Social constructs as humanity’s greatest threat, and our greatest source of hope

When the “Fight for Fifteen” movement began in the United States in 2012, the argument for increasing the minimum wage was the same as it is now – the cost of living has risen faster than the minimum wage, and so the effective income of America’s poorest was going down, year by year. Now, in 2021, the fight is still for a minimum wage of $15 per hour, even as the cost of living has continued to skyrocket. The reality is that in 2012, $15 was still too low to actually meet the cost of living in many parts of the country, so with those costs even higher now, why are we still talking about a minimum wage increase that was inadequate nearly a decade ago?

Because the driving force in capitalism is the desire for endlessly growing profits, and the most straightforward way to generate those profits has always been finding ways to “cut labor costs” by underpaying the workers on whom the company depends. From slavery, to sharecropping, to scrip, to child labor, to unsafe conditions, to industrial pollution, the story of capitalism has been an unbroken chain of the capitalist class finding any means – legal or not – to shift the costs of their business onto those with less money and power. So the effort to increase the minimum wage, so that those at the bottom can afford to live while continuing to enrich those at the top, has faced constant opposition from the most powerful people in the country.

We’re stuck fighting for what was already a compromise favoring the rich a decade ago.

This problem is not unique to the question of wages, and it has translated to infuriating delays on the most pressing issues of our time.

It’s been 63 years since the first publicly televised warning about climate change. At the time, it wasn’t clear how  long the process would take, partly because of inadequate understanding of the issue itself, and partly because there was no way to tell exactly how humanity would respond to the impending crisis. By 1980 it was clear that, largely due to rapidly rising annual CO2 emissions, the timeline was a lot shorter than initially thought. The need for urgent action was clear.

Now, decades later, we’re still stuck in an endless loop of rebutting and debunking “arguments” that were refuted long ago. As with the fight over the minimum wage, this stagnation is not because of any legitimate objection to the science, or even the proposed solutions. It’s because the richest and most powerful people in the world don’t want to change the system that brought them their wealth and power. Just as capitalists have invested heavily in opposing minimum wage increases, unionization, universal healthcare, and many other things, they have also paid a number of people very well to repeat these obvious lies across all media, no matter how many times they are debunked.

As I often say, we have missed the window to avoid catastrophic levels of change. The degree of catastrophe is still under our control – we could simultaneously work to end our fossil fuel use, and to prepare our society for unavoidable changes before they become truly catastrophic. Just as buildings can be designed to better withstand earthquakes, so to can our society be re-structured to withstand higher temperatures, higher sea levels, and ongoing ecological collapse.

The problem is that people are going to respond to the conditions in which they find themselves with the tools that are available to them. Just as the foreign policy of colonial powers, especially the United States, has led to refugee crises around the world as people flee homes made uninhabitable by forces beyond their control, so too are people beginning to respond to the changes in climate as best they can.

Some of this is taking the form of more refugees, though the exact numbers are hard to separate from those fleeing warfare and manufactured poverty.

Some of it comes in the form of increasing the use of fossil fuels – as the primary energy source used in the world – for things like air conditioning:

To survive the summer heat, Qatar not only air-conditions its soccer stadiums, but also the outdoors — in markets, along sidewalks, even at outdoor malls so people can window shop with a cool breeze. “If you turn off air conditioners, it will be unbearable. You cannot function effectively,” says Yousef al-Horr, founder of the Gulf Organization for Research and Development.

Yet outdoor air conditioning is part of a vicious cycle. Carbon emissions create global warming, which creates the desire for air conditioning, which creates the need for burning fuels that emit more carbon dioxide. In Qatar, total cooling capacity is expected to nearly double from 2016 to 2030, according to the International District Cooling & Heating Conference.

And it’s going to get hotter.

By the time average global warming hits 2 degrees Celsius, Qatar’s temperatures would soar, said Mohammed Ayoub, senior research director at the Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute. In rapidly growing urban areas throughout the Middle East, some predict cities could become uninhabitable.

