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The Wearing Thin of the Nation State

Monday, September 16th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — following on from Climate change & its impacts, rippling out across all our futures, 2 on national sovereignty and climate migration — with Hakim Bey’s TAZ and more ]
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Three books by Peter Lamborn Wilson

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Two instances of our theme — The Wearing Thin of the Nation State — crossed my bows in utterly unrelated posts via Academia today, and they make a fine DoubleQuote:

From John Sullivan‘s Criminal Enclaves: When Gangs, Cartels or Kingpins Try to Take Control:

Criminal enclaves are areas where lawbreakers (gangs, cartels, criminal warlords) exert political and social control. Essentially these areas are “other governed spaces.” The state may or may not be absent — although its hold is certainly challenged — but other informal governance structures, such as gangs, wield substantial political influence or control. These other governed spaces can range in size from neighborhoods, barrios or favelas (i.e., failed communities) to failed or feral cities — such as Brazil’s notorious City of God favela or Ciudad Juárez during the height of cartel control or Veracruz and Acapulco — to failed states or regions, such as an entire nation — extremely rare — or a substate region such as Mexico’s Tamaulipas. These enclaves are essentially incubators of state change or transition as described by Charles Tilly in his essay “War Making and State Making as Organized Crime.” This process of criminal challenges to states can be described as criminal insurgency, where bands of outlaws erode sovereignty while potentially altering the nature of states. In addition to geographic scope, criminal enclaves can vary in their degree of control over governance. They can exist as parallel states, exerting control over some functions (i.e., taxation, monopoly of violence and justice, and the provision of social goods), while the state still retains control over others.These enclaves could also fully supplant the state when it is absent or lacks solvency, which I define as the sum of legitimacy and capacity. They could also form a hybrid where criminal networks and corrupt politicians cooperate to extract wealth and wield power (as is the case in narco-cities or mafia states).

I’d like to offer, by way of comparative, this excerpt from Abbe Mowshowitz as quoted in Bill Benzon‘s and his
Virtual Feudalism in the Twenty-First Century:

Absent a sense of loyalty to persons or places, virtual organizations distance themselves—both geographically and psychologically—from the regions and countries in which they operate. This process is undermining the nation-state, which cannot continue indefinitely to control virtual organizations. A new feudal system is in the making, in which power and authority are vested in private hands but which is based on globally distributed resources rather than on possession of land. The evolution of this new political economy will determine how we do business in the future.

That’s my DoubleQuote.

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That’s interesting, I think — but what’s even more so is the quote that initially caught my eye in Bill B‘s paper:

In 2017, Denmark became the first nation to formally create a diplomatic post to represent its interests beforecompanies such as Facebook and Google. After Denmark determined that tech behemoths now have as much power as many governments — if not more — Mr. Klynge was sent to Silicon Valley.“What has the biggest impact on daily society? A country in southern Europe, or in Southeast Asia, or Latin America, or would it be the big technology platforms?” Mr. Klynge said in an interview last month at a cafe in central Copenhagen during an annual meeting of Denmark’s diplomatic corps. “Our values, our institutions, democracy, human rights, in my view, are being challenged right now because of the emergence of new technologies.” He added, “These companies have moved from being companies with commercial interests to actually becoming de facto foreign policy actors.”

That’s quoted from Adam Satariano, The World’s First Ambassador to the Tech Industry.

Ambassador to the Tech Industry? Ambassador to the Tech Industry, okay. The ground is shifting under our feet.

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Detail from Ceasefire’s account of the Temporary Autonomous Zone

Peter Lamborn Wilson aka Hakim Bey, with his interest in the Barbary Corsairs, must have been one of the earlier writers to discuss what he termed Temporary Autonomous ZonesTAZ for short — and its no surprise he’s an eccentric scholar of Islamic Heresy and the Margins of Islam! And what a life he’s led — studying tantra with Ganesh Baba in India, in Pakistan “mixing with princes, Sufis, and gutter dwellers”, an associate in Iran of Henry Corbin, editor of the journal Sophia Perennis under the guidance of Seyyed Hossein Nasr, house-mate in NYC with William Burroughs — though let’s not forget some far darker stuff [cf “Bey’s endorsement of adults having sex with children”, Wikipedia].

