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Predictable, enormously surprising

Friday, February 7th, 2020

[ by Charles Cameron — read these in sequence and tremble — with a brief note on impeachment ]
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Here:

  • New Yorker, Citing climate change, BlackRock will start moving away from fossil fuels
  • New Yorker, Will Big Business Finally reckon with the Climate Crisis?
  • World Economic Forum, The Global Risks Report 2020
  • BlackRock, A Fundamental Reshaping of Finance
  • Guardian, European Investment Bank to phase out fossil fuel financing
  • IEEFA, The terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year for oil and gas
  • **

    Climate scientists caught on first, then the military, and now financial risk analysts. Meanwile, Mitt Romney spoke his conscience to the Senate on impeachment. Things are shifting: if BlackRock and IEEFA were the jurors, with a dime of every dollar in the world at stake, President trump might not like their verdict.

    One and many, the great balance, and how we live, think & act, 1

    Tuesday, December 24th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — finally approaching a core understanding that has been accumulating across many posts here ]
    .

    Briefly put: I’ve been thinking about the arising of the many from the one for quite a while, and think that in a lake or mirror with varying images reflected, arising and departing, I have a decent metaphor or analogy for that arising and it’s corresponding departing. Here I want to tie that highly abstract, poetic or philosophical understanding to a variety of more concrete dualities with which we need to come to terms:

  • the abstract and the concrete
  • the ideal and the practical
  • the individual and society
  • simplicity and complexity
  • top down and bottom up
  • divine breath (ruach, pneuma) and creation
  • and perhaps most important of all, as I hope to explain below,

  • global warming and the many lesser issues we need to tackle
  • Okay, onwards to the specific pairings.

    **

    First, I’d like to observe that it’s extremely interesting, and perhaps unexpected, that the abstract and the concrete (and for that matter, the ideal and the practical) should turn out to be analogs of the individual and society — the latter pair is central to political philosophy, but it’s provocative to think that an understanding of the other two — or at a more abstract level of the abstract and the concrete — might be able to shed some light on the (ideal) relation between the individual and society..

    **

    The abstract and the concrete

    The abstract and the concrete is a thinker’s issue. How shall the abstract clarities that thought provides us with be brought into a balanced relation with the perceived, brute facts of the world we inhabit?

    From a philosophical point of view, as the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy tells us:

    Objects are Concrete; Properties are Abstract

    or at least that’s one view — philosophers vary: objects are things, qualities are, well, the qualities or attributes of things. And yet the qualities turn out to be, in moral an aesthetic terms, more significant than the things themselves — which the senses take very seriously, and which Samuel Johnson famously used in what came to be called his “argumentum ad lapidem” against the idealist Bishop Berkeley, telling the good Bishop to kick a stone, and see if he still felt the world was ideal and not concrete..

    Argument to the stone is now recognized as a class of logical fallacy, btw, dismissing an opponent’s argument without any real proof, just by saying it’s ridiculous.

    One of the finest balancing of opposites I’ve found is SI Hayakawa’s ladder of abstractions, which climbs from the concrete — a cow, Bessie — to the abstract — livestock, and eventually wealth. I’ve written more about it in A woman, a ladder, four goats, and a cow named Bessie

    **

    The ideal and the practical:

    The ideal and the practical bits anyone who possesses a conscience: The ideal is clean, pure sometimes morally in the sense in which the religious mind may say virginity is pure, but also in the non moral way in which we we can say higher mathematics is pure.

    What needs to be reconciled here can be presented in the form of a DoubleQuote from two of the greatest scientific minds of the last century: Richard Feynman said, in a Cornell lecture, 1964:

    It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong. In that simple statement is the key to science.

    to which we may respond, in the words of Paul Dirac — hey, both of them in turn were great contributors to quantum mechanics and electrodynamics —:

    I think that there is a moral to this story, namely that it is more important to have beauty in one’s equations that to have them fit experiment.

    Jiggling the idea of beauty with that of experimental verification until the two of them come into alignment is quite a challenge.

    Dirac himself came close to formulating the one-many duality in a manner antithetical to poetry:

    The aim of science is to make difficult things understandable in a simpler way; the aim of poetry is to state simple things in an incomprehensible way. The two are incompatible.

    to which we may respond that Einstein formulated Dirac himself thus:

    This balancing on the dizzying path between genius and madness is awful.

    Oh dear, what can I say?

    The dualism of lhe ideal and the practical is often in play when you see that phrase “that’s where the rubber meets the road”. In this case, the road is the practical, and the rubber, for reasons I have yet to fathom, is the ideal. Is that an aircraft landing metaphor?

    **

    I don’t want to extend this post any further, but I still have several dualities to compare and contrast — and consider. I’ll be with you shortly, insh’Allah and the creek don’t rise..

    What you’re blind to will bite you!

    Saturday, December 21st, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — note, incidentally, that Scientists have gotten predictions of global warming right since the 1970s ]
    .

    Well, first let’s note that the UN a few days agoissued its Emissions Gap Report 2019 which is variously described as “bleak” (Washington Post) and “bleak (NY Times) — so it’s presumably bleak. The UN also issued:

  • UN, 10 things to know about the Emissions Gap 2019
  • UN, Visual feature: The Emissions Gap Report 2019
  • Still bleak.

    But at least we have simple forms in which to absorb the message.

    **

    Meanwhile, Yale has very helpfully packaged 24 recent reports on climate change, and there’s still one missing.

    Let’s see:

  • Yale Climate Connections, 12 major climate change reports from 2019
  • Yale Climate Connections, 12 reports on carbon pricing, climate security, and more
  • And look, they cover everything from Interventions to Increase the Persistence and Resilience of Coral Reefs to Canada’s Changing Climate, lessons on action against tobacco and fossil fuels to the State of Climate Adaptation in Public Health of 16 U.S. States, and Malaria eradication within a generation to FEMA on Community Resilience and so Are the public ready for net zero?.

