined by the IPCC as the latter half of the 19th century. At the current rate of warming, Earth would reach the 1.5°C threshold between 2030 and 2052.

Limiting warming to 1.5°C is not easy and requires drastic changes to our energy, transportation, food, and building systems.

Net CO2 emissions need to drop 45 percent from their 2010 levels by 2030, and reach net-zero by 2050 (meaning that any remaining CO2 emissions would need to be offset by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere).

Meeting this goal involves a large jump in renewables for the global energy supply, providing 70-85 percent of electricity use by 2050.

Moreover, because CO2 remains in the atmosphere for centuries, we have already committed to future warming with our historical emissions.

As a result, even with drastic emissions cuts, meeting this 1.5°C goal likely means a brief exceedance, or overshoot, of the 1.5°C threshold before returning to that level for the longer term and requires some removal of CO2 from the atmosphere — either via reforestation, soil carbon sequestration, or technological advancements enabling direct capture of carbon from the atmosphere.

Even limiting warming to 1.5°C comes with higher risks from extreme heat, drought, and heavy precipitation.

This harms agriculture, food and water supplies, human health, and the oceans. Optimum agricultural belts will shift, water supplies will be at additional risk, and disease-carrying insects will move into new areas. Additionally, an extra half-degree Celsius (about 1°F) from 1.5°C to 2°C would magnify impacts:

  • Doubling the number of people affected by water scarcity
  • Doubling the losses of corn yields in the tropics
  • Increasing by 10 times the frequency of ice-free summers in the Arctic Ocean
  • Losing 30 percent more coral reefs (meaning a total of 99 percent of coral reefs will disappear)
  • Losing an additional 50 percent of global fisheries
  • Adding 10 million people to those affected by sea level rise

With current technologies in place, drastic changes still make the goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C possible, but the window is rapidly closing to meet that goal.

Press link for more: Climate Central

Leaders move past Trump to protect world from #climatechange #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #ClimateBreakdown #StopAdani #EndCoal #WentworthVotes #TheDrum #QandA

Far more must be invested in adapting to warming, says new global commission that aims to rebuild political will after US withdrawal from Paris agreement

The Global Commission on Adaptation is being led by Ban Ki-Moon, Bill Gates and Kristalina Georgieva, CEO of the World Bank. It involves 17 countries including China, India, South Africa, Indonesia, Canada and the UK.

Much more money is being invested in cutting carbon emissions than preparing for the climate change impacts that are already inevitable. More than $380bn (£287bn) was spent on reducing CO2 in 2015-16, compared with just $20bn boosting protection from extreme weather.

Former UN secretary general Ban said a step change in adaptation can and must be achieved: “Climate change is happening much, much faster than one may think. [But] where there is political will, anything can be done.”

However, he said the international consensus to fight global warming had been damaged by Trump’s actions. On Sunday, Trump questioned whether global warming was caused by human activities, contradicting the long-established conclusions of the world’s scientists.

“We were very much united until December 2015 in Paris,” Ban told the Guardian. “Now unfortunately the level of solidarity is being loosened, especially by the Trump administration. Even though it is just one country, it has caused big political damage.”

Adaptation measures to safeguard people’s homes, food, water and energy are being implemented in some places, but at far too small a scale, the commissioners said.

“Continued economic growth and reductions in global poverty are possible despite these daunting challenges – but only if societies invest much more in adaptation,” said Ban. “The costs of adapting are less than the cost of doing business as usual and the benefits are many times larger.”

“We are at a moment of high risk and great promise,” said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “If everyone does their part, we can reduce carbon emissions, increase access to affordable energy, and help farmers everywhere grow more productive crops.”

“Our climate has already changed. Dramatic weather events and volatile seasons are the new normal,” said Georgieva. “We face a choice: business as usual and hope for the best. Or we act now and build for a resilient future.”

The new group is comprised of 28 commissioners, including two national presidents, representing all regions of the globe and all sectors of development and industry. The US administration is not represented but Francis Suarez, the mayor of Miami, is a commissioner.

The commission will produce a major report on adapting to climate change for the UN climate summit in September 2019, followed by a year of action to implement its recommendations.

“Scientists and economists believe the cost of adaptation could rise to $500bn per year by 2050 and, in the mid-term, $300bn by 2030,” said Ban. This money is available, he said: “I don’t think it is a matter of [getting the] money. The money can be mobilised. If there is political will, I think we can handle this matter.”

In particular, the trillions of dollars held by investment managers and insurers should be put to work, Ban said: “We should not expect all this money to come from governments. The private sector has to be fully engaged.” He said 63% of the $380bn invested in cutting emissions in 2015-16 was from the private sector.

Press link for more: The Guardian

Swiss glaciers lost a fifth of their ice within a decade #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #ClimateChange #StopAdani #EndCoal #ClimateBreakdown #WentworthVotes

Mount Piz Segnas, left, and the Tschingel Horn mountains, right, with Martin’s Hole near Elm in the canton of Glarus, are pictured in Switzerland. File picture: Gaetan Bally/Keystone via AP

Geneva – A fifth of Switzerland’s glacier volume has melted away over the past 10 years, the Swiss Academy of Sciences said Tuesday after the past record summer delivered a further blow to the country’s iconic Alpine ice.

The melt water over the past decade could cover all of Switzerland’s 41,285 square kilometres with 25 centimetres of water, according to the Academy-funded Swiss Glacier Monitoring Network.

Summers with unusually high temperatures have become more frequent in the country, and the past April-September season was the hottest since records began in the 1860s.

The permanent ice cover on the Alpine peaks lost 2.5 per cent of its volume over the past 12 months.

Receding glaciers increase the risk of large landslides and floods caused by overflowing glacier lakes.

Although Switzerland saw unusually large amounts of snow last winter, most of it melted away during the dry spring and hot summer.