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Narcos in Mexico to Bill Burroughs in Tangiers and NYC isn’t too great a hop: life on the margins is liminal by definition, disruptive — and disruption is what all of our examples above have in common.

Bey on the TAZ:

Getting the TAZ started may involve tactics of violence and defense, but its greatest strength lies in its invisibility–the State cannot recognize it because History has no definition of it. As soon as the TAZ is named (represented, mediated), it must vanish, it will vanish, leaving behind it an empty husk, only to spring up again somewhere else, once again invisible because undefinable in terms of the Spectacle. The TAZ is thus a perfect tactic for an era in which the State is omnipresent and all-powerful and yet simultaneously riddled with cracks and vacancies.

How will the nation state respond, adapt?

Climate change & its impacts, rippling out across all our futures, 1

Thursday, August 29th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — part 1 of this two-part post deals with the impact of climate change on pilgrimages, and on the Hajj in particular ]
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The Hajj, Mecca

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Since I posted my poem Mourning the lost Kaaba here in late November 2017 — though not, I imagine, because of my poem — a report on the likely impact of climate change on the annual Hajj pilgrimage has come out from scientists at MIT and Loyola Marymount:

  • Kang, Pal, & Eltahir, Future Heat Stress During Muslim Pilgrimage (Hajj) Projected to Exceed “Extreme Danger” Levels
  • Here’s the abstract:

    The Muslim pilgrimage or Hajj, which is one of the five pillars of Muslim faith, takes place outdoors in and surrounding Mecca in the Saudi Arabian desert. The U.S. National Weather Service defines an extreme danger heat stress threshold which is approximately equivalent to a wet?bulb temperature of about 29.1 °C—a combined measure of temperature and humidity. Here, based on results of simulations using an ensemble of coupled atmosphere/ocean global climate models, we project that future climate change with and without mitigation will elevate heat stress to levels that exceed this extreme danger threshold through 2020 and during the periods of 2047 to 2052 and 2079 to 2086, with increasing frequency and intensity as the century progresses. If climate change proceeds on the current trajectory or even on a trajectory with considerable mitigation, aggressive adaptation measures will be required during years of high heat stress risk.

    That’s the science — and while Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman..

    told the G20 in June that the Saudis are committed to “reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the negative effects of climate change,” beliefs concerning the Prophet’s institution of the Hajj in 632 CE following on earlier Abrahamic practice may well clash with scientific claims that the Hajj may become impossible for future devout Muslims to observe.

    What happens, then, when this divine command intersects with increasing temperatures that eventually render Mecca uninhabitable? How do the climate change scientists fare when they sit across the table from the ulema, the scholar-clergy of Islam?

    From a Muslim point of view, we’d better climate-correct, and do so fast:

  • Shahin Ashraf, We must stop climate change before it makes Hajj impossible
  • **

    Other readings:

  • New Scientist, Global warming could make Hajj impossible later this century
  • IslamiCity, Mecca: Climate Change to Bring ‘Extreme’ Heat
  • MIT News, Study: Climate change could pose danger for Muslim pilgrimage
  • **

    The issue I’ve raised above is tightly focused on one sanctuary, one religion, one pilgrimage. Below are some other major pilgrimage sites to consider in light of climate change:

    I would be interested in the cross-disciplinary exploration of the impact of climate change as understood by the scientific consensus, global migration patterns now and as expected in the coming years, and the devotional rituals and ceremonials of the various religions involved.

    Large pilgrimages and religious ceremonials

    This list draws text from Wikipedia and other online information sites.

    Kumbh Mela:

    Allahabad, India, 120 million devotees, every 12 years. The Prayag Kumbh Mela is a mela held every 12 years at Allahabad, India. The fair involves ritual bathing at Triveni Sangam, the meeting points of three rivers: the Ganga, the Yamuna and the mythical Sarasvati. The Kumbh Mela in 2013 became the largest religious gathering in the world with almost 120 million visitors.

