Climate Change – It’s an Inside Job

The climate change angle can wait; as I want to tackle the ongoing financial crisis first… I have just gotten round to watching a DVD of the award-winning 2010 documentary, Inside Job, brilliantly narrated by Matt Damon, which tells the story of how a de-regulated financial sector has led to 30 years of instability and 4 financial crises (so far)… It’s like a real-world version of the Bourne Identity – only without a happy ending. Therefore, although I am naturally conservative (rather than liberal) – and despite my agreement with John Gray over the Delusions of Global Capitalism – I may still have been far too generous to laissez-faire global Capitalism in general; and Alan Greenspan in particular. It would appear that, almost single-handedly, Greenspan engineered, perpetuated and, whenever possible, extended the de-regulation of the financial services industry and, thereby, facilitated all of the financial crises we have seen in the last 30 years. This is because, in the 1980s, he oversaw the deregulation that brought a swift end to 40 years of post-WWII well-regulated financial stability; purely because he worshipped at the temple of free market economics. And what have we to show for it? The USA today is a more inequitable society than it has ever been – maybe even more so than Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela. Capitalism may be more successful at innovation, profit-generation and re-investment but, when money became an end in itself (i.e. the money fetishism exemplified by the film Wall Street), I think the rot really did set in. Never have the words of St Paul ever proven more true: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil…” (I Tim 6:10). Derivatives, Collateralized Debt Obligations, Credit Default Swaps, banks recommending investments to their customers and then betting money on those investments failing, credit rating agencies giving AAA ratings to organisations they knew to be in trouble, Professors of Economics being paid to write good references for such failing banks, etc., etc… The people involved were quite clearly consumed by a love of money (oh and prostitutes too). Of course, there were plenty of warnings, such as Raghuram Rajan’s Has Financial Development Made The World Riskier? (2005); but nobody wanted to listen… By the way, if any of you have not seen this street-level interview on the recent Wall Street protest, recorded by FOX News (but not aired for some reason?), you should… Did the Inside Job give rise to this protest? It sure should have done. Has it led to calls for limited re-regulation, I hope so. Will it lead to anyone being put in prison? I doubt it. However, as George Santayana, once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”… So, what has this to do with climate change (this blog is meant to be about the Environment after all)? Well, in my humble opinion, climate change is the result of human greed, arrogance, selfishness and pride: — Greed – because it is the consequence of the single-minded pursuit at profit at all cost. — Arrogance – because it is the consequence of the false belief that we could, as Herman Daly once put it, treat the Earth as if “it were a business in liquidation”. — Selfishness – because in failing to even attempt to follow a path of sustainable development, we have failed to recognise the need for both intra-generational and inter-generational equality and environmental justice. — Pride – because, even when presented with very clear evidence of the looming consequences of all our bad decisions, we have still failed to act accordingly and sufficiently promptly. Instead, there seems to be no end in sight to the misinformation campaign being waged by the vested interests of the Fossil Fuel Lobby and the misguided libertarian ideologues within Conservative Think Tanks. And, even within the UNFCCC process, we continue to argue about who is more to blame and who should be first to act… Is it really any surprise that we cannot solve the Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East? We can’t even agree on a sensible course of action when the well-being (if not life-chances) of billions of people are clearly at stake. And to those of you who think that maybe God will help us, I am inclined to say that, he tried that 2000 years ago and many of us have ignored him; so why should he bother again? Or maybe you are one of those who think that we can and should have dominion over the Earth? Well, I prefer the idea of our being good stewards of it; rather than raping and pillaging it. Is that really so bad an idea? Even though I am not left-wing, nor seeking the establishment of a supra-national, one-world, socialist government (as people like John R. Bolton seem to want to claim), must I be labelled a “watermelon” for espousing such an appeal to reason? It all reminds me of the tagline from one of Bob Dylan’s classic songs from his Gospel years: “When you gonna wake up [and] strengthen the things that remain?

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About Rick Altman

Possibly just another 'Climate Cassandra' crying 'Wolf' in cyberspace. However, the moral of the old children's story is that the Wolf eventually turned up!
This entry was posted in Civilisation, Climate Science, Consumerism, Economics, Environment, Financial Crisis, IPCC, James Delingpole, Limits to Growth, Modernity, Money Fetishism, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Scepticism, UNFCCC and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Climate Change – It’s an Inside Job

  1. Pascvaks says:

    Reason in the midst of chaos will take a little while; indeed, in the midst of chaos, reason is usually an orphan. The frightened and unreasonable far out number the calm and reasonable in the midst of chaos. Remember when the Twin Towers were hit? Presently we are watching the impacts. Later comes the rescue attempts, then the great collapse of one, and then the other of the monoliths. Then the long, long Great Clean Up starts. Well, that’s my interpretation, at the moment, of where we’ve been and where we’re likely to be going in the near term. I’ve come to the conclusion that Great Tragedy and Great Victory, Great Riches and Great Poverty, Great Wisdom and Great Stupidity, etc., are cyclic. The way the world seems to be going lately, I wouldn’t be a bit suprised if we’re not heading downhill into a Great Depression and some really bad global happenings. Divine Will? Punishment for being bad, bad creatures? I don’t think so. I think it’s pretty self-inflicted.