“Many glaciers completely lost their snow cover in the past months,” said Andreas Bauder, one of the network’s scientists.

This is problematic because the white winter snow reflects the sun and protects the darker glacier ice underneath, he told dpa.

In addition, fresh snow is necessary to sustain glaciers over longer periods, because it can turn into ice over the years, Bauder added.

Press link for more: IOL

Stephen Hawking’s last warning from beyond the grave #ClimateBreakdown #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #WentworthVotes #StopAdani #EndCoal #ClimateChange #Science

By Nick Miller

An insular, Trump-age mindset won’t help solve challenges like climate change and population growth, warns physicist Stephen Hawking from beyond the grave.

In his final book, published after his death, physicist Stephen Hawking tackled the big questions of life, the universe and everything.

Photo: AP / Matt Dunham

With tears in her eyes, Lucy Hawking listened to her father’s narration over an animation explaining his insights into the paradoxes of black holes: a problem that he was investigating – and publishing research on – right up to his death.

“It feels sometimes like he’s still here,” she said.

But if he were he would be speaking out not just on the exotic problems of fundamental physics and cosmology.

“He was deeply worried that at a time when the challenges that present themselves are global – and need us to come together and work together – that we were becoming increasingly local in our thinking,” Lucy Hawking said. “That at a time when we should be calling for unity we were becoming more and more fractured and divided.

“I think that was a huge concern for him and one that you’ll find all the way through the book… it’s a call for unity, it’s a call to humanity, to bring ourselves back together and really face up to the challenges in front of us and to work together to find a solution.”

The book is a collection of Professor Hawking’s favourite answers to the questions he was constantly asked over his acclaimed career, such as “will we survive on Earth?” and “will artificial intelligence outsmart us?”.

He began pulling it together before his death, but the project was finished by his family and colleagues.

The tenth and last question in the book is “how do we shape the future?”

In his answer, Hawking emphasised the importance of education and research, lamenting that funding for science was being significantly cut.

“We are also in danger of becoming culturally isolated and insular,” he wrote. “With Brexit and Trump now exerting new forces in relation to immigration and the development of education, we are witnessing a global revolt against experts, which includes scientists.”

But science held the answers to pressing problems such as global warming, the growing population, renewable energy and epidemic diseases.

Making science more accessible to diverse populations and young people “greatly increases the chances of finding and inspiring the new Einstein. Wherever she might be”.

In the book Hawking also said:

  • Colonising the solar system “may be the only thing that saves us from ourselves… if we stay [on Earth] we risk being annihilated”.
  • When computers become smarter than us “we will need to ensure that [they] have goals aligned with ours”.
  • In the future, we will communicate through brain-computer interfaces wired into our skulls.
  • Sometime during this century we will be able to use genetic engineering to improve our memory and lifespan, but “unimproved” humans won’t be able to compete with the new “race of self-designing beings”.
  • Scientists have a duty to alert the public to the “unnecessary risks” posed by climate change.

Professor Hawking concluded that there is “probably no heaven and afterlife”, and there is no reliable evidence for a God that created the universe or directs our fate.

It’s just wishful thinking, he said.

We have just one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe.

“When we die we return to dust. But there’s a sense in which we live on, in our influence and in our genes that we pass on to our children.”

Lucy Hawking said her father would have been “very honoured” by the decision to inter his ashes at Westminster Abbey – between the graves of Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin.

“He never liked to be alone, he always wanted to be at the centre of everything,” she said.

“I like to think that between Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin he will never be alone again.”

Press link for more: SMH

Time to ban #NewsCorp & other right wing news media that use their propaganda to attack science? Putting us at risk of catastrophic #ClimateChange #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #MediaWatch #Democracy

Hello, I’m Paul Barry, welcome to Media Watch.

http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/episodes/climate-coverage/10377090

And last week’s dramatic report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change really sounded the alarm on the future of our planet, with scientists predicting the Great Barrier Reef could be wiped out by 2050 if we don’t act to slow down global warming.

And you would have thought that would make big headlines in Australia, given the reef is on the World Heritage list, our largest tourist attraction and gives jobs to 60,000 people.

So what was front-page news in the local papers?

On Tuesday and Wednesday, News Corp’s Cairns Post had this.

News Corp’s Townsville Bulletin had this.

And News Corp’s Daily Mercury in Mackay had this.

Inside the paper they all had something on climate, but typically only a few paragraphs and the reef barely got a mention.

Remarkable, eh?

But in News Corp’s tabloids around the country the story was the same.

Tuesday’s Daily Telegraph had a horse on its front page:

Get off ya high horse

– The Daily Telegraph, 9 October, 2018

And, its only climate story was six paragraphs inside the paper about going nuclear.

The Courier-Mail had this on the front, and the same small piece on nuclear power.

And Melbourne’s Herald Sun had this on the front and nothing at all in its news pages about climate or the reef.

So how could those News Corp papers all but ignore this huge story, which The Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan and ex-Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger reckon is the media’s absolute duty to report?

The planet is on a fast path to destruction. The media must cover this like it’s the only story that matters

– The Washington Post, 8 October, 2018

If voters are kept in the dark about global warming by newspapers then urgent action by democratic politicians becomes a hundred times harder

– Twitter, @arusbridger, 2018

Back in Australia, News Corp’s columnists did think the IPCC warnings were worth noting, but only to ridicule the threat and the idea of doing anything about it, with Miranda Devine writing scornfully:

This week’s hysterical missive from the United Nation’s Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is just the latest case of the boy who cried wolf.

– The Daily Telegraph, 10 October, 2018

So, is Miranda a scientist? No.

Nor is the Herald Sun’s Terry McCrann, who went off even harder, branding the threat to the Reef:

… emotional — and utterly dishonest — blackmail deployed by the IPCC climate hysterics of the grubby coalition of theological climate extremists and greedy money-chasing renewable energy rent-seekers; carpetbaggers and mainchancers all.

