The highest tallies from the midstate were reported in Pine Grove Furnace in Adams County and in York Springs in Adams County. Both areas saw 34 inches of snow, if not more.
among the most disastrous consequences of the global climate change crisis is that it is the most boring subject ever by a very long way, never moreso than in the mouth of a head of state. i'd try to do something about it if i were physically capable of paying attention!
it's obvious to naomi klein and to many others that capitalism is to blame for climate change; that's why it is a very convenient problem: because it obviously makes socialism ever-more urgent. but let me ask you this: how good were stalinist russia or romania, or maoist china, on greenhouse gas emissions, or environment in general? say you socialize all industry or something and prohibit people from driving cars or cooking hot dogs. what you would be doing is turning the economy over entirely to precisely the sort of people who run the government now. do you think, for example, that they'll be less concerned with economic growth than titans of industry are now? you want to put every center of power in the same hands. that is a realistic formula only for making every aspect of the problem worse.
we do not live in a capitalist world. we live in a squishy totalitarian world in which state and capital are interlocked at every location. they are pretty much equally implicated in climate change. handing more and more power to the state does not reduce the economic pressures toward expansion, etc; it just puts everything in the hands of a sclerotic bureaucracy. say you think fracking isn't the best idea we ever had. well who is responsible for fracking up pennsylvania? private companies operating in tandem with government agencies. correct? why do you think making the state the lone fracker would improve matters?
think seriously, in general, about the nature of the 20th-century fossil-fuel economy. who developed these resources where? interlocked state/private concerns. who controlled and exploited middle east oil, for example, and who does that now? who developed the world infrastructure for the fossil fuel economy, the interstate highway system, e.g.? to recommend nationalizing or internationalizing extraction or consumption is to recommend an even more rigid, uninterruptable, world-bestriding hierarchy. this won't even ameliorate the problem it is supposedly designed to address. as to its other effects: they don't bear thinking about.
putting all resources in the hands of the state is, if history shows anything, the very formula of corruption, and if you really do want your richest people and your bureaucrats and political flaks to be exactly the same people, this is the correct formula. on the other hand, if you want to reduce the exploitation of resources, etc, it's ridiculous.
i heard the pres of the phillippines, benigno aquino 3, on npr just now. among the problems caused by climate change, he listed 'drugs'. so should all decent people nod along to absolutely anything that would, if true, help make the case even more urgent? say that climate change is an extremely imminent total-destruction emergency. would that make it obligatory to just emit any sort of jive that might get people going? or would it make it morally obligatory to try to believe that jive, or actually to believe it, or to pretend to believe it so we can all work together in virtue of the fact that we are all wackily credulous together for a good end? because that is the actual policy. all they actually ought to accomplish by this means, and pretty much what they are accomplishing, is to have people switch off. sadly, the response to that is that they will redouble their efforts. it might seem obvious that if people aren't listening to you, you must yell louder, gesticulate more wildly, make even more dramatic/baldlyridiculous claims. but really, it's already been backfiring for many years.
naomi klein says change or die. here's one reason i don't regard folks like that as sources of information, even though she - in the habitual fashion of climate eschatologists - congratulates herself continually for being in touch with reality, while excoriating her opponents for living in a fantasy. naomi klein urges that the turning point is a week from friday, by which time we must institute all the economic changes that she has believed in since she was 12. the sky is whispering to naomi klein: socialism, socialism, as the wind whispered 'mary' to jimi hendrix. but then again, everything has been whispering 'socialism' to klein for decades.
so she, like a lot or people (al gore, e.g.) think, or say, that the only chance for human survival is for us all to commit ourselves immediately and with total passionate fanaticism to the political vision that they themselves came in with. it's supposed to be a sort of coincidence. climate change is the cattle prod that's going to get us to where naomi klein always wanted us to be. she has every motivation in the world to describe climate change in the most extreme and dire terms imaginable, and she does, every day.
now, the fact that climate change is a useful state-leftist propaganda tool does not mean that it's not a problem, or even that it's not the case that only a world government can save us. it just means that there are good reasons to be skeptical of people like klein. they want to believe that this is the terminal do-or-die human crisis, and it would be very useful to them in realizing their idealistic vision if you believed it too. i just hope that in 2030 we'll remember what she's saying now, because by 2030 there will be no effective world carbon regime and there will be no socialist worldstate of the sort klein fantasizes about. so we'll be running a test on this 'change or die' thing.
[don't take it that i'm conceding that if her description of the situation were true, her political conclusions or prescriptions would actually follow.]
in the course of this npr piece on the climate march, people give the rote characterizations: "the biggest crisis civilization has ever faced"; "the most pressing moral issue of our time". the non-stop flow of hyperbole - intended to manipulate people, then echoed and echoed - has continued for decades. they got to rhetorical defcon infinity in 2001 or whatever it was. since then it has simply been hyper-repetitive shrieking. i can't even hear it anymore.