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    • Rick_Altman says:

      Can I have that comment now in plain English?

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      • Pascvaks says:

        Rather than ‘translate’, let’s just let it stand and move on. PS: Perhaps you’ve noticed. Blogs get feedback of every type and kind. Whenever you run into a reader that “misses” what you thought was your point, stop for a minute and wonder, “Am I crazy or is this guy a fruitcake? Did I write a well thought out essay and address every angle, or did I leave a few holes in my sketch for the mice to slip through; or for a mind of equal measure to see a little something I didn’t?” Don’t be too impatient with your readers dear writer. They will give you much to sift through and some may actually have a jewel to offer. PPS: I doubt that I offered any jewel. I may have misread what you said and came back at you from left field. I may have missed your point entirely. I may be a nut case in search of a new place to flop. But… I did read what you said, and while old men do not always ‘understand’ or be able to get it up all the time, they do remember and try. That must surely count for something even in this miserable world. Have a good day.

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  2. Rick_Altman says:

    Dear Pascvaks, After posting my one-liner, I did consider editing it but, in the end, decided to see if you would reply. This was because it occured to me that you were only responding to my critique of the economic crisis (and ignoring all of my comments about the environmental crisis). Nevertheless, I was not invoking divine judgement as a possible explanation for either. Therefore, my post today addresses this point and also that which you made on my About page, questioning why I sound so angry (I would prefer the word “passionate”)…

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    • Pascvaks says:

      I have a very high respect for Geologists. As the old saying goes, “Some of my best friends are/were Geologists.” I read your latest post. Well said. But thought it better to say this here and not there so as to finish this conversation where it began and not taint the air at your new post for others. I have generally thought that we are all optimists, and pessimists as well; it depends on the subject where we come down on things and how up we are about other things. If you and the others who agree with you are right about the environment, then you are right. I’m personally hoping you are not. Not to spite you but because if you are there is, in my mind, little hope of White Christmas’ and Sleigh Bells. Not being funny. There’s something important about them. But here’s the big problem in my book: People. My experience and observations tell me that you and everyone else who thinks the worst is before us, and that we must make great changes to prevent catastrophe, aren’t taking ’people’ into account. The problem isn’t CO2 or global warming from factories and car exhausts, the problem is people. More and more the AGW mob, as I call them, is realizing that the only way to save the planet is to fix the real problem. Hummmm… this is where everything gets real complicated and messy. More are turning to those great human mobilization methods espoused by the far Left to effect Great Change and save our poor planet. Marx is making a comeback as a way to achieve the impossible. The current crop of politicians leading the world are a rather poor lot, but then they usually are. The religious terror jihads don’t make things any easier. Fuel shortages tend to complicate life and economies. Recession ain’t good either. Moneymakers who only care about profits and couldn’t care less about costs and pollution and people tend to muck up the picture. People are the problem. Allow me to hope you’re wrong about the science. That we have time to work things out on the human plane. That the environment isn’t as bad as you say. That an Einstein or Edison or Tesla is nearly finished his/her PhD and about to pop out on the world stage and save us all. Am I in denial? Perhaps. It is a very common human reaction when there just doesn’t seem to be an answer to the Real Problem. If the world be dying, let it die with a whimper and not a bang. The big problem: People. The only solution: People. What does science say about the big problem and the only solution? Invent a NEW light bulb and/or power supply, etc.? Or is it all really about something else? Some seem to be coming to the conclusion that War and Revolution and Totalitarian World Government are the only answers quick enough to save us from ourselves. This conclusion is wrong and very dangerous. It doesn’t solve the problem either, does it?

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      • Rick_Altman says:

        I agree with you (I think) because, as things stand, we seem incapable of enabling all people to have access to good health, clean water, and sufficient food. So what chance have we got of doing this when there are 50% more people to deal with (I think this is the point you were making). However, my fascinating discussions with Tim Worstall (30 Sept and 2 Oct) have demonstrated that is possible to accept the reality of AGW and yet deny all the other problems associated with over-population of the planet (and even deny that we have reached that stage and/or are ever likley to do so). Even so, our biggest problem today is that the Fossil Fuel Lobby and Conservative Think Tanks have sown the seeds of doubt so effectively that there is very little pressure being applied to already-reluctant politicians to take decisive action on AGW. Just as they seem incapapble of coming together to take effective action to solve the Euro zone crisis, they have repeatedly proved themselves incapable of doing so within the UNFCCC process. Unfortunately, those in the best position to know, now say we are running out of time and, although I too wish they were not right, I can see absolutely no reason to doubt their sincerity; whereas I can see a great many reasons to be suspicious of those that say we do not have a problem. To say it is – or may be – the other way round is to invoke the biggest conspiracy theory in human history; for which none of the justifications offered by so-called “sceptics” make any sense whatsoever (IMHO).