– Herald Sun, 8 October, 2018

Quite a broadside.

Another good article in the Cairns Post.

To its credit, The Australian did give the IPCC front-page treatment, with Environment Editor Graham Lloyd running a couple of stories.

But within hours the paper’s columnists had switched to all-out attack, with Chris Kenny deriding the scientists’ warnings as “alarmism”, “virtue-signalling”, “sanctimony” and “crying wolf”.

And Judith Sloan joined the chorus of derision, by claiming that the IPCC report – written by 91 climate experts and citing 6000 peer-reviewed papers – was not science and all old hat.

More people being inundated, more floods/droughts …

You know, the normal catastrophic stuff.

– The Australian, 9 October, 2018

Meanwhile, Environment Editor Graham Lloyd – who should know better – had two swipes, declaring the scientists to be living in a parallel universe, and attempting to discredit the data on which the warnings were based:

Claims of 70 problems found with key temperature dataset used by climate models

“The primary conclusion of the audit is the dataset shows exaggerated warming …”

– The Australian, 8 October, 2018

Lloyd’s story mirrored identical attacks from leading climate sceptics the day before.

Led by James Delingpole, another non-scientist who says global warming is a scam, on the notorious alt-right website Breitbart:

Climate Bombshell: Global Warming Scare Is Based on ‘Careless and Amateur’ Data, Finds Audit

– Breitbart, 7 October, 2018

And by Joanne Nova – who is a scientist, but says the world should thank Australia for its CO2 emissions – who claimed:

The IPCC demands for cash rest on freak data, empty fields, Fahrenheit temps recorded as Celsius, mistakes in longitude and latitude, brutal adjustments and even spelling errors.

– JoanneNova.com, 7 October, 2018

All three attempted demolition jobs relied on data analyst Dr John McLean, whose work they all claimed showed the IPCC had got it hopelessly wrong.

So, who is McLean?

Well, let’s get another of his fans, One Nation’s climate expert, to introduce him:

MALCOLM ROBERTS: Hi, I’m Malcolm Roberts and I’m with Dr John McLean from Melbourne and he’s on Skype with us and he is 13 years in climate science …

And he’s just conducted the first audit of the temperature database known as HadCRUT 4.

– Facebook, Malcolm Roberts, 11 October, 2018

McLean’s audit of the data earned him a PhD from James Cook University in Townsville, where his supervisor was Peter Ridd, another well-known climate sceptic who was recently sacked.

So how good is McLean’s track record?

Well, seven years ago, he famously predicted:

It is likely that 2011 will be the coolest year since 1956, or even earlier

– Climate Realists, 9 March, 2011

That was 100% wrong. According to NASA:

… the year was the 9th hottest in the past 130 years.

– NASA, 20 January, 2012

A previous academic paper of McLean’s in 2009, claiming El Nino was responsible for most of the rise in global temperatures, was ripped apart by climate experts who accused him of cherry-picking the data.

His co-author then was yet another famous climate sceptic, the late Bob Carter, who liked to tell his admirer Alan Jones that man-made global warming was rubbish:

BOB CARTER: Well, there’s only two words you can use to describe it – it’s a farce and it’s a circus.

ALAN JONES: It is.

BOB CARTER: And the sad thing about it is …

ALAN JONES: It’s a lie. It’s a lie.

BOB CARTER: Yes, and because of the way it is pushed as you say, in the education system and in the news media, so many well-intentioned people have been sucked in.

– The Alan Jones Breakfast Show, 2GB, 10 December, 2012

The work that backs up McLean’s new data audit is dedicated to Bob Carter.

So, is McLean to be believed ahead of 91 leading climate experts and 6000 peer-reviewed scientific papers when he claims the IPCC’s work is worthless?

The Australian, Breitbart, Joanne Nova and Miranda Devine clearly reckon he is.

And so does Alan Jones, who cited McLean last week in telling his listeners:

ALAN JONES: Don’t believe the global warming science is settled. It is corrupt.

– The Alan Jones Breakfast Show, 2GB, 12 October, 2018

One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts is also convinced by McLean’s argument:

MALCOLM ROBERTS: So this is what is underpinning the UN’s climate scare, which is underpinning government policies in this country. What we need to do then John is pull out of Paris.

JOHN MCLEAN: Yes, we certainly should be stepping right back and saying, hey, this data is crazy. Come back to us when we’ve got some, when you’ve got some decent data and a convincing argument.

– Facebook, Malcolm Roberts, 11 October, 2018

But how convincing is John McLean? We asked a number of climate experts to review his audit.

Professor Steven Sherwood at NSW University’s Climate Change Research Centre told us it:

… turns up little if anything new … seems specifically motivated to discredit global warming …

– Professor Steven Sherwood, Email, Climate Change Research Centre, UNSW, 12 October, 2018

And he added:

Its naive claims of alternative causes of global warming do not consider the relevant laws of physics and do not make sense.

– Professor Steven Sherwood, Email, Climate Change Research Centre, UNSW, 12 October, 2018

The ANU’s Nerilie Abram, lead author of a coming IPCC report on the oceans, told Media Watch:

Regardless of whether the PhD thesis work has any merit or not, the claim that this falsifies IPCC findings is wrong.

– Associate Professor Nerilie Abram, Email, ANU, 12 October, 2018

And the UK Met Office was just as emphatic, putting McLean’s, quote, “70 problems” into context by pointing out that the HadCRUT dataset which it looks after:

… contains over 7 million points of data from in excess of 7500 observation stations on land around the globe, together with millions of measurements of sea-surface temperature.  The small number of specific errors highlighted represent a tiny fraction of the data and as such are likely to have a negligible impact on the overall results. The long-term increase in global temperature is unequivocal. This is backed up by other globally recognised datasets, all of which are run independently, and find very similar warming.