let me do a bit of comparative work about the greatest crisis the universe has faced since dr. strange saved it from the dread dormammu. in the last three years, 200,000 people have been killed in syria. half the country has been displaced.i will remind you that since about 1950 we have faced the realistic prospect of total nuclear annihilation. the plague killed a third of europe and asia, etc. by comparison, climate change is extremely amorphous. no particular event - for example, no particular actual death - can be definitively chalked up to it. on the other hand it could be 'connected to' any particular death anywhere. it might be causing all our difficulties. then again it might not. it might be or it might not be the greatest threat we have ever faced, but it is by quite a ways the vaguest, vaguer even than the dread dormammu. it might be having all effects or none.
now, i understand that people think - or at any rate say - that climate change is driving the syrian conflict. people think every war and famine and disease is due to climate change. or they say that. but they can't show it at all, and it's just another element of strategic hysteria-inducement. that is the main rhetorical shift from the early 2000s to now: the strategy is basically to indicate that every adverse event, from immigration difficulties to inequality to terrorism, is caused by climate change. often a strory in the press will simply connect them in the same sentence, deploying a sheer assumption of causal connection. it's quite like satan, something that underlies all evil, more or less. and just as clearly as climate change caused war x, it caused your last divorce, or made you drop your phone into the toilet.
they're still squawking 'science', no doubt. but they are very very far from empirically connecting climate change to any particular refugee crisis or epidemic or genocide. and they are people who wish it were so, in order to mobilize you; they've been coming at you from every angle, deploying every strategy they could think of to manipulate you, hammering at you from every direction, for decades. i am way too numb to pay any more attention and i suspect i am not alone, so if i were them i'd try something else.
i think that climate activists have fully absorbed the style of american politicians: many might actually be confused as between what is true and what would make people join. it will turn out that the ebola outbreak is connected to climate change: you draw the conclusion before examining the evidence, and then why bother with evidence? [or really, the move is this: 'is the ebola outbreak due to climate change? many experts think that it might well could kind of be. clearly, it's not clearly not. if you don't want your kids to die of ebola, we must immediately institute a worldwide environmental regulatory regime. we are at the pipping toint.'] it might not be evident to themselves whether they are trying to speak the truth or trying to make you do what they want you to do; they might even have a sort of slapdash theory of truth on which these are not clearly different activities. no point, really, in paying attention to people like that.
the rhetoric is jacked up to 11 precisely because the problem is so amorphous: they're always trying to make it definite, or to bring it in from vague atmospheric conditions to localize it or detect it in particular events, but this inference is never nailed, and in fact is incompatible with the basic way the science is approached. where it is localized or where it suddenly explodes out of the ether into the causal chain directly affecting events, depends on what makes for the most compelling rhetorical flourish: it's our greatest national security issue, or our biggest social justice issue, our biggest economic threat, or whatever it may be next week or for a different audience.
on the other hand, its formlessness or dispersion through the atmosphere is a sign of its sheer size and power, the infinity of its unprecedented threat. but for me, right now, i am telling you that the fact that i forgot to get coffee at the grocery store is a bigger problem than climate change, so it's going to be hard to convince me that i am living in the middle of the greatest crisis humanity has ever faced. saying it over and over again in an apparently unending crescendo is just not going to get me moving, and if i set myself to tackle the world's problems - which i have not - i'd start somewhere else.
do you know how extremely you are not supposed to say things like this in academia? what i just wrote makes me again a pariah, actually an evil person. whether it's true or not doesn't matter at all. but extreme social pressure isn't quite the same as actual solidarity, is it? and unanimity isn't exactly truth, either.
anyway, if y'all could please calm down and try to talk like reasonable people about reality, i will re-focus and try to listen. if it's just ever-more repetitions of the greatest crisis in the history of your ass ...
republicans have condemned the all-night climate-change yapyap in the senate as "political theater". but what's cool about it is that it's avant-garde political theater, a step beyond the autistic drama of artaud; it's like beckett, though with less I-the-Genius hooey: theater without an audience, or indeed theater to which it would be impossible for anyone to pay attention. it's both the culmination and the annihilation of the very idea of theater. the blankness, the sheer repetition, the vitiated collective rhetoric, the automatism: it is both an example and, implicitly, a critique, of the postpostmodern era, a perfect correlate of these, the last days. the charcters are postpersons, not really distinguishable qua moral agents from their podium. really, a devastating portrayal and a profound critique of this era when even airliners, like ratiocination, disappear into an interdimensional wormhole.
current temp at york springs, according to weather underground: -3.4. that is unusual! ok, tell you what, i won't use this as 'evidence' against global warming if you don't use the heat wave next august as 'evidence' for it. ok? otherwise every dip is relevant.
these are careless overall impressions more than systematic observations. i think the region where i live (let's say mid-atlantic) is considerably lusher than it was, say, thirty years ago. the vegetation is thicker, with vines and suckers all over everything. it's greener, and of course the east coast has overall reforested in the last half century, and existing forest has matured, even though logging continues in relatively small doses.
the greening may well have something to do with warming, and the vibe is going from temperate to semi-tropical. but also, the way they farm out here is having perhaps underappreciated environmental effects. so the way operate around here is that they come early in the spring and spray round-up on everything with large combines, killing the spring green immediately. then a week or two later they seed soybeans or corn in rows and spray the fields with fertilizer. the seed must be round-up resistant. they return late in the fall and harvest, and that's the sum total of the interaction of farmer and field: it's all done with very big machines extremely quickly. i'm betting it's ten minutes or less per acre for the whole season.