    Arba’een:

    Karbala, Iraq, 30 million pilgrims annually. The Arba’een Pilgrimage is the world’s largest annual public gathering, held every year in Karbala, Iraq at the end of the 40-day mourning period following Ashura, the religious ritual for the commemoration of martyrdom of the grandson of Prophet Mohammad and the third Shia Imam, Husayn ibn Ali’s in 680. Anticipating Arba’een, or the fortieth day of the martyrdom, the pilgrims make their journey to Karbala on foot,where Husayn and his companions were martyred and beheaded by the army of Yazid I in the Battle of Karbala. The number of participants in the annual pilgrimage reached 30 million or more by 2016.

    Papal Mass

    Philippines, 7 million adherents, occasional. Pope Francis’ apostolic and state visit to the Philippines garnered a record breaking crowd of 7 million people. The mass conducted by the pope was the largest gathering in papal history.

    Makara Jyothi

    India, 5 million pilgrims annually. This pilgrim center and temple is located amidst a dense forest in the southern region of India. It was visited by over 5 million pilgrims in 2007 for a festival known as ‘Makara Jyothi,’ occurring annually on the 14 of January. Although the Sabarimala Temple, site of the Makara Jyothi celebration) draws a crowd of 50 million visitors annually, the specific day of the miraculous celestial lighting observation gathered 5 million pilgrims in 2007.

    Bishwa Ijtema:

    Near Dhaka, Bangladesh, 5 million pilgrims annually. The Bishwa Ijtema, meaning Global Congregation, is an annual gathering of Muslims in Tongi, by the banks of the River Turag, in the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh. It is one of the largest peaceful gatherings in the world. The Ijtema is a prayer meeting spread over three days, during which attending devotees perform daily prayers while listening to scholars reciting and explaining verses from the Quran. It culminates in the Akheri Munajat, or the Final Prayer, in which millions of devotees raise their hands in front of Allah (God) and pray for world peace.The Ijtema is non-political and therefore it draws people of all persuasion. It is attended by devotees from 150 countries. Bishwa Ijtema is now the second largest Islamic gatherings with 5 million adherents

    [ this is where the Hajj, with 2.3 million pilgrims annually, fits in ]

    Umrah:

    Mecca, size unknown, year round. The ?Umrah is an Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, Hijaz, Saudi Arabia, performed by Muslims that can be undertaken at any time of the year, in contrast to the ?ajj which has specific dates according to the Islamic lunar calendar. It is sometimes called the ‘minor pilgrimage’ or ‘lesser pilgrimage’, the Hajj being the ‘major’ pilgrimage which is compulsory for every Muslim who can afford it. The Umrah is not compulsory but highly recommended.

    Kalachakra,:

    Various locations, 500,000 participants, variously. The Kalachakra is a term used in Vajrayana Buddhism that means “wheel(s) of time”. “K?lacakra” is one of many tantric teachings and esoteric practices in Tibetan Buddhism. It is an active Vajrayana tradition, and has been offered to large public audiences. The tradition combines myth and history, whereby actual historical events become an allegory for the spiritual drama within a person, drawing symbolic or allegorical lessons for inner transformation towards realizing buddha-nature. The Dalai Lama’s 33rd Kalachakra ceremony was held in Leh, Jammu and Kashmir, India from July 3 to July 12, 2014. About 150,000 devotees and 350,000 tourists were expected to participate in the festival. The Kalachakra has also been performed, eg, by Grand Master Lu Sheng-yen of the True Buddhs School, a Chinese Vajrayana group>

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    The impacts of climate change will need to be studied as they apply not only to these sites of pilgrimage, but also to holy sites in general, notably including Jerusalem, Varanasi, and Kyoto.

    In the second part of this post, I will consider the “wider ripples” by which climate change intersects and overlaps with other concerns, chief among them the issue of sovereignty and the nation state.

    City analogues and climate change 2019-2050

    Monday, August 19th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — pretty sure there will be black swans between here and 2050 ]
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    We’re beginning to see visual expressions of the implications of climate change that can perhaps help shift our awareness — comparing London, for instance, with Barcelona:

    The climate in Barcelona (right) isn’t always a good thing – the city suffered a severe drought in 2008

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    The thing is, Barcelona’s weather isn’t exactly desirable in all respects:

    London could suffer from the type of extreme drought that hit Barcelona in 2008 – when it was forced to import drinking water from France at a cost of £20 million.