– Met Office, Email, 13 October, 2018

And that takes us back to the bigger picture, where the concern is that so much of News Corp treats climate science, and the threat to our planet, with such contempt.

Why is that so? Presumably, because Rupert Murdoch is a non-believer.

But sadly, it’s not new, and not just in Australia. Back in 2012, America’s Union of Concerned Scientists audited News Corp’s coverage in the US and concluded:

Representations of climate science on Fox News Channel and in the Wall Street Journal opinion pages are overwhelmingly misleading

– Is News Corp Failing Science?, Union of Concerned Scientists, September, 2012

And it then gave examples of what that coverage contained:

… broad dismissals of human-caused climate change, rejections of climate science as a body of knowledge, and disparaging comments about individual scientists. Furthermore, much of this coverage denigrated climate science by either promoting distrust in scientists and scientific institutions or placing acceptance of climate change in an ideological, rather than fact-based, context.

– Is News Corp Failing Science?, Union of Concerned Scientists, September, 2012

Six years later, the same determination to deny and denigrate climate science is flourishing in Australia.

And what makes it even more serious is that in Australia News Corp controls around 60 per cent of our daily newspaper circulation.

Not to mention a whole bunch of websites and of course Sky News which, for once, we have not even bothered to audit because we know too well what we’ll find.

And we should add we put a series of questions to John McLean. He declined to answer them. You can read the emails on our website.

Read the questions put to Dr John McLean and his response and biography.

Read an academic comment on one of Dr John McLean’s papers and Dr McLean’s response

Read Stephan Lewandowsky’s article about Dr John McLean’s work

Read the Press Council’s adjudication on a Crikey article about John McLean

Read the response from the UK Met Office

Read the response from Professor Steve Sherwood

Read the response from Associate Professor Nerilie Abram

Read the response from Professor David Karoly, Leader, Earth Systems and Climate Change Hub National Environmental Science Program, CSIRO

Read the WMO’s 2017 Statement on the State of the Global Climate

Global temperature anomaly 1850-2017 to 1981-2010

The IPCC warning is clear we are in a climate crisis and unless we act quickly humanity may not survive.

We must take the warnings seriously, if the threat was from a sovereign nation, would we allow their propaganda on our media during a time of war?

Multinational Corporations are more powerful than sovereign nations and their propaganda is a huge threat to our democracy.

Remember Lord HAW-HAW

Lord Haw-Haw was a nickname applied to the Irish-American William Joyce, who broadcast Nazi propaganda to Britain from Germany during the Second World War. The broadcasts opened with “Germany calling, Germany calling”, spoken in an affected upper-class English accent. Wikipedia

IPCC #climatechange report – what it means #ClimateBreakdown #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #StopAdani #EndCoal #WentWorthVotes 4 #ClimateAction #CoralNotCoal

The IPCC is a load of scientists – more than 2,000 of them – that the United Nations asks for unbiased updates on climate change.

After slogging away for more than 2 years, they’ve just released their latest work.

In a nutshell, climate change is looking bad.

Like no-more-coral-reefs bad. But we can still get out of this mess.

What’s the worst-case scenario?

The report is frank.

We can’t let the planet warm by more than 1.5°C.

Even an extra half a degree puts millions more people at risk of flooding.

The risks to nature become very high too.

Insects that pollinate our food are almost twice as likely to lose their habitat at 2°C. And we can all but say goodbye to the coral reefs at that temperature.

Is the 2°C warning new information?

We already know that limiting global warming to 1.5°C is the best chance we have of stopping disastrous changes to the climate.

The new revelation, is the shocking amount of change that just half a degree more can cause.

How are we doing – are we on track to beat this?

Bluntly, no.

We’ve already hit over 1°C of warming and are currently on course for a devastating rise of more than 3°C.

It doesn’t help that governments are promising one thing and doing another.

Like our government: it’s fuelling climate change by supporting fracking, Heathrow expansion, road building and other polluting projects.

What’s the good news?

We can still keep global warming below 1.5°C and stop runaway climate change.

Right now it’s difficult but not impossible to achieve – but we’ve got a small window of opportunity.

Consider this the final call for serious action.

Success will mean cleaner air, lower sea levels, less flooding, fewer people forced from their homes and countries because of extreme weather, more access to water and more nature. 

There are bonuses too. For example, schemes to reduce energy waste will lead to warmer homes and lower utility bills.

What do we need to do?

The report lays out several pathways of avoiding warming above 1.5°C.

Essentially we need to produce much less planet-warming carbon pollution.

All of the paths require a much faster transition to electric cars.

Reforestation is essential to them all too – trees suck carbon pollution out of the air. We need to double the area of forests in the UK. 

And governments need to stop funding climate change.

They’re currently supporting planet-warming industries that dig up and burn coal, oil and gas. We need to ditch these fossil fuels as soon as possible and invest more in clean, renewable energy.

What can I do?

One simple but really important thing you can do now – is sign our petition against fracking. Fracking contributes to climate change, and the government is trying to force it on communities.

Press link for more: Friends of the Earth

Mary Robinson on #climatechange: ‘Feeling “This is too big for me” is no use to anybody’ #ClimateBreakdown #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #StopAdani #EndCoal #WentworthVotes

Mary Robinson on climate change: ‘Feeling “This is too big for me” is no use to anybody’

There seems little reason for cheer on this Monday.

The landmark report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has just warned that urgent, unprecedented changes are needed to keep global warming to a maximum of 1.5C; even half a degree beyond this will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.

Donald Trump, rejecter of the Paris climate agreement, is riding high on the back of Brett Kavanaugh’s elevation to the US supreme court.

Britain and the EU are consumed by Brexit.

Brazil is on course to elect a president who wants to open the Amazon to agribusiness. Closer to home, the Irish government is flunking its climate policy goals.