i'm quite surrounded by intense ag at my little scholhouse is adams country, pa. i'm below many fields, and i think the runoff partly accounts for the incredible green fecundity all around me (also, this is a very wet area; every town named for a spring: york springs, boiling springs, mt holly springs, etc). but i also think that a number of species of plants around me have become herbicide resistant. it's been amazing trying to get rid of the poison ivy, which grows around here in a way that entirely covers whole barns or hundred-foot trees, or where you realize that what you thought were branches of that maple are gigantic ivy/oak vine/branches.
you can soak this viciously toxic vegetation pretty thoroughly in the stuff that home depot bills as 'poison ivy and brush killer,' and give it barely a pause. the crap is insanely hard to handle. i feel i have to kill it with herbicide before iattack it or else i'd need a head-to-toe hazmat suit. as it is, i've worked with coveralls and a mask at times. anyway, even to have a crack at it, i need to mix a triple-strength solution.
i think the same is true of the english ivy and the honeysuckle around here. i've never seen anything like the honeysuckle: there's an acre of just thick bowers of vines around my house. the whole county smells like honey. here's a pic.
at any rate, i think we are in an experiment with this manner of farming to see what happens when you drench whole counties in herbicide every year. and then what happens to ag and everything else if a hundred resistant weeds emerge.
on the other hand, i wouldn't say that all this stuff seems to be making this area any less alive, per se: my heavens it's a blooming buzzing confusion of birds bugs animals and no doubt everything else.
11:02 they did get better than tepid, though.
11:00 it could have been michele bachmann, y'all.
10:55 chris christie believes in us.
10:53 it must be 'humbling' experience for mitt to sit there soaking up the praise. 'mitt romney will tell us the hard truths we need to hear.' wait, like mitch mcconnell you've got him confused with yourself.
10:51 but i do like christie's hardass here's-the-truth rhetorical stance, or the whole frame in terms of truth. on the deficit, e.g. but he does twist it around to jive too.
10:43 "tonight we're going to choose respect over love." wait. awhen you ut it like that . . .
10:39 my father was born with nothing. but he still kicked your father's ass.
10:35 sometimes it's hard to follow your own intro video. christie is as jersey as springsteen.
10:20 everybody is descended from a coal miner. me it's all newspapermen, the only dirtier profession.
10:18 it will be amazing if she gets through this without telling some canned anecdote about someone she met on the campaign trail.
10:17 well, she could be a lot worse. she is really a pretty weird contrast to him, quite girlish and sincere with a hint of steel. maybe it works in bed though. when she says it's the moms of america that hold us together, she's got a point.
10:08 no political wife fo my money can compare to the magnificent michelle. looking at a line of candy crowley, cokie roberts, and andrea mitchell. rather a formidable crew!
10:08 i agree with haley that america deserves mitt romney.
10:00 soon, soon, mitt romney will be revealed in all his peeply hearsonal doomanity, just like hikki naily.
9:57 artur davis accuses the democrats of partisanship. we need to turn to the republicans to heal our divisions, har har.
9:38 orioles 6, white sox 0.
9:35 wow he completely dicked romney. not a word about romney or ryan in that speech. left it to the last phrase.
9:30 santorum is quite an above-average speaker though; this 'hands that built this country' thing is good, almost jesse jackson-style in its patterns of repetition. the religious thing always lurks behind the rhetoric and the rhythm, and he's definitely connecting, for the first time this convention. he's given so so many speeches in the last year and a half; he's got the beat, baby.
9:27 as soon as the other party gets in power, you go all: "no man is above the law."
9:25 santorum: "half of all americans are receiving some form of government benefits." i have heard this used as an argument on the other side; it's like we've got you over a barrel; look you can't vote against your own interest. of course, we created the structure of interests. but one thing you've got to say; it should constitute an electoral advantage for democrats. and the wider the spread of the programs the greater the advantage. and we do need to ask as we go along: leaving aside the next ten years of program x, is this the way we want to live?
9:20 oh hell santorum's digging up his autobiography again. his grandfather has already died a thousand times.
9:00 but scott walker got a standing o even just announcing wisconsin's delegate count. still he's fundamentally pretty dull.
8:54 speakers may never get much more than a tepid response in the arena; they decided not to go in the direction of something anyone could possibly be enthusiastic about; pure whitebrad hooha. maybe they can pipe in recorded crowd noise from sarah palin rallies.
8:50 mcdonnell of va: "we need a dynamic opportunity society." he is extraordinarily repulsive, a rising star.
8:21 'machines run by taxpayers like us'. and vice versa.
8:18 obamacare makes kelly ayotte cry. she just loves this fucking country so fucking much.
8:15 i'm assuming there are protests. but i have seen no coverage.
8:07 the oak ridge boys!
8:02 cnn's headline leading off the hour: "isaac closes in on the gulf coast. a complication for republicans." wait. what did you say?
7:42 this mia love person - a young black mormon from utah - is very compelling. actually we've had some great black female politicians. shirley chisholm and barbara jordan, e.g. but also some clunkers; i'm not feeling sheila jackson lee or maxine waters, for example. mia's preaching self-reliance right now. and she's an aerobics instructor! her reading of the cliches cobbled together by romney's sub-sub staff is at least passionate. and brief always goes over well.