    And London in 2050 experiencing weather conditions analogous to those of Barcelona today is a projection based on a 2? rise in temperatures globally: that’s considered “actually quite optimistic, imagining a future where action has been taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

    Ouch.

    Here’s one professor’s comment on the report:

    The University of Reading’s Professor Mike Lockwood warned about the damage that could be done to infrastructure.

    “Bringing Barcelona’s climate to London sounds like it could be a good thing – if you don’t suffer from asthma or have a heart condition, that is – except London clay shrinks and is brittle if it gets too dry and then swells and expands when very wet.

    “As ever, there is destructive and unforeseen devil in the details of climate change.”

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    The study, published in the journal PLOS One, suggests summers and winters in Europe will get warmer, with average increases of 3.5C and 4.7C respectively.

    It’s the equivalent to a city shifting 620 miles (1,000km) further south – with those furthest away from the equator being most affected.

    Southern California weather moves to Northern CA, Northern CA weather becomes the weather inj Northern Oregon and Washington, and on up to Canada and the once frozen north..

    And real estate values will shift accordingly.

    And transnational, climate driven migration patterns will emerge: US into Canada, and oh boy, Mexico into the US?

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    Well, analogues are pretty close cousins to what I’ve called DoubleQuotes, and the visual example above of London and Barcelona is joined in the BBC article I’ve been quoting from by twoi more examples:

    Edinburgh could look very different by 2050

    and:

    People say Melbourne can experience four seasons in one day – something people in Leeds might be used to

    — and since the authors of the study, Understanding climate change from a global analysis of city analogues, “found that 77% of future cities are very likely to experience a climate that is closer to that of another existing city than to its own current climate.”

    Since they examined “520 major cities of the world,” roughly 400 cities would have analogue cities, climate-wise, which I suspect means 200 would experience shifts to 200 other cities, though heaven knows, the Venn diagram might show quite a few overlaps, giving us strings like “Edinburgh will be like Paris will be like Marrakesh will be like nothing we’ve ever seen”

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    DoubleQuotes all. Analogues. duels and duets, climate-counter-climate, city-counter-city, point-counter-point..

    But see climate predictions, and how black swans will almost certainly distort them, and my related poem about Mecca in 2050, Mourning the lost Ka’aba

    Mind-stuff.. and a thought-experiment

    Wednesday, May 15th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — I’m no longer captivated by chyrons, it seems — and for the next week weeks, it’ll be glass bead games at BrownPundits and my extended examination of advertising as magic here ]
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    Mind-stuff.. mind-stuff that grabs my attention is what I’ll deliver here

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    Baghdadi — not meditating — contemplating, perhaps — more mayhem?

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    Another pattern to follow:

    It was unclear whether the increase was the result of a shift of Taliban tactics, or just the greatly increased tempo of the war this year, as both sides pushed to improve their positions at the negotiating table.

    Taliban Train Sights on Aid Groups, an Ominous Turn in Afghanistan

    One thinks — I tend to think — of negotiations as leaning away from warfare and violence and towards peace and reconciliation. My pattern language now needs to encompass negotiations as warfare and violence inducing as well as peace and reconciliation leaning.

    For an analytic mind, boggling; for on the ground negotiators, something to bear in mind

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    It’s like our scattered space debris, mind-stuff.

    As Patanjali says: Yogas Chitta Vritti Nirodha — Great Silence quiets the mind-stuff..

    Ah, well..

    I’ll do a post on religions that offer analytic methods shortly..

    **

    And on that topic —

    I have always wondered — I haven’t been here always, but wot the hell, Archie, as Mehitabel would say — always wondered about the parallelism between koans, ie case law precedents in Chan and Zen Buddhist tradition, and case law precedents in Western jurisprudence>

    Now my wish gets new life, as I read Jason Giannetti, Koan and Case Law:

    The Zen koan comes from the Chinese kung-an, meaning a “public case,” as in a legal matter brought before a judge. There are numerous ways in which these koan could be related to law cases. Very straightforwardly, these are public records, the recorded sayings of the early Chan masters that have been passed down and commented upon, just as there may be public legal cases that have authority as precedent and have been commented upon. The koan encounter could be understood as a judgement by a master upon a student based upon the student’s understanding of the “case.” A third way in which the connection could be understood is that the koan tests the student’s understanding of the Dharma. Dharma has many meanings in Buddhism, but one of those meanings is “law.”