Now, climate scientists warn that the clock ticks ever closer to midnight.

“Governments are not responding at all adequately to the stark reality that the IPCC is pointing to: that we have about 11 years to make really significant change,” says Robinson, sitting ramrod straight, all business. “This report is extraordinarily important, because it’s telling us that 2 degrees is not safe.

It’s beyond safe.

Therefore, we have to work much, much harder to stay at 1.5 degrees.

I’ve seen what 1 degree is doing in more vulnerable countries … villages are having to move, there’s slippage, there’s seawater incursion.”

Robinson sips a glass of water and sighs. “We’re in a bumpy time.

We’re in a bad political cycle, particularly because the United States is not only not giving leadership, but is being disruptive of multilateralism and is encouraging populism in other countries.”

This could be the start of a depressing interview that concludes we should hitch a ride on Virgin Galactic’s first trip to space and try to stay there. But it turns out to be surprisingly upbeat.

Despite the headlines, Robinson, who served as the UN secretary general’s special envoy on climate change after serving as the president of Ireland and the UN high commissioner for human rights, is hopeful.

She has anticipated the IPCC report by writing a book-cum-manifesto, Climate Justice: Hope, Resilience and the Fight for a Sustainable Future, published this week.

It tells stories of farmers and activists, mostly women, who tackle climate change in Africa, Asia and the Americas.

They are examples of positive change that Robinson thinks can help turn the tide.

“I don’t think as a human race that we can be so stupid that we can’t face an existential threat together and find a common humanity and solidarity to respond to it. Because we do have the capacity and the means to do it – if we have the political will.”

Climate change may be man-made, but Robinson believes women are key to the solution, through planting trees, recycling waste, eating less meat and a thousand other measures, big and small. “There’s a nurturing quality, a concern for children, that’s very deep in women. And women change behaviour. It’s women who decide what the diet will be. And, of course, in vulnerable countries, it’s women who bear the brunt of climate change.”

The former barrister karate-chops the air for emphasis. “I’ve learned from Archbishop Desmond Tutu to be a ‘prisoner of hope’, a great expression that he uses. That means the glass may not be half full, but there’s something in the glass that you work on. Hope brings energy.”

‘I’ve learned from Archbishop Desmond Tutu to be a “prisoner of hope”’ … Robinson with the Indian activist Ela Bhatt and the former US president Jimmy Carter in East Jerusalem for the NGO The Elders. Photograph: Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images

So, while the Trump administration withholds leadership and money from the global effort for clean energy – “That’s where it hurts” – the US may yet meet Paris emissions targets, thanks to efforts by We Are Still In, a coalition of mayors, governors, tribal leaders, colleges, businesses, faith groups and investors that is continuing to follow the terms of the agreement.

The movement to divestment from fossil fuels is also making progress. “They’ve now moved to trillions being divested.

That’s very significant.”

Grim scientific prognoses must not paralyse civil society, says Robinson.

It must unite, march, organise, pressure politicians. “Feeling a complete inability to do anything – ‘This is too big for me, I give up’ – that’s no use to anybody. [With] despair, all the energy to do something goes out of the room.”

Robinson says she is adapting her own behaviour: fewer flights and more teleconferencing; eating less meat as an “aspirant vegetarian”; using public transport, although she confesses to taking taxis frequently. “I talk to the taxi drivers, that’s my compensation.

I get them to message for me. Ten years ago, taxi drivers were the most sceptical about climate change.

Now, they’re the most keen to get an electric car, or at least a hybrid.”

At the age of 73, Robinson has carved out a new role in public life.

No longer a high-powered global bureaucrat with a big budget and staff, no longer a head of state trailed by pomp, she instead relies on a formidable intellect, her brand name and her social and political network.

You could call it soft power, except Robinson does not do soft.

She is friendly and courteous, but the famous iron-grip handshake is still there; so too her antiphathy towards smalltalk.

The gaze is direct, the sentences exact.

When I go off-topic and ask about Brexit, or the Irish presidential election, there is a tight smile. “We’re straying far from the book, aren’t we?”

Supporters and critics have long noted a personal stiffness matched by an unbending commitment to liberal principles.

How else would a GP’s daughter from Ballina, County Mayo, emerge in the 1970s as a law professor and outspoken advocate for women’s rights and contraception while other politicians genuflected before the might of the country’s Roman Catholic church?

She was denounced from the pulpit and had condoms sent to her in the post. Nominated by the Labour party as a long-shot candidate for the presidency in 1990, she won.

It was an astonishing result that prefigured Ireland’s social liberalisation. It enshrined Robinson as a progressive talisman.

Kofi Annan tapped her up to become the UN’s high commissioner for human rights in 1997, three months before her presidential term ended.

It was a rare misstep.

She has expressed regret for letting the then secretary general “sort of bully” her into leaving the presidency early to head to Geneva.

Later, George W Bush’s administration bristled at her stance on human rights, Palestine and other issues after 9/11, which contributed to her stepping down in 2002.

A year later, Robinson found herself in a Dublin maternity ward holding her first grandchild, Rory. “I was flooded with a sense of adrenaline, a physical sensation unlike anything I had ever felt before,” she writes in Climate Justice. “In that moment, my sense of time altered and I began to think in a time span of a hundred years. I knew instinctively that I would now view Rory’s life through the prism of our planet’s precarious future … the abstract data on climate change that I had skirted around for so long became deeply personal.”

Robinson was struck by the injustice that those least responsible, such as islanders in Kiribati or herders in Kenya, suffered most from climate change, and by the fact that much of the world ignored scientists’ warnings.