7:30 'barack obama doesn't understand the american dream.' that reince priebus is a rather unimpressive person in this context.
7:20 as you know, my primary goal in life is not to have my death reported as having been caused by auto-erotic asphyxiation. another great aspiration of mine is to live in such a way that my spouse, if any, is never called upon to 'humanize' me in the media.
6:48 amazing how that isaac kind of spun itself into a perfect galactic hurricane just as it blew ashore. it wound itself up like a top. might be worse than they thought. i mean it it looks like nothing until it spirals into landfall. they're saying the pressure is dropping.
6:10 boehner managed not even to announce paul's total. you know, dissing people tends to irritate them. funny but the outcome of the election could turn on paul's enthusiastic endorsement of gary johnson. if you go to johnson's website, it's more about paul than about himself, which is sort of pitiful. i'm assuming that democratic super-pacs coud fund the libertarian party?
5:54 like, rhode island promoted 'adele's lemonade': it's like, so very american. 'the pheasant hunting capital of the world': south dakota. wait don't they realize that herman cain is the next president of the united states?
5:44 these ron paul people never made any sense in the republican party. they have to see that now.
5:31 the way c-span is doing the score is a bummer. just romney and 'others.' maine got 14 for romney, 10 for paul. minnesota: 33 paul, 6 romney. nevada 17 paul, 5 romney.
5:20 nothing is more quaint than the roll-call vote. i just wish paul had hundreds. it's sinking in now, state by state: shit we're nominating mitt romney! ok florida came in with 3 for paul. hawaii too. iowa!? 22 for paul, 6 for romney?! somebody is pissed. mitch mconnell proudly cast all his seed for 'mitch i mean mitt.' this is about me i mean you.
4:07 you know what's sad? republicans really have trouble rounding up decent entertainment. the, um, oak ridge boys? wait actually that's g.e. smith up on stage with someone now, while matrons do the hustle. it's like the saturday night live band from 1992. could be worse. throwing down some blues.
3:39 back in 2000, the philly inquirer got me to write with a late deadline on at least the first couple of nights of the dem convention. i gave them this, which they did print. (well they held the hole and it was 10:30). but i worked for them less after that. anyway, it shows you some of the ways things have changed since then. it was a simpler, more innocent time, before we realized that man is mortal or that shit goes awry.
3:10 if 'welfare' means 'black,' is it possible to debate welfare policy at all? or are all such programs exempt from examination?
3:07 on the other hand, i'm very not looking forward to ann romney's attempt to 'humanize' mitt romney, to 'give a deeply personal point of view,' etc. it sucks that the cops got the anarchists' pile of rocks.
believe it or not i have had many fond and vicious moments watching political conventions on television. john yang just now trying to make his way through the scrum on the floor to talk to ron paul and getting shoved out of the way on msnbc: classic. the first i remember was dems and yippies in chicago in '68; well, that will never be surpassed. but how about the chaos dems of 1972, or ford v reagan in 1976, or teddy v jimmy 1980. vidal v buckley. there actually have been pretty classic speeches, pat buchanan seting off high explosives, e.g. now in this time of candidates who fail the turing test, such as gore, kerry, or romney, few interesting things can possibly happen speechwise; however, you can always hope for things to go terribly terribly wrong on national television, which also does happen. looking forward to chris christie tonight. the most insufferable moments are the tribute videos: 100% visual, verbal, and musical cliches. god looks down upon convention videos and grows weary, infinitely weary. He of course recreates all that is at every moment, keeping it in existence by sheer force of will, at least until he nods off. at any rate, i will blog bits this evening. i guess the medium would be twitter, but i'm not on twitter.
i get inundated by another natural disaster. man there were torrential rains here. this is from the next little town over: glen rock and the codorus creek. wouldn't have believed the codorus could do that, and i'm kind of pinched in by it on three sides. but they opened the roads pretty quick for the most part. all good here in new freedom, but wet basement and washed-out driveway.
let me ask you this: climate change models are compatible with or actually predict terrible droughts in texas and georgia and non-stop soaking rains in pennsylvania and new york. now, if there were a terrible drought in pennsylvania and new york and non-stop soaking rains in texas and georgia, i predict that climate-change models would make just as good sense of that. (seriously, if it were reversed, do you think anyone would withdraw their claims or wonder about them even for a moment? the slightest doubt is evil.) if that is the way it is, the process of modeling etc is entirely non or anti-empirical: a pure a priori science, like that of the pope or michelle bachmann.
the drought in texas and the flood in new jersey shows the results of climate change. let's say that rainfall was average in both places this year. would that count against climate change? you cannot do 'science' or, indeed, think at all along these lines.
what i'd say a bit more thoughtfully is that the climate-change spokesmen such as gore think that every dramatic weather event is a pr opportunity. but what they say is that it constitutes evidence. now there could be - i suppose, there is - actual empirical data that would bear on the question: careful temperature measurements over a significant number of years in a variety of locations, for example. but wielding every hurricane and every drought in a pr campaign is discrediting; it might even work as pr, but it ought not to. and it hints that you'd use anything; it discredits you as representing a rational approach.