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      • Pascvaks says:

        The problem is as old as humanity itself. I personally doubt that there is a solution today that is better, different, kinder or gentler, than the age old ultimate solution of murder and mayhem called war. We live on one planet, yes; but it is a planet of many worlds. Reasonable people rarely make any impression on fanatics in the midst of mayhem. Usually, the reasonable ones are the first to die. We’ve finally boiled it pretty much down to – you’re an optimist, I’m a pesimist. You have hope, I do not. You see a flicker of intelligence in mankind, I don’t. You see a way out, I do not. You are a man with a mission, I think you’re wasting your time and ought to get into something that makes you happy. Maybe it was all those Nuclear Attack Drills when I was a small kid, sitting on the floor under my school desk; or the memory, and realization, that it was all so crazy. People are often thrown into situations for which there isn’t enough information, and there are no rational and viable solutions, regardless of what some optimist says. You say we must act now, that it’s almost too late. I tend to think it’s very likely already too late, and no one’s going to get the worlds of this planet off their ass to do anything that matters. Good morrow, Good Knight! Godspeed!

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  3. Rick_Altman says:

    How you can get from all this that I am an optimist, I am not sure (although I do not seem to have given up all hope like you). I would rather see myself as a realist because I see things as they actually are, i.e. based on an objective assessment of the all the available geological, historical, political, economic, and scientific evidence (and observation of current events). By comparison to either of the above, Tim Worstall (and those like him) are the real optimists (I would characterise them as Prometheans or Cornucopians), whereas the James Delinpole’s Anthony Watt’s, and Andrew Montford’s (et al) of this world are in various kinds of conspiracy-theory-induced states of denial and/or delusion.

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    • Pascvaks says:

      As I said earlier, where we –each of us– stand on things depends on the issue. I think you’re an optimist about being able to make a difference in the Climate Change debate because you seem to think that you can make a difference. Maybe you can. Good luck. With respect to the “realist” thing, I think people (the situational optimists and pesimists of the world) think they are being realistic about pretty much everything. Usually.

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  4. Ross Wolfe says:

    One of the most glaring problems with the supporters of Occupy Wall Street and its copycat successors is that they suffer from a woefully inadequate understanding of the capitalist social formation — its dynamics, its (spatial) globality, its (temporal) modernity. They equate anti-capitalism with simple anti-Americanism, and ignore the international basis of the capitalist world economy. To some extent, they have even reified its spatial metonym in the NYSE on Wall Street. Capitalism is an inherently global phenomenon; it does not admit of localization to any single nation, city, or financial district. Moreover, many of the more moderate protestors hold on to the erroneous belief that capitalism can be “controlled” or “corrected” through Keynesian-administrative measures: steeper taxes on the rich, more bureaucratic regulation and oversight of business practices, broader government social programs (welfare, Social Security), and projects of rebuilding infrastructure to create jobs. Moderate “progressives” dream of a return to the Clinton boom years, or better yet, a Rooseveltian new “New Deal.” All this amounts to petty reformism, which only serves to perpetuate the global capitalist order rather than to overcome it. They fail to see the same thing that the libertarians in the Tea Party are blind to: laissez-faire economics is not essential to capitalism. State-interventionist capitalism is just as capitalist as free-market capitalism. Nevertheless, though Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy [insert location here] in general still contains many problematic aspects, it nevertheless presents an opportunity for the Left to engage with some of the nascent anti-capitalist sentiment taking shape there. So far it has been successful in enlisting the support of a number of leftish celebrities, prominent unions, and young activists, and has received a lot of media coverage. Hopefully, the demonstrations will lead to a general radicalization of the participants’ politics, and a commitment to the longer-term project of social emancipation. To this end, I have written up a rather pointed Marxist analysis of the OWS movement so far that you might find interesting: “Reflections on Occupy Wall Street: What It Represents, Its Prospects, and Its Deficiencies” THE LEFT IS DEAD! LONG LIVE THE LEFT!

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    • Rick_Altman says:

      Ross, I am no Marxist but, you would appear to be right. The OWS protest is, as yet, very much a US phenomenon. All previous anti-Capitalist protests (at G8 summits etc) usually get labelled as Anarchist. However, I remain hopeful that things will change; and that this financial meltdown will be sufficient to shake people’s confidence in the assumption that things cannot be any other way. Thanks for your contribution to the debate here.

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