Her response is to tell the stories of people such as Sharon Hanshaw, a hairdresser in Mississippi who led community recovery efforts after Hurricane Katrina; Constance Okollet, a Ugandan farmer who taught neighbours to plant trees to stop topsoil erosion; and Natalie Isaacs, an Australian entrepreneur who launched an online initiative to help households curb their carbon footprints. “I try to illustrate the hope and the fightback,” says Robinson. “And the need for empathy. We need to have empathy now with those who are suffering … because that’s where we’ll all be very shortly if we don’t change course.”

Robinson wanted to do a documentary to accompany the book, but she was advised instead to do a podcast. “Being of my generation, I said: ‘What’s a podcast?’” she laughs. She agreed. Thus was born an unlikely phenomenon: Mary Robinson, comedian. The former president co-hosts the podcast Mothers of Invention with Maeve Higgins, an Irish comedian based in New York. They banter while discussing climate change and interviewing guests. “People listen through Maeve, through her questions. It’s making it much more real. There’s no doubt that Maeve is drawing me to the dark side. I’m getting funnier because of that.” Higgins does the comedic heavy lifting, riffing and throwing out lines while Robinson plays the straight foil.

“I’ve learned that young people now in the United States get their politics from comical programmes,” says Robinson. She alludes to The Daily Show, but mixes up Jon Stewart with Jimmy Stewart and Trevor Noah with Trevor Nunn, which is actually pretty funny.

Maeve is drawing me to the dark side. I’m getting funnier because of that’ … Robinson recording her podcast, Mothers of Invention, with her co-host, Maeve Higgins. Photograph: Ruth Medjber

Robinson considers comedy a sensible response to existential threat. “Laughter in a very serious discussion is much more persuasive than if we were all the time serious, serious, serious.” I consider asking her to tell a joke, but my nerve fails; back to business. “We have 11 years to change course and it has to be done with a seriousness of purpose, particularly by governments, because they determine the rules.”

Preparations for a conference in Poland in December to ensure implementation of the Paris agreement are not going well, she says: “There’s a lot of arguing around what needs to be done.” She hopes the IPCC report will focus minds. “Future governments won’t be able to do what governments now have 11 years to do. In the future, we will have these tipping points – the Arctic will be gone, the coral reefs will be gone, the permafrost will be dissolving … all these things will just spin us out of control.”

Governments need to end fossil fuel subsidies and increase tax on carbon, she says. “Put a real price on carbon and do it now.

These are the levers that move things quickly and get the investment into clean energy. If governments are not capable of being more serious, then they lack moral leadership, which is what we really need now.”

Leaving aside the rest of the world, the country outside Robinson’s door challenges her optimism. When Irish civil society marches these days, it is for housing, not climate change. The government hinted that it would increase carbon tax in this week’s budget, but it did not. Climate change has barely registered in the presidential election. Robinson seems unabashed. “In my experience, human rights has always been a struggle. We don’t always keep going forward; there are setbacks and then you dig deeper. You get the prisoner-of-hope mentality and you fight harder.”

Climate Justice: Hope, Resilience and the Fight for a Sustainable Future is out now (Bloomsbury, £16.99). To order a copy for £12.49, go to guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK P&P over £10, online orders only. Phone orders minimum P&P of £1.99.

Press link for more: The Guardian

Cognitive Dissonance #ClimateBreakdown #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #ClimateChange #StopAdani #EndCoal #RUOK #Insiders #QandA

We Don’t Have Time’s goal is to create a social media platform for the future, focused on the biggest challenge of our times — climate change.

Why do we have such trouble coming to grips with climate change?

Why do we falter?

Originally published in the Swedish web publication Poros, Jonatan Olofsgård explores the subject in his essay Dissonance.

Please make sure you have 10 minutes of privacy to read it.

It’s that big a deal.

It may help save us from ourselves by realising we all experience cognitive dissonance as a result of living in the climate emergency.

Image ‘And the Dead Robed in Red’ by Harry Clarke (1920). Downloaded.

I have become afflicted by a kind of muteness. It reveals itself in the following manner: the more I know, the less I am able to talk about it. It came over me last spring. As the days became longer, I became ever more silent. I know there was a time when I talked, and that some time later I lacked the ability. I know it happened in the spring, because I was in hospital for a while then, and when I came out I could no longer talk.

There’s a parallel between my hospital stay and my muteness.

I came down with a high fever, and a doctor told me I had the flu. But the fever wouldn’t go away, and I was just getting more and more tired. I saw a new doctor. “I’m going to run every test there is until I know what’s wrong”, she said. I got the feeling that my inexplicable fever was an offence to her. When the test results came back, she told me I had glandular fever and explained that it might take some time to clear up. All I had to do was rest and allow my body to recover. And finally, she said that if I felt sudden pain in my stomach, I should seek medical help immediately. “But it’s very uncommon. I’ve never seen that in my entire professional career.” She was in her early 50s and spoke with the complete authority of the expert. I didn’t feel particularly worried.

The next morning I woke up early with dull pains in my stomach. Not in any way intolerable — but quite apparent. And yet I hesitated, despite the instructions I’d been given. I didn’t want to sit in the waiting room of a casualty department, feeling the hours slipping away. I made breakfast for my children and thought that instead I’d just go to the medical centre when it opened. Perhaps the pain increased, or perhaps there was a moment of stillness where I could think more clearly. I no longer remember exactly what it was that made me pick up the phone.

I felt obliged to apologise for disturbing them. The nurse on the phone told me not to be silly. I arrived at casualty in an ambulance. I remember being embarrassed at taking up space in the hospital, as if I’d bluffed my way in. To me it was obvious that after waiting for a few hours I’d be examined and then sent home again. I was in pain, but it wasn’t dominating my experience of the world.

Being the focus of emergency healthcare means seeing an extremely effective machine from the inside. I know there are a lot of people with completely different experiences of Swedish healthcare, and I’ve also previously encountered the slow, long-winded nature of our medical system: the pointless waiting and empty diagnoses. But what happened that morning was completely different.