bill mckibben argues - as always - that the hurricane is caused by global warming. i just want to note that irene is the first hurricane to hit the u.s. in three years. now let's say we get five severe hurricanes in rapid succession. if that leads you inevitably to the conclusion that climate change is a catastrophe, then the previous couple of years lead inevitably to the conclusion that it's not. if absolutely anything - including nothing at all - confirms or even is compatible with your belief that global warming is a catastrophe, i'm going to argue that it's a matter of faith, not evidence.
any sort of intellectual hygiene demands that if more severe and frequent hurricanes or tornadoes or floods etc constitute evidence of climate change, then less severe or frequent events like that constitute evidence against it. every time there's a weather problem, the post gets mckibben to blame it on warming. i demand that every time there is no such event they get him to say that shows that it's not so bad after all.
honestly it really is religious: we are being punished for our sins, and the world is coming to an end. however, i argue that religious faith is a perfecty defensible epistemic attitude, so i say let's celebrate the irrationality as enriching the human experience.
one can only hope that irene scrubs the island of manhattan clean of any sign that it was ever inhabited by human beings. (er, without harming anyone of course.) we could leave the whole area to the giant gambian pouched rats.
i dig this idea of the cone of uncertainty, the basic mode of hurricane forecasting. now it seems like there could be many a joke using and many a profound application of this concept: will i re-marry, get a guggenheim, die of cancer? well are these things in the cone of uncertainty? new freedom, pa certainly is in irene's. i'd really riff (you know: the universe is a cone of uncertainty, fanning out from a perfectly real, totally specific point, etc) - maybe i will - but i have a headache and my car and my dryer more or less died today: i shoulda consulted the cone before deciding to get out of bed.
cb draws my attention to this stone by gary gutting, which previously i had proposed to ignore. now let me say that as far as my personal evaluation of climate change has gone (not that it matters either way in terms of actual change in the climate), "climategate" and the subsequent chastening has tempered my hostile response, and i am less sceptical than once i was. but let me make a few observations that might make one think twice on this particular issue. first off, as i've argued elaborately (there's a 20-page academic paper where that slice came from), consensus can be extremely distorting with regard to people's commitment to truth, whether among experts or non. i feel that that is particularly true in this case, in which the moral weight dropped on everyone by the non-expert community (as gutting defines 'expert') was overwhelming (e.g. by al gore). there was a phase in which even 'experts' seemed to be competing for who could issue the most dire predictions, because that was a measure of that expert's personal goodness. indeed, until they sort of realized that predicting the end of the world by 2005 would backfire in 2006, they thought they could motivate people to action by hyperbole. as in any community of inquirers there are all kinds of pressures exterior to the truth of the question, and what and who gets funded, or what and who gets published where, are clearly at stake. the experts' health insurance is at stake. now, the fact that, if true, the only rational response appeared to be a full realization of leftist political goals (e.g. whole new taxes and a world regulatory regime), and that most academics (more or less all, really) are leftists, had to make you wonder if the research was skewed by wishful thinking. on the other hand it is worth remarking that the same thing should make you sceptical of climate-change deniers of the right.
what i said in 2005 and what i'll say now is that i'm waiting (though i have other things to do) for the hysteria to ebb, and then i'll try to evaluate the evidence as best i can and try to form some kind of opinion. it's never a good idea, prof. gutting, simply to defer to expert opinion where there are things actually at stake. really, think about what that would have entailed in ancient athens, or medieval europe, or in 1820, or in 1920, etc. you've got at a minimum to focus critically on how an expert consensus is arrived at and enforced. and this is a hard and complicated case, to which myriad data are relevant (one symptom of this is that, though there is a consensus among experts that anthropogenic climate change is occurring, there is much disagreement about its pace and effects).
and i think that, as in the last x hundreds of thousands of years, we had better conceive ourselves to be adapting to a volatile environment rather than preserving a natural balance. we want the thing to hold steady, but it never did before.
i really do have the luxury of a wait-and-see attitude, because like i say, my action is not going to have any detectible effect either way. but i am slowly rounding to the climate-change consensus, i spose.
this is quite the rhetorical deluge by bill mckibben. i just want to point out that while it is important to make connections, it is important not to make them willy-nilly, or get obsessed with them. harold camping makes connections. every conspiracy theorist gives you an 'argument' like this: coincidence? in such cases, one good question is: what could actually happen to make you doubt it? or has anything ever happened that gave you pause, or that didn't confirm your belief, or was in tension with it? if not, it's not empirical. now, i don't think mckibben is really giving an argument, and i do think that the crazy-bad meteorology should make you wonder. ok, i'm wondering! now the actual argument would have to be a systematic causal account of the connection, using, i would suggest, something besides retroactive computer modeling wherein we ask: how could all these events be explained by climate change? that is, we need information that doesn't assume the conclusion is true. is the weather - the droughts, the floods, the tornadoes, the fires, the hurricanes, etc - worse than it was two hundred years ago? alright convince me (don't just bludgeon me). are simultaneous droughts and floods, fires and deluges, explicable on the same causal basis? (ok, maybe we need some computer modeling after all.) one thing i want to point out about the tornadoes: partly it's a matter of bad luck: you could get an outbreak of ef4 tornadoes, and there'd be minimal loss of life or property if they didn't rake a big town. in fact that is usually the case, and it would be a hard argument i think that the route of the storm through tuscaloosa or joplin rather than the vast countrysides that surround them was itself caused by global warming. the death tolls and the images of nuclear-blast-style devastation are extremely compelling, but not in themselves evidence of the effects of climate change. but i'll go with bill this far: i definitely think we should be wondering.