    Wheee thanks, Jason!

    **

    Nancy Pelosi’s “self-impeachable” is both a wonderful ouroboros and nonsense — a contradiction in terms. Trump’s “investigating the investigators” is far more (semantically) interesting. It’s a bit like that card game where you call out “War” or “Snap when you see both cards are the same..

    **

    I’m keeping an eye out for security implications of climate chamnge, also “climate migrants” which may well become quite a phenomenon:

  • DoD, FY 2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap
  • DoD, National Security Implications of Climate-related Risks and a Changing Climate
  • World Bank, Groundswell: Preparing for Internal Climate Migration
  • Climate & Security, Activities of Agencies to Address Potential Impact on Global Migration
  • DoD, Report on Effects of a Changing Climate to the Department of Defense
  • Climate & Security, U.S. GAO Issues 2 Reports in 2 Months Covering Climate and Security
  • **

    To wrap up:

    I was looking for an ilklustration to go with my weaponized thoughts post, To weaponize metaphors.. thoughts as clothes, clothes as thoughts, and I finally — too late — came across this:

    I certainly think that pic could be interpreted as illustrating the assembling and disassembling of thoughts (2nd Amendment, Don’t Tread on Me, Safety First etc) as a function of weaponizing them.

    It comes from an (is it?) anti-gun (as if one can be pro- or anti- gun rather than pro- or anti- certain kinds of access) piece titled Thought Experiment: What might the world be like if there were no guns?.

    But a thought experiment? That’s a refreshing change from arguments pro- or con!

    King Canute, Imperial Beach, CA, and rising tides

    Monday, October 22nd, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — a coastal California town has learned the lesson King Canute either taught his nobles or learned the hard way himself — but what can anyone do about it? ]
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    Okay, here’s the first para of Can a California town move back from the sea? Imperial Beach considers the unthinkable: a retreat from nature:

    At the start of each year, Southern California gets a glimpse into a future of rising seas, through an annual event called the king tide. On that day, the sun, moon and Earth align to create a heavy gravitational pull, leading to the highest tides of the year. If “king tide” sounds ominous, that’s because it is, particularly for a city like Imperial Beach, a small coastal town near the Mexican border surrounded by water on three sides: San Diego Bay to the north, the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Tijuana River Delta to the south.

    It doesn’t hurt that there’s a king reference there either, from my POV — because?

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    Because King Canute.

    As a Brit, I was introduced to King Canute at an early age, along with every last one of the other Kings and Queens of England — and their dates — memorize them! Americans, however, have shaken off the dust of kings and queens, and may not know the tale of King Canute and the waves. Was he, as my gold-embossed, colour-plated richly patriotic children’s book had it, an imperious royal who set his chair in the sand before the incoming tide, and not about to lose one inch of English sovereign soil to the waves, dared the Atlantic to encroach on his royal prerogative?

    Or was he, as Henry of Huntingdon, the original chronicler of the tale has it, a humble and wise, one might say ecologically sound king, who set his chair in the sand to demonstrate to his fawning and flattering courtiers that look, not even my royal command can overrule the laws of God — or Nature?

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    So, back to the humbling question — rising tides?

    Currently an anomaly, the king tide is a portent of things to come. Researchers warn that, due to myriad factors including the Earth’s rotation, California will deal with even higher sea-level rise than other locations, as the atmosphere and oceans warm. The oceans are now rising at a faster rate than any time since the last Ice Age, about half an inch or more per decade. While much of this is understood by researchers and informed readers, very little has been done by coastal cities to confront this slow-moving catastrophe.

    And Imperial Beach in particular?

    That is what makes Imperial Beach so interesting. Here, at the southernmost beach town in California, in an obscure corner of the United States, one small city is asking: What if we just got out of nature’s way?

    **

    Sources and readings:

  • High Country News, Can a California town move back from the sea?
  • The Sun, You Canute be Serious

  • Wikipedia, King Canute and the tide
  • New York Times, Major Climate Report Describes a Strong Risk of Crisis as Early as 2040
  • ipcc, Global Warming of 1.5°C

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