“We’re talking about 4 to 6 degrees Celsius increase in an area that already experiences high temperatures,” Ayoub said. “So, what we’re looking at more is a question of how does this impact the health and productivity of the population.”

The danger is acute in Qatar because of the Persian Gulf humidity. The human body cools off when its sweat evaporates. But when humidity is very high, evaporation slows or stops. “If it’s hot and humid and the relative humidity is close to 100 percent, you can die from the heat you produce yourself,” said Jos Lelieveld, an atmospheric chemist at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Germany who is an expert on Middle East climate.

That became abundantly clear in late September, as Doha hosted the 2019 World Athletics Championships. It moved the start time for the women’s marathon to midnight Sept. 28. Water stations handed out sponges dipped in ice-cold water. First-aid responders outnumbered the contestants. But temperatures hovered around 90 degrees Fahrenheit and 28 of the 68 starters failed to finish, some taken off in wheelchairs.

Workers are particularly at risk. A German television report alleged hundreds of deaths among foreign workers in Qatar in recent years, prompting new limits on outdoor work. A July article in the journal Cardiology said that 200 of 571 fatal cardiac problems among Nepalese migrants working there were caused by “severe heat stress” and could have been avoided.

The U.S. Air Force calls very hot days “black flag days” and limits exposure of troops stationed at al-Udeid Air Base. Personnel conducting patrols or aircraft maintenance work for 20 minutes, then rest for 40 minutes and drink two bottles of water an hour. People doing heavy work in the fire department or aircraft repair may work for only 10 minutes at a time, followed by 50 minutes of rest, according to a spokesman for the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing.

In early July, Qatar’s Civil Defense Command warned against doing outdoor work between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., putting gas cylinders in the sun, turning on water heaters, completely filling fuel tanks or car tires, or needlessly running the air conditioner. It urged people to drink plenty of fluids — and to beware of snakes and scorpions.

Because we’ve delayed for so long, we are in the process of making the problem much, much worse simply by trying to survive while preserving an unjust and unsustainable system.

For all of the the talk – entirely justified – about the dangers of natural amplifying feedback loops and runaway global warming, I think we’ve neglected this particular feedback, because we’re not used to thinking of ourselves as being part of nature. Animals  and plants across the entire surface of this planet are changing where and how they live in response to the warming, and Homo sapiens is no exception to that trend. We are responding, in many ways, as we always have – by managing our surroundings, and by protecting the social structures to which we are accustomed.

This way lies extinction.

There’s a lot of talk these days about social constructs,  and a lot of misunderstanding, both willful and not. Social constructs are effectively the rules that humans have created for ourselves to deal with the difficulties of being a social species. I would argue that they exist in all animal species that exhibit any sort of social behavior. Things like behavioral mating displays (as opposed to physical features like mating plumage in birds), territorial marking and disputes, and various power dynamics fall into this category.

Human social constructs seem to be a mix of things that might be considered the study of “evolutionary psychology” (if that field wasn’t overrun by psuedoscientific nonsense) and things – like the ideas of race created and enforced by European colonial powers – that were created and maintained quite deliberately. The current hierarchy of wealth and power in most of the world seems to be a mix of the two. Sticking with the European example, as the one with which I am most familiar, the current capitalist class system was created in part, to protect the positions of those who had been at the top of Feudal society. This is probably closest to the surface in the United Kingdom, but if you poke around, you’ll find that the ruling classes of so-called “Western Society” (another social construct with little basis in reality) have many members whose families were also powerful under Feudalism.

It’s easy to feel like all of these problems are unavoidably part of “human nature”, and so absent an external force, we’re simply unable to make the changes needed. Under this fatalistic line of thinking, we will either develop some technological miracle, like fusion power, that will solve everything without the need for systemic change, or we will destroy ourselves. I think this view is best encapsulated in the concept of “capitalist realism”. I also think, as I’ve said before, that this view of an unchanging “human nature” is part of the larger framework of indoctrination that has been developed to get people to accept the destructive and unjust nature of capitalism. It’s similar to the myth that the people living in the Americas, Africa, and parts of Asia  prior to European colonization did little or nothing to manage their land or organize their societies.