maybe i just don't understand the meaning of leadership. obama's visit to tuscaloosa today (then off to the scuttled shuttle launch!) was a bigger story than the aftermath of the disaster. ok he was there, but the practical steps he took he took from dc last night. it's a constant stream of mayors, governors, senators expressing their shock and resolve in the very same scripted words. excuse me, but that is not the story. cover any serious practical measures they take, or new actual information that they announce,but it's far more relevant to hear someone who just lost their town than to hear richard shelby with 'we will emerge stronger' or deeply regretting the loss of life or whatever it may be. i can deeply regret the loss of life for myself. i don't need an authority to validate my belief that there has been a disaster or to tell me what to feel, and neither does cnn. and i don't need another dozen rehearsals of the same words from last time, the time before, etc etc. our model is that something is only real when the president says so or something. no wonder we end up expecting these people to fix everything - gas prices say. reality is for us only exactly what they say it is: an astounding power for people pretty much just like everyone else.
this piece by niall ferguson, arguing that now that we have literate populations and the internet, we don't need rulers, is extremely interesting. now i want to point out that a remarkably similar argument was made with regard to the printing press by a radical and radically underappreciated jeffersonian democrat: john taylor of caroline in an inquiry into the principles and policy of the government of the united states (1814).
the first and most pointed section of taylor's inquiry is an attack on john adams's (and not only his of course) notion of a natural aristocracy. taylor strives to prove that inequalities in all the suggested dimensions are enforced social structures and do not reflect natural differences, or in other words that political hierarchies are not inevitable.
Superior abilities constitutes one among the enumerated causes of a natural aristocracy. This cause is evidently as fluctuating as knowledge and ignorance; and its capacity to produce aristocracy must depend upon this fluctuation. The aristocracy of superior abilities will be regulated by the extent of space between knowledge and ignorance. As the space contracts or widens, it will be diminished or increased; and if aristocracy may be thus diminished, it follows that it may be thus destroyed
No certain state of knowledge is a natural or unavoidable quality of man. As an intellectual or moral quality, it may be created, destroyed, or modified by human power. Can that which may be created, destroyed, and modified by human power, be a natural and inevitable cause of aristocracy?
It has been modified in an extent which Mr. Adams does not even compute, by the art of printing....The peerage of knowledge or abilities, in consequence of its enlargement by the effects of printing, can no longer be collected and controlled in the shape of a noble order or a legislative department. The great body of this peerage must remain scattered throughout every nation, by the enjoyment of the benefit of the press.
p.s. i cannot believe what happened to tuscaloosa, a town i lived in for a couple of years and that i thought was a very good place to be.
there must be work on the problem of modeling in relation to science. but all parties to the debate had better start by acknowledging that computer modeling is not the same thing as empirical research into the actual world. it is empirical investigation, we might say, into a fabricated or virtual world. now i am not saying that modeling could have no value in science, but the question of the relation of the fabricated to the actual world has to arise as it does not, for example, when we're carbon dating a fossil. this is not to say that questions of the relation of representation to reality (let's say, of a hubble telescope image to a nebula it depicts) don't constantly arise in science of all kinds. but they arise in a different way or at a different level in computer modeling the earth's atmosphere. here we are faced with the specter of losing our grip on reality by the methods we've generated to investigate it: it would be easy to be seduced by the elegance or interestingness of some model and to traffic exclusively in representations. it is no doubt striking when the model predicts apocalypse, and more striking the more apocalyptic that apocalypse is, and how you deal with that is a challenge to your personality as well as your research. it would be interesting to realize somewhere down the line not that reality is really virtual or something but that we lost our grip on reality and became practitioners of a virtual and scholastic science.
ok here's what i'm talking about. it is a leetle hard to stay in extreme crisis mode about the heat as you freeze ass and get buried in yet another blizzard. the task as the climate scientists conceive it would be to back-model the years-long cold snap so it turns out to be compatible with global warming, or better yet so that it turns out to be caused by global warming (cohen moves from very provisional speculations straight to: "The reality is, we’re freezing not in spite of climate change but because of it.") then the model you produced (involving snow cover in siberia in this case) is used to try to make people hold on to global warming in the face of the fact that they themselves are losing digits to frostbite in orlando. that one could produce such a model is not exactly tantamount to the fact that that is really what happened.