They didn’t put me in a waiting room, but instead on a stretcher. The nurses rolled me past people who I thought looked like they needed urgent care, people who looked like they were going to die at any moment. They took blood tests, did an ultrasound, and sent me for a CT scan. There was a calm, efficient flow of activity.

Now, afterwards, I reflect on that I should have felt more worried at the time. I should have understood that something was wrong. I should have been impressed by everything going on around me. But how are you supposed to feel when the medical system reacts more strongly than your own experience tells you to? My interpretation of the situation was based on the concrete experience of how it felt to be me. My bodily experience trumped the information being transmitted to me from the surrounding world. I observed what was going on with disbelief, and perhaps a certain amount of curiosity.

A few hours later, a surgeon explained that I didn’t need to worry, there was no danger. But I would have to stay in hospital. How long for? Until I could go home again. And when would that be? When they decided I could go home again.

Receiving two contrary messages at the same time leads to a very particular type of cognitive challenge. There’s no need to worry, everything’s okay — but you can’t leave the hospital.

My experience of doctors is that they love life, love healthy people and are focused on healing. But they talk rather less often about risks and how fragile life is. For the same reason, some doctors are reluctant to reveal why they’re doing particular tests, making certain decisions or prescribing specific medications. Finding out why I couldn’t go home required a fair amount of effort.

There was a shadow and the shadow could be a rupture and the rupture could in turn lead to internal bleeding. And if it started to bleed, it wouldn’t bleed just a bit — quite the opposite. If I went home and started to bleed, it was by no means certain that I’d get back to the hospital in time. The surgeon explained all this with some irritation in her voice, as if informing me of all this was a disruption to the whole medical system. She emphasised her main message once again. There was nothing to worry about. All I needed to do was lie still in a hospital bed and if I felt the slightest change, the slightest increase in discomfort in my stomach, I should press the alarm button.

And what would happen then? The same irritation. They would operate on me. The blood was ordered. The needles and tubes in my arms were there so the healthcare personnel could anaesthetise me quickly if they needed to. Essentially, I was just a piece of meat to be placed on an operating table. And by the way, I couldn’t eat or drink anything from now on, just in case I needed to be operated on immediately. If I got really thirsty I could moisten my lips with a damp cotton bud.

They moved me to a casualty department, put me in a bed and connected me up to a drip. Demonstrated how the alarm button worked. Connected me to a monitor to keep track of my pulse and blood oxygen level. I stared at the curves on the screen. “Rest”, said the nurses. “Don’t worry.”

So I lay still — actually I couldn’t do anything else since i was practically chained to the bed. They X-rayed me again. The battery in my phone ran out and there was no charger in the ward that fitted it. The world shrank. Every morning a surgeon came in and told me I was to stay another day.

Finally I was allowed to sit up and then to move around the room, still connected to my drip. After another couple of days they finally took the drip away and let me eat and drink again, and eventually I was allowed to go home — without anything actually having happened.

And then the muteness arrived. It stemmed from the fact that the medical system had given me the task of dealing with two completely irreconcilable descriptions of reality: You might die if you go home. There’s no reason for you to feel worried.

The scientific term for the condition that arises when somebody is forced to handle two irreconcilable insights is cognitive dissonance. It’s a state of mind characterised by surprise, fear, guilt and sometimes embarrassment. It’s not a nice position to find yourself in. The way out of it often consists of rationalising away one of the insights — the more uncomfortable one — or of suppressing it, or projecting it onto someone else.

In his book “Anthropocene”, environmental historian Sverker Sörlin describes our time in the following way: “It is both a success story and a period of breakdown”. If you could choose to be born at any time, but not choose where in the world or in the social pyramid, 2018 would be a good choice. Today, many people have a better time of it than ever before (in purely material terms). At the same time we are in a global ecological crisis without equivalent; a process that it’s expected will soon make large parts of the planet uninhabitable for humans.

This sounds so vast, so ridiculous, so incredible when you say it straight out. Incredible as in not credible. I instinctively want to soften and nuance what I’ve written. It hurts me to leave it unchanged. When I lay there in my hospital bed listening to the surgeon explaining the situation to me, I felt a sense of recognition. I recognised it from every conversation I’d had about global warming, about biological diversity, about the global nitrogen cycle.

The fact that development is moving forwards, that things are getting better, is a narrative that has its roots in the time of the Enlightenment; the time of the revolutions. Scientific, political and industrial; these three areas reinforce each other. This is where the thought is born that it’s possible to know and act better — that knowledge is cumulative. That there’s a line running from the past into the future, and that it’s possible to extrapolate. That progress gives birth to itself. This is a narrative that corresponds to our experience, which makes history understandable, which provides a framework for how we should act, which makes it possible to relate to the future.

Against this idea of progress there is a newly born insight that we are hollowing out the ground we stand on, that as a species we are destroying the foundation of our own existence. It’s common for anyone pointing this out to talk about progress as a construct; a narrative or a myth. This is very unfortunate. Concepts such as ‘myth’ or ‘narrative’ aren’t merely intellectual tools, they are also rhetoric, and rhetoric says that progress and development are an incorrect description of the world we live in. Progress or catastrophe. We instinctively want to reject one of these descriptions. The complication is exactly as Sörlin describes it: that our time is characterised by both success and breakdown, not that one of the descriptions is true and the other false.

It’s a terrifying balancing act. Anyone who takes the threat seriously is just as sensitive to dissonance as anyone who clings to progress. Neither wants to find themselves in the discomfort that dissonance leads to.