Social constructs have been central to our most powerful tool as a species – our ability to make collective use of our distributed knowledge and skills. That, I would argue, is what truly lies at the heart of “human nature”, and what all the myriad of human societies throughout the history of our species have had in common. This is part of what gives me hope for the future. While it’s rare to see truly revolutionary change in any one human’s life, we have found countless ways of organizing ourselves, and changed them as need have dictated. Social constructs are a form of infrastructure, and just as with all other infrastructure, they serve us best when we constantly examine, maintain, update, and improve them.

I can’t promise that we’ll do what we need to in the time we have. What’s happening on this planet right now is unlike anything our species has ever faced. It is as much an unknown as space travel was at the beginning of the 20th century. We’re better at figuring out what’s likely to happen (thanks to social constructs like mathematics and the scientific method), but the best we can do is calculate likely futures based on what we understand today. What I will say is that I believe we have the physical and conceptual tools we need, as a species, to build a better world, even in the midst of the rapid warming and ecological collapse that has been forced upon us by our “rulers”, past and present.

“We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings.”

― Ursula K. Le Guin

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  1. brucegee1962 says

    My opinion is that most social constructs are the result of the fact that, ever since the sum of human cultures was greater than one, all cultures have been in conflict with one another over resources — usually in the form of warfare. Warfare has had the same effect on human cultures that predation has had on species — without predation, we’d probably all still be blobs of cells, and without warfare, we might still be living in caves. But it’s also very inefficient and destructive; capitalism is a better form of competition, and the direct competition of memes via the internet is better still.
    I am convinced that most of the social constructs we have today are with us because they gave our ancestors a leg up in the constant warfare they had with their neighbors. The problem is, social constructs can stick around for centuries after they’ve stopped being useful because of the defense mechanisms they acquire — things like religion and other forms of cultural reinforcement. Constructs like the aristocracy and assigned gender roles were probably useful to the cultures that adopted them for centuries — but when changes in technology made their advantages obsolete, the behaviors took centuries to go away because of their entrenchment.
    What gives me hope is that we’ve seen cultural beliefs shift in a single generation — like the acceptance of homosexuality in the last few decades.

  2. says

    I don’t have this hope. I’ve seen too few examples of people overcoming the relevant aspects of human nature. There are situations of heroism caring and altruism amid it all, but the social systems causing the damage are essentially nuclear-powered blame diffusion engines. Nobody is willing to see their own part, or able to do shit about it. But I am surely open to being proven wrong, and down to try anything it takes to save the human species – even if I’m not convinced any of it will work.

  3. says

    lol, i realized there was something in the way i phrased that which seems to completely ignore or disregard the most important point of your thesis. if i’m going to disagree on that level, i should at least look like i’m honestly taking onboard what you said and directly addressing it.

    Capitalism and its systems are social constructs, yes, I can agree to that. But seeing the history of human social constructs – specifically economic systems – and I think there is something more fundamental driving those social constructions. Essentially I *do* buy the idea that this ruination is a function of instincts we can’t, en masse, control.

    So I’m disagreeing with your thesis on that level as well, as elucidated on this old post. Some crapitalists might call these human instincts and use the naturalistic fallacy to say that makes capitalism good, I would call them the animal instincts that make rats eat their babies and wish desperately to prove this idea wrong. I just can’t shake it.

    All that’s to say, again, I hope you’re right about the positive possibilities here.

  4. says

    @GAS I would say that you are right, in that there is no precedent for the exact kind of shift we need, at the scale we need.

    I’ve recently become interested in Vietnam, as a current example of a country that has managed to find a different- and in my opinion better -path.

    It’s not an entirely comforting example, given that they got where they are after freeing themselves from colonial rule, and then fighting off the incredibly brutal US invasion. I’m very worried that, because the ruling class would rather see humanity burn than lose their own power, war is more likely than not.

