Alarmville or Calmville – which is the fantasy?

About 18 months ago I was struggling with an addiction to Zynga Poker on Facebook. It was so bad, I would happily spend 6 hours on a Saturday and frequently stay up half the night, playing with anonymous people and with imaginary money, just trying to see how good a hand I could get and win. I therefore cannot really criticise my children for having occasional fixations on games like Runescape. However, given that my daughter likes animals so much, I am dreading the day that she finds out about Farmville…. Apart from psychological and sociological damage that these games probably do, I think what disturbs me the most is the way people can indulge all manner of fantasies; they can hide behind a facade and behave in ways they never would in reality: It is at least an order of magnitude worse than the sense of invulnerability that allows many car-drivers to be so rude while safely seated behind the steering wheel. In this latter respect (anonymity facilitating anti-social behaviour), fantasy games are very much like Internet chat rooms and online discussions appended to Blogs. The trouble is that many people spend so much of their time in these places – and are so deeply embedded in their online persona – it is hard to see how they can be functioning individuals or effective employees in the real world. Far more importantly, however, is the question as to what is reality? Now then, I do not mean to get all metaphysical but, when it comes to climate change, either it is real or it is not real. Many so-called “sceptics” insist that they do not deny that our climate is changing; they only dispute its cause, magnitude, and/or seriousness. However, in the blogosphere at least, large numbers of people do continue to deny that change is happening at all. So, which is the fantasy? Is it Alarmville or Calmville? That is to say, are we facing an environmental catastrophe if we fail to act, or do we have nothing to worry about? They cannot both be fantasies; one of them must be real, surely? For them both to be fantasies, would require us to pick and choose which pronouncements of scientists we accept and which we do not: This is the marketplace of ideas phenomenon which fools many into thinking that everyone can be an expert; and all opinions are equally valid. But this is itself an insane fantasy. So, which is the fallacy, Alarmville or Calmville? I believe that anyone who decides to sit down and undertake a serious and sober assessment of both Earth and Human history can only come to one conclusion: I reviewed what we can learn from Earth history (i.e. palaeoclimatology) in my email to Chris Huhne in November (no answer yet received but he has been very busy!); and I feel I have stated and re-stated ad nauseam the historical evidence that big business has a long track-record of lying to the public in order to protect its own vested interests. This is not conspiracy theory; it is conspiracy fact – and has been extremely well documented in Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway’s Merchants of Doubt (other sources are available). Therefore, no matter how much Calmville addicts wish to dispute it, the only basis for continuing not to worry about what the future holds for humanity is to invoke arguably the greatest conspiracy of all time – one to which the UN, WMO, IPCC, the vast majority of relevantly-qualified climate scientists and scientific and professional institutions are all part – which is that they are supposedly attempting to foist worldwide authoritarian government on a credulous world (and/or to accuse all those that call for action guilty of crying “Wolf”). If still in any doubt, take a look at this brilliant and effective animation debunking the warming stopped in 1998 myth. (Thanks must go to Charles Zeller for alerting me to this!) However, I believe the reality of the situation is much simpler: Occam’s Razor is valid – the simplest explanation is the right one! Anthropogenic climate change is the result of there being too many humans pumping too much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere; such that the Earth’s ability to assimilate and or recycle it is completely overwhelmed. The solution is simple but very challenging: — It is simple because we already have the alternatives – we just have to decide that it is important enough to stop burning fossil fuels solely because they exist. — It is challenging because, even if we do this, the Earth will still not be able to support anything like 7 billion humans if everyone was to consume and/or pollute all its other resources at the rate that developed countries are currently doing. So here is something for you to consider while over-indulging this Christmas: How are we going to cut this gordian knot? If we cannot deny the legitimate aspirations of poorer people to share in our comfortable existence, surely we are going to have to moderate our over-consumption? I think one thing is certain, we will never achieve the UN’s Millennium Development Goals without some sacrifice on our part.


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 Climate Science, Ecological Modernisation, Economics, Environment, Ethics, Intergenerational Injustice, IPCC, Limits to Growth, Maketplace of Ideas, Merchants of Doubt, Optimum Population, Politics, Scepticism, Sustainable development and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Alarmville or Calmville – which is the fantasy?

  1. pendantry says:

    There’s no two ways about it, Rick. We have to bite the bullet and kick consumerism into touch. It’s a case of steady state economics — or bust. PS thanks for the link to this image.


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  3. Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez says:

    This has actually been the focus of my thinking for the past year or so…how to get the privileged to wake up to the reality that the party is going to be over–for all of us–unless we get behind a serious revamping of our economic system. We also need to be serious about population control, a topic no one likes to bring up. Speaking of the MDGs, one of them is the education of girls and the empowerment of women as political and economic agents. This is one of the best approaches to population control…and would be good for the world in a host of other ways too.


    • Rick_Altman says:

      Thank you for visiting and commenting, Jennifer. I am with you 100% on the importance of the education and emancipation of women to the cause of giving them more control over their fertility. This has of course long been highlighted as a key issue by people like Garrett Hardin; Paul and Anne Ehrlich; and – most recently of all – by the UN (May 2011). I will not insult your intelligence by including links in this reply but, these are things I have written much about this year (i.e. here and on my old Earthy Issues blog).


  4. lucas says:

    Rick, This is somewhat tangential, but related. I’ve been reading Pete Rollins’ book Insurrection. He has a similar thesis about theology and how our ideas about God or our religious rituals often function as a security blanket making it possible for us to deny the existential reality of the cross. The hard part seems to be that this is in some sense a natural human state (at least in so far as we are shaped and formed by mother culture). The question might be “How do we see beyond our cultural biases to something called reality which may be more frightening, but also more necessary?” Great post!


    • Rick_Altman says:

      Thanks Lucas. Some people can’t see beyond the end of their nose or, in the current crisis (50% of Americans in relative poverty! Did I hear that right?), their next pay packet/ welfare check… So, for all such people, I fear that identifying one’s own cultural bias will be a bit of a stretch… I hope you do not miss the roast guinea pig at Christmas. Remember also to turn off the outside lights! πŸ™‚


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