If there is an essentially different narrative, a framework that’s not about progress, it isn’t a doomsday narrative so much as a statement of our almost total dependence on our surroundings. We are part of an incredibly sensitive ecosystem and there’s no way to take ourselves out of this complex relationship of dependency. Since Descartes’ day, the idea of progress has been closely linked with the control of body and nature, of matter and energy. These are two narratives that don’t seem to be compatible. Reason says that one of these narratives must be false, that one of them must be discarded. The challenge lies in the fact that both of them can be true, but that our consciousness is not equipped to handle this. Evolution hasn’t prepared us for it.

So when the medical staff inserted needles into my arms, when they pushed me along on a stretcher to get a CT scan, I didn’t feel worried, despite my reason registering and assessing what was going on around me. Despite the fact that I understood what was going on. The experience of my body, the experience of my world, my experience of being me, came before all reasoned arguments. I didn’t feel I was in danger. I didn’t feel a level of pain that could justify the doctors’ actions. I didn’t experience any threat, despite my reason being able to draw the conclusion that there was a threat — I didn’t feel any worry. This was my internal dissonance, and I recognise it from so many conversations I’ve had about climate change. At lunch, on the commuter train… everywhere. When what I say can’t be reconciled with what the other person experiences.

The people I talk to aren’t idiots. On the contrary, they can keep two thoughts in their heads, they’re able to see that two courses of events can be parallel, that what creates prosperity also erodes what it’s based on. That situations can be ambiguous — alternately symbiotic and parasitic. And yet I can’t talk about this. The discomfort is too great.

There are people who choose the doomsday narrative because they feel it’s a more correct description of reality. The price they pay is to some extent no longer being able to take part in society. It’s impossible to be happy about your colleagues’ foreign holidays or consumption. You can no longer view increased growth as something desirable and natural. The things that form the foundation of your interaction with other people no longer function. For these people, playing along means a betrayal of themselves. But speaking up makes them so difficult that those around them can’t stand to have them near. There are also many people who wholeheartedly live the progress narrative, who reject every threatening signal or feel confident that every threat can be conquered, just like everything else that once stood in the way of progress. But the majority of us live with our heads down, trying to find a way to avoid the discomfort.

I was discharged with a list of instructions. Don’t do anything too strenuous. Avoid activities with a risk of falling or hitting your body. Don’t lift heavy weights. As if I would have tried. I could just about cope with dragging myself up the stairs to my bedroom.

At home I lay on the living room sofa and thought that it should be possible to use this insight, this bodily, contradictory experience. I was already familiar with the term cognitive dissonance, but the term had no concrete anchor for me. At the hospital, I was given exactly that: an anchor point.

I’m writing this a year later. I still have the notes and comments I wrote for this text; fossils from the period immediately after my hospital stay. I work with them. They act as a mirror in which my bodily experience meets my experience of the society I live in. Is it working? I don’t know. When I began to write this essay it was winter. An unusually late, cold and snowy winter, following a period with an unusually high amount of rain. Now, as I finish the text, an extreme heatwave has just finished. Around me people are talking worriedly about the heat, only to go back in the next instant to discussing their holiday plans and renovation projects. We move in and out of these two major narratives, but never stop in the place where they meet. We don’t stop in the dissonance.

Several years ago in his book “Collapse”, David Jonstad wrote that many of the people living through the fall of the Roman Empire never realised that the empire was collapsing. The process was too drawn out, and it consisted of such a vast number of movements forwards and backwards, like waves moving up and down a beach. But on a more basic level the experience of collapse was also in conflict with the foundation of the Roman view of the world — in Rome it simply wasn’t possible to imagine a world that wasn’t dominated by Rome. And that’s not so surprising, really. Rome was a victory machine, a wonder of infrastructure and military domination that lasted more than 700 years. Our cultural framework — our inheritance from the Enlightenment — is only half as old, but still dominates our thinking. Therese Uddenfeldt touches on the same subject in her book “The Free Lunch”, which has the wonderful subtitle “Or why it’s so difficult to understand that everything comes to an end”. Why is it so difficult to even imagine something can be different to what we’re used to?

The fact that we flee from dissonance means our experience of the world is truncated. Something significant is removed — stolen from us. We lose the ability to clearly see how the world is changing around us. Anyone who can’t take in both movements is unable to fully experience the current moment, and is instead relegated to a before and after. Instead of seeing how the perspectives are woven together we are thrown between them, back and forth. And then suddenly one of the perspectives cracks and it feels as if we’ve always lived in a single narrative. I can see that in myself, in what I perceive to be a before and after. I can feel it in my surroundings, how we unconsciously move around such a point; a point that we have perhaps already passed but not yet succeeded in capturing in the spotlight.

I lay in my hospital bed and was monitored by a system that had grown out of the idea of progress. Medical skills that would have once been considered magic were available to me, just ready to spring into action. And yet simultaneously the same system was undermining my living conditions, eroding them like acid rain or like a rising sea wears away the beach.

It’s taken a year to give birth to this text. A year in which I essentially haven’t talked to anyone about the environment, sustainability or ecology. A year in which the discomfort I experienced was so strong that I became paralysed and silent. This is an attempt to break that silence.

The experience of dissonance gives rise to feelings of helplessness and paralysis, but shying away from what we encounter in the dissonance between success and catastrophe also makes us helpless and paralysed. We lose our ability to see and think clearly. As a society, as individuals, in our most private spheres where we are naked and alone. In the moment, the difference is subtle, easy to miss — but in actual fact it’s enormous. It isn’t the news that you have a disease that kills you. It isn’t the news that you’re out of danger that saves you.

Written by: Jonatan Olofsgård

Translated by: Jane Davis

This is a translation of the original article for the web publication ‘Poros’. Poros is a Swedish online essay journal, launched in 2015.

https://www.porostidskrift.se/

Web site: https://www.porostidskrift.se #4 2018. Original post here.

Facts about the author

Jonatan Olofsgård (born 1983) lives in Skurup, near Malmö in southern Sweden. His writing is an exploration of the links between culture, nature and technology.

Press link for more: Medium.com