    As with you, it is my fondest dream to be proven wrong about that.

    But that’s why I’ve become convinced that the approach outlined in my direct action post is our best chance at navigating the hellish obstacle course of the future. It’s a way to simultaneously work on adapting to climate change, building resilience, and also building some of the social infrastructure and solidarity that we will need, if our “rulers” do decide to escalate their war against humanity.

    Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.

  5. Pierce R. Butler says

    “Social construct” – in other words, our shared models of reality.

    To change those, we will have to revise everything from news reporting to child-rearing, against coordinated strategic opposition from deeply entrenched economic powers, practically all religious institutions, and individuals’ inculcations from infancy; all without an agreed-on plan, text, or leadership; while supporting ourselves and inventing structures for collaboration; amid increasing physical chaos.

    My little model of reality can’t stretch that far. Maybe after lunch…

  6. brucegee1962 says

    @5 Pierce R. Butler
    I read and teach a lot of 19th century literature, and I am constantly amazed at how many universally shared models of reality have been changed in the last hundred years.

    I tend to be an optimist that I believe, if we can make it through the next thirty years or so, the technology curve may start coming up with solutions for many of the problems we face, with social change to follow. But that’s a big if — I fear that the climate catastrophe may make the next few decades very rough indeed.

  7. says

    Pierce – yes. That is the scale of change we need. I really wish we didn’t, but we’re in the process of colliding with the ways in which our governing paradigms do not actually align with reality.

    The good news is that, to paraphrase Milton Friedman, the ideas we need are, in fact, “lying around”.

    Despite the best efforts of Friedman and other Cold Warriors, critiques of capitalism and efforts at designing a better world still abound. The work is not to come up with new things, so much as it is to enact pre-existing strategies for organization and political change.

    Success is not guaranteed, of course, but little ever is.

    What matters now is we organize to bring out collective power to bear. It’s going to be painfully slow in the doing, but there’s not really another option.

  8. Allison says

    Just thinking about the part about Qatar: there was a time when people there managed without any air conditioning at all, and I doubt it was that much cooler then.

    One big difference, though: they’re trying to have a “Western” lifestyle, one that is based on (a) a very different climate and (b) an availability of resources made possible by colonialism (i.e., being able to extract those resources from poor countries, by military force if necessary.)

    The reason they have adopted that lifestyle is obvious: because it’s the lifestyle of the conquerers. There are lots of examples of underprivileged groups aping the style of the dominant group, so I conjecture that this is a fairly universal tendency. Fancy concrete buildings, motor vehicles, high population densities, Olympic stadia, and of course all manner of resource intensive (esp. energy) “conveniences” are how you prove that you are “modern” (high status), as opposed to being “primitive tribesmen” (low status.)

    If this is true, then I suspect that until the colonial powers make changes in their own societies to reduce global warming, there’s going to be a lot of resistance from the colonized countries. After all, if the people who are the worst offenders can’t be bothered to do anything, why should the poor and less powerful countries bear all the load of fixing things?

  9. Pierce R. Butler says

    brucegee1962 @ # 6: … amazed at how many universally shared models of reality have been changed …

    Literature of the 1800s does seem an excellent vantage point for such issues.

    You imply technology drives much of those changes, and I tend to agree. But we already have most of the tech we’ll need to turn things around – just not the sociopolitical leverage to implement it. Maybe the younger generations will bring the imperative to compel viable adaptations, but – living not far from the University of Florida, with Young Republicans® by the thousands and progressives by the dozens – I rarely experience much optimism that way.

  10. Pierce R. Butler says

    Abe Drayton @ # 7: … there’s not really another option.

    As a science-fiction-reading kid, I absorbed the concept of saving the world as a personal necessity. I”d still rather do it with jetpacks and babes in bronze bras, however.

  11. says

    @Allison – any solution will require people to go along with it, but we’re unlikely to need to make things worse in the countries that have been impoverished by the current system.

    The vast majority of the problem has little to nothing to do with them.