so ask yourself: what evidence would you or judah cohen accept as counting against the notion the the earth is growing warmer? what data would actually make it impossible to model the earth's atmosphere as growing warmer? or what would cause you to start with a question other than, how do we make this compatible with warming? when that is the question, there will always be an answer; you just have to keep refining the model, or throwing into it another interesting speculation. and it is the question: or else you won't be publishing in our journals, employed in our universities, and so on, because any other approach shows that you're not doing good science, = you have reactionary politics. it is impossible to assess the quality of the evidence for global warming: it is produced in an atmosphere in which only dogma and self-delusion can possibly emerge, in which the purpose of the research is moral grandstanding and public policy prescription. i think we might want to worry about the way 'science' and 'evidence' or even 'reality' ("The reality is, we’re freezing not in spite of climate change but because of it") are used in this discourse: their rhetorical function. in the course of mounting your case, y'all don't want to discredit your entire model of human knowledge and send us back to sheer faith or something.
i actually think the climate-change people wreck their position by the thoroughness of their defense. so desperate are they to convince you and make you do something about it that they seek to render their position impregnable, which only makes it pitiable. the position is this: (1) you must distinguish between weather and climate, so a cold winter doesn't show anything about climate change. (2) but a warmer than average winter is a clear harbinger of our hotter future. (3) but a series of colder-than-average winters is caused by global warming. etc. the evidence is unequivocal! because the hypothesis is consistent with any possible observation, or more strongly would actually be confirmed by the observation that p and by the observation that ~p.
here's the problem with modeling, i believe: if winter is cold over area x, we back-fill the model to produce the phenomenon by or compatibly with global warming. that's why modeling is not the same as experimentation: you are producing your own data, which amazingly enough confirms your expectations. see a modeled environment is compatible with contradictions in a certain way: so we start with a set of data showing colder-than-average temps in the northern hemisphere and then see if we can produce a model on which that occurs compatibly with global warming. yes! but then say you took a set of data that showed temps in the northern hemisphere getting warmer. could you produce a model that would lead to that result compatibly with global warming? of course. but then the fact that we produced the first model is adduced as scientific evidence that the earth is heating up. not what we'd call a good methodology; it's more a rhetoric of persuasion i suppose.
in a real world, global warming cannot have both the effect of heating up the northern hemisphere and cooling it down at the same time. but in a computer model wherein time is traversed again and again and the world consists of the data fed in by the staff, there's no reason why it can't. but you need a lot more than that to actually show anything.
i must say that i'm much happier with the climate-change people since their chastening. that the scientist who predicts the most thorough and imminent apocalypse is morally superior to his fellows is incompatible with anyone producing credible scientific evidence; the motivations are way too detached from the procedures: you need it to turn out a certain way. at any rate, these folks seem a lot more cautious now in stating their own evidence, as well they should be. so at this point i'm willing to say with some caution that i do think the world's getting warmer due to release by human beings of greenhouse gasses etc and that it is likely to cause problems. and i'm willing to talk about, you know, reasonable responses.
now on the other hand if these folks were right that we'll all die a week from saturday (and presuming that they were not right when they said we'd all die a week ago saturday), then they failed to save the world and we should never have questioned for a moment anything they ever said. and this period of complacency where we're not galvanizing all world governments into zeroing out their carbon immediately is actually responsible for the end of the world: a lot to put on the shoulders of the people that leaked their memos. but i think we're likely to get more realistic assessments now than then, and be able to put this issue in balance with other problems etc in a more rational way. of course any way you look at it, our response is going to be inadequate. we are, after all, human beings, the most morally and intellectually incompetent species that evolution has so far permitted to continue.
ok here is an op-ed-style piece summarizing my misgivings about environmentalism. the ideas will be familiar to anyone who reads eyeofthestorm.
Environmentalists Against Nature
By Crispin Sartwell
The practice of environmentalism has, or at least sometimes has, been wholesome. But the basic concepts underpinning it are, I think, profoundly incoherent.
On any reasonably naturalistic conception of human beings - any conception even vaguely compatible with science, for example - we are natural creatures, one variety of mammal. And on any even slightly empirical account of natural history, ecosystems are volatile. Most environmentalists, surely, would accept these assertions. And yet almost every sentence out of their mouths contradicts them.
The environmental movement, first of all, rests on a picture of human actions as encroachments on the order of nature: according to this picture we are distorting, manipulating, and destroying the earth. We have lost our connection with it. But if you believe that we are part and parcel of nature, that we emerged as an animal species by natural selection, then the picture of us as attacking it is an impossible picture. We are it. Everything we do - from hiking the Appalachian Trail to spewing toxins - is completely natural.
Environmentalists often seem to want to return ecosystems to a pristine condition, a natural balance or harmony that we have disturbed. But ecosystems are not static, not even strictly cyclical, and they are in continuous interaction with one another: no ecosystem, not even the entire earth, is a biosphere sealed off from elsewhere. Species have been appearing and disappearing and traveling the globe since life emerged, colonizing this environment, abandoning that one.
Some ecosystems display some elements of balance or harmony for significant periods of time. But such harmonies are always provisional and always in the process of being compromised, whether we're the ones doing the compromising or not.
I live in rural Pennsylvania, more or less in the woods, though there is a strip mall about three miles away, with a Wal-Mart and a Wendy's (the video store, of course, is defunct, thus destroying the balance of strip mall). People have lived around here for centuries, and their traces are everywhere: in the fields cleared for farming, the old stone walls and ancient structures slowly crumbling into the earth. There are little middens here and there, where folks in the good old country tradition have dumped their broken bottles and kitchen scraps.