    Tet last two come closest to what I think is missing. They consider human response to climate change in light of the climate change crisis — but they’re still exterior to the humans they consider — they’re from the realm of sociology, and I’m interested in the corresponding interior states, the psychology of human response. And in particular our capacity for denial and indifference, our stickiness / stuckness.

    What’s the sludge through which we must make our way to awareness? Why does this feel so very much like trench warfare in World War I, re-enacted in mind?

    DoubleQuoting Trees, 2001 – 2019, Greta 2019 – 1898

    Friday, November 22nd, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — from tree-planting in the millions, via Tolkien’s ents in entmoot mode, to the Yukon, science-fiction time-travel, and a Greta Thunberg lookalike ]
    .

    A couple, Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado and his wife, planted 20 million trees in 20 years. Some of their product is visible in this photographic DoubleQuote

    :

    Simply and factually, two states of a hillside are connected by twenty years of planting, similarly but more personally, a photographer and his wife are connected by love and marriage nurtured by their lives together, more abstractly two nodes in a network are connected by edges, in each case, the connections in a network are the strength of that network..

    And in this case, trees are the result of planting over time, and over time this marriage of two persons is no doubt deepened. They make a difference, and if a hundred thousand, scattered across the habitable globe, followed their example, the impact would be considerable.

    Consider also that in the view of a German scientist whose ideas are, according to the Smithsonian, “shaking up the scientific world”. Anthropomorphosizing more than a little, the Smithsonian writer tells us:

    Wise old mother trees feed their saplings with liquid sugar and warn the neighbors when danger approaches. Reckless youngsters take foolhardy risks with leaf-shedding, light-chasing and excessive drinking, and usually pay with their lives. Crown princes wait for the old monarchs to fall, so they can take their place in the full glory of sunlight. It’s all happening in the ultra-slow motion that is tree time, so that what we see is a freeze-frame of the action.

    20,000 trees must have quite a conversation.

    **


    Entmoot

    Cue JRR Tolkien on the tree-like Ents, the ancient and wise guardians of trees and forests introduced in volume 2 of the Lord of the Rings:

    Quickbeam, for example, guarded rowan trees and bore some resemblance to rowans: tall and slender, smooth-skinned, with ruddy lips and grey-green hair. Some ents, such as Treebeard, were like beech-trees or oaks. But there were other kinds. Some recalled the chestnut: brown-skinned Ents with large splayfingered hands, and short thick legs. Some recalled the ash: tall straight grey Ents with many-fingered hands and long legs; some the fir (the tallest Ents), and others the birch, … and the linden.

    A gathering of the ents is called an Entmoot. Tolkien quotes Treebeard:

    The ents have not troubled about the wars of men and wizards for a very long time. But now something is about to happen that has not happened for an age… Ent Moot. [ … ] Beech, oak, chestnut, ash… Good, good, good. Many have come. Now we must decide if the ents will go to war.

    **

    By way of a bookend to this post, here’s a DoubleQuote in images of Greta Thunberg and a 1898 lookalike in a photo from the Yukon:

    As usual, parallelisms promote speculation — in this case, the laughable, laudable conspiracy theory that Thunberg is a time traveler.

    Conspiracy! Science fiction!

    The suggestion is that Greta traveled back from our time, when she despaired of our efforts to reverse human-caused climate change, to the Yukon of 1898, where she set about reversing the problem at its time and place origin. Exactly why human-caused climate change should have started in the Yukon in 1898 is not clear, nor can we understand how, if she began her efforts at reversing the progressive wasting of earth by human impact back in 1898 and had had no notable impact on that process by now, as revealed in the 1898 and 2019 photos of Ms Thunberg.. that too is unclear.

    Fabulation, however, is fabulpous by dedfinition — so we record this conspiracy here.

    Readings:

  • HuffPost, Photo From 1898 Sparks Hilarious Theory That Greta Thunberg Is A Time-Traveler
  • Owen Sound Sun Times, Greta Thunberg look-alike in 1898 Yukon gold rush photo has sparked time-travel conspiracies
  • **

    Okay, here’s a suggestion:

    Greta Thunberg — or the Entmoot , for that matter — might suggest we plant trees:

    Plant for yourself:

    But be warned

    As we plant trees, we must avoid planting monocultures, and ensure we plant variety, as The Economist suggests.

    Draft: the cultural climate crisis, global to local &c

    Saturday, November 9th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — i’m posting here some earlv drafts of longer pieces i’m working on for eventual publication elsewhere — this is a draft of the outline of a paper on climate change ]
    .

    **

    How about them Independent headlines?

    I intend to write a longish paper in which I voyage from the global to the intensely and varied local, and then catch up with cross-cuts that have either appeared in sundry of the localized sections but deserve gathering under their own heads, or which have somehow escaped the net of my keen interest.

    For now, though, I thought this spray of headlines from the Independent would make a nice intro to the project for ZP readers.

    **

    Sources:

  • ‘Untold human suffering’: 11,000 scientists from across world unite
  • Extinction Rebellion: Nearly 400 scientists support climate activists’ civil disobedience
  • Climate activists including Extinction Rebellion to receive £500,000
  • Why the Green Party is proposing £100bn a year
  • Climate ‘apocalypse’ to leave Scotland with abandoned villages
  • Scotland plants 22 million trees to tackle climate crisis
  • Ireland becomes second country in the world
  • Our ageing world rulers are unfit to tackle climate change
  • **

    Scots:

    Of course I’m a Scot down my father’s line, clan Cameron, of the Camerons of Erracht.


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