    The urban heat island effect is definitely part of the problem, but so is the fact that global temperatures are not evenly distributed, and neither is the warming.

    Wind and water currents can mean that a small increase I’m global temperature can cause a big increase in temperatures in some areas.

    And places like Qatar were near the limits of human tolerance to begin with. It doesn’t take much change for a place on the edge of habitability to cross that line.

    Some of it is definitely about lifestyle, but some is just the shrinking of those parts of the planet where humans can functionally survive without the aid of things like air conditioning.

  12. says

    @Pierce – I would say that it’s up to us to make life more interesting to compensate for the difficulties we face. I’m currently very tempted by going back to the mohawk I had a few months ago and getting scalp tattoos, to do my part in creating an appropriate aesthetic.

    Not sure how I’d look in a bronze bra, though…

  13. says

    I am still mind-boggled that, in the US, employees cannot simply unionize by – you know, getting together. They have to follow a complex process that is heavily tilted toward making sure they fail. It kind of telegraphs who’s really in charge of this shit, doesn’t it?

  14. says

    America’s ruling class has been engaged in a multi-generational effort to destroy the labor movement and prevent it from rebuilding.

  15. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    As with the fight over the minimum wage, this stagnation is not because of any legitimate objection to the science, or even the proposed solutions. It’s because the richest and most powerful people in the world don’t want to change the system that brought them their wealth and power.

    And because a bunch of people, often well-intentioned and sometimes not, refuse to listen to the leading scientists and the IPCC report, which say that lots of nuclear is a required component for the solution. Instead, we have most of the western world retreating from nuclear, including poster success cases like France, caused by a mostly baseless fear which has been stoked by a 50+ year long misinformation by Green aligned organizations like Green Peace, Friends Of the Earth, etc.

    Listen to the scientists. James Hansen and Kerry Emanuel have basically said that the biggest problem stopping climate change today is not the climate change deniers. It’s the anti-nuclear people.

  16. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    Maybe, if you ignore most other extant power and social dynamics…

    Why is it that you’ll listen to the scientists when it is convenient, but you’ll ignore the scientists when they start to contradict your religious (Green) dogma?

    You’re the one ignoring basic facts of human psychology and sociology. Billions of very poor people in the world want safe food and medicine, and that means refrigeration. They want plentiful food, and that means artificial fertilizer, irrigation, farm equipment, etc. They want indoor heating and cooling. They want safe drinking water. They want sewage plants. All of these things take energy, and far more energy than what they’re currently using. They’re going to get it. No matter what anyone does short of worldwide genocide, total worldwide energy usage is only going to go up by a lot. We’re at about 20 TW today, and it’s easily going to hit 50 TW before the end of the century, and plausibly 70 TW. These poor people are going to get that energy with coal unless we offer something that is cost competitive.

    A similar problem exists for people in the rich world. They can be compelled to give up the extremes of consumerism, but they’re not going to give up wholesale their standard of living to be pre-industrial subsistence farmers.

    Nuclear power is the only option in the foreseeable future that is cheap enough and that can scale.

    Renewables can’t scale at a cost that is acceptable. They’re too expensive, and very likely forever will be. This is because of simple facts of engineering that you also choose to ignore.

    Solar, wind, batteries, and other forms of energy storage are typically very low density (power density and energy density). To the first order of approximation, this makes it expensive. For example, solar and wind require IIRC approx 5x more steel and concrete than a comparable nuclear power plant. For example, in order to get a 1 day battery at the world’s current energy usage (electricity, heat, etc.), there’s not enough lead, nickel, nor lithium in worldwide resources and reserves. This is but a simple consequence of their low power density and low energy density.

    The facts of high cost renewables also comes from their comparatively short lifetimes. A solar panel might last 30 years. A wind turbine might last the same amount of time or a little less. Batteries last far less time.

    Related: One needs to look at upfront cost, but also at total costs divided by equipment lifetimes (and do so without financing tricks like discount rates and interest rates, which fool us into very short term time horizons, which are the problems of unrestrained consumerism and capitalism which brought us to this mess in the first place). Here, because of their short lifetimes, solar, wind, and batteries are just hugely expensive.

