What is to Be Done, R Bon, I Motovun

Tags: climate change, James Lovelock, Pope Francis, Motovun, Paris, Voluntary Human Extinction Movement, interglacial period, weather forecast, interglacial periods, human species, Gaia Hypothesis, Europe, human population, disaster management, climate talks, Paris climate, global warming
Content: WHAT IS TO BE DONE? Climate Change for Beginners Ranko Bon Motovun, Istria August 2014
To James Lovelock, the voice of Gaia Errors are what mankind has had to pay for most dearly. And, on the whole, it is the errors of "good will" which have harmed it most profoundly. The illusion that makes happy is more pernicious than that which has immediate bad consequences: the latter sharpens and purifies reason and makes it more mistrustful, the former lulls it to sleep. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power, New York: Vintage Books, 1968, p. 249. 2
PREFACE I (August 5, 2014) Climate change is upon us. And it is getting ever more dramatic. There is no part of the planet that is spared from its ravages, either. What is to be done? This selection from my Residua is a witness to the increasing urgency with which this question has been coming up since the turn of the millennium. More important, it is a witness of the futility of all the answers put forward to date. Survival is all we face at present. Period. Preparing for it as best we can is the only course worth pursuing from now on. But the future is bright in spite of the untold horrors to come. In the fullness of time, the survivors will experience a homecoming of sorts. No matter how few, they will know their way around their new world, for it will be the world of their ancestors. And that is this book's happy message. Hooray! PREFACE II (April 8, 2016) Published in Belgrade by HESPERIAedu in 2014, this book is nearly out of print a couple of years later. I offered the second edition to the same publisher, but the first one did not sell well enough to warrant such an extravagance. Thus I decided to publish it myself, as it were. The second edition is now available through my Ca' Bon Gallery website (www.cabongallery.org). And for free. I can only hope it will find a few readers across the globe. 3
THE UNIVERSE IN US (May 18, 1996) James Lovelock's hypothesis that the unity of all life is but the tip of the iceberg, which includes all of this planet, this solar system, and-- by bold extension--the entire universe, surfaced to my consciousness earlier today in a way that fleetingly suggested another revelation, another all-encompassing and spell-binding truth. The animal in us implies the plant in us... Just as mysteriously, it vanished again before I could take a glimpse, let alone a proper look, of its shape and color and size. All I remember--that is, all that remains after this vague encounter--is a wobbly notion that the unity of mind, or simply experience, is a mere corollary, an afterthought, of the Gaia Hypothesis. This chimera has plagued me the whole day. From time to time I would sit down to capture it, to record it, but to no avail. In the end I am reduced to paying homage to my failure. TO BE OR NOT TO BE: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (December 26, 1998) It was a real joy reading your piece on the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement, initiated by Les U. Knight of Portland, Oregon ("Sui genocide," December 19, 1998). Indeed, I can imagine the poetry, the music of those last few human generations. I can see the nobility of the endeavor. And I can appreciate the moment when, at last, the lights will go out, and the sand will cover our name. The world will begin anew... Beautiful. Reminiscent of endings in One Thousand Nights and One Night. And yet, the world will begin anew no matter what we do. Even after a nuclear holocaust the world will begin anew. Even if only the toughest of bacteria are left behind, the world will begin anew. Marvels of evolution will follow, although not necessarily along the path we know. In short, voluntary human extinction cannot meaningfully be undertaken for the sake of the world minus the human species. Life itself is a marvel rather than individual species, including our own. If voluntary extinction makes any sense, it does so as a testimony to the ultimate futility of evolution leading up to intelligence. 4
Addendum (January 3, 2001) There is one detail about the founder of the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement that delights me anew every time he surfaces in my mind: his felicitous initial is his own invention. I am not sure whether his name previously had none or a different one, but I remember reading in The Economist that he had officially changed his name to incorporate the current initial. A walking slogan, he. ON SOME CONSEQUENCES OF POPULATION EXPLOSION (January 12, 1999) It is claimed that the number of people living today is greater than the number of people who have ever died. This is not surprising in view of formidable population growth. The same applies to the number of scientists or artists, for instance, but the two fields experience the swell in entirely different ways. Science is cumulative and scientific work is largely cooperative. The population explosion is thus a boon for science. It is different with art, which has been largely competitive since the Renaissance. Each artist must strive for originality, and each object of art must have an author. However, the number of successful artists or stars is determined by the public's ability to remember them and follow their careers, and this ability does not change over time. The population explosion has therefore resulted in crippling competition among artists and ultimately in depreciation of art. Only a cumulative and cooperative artistic endeavor can reverse this development. If art is to thrive again, the task is to search for that which is common and thus fundamental to all art since prehistory. This is a task which artists and scientists can share, albeit following distinct paths and using unlike tools. In the end, all roads lead to the human brain, mind, soul. VIA NEGATIVA (November 1, 1999) Deccumulate, deccumulate, that is the Lord and the prophets! In memory of Karl Marx Addendum (June 6, 2016) Brilliant, this. And so many years before climate change raised its ugly head high enough for everyone to see. Or nearly everyone, to be a bit more precise. At this stage, the only viable way forward is backward. And fast. As fast as possible, as a matter of fact. The trouble is with this piece's playful title, of course. As well as its cheeky dedication. The human race is forever striving for things positive. Positive to boot, as it were. Via positiva is the best example of the race's misunderstanding of its own ultimate fate. As though the 5
Lord and the prophets will be there for everyone when the shit hits the fan. SUSPICIOUSLY GREEN (July 19, 2002) It is raining cats and dogs. Really raining, like it rarely rains in southern England, from which I am to escape. The sky is uniformly gray, and there is no reason to believe that the deluge will stop soon. In fact, people here in Istria tell me that this year has been quite wet, and that it may well be that the region will get wetter with climate change. One of them even joked about the tropical climate moving in from the south as the Mediterranean climate moves further north. Of course, not even the weather would make me change my mind about my move south, but I do feel a bit funny about this little twist in the story. I can only hope that this is but a blip in the weather pattern here, although the whole region is suspiciously green whenever I come for a visit. Suspiciously green, indeed. THRILLING (October 17, 2004) How thrilling it is to be sunbathing stark naked in mid-October. And on your own terrace, too. The experience is so bracing that you are liable to commit yourself to a bold pledge. Or an imprudent one, perhaps. Like sunbathing naked on at least thirty days until your birthday in mid-April, exactly six months from today. And how thrilling a pledge this is, too. Especially while the sun is caressing your limp body with tender warmth so difficult to tell apart from desire. Nay, love. Addendum I (April 17, 2005) It rained much of last week, and sunbathing naked was out of the question, but I am happy to report the pledge of six months ago has been fulfilled. In fact, I have sunbathed naked thirty-three times in this period. The dates jotted down into my notebook clearly trace the coldest period of the year, too. There are two dates in the second half of October, nine in November, eight in December, two in January, three in February, four in March, and five in the first half of April. Each time I sunbathed for about thirty minutes at least. Although it was rather cold on some of these days, it was warm enough in the sun to find the experience quite enjoyable. The wind was my main detractor, though. Every now and then it was rather bracing. At any rate, my imprudent pledge turned out to be within an easy reach. Perhaps I should go for forty days next winter? 6
Addendum II (April 17, 2006) Although I kept complaining about the weather throughout the cold season, it was appreciably better than the previous year. My record shows it clearly enough. I sunbathed naked forty-three times in the six months since October 17, 2005. Once again, the dates from my notebook trace the coldest months of the year. There are two dates in the second half of October, ten in November, five in December, nine in January, seven in February, three in March, and seven in the first half of April. In particular, January and February were much sunnier this year than last. Anyhow, I sunbathed naked well over my daring pledge exactly a year ago. In addition, the pledge itself was a quarter higher than the previous one. But I will not increase it for the next cold season. Forty times a winter is good enough for me. Addendum III (April 17, 2007) This time around I forgot about the old pledge. Since October 17, 2006, I sunbathed naked fifty-three times. That is no less than twenty more times than three seasons ago. My notebook shows eight dates in the second half of October, eight in November, ten in December, four in January, six in February, eight in March, and nine in the first half of April. Clearly, January and February were the coldest months this sunbathing season. But the rest of the season was so balmy that the whole exercise makes ever less sense. What started as a thrilling challenge ended up as a bit of a chore. On many a sunny day I skipped sunbathing naked altogether because it was too easy by half. Of course, the palpable improvement in my performance has nothing to do with me, or with my ability to withstand the cold, but with climate change. And it is becoming rather dramatic, too. For better or worse, this three-year record shows it quite plainly. NAKED BODIES AND LUSH FOLIAGE (April 20, 2005) According to the newspapers, new anthropological research purports to show that not all hunter-gatherers are remnants of the Stone Age. A study by the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig suggests that the Mlabri, a group of hunter-gatherers from northern Thailand, are descendents of farmers. Even more important, the Mlabri may have started marching backwards less than a millennium ago. Their genetic code is so similar to that of their neighbors, all of whom are farmers, that calculations suggest the group is between five- and eight-hundred years old, as well as that their population was founded by between three and six individuals. The neighboring farmers tell stories of such an exodus into the surrounding forest. The images of the Mlabri in the newspapers show naked bodies and lush foliage. Hunter-gatherers for true. No wonder such stories attract much attention worldwide: there still is some chance for all of us. All you need is a forest and a handful of intrepid individuals. 7
THE BLOOMING WISTERIA (May 2, 2005) It has taken me several years to realize I have developed an allergic reaction to pollen. It has started with multiple sneezes--between five and ten hearty sneezes one after another. My mother was still alive when I first noticed it. She, too, had developed multiple sneezes quite late in life. By now, my nose is stuffed through much of the spring. It is worst at night, when I can hardly breathe. Every now and then I am woken up by sneezes, as well. It is as though I have a heavy cold, but it is clear it is not a cold. Anyhow, this spring it is worse than ever. And the last few days have been hell. Last night I kept waking up because of my stuffed nose. I was suffocating. I managed to sleep only a few minutes at a time. The only good thing about all this is that I have a clear understanding of my affliction. Hay fever it is. In addition, I know that my worst enemy is the blooming wisteria in my garden. In fact, the voluptuous plant is right under my bedroom window. It came into full bloom only a few days ago. Bees, wasps, bumblebees, flies, and butterflies are going nuts over it. FOLLOW THE WATER (December 17, 2005) Jozo Brandic is a thoughtful man. When Motovun's crumbling walls come up, he has a simple advice: "Follow the water." When anything else having to do with the town's decrepit infrastructure comes up, he always offers the same advice. There is much to it, too. From the area enclosed by the town walls downward, the atmospheric water used to be collected in cisterns. The surplus was channelled into the sewer, as was the water used up in the houses. The clean and dirty water used to be prudently kept apart. Although the entire water management system was built in stone, it was put together with stunning ingenuity. And it was maintained for centuries with meticulous care. When drinking water was brought to the town in pipes, the old cisterns were gradually abandoned. The sewer slowly fell into disrepair, and much of it got plugged up. Atmospheric water now rushes every which way, eroding old walls on its way. As of late, there appears to be much more of it, as well. Climate change bodes ill for our town. Not only houses are threatened, as well as so many walls supporting gardens and roads, but the town walls, too. Everywhere it goes, water is washing the mortar away. And much of it was not that far from mud, anyway. By and by, the whole town will crumble into a heap of smallish stones from which it was built centuries ago. Follow the water, indeed. Or else. DRAINAGE (January 8, 2006) Before stone walls collapse, they develop bellies. Close to their base, they bulge outwards. As the bulge grows, the top of the wall pushes out over its foundations. The break takes place just under the bulge, 8
once the earth behind the wall swells beyond the point of repose. And the main reason for swelling is accumulated water that has no way to escape. There has been so much rain this fall and winter, that many walls in Motovun have developed worrisome bellies. Some have already burst, but many more are expected to come down if it keeps raining at the same rate as the last few months. By the way, a part of the Babacan parking lot is now closed because it has sunk in several places. The wall that holds it is close to collapse. Even more important, the tall wall along the ramp leading up to the parking lot has developed such a belly that it is only a question of time when it will fall down, trapping many parked cars for days or even weeks. Returning to the causes of all this, it is clear that better drainage is needed. This has been so for decades, of course. But it is also clear that there has been more rain than usual the last few seasons. It is not too far-fetched to suggest that this has to do with climate change, which makes the problem of drainage in town even more acute. Even if the annual amount of rain has not have changed much, it now comes down in shorter periods. The long-neglected drainage system cannot cope with all the water. An emergency plan is needed before it is too late. Is there any sign of it emerging, though? None whatsoever. And this is how it will be in the future, for the authorities, both local and regional, have better things to do than worry about trifles such as drainage. In the meanwhile, Motovun is in peril. FORTIFYING (March 29, 2006) This morning's storm subsided soon after seven. Having collected all the water from the windowsills and from the floor underneath them, I went to bed. Exhausted, I fell asleep at once. I woke up around eleven and went out for my morning coffee. Wherever I went, I looked for the signs of damage. Here and there I found broken roof tiles on the street. Around my house I found none, though. I even went to the town walls to check my roof from above. The eastern half, which is visible from up there, was in perfect shape. Only when I returned home I discovered tile shards on my terrace. Two roof tiles had fallen down, but many more are lying about on the western side of the roof. Another bout of strong wind, and they would fall down, too. In addition, the roof would start leaking. I immediately called my builder, and he promised to contact the roofer. I hope they will come within a day or two. Their job is not only to fix what got broken this time around, but also to fortify the roof. There is no kidding with climate change. In a few years, the whole house may need fortifying. ANOTHER INCENTIVE (August 31, 2006) How long will it take for Motovun to become a coastal town? When the sea rises by a meter or two, the Mirna valley will turn to a vast marsh once again. Given present trends in climate change, this may 9
take about ten years. When the sea rises by another two or three meters, the valley will turn into a handsome fjord. This may take another ten years, give or take a few. And I will be enjoying the shimmering sea from my very terrace! Right in front of my burning eyes! Another incentive to reach the ripe age of eighty. As if incentives of this ilk are in short supply. Addendum (January 25, 2007) According to the best scientific evidence I could find, the highest level of the sea that has been reached in the last half-a-million years is about twelve meters above the present sea level. A good part of that increase is due to the expansion of the oceans because of the temperature rise, and another part is due to the melting of polar ice. Quite by chance, the Mirna at Motovun is about twelve meters above the sea level. So, the notion of Motovun as a coastal town is not entirely fanciful. However, the rise of twelve meters is likely to take more than twenty years. Another incentive to shoot for the glorious age of ninety. What the heck, both of my parents got there in spite of two world wars. WITH A LITTLE BIT OF SAVVY (September 8, 2006) When I feel the moment is right, I mention to people in Motovun that we are lucky to live in a town with medieval walls that are still in good shape. As well as a few gates that can easily be put right. More often than not, the context for such daring pronouncements is discussion of either the growing energy crisis or rapid climate change. Sooner or later, there will be people on the move, I would venture. There will be desperate throngs in search of warmth or high grounds. And marauders of every description, as well. With a little bit of savvy, we will be able to protect ourselves from the worst to come. For the bad guys will not be armed with anything the walls cannot put up with. Outlandish, no doubt. And maybe even foolish, I do admit. To my surprise, such ravings are usually accepted rather calmly. To be sure, the subject is never rejected out of hand. People in Motovun must be watching a great deal of television. CLIMATE CHANGE FOR BEGINNERS: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (September 12, 2006) Neither your main leader on climate change nor your survey of this vital subject comes to any sensible conclusions ("The Heat is On," September 9, 2006). I read both twice, but all I have learned is that it is pretty hard to tell which way climate will change and how it will affect us. True enough, but why then the main leader and the survey? In my opinion, it would have been much more useful to catalogue scientific opinion on the matter, and explore its wide range. And the range is wide, indeed. Some scientists advise there is nothing to worry 10
about, while others caution that millions may soon be on the move in search of higher ground. If the probabilities of such possibilities could not be credibly assessed at present, at least the possibilities should be clearly drawn. And left to the reader's lively imagination. HOW TO PROLONG THE TOURIST SEASON (October 9, 2006) Much ink has been spilt in Istria and Dalmatia over how to prolong the tourist season. Three or four months a year are not enough. How can we stretch it? What else can we offer to lure the most generous of tourists? But the solution to this riddle is likely to come from the strangest of quarters: climate change. The weather is becoming so strange that tourists are sure to start checking the historical record. And even surer to start hedging their bets. July can be lousy. August can be even worse. But May can be rather nice. And so can October, too. The season will stretch and stretch as if by magic. THE LADYBUG MYSTERY (October 28, 2006) This year, the first ladybug invasion of my house started in early February. The second started two weeks ago. Once again, they are crawling all over the place. If February was too early for them to hatch, what can we say about October? It is easiest to chalk it up to climate change, for it is the warmest October on record in these parts, but it is also possible that something else is going on. After all, my house has a microclimate all its own. Perhaps the ladybugs are tricked into coming out of their eggs by something very local. Although I have not noticed anything like this in the last few years, that is still a possibility. I must talk to my neighbors about ladybugs before I push my conclusions too far. For the time being, I must admit that the ladybug mystery is a great deal of fun. Addendum (October 31, 2006) The last few days I have talked about ladybugs with many of my neighbors. Up and down Borgo, they all say that the insects are back in numbers. To my surprise, my neighbors are not surprised. Not in the least. Climate change is in the air, and they all attribute the invasion to the weird weather. And it is weird, indeed. All records are being broken fast. Several of my neighbors also report other oddities in their gardens or fields. Some plants are blossoming again, and many insects are still around to pollinate them. There will be carnage when the temperature eventually drops. Assuming it will drop, of course. My neighbors are quite aware that such assumptions are not to be trusted any longer. "We'll see sooner or later," they all say rather calmly. 11
COLLECTIVE ACTION: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (November 3, 2006) In your discussion of Nicholas Stern's review of the economic impact of climate change ("Stern Warning," November 4, 2006), which he describes as "the greatest and widest-reaching market failure ever seen," you focus on his assessment of future costs. That is relevant only if there is no real cause for worry. Judging from what so many scientists have to say, that is most unlikely, though. Stern's call for "international collective action" to alleviate the ravages of climate change suffers instead from a host of well-known problems with collective action itself. The Logic of Collective Action, first published by Mancur Olson in 1965, sets the stage for better appreciation of the issues. And there are many, indeed. Having assessed the future costs, Stern should have focused on the most sensible ways of resolving collective-action problems that are likely to bedevil all attempts at dealing with climate change. Just consider the biggest polluters around: America, China, Japan, Germany, India, Russia, Brazil... How in the world will they ever agree on what to do? THICKENING FAST (November 5, 2006) Climate change? That is old hat nowadays! Abrupt climate change is in already. And so are rapid, sudden, and swift varieties of it. The plot is thickening fast. Addendum (November 22, 2006) The most dramatic term to describe this new phenomenon I have found in print so far is, well, "dramatic climate change." It is the most eyecatching term of this ilk, too. No wonder, for it comes from the consummate wordsmiths at The Economist. But the competition for the most dramatic term is still on. Who can beat The Economist? TOO MANY SURPRISES (December 18, 2006) The temperature has dropped quite suddenly. And the wind has picked up, often reaching raging speed. There is talk of snow, too. But noone is complaining. On the contrary, everyone I talk to seems to be relieved. After another dodgy autumn, the winter is fervently awaited. Let it rip! Most of them farmers, and a few of them only a generation removed from the mud and dust, the people around me have had too many surprises with weather already. A nasty winter would put their minds at ease. Climate change is not for them. Even a thought of another dodgy spring makes them shiver. Heaven forbid! 12
SO VERY SOOTHING (January 23, 2007) As I write into my notebook by candlelight, a freak storm is battering Motovun. Judging by the occasional beeps of the system protecting my computer from power surges, the electricity is going off every now and then. Which is why I have lit the candle in the first place. This is quite unusual in the middle of winter, but then it has long been unusually warm, as well. Climate change, beyond any doubt. Freak storms are here to stay as reminders that something is amiss. Badly amiss, too. The reminders are liable to become ever more insistent. And maybe even unforgettable. All this said, the candlelight is so very soothing, though. AT SEA: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (February 12, 2007) Your account of the new report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) hardly informs the reader about the perils ahead ("Heating Up," February 10, 2007). When you report that the IPCC's range of predictions of the rise in the average temperature by 2100 has increased from 1.4-5.8єC in the 2001 report to 1.1-6.4єC in this report, you skip the essential background. According to Jim Hansen, the director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) for a quarter of a century, who has established a baseline for climate research popularized by Al Gore, the average temperature has fluctuated by only 6єC over the last four cycles of about 100,000 years each. An increase of the same magnitude over a mere century spells no less than calamity. But the main reason for referring to the GISS baseline is that all predictions that would go above the average temperature of 15.5єC also go off the charts. Given that we are at the average temperature of 14.6є today, a single degree change means that we have no scientific reference any longer. In short, we are already at sea. IN PRAISE OF ANARCHY: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (February 27, 2007) Reading yet again about a failed government in Italy ("Pasta and Fries," February 24, 2007), which changes governments at a rate of about one a year ever since World War II, one cannot but wonder about this ongoing experiment in, well, anarchy. Just like Somalia, an erstwhile colony, Italy does function. After a fashion, at least. Besides, Italian economy surprises from time to time with results one would expect from a well-run country only. All of which points at the possibility that anarchy is not such a bad thing after all. Italy and Somalia may in time offer many a useful clue about the future of the planet if things turn for the worse--energy crisis, climate change, worldwide terrorism, and such like. Perhaps it is time to start learning 13
from these two countries rather than pitying them as political basket cases, as you seem to do. DRAMATIC ENOUGH (February 28, 2007) Dead ladybugs now litter my house. They are everywhere. Although a few of them are still crawling about, it is more than clear that they have come out too early this season. Way too early. Not only are they dying prematurely, but they also have not lived long enough to lay their eggs for the next season. The ladybug population will suffer, at least in the short run. It will take a few seasons for it to find a new equilibrium. Assuming the climate will not keep changing as dramatically as this season, of course. And that seems to be a brave assumption. The way things are going, changes may well pile up, and the ladybug population may be battered now one way, now the other. They will hatch too early or too late, depending on the season, and their numbers will dwindle. As an index of climate change, this one is dramatic enough. But indices of this sort are likely to multiply. And keep multiplying, until we forget about ladybugs. AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH (March 7, 2007) Just watched Al Gore's movie about global warming. Quite enjoyed it, as well. Although he himself is a bit too central to the narrative, and although his we-can-do-it call gets rather annoying on occasion, it is a movie well worth watching. And doing something about, of course. But the thing that will remain central to my own experience of the movie is Gore's tireless proselytizing. In his own words, people are unlikely to do anything about global warming--or anything else, for that matter--without such a personal call to action. Without preaching, that is. That is perhaps the most inconvenient truth that I can glean from the entire movie. What a species! Addendum (May 30, 2016) A smashing success that it was when it came out, Al Gore's movie about global warming is nigh forgotten by now. And so is his proselytizing. Tireless as it surely was, it got nowhere in the end. And that is the real winner in the long series of inconvenient truths that can be gleaned from the movie after so many years. What a species, indeed! In the end, the movie in question was nothing but entertainment. Intellectual entertainment, perhaps, but entertainment still. Homo sapiens, my ass. 14
GREENER THAN THOU: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (March 19, 2007) Your current issue is brimming with good advice on climate change and control. In one of the leaders ("What Price Carbon?" March 17, 2007), you offer a clear analysis of policy choices: subsidies of alternative energy sources, standards on products and processes, and pricing of greenhouse gases, of which the first is almost always a bad idea, and the second should generally be avoided. In your review of the European Union's recent initiatives ("Climate Control"), you offer a clear analysis of their perils, mainly due to the fact that the above policy choices are getting confused in a hasty attempt to appear to be doing something, as well as to be leading the world in the effort. And in your review of the recent British initiatives ("A Hot Topic Gets Hotter"), you offer a clear analysis of the dangers of putting climate change at the front end of the battle between the leading political parties, and thereby confusing the policy choices once again. Throughout, you valiantly argue that the EU's emissions-trading scheme is the best way forward all around. By capping the amount of greenhouse gases emitted, as well as giving producers tradable allowances, the scheme puts the market first. However, as you point out throughout, this is rarely the policy choice dear to politicians, who tend to go for greener-than-though initiatives dear to their electorates. Clear economic analysis tends to suffer as a result. Thus I see a new rфle emerging for your mighty newspaper: in the turbulent years to come, you should guide the world opinion toward policy choices in climate control that make economic sense rather than serve as political palliatives. This is a tall order, it goes without saying, but, as a good economist, I am behind you one-hundred and fifty percent. IN MY OWN GARDEN (April 5, 2007) The wisteria in my garden started blooming a few days ago. All kinds of insects are going nuts over its voluptuous flowers. This afternoon I remembered that I had written about the magnificent creeper's blooming either last year or the year before. And I was curious about the date. Somehow, I thought it was later in the season. When I searched my Residua, I found the piece quickly enough: "The Blooming Wisteria" (May 2, 2005). One whole month in two short years. Dramatic climate change in my own garden. Addendum I (June 11, 2007) About a week ago, the wisteria under my terrace started blooming again. Although I cannot be sure about the dates, the same thing had surely happened last year, as well. I know little about the wisteria's ways, but I am still sure it is not meant to bloom twice a year. And two years in a row. One way or another, insects of all sorts are going nuts over its voluptuous flowers once again. They could not care less 15
about oddities like double blooming seasons. On the contrary. The way things are going, dramatic climate change is quite a boon for them. As the old adage suggests, the insects may well inherit the earth. Addendum II (July 10, 2007) Well, the wisteria is blooming yet again. This is its third time, and the whole thing is getting rather boring. The second time around, there were fewer flowers than the first time, and this time there are fewer flowers than the second time, but blooming it is nonetheless. How many more times will it bloom this season? Hard to tell, for obvious reasons, but I would be hardly surprised by further surprises. Oops. CULLING VERSUS CHOPPING: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (April 16, 2007) It is enlightening to read in your pages that Govindasamy Bala and his colleagues from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California have built a climate model that shows that chopping down the world's forests would help fight global warming ("A New Tree Line," April 14, 2007). Although trees swap carbon dioxide for oxygen, which is a good thing, they absorb more heat and release more water vapor into the atmosphere than cleared land. On balance, trees are not good for the planet. So far, so good. Surely, though, Bala's model can be used to advocate even more radical measures to fight global warming. Culling down the world's animals is the case in point, for they swap oxygen for carbon dioxide, which is a bad thing, while their heat absorption and vapour release are negligible. And there is one plentiful animal species, which should remain nameless at this juncture, whose culling would do wonders in this regard. No-one, of course, would consider culling down all the world's animals, but the model could be used to gauge the extend of the culling, as well as the trade-off between culling and chopping. THE ABSENCE: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (May 1, 2007) In your article on the harnessing of marine power from tides and waves to generate electricity ("Tapping the Power of the Sea," April 28, 2007), which shows quite clearly that this vast planetary resource is being tentatively explored in a few places only, you question the assessment of Hunter Lovins, an energy economics pundit, that a global recognition of the "extreme seriousness" of climate change is still absent. In his mind, the marine power will remain sidelined in the meanwhile. "But is there such an absence?" you ask somewhat naively. If your own article is not enough to demonstrate it, the absence, it is enough to peruse through the rest of the issue. What is happening around the world to show the recognition of the extreme seriousness of this unprecedented global threat? As the entire issue 16
shows, the recognition is spotty at best. In most places it is lukewarm, too. As a species, we are still far from organizing ourselves around this particular threat, let alone tackling it in earnest by joining all our forces. No less than that is required at this stage, when the threat is becoming quite plain in many parts of the world, but it is nevertheless sadly absent, just as Hunter Lovins has claimed. BLESSED IGNORANCE (May 2, 2007) I read in the foreign press that some parts of the world are suffering from droughts while others are suffering from floods. Climate change, of course. I read in the local press that Istria may be suffering from a drought, too. Although there has been no rain in two months, climate change is not even mentioned, though. I read in the foreign press that all kinds of measures are being considered in many parts of the world suffering from drought, such as more efficient water-allocation policies, less wasteful irrigation systems, and even water trading. Politicians facing re-election are grilled on their initiatives concerning climate change. I find nothing of the sort in the local press. The relief from the drought is mentioned in passing as a one-off measure. And I am beginning to wonder about what I read. Not that I would wish relief policies to flourish in Istria, I hasten to add. Or Istrian politicians to be grilled on their initiatives concerning climate change. God forbid. Blessed ignorance strikes me as a far better deal than anything I can find in the foreign press. Climate change, what climate change? Thanks for your concern, but we are Istrians. CONVEYER BELT: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (June 4, 2007) Hail to Alfred Wong's idea of transporting excess carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere by using the earth's magnetic field as a conveyer belt ("A Stairway to Heaven?" June 2, 2007). If the scientist from the University of California at Los Angeles is correct, global warming could be managed in future at a sensible cost. But all the quotidian measures you make fun off in the opening paragraph of your article would still be required to offset the cost of transporting excess carbon dioxide into space. Switch the lights off. Stop using fossil fuels to make electricity. Get a fuel-efficient car. Do not fly. The list is much longer and much more tedious, too. But it is still with us for good. PRESIDENT, PROSELYTISER: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (June 5, 2007) I am with you concerning Al Gore, who is being urged ever more loudly by an ever larger number of Americans to join the presidential race ("Gore in the Balance," June 2, 2007). He should not run, mainly 17
because he is less likely to be effective in his fight against America's gas-guzzling ways as a president then as a free-lance proselytiser. And this is the mother of all fights at this juncture. Issues much less important than climate change would bog him down in no time. And so would the mores of the vaunted office. This is a rare moment in America's history when real power is likely to lie outside rather than inside the political establishment. Given that Americans are the greatest gas-guzzlers of them all, and given that Gore has been harbouring presidential ambitions since his youth, we can only hope that he will appreciate this peculiar historical twist. Being a politician deep down, he simply must. ON POPULATION: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (August 1, 2007) Given how little we know about the dynamics of human population and the carrying capacity of our planet, the upbeat tone of your main leader is quite comical ("How to Deal with a Shrinking Population," July 28, 2007). On the above, consider only the speed with which holes left by wars are replenished, including the right gender mix, or the consumption levels of our ancestors, who could live on almost nothing. But you get pretty ridiculous when you argue that climate change should be fought by consuming less fossil fuel rather than by manipulating population levels. Indeed, attempting to manipulate population levels without understanding population dynamics would be no less than crazy. We can only hope your upbeat tone will not entice anyone to try. TO REPAIR THE DAMAGE (September 21, 2007) Intelligence of the human species can be defined with good precision: it is high enough to fatally damage its natural habitat, but too low to repair the damage. CITIES IN PERIL: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (October 12, 2007) Your article about the ever-faster growth of the world's urban population focuses on the ever-faster growth of natural disasters affecting cities ("Some Hard Talk about Towns." October 6, 2007), but you do not even attempt explaining the latter phenomenon. Whence the increase in the number of natural disasters, let alone the acceleration in that increase? The only possible explanation of this phenomenon is climate change, which you mention in passing only in the context of coastal cities. Of course, floods, mudslides, and landslides can occur far from the coast, as well. By your own evidence, climate change must also be increasing at an increasing rate. 18
The fact that the world's urban population is increasing at an everfaster rate thus points at the ever-greater peril that climate change entails. And this is entirely missing from your article. THE BOTTLENECK HYPOTHESIS (October 25, 2007) James Lovelock of the Gaia hypothesis fame believes that more than six billion people will perish within a few generations. Climate change is irreversible, he claims, and there is nothing we can do about it any longer. Besides, it will become ever more dramatic as years go by. The drama will reach its peak by the end of the century. At eightyeight, he is optimistic, though. Those who survive, and he surmises that half-a-billion people might, will be among the best and the brightest for a new beginning. This has happened with every bottleneck in human development, he claims. His optimism is catching, I must confess. Ever since I have stumbled upon his musings, I feel elated by the bottleneck hypothesis. If everything goes as it might, the human species will get it right after a number of bottlenecks ahead. Three, four, five... But it simply must. POLITICIANS, PRIESTS: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (November 5, 2007) Your main leader opens with a warning that "faith will unsettle politics everywhere this century" ("The New Wars of Religion," November 3, 2007). Agreed. But you fail to mention the main reason why this is likely to be the case: climate change. Your lengthy special report on faith and politics ("In God's Name"), which also predicts rising religious strife within several generations to come, does not mention it, either. Destitute throngs in search of land that is neither scorched nor flooded are not liable to listen to politicians. They will offer their hearts and souls to priests, instead. Many a novelist peering into the murky future of the human species has come up with this ominous warning, and it is thus both surprising and disappointing that you have missed it entirely. THE TIPPING POINT (December 19, 2007) Climate change has been in the news for a while. Many clever people have been skeptical about it, but most of them accept it now, at least as a serious threat to future generations. However, the evidence is mounting that the threat may come much sooner than that. It may affect the living generations, too. Fred Pearce's new book, With Speed and Violence: Why Scientists Fear Tipping Points in Climate Change, which arrived in this morning's mail, brings together all the scientific evidence the cleverest need that it is time to do something about it.[1] As a journalist concerned with the environment, he has been covering 19
climate change for a couple of decades. And he shows conclusively enough that the tipping points envisaged by many scientists studying climate change are within sight. As the title of his book shows, nature is not about gradual change. Our planet's past is replete with momentous changes that took a few years only. But there is one tipping point that now deserves the full attention of the cleverest among the clever: the point at which they start thinking about themselves and their loved ones. This is the tipping point at which the least clever must be left behind. Or else. THE ANTHROPOCENE (December 20, 2007) Welcome to the Anthropocene. It's a new geological era, so take a good look around. A single species is in charge of the planet, altering its features almost at will. And what more natural than to name this new era after that top-of-the-heap anthropoid, ourselves? The term was coined in 2000 by the Nobel Prize-winning Dutch atmospheric scientist Paul Crutzen to describe the past two centuries of our planet's evolution. "I was at a conference where someone said something about the Holocene, the long period of relatively stable climate since the end of the last ice age," he told me later. "I suddenly thought that this was wrong. The world has changed too much. So I said: `No, we are in the Anthropocene.' I just made up the word on the spur of the moment. Everyone was shocked. But it seems to have stuck." From Fred Pearce's With Speed and Violence: Why Scientists Fear Tipping Points in Climate Change, Boston: Beacon Press, 2007, p. 21. TRANSLATING (January 5, 2008) I have been impressed with Fred Pearce's new book, With Speed and Violence: Why scientists Fear Tipping Points in Climate Change, from the first few pages I read when it arrived by mail on December 19, 2007.[2] Although I could hardly drop it for a few days, all kinds of things intervened, including the lingering holidays, and so I finished it only today. As witnessed by the last line of my praise scribbled on the last page, I have remained enthusiastic throughout: "Long live journalists like Pearce!" He has been most careful to "translate" what the scientists have been saying about climate change for some twenty years, but he has stuck to translating all the way through. This is what the best among journalists are actually for. To put everything they can gather on a particular theme into plain English. No more. And no less. Scientists themselves very much appreciate good translators, it goes without saying. Chemists, physicists, and biologists, among others, all speak slightly different languages. In this case, the jargon of so many disciplines involved in the study of climate change cannot but get in 20
the way of the whole endeavor. Indeed, long live journalists like Fred Pearce. SUCH AN EVOLUTIONARY FEAT (March 10, 2008) Rome fell when Romans lost their faith in themselves as Romans. That is how socialism fell, as well. And that is how our entire civilization may fall in not so distant future. But can a whole species fall by its individual members losing their faith in themselves as members of the species? I believe a fall of this kind is possible, but I do not believe the human species is capable of such an evolutionary feat. A species whose members could lose their faith in themselves as members of the species would have to be much more advanced than our species, biologically speaking. Evolutionary dead-ends would have to fall well within the grasp of its members. THESE SIMPLE QUESTIONS (April 10, 2008) Only consider the litany of global environmental problems, which I will list off the top of my head: climate change, alternative energy sources, environmental pollution, population explosion, control of pandemics, genetically modified food, biodiversity preservation... All these complex problems are deeply interrelated, as well. Now consider the fact that most people can barely understand how their cars work and how to manage them safely in traffic. Can these very same people be expected to make sensible decisions about the above problems so as to avert environmental calamity of global proportions? Can they ever? Of course, it does not take more than a few seconds to come up with the correct answer to these simple questions. And to start laughing, laughing, laughing. THE HORROR LURKING AHEAD: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (June 10, 2008) In a perfect world faced with climate change due to centuries of wrongdoings in the advanced industrial countries it would indeed be best if they started cooperating with the less developed countries belatedly bent on industrialization by helping them avoid the same wrongdoings through cap-and-trade policies such as those promoted by the Kyoto protocol ("A Convenient Truth, Sadly Ignored," June 7, 2008). Financed by the rich countries, the poor ones would develop without contributing as much to climate change. But this is a spurious argument because climate change would hardly threaten a perfect world. In the world we actually live in, which is imperfect to boot, cap-and-trade policies you advocate are unlikely ever to work on a global scale. In their place, we are likely to have increasingly nasty trade wars under the banner of climate change. Instead of painting in 21
glowing terms the world we do not live in, it would be much more useful to paint the consequences of incessant bungling in the world in which we actually do live. Maybe, just maybe, the horror lurking ahead would concentrate the minds around the world and thus help us avoid the worst pitfalls of imperfection. SCORCHING SUNLIGHT (July 14, 2008) There are seven chestnut trees on the hotel terrace. They are nearly a century old. Three of them are more exposed to the scorching sunlight than others. One of them is almost leafless by now. The remaining leaves are shrivelled already, and they will be gone in less than a month. Some of the branches are so dry that there is a danger they will break off in the next storm. After several more years of funny weather, the whole tree may be in danger. That tree gone, the trees behind it will be much more exposed to the scorching sunlight. In a decade or so, the chestnut trees on the hotel terrace may be gone forever together with the splendid shade and the soothing rustle they provide during the summer months. Climate change? What climate change? THE TRAGICOMEDY OF THE COMMONS: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (August 4, 2008) Penned in 1968, Garrett Hardin's "The Tragedy of the Commons" surely overstated the case against the commons ("Commons Sense," August 2, 2008), but his argument that all commons will be abused still pertains in many cases worth noting forty years later. In particular, commons that are too large and complex to be properly understood will surely be abused no matter how well they appear to be managed. In the case of climate change, the commons is the whole earth, as you point out. The trouble is that no-one on earth understands how the earth really works, and those who believe that they do understand the earth's inner workings often disagree, sometimes violently. The commons that is the earth itself cannot be managed well, if at all. All attempts to manage it will remain risible. Overstretching the notion of commons to the earth as a whole cannot but end in tragicomedy. THE ROOT OF COMMUNISM (August 13, 2008) If you search the World Wide Web for the basic human needs, a concept of some renown, you will quickly discover Abraham Maslow's old story: air, water, food, clothing, shelter... Good stuff. But Maslow does not offer much of interest on one of the basic human needs that I discovered soon upon arrival in Motovun: the need for community. Or neighborhood in the urban parlance. How else explain my love of this wretched hilltown in the middle of nowhere?! But this 22
is not the thrust of this piece. All I am interested in at the moment is the fact that the human species has known communities of a few hundred people for many tens of thousands of years. Well, communities of a few hundred people prevailed for at least a hundredthousand years, all the way to the onset of the agricultural revolution some ten-thousand years ago. Could this be the root of communism? Could communism be about our very guts--our genetic endowment? TOO OPTIMISTIC BY HALF: AN ELECTRONIC-MAIL MESSAGE TO JACQUES ATTALI (August 18, 2008) As I am nearing the concluding pages of your lengthy essay on the future of the human species through the end of the first century of the third millennium, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to send you my comments directly to your electronic-mail address made available in the last paragraph of your Acknowledgements.[3] A nice touch on your part, by the way. I would only wish it were so easy to get in touch with other thinkers on key issues we face today. Having been educated in the Anglo-Saxon world, where I have also taught for much of my life, I have not expected to enjoy as much as I actually have an essay of this length without a single reference. Although this approach strikes me as uniquely French, which is not exactly a compliment in view of my intellectual upbringing, I am not exaggerating my appreciation of your endeavor. I have read your book quite avidly. Now, I believe that much of what I have read in your essay about the future suffers from two interrelated problems. To begin with, I think that you rely excessively on demographic projections that have been made in the recent past, which can be characterized by considerable stability following two global conflicts. Perhaps more important, I think that you rely on a gradualist understanding of climate change, which allows you to rely on these demographic projections to an extent that I find questionable. In particular, if you relied on a growing literature on abrupt or dramatic climate change, you would find these demographic projections, as well as your own expectations, too optimistic by half. In my mind, much of your history of the future thus holds through the demise of the United States as the sole global power and the ensuing global conflict. The only question I would have about your projections concerns the timing of these events. In my estimation, they will come much sooner than you seem to believe. Intertwined with radical climate change, the global conflict can be expected within a couple of decades rather than by the middle of this century. But my more serious concern has to do with your expectation that the global conflict will usher an unprecedented flourishing of global 23
democracy, which will establish itself by the end of the century. This strikes me as a non sequitur. Instead, I would expect a demographic collapse followed by several centuries of new dark ages. Here I have in mind the collapse of the Roman world and its aftermath. Your optimism concerning the future thus baffles me. As you provide no references whatsoever anywhere in your book, I wonder what information about the world ahead have I missed. I would very much appreciate your counsel in this regard. GLOBAL GREEN NEW DEAL: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (November 10, 2008) You are right when you warn that the United Nations' "Global Green New Deal" harbors some serious dangers ("Green, Easy, and Wrong," November 8, 2008). The pressing problems facing the world, economic meltdown and global warming, cannot both be solved by governments investing in green technology any which way. America's massive ethanol subsidies are a case in point. Overinvestment not only led to a bust, but it also distorted food prices to the detriment of the poor around the world. As you point out in your leader, subsidizing renewable energy requires politicians to decide on the best way of allocating the funds, and their judgement tends to be worst than the market's. Making polluters pay through a cap-and-trade system, which caps carbon dioxide emissions and charges companies for permits to pollute, offers much more hope than subsidies. Fair enough. But this does not mean that a Global Green New Deal is to be chucked overboard, as you argue. Governments have a major rфle to play in investing in green technology, especially in dire times, and now is the moment to consider the best ways of doing so. The first step is in the right direction is for governments to set up expert boards--composed of scientists, engineers, and economists--that will limit the scope for politicians' judgement. Mind you, green technology cannot be entirely left to the market, either. COOPERATION, CONFRONTATION (November 19, 2008) When Robin Engelhardt was last in Motovun, where he owns a third of a house that he shares with two Danish friends, we had a good talk, which is still on my mind after about a month. Having left academia, he is now working for a serious Danish journal that covers things he cares about. One of them is climate change. Robin is now responsible for this topic, and he relishes it. "Tell me," I asked him point blank, "do you feel we are going down the drain as far as climate change is concerned?" He nodded affirmatively. And then he added: "The scientific community is now debating whether the growing stress will lead to cooperation or confrontation." He gave a few examples of such research, including the behavior of people in the two New York City blackouts in recent years. "The first one led to widespread 24
cooperation," he explained, "while the second one led to complete chaos." And so I asked him which way he thinks things would ultimately go. "I am leaning toward cooperation," he grinned. "Well," I laughed, "it must be the age difference!" As a matter of fact, Robin is a whole generation my junior. VENICE IN PERIL: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (December 9, 2008) Venetian acqua alta records now stretch over three millennia. The moon, the sun, and southerly wind occasionally conspire to flood the city, most often in the fall. But the last century has been the worst of all on record, and the last decade is especially worrisome. There can be no doubt any longer that climate change is behind these rapid changes. Without the MOSE project, a barrier consisting of a large number of plates that can be raised from the sea floor, Venice is indeed in peril ("Flood Warnings," December 6, 2008). Notwithstanding the scepticism of many Venetians, including the mayor, Massimo Cacciari, the exceptional acqua alta of December 1 is a clear sign that the project needs speeding up before it is too late. Otherwise, Venice may well be the first and rather symbolic victim of the way of life that it has once helped bring to life: global capitalism. FIDDLING WITH WORDS: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (December 24, 2008) I agree with you that an approaching asteroid would in all likelihood concentrate human minds sufficiently to foment international cooperation if it offered the only hope that the lethal object could be deflected ("Fiddling with Words as the World Melts," December 20, 2008). In the absence of such a conspicuous threat, though, international cooperation is rather unlikely. The pitiful current attempts of the European Union and the United Nations to reach any sort of consensus on climate change is yet another proof that humans would let themselves get boiled just like the proverbial frog if the temperatures would rise only gradually. I thus disagree with you that the most recent scientific report on the rapid shrinking of the Arctic ice comes close enough to an asteroid-type warning. No matter how fast the melting, it strikes me as far from sufficient to foment any sort of concerted action. The old frog would hardly budge without that blessed rocky projectile of yours. NO ALTERNATIVE (January 5, 2009) How come capitalism has no alternative two decades after socialism ceased to be one? Is it because capitalism indeed has no alternative? Or because the only alternative left after the ravages of capitalism, 25
including rampant global warming, is a relapse to feudalism? Or perhaps even slavery? ECO-DOCUMENTARIES: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (January 27, 2009) It is good to read about a spate of new eco-documentaries at this year's Sundance film festival ("Underwater Treasure," January 24, 2009), several of which are about the troubled oceans. And it is especially good to read that these documentaries are turning activist in line with Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" (2006), which has made a mint in the meanwhile. As the founder of the Sundance festival, Robert Redford, puts it: "Just explaining the problem isn't enough. You have to show what people can do about the problem." The devastation of our planet is gathering an ever more furious pace, and it is high time for the eco-activists to turn toward film as a medium. If someone can make some money in the bargain, so much the better for the new genre. Eco-documentaries are likely to have a negligible carbon footprint, anyway. SEA-LEVEL RISE FOR BEGINNERS: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (March 17, 2009) It is disturbing to read that four environmental experts had recently announced at a scientific conference in Copenhagen that "sea levels appear to be rising twice as rapidly as had been forecast by the United Nations just two years ago" ("A Sinking Feeling," March 14, 2009). In particular, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change convened by the UN predicted in 2007 that sea levels would rise by between eighteen to fifty-nine centimeters by 2100, whereas new findings predict that the rise in this period would be between fifty and a hundred centimeters. But it is amuzing to read your explanation of these findings: "The reason for the rapid change in the predicted rise in sea levels is a rapid increase in the information available." By this reckoning, the amount of information must have doubled, too. What is more, we can now use the same law to predict further rise in sea levels: if the amount of information doubles again in the next two years, the predicted rise in sea levels will also double. Neat, this. GREEN JOBS: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (April 6, 2009) Many governments are now trying to kick off Green New Deals of all sorts so as to save their economies from rapidly rising unemployment. Green jobs would help a great deal while dealing with another ominous threat--global warming. Your article on this topic ends up by warning that investing in green technologies is not necessarily the best way to create jobs ("The Grass is Always Greener," April 4, 2009). But it 26
begins rather comically, too. "Saving the planet and creating jobs may be incompatible," you point out smartly. Gosh! What are we to do now? Shall we save the planet or create jobs? Now, let us think about this problem a bit more carefully. Here we are facing a really tough one! THE GIDDENS' PARADOX: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (April 14, 2009) In your review of Anthony Giddens' The Politics of Climate Change (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009) you mention that "he chastises eco-warriors for their relentlessly downbeat message, arguing that people are more likely to change their habits if offered a happy future to look forward to rather than a bleak one to avoid" ("Meltdown," April 11, 2009). The "pedestrian observation," as you call it, that "distant, abstract crises tend not to change people's behavior even if the consequences are extremely unpleasant," is elevated by the pretentious author to the status of a paradox. The Giddens' Paradox, no less. But it is enough to remember the Bible to see that all this is bunkum. The most popular book of all offers no happy future. Most of its prophecies are outright dismal. It is good to remember that it gained popularity during the protracted collapse of the Roman world. And climate change may in time create favorable conditions for wholesale acceptance of bleak futures galore. BONN, COPENHAGEN: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (April 14, 2009) As the pent-up glaciers of the Antarctic are about to start flowing into the sea now that an "ice bridge" yoking a major ice shelf to the continent is gone, you poke fun at last week's Bonn preparations for the replacement of the United Nation's Kyoto treaty at the climate jamboree in Copenhagen at the end of this year ("When Glaciers Start Moving," April 11, 2009). You poke fun at the return of the United States to the proceedings. And you poke fun at all attempts to bring climate change closer to the heart of proceedings at the recent G20 summit in London. But you forget that no matter how tedious the progress of the United Nations may have been, and no matter how far it might end up from reaching an agreement that could indeed save the planet from the ravages of climate change, the human species has never been closer to a collective response to a challenge of global proportions. In short, it is time to rejoice even if for the last time in who knows how many years to come. 27
POLYANTHROPONEMIA (April 26, 2009) In his last book, The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning, James Lovelock of the Gaia hypothesis notoriety likens the human species to a disease that afflicts the earth: "Individuals occasionally suffer a disease called polycythaemia, an overpopulation of red blood cells."[4] By analogy, Gaia's illness could be called polyanthroponemia, where humans overpopulate until they do more harm than good."[5] The infection began long time ago, when we started using fire and tools, but the incubation period ended with the Industrial Revolution. The earth's homeostasis has failed by now. It has plunged into a deep crisis. And the rest of the book? Gaia will survive, and it will flourish again in due time. Decimated, the human species will survive, too, albeit only in several places, such as Siberia, where the heat will still be bearable and where there will be enough water for bare survival. Nothing can be done about any of this, though. All attempts to divert the horrors to come will be in vain at best. However, the human species will eventually emerge rejuvenated. It may in time evolve into a species much more in tune with old Gaia. And so on, and so forth. Lovelock is most damning when it comes to overpopulation. This is where he does not give an inch even to the most sympathetic reader. In the end, this is what polyanthroponemia is all about. There are too many humans on the planet, and marginal improvements in their habits cannot make any difference when it comes to Gaia's illness. No matter how green we all become, and no matter how fast we change our dreadful ways, it is our numbers that are dead against us. And we still keep growing. Anyhow, the only disappointment with this book is its subtitle. Except when one considers the archaic reading of the beguiling "warning" as a humble "notice." THE CHURCH TO THE RESCUE (April 27, 2009) A few days ago I had a good talk with our new priest, Ilija Jakovljevic. He came to Motovun about a year ago, when he replaced Josip Zovic, but this was the first time we had a chance to talk at length. I wanted him to know what the Green Party would be trying to achieve after the upcoming elections. And I wanted him to help us with our goals and program, copies of which I gave him as soon as we sat down to talk. The priest strikes me as an enterprising man, and I hope we can work together in the years ahead. I explained at once that I was not a believer, but that I appreciated the church as an institution that brings people together. This is why I come to the church on major holidays, where many people in the community regularly gather. I also explained that I did not have any grand green projects up my sleeve. The economic crisis and global 28
warming worry me very much, and I feel that the only way to avoid the worst is to start working together. I offered him three broad propositions in this context, and it seemed to me that he took all three very well, indeed. To begin with, agriculture is a good thing. Many young people in and around Motovun have been running away from it, though. They need to understand that one can live well from agricultural produce, especially in combination with tourism. Wine, olive oil, and fruit, for which Motovun has always been famous, can sustain many a family here. Even if things get really tough, agriculture can feed them, as well. It is thus essential to stop the exodus from land. Next, land in the hands of the municipality should be leased out rather than sold. The municipal authorities have been selling land for years, however, and this must be stopped as soon as possible. Although leasing is not an established mode of dealing with land ownership in these parts, we must adopt it before it is too late. The myopic policy of selling land will eventually impoverish everyone, not only the municipal authorities. Last but not least, people in and around Motovun must learn how to form and maintain cooperatives in agriculture and related activities associated with tourism. The funds already available from the European Union in large part favor cooperatives to sole proprietorships of any kind. The current resistance to cooperatives comes from many bad experiences under socialism, but we must show that they work well in neighboring countries with similar produce--such as Italy, France, and Spain. Again, the priest agreed with me on all these points. Assuming the Green Party will get at least one seat on the municipal council, we must meet again after the elections and figure out how to work together. It will take a while to package agriculture, land leasing, and cooperatives into a coherent agenda appealing to everyone, but it seems to me we can do it together. After a while, the three propositions may become widely accepted. In my mind, that is something well worth trying to achieve. MEMORIES OF ENGLISH WEATHER (May 4, 2009) The weather is weird. Actually, it is creepy. So many years after my move to Motovun, I have become used to shedding my winter clothing by mid-March, but it is very different this year. I cannot even imagine going around in shorts and sandals even though it is May already. In fact, I am still wearing my full winter gear. Although it gets sunny and warm on an odd day, it is cold and damp most of the time. And the central heating in my house keeps kicking in quite regularly. What is even worse, it is far from clear how much longer this funny weather 29
will persist. There are forecasts galore, but they are all suspect by now. Slowly but surely, memories of English weather are grabbing hold of me. They are creeping into my bones. They are suffocating me. Only an entire week or maybe two of truly splendid weather would shake them off. For a while, at least. GAIA'S REVENGE: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (May 5, 2009) One cannot but be reminded of James Lovelock's Gaia while reading your main leader and briefing about the threat of a new flu pandemic ("The Pandemic Threat" and "Watching Nervously," May 2, 2009). He conceives of the bulging human species as a pandemic that afflicts the earth's homeostasis, which disease he calls polyanthroponemia or human overpopulation. Malaria, tuberculosis, AIDS, and influenza among other vicious diseases can thus be thought of as parts of Gaia's revenge, which includes global warming, as well. Conceived thus, pandemics are liable to become an ever greater threat if for no other reason than because the human population keeps growing, too. From Gaia's perspective, everything goes when it comes to human overpopulation, the most vicious disease of them all. OUT OF OUR FRETFUL REACH (May 5, 2009) We are in thrall of new technologies. Biotechnology, nanotechnology, information technology... New advances boggle our minds. But how many of us would know how to sow corn, harvest it, grind it into flour, and make something edible with it? Or shear a few sheep, spin wool, and knit anything useful out of it? Or wash some laundry with ashes? Technologies known to almost everyone a few generations back are as remote as those needed for mass manufacturing of flying saucers. Although most of them have been written up many times over, few of us would know how to find the relevant books before they fall prey to mice. Or how to interpret anything we find in them. Or how to use the knowledge gained by reading. The collapse of our civilization would thus bring us not a few hundred years back, but a few thousand at least. And we would find ourselves dreaming of the technological advances of Greece and Rome of old. They would be out of our fretful reach for centuries ahead. WAXMAN-MARKEY: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (May 26, 2009) Your article about the first climate-change bill ever introduced in American Congress is scary enough ("Cap and Trade, With Handouts and Loopholes," May 23, 2009). Under Waxman-Markey, as the Clean Energy and Security Act will be remembered, the myriad 30
handouts and loopholes make the bulk of the legislation. But even more worrisome is your chart, which you fail to mention in your article, showing the percent of Americans who believe that climate change is caused by human activities versus long-term planetary trends. Aptly entitled "Not Entirely Their Fault," the chart shows the former opinion overtaken by the latter at the beginning of this year. The trend is scary, indeed. Soon enough, Waxman-Markey will be praised as the last climate change bill ever introduced in Congress. After all, who can beat the long-term planetary trends? HUMAN IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (June 2, 2009) Measuring climate change turns out to be a thorny problem, and so it is hardly surprising that measuring its impact on humans is an even pricklier one. "Seat-of-the-pants estimates will not be enough to cool the world," you haughtily introduce the first such attempt by Kofi Annan's Global Humanitarian Foundation ("Go On, Guess," June 2, 2009). True, but the task is still worthwhile. The report's key estimate that two-fifths of an expected increase in weather-related disasters will be related to climate change is thus a useful attempt to pin the problem down rather than useless guesswork. Further research will surely give us better figures, but we must start somewhere. And the eminent authors behind the "Human Impact Report" do precisely that. Besides, lampooning "hazardous estimates" will not be enough to cool the world, either. THE PRICE THE WORLD WILL PAY: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (June 9, 2009) Your review of Matthew Glass' Ultimatum (London: Atlantic Books, 2009) is brilliant ("Tidal Fear," June 6, 2009). Set in 2032, the book paints the imminent eco-disaster: large swathes of the American coast, as well as East Asia, are under water. Hurricanes ravage the American South, and wildfires rage through the West. New cities are being planned to house many millions of Americans in search of higher ground. The threat of global economic disaster looms. Well-read and talented, Glass rises to the challenge: "His portrait of the effects of global warming is as vivid as it is dark." The book "does a better job of convincing the reader about the price the world will pay for its complacency about global warming than any international grandstanding or dry scientific report." But your very last sentence is a wonder of the book-review genre: "And the ending is brilliant." Congratulations, but no cigar. Your review of Ultimatum is perfectly enough for this happy reader. 31
G2 TO THE RESCUE: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (June 16, 2009) It is abundantly clear that the upcoming meeting on climate change in Copenhagen, which is to decide on the future of the Kyoto regime, will depend more on the ongoing talks between America and China in Beijing than the concurent gathering in Bonn under the United Nations' climate convention ("Heating Up or Cooling Down?" June 13, 2009). The two main polluters, or G2 as they are affectionately called, are in the best position to lead the world in determining the global post-Kyoto agenda. Conveniently, America is in the best position to lead the developed world, and China the underdeveloped remainder. It is therefore to be hoped that American and Chinese officials involved in billateral talks will put aside their major differences in time for the crucial Copenhagen meeting. Luckily, both countries have much to lose if they fail to cooperate in earnest. And the rest of the world is squarely in their hands. Heating up or cooling down, indeed. "TIME'S UP!" (June 30, 2009) Thus the title of a book I just bought. Published earlier this year by Green Books in Foxhole, Dartington, United Kingdom, it was written by Keith Farnish, who founded the Earth Blog (www.theearthblog.org) in 2006. He bills himself as an environmental writer, philosopher, and activist. A kindred soul, in short. At any rate, I feel kind of grateful to him, for I have had such a hard time buying a book, any book, for such a long time. Nothing grabs me any longer. And this particular book broke the spell on account of its pithy title. Indeed, fellow humans, time is up! From now on, it is a matter of bare survival. Oh, I forgot to mention the book's subtitle: "An Uncivilized Solution to a Global Crisis." A kindred soul, no doubt whatsoever. WITHDRAWING TOGETHER WITH KEITH FARNISH (July 2, 2009) In his Time's Up! An Uncivilized Solution to a Global Crisis, Keith Farnish likens our civilization to a progressive addiction that has lasted for a thousand or more years already.[6] He sets out to show how the reader himself or herself can make the process of withdrawing from this culture as easy as possible. In the short term, it is good to start with water discovery, capture, purification, and storage; shelter building; wild food identification and discovery, preparation, and cooking; building friendship and community spirit; and basic first aid. Civilization itself is the worst disease of all, and the withdrawal cannot but be painful. "It is possible to create a situation where civilization is left to crumble gradually," he argues, "reducing the impact on humanity, and the sooner this is done, the less the global environment 32
will be harmed."[7] This is essential, for an environment left in shambles will not be conducive to survival at all. And survival is our main concern at present. Blundering in will not do. Careful preparation and planning are crucial here. "Step outside civilization, and you stand a pretty good chance of surviving the inevitable," he points out. "Stay inside, and when the crash happens, there may be nothing at all you can do to save yourself."[8] So, start by consuming, eating, traveling, working, and reproducing less. Turning "green" at this stage will not make much of a difference unless your withdrawal is not comprehensive. But begin by realizing that time is indeed up. Now, much of this message is very much to my liking. Even though I do not believe that we will be able to avoid the horror that comes in the wake of the imminent collapse, just like Romans were unable to do so when their world started collapsing around them, I am still convinced that the basic thrust of Farnish's book is right on the money, for it focuses on the individual. All you need to do is to initiate the withdrawal process today. Others will join you sooner or later. The Earth Blog (www.theearthblog.org), which he founded in 2006, is a good place to start. MEDEA, GAIA (July 8, 2009) The main idea behind Peter Ward's The Medea Hypothesis: Is Life on Earth Ultimately Self-Destructive? is that a good mother would never kill her children.[9] Only a bad mother would commit such a hideous crime, and Medea is singled out as the worst of mothers ever known.[10] But even the best of mothers, such as James Lovelock's Mother Earth of the Gaia hypothesis fame, would kill her children if she feared that they faced a future worse than death. The opposition of the two hypotheses is thus false. Gaia perforce turns into Medea once she realizes that she cannot take care of her children any longer. That is, when the planet bearing life comes under mortal threat, as it always must. HUMAN SPACEFLIGHT: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (July 21, 2009) As you report, America's space agency, NASA, is in trouble in these difficult economic times, and human spaceflight is likely to be the first victim of sharp cuts in its program ("Over the Moon?" July 18, 2009). Fair enough. But you fail to mention the only reason why human spaceflight is of any lasting interest. Take away space colonization, and exploration of space is best left to machines. In addition, space colonization makes long-term sense only if it stretches beyond the solar system. This is the only way for the human species to survive past the sun's demise. Of course, space colonization is unimaginable without terraforming--large-scale engineering that secures adequate atmospheric and other planetary conditions for the human species' 33
habitation anywhere in space. Is this within the species' capabilities? Perhaps. But the state of our own planet is now such that climate change may lead to a point where terraforming will be needed on earth. Peter Ward thus argues in The Medea Hypothesis: Is Life on Earth Ultimately Self-Destructive? (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009), where he attempts to show that we cannot count with our planet's long-term habitability. Ensuring that earth continues being habitable would be such a costly feat of engineering that space colonization would remain practically unimaginable. Human spaceflight thus ought to be axed from NASA's program as unadulterated folly. A GREEN RANSOM: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (September 8, 2009) "In a rare fit of unity," you write sardonically, the African Union will come to the climate-change summit in Copenhagen in December with a demand for nearly seventy billion dollars a year from the richest countries to deal with the effects of global warming on the continent ("A Green Ransom," September 5, 2009). The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that Africa will be the continent worst hit by higher temperatures. "Africa's demand is high," you conclude your article in a conciliatory tone, "but there is a widespread agreement that the continent should get help to adopt to climate change." Indeed. All other parts of the world so affected should get compensated in the same fashion, as well. But you eschew two good reasons for this. To begin with, there is no more time to turn things around concerning climate change. Only direct help, no matter how administered, can avoid mayhem. Perhaps even more important, lack of timely help will result in massive movement of those worst hit. A couple of billion people on the move would quickly squash all sardonic remarks. COPENHAGEN, COPENHAGEN: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (September 22, 2009) "As December's Copenhagen summit on climate change draws near," you write, "poor countries are expressing alarm at the slow pace of negotiations to replace the Kyoto protocol" ("A Bad Climate for Development," September 19, 2009). And alarmed they should certainly be, for climate change does far more damage to them than to rich countries. Agriculture and tourism, the poor countries' main economic activities, suffer from climate change much more than services and manufacturing, for instance. The number of people affected by climate-related disasters in poor countries is not only growing, but it is growing at an increasing rate. Moreover, this is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. Poor countries thus want large amounts of financial aid from rich countries, and they will 34
eventually get it one way or another. For climate change is gathering pace, too. It is surprising scientists ever anew, and it is ever less likely that anything can be done about it any longer. No matter what is ultimately agreed in Copenhagen, climate-related disasters will demand huge amounts of direct aid when and where they strike. And they will strike increasingly often. Refugee camps will grow into cities requiring regular supply of water, food, and medicaments. Chances are that most of the poor countries will be on a permanent dole in a decade or two. By and by, the only way to ensure that the affected population does not start to move toward rich countries will be, as it were, military aid. EMISSION TARGETS WORTH HAVING: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (September 28, 2009) In your leader on the upcoming Copenhagen summit on climate change, you contrast carbon-dioxide emission targets that are internationally binding with targets that are binding only nationally, but have the force of domestic law ("Avoiding a Crash at Copenhagen," September 26, 2009). The Kyoto protocol relies on the former, while the alternative approach, recently proposed by Australia, would rely on the latter. Most important, such an approach would be much more palatable to American legislators, who eschew international treaties of any kind. As witnessed by the fact that global carbon-dioxide emissions have grown by twenty-five percent since 1997, when the Kyoto protocol was adopted, the international approach is not working very well, if at all. As you put it, Kyoto has no teeth. A variant of the Australian proposal would be to engage regional clubs, such as the European Union or the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, in the promotion and supervision of national legislation of member states concerning emission targets. While providing regional perspectives, so vital in connection with climate change, this would give such clubs more teeth, as well. Collaboration and competition between regional clubs would eventually lead to an agreement on emission targets that would be both global and binding. AS CLIMATE KEEPS CHANGING (October 2, 2009) It is good to occasionally review the world order in the broadest of terms. Once climate changed, hunters and gatherers were replaced by herders. When the herders settled, peasantry was formed. Soon afterwards, landed gentry came into place. At some point bourgeoisie appeared, followed by industrial workers. Landed gentry battled with both peasantry and bourgeoisie. Soon afterwards, landed gentry disappeared, followed by the peasantry. Bourgeoisie battled with industrial workers. Now that the world order has started falling apart on account of climate change, peasantry will reappear, to be followed by landed gentry. Landed gentry will battle with peasantry and 35
bourgeoisie. Industrial workers will disappear, followed by bourgeoisie. Once climate change takes extreme forms, herders will reappear. Landed gentry and peasantry will disappear. In the end, herders will be replaced by hunters and gatherers, thus closing the cycle. So much is abundantly clear. Now, where will you be as climate keeps changing? Mind you, this time around the world order will be changing at a clip. CLIMATE-INDUCED WARS: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (October 11, 2009) As you report, the research of Richard Tol of the Economic and Social Research Institute in Dublin and Sebastian Wagner of GKSS, a research institute near Hamburg, "throws into question the assumption that rising temperatures and violence go hand in had" ("Cool Heads or Heated Conflicts?" October 10, 2009). The research concerns the correlation between low temperatures and conflict in Europe over the last millennium. It shows that in the more remote past the effects of cold weather on harvests led to supply shortages, and that these indeed increased the likelihood of conflict over food, but that the correlation vanishes in the mid-Eighteen century, when the industrial revolution began. Systematic plant breeding, the introduction of new crops, and new forms of crop rotation, as well as improvement of irrigation and transport of food began in the same period. The lesson, you argue, is that the way to minimize the likelihood of climate-induced conflict in the future is to continue the process of crop improvement. As an example, you offer genetic engineering leading to heat- and droughttolerant varieties. If farmers are made aware of these varieties and encouraged to use them, and if free trade and non-agricultural development are promoted, "people will have no cause to fight, and tyrants no excuse to stir them up." Splendid. Assuming that climate change will not affect our ability to accomplish all you propose, climate-induced wars can surely be averted. But the old assumption that rising temperatures and violence go hand in hand will spring back to life as soon as your assumption comes into question. This is what the research by Tol and Wagner actually shows. SHAMING OF LAGGARDS: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (October 19, 2009) As you put it in your leader on how best to cut carbon-dioxide emissions, "international agreements are helpful only in so far as they encourage individual countries to control their own emissions" ("Bad Policy Will Boil the Planet," October 17, 2009). Assuming that domestic policies are up to scratch, everything ultimately depends on how governments will implement them. International agreements are useful in several ways you do not mention, though. Most important, they can focus attention on countries whose emissions are most 36
troubling for the planet: America from burning oil, China from burning coal, Brazil from deforestation, and so on. In addition, they can focus attention on domestic policies that are most likely to lead to desired results. Your article about energy and climate change in Britain clearly shows that markets are not up to scratch in this regard ("Questioning the Invisible Hand"). But the last paragraph of this article points out yet another useful rфle for international agreements: shaming of laggards in domestic policies controlling carbon emissions or in their implementation. Perhaps this is the best we can expect from the December meeting on climate change in Copenhagen. And shaming is a potent tool, no doubt. FALLING FERTILITY: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (November 3, 2009) As you argue in your main leader and briefing on the surprising fall in the fertility rate in less developed countries, the new demographic trend is likely to bring big benefits ("Falling Fertility" and "Go Forth and Multiply a Lot Less," October 31, 2009). Although the world population is still growing, it is growing at an ever-slower rate. This was expected, but the fall in the fertility rate is so pronounced that it explains your enthusiasm. In your words, "it carries a lesson about how to solve the problems of climate change." As population growth is one of the main drivers of climate change, this is indeed the case. But it is not clear what this "lesson" of yours actually entails. That less people means less climate change? Or that problems tend to solve themselves? Mind you, many processes associated with climate change, such as the melting of polar ice or the decline in biodiversity, cannot be stopped or reversed even if the world's population stops growing today. To wit, you are offering false hope on climate change. There will be no surprises in solving its problems. RELIGION AND CLIMATE CHANGE: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (November 8, 2009) Taken together, your two articles in the International Section, both of which concern climate change in global terms, are a most interesting read ("(Not Yet) Marching as to War" and "Sounding the Trumpet," November 7, 2009). The first is about public opinion, and the second is about religion. Public opinion is notoriously fickle, and so are politicians who go by it. No matter how cleverly issues of climate change are formulated, they will go in and out of fashion with changing political and economic circumstances. Religious organizations are accustomed to dealing with all this in terms acceptable to most people. And in the long run. The connection between faith and greenery is thus likely to grow stronger with growing environmental problems--floods, droughts, fires, and storms. And churches, temples, and mosques will in time become the main 37
sources of palpable information about climate change. After all, few humans are available to a rational argument of any kind. God's wrath resonates with all and sundry, though. WHEN GREEN ISSUES ARE CONCERNED (November 10, 2009) I am very pessimistic about the development of Motovun, Istria, and Croatia as a whole, but I still cannot let things slide. And keep sliding. Green issues will become ever more important as years go by, and I must return in earnest to my political activities involving the Motovun branch of Green Party ­ Green Alternative, the oldest among political parties concerned with greenery on the peninsula. The branch is already in place, and we have already made some headway in the recent local elections, but much more remains to be done. It is time to revisit our program in the context of the most important changes in climate that appear to be in store. Motovun and its surroundings will be getting dryer. Water will become ever scarcer. And storms will grow both in number and severity. All of this will affect not only agriculture, but also tourism. Vineyards, olive groves, and orchards can be supplied with additional water, albeit at a growing cost, and costly nets can be erected to shield them from hailstones, but tourists will in time start avoiding the scorched south. They will be heading north, where the weather will become ever more appealing. All this must be reflected in our program if it is to be of any palpable help. The main problem we face is that of reaching those who are most likely to be affected by climate change. Few of them get around. Even fewer of them read anything of any complexity. By the time they start experiencing serious problems, it will be too late to address any of them adequately. The way things look at present, the best way to reach them is through the church. This I discussed with the parish priest earlier this year ("The Church to the Rescue," April 27, 2009). He was most receptive to what I had to say, as well. He left Motovun a few months ago, though, and I have not yet been able to talk to the new priest about our program. But I am convinced the church is the best way to go, at least when green issues are concerned. THE SIMPLEST OF MORALS (November 24, 2009) My last words come from a comment made by an American student at a seminar during my days as graduate student at Oxford. After a paper discussing schisms within the church in the fifth and sixth centuries, this rather urbane individual affected a rural accent to sum the debate up: "You know," he said, "people are kinda stoopid." 38
From Adrian Goldsworthy's The Fall of the West: The Slow Death of the Roman Superpower, London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2009, p. 423. YUCCA'S BLUNDER (November 26, 2009) Amazingly, the yucca on my terrace is in bloom once again. This summer it bloomed twice already. The only difference is that there are few flying insects around at this time of year. Although the weather is balmy for the season, which explains yucca's blunder, most of the insects have already gone to meet their maker. Anyhow, plants and animals are as confused about climate change as humans are. Whenever I come up with a story like this one in conversation, people just shrug their shoulders without a word. And Doris Day comes to mind out of the blue: "Whatever will be, will be..." YES, SCIENTISTS ARE HUMAN: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (November 30, 2009) Much of the hoopla surrounding the illicit publication of a batch of electronic-mail documents stolen from the servers of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in England boggles the mind. Your leader and the associated article do point out that the documents are far from a proof of conspiracy among those who argue that the earth's climate is changing, or that it is changing because of human activity, but you still poke fun at scientist for their slip-ups in informal communication ("A Heated Debate" and "Mail-Strom," November 28, 2009). Yes, scientists are human. A raucous minority remains in the wake of nearly every scientific debate, which is resolved only by the passage of time. And careers. But scientists still offer the best model of how to resolve disputes by sticking to the evidence and theories that best explain it. Most important in this case, they offer the only chance we have for understanding climate change and what to do about it. A few flippant remarks should be granted even scientists, especially when they are bantering in private. And that is all that needs to be said about this sorry tale. A SOUR FORETASTE: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (December 4, 2009) Your main leader on the upcoming climate-change meeting in Copenhagen opens with a sour foretaste of the event: "There will be oceans of planet-saving rhetoric, countless photographs of politicians wearing dark suits and serious faces, and, if things go according to plan, an agreement to cut emissions to avert a rise in temperature that might anyway have turned out to be marginal and self-correcting" ("Stopping Climate Change," December 5, 2009). Judging from the 39
last clause, the release of those electronic-mail documents stolen from the University of East Anglia a short while ago has come just in time for the meeting. Now the skeptics are triumphant. The general public is befuddled. And the politicians will thus do their best to sign as little as possible. Copenhagen is indeed most likely to be remembered for nothing more than oceans of planet-saving rhetoric and countless photographs of politicians wearing dark suits and serious faces. And you, too, will have contributed in a small way to the meeting's debacle. GETTING WARMER AND WARMER: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (December 9, 2009) It is good to learn in the opening paragraphs of your special report on climate change that your newspaper "believes that, as an insurance policy against a catastrophe that may never happen, the world needs to adjust its behavior to try to avert that threat" ("Getting Warmer," December 5, 2009). Nicely put. Although some scientists think that the planet is already on an irreversible course to fatal warming, we cannot just sit and wait. As you show, scientists broadly agree that greenhouse gas emissions must be curbed. Also, economists broadly agree that emissions can be curbed without debilitating the world economy. However, you point out that the problem is essentially political in nature. Being a prisoner's dilemma, a free-rider problem, and the tragedy of the commons "all rolled into one," you consider it "the hardest political problem the world has ever had to deal with." In this context, your concluding paragraph offers the clincher: "Everything depends, in the end, on the voters and their political leaders." Nicely put, again. Returning to your insurance policy, our only sober hope is that the catastrophe will never happen. Or have I missed something? HOW NOT TO TACKLE CLIMATE CHANGE: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (December 16, 2009) The Copenhagen climate talks are a pitiful sight. Your account of the first week points at many divisions that bode ill, especially when money is concerned ("Filthy Lucre Fouls the Air," December 12, 2009). Other accounts of the first days of the second week are equally depressing, mainly in connection with greenhouse emission targets. Divisions seem to be multiplying by the day. Poor against rich, east against west, today against tomorrow, south against north, and so forth. A few days before the end of the talks, it is painfully clear that not much will come out of them. Or ever could. Of course, the many divisions will be decorously patched up in time for the concluding session, as well as that final shot of all the grinning participants, but one can already feel Copenhagen's sour aftertaste. At one's most optimistic, one can only hope that all concerned have learned how not 40
to tackle climate change. Even this is quite a dream at this pathetic juncture. MURADOR (December 24, 2009) Yesterday I heard that a wall came down close to Iseo Serafin's house. There was much rain during the previous night. This morning I went to see the damage, and I was lucky to bump into Iseo himself. In his mid-eighties, he is walking with a cane since a few years ago. "Only a section of the wall came down," he shook his head and pointed at a pile of stone and earth with his cane, "but much more will come down soon." The main problem is that rainwater now finds its own way down as all the old canals are clogged up. Climate change has brought more rain in less time, too. "When I came here sixty-five years ago," he continued, "there was a man who repaired these walls as soon as a single stone would get out of its proper place." In the local variant of the Venetian dialect, he was called murador from muro or "wall." Back then, they did not wait for a wall to come down. "And the canals were cleaned every year or so...," Iseo added with a sad smile. Sixtyfive years later, we can only dream of our own murador, who would spend his days fixing problems before they turn nasty. We shook hands earnestly, and I hurried home up the hill. Progress, what progress? PLANET B: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (January 4, 2010) It is amusing to read your leader on the "underwhelming" Copenhagen accord ("Planet B," January 2, 2010). Starting from the title, it seems to be in a teasing mood when it proposes that the accord "is not the disaster that it at first appears." Your main argument is that climate change is "too big a problem to be swallowed in a single bite." Therefore, you argue for a piecemeal approach ushered by the accord, although you do admit that "there are risks to slicing up the problem into smaller pieces." And that is about all you have to offer. Of course, humans are traditionally not capable of much more besides haggling over titbits. The situation the species faces at this juncture requires a special effort, though, for climate change cannot be sliced up into smaller pieces. For the first time in the last hundred-thousand years or so, the problem requires a holistic approach. And the only meaningful way to get there is through science--in international endeavor par excellence. Disappointingly, Copenhagen has failed to point the way toward significantly increased and improved funding of scientific research into climate change on Planet A, the only one available for generations to come, if not forever. 41
HUMAN EXPANSION INTO SPACE: A LETTER TO THE TECHNOLOGY REVIEW (January 30, 2010) Given the challenges of climate change in the medium run and the new ice age in the long run, one cannot but agree with the conclusion of the Augustine Committee, a panel chartered by the White House and chaired by former Lockheed Martin CEO, Norman Augustine, that "the ultimate goal of human exploration is to chart a path for human expansion into the solar system." But NASA seems to be lost in space at present. Even keeping the International Space Station (ISS) in orbit beyond 2015 is now in question. As Jeff Foust put it, if people are going to live and work in space, ISS is the ideal laboratory to test technology and human performance under long-term conditions ("The Future of Human Spaceflight," January-February 2010). In addition, ISS may in time serve as a staging station for bases in inner solar system--the moon, Mars, and the asteroid belt. In short, it is clear that ISS must not be "deorbited" for lack of funds soon after its completion in 2011. There is an urgent need for the formation of an international space agency, which would pool resources of all space nations toward the fundamental goal of human expansion into space. That goal must not be put in question. Ever. AFTER COPENHAGEN (February 10, 2010) Snow, snow, snow. It has been snowing for days already. And it is supposed to continue snowing through the weekend. But nobody in Zagreb is complaining. Even though people are having all sorts of trouble dealing with the mounting piles of snow, everybody is kind of relieved on its account. "At long last," people chuckle whenever snow comes up in polite conversation, "we have a real winter!" Which only goes to show that climate change is a real worry. The way things have gotten after Copenhagen, the worry will soon be recognizable only by proxy, such as telltale rejoicing at "normal" weather. Otherwise, climate change will be pushed under the rug. And out of mind. No brains, only a bunch of tangled emotions. Human, all too human! IN PRAISE OF WACKY IDEAS: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (February 15, 2010) You poke fun at a thousand "wacky ideas" to fight climate change, like those just rewarded by the Low Carbon Community Challenge funded by the Department of Energy and Climate Change in Britain, but it is precisely the small communities dedicated to planting nut trees and salvaging old frying fat to make biodiesel that may make the biggest difference in the long run ("Kicking Carbon," February 13, 2010). No matter how wacky, such ideas will change people's personal and social habits, and it is precisely the pernicious habits of our civilization that underlie climate change. Joan Ruddock, the British minister for 42
energy and climate change, is right to use such initiatives to better understand "what is and isn't working on the ground." After all, the government is offering next to nothing for this grass-root experiment, as only twenty-two grants of up to half-a-million pounds sterling were disbursed this time around. The return on government's puny investment cannot but grow and grow over the years. AMERICA IN 2050: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (February 22, 2010) Your review of Joel Kotkin's The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050 (London: Penguin, 2010) follows him in assuming that the next forty years will be very much like the last forty ("Cast of Millions," February 20, 2010). A California-based urbanologist, he uses current demographic trends to paint a cheerful canvass of rapid urban development in the American interior. Booming but inexpensive cities like Phoenix, Houston, Dallas, and Atlanta already attract the world's immigrants from developing countries, half of whom head for America rather than xenophobic Europe or Japan. America's high birth rate only adds to the cheer. According to him, this is how things will stay, too. What if rapid climate change leads to growing conflict in developing countries, though? Willy-nilly, Europe will accept a growing proportion of destitute immigrants on account of its porous borders and poor coordination, whereas America is likely to be much more successful in throttling immigration, especially along the Mexican border. Under the circumstances, the high birth rate will in time also suffer. Is this an outlandish scenario? In spite of the current scepticism about climate change, scientific evidence in its support is still overwhelming. Thus, current demographic trends are an increasingly poor guide for the future. CLIMATE CHANGE FOREVER: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (March 24, 2010) Comprehensive and carefully worded, your briefing on the science of climate change is a joy to read ("The Clouds of Unknowing," March 20, 2010). And your main argument is cogent enough: notwithstanding all the uncertainties of climate science, something ought to be done about climate change as a sensible precaution against its possible effects. Which reminds me of my first encounter with climate science, when the upcoming ice age was the main concern, and when current global warming was perceived as an interim and shortlived blip, natural or otherwise. Back then, which was less than a couple of decades ago, it was clear that the climate rollercoaster would not be kind to the human species. And it was clear that keeping the climate within a range considered comfortable today would not be possible for long. One way or another, the bulk of the species was doomed and that was simply that. But the vicious controversy started 43
as soon as it was suggested that it was the humans themselves who were behind climate change. Self-centered as the species has been from its first bungling steps, it could not live with the verdict. As if it really mattered in the long run. A SINGLE AND PUNY BRANCH (April 9, 2010) This afternoon I sat at the hotel terrace for the first time this season. As always, it was a joy in spite of the shifty weather. But it did not take me long to spot the southernmost chestnut tree on the terrace: since last season, it has been reduced to a single and puny branch. A pitiful sight. As I predicted a few seasons back, it will be the first of seven chestnut trees to be sacrificed to stupidity. With proper care, including regular watering, it could have survived rapid climate change. The other chestnut trees will follow its fate one after another. Under the circumstances, I would give the northernmost tree at most ten more years. The municipal office in Motovun, under whose care the hapless trees happen to be, is preoccupied with other and more pressing matters. Given the economic crisis, which is not likely to go away as if by magic, the useless office itself will follow the first few trees at a clip. THE END OF KYOTO: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (June 23, 2010) Your report on the recent Bonn meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is even more dispiriting than the one following the disastrous Copenhagen meeting last December ("Son of Copenhagen," June 19, 2010). The prospects for the next session in Bonn this August are rather grim. The higher-level discussions in Cancun, Mexico, this December are likely to fare even worse. Climate talks are flailing. The way things look at present, there will be no viable sequel to the Kyoto protocol. So be it, though. The best one can offer right now is to propose to the United Nations to abandon any further negotiations concerning climate change. Dealing with its consequences ultimately devolves to national governments. Any pretension of international cooperation in this area only postpones serious consideration of climate change at national level. If problems spill across national borders, then they should be addressed by surrounding nations. And that is that. International cooperation is for the birds, anyhow. CLIMATEGATE: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (July 13, 2010) Eight months after so-called Climategate, the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been exonerated by several inquiries. Climate change is real. The case for action to deal 44
with it is very real, indeed. Although you accept all this in your leader, you still insist that IPCC needs reform ("Flawed Scientists," July 10, 2010). The scientists should rely on "mutual reinforcement rather than open debate" as well as on "authority rather than argument." Rajendra Pachauri, the IPCC chair who has "allowed himself to become a part of the problem," should be replaced. And so on, and so forth. Actually, all the IPCC needs to do at this juncture is to hire a good publicrelations officer who understands what scientists do and how easily they can be misinterpreted by politicians and the general public. This would be of great help to the scientists themselves, who cannot make much headway without open debate and argument, often rather unceremonious. RECEIVED WISDOM: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (July 13, 2010) "Does a warming world really mean that more conflict is inevitable?" you ask somewhat facetiously ("Climate Wars," July 10, 2010). And then you proceed to pooh-pooh this bit of "received wisdom." Indeed, global conflict in view of climate change is not easy to fathom. Or to appreciate. The best example is the fall of Rome. As you say, it started with droughts in the Central Asian steppe, which led to westward migration on a massive scale. But the "barbarian" invasions that followed were much less barbarian than commonly believed. Especially after Hollywood. After all, the fall of Rome was also the rise of Europe as we know it. People on the move are still people-- both destructive and creative. This is why current attempts to come to grips with conflicts to come are bound to end up one-sided. And wrong. For every end is also a beginning. IT'S THE FREQUENCY, STUPID: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (August 18, 2010) "As Russia burns to a crisp," you open your article about the recent ravages of unusual weather in Europe and Asia, "thousands of kilometers to the south-west torrential storms visit unprecedented flooding on Pakistan" ("Part of the Main," August 14, 2010). Both of these events can be attributed to the same pattern of atmospheric circulation, you go on to explain. In particular, the cause is in the gridlock in the upper atmosphere, which has trapped the weather underneath. This pattern might be expected once every four-hundred years, but the warming trend in the last fifty years suggests that it may actually be expected as often as once in a century. As you point out in the concluding paragraph, such patterns cannot be directly attributed to climate change, but the increasing trend of their occurrence surely can. And this is what simpletons around the globe systematically fail to understand when they question climate change. It's the frequency, stupid! 45
A GOVERNANCE REVOLUTION: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (September 6, 2010) It is good to learn that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, set up in 1988, is about to undergo a "governance revolution" in accountability and transparency, which has affected many a charitable, educational, and other organization already, but which has largely bypassed the IPCC ("Must Try Harder," September 4, 2010). This will be done on recommendation of a committee chaired by Harold Shapiro, a former president of Princeton, which was requested by the UN's secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, and the chairman of the IPCC, Rajendra Pachauri. One of the Shapiro committee's recommendations is the replacement of Pachauri, who started chairing the IPCC in 2002, and who is well into his second six-year stint that is supposed to run through 2014. Of course, all this is in response to the "climategate" electronic mails from the University of East Anglia that eventually led to the debilitating criticism of the last IPCC report and the demise of Copenhagen negotiations to replace the Kyoto protocol. I am sure that the IPCC will benefit from a governance revolution, but I also hope that the Shapiro committee has provided the UN with some recommendations on the best way for the IPCC to field future hostile attacks that have little or nothing to do with its governance. For there are powerful vested interests behind the very doubt in climate change, and they specialize in manipulating public opinion. GOLF PLAYED FROM BOATS (September 19, 2010) Amazingly, there is not a cloud in the sky right now. And it is almost evening. There has been not a cloud in the sky ever since noon, either. Everyone in sight seems dazzled. Nay, bamboozled. The black skies of yesterday have vanished like a nightmare. In fact, it is difficult to imagine them right now. Impossible even. Not only are the sandals back in fashion, but the shorts are not entirely out of consideration, either. And how about tomorrow? Apparently, we are in for a good spell. How long will it last? According to the weather forecasts everyone talks about, the good spell could stretch for a week or so. Soon enough, the Mirna valley will return to normal. The river will shrink to its course. And the muddy puddles around it will vanish for good. I only wonder about all the funny remarks concerning golf played from boats. As well as floating balls and other gear to match. When will they vanish? Addendum I (September 20, 2010) It is good to have an electronic camera. It keeps a straight record not only of the scenes photographed, but also of the dates when they have been captured. I just went through the vast collection of pictures I have taken ever since my move to Motovun in 2003. To my surprise, the first scenes of flooding in the Mirna valley were taken in May 46
2006. All the other pictures of this sort, minus the last few ones, were taken in February 2007, 2008, and 2009. This is the first time that flooding takes place in September. It is quite possible that I missed a few such events, but it is not very likely. At any rate, the funny remarks about golf played from boats started only a few years back. But they have stayed with us through thick and thin. It is perfectly clear by now that the valley under the Motovun hill is not meant for golf. Not at all. If the historic record is to be trusted, it has been flooding since antiquity. Addendum II (December 24, 2010) The Mirna is flooding again. As several of my photographs taken this morning will testify, there has never been as much water in the fields on both sides of the river. The make-believe golf course has never been flooded this badly, and it sprouted out of nowhere after I arrived in Motovun. In addition, it is late December, when high waters must have been rare in the past. Golf played from boats is the only solution to this twist of climate change, though. And this would make the hilltown famous the world over. GLBLWRMR (September 30, 2010) Thus a vanity license plate from Virginia, where some ten percent of cars have such license plates due to a very low charge for the privilege, according to an American microeconomics textbook I happened to leaf through today. I laughed out loud when I stumbled upon it, too. Would that every license plate around the globe bore these eight capital letters. And in gold. At least we would all know where we actually stood in terms of global warming. Blaming anyone else for our environmental troubles is at the root of the problem. GEOENGINEERING, TERRAFORMING: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (November 9, 2010) Following the recent Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya, Japan, you dedicate your Science nd Technology Section entire to geoengineering ("Lift-Off," November 6, 2010). As you explain, this involves fixing the problem of man-made climate change through all sorts of ideas: "smogging up the air to reflect more sunlight back into space, sucking in excess carbon dioxide using plants or chemistry, and locking up the glaciers of the world's ice caps so that they cannot fall into the ocean and cause sea levels to rise." Many ideas, indeed. Most of which remind me of terraforming of so many years ago, except that those ideas had to do with Mars and other planets far away from the solar system where life could possibly prosper after some clever engineering. There is another difference, too, for terraforming could be tried without any worries about who benefits. Or who decides. Or 47
who faces the risk. Lodged safely somewhere between science and science fiction, those ideas were a child's play. Geoengineering is something entirely different, though. Making the earth feel like earth once again after all the ravages of mankind raises too many hairy questions. Including those of geoengineering itself. ONCE A FLOODPLAIN... (November 10, 2010) It has been raining a lot the last few days, but the weather has changed the last few hours. The rain has stopped. Every now and then, the sun comes out. And it is a joy to be outside until clouds cover the sky once again. "This was a floodplain since antiquity," I remind myself as I am looking at the Mirna valley from my terrace during one of the sunny spells. A galaxy of muddy pools of all shapes and sizes glistens on both sides of the swollen river. "And it should be made into a floodplain once again," I remind myself of all the ecological arguments against regulation of the kind the valley below has witnessed in the last forty years or so. "But not to worry," I remind myself of relentless climate change, "all this will be a floodplain once again even if nothing is done about it." The water has its own way of regulating itself, no doubt. "Wait a minute," it crosses my mind quite unexpectedly, "this is still a floodplain!" As if in appreciation of my recognition, the muddy pools down below twinkle in light breeze. And I sigh happily: "Once a floodplain..." ADAPTATION FOR BEGINNERS: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (November 30, 2010) I am with you in your brave call for adaptation to climate change, which you set out in your main leader and a four-page briefing ("How to Live with Climate Change" and "Facing the Consequences," November 27, 2010). Global action will not stop climate change. "Those who can adapt will do so mostly through private decisions: moving house, say, or planting different crops." I am with you up to this point, but no further. For I do not share your belief that governments can offer much by way of adaptation, either. Even defence, which you fail to mention anywhere although you do suggest the possibility of displaced peoples on the move, is in question when going gets really tough. Returning to private decisions, it is good to start with consuming, eating, traveling, working, and reproducing less. It is good to continue with survival skills, such as water discovery, capture, purification, and storage; shelter building; wild food identification and discovery, preparation, and cooking; building friendship and community spirit; and basic first aid. Keith Farnish's Time's Up! An Uncivilized Solution to a Global Crisis (Foxhole, Dartington: Green Books, 2009) is an excellent guide to all of the above. And so is the Earth Blog (www.theearthblog.org), which he founded in 2006. To Farnish's survival skills I would only add 48
survival yoga, which can help people cope with hunger, heat or cold, disease, and fear. And all this is only adaptation for beginners, it goes without saying. CANCЪN, SCHMANCЪN: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (December 20, 2010) To everyone's relief, Cancъn went smoothly. The histrionics of Copenhagen now seem like ancient history. And this is the gist of your leader about the recent meeting on climate-change mitigation, as well ("A Sort of Progress," December 18). So what, though? "It would be wonderful to solve climate change with a global deal," you open your last paragraph, "but no such thing looks remotely achievable." Spot on. "Better to use the newly roadworthy process to achieve worthwhile goals--to pay for adaptation, save forests, build up renewable-energy capacity--than to crash it again into a wall." Exactly right. But the trouble is that the process got "roadworthy" purely by happenstance. The likelihood of getting it as smooth again is rather small, for adaptation will surely turn into a nasty business as the weather gets nastier. Solving it would be as wonderful as "solving" climate change with a global deal. Cancъn only got lucky to come right after Copenhagen. FLOODING, FLOODING: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (January 19, 2011) Two articles about flooding, one about Brazil and Colombia, and another about Australia, are separated by a few pages in your current issue ("Inundated" and "Raging Waters," January 15, 2011). They are also separated by two sections, one about the Americas and the other about Asia. But they are palpably connected by the most likely common cause, climate change, which is not even mentioned in passing. Flooding is hardly new, it goes without saying, but its increasing frequency is surely new. As well as newsworthy. A serious article about flooding must not skirt the most pertinent statistics. Pointing out the increasing frequency of natural disasters of this ilk is the simplest way to bring climate change to the attention of the reader. Especially if this is done regularly. Unfailingly. Doggedly. And this is the least one would expect from a mighty newspaper such as yours. "SUSTAINABILITY" (February 21, 2011) As I browse through the current issue of The Economist, I spot a whole-page ad for the Global Sustainability Forum. To my surprise, I start reading it, too. In late March, the forum will allegedly bring together the greatest leaders from around the world to discus the economic, environmental, and social development for the Amazon. 49
And the planet, of course. Among the speakers in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon will be Bill Clinton, Richard Branson, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Among the sponsors of the upcoming forum are many great companies, such as Coca Cola, Nokia, and The Economist. Now, the very notion of sustainability has been suspect for more than a decade already, for it has been abused by all and sundry, but it has reached new depths as of late. As witnessed by the colorful ad in the mighty newspaper, of course. From now on, I will shun the word "sustainability" like the plague. THE MAIN PROBLEM WITH GEOENGINEERING: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (February 23, 2011) Let me begin by congratulating you on your ongoing effort to bring climate change closer to your readers. In your current issue, you dedicate a leader and the entire Science and Technology Section to this topic ("Piecemeal Possibilities" and "Climate Change in Black and White," February 19, 2011). As it transpires, pollution is not exactly a blessing for those who have to live with it, but it also cools the planet. In particular, sulphur given off by coal-fired power stations is very good at forming reflecting aerosols that provide a cooling effect. Now and then, volcanoes do the same. Paul Crutzen, a Dutch climate scientist who was one of the first to theorize about "nuclear winter," which won him a Nobel prize, is thus proposing that sulphur be put into the atmosphere by means of geoengineering. Now, this brings us to the crux of climate change: how are we to govern our response? Although the issue of governance was not at the focus of your article, perhaps it ought to be. Three-page articles about science are not likely to win you many readers, and especially mighty ones, but the discussion of our response to climate change most likely will. And the main problem with geoengineering is that it is palpably about the whole world rather than a few countries, no matter how rich and powerful they may be. This is where science, engineering, and politics will have to meet. Worldwide, as well. How is this to be achieved, though? And what are the odds of getting there? Such a discussion should guide the best of science and engineering, as well. COME TO MOTOVUN AND ENJOY THE MIDDLE AGES (May 2, 2011) Tourists, come to Motovun and enjoy life as it once used to be. Enjoy days without electricity. Or without water. This is how our ancestors used to live, and it can be great fun. Especially for those of you who have electricity and water all the time, and cannot even imagine life without them, this is a special experience worth the trip. Come to Motovun and enjoy the Middle Ages. For those of you with some imagination, come and enjoy life as it will be one fine day if it is indeed true that climate change will destroy our civilization. Enjoy the 50
first experiences of the fun that is to come. And it is all available in beautiful Motovun almost for free. Tourists, come and see how wonderful life can be without electricity or water. Or the World Wide Web, for that matter. TORNADOES, HURRICANES: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (May 9, 2011) As you report, more than three-hundred tornadoes recently hit seven southern states in America, and more than three-hundred people died, most of them in Alabama ("Out of the Whirlwind," May 7, 2011). Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, and Arkansas were hit quite badly, too. Nothing like this happened since 1925. Gregory Carbin, the warning-coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center, says the storms were of a once-in-a-century severity. "We know what happened is pretty rare," he claims reassuringly. Craig Fugate, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, says that comparing tornadoes to hurricanes is like "comparing apples to oranges." The connection between the two in terms of climate change is not even mentioned, though. Chances are that both tornadoes and hurricanes of increasing severity will become ever less rare. Storms of a once-in-a-century severity may soon hit the seven southern states much more often, and the connection between tornadoes and hurricanes will need serious rethinking. Sweeping climate change under the rug will not do for too long. Addendum (March 3, 2012) Alabama, Kentucky, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana... And more than thirty people dead in a couple of days. When I remember last year, I realize it must be about 2100 right now. Time flies, as Gregory Carbin and Craig Fugate are sure to argue at the moment. In fact, it flies at the speed of tornadoes and hurricanes, no less. WILTED GREENERY: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (May 11, 2011) "Whereas the political salience of greenery has wilted," you argue in your article about environmental politics in Britain, "the government's environmental policies are holding up" ("A Lighter Shade of Green," May 7, 2011). Put simply, the government is still doing what the voters have pushed out of their minds on account of the recession. Comforting, this. "The government knows that making too much of its environmentalism risks alienating squeezed voters," you warn. "The worry for greens is that the lack of political utility in their cause will ultimately prompt the government to water down environmental policy itself." But a good number of greens have given up all hope already. Even in the middle of the last decade, when environmentalists were in 51
their "political pomp," as you put it, it was clear to many of them that any sort of government action to protect the environment was too little, too late. By the end of the decade, the remaining hope has evaporated. Keith Farnish's Time's Up! (2009) sums up the hopelessness case pretty well: forget about politics and focus on what you can do yourself, for it is a matter of survival. POLYANTHROPONEMIA FOR BEGINNERS: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (May 15, 2011) As James Lovelock explains in his last book, The Vanishing Face of Gaia (2009), just as individuals sometimes suffer a disease called polycythaemia, an overpopulation of red blood cells, Gaia now suffers from polyanthroponemia, or human overpopulation. The many censuses recently compiled around the world show that the human population will reach seven billion this year, a bit earlier than expected, and demographic projections suggest that it will flatten to ten billion by 2100 ("... isn't Destiny, One Hopes," May 14, 2011). The figure is long known, and it must bring a smile to Lovelock's face. Demography is not destiny, for sure, but the earth's capacity to sustain the human population certainly is. Climate change will change things in the meanwhile. No matter what is done about it, it cannot be stopped. The number of humans will plummet to less than a billion. And the title of your article will come to haunt you. One can only hope that demography actually is destiny, that is. ONCE-IN-A-CENTURY NATURAL DISASTERS: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (May 25, 2011) Only a fortnight ago you reported more than three-hundred tornadoes that had ravaged several southern states in America as storms of a once-in-a-century severity ("Out of the Whirlwind," May 7, 2011). Now you report Mississippi floods that are ravaging many of the same states in the very same words ("Raging Southward," May 21, 2011). "And some of the states bailing out from once-in-a-century floods are still reeling from once-in-a-century tornadoes," you conclude your happy-go-lucky article. Looking backwards and ignoring climate change, you may well be right. After all, meteorologists do possess much reliable information about things past. But looking forward is an entirely different matter. Systematically ignoring climate change will not do for much longer. To wit, once-in-a-century natural disasters are best relegated to the past. 52
THE FUTURE OF MIGRATION: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (May 30, 2011) Your review of Ian Goldin, Geoffrey Cameron, and Meera Balarjan's Exceptional People: How Migration Shaped Our World and Will Define Our Future (Princeton, Connecticut: Princeton University Press, 2011) points out that migration is the most effective tool for reducing global poverty ("The Future of Mobility," May 28, 2011). Indeed, this has always been the case. As Europe and America age, they will need young workers from poor countries, thus helping both worlds. But it is surprising to read about one of the book's "insights" concerning global warming. In particular, the authors knock down "wild predictions" that climate change will create vast numbers of refugees by the mid-century. They foresee only floods as the problem, and they argue that most flood victims go home when the floods recede. What about droughts, though? And what about rising sea levels? Although it is difficult to pin down the exact number of refugees from such natural disasters, climate change is not likely to be weathered by minor dislocations. Which is why it is prudent to agree with the book's conclusion that migration will "define our future." It surely will. Perhaps even more than the authors envisage. GOD'S WRATH (June 10, 2011) The weather is weird. Not only in Zagreb, but also across the rest of Croatia, tropical heats are followed by tropical rains. Day after day. And it is not yet summer. People are getting tired and confused. And so am I, to tell the truth. What time of year is it? Where am I? How much more tiring and confusing will it get? Perhaps the only difference between me and most of the people that surround me in the capital of Croatia is that I have a pretty good hunch as to why the weather is so weird. As well as why it will get ever weirder. Year after year. But many people are still waiting for the proof of climate change. Is there such a thing, after all? Are we to blame for it? Or is the whole thing only an invention of crooked scientists? No matter how weird it gets, the weather is not enough for them by way of proof. Not by itself. For one can never tell a weird drought from a normal one, or a weird flood from a normal one. And few will be counting droughts and floods to compare the numbers with the historical record. The proof will hit them hard, like the proverbial ton of bricks, but then they will interpret it as something entirely different. Indeed, opposite. God's wrath, for instance. CHANGE OF CLIMATE: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (June 29, 2011) The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has just come out with a special report on renewable energy. It has been embroiled 53
in controversy from the very start. Most important, some of the climate experts involved in the preparation of the report have been accused of conflicts of interest. As you argue, IPCC should do its best to avoid such rows in the future ("A Climate of Conflict," June 25, 2011). Granted. But many of the governments involved in this endeavor must like the rows in their own right. They provide the breathing space so valuable in politics. However, the IPCC has been sidelined not only by politics, but also because a growing number of people around the world accepts that climate change is not a scientific hoax. The ubiquitous storms, floods, and droughts are persuasive enough. As are piling images of melting glaciers and vanishing forests. Put differently, reports produced by the IPCC, special or otherwise, will matter ever less to all and sundry. And governments will manipulate them to their own ends with or without conflicts of interest. A SPACE CADET'S LAMENT: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (July 4, 2011) The last mission of America's space shuttle is planned to launch in a few days. As you rightly say in your main leader, outer space is history ("The End of the Space Age," July 2, 2011). In future history books, you add, this year is likely to be remembered for the demise of space cadets' dream. Although you duly mark the fateful year, you do not spell out the repercussions of this catastrophe. Now we are facing deadly global warming. Soon we will face the beginning of the upcoming glaciation. Inter-glacial periods usually last about tenthousand years, and we are coming to the end of the one that propelled the human species into the limelight. Glaciation periods usually last about a hundred-thousand years. And that is precisely how long the species will have to wait for the next opportunity to colonize the outer space. In the meanwhile, the human population will dwindle to a small fraction of its size today. Space colonization might have provided a new flowering and eventual differentiation of our civilization. With significant sacrifices, it could have been mastered in the period of rapid growth and development following World War II. The opportunity has been missed. Rapid climate change makes it unimaginable in the near future. Our hope now rests with space cadets who will sprout a hundred-thousand years from now. FACING EXTINCTION: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (July 18, 2011) The Lowy Institute, a think-tank, has been asking Australians to say how quickly the country should respond to the threat of global warming. As you report, some forty percent currently think that action should be immediate, about as many think that action should be gradual, and nearly twenty percent think there should be no action 54
whatsoever ("An Expensive Gamble," July 16, 2011). Six years ago the percentages were quite different, though. Nearly seventy percent of Australians were for immediate action, around twenty-five percent for gradual action, and a bit more than five percent were for no action at all. Times have changed, indeed. The economic crisis has not helped a bit. If the doldrums persist, which is rather likely, those for immediate action and those for no action will exchange places in another six years or so. And global warming will be swept under the rug together with the Greens. Of course, Australia cannot be all that different in this regard than other developed countries in North America and Europe. The Greens are facing extinction. SOUTHERN STATES IN PERIL: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (July 27, 2011) You report that a severe drought has blanketed many of the southern states in America ("Bone-Dry," July 23, 2011). You add that the weather is getting worse from year to year. You point out that "meteorologists say it is impossible to explain fully how these things happen." But you also cite them as saying that "things will get worse before they get better." However, you do not mention that many of the affected states have recently been hit by an unusual number of tornadoes, and some by an unprecedented number of hurricanes, as well. What is worse, you do not mention even once that climate change is the most likely cause of the drought. And yet, it could explain the pernicious weather patterns pretty fully. Although such an explanation would offer little hope that things would get better in the foreseeable future, it would also eschew false promises. Indeed, it is time for the people from many of the southern states in peril to start thinking about relocating closer to the Canadian border. ON CLIMATE CHANGE AND WAR: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (August 31, 2011) The link between climate change and war seems to be clear enough, but sceptics will be shaken by the research conducted by Solomon Hsiang and his colleagues of Columbia University connecting El Niсo oscillations and internal conflict over the last six decades ("Seasons of Discontent," August 27, 2011). Niсos are movements of warm water across the equatorial Pacific that increase tropical temperatures and reduce rainfall around the tropical world. These oscillations influence food production, as well. The research shows a clear link between Niсos, which take place once or twice a decade, and internal conflict in ninety-three countries affected by the oscillations. Most of these countries are quite poor, which is why they cannot adapt to changes in climate. As you suggest, people in these countries adapt to climate only by fighting each other. It is clear that rising global temperatures increase the likelihood of both internal and external conflict across the globe, including the eighty-two countries not affected by Niсos. But 55
the remaining sceptics had better look into military contingency plans regarding climate change. And the American military is the best place to start. Global as it is, it cannot leave climate change to chance. DEPRESSION AND COLLECTIVE HUMAN INTELLIGENCE (September 12, 2011) Read about depression as a mental disorder, and there will be little worth reading on the subject. Feeling lifeless, empty, or apathetic is not exactly it. Feeling angry, aggressive, or restless is not it, either. Feeling helpless, hopeless, or worthless is a bit closer to the core of this mysterious condition, but something is still missing. Having a premonition of impending doom is neither here nor there, but it is getting still closer to what this mind-boggling "disorder" is all about. At any rate, the more you read, the less you understand depression. More and more people around the developed world succumb to depression, though. An ever-larger proportion of humans suffer from it. The numbers are staggering, indeed. According to some predictions, it will be the most serious disorder of our day and age. It affects all bodily functions, too. Taking suicide aside, it can kill in many different ways. And yet, it is commonly ascribed to this or that "cause" having to do with individual human beings. Or individual human bodies. The species is left out of the picture. To the best of my knowledge, it is never even mentioned. Depression has nothing whatsoever to do with it, or so we are led to believe. In my mind, depression has to do with collective human intelligence. As individuals, humans are not very bright. As a species, humans fair somewhat better. Collectively, they "understand" much more than they do as mere individuals, no matter how clever. And depression is a premonition of impending doom, indeed. People can feel it even when they cannot understand it. Not properly, at least. What with dramatic climate change and the glaciation period behind the corner, which may well last a hundred-thousand years, an ever-larger number of humans can feel that things are not going in their favor. Therefore, depression is a good thing. It is a warning not to procreate, for instance. Also, it is a warning not to engage in long-term projects involving major sacrifices. But why is this still a mystery is the only remaining mystery about depression. ROME IS BURNING (September 19, 2011) I have been dealing with world affairs for years, but nothing useful has ever come out of my concerns. Climate change is boring. Geopolitics is boring. Economic development is worse than boring. And everything that is exciting is out of my depth. What do I know about fashion? Or about entertainment, including art? Or about sport? All 56
these subjects are well beyond my reach. Rome is burning, and I had better accept the fact. It is time to abandon it to the merry flames. And to appreciate the growing warmth. As well as the splendor of the leaping fire. World affairs are for those who are lost in space and time, anyhow. The fools of yesteryear. THE PAST LONG ENOUGH (September 28, 2011) The past, and especially the long past, is still relevant today because civilization is nothing but a thin veneer on human behavior. Humans deviate from the norm only under special circumstances, which are largely irrelevant when the big picture is concerned. And it is always good to remember that the species as we know it goes back only around a hundred-thousand years, the span of a single glaciation. The fall of Rome is thus more relevant today than are its happier days, when it was rather unique in its splendor. By comparison with some other civilizations, there is nothing really special about Rome, though. However, its history has been recorded and revisited diligently enough. Besides, only a part of it has vanished in the meanwhile. Although the fall of Rome does not belong to the long past exactly, it is the past long enough to inform us, however imperfectly, about the fall of our own civilization. And fall it must. If nothing else, the upcoming glaciation is sure to take its toll. THE FAILURE OF SCIENCE (September 29, 2011) Once upon a time I trusted science in all things of importance. If scientists disagreed, their disagreement would be resolved in due time by other scientists. This was not a question of judgment, let alone of collective opinion, but a question of proof. That was once upon a time, though. The failure of science to persuade on questions of climate change has changed my own mind for good. At their best, scientists are inept with their arguments. At their worst, they cheat like fiends for as little as paltry academic promotions. In only a few years, they have managed to alienate not only me, a true believer, but almost everyone else. What is worst, the scientists involved in climate-change research have managed to devalue science in general. By and by, the scientific endeavor has dropped in the eyes of most people to the sorry level of fashion, entertainment, and art. Everything sort of goes. And this is where it is likely to remain indefinitely. The ground has been cleared for religion. And this is where there are people who know very well how to deal with disagreements. As well as proofs. There are plenty of them, too. For proof, wait but a few years. 57
INTELLECTUAL DREAMS NOTWITHSTANDING (October 18, 2011) Putting details aside, Marx was right when he foresaw that capitalism would destroy itself from within. The purer it gets, the faster it will fall apart. But he was wrong about what would follow capitalism. Even though socialism has been attempted in countries incapable of it on economic and cultural grounds, it still remains but an intellectual dream. The demise of capitalism will lead back to feudalism. Albeit in a new garb, the new feudalism will retain all the essential features of the old one. Considering climate change, another byproduct of capitalism unforeseen by Marx, the new feudalism will eventually turn toward slavery. In due time, hunting and gathering will be ushered by population collapse. As for the next attempt of the human species at civilization, roughly the same pattern of development can be expected. Capitalism will return at its zenith. The human brain is not capable of more advanced forms of social organization, intellectual dreams notwithstanding. The same pattern will be repeated as long as the human species survives, but its natural resources will be dwindling from one attempt to another. Capitalism will not be reachable more than a few times. Hunting and gathering will remain as the only form of social organization available till the species' eventual demise. THANKS TO COPENHAGEN: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (October 26, 2011) The world is warming, you report, and a "new analysis" of the temperature record leaves little room for doubters ("The Heat is On," October 22, 2011). The doubters are not likely to vanish because of the new analysis, though. Across much of the world, they can already feel the heat all by themselves. This time around, science has failed us pretty badly. The squabble that spoiled the Copenhagen meeting on climate change in 2009 will not be easily forgotten, either. If there are doubters nowadays, they focus on science rather than global warming. All the fine things you have to report on new scientific efforts to ascertain exactly by how much the temperature record has changed is becoming irrelevant to most. People are turning to their own lives and trying to figure out what to do as warming continues. Some will have to move. Others will have to fortify their abodes. And almost all will have to figure out how to do whatever they do under the changing circumstances. But few of them will look to science for advice, for they have had enough of scientific squabbles. Thanks to Copenhagen, of course. THE ASIAN LADYBUG (October 29, 2011) The invasion of ladybugs is perplexing many in Istria, and one of the leading newspapers on the peninsula has come up with an article about 58
the phenomenon today. Apparently, this is a species that comes from Asia, which is why it is widely known as the Asian ladybug. As of late, it has invaded both North America and Europe. In America it is also known as the Japanese ladybug, and in Britain as the Harlequin ladybug. Its Latin name is wonderful enough: Harmonia axyridis. It is usually orange with black spots, but it can also be black with orange spots. A native of Eastern Asia, it prepares for hibernation around this time of the year. It comes out of it as soon as the temperature rises in early spring. Most people think of it as a pest, because of its tendency to spend the winter indoors. It also has an unpleasant odor, and it leaves yellow stains when frightened. Besides, it has a tendency to bite humans. One way or another, this helps explain my sightings of the ladybug in February and October. However, the connection with climate change is still to be explained. The article in question does not even mention it, though. Why is the ladybug from Eastern Asia spreading to North America and Europe at this particular time? Chances are that both continents are getting considerably warmer to make the invasion possible. WHY WE ARE ALL GOING GREEN: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (November 13, 2011) As you report, an increasing number of businesses see profits in greenery ("Why Firms Go Green," November 12, 2011). It is enough to browse through your mighty newspaper to see a growing number of advertisements by businesses purporting to have gone green. But it is hard to agree with your rendering of the reasons for this trend, such as innovation and investment in new technology. Two things have happened since the flop of the United Nations climate summit in Copenhagen. On the demand side, climate change has become palpable enough for people to stop doubting it. Therefore, they have gone green as consumers. On the supply side, businesses have realized that greenery does not require much more than a few clever tricks, including abundant advertising, for it is nigh impossible to prove or disprove the green credentials of their products. Therefore, they are providing greenery at a clip. The effect of all this on climate change is impossible to gauge, but it is likely to be negligible one way or the other. And this is how things will stay, for science has failed to inform both the consumers and producers on the effects of their actions. This is left to climate change itself. THE ROAD TO NOWHERE: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (December 3, 2011) Imagine asking a Martian for the road to nowhere. It would probably go something like this: Rio de Janeiro, Kyoto, Bonn, Bali, Copenhagen, Cancъn, Durban, Qatar... Your leader and article on climate-change talks point at the same road ("The Sad Road from 59
Kyoto to Durban" and "Wilted Greenery," December 3, 2011). As you put it, correctly, the latest United Nations summit in Durban says a great deal about why the world is failing to tackle global warming. Next year's summit in Qatar is liable to be yet another case study in failure. And what is the reason for the collective inability of the human species to address the obvious problem facing the entire world? Well, the species is simply unable to tackle anything collectively, let alone long-term problems such as climate change. What is to be expected in the long run? More of the same, it goes without saying. Although it is patently obvious to all and sundry that something is badly amiss with the weather, the world cannot even imagine a global government capable of addressing the impending calamity. By the time the problem becomes intractable, laments will rise to high heaven. And that will be that. Until the next chance in at least a hundredthousand years following not only the end of global warming, but the upcoming glaciation, as well. SEASTEADING: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (December 4, 2011) Now that space colonization is squarely in the domain of science fiction, the dream has turned inward, toward the oceans. As you report in a three-page article in your Technology Quarterly Section, seasteading is the rage with the likes of Peter Thiel of the PayPal fame and the Seasteading Institute, a think-tank he finances together with many others ("Cities on the Ocean," December 3, 2011). Modern libertarians are after self-governing mini-states outside the territorial waters of extant countries. That is, twelve nautical miles or twentytwo kilometers away from the coast. You mention many technical difficulties with this idea, as well as a few legal ones. Namely, the sort of independence sought by the seasteading enthusiasts may well come against the world powers, and especially America. Thus you warn that seasteads may end up as wannabe sovereign states without the means to defend themselves against land-based governments. Precisely. But other, and much more immediate, dangers abound. Pirates had better be taken in consideration in the design of seasteads from the start. Self-government is unimaginable without self-defense. Happy-golucky designs, which grace your up-beat pages, would not last longer than a few years. In addition to clever fortifications, a small private army and a navy are a must nowadays. ADAPTATION IS THE ANSWER (December 16, 2011) As of late, The Economist has been running polls under the common title of "What the World Thinks." One of the current polls is about the most reasonable response to climate change. I decided to try my luck with it. "Should the world pay more attention to adapting to climate change than to efforts to mitigate it?" is the question. A good one, too. 60
The answers on offer range from "Not at All" to "Definitely." In the range of seven possible answers, "Neutral" is in the middle. The voting goes by country, and so I voted for Croatia. My answer was "Definitely," as mitigation has become nothing but a pipedream. To my surprise, this is the winning answer to the poll with thirty percent of responses at the moment. "Not at All" is far behind with only fifteen percent. Predictably, there is almost no-one in the middle, which commands no more than six percent of responses. In short, adaptation is the answer. Good luck to us all! Addendum (January 10, 2012) Today is the last day of the poll. Some nine-hundred people have voted. However, the results have not changed almost at all. "Definitely" still commands thirty percent of the vote, while "Not at All" has dropped to fourteen percent. As before, "Neutral" wins because of the bimodal distribution that characterizes the poll. Anyhow, adaptation is the answer for true. PAST DOMESTICATION (January 3, 2012) Animals are beautiful. I find even the crocodiles beautiful, let alone lizards and snakes. So, why are humans so ugly? Why are they so stunted, crooked, fat? They are animals, after all. The reason is domestication. Agriculture makes ugly. And so does industry. Even administration, the toil of the modern age, makes ugly, albeit in an unprecedented way. One look at the Americans tells it all. Office work, driving, and watching television make humans uglier than ever before. Am I complaining, though? Not at all. As far as I am concerned, human ugliness is interesting in its own way, just as is the ugliness of domesticated dogs and cats. But I am also thinking about the future. Not so distant future, either. Chances are that the collapse of civilization brought about by dramatic climate change will make humans wild again. As well as beautiful. It is quite likely that the few humans who survive the impending disaster will become beautiful quite fast. Even ten to twenty generations past domestication will do wonders. And humans will be as beautiful as wolves and deer once again. Hooray! To James Lovelock ON CATASTROPHES AND CLIMATE CHANGE (January 15, 2012) The Economist has come up with a leader and briefing on frequent environmental catastrophes and their economic cost ("The Rising Cost of Catastrophes" and "Counting the Cost of Calamities," January 14, 2012). The articles offer many a good argument about wealth 61
protection, but there is a pernicious thread that runs through both of them to the effect that the catastrophes are not due to climate change. "There is little evidence that big hurricanes come ashore more often than, say, a century ago," goes the leader. The briefing goes farther: "A recent study by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which represents the consensus among thousands of scientists, expressed little confidence in any link between climate change and the frequency of tropical cyclones." In short, those seeing the link are deluded. I very much doubt this brazen assessment. After much vociferous debate among scientists, the United Nations Panel appears to be cowed into a specious consensus, if that is what it actually is. More likely, those who disagree keep mum for fear of more vociferous debate, and worse. But there remains the need for explanation of a growing number of catastrophes around the globe, as well as their intensity. In the absence of an alternative explanation, the verdict is clear enough: climate change. The only mystery is why the mighty newspaper chooses to focus on wealth alone, sweeping the cause of catastrophes under the rug. THE DARK AGES TO FOLLOW (January 20, 2012) This morning I succumbed to yet another book. This time around it is Adrian Goldsworthy's How Rome Fell: Death of a Superpower.[11] This is the third book of his over the last few years, and the first two I enjoyed quite a bit. In the Introduction, he touches upon the key word in his subtitle. Namely, Rome is often associated with America, today's superpower. Americans themselves appear to be obsessed with Rome. He sees few parallels, though. As he argues, perhaps the only connection is in "human nature".[12] I very much agree with his assessment. My interest in Rome's demise has little to do with America as such. Rather, I am interested in the demise of our entire civilization in the context of climate change, beginning with global warming and ending with the inevitable ice age. This is where human nature will come to the fore once again, I am quite convinced. The Dark Ages to follow will be quite different the second time around, no doubt, but many parallels will still pertain. After all, I am interested in the future and only the future. Addendum (January 21, 2012) As it turns out, I have already read the book I bought yesterday morning. In fact, I bought in 2009. It is Adrian Goldsworthy's The Fall of the West: The Slow Death of the Roman Superpower, of course.[13] In the two editions, one British and another American, only the titles differ. Funny enough, I discovered my mistake only this morning, a full day too late. As I was reading the Epilogue, to which I fortunately hastened somewhat prematurely, the last line left me speechless, for it sounded very familiar. "You know," Goldsworthy quotes an American student from Oxford, "people are kinda 62
stoopid."[14] As I discovered a moment later, I long copied this line together with the story that frames it into my Residua ("The Simplest of Morals," November 24, 2009). Kinda stoopid? You betcha! "NO NEED TO PANIC ABOUT GLOBAL WARMING" (January 31, 2012) Thus sixteen concerned scientists of renown in The Wall Street Journal, of all places. They are addressing politicians around the world, who are often urged to do something or other about the global threat. The article is worth reading. Its even tone gives additional credence to the argument. In short, the threat of global warming is an invention of some scientists. It is time to stop panicking. More important, it is time to return to business as usual. The only trouble with the argument is that there is hardly any non-scientist who has not noticed that something weird is happening with the climate all around the planet. They are bound to conclude that science is for the birds. Poor birds, too. PREHISTORY, POSTHISTORY (February 14, 2012) Prehistory is the period of time before recorded history. Prehistoric events can be dated, but not on the basis of records kept at the time when they took place. Rather, they can be dated on the basis of models developed by natural and social sciences. Posthistory is the period of time after recorded history. Posthistoric events can be predicted on the basis of models developed by natural and social sciences, as well. Just as it took a certain amount of time for historic records to be developed, it will take a certain amount of time for historic records to fall into disuse. In broad terms, the historic period coincides with the current interglacial period, which is coming to an end. Like previous interglacial periods, it will end with a rapid drop of temperature on earth. Posthistory will thus arrive quite rapidly. Broadly speaking, it can be expected to follow social development leading up to the historic period, albeit in reverse. Prehistory is therefore a useful guide for posthistory. However, that guide will disappear with the end of the historic period. In other words, the best time for the study of posthistory is now. THE NEXT BOUT OF SNOW (February 18, 2012) Every day I check the website of the Hydro-Meteorological Institute of Croatia, which offers weather maps for the whole country. In addition to the current weather, there are forecasts for the next three days. Something curious has been happening lately. Three days ago, snow was forecast for tomorrow. It was expected across most parts of Croatia, as well. Two days ago, snow was forecast for the day after 63
tomorrow. And today it is forecast for three days from now. Again, it is expected across most parts of the country. In short, the next bout of snow is regularly postponed by exactly three days. It is easy to guess that the good meteorologists are pretty confused about the weather. The cold spell that brought us the real but short winter a while ago seems to be ebbing away much faster than expected. Put differently, it is not easy to forecast the weather when climate change is afoot. ON ZEN AND MARTIAL ARTS (February 26, 2012) I am fond of all the books by James Austin I have acquired so far. His approach to Zen Buddhism is entirely to my liking. There is one small exemption, though. I have long noticed that he offers not a thought to all the connections between Zen and martial arts. The samurai used it to master the sword. It was used to master the bow and arrow, as well. Unable and perhaps even unwilling to carry arms, Zen monks used it to master the walking stick as a deadly weapon. Of course, such connections go way back. Yoga was not an entirely peaceful pastime, either. The same holds for shamanism, which preceded both yoga and Zen by millennia. Curiously, even the most serious students of Zen, such as Austin, push all this under the rug. Even if the connections between Zen and martial arts are mainly about self-defense, they must be brought to light. Survival in the years to come will not be only about peaceful retreat from the tumult of life. WHITHER STATE CAPITALISM? (March 26, 2012) State capitalism is the rage at the moment. Interestingly, it is doing particularly well in countries that used to be socialist. China and Russia come first to mind, but there are many others. Although Russia is officially a capitalist country now, it retains many of the old features. And although China is still supposed to be a socialist country, it is a capitalist country in all but name. Whither state capitalism, though? My guess is that it is heading toward a new form of feudalism. State feudalism, to coin a term. Hereditary rulers like those of North Korea, ostensibly a socialist country, provide a useful pointer. But China and Russia are countries to watch for emerging feudalist features. Hereditary wealth is already in place in China. Hereditary ownership of natural resources is likely to arise in Russia. Climate change will only speed these changes up. And it will usher the need to protect hereditary fiefs with armed forces. A strong state will still be needed to keep the fiefs together. The rest of this century will see momentous social changes, indeed. 64
LUCKY ASTROLOGERS (March 29, 2012) A British earth scientist of some renown predicts that earthquakes and volcanoes will come along with climate change. The earth's crust is on the thin side, and the redistribution of weight resulting from the melting of ice and rising of the oceans will do the trick. He claims that rapid thawing has led to earthquakes and volcanoes in the past, as well. And thawing is quite rapid at this juncture. All this sounds perfectly plausible, of course, but he cannot predict exactly when such events will take place. It depends on the pace of climate change, but movements in the earth's crust would be difficult to predict even if the pace were known quite exactly. In short, his argument is nigh irrelevant. Humans like exact dates. Even when entirely dubious, such precision is the domain of astrology rather than science. Lucky astrologers! They cater to human needs much better than scientists ever could. Addendum (November 24, 2016) The growing number of earthquakes in Italy, New Zealand, Japan, and elsewhere seem to offer support to the theory that the redistribution of weight on the earth's crust will lead to its cracking. Volcanoes are also springing to life. And the melting of ice seems to be proceeding at a clip. In fact, scientists are surprised again and again by the speed with which it is vanishing. But a quick search on the World Wide Web shows that all sorts of prophets have gotten new wings from the avalanche of earthquakes and volcanoes. In support of my theory, they are offering ever more dire prophecies. The end of the world is nigh, no less. Not surprisingly, there are many dates on offer for the final calamity. Ah, humanity has rarely been blessed with times as interesting as these. Not only will we be regaled with natural disasters of all descriptions, but also with human stupidity galore. Astrologers, prophets, wizards, have a ball! LIVING ALONE (March 31, 2012) Browsing through the online editions of several newspapers, I just stumbled upon an interesting article in The Guardian. It is about a book examining the rise of the number of people living alone. The numbers are staggering. At the moment, Sweden leads the world with forty-seven percent of single households. Norway comes second with forty percent. Thirty-four percent of households are single in Britain. America trails with twenty-seven percent. Overall, the number of single households has risen between 1996 and 2011 by fifty-five percent. Staggering, indeed. And entirely unprecedented. Never before have so many people lived alone. Among the reasons for this mentioned in the article is the welfare state that makes life outside the family or clan possible. However, it is clear that an increasing number of people prefer to live alone. I only wonder what will happen as 65
climate change bites ever harder. As the family or clan are not viable options for many people in the developed world, new forms of community are likely to come into existence. Fortified monasteries of old seem to have a bright future. TOWARD A DEFINITION OF HUMAN INTELLIGENCE (April 11, 2012) As I have written several years ago, human intelligence can be defined with good precision: it is high enough to fatally damage its natural habitat, but too low to repair the damage ("To Repair the Damage," September 21, 2007). A few qualifications are needed at this juncture, though. First, I assumed that the entire planet was the species' natural habitat. Second, I assumed that the species was incapable of moving to another planet once its natural habitat was damaged past repair. Further qualifications like the above might be needed, of course. Even though the species cannot do anything about it, every step toward a definition of human intelligence is of value. At least it offers a clear vision of the future. THE WORLD POPULATION (May 14, 2012) As we were gabbing about all sorts of things this morning, Sofie Aller and I somehow got to the world population. We both knew that right now there were about seven-billion people. We were not sure how many people there were after World War II, though. She taught it was only a billion, but I went for more than three-billion, or roughly a half of the present number. When I returned home, I checked the numbers on the World Wide Web. The most credible source says that the world population at the end of the war was just over two-billion. That is, close to five-billion have been added since. The growth was fastest during the baby-boom years following the war. All in all, the world population has nearly tripled in sixty-seven years. Staggering. And immediately obvious as the main reason for so many problems the world population faces at this juncture. Not to mention the future. ON ACCOUNTING (May 15, 2012) Posthistory bodes well for humans. Notwithstanding the brutal decimation of their population, which is within sight, humans are well suited to tribal life. This is where every act has a cost and/or price known to all. And where every account will be cleared sooner rather than later, for life among humans is on the short side. The human brain has been shaped for just such a life. Brutish but just. Tribal to boot, humans are ill at ease wherever accounting is difficult to fathom. Every other form of existence is utterly foreign to the species. As well as bewildering well beyond comfort. No matter how hard humans try, 66
they will feel at home only in tribes. Posthistory is very much in tune with the human brain. Let us welcome it with open arms! HALF A DEGREE (June 24, 2012) It is amazing what I am doing to keep my house reasonably cool during the ongoing heat wave. I open several windows only past midnight and keep them open through the morning. To do this, I go to sleep ever later. I open all windows and doors in the morning and keep them open for at least an hour. For this reason, I get up ever earlier. Although the continuous fiddling does not bring the temperature down by very much, it keeps it from rising precipitously. I feared only recently that the temperature in the house would rise to twenty-eight degrees Celsius, and perhaps beyond, but that has not happened yet ("Praying for a Storm, Again," June 19, 2012). The highest temperature so far has been twenty-seven degrees and a half. And I am pretty confident that this half a degree in question is my own doing. The heat wave is expected to last another day or two, and it is my hope that my reward will not be spoiled in the meanwhile. That half a degree means quite a bit to me. Addendum I (June 26, 2012) It started raining about an hour before midnight. Well, it was only drizzling, but the temperature dropped appreciably. It is about an hour past midnight right now, and the temperature in the house has dropped to twenty-five degrees Celsius. Hooray! I have stayed up just to cool the house. But the joy is hard to describe. A real blast. After several days at twenty-seven degrees and a half in mid-afternoon, this is pure bliss. Although the stone walls cannot be cooled all that quickly, tomorrow morning I will have another opportunity to drive the temperature down. As far down as possible. And I am eager as hell. Half a degree by half a degree, I am finally getting somewhere. Addendum II (June 27, 2012) By this morning, the temperature in the house has dropped by another half a degree. Twenty-four degrees Celsius and a half! I am nigh ecstatic, of course. But I am also fully aware that this is the lowest temperature I am going to get this time around. For the next week or so, the house will get only warmer no matter what I do. Alas! But this morning's temperature is still an achievement worth celebrating. The very last half a degree for the time being. I feel like patting myself on the back. Addendum III (July 1, 2012) My battle is lost. It is twenty-eight degrees Celsius in the house just before the sunset. The air out there so hot by now that cooling down 67
the house at night is out of the question. It goes down by half a degree, all right, but that is all. Luckily, I will be on my way to Zagreb tomorrow morning. There will be many more heat waves this summer, but the worst part of the current one is beyond me. To wit, my beloved has air-conditioning in her apartment. The way the weather has gotten, I will have to think about air-conditioning for my house, as well. All my clever tricks notwithstanding, climate change is climate change. No tricks will do. For the time being, at least, a silent bow to stupid technology. SCAREMONGERING, AGAIN (July 1, 2012) As I read in the online edition of The Wall Street Journal today, at least thirteen people had been killed by violent storms in the Eastern United States: six in Virginia, two in New Jersey, two in Maryland, one in Kentucky, and one in Washington. Many people are still missing. The storms knocked out power to millions of people. Power outages were reported from Indiana to New Jersey, with the bulk of service interruptions in the Mid-Atlantic region. There is much to read about how people have been affected, but there is not a single word about the cause of the storms. Zilch. That has been left to the reader's imagination. Even mentioning climate change as a possible cause would be sheer scaremongering. In the end, the disagreeable chore has been left entirely to fiends like me. "FREAK WEATHER LINKED TO GLOBAL WARMING" (July 11, 2012) Thus The Financial Times today. "Scientists produce what they say is groundbreaking research," the newspaper adds triumphantly. Of course, the research in question focuses on last year's freak events, but this year is as freaky as the last. The scientists are cautious about this year, though. It is still too early to be absolutely sure about the link between climate change and the latest events, such as storms in America and floods in Britain, the newspaper points out. However, the scientists behind the research are proud to explain events within months of their occurrence rather than decades, as before. Which is why they call the research groundbreaking. Congratulations! Now we know that freak weather can be linked to climate change. Phew! This is yet another example of the leading rфle of science in society. Without it, we could never be absolutely sure about anything. "MELTDOWN" (August 12, 2012) Thus The Guardian today. "Rate of arctic summer sea ice loss is fifty percent higher than predicted," elaborates the newspaper. Apparently, this is yet another blow for science, which is falling behind at a clip. 68
The story is far behind many others of much greater interest to the readers, though. In fact, it is sidelined by them all. Predictably enough, the Olympic games dominate today's coverage. But a careful reader is bound to remember ancient Rome's sorry demise. Although the games used to be quite a bit more interesting back then than they could ever become at this day and age, the oblivion of the turbulent future was about the same. Complete and total, that is. Have fun, for crying out loud, and forget about the damned weather. Or anything else, for that matter. There is next to nothing we can do about any of it, anyway. Whence the meltdown of everything under the sun. Slowly but surely, the disappearance of arctic ice will be the least of our worries. But the newspapers will keep us abreast of them all, and in gory detail. Have fun, dear reader, have loads of fun! "THE ATTRACTION OF SOLITUDE" (August 24, 2012) Thus The Economist in its current edition. "Living alone is on the rise all over the world," the mighty newspaper elaborates. "Is this bad news?" I have no qualms with the gist of the article, but I find the question puzzling. News? Living alone has been on the rise all over the world for quite some time. The richer the country, the greater the attraction of solitude. As countries get richer, the attraction spreads. The same is true of cities within countries. The attraction of solitude is strongest in the richest cities. And so on, and so forth. The dissolution of the family is part and parcel of the same process. Once again, no news here. The only possible news on the subject would be the reversal of this entrenched trend. Could it ever come to pass, though? Indeed it could, but in hard times. The attraction of solitude will evaporate with poverty, social unrest, war, and worse. What with the depression and global warming, these are very real prospects in the days to come. At any rate, people get together only when the going gets tough. "DIRE WARNING ON GLOBAL FOOD SUPPLY" (August 27, 2012) Thus The Guardian today. "Scientists say water shortages will necessitate radical steps to feed population of nine-billion expected by 2050," elaborates the newspaper. Dire warning? Judging by its place and size, the article in question is one of the least important on offer. Nobody gives a flying fuck about such warnings any longer. To begin with, scientists are not trusted any more. More important, everyone knows that no radical steps are to be expected in the future. If there will be any, they will have to do with entertainment, instead. Bread will get cheaper, as well. How do I know? I have looked into the past performance of the human species in trouble. And the performance has been consistent for millennia. Dire warnings are for the birds. 69
"ARCTIC SEA ICE REACHES RECORD LOW" (September 14, 2012) Thus The Guardian today. "Rate of summer ice melt smashes two previous record lows and prompts warnings of accelerated climate change," explains the newspaper. Hey, that sounds like pretty serious stuff! What dominates the news, though? Well, American, British, and German embassies and other institutions in the Muslim World are under attack. Many of them are burning, as a matter of fact. And all this on account of some silly movie, which is deemed blasphemous by the faithful. In other words, we are facing accelerated political change. How does this compare to accelerated climate change? Without beating around the bush, the latter is chickenshit. Priorities are perfectly clear, too. I only wonder why the newspapers are still reporting on climate change, accelerated or not. Forget about silly warnings, for crying out loud. No-one cares about such pointless scaremongering any longer. Focus on the here and now, for we are only human. MICHIO KAKU AND I (October 1, 2012) The last few months, I often come across some piece of wisdom by Michio Kaku, an American theoretical physicist turned futurologist. The newspapers whose online editions I visit seem to love him, too. Now he is talking about eternal life, and now about some revolutionary technology that will transform the world by the end of this century. As for me, I do not believe in the future he is fantasizing about. None of it. Instead, I believe in the return to the past, all the way to hunting and gathering. In my mind, our future is as predictable as our knowledge of history and prehistory permits. Whence the beauty of posthistory, after all. In other words, I am an anti-futurologist. Literally. And make that squared. Pace Michio Kaku. ON THE DIALECTICS OF COOPERATION AND CONFRONTATION (October 2, 2012) My discussion with Robin Engelhardt several years ago about cooperation versus confrontation in view of climate change often comes across my mind as of late ("Cooperation, Confrontation," November 19, 2008). Back then, he leaned toward cooperation, and I leaned toward confrontation. Given his scientific predilections, I miss our discussions, for he has not been to Motovun for years. In fact, he and his Danish friends who together own a house in the hilltown are bent on selling it as soon as possible. At any rate, now I lean toward a dialectical understanding of cooperation and confrontation. That is, climate change will most likely bring cooperation so as to make confrontation more effective. Brigands and bandits cooperate, after all. And so do mafias of all kinds. Corruption and organized crime 70
can take hold of entire governments, as well. Their neighbors are their potential victims. Examples are many, and so-called failed states offer much to ponder about. Returning to Robin, I wonder what he would have to say about this compromise of mine. As well what science can teach us about the dialectics of cooperation and confrontation in view of climate change. "BOTH ROMNEY AND OBAMA AVOID TALK OF CLIMATE CHANGE" (October 27, 2012) Thus The New York Times today. "Even after a year of high temperatures and drought," the newspapers explains, "President Obama and Mitt Romney have seemed intent on trying to outdo each other as lovers of coal, oil, and natural gas." Surprise, surprise. Now that the limping economy is in the focus of all, the environment is best avoided. The environment will come back into focus if and when the economy improves sufficiently to warrant such a shift. God only knows when that will be, though. But it is good to remember the silver lining in this case: the economic downturn cannot but help the environment recuperate no matter how slightly. As for the inertia in climate change, little or nothing can be done about it, anyhow. All in all, Obama and Romney are best advised to avoid talking about climate change. At best, they are liable to say something stupid. "BOOM IN URBAN WILDLIFE INVADERS" (October 28, 2012) Thus The Guardian today. "Previously unseen wildlife is colonizing British cities," explains the newspaper, "but local authorities are concerned by the increase." First came the urban fox. It was followed by tropical parakeets. And now deer, woodpeckers, hedgehogs, terrapins, jackdaws, and birds of prey, including red kites thought to be long extinct in England and Scotland, have joined them, as have many exotic fish and insects. There are many reasons for the invasion, but the key one among them is warmer weather. Some of the wildlife is from far away, and it thus threatens local species. Although there are some mixed feelings about the invasion, the newspaper reports, it is generally welcomed across Britain. Reading from far away, I also welcome it. Wildlife's resilience delights me. As the invasion shows, global warming will be a boon for some species. The human species is not likely to be among them, though. "SANDY CLOSES WALL STREET FOR SECOND DAY" (October 29, 2012) Thus The Financial Times today. "Longest US stockmarket closure since 9/11 attacks," the newspaper points out. The way Hurricane Sandy is going, it may well close Wall Street for yet another day or 71
two. In fact, the predicted path of the storm circles the vaunted stockmarket. What is especially interesting about the article is that it does not even mention in passing the plausible connection between the freak storm and human behavior. It is the stockmarkets of this world that are squarely behind the freak weather, though. Although science is still shaky concerning the connection between human behavior and climate change, there can be little doubt about it at this stage. Science will catch up sooner or later, but the insatiable hunger for growth, growth, and nothing but growth is the most likely cause of all sorts of weather disasters in the world. It is thus a pity Hurricane Sandy did not head straight for Wall Street. In the event, the mysterious connection between the freak storm and human behavior would perhaps cross a few lazy minds. AUSTERITY FOR BEGINNERS (October 31, 2012) Thinking of austerity, the third among five observances according to Patanjali, today I made an important decision ("The First Two Limbs of Yoga, Again," October 29, 2012). Namely, I reversed my decision made earlier this year to install an air-conditioning system in my house, which has luckily not come to completion due to the indolence of the people I asked to install it ("Global Warming Be Damned," July 11, 2012). I will bear with the weather, no matter how hot it got in the years to come. Rather than technology, yoga is the way around discomforts such as excessive heat. Having made up my mind on airconditioning, I immediately lowered the temperature in my house, as well. What holds for heat must also hold for cold. Central heating be damned, too. Yoga is the only way. And observances are second among its eight limbs for a good reason. "BLOOMBERG BACKS OBAMA, CITING CLIMATE CHANGE" (November 1, 2012) Thus The New York Times today. "New York City's mayor, an independent who believes climate change contributed to Hurricane Sandy," explains the newspaper, "said he believed President Obama was the best candidate to tackle the issue." Three cheers for the mayor! Not on account of his backing of the presidential candidate, but on account of his reasoning about Hurricane Sandy. Indeed, climate change is most likely behind the havoc. Sadly, it takes a brave independent to come up with such a felicitous verdict. Michael Bloomberg is thus my favorite for the key post in New York City in the years to come. Understanding your enemy has always been the key to victory. Or at least the key to a commendable defeat. 72
IN THE WAKE OF HURRICANE SANDY (November 2, 2012) Now I have heard from both of my sons in New York City. Both are fine. My No. 1 son is staying in a hotel because there is still no power in his part of Manhattan. He reports that he is a bit disappointed with his friends, who cannot manage the mess together, and enthusiastically. In other words, they are friends mainly on social networks, but these cannot function without juice. He also reports that he has heard that one of his friends has gotten robbed at gunpoint. My No. 2 son reports that it is nice being able to lean one's weight into the wind without falling. He is my No. 1 son's seventeen-year junior. He also reports that he is about to do a radio broadcast lasting an hour. He is a guitar player of some renown already. In short, all is well. Someone is sure to put many such stories together in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Some will be quite wonderful, but some will surely be less so. The record will undoubtedly be of some use to people across the planet, for climate change is getting in its stride. No escaping it, wherever one lives. "CLIMATE CHANGE WILL AFFECT ALL NATIONS" (November 19, 2012) Thus The Guardian today. "World Bank warns that the devastating impact of a world warmed by 4 degrees Celsius will be felt by all countries," explains the newspaper. This is most useful information, indeed. Not about climate change, it goes without saying, but about human stupidity, which crosses national boundaries with great ease. And it takes the World Bank of all international institutions to point it out. As well as The Guardian of all newspapers of renown to pick it up. Anyway, the information is now out. Be warned. Humans of all nations are so stupid that they cannot do a damned thing about climate change. The last hope is with animals and plants. "IS THIS THE END?" (November 25, 2012) Thus The New York Times today. "In the future," the newspaper points out in its editorial section, "there is a good chance New York City will sink beneath the sea." This is illustrated by a luminous image of the Statue of Liberty deep under water. Only its arm bearing the torch is sticking above the surface. According to the article, the New York City Panel on Climate Change issued a "prophetic" report in 2009 to the effect that the city would face rapidly rising sea levels in the coming decades. Hurricane Sandy last month was an early warning only. "But what good are warnings?" the newspaper asks philosophically. Indeed, no-one ever listens to warnings, no matter how dire. Thus the article waxes poetic all the way to the last couple of lines: "That is our fate. All the more reason to appreciate what we have while we have it." Alleluia. But there is no mention anywhere in 73
the article that this is precisely what warnings are good for. Everyone turns to appreciating whatever is on offer while it is still on offer, that is. Human nature distilled. "GOING THROUGH THE MOTIONS IN DOHA" (November 27, 2012) Thus Der Spiegel today. "The United Nations Climate Change Conference beginning in Doha this week is turning into a farce," explains the newspaper. "While negotiators are sticking to the goal of limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius, even climatologists admit that the project has failed." Exactly. Since Copenhagen, the series of meeting on climate change has turned into a bizarre ritual. As no-one is willing to admit defeat, the show is going on and on without rhyme or reason. The newspaper is right on the money about all this. The only thing the article misses, and it misses it entirely, is that humanity, too, is only going through the motions at this stage. Humans have failed to deal with climate change, which is of their own making. Period. Now we are waiting to see the consequences of our failure as a species. THE FAKE SILVER LINING (November 28, 2012) As I browse through the leading newspapers in the English language, I notice an increasing number of articles about the beneficial effect of climate change on some animal and plant species. This is supposed to be surprising. "Gosh," you can almost hear a concerned reader, "climate change ain't all bad!" Perhaps the only surprise is that this sort of article is gaining momentum only now that tackling climate change is turning out to be beyond our ken. The fake silver lining is otherwise perfectly clear from the beginning: the species that enjoy higher temperatures will also enjoy climate change. Period. Some will enjoy floods, droughts, forest fires, and even rising oceans. And a few will undoubtedly enjoy storms no matter how horrendous. Regardless of what happens to the extant species, life on earth is not in question. Whatever happens with the climate, including the glaciation that will come in the wake of global warming, life will continue unabated until the sun burns out. The only question is what will happen with the human species and all the species it depends upon for survival. Some of the latter may perish, but the former will almost certainly survive, albeit in radically reduced numbers. Say, a twentieth of the present numbers. As this will eventually strengthen the genetic pool of the human species, the plunge in population until the next interglacial period about a hundred-thousand years from now is yet another good thing to rejoice about. Returning to the leading newspapers, this is the silver liking actually worth pointing out. Imagine the concerned reader, though. 74
"ICE SHEETS MELTING THREE TIMES FASTER THAN TWENTY YEARS AGO" (November 30, 2012) Thus The Independent today. "Researchers describe losses as being at `high end' of forecasts by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007," elaborates the newspaper. Sea level rise is now forecast to increase significantly, and researchers expect that the most pessimistic forecasts will prove to be right. The causes and effects of the rapid melting are not yet clear, concludes the article gingerly, but the melting is widely attributed to global warming. Surprise, surprise. But the story is perfectly clear by now: climate change is proceeding faster than expected. Well, faster than the morons out there expected. It can well be called rapid, dramatic, radical, and so on. If I am so clever, though, why am I still reading this sort of crap? It is high time to promise myself to read about climate change never again. Never ever. And no kidding. Promises, promises... "FOUR REASONS FOR HOPE ON CLIMATE CHANGE" (December 5, 2012) Thus a guest commentary by the British secretary of state for energy and climate change, Ed Davey, in Der Spiegel today. "Can the world's climate still be saved?" he asks. "Many have given up hope due to the steadily climbing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses," he continues, "but the battle has not yet been lost, and there are reasons for optimism." Pray, what are the reasons? "First," he says, "if we act, we can still avert climate change's worst impact." Yes, but we cannot act. Remember, we are only human. "Second," he says, "the international process may be slow, but it is delivering." Gibberish. "Third," he says, "we have seen serious action by many countries, including some of the big emitters." Gibberish. "Fourth," he says, "this action is underpinned by important changes in the real economy--global investment in renewables outstripped fossil fuels for the first time last year." With rapid rise in the world's population, though, new technologies are far from enough. Perhaps the only good news is that the global economic crisis has reduced emissions, but the British secretary of state is mum on this merry subject. As far as I am concerned, the global depression is the only plausible reason for hope on climate change. Well, add World War III as the second possible reason. After all, these are real reasons for optimism! "THE SPERM COUNT CRISIS" (December 5, 2012) Thus The Independent today. "The reproductive health of the average male has gone into sharp decline, " the newspaper elaborates, "the world's largest study of the quality and concentration of sperm has found." In the meanwhile, testicular cancer and other disorders such as undescended testes are on the rapid rise. Reasons ranging from tight 75
underwear to toxins in the environment have been advanced by a number of researchers. However, a definitive cause has not yet been found. Predictably, the article does not even mention Mother Nature. "Don't reproduce!" she is yelling for all to hear. "Time's not right!" Looking for a definitive cause of the decline of reproductive health is a bit like looking for a definitive cause of love. It will have to do with biochemistry, no doubt, but it is irrelevant to the average male. And it cannot be fixed by biochemistry alone. Anyhow, it is time to thank Mother Nature for all the troubles with reproduction on both sides of the sexual divide. But it is safe to bet everything will be all right in a couple of thousand years, by when the last vestiges of this civilization will be mercifully dead and buried. Hail posthistory! "EXPERTS CALL FOR END TO CLIMATE MEGA SUMMITS" (December 17, 2012) Thus Der Spiegel today. "Massive UN climate summits have been held for years, but accomplished little," the newspaper explains. "Believing there is almost no chance of securing global deal on reducing emissions, experts now want to ditch the current system and try something new." Agreed. Pray, though, what new? Apparently, many experts now agree that the focus should turn to adjusting to inevitable global warming. As the effects of climate change will be different in different places, this will involve many different approaches. And that is about all one learns from the article. Well, most people around the world have already gotten the experts' message. They are trying to adjust to global warming as best they can. Therefore, I would like to suggest to the experts that it is time for them to ditch their vaunted expertise. It is nigh useless, anyway. VHEM (January 21, 2013) Les U. Knight of the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEM) is ricocheting through my mind again ("To Be or Not to Be: A Letter to The Economist," December 26, 1998). To wit, if you have no children, keep it that way; if you already have a few, do not have any more. Period. Although I still maintain that such a movement is ultimately futile, for it is only a matter of time before another "intelligent" species grabs this planet, I share his attitude toward the human species. The best it can do is to make itself scarce by refraining to procreate. The ongoing climate change plus the upcoming dip into yet another ice age will decimate the human population one way or another, and taking measured steps in the same direction ahead of time strikes me as pretty wise. At any rate, I just searched the World Wide Web for the news about VHEM and its founder, and I was surprised to find very little about either. Knight is a quiet fellow, and the movement he founded is hardly an organized one. To the best of my understanding, one cannot even join it in a public manner. Therefore, 76
it is difficult to judge how many people around the world can be considered committed to VHEM's program. Would I join it, though? In spite of all my reservations, I surely would. And publicly. Whence this piece, of course. WET, DRY (February 14, 2013) Today's snowstorm was forecast as early as last weekend. Warnings kept coming along in the meanwhile. Although the amount of snow was to be a bit less than in mid-January, when it reached record levels for a couple of days, the snowstorm was to be hard enough. But there is not a trace of it so far. One can see a snowflake now and then, but there is a light drizzle most of the time. It is so light that most people do not bother to open their umbrellas. Which leads me to a long-term weather forecast for this part of Europe. There will be two seasons, one wet and another dry. They will last about six months each. Each season will have its violent storms, and snowstorms will occasionally come along during the wet season. In short, forget about four seasons. They are history already. The remaining question is exactly when the wet and dry seasons will meet. Lately, the dry season starts in March or April and ends in September or October. And that is all one needs to know about the weather in the long run. DEAR MRS. SMITH: A LETTER TO THE MIT TECHNOLOGY REVIEW (February 22, 2013) I very much appreciate your open letter to Barrack Obama arguing that climate change ought to take top priority in his next four years as American president ("Dear Mr. President," Vol. 116, No. 1, JanuaryFebruary 2013). Your argument is right on the money. Tackling climate change will take many a year, but it must start before it is too late. Well, it actually must start right now. And Obama has the power and the opportunity to lay the groundwork for a new clean-energy policy in his second term. As you also point out, this will be a deeply unpalatable political job, for it means immediate and palpable sacrifice for benefits in hazy future, but it must be confronted as soon as possible. All this stands to reason. And yet, I think that you are making a big mistake here. Call it