I haven't actually done a census, but it's hard not to see that there are "invasive" or human-introduced species everywhere. The English ivy grows luxuriantly along the ground and is ascending the trees. Gangs of starlings waft hither and yon. Chinese chestnuts feed the grey squirrels. Invasive European-Americans appear in abundance, though they are fewer here than in some spots. This year we were invaded by stink bugs.
But the place is deliriously alive. I think of the poison ivy out here as a single entity taking over whole regions with its lustrous green leaves and its nasty toxin, perhaps enhanced by climate change that has made the place just a bit more lush and tropical. There are layers of birds, from the hummers and finches and chickadees, through the doves and pigeons, to the several species of woodpeckers overseen by the big pileateds, to the kestrels, sharp-shinned and red-shouldered hawks, to the turkey buzzards floating at altitude. There are voles, chipmunks, colonies of feral cats, foxes, bobcats, coyotes, deer (along with tree stands for those who enjoy shooting them).
The other day a raccoon toddled into my house when I let in my cat; I'm not sure which of the three of us freaked out more.
That, I must say, is a good enough eco-system for me, and I think that perhaps we should think of any such system in terms of its vitality and volatility rather than its stability. We should note and we can value its imbalances and inharmonies as well its balances and harmonies.
And I participate, not only by a feeling of oneness or something, but with my chainsaw, the old mops I toss into the old dumps, my herbicide. I grow roses and butterfly bushes and hybridized tomatoes. My house is as much a part of this ecosystem as the boulders, and I as much as the raccoons.
Plants and animals, as I say, have been moving around and expunging one another since they existed at all. We are one way they do that, and we are animals who do that ourselves. The globe has been cooling and warming since there was a globe, and we are one way it does that too.
The picture of us as disturbing or destroying nature is exactly as supernatural as the religious orientations according to which it was all put here by God for us to do with whatever we please. The environmental movement is still locked into a picture of us as immaterial souls - or at any rate things well beyond nature - who are invaders or visitors on this earthly plane.
And it is just as devoted to controlling or altering this order as the rankest industrialist. We are still trying to transform the world according to our little conceptions, only now our conceptions are slightly different: we'll control it to return it to a pristine balance that emerges only out of our imaginations and has the status of a deity that prescribes moral standards.
What I'd suggest is that environmentalists need to examine their assumptions, and at a minimum reconcile them with each other. And they also need to re-think their practice in a way that is compatible with a fully naturalistic, reality-based conception of the world and of themselves.
Crispin Sartwell teaches philosophy at Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA.
one thing i dig: when someone declares her own wisdom continuously, while simply rehearsing the idiot nostrums of her demographic. at any rate, it takes you about three sentences to realize that rebecca costa is a sheer cretin, the sting of which is only slightly mitigated by her constant declarations of her own intelligence. these are no doubt inspired by her mentor: bill maher, the greatest monster of self-congratulation since jesus. we face a simple choice: facts or beliefs? do we agree with whatever the climate lab says, or do we...think and generate ideas independently somehow?
at any rate, i'd tell her to read some epistemology, but that might hint that she can read. you can't oppose facts to beliefs: some beliefs are true, in which case they represent facts. fact has to be opposed to...you know, fantasy, irreality or something. "when facts become incomprehensible, we switch to beliefs." this sentence is itself incomprehensible. it indicates, if it indicates anything, both that the world makes no sense, and that in believing things we leave this incomprehensible world behind.
the idea, a conventionality of the educated left, is that we can cease to believe anything, replacing a commitment to any proposition with the facts themselves. "fact" here refers to whatever the experts say this week. this is indeed a remarkable achievement, a transcendence of the human condition so profound that it makes no sense whatever. but i am relieved to hear that costa has eliminated mere belief entirely: for example, that she does not believe that the earth is growing warmer.
i don't know, maybe there is an esl-type issue and costa doesn't actually understand how native speakers of english use the terms "fact" and "belief."
“China’s leaders are mostly engineers and scientists, so they don’t waste time questioning scientific data.”exactly. as if science itself wasn't supposed to consist of questioning scientific data. but chinese leaders treat it like luther treated scripture. while i'm trafficking in stereotypes, let me point out that that the chinese tolerate a thoroughly authoritarian government: really we don't know who's in charge. the chinese, evidently, don't care, and they display complete deference to incomprehensible authority that would persist even if there were no authority. at any rate, i strongly suggest that tom friedman is an advocate of the chinese system of government, and, like our beautifully-educated advocates of reason, he treats science exactly like a messiah, and its word as law.
this one learns during one's friedmanian education: science as a series of conclusions, starndardizedtestable; as a scripture; but to say that "science" is a varied mess is an understatement - from the most entirely speculative physics a la hawking's latest toe to the most solemn of the latest social science - in education, for example - that is deployed without knowing it as the expression of a moral system. in between there we get something a little more reliable; we are entirely - i say globally - unable to study ourselves scientifically. every study is a new rationalization, self-deception, or self-expression, self-loathing, or expression of solidarity. every study is prescriptive: it wants a policy. "science" emerges as a kind of scholasticism: something to be accepted in virtue of one's training; an actual claim of a certain class or group to have a special access that you can't have to the truth.