    By contrast, a nuclear power plant can last 60, likely 80, years with relatively minimal upkeep. A nuclear power plant uses a small fraction of the steel and concrete compared to solar and wind.

    The only “extant power and social dynamics” which are standing in the way of progress and solutions is the obstinate tree-hugging hippies who don’t give a damn about science, don’t give a damn that nuclear power is safe, cleaner, cheaper, less environmentally destructive, and better in almost every way compared to renewables. They have this mental association which they cannot shake which says “nuclear power = nuclear weapons = radiation = bad”, even though the reality of renewables is far worse for human health and is far more environmentally destructive. And renewables don’t work because these Green energy pushers are art-major engineers.

    No amount of public pressure can change the laws of physics or engineering. It’s likely that renewables will never work. And while we’re wasting our time and money on renewables, greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. The most damning fact in my mind is still that if Germany spent its money on nuclear instead of renewables for its energy transition plan, even at Hinkley C or Vogtle prices, they’d cover all of their current electricity demand, and IIRC with enough leftover electricity to power a hypothetical 100% electric car fleet in place of their current car fleet.

    People modeling this just aren’t taking the problem seriously. Just another thing I found, which I assumed to be true, but now I have a source. Hydrogen electrolyzers work really poorly when they’re frequently turned on and off, which is just like many other industrial equipment.

    And yet I keep reading all these cockamamie plans called “power to gas” that involve turning excess solar and wind electricity into hydrogen. I know that the horrible performance of electrolyzers is not common knowledge among the public, but it really should be among people who model a Green energy transition. However, I have never seen a single Green modeling paper with power to gas acknowledge the reality that their modeling assumes electrolyzer numbers in steady-state operation, but they use them with frequent cycling, and thus the standard published numbers on their efficiencies and costs are not applicable. It’s basic errors like this that lead me to conclude that all Green energy models are doing it for fun e.g. an academic exercise to get a paper out to advance as a scholar and they don’t really care whether Green energy will really work, or because they’re incompetent, or because they’re bald-faced liars like leading Green energy expert Mark Jacobson.

    PS: We need negative emissions. That’s another like 10 TW of energy that we need for straightforward plans to pull CO2 out of the air, like the brute force carbonate rock aka limestone-to-quicklime method with basalt sequestration. That’s already 50%+ more combined energy usage worldwide, including electricity, heat, transport, etc. Where is that gong to come from? Solar, wind, and batteries? No chance.

  17. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    Oh, I forgot in my list above. In addition to all of the motivations that I gave above for most Green advocates, I should mention one more: The extreme anti-humanism that underlies much of the modern environment movement, which we can trace back to the founding of the modern Green movement, specifically with whats his face breaking away from the pro-nuclear Sierra Club to form Friends Of The Earth with Rochefeller money. There’s a bunch of money quotes from these people at that time that it was never about safety, and they lied to the public because they wanted to keep people out of California. They wanted to keep people poor.

    Historical context: Circa 1960, the Sierra Club was the most influential environmentalist organization in America by far, and possibly even in the whole world. David Brower left the Sierra Club around this time to found Friends Of The Earth for the sole reason that the Sierra Club at that time was pro-nuclear. David Brower succeeded in pulling the entire environmental movement into the anti-nuclear camp, including the Sierra Club, in just a few years. Amory Lovins was a key player in this anti-nuclear de-growth agenda as well.

    Sierra Club’s Executive Director, David Brower […] As the Sierra Club board started to clamp down on Brower’s spending, he started attacking the Board’s decision to support the building of Diablo Canyon. “If a doubling of the state’s population in the next 20 years is encouraged by providing the power resources for this growth,” Brower said, California’s “scenic character will be destroyed.”

    “Even if nuclear power were clean, safe, economic, assured of ample fuel, and socially benign,” said the god head of renewables, Amory Lovins, in 1977, “it would still be unattractive because of the political implications of the kind of energy economy it would lock us into.”

    What kind of an energy economy would that be, exactly? A prosperous, clean, and high-energy one. “If you ask me, it’d be little short of disastrous for us to discover a source of clean, cheap, abundant energy because of what we would do with it,” explained Lovins.

    In 1966, misanthropic conservationists within the Sierra Club had embraced Malthusianism. Writes Rhodes:

    The small-world, zero-population-growth, soft-energy-path faction of the environmental movement that emerge across the 1960s and 1970s knowingly or unknowingly incorporated the antihumanist ideology of the neo-Malthusians into its arguments… “more power plants create more industry,” [the Sierra Club’s executive director complained,] “that in turn invites greater population density.”

    When asked in the mid-1990s if he had been worried about nuclear accidents, Sierra Club anti-nuclear activist Martin Litton replied, “No, I really didn’t care because there are too many people anyway … I think that playing dirty if you have a noble end is fine.”

    This is just some of the best quotes offhand, but the problem is pervasive in the Green movement. One only needs to look at how Green ideology is the biggest source of world hunger.

    Environmental lobbyists persuaded the Ford Foundation and the World Bank to back off from most African agriculture projects. The Rockefeller Foundation largely backed away too—though it might have in any case, because it was shifting toward an emphasis on biotechnological agricultural research. “World Bank fear of green political pressure in Washington became the single biggest obstacle to feeding Africa,” Borlaug says. The green parties of Western Europe persuaded most of their governments to stop supplying fertilizer to Africa; an exception was Norway, which has a large crown corporation that makes fertilizer and avidly promotes its use. Borlaug, once an honored presence at the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, became, he says, “a tar baby to them politically, because all the ideas the greenies couldn’t stand were sticking to me.”

    Borlaug’s reaction to the campaign was anger. He says, “Some of the environmental lobbyists of the Western nations are the salt of the earth, but many of them are elitists. They’ve never experienced the physical sensation of hunger. They do their lobbying from comfortable office suites in Washington or Brussels. If they lived just one month amid the misery of the developing world, as I have for fifty years, they’d be crying out for tractors and fertilizer and irrigation canals and be outraged that fashionable elitists back home were trying to deny them these things.”

  18. says

    I’m not sure why this is so difficult for you.

    Expertise in atmospheric physics isn’t expertise social dynamics, or economics, or history, or ecology. It’s expertise in atmospheric physics.

    Being an expert on what is happening in our climate doesn’t mean someone is an expert in how to arrange society or distribute resources.

    Simply swapping out power sources isn’t going solve our problems any more than simply increasing food production ended hunger, or having enough housing ended homelessness.

    This isn’t just a problem of the nature of technologies used, it’s one of how.and why they are used.

    Hansen’s expertise in one area doesn’t mean he’s right about everything he says.

    The fact that we rely on fossil fuels isn’t what is driving the SCALE at which we use them, and public acceptance of nuclear power isn’t why some people are willing to spend millions to protect their fossil fuel profits.

    As I have said to you many times now, and as you continue to ignore, I think nuclear power is part of what we need. As YOU have said the primary obstacles are social and cultural. I agree on that too.

    I just think that those obstacles extend beyond public acceptance of nuclear power. It also touches on who is running nuclear power -along with who is running everything else- and what their motivations are.

    And so climate scientists are not the only experts whose opinions matter on an issue thaybaffectsnthe entire planet, and that is largely driven by who wields power.

  19. says

    And when you talk about the billions of poor people, you insist on ignoring WHY they are poor, and why they remain in that poverty.

    It’s not from a lack of resources in the world, or even from a lack of access to electricity.

  20. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    Simply swapping out power sources isn’t going solve our problems any more than simply increasing food production ended hunger, or having enough housing ended homelessness.

    Gods I hate you so much. You are the world’s problems exemplified.

    Continued widespread hunger in Africa is directly and primarily caused by precisely this attitude. And in this case I can get around your complaint that I’m citing experts from inapplicable scientific specializations. I get around your complaint because I’m citing the world’s foremost expert on hunger and how to solve it, Norman Fucking Borlaug, who spent most of his life increasing food supply and preventing hunger, who is credited with saving a billion lives from hunger, who is the greatest human being to ever live. And if that Norman Fucking Borlaug says that the biggest cause of world hunger, especially in Africa, is people like you, then that settles it for me. See the citation that I gave above in Norman Borlaug’s own words. Citation again:

    Yes, I grant that sufficient food production is not a sufficient condition to ending world hunger. But it’s surely a necessary condition. And lack of sufficient (local) food production was recently or still is the biggest cause of world hunger – again according to the world’s most impeachable person and expert, Norman Fucking Borlaug.

    And when you talk about the billions of poor people, you insist on ignoring WHY they are poor, and why they remain in that poverty.

    Just like how hungry people aren’t hungry because they don’t have food, right? /s

    Of course swapping out power sources is going to solve the problem of climate change! No burning fossil fuels -> no greenhouse gas emissions -> no climate change! How could you say something so foolish? (Assuming we also cover other sources like agriculture, steel, plastics, other industrial processes. Probably also need some negative emissions to reduce greenhouse gas levels to something better.)

    You are a neo-Malthusian, Luddite, colonialist (and racist). You’re just baby steps away from eugenics. You’re declaring that the poor parts of the world don’t need food or safe drinking water, or indoor heating with your misanthropic / racist drivel. Let me guess – eugenicist Paul Ehrlich is a role model for you.

    PS: I didn’t just cite a few atmospheric scientists. I also cited the IPCC reports, which says much of the same thing. It clearly says that more nuclear is needed, and it gives no pathway without large amounts of nuclear, which is tantamount to saying that anyone who opposes nuclear is also opposing a solution to climate change. Presumably the IPCC report includes input from more than mere atmospheric scientists and includes the correct kind of economic experts. That is one of the major points of the entire exercise of their example pathways after all. Fucking hell. Learn to fucking read, and don’t cherrypick my weakest evidence, i.e. a few scientists quotes, and ignore my strongest evidence, the IPCC reports. Spoiler, if you did, you might find out that everything you believe is a lie, and you’re part of the problem, the biggest part of the problem.

    Admittingly, the IPCC report doesn’t go as far as several of the scientists who say that opposition to nuclear power is a bigger problem than opposition to climate change science. However, that’s a small and easy leap to make by comparing the historical success and failure of France and Germany.

    I don’t even know why I comment here anymore. You’re so far gone into the Green dogma, with your head so far up your ass. You are everything wrong with the left when it comes to climate change and world hunger, and it makes me sick every time I have to apologize and explain to right-wingers who attack me by (rightly) claiming that my side has a bunch of pseudoscience people too who do great harm to our shared world. We’re supposed to be better than this. We’re suppose to be better than believing comforting lies based on homeopathic pseudoscience.

    Go ahead and ban me. Might save me the emotional pain, despair, and futile effort of trying to correct your harmful pseudoscience which, along with being the primary driver of climate change, it’s also the primary driver of world hunger. I couldn’t even manage to read the rest of your post. I’m too angry. I’m visibly shaking. I need to go calm down. I’m angry that you get such a (relatively) wide audience for your grossly harmful misinformation.

  21. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    Sorry, I forgot the most important characterization and insult.

    You are a regressive. Straight up, you’re a reactionary regressive who wishes that instead of progress, that we regress technologically and economically. You no longer see progress and science as they saw science in the 1960s and 1970s. You no longer see scientific progress as a good thing, exemplified by the utopia setting of Gene Roddenberry’s original Star Trek and TNG. You view scientific and industrial progress as the enemy, and just wish we would all get “back to nature” and “back to a local-first, non-globalized world”.

    When did your hope die? Did you ever have hope for the future? Hope that the future will be better than the past? You’re just like the whiny old person who says “it was better back in my day”. “Get off my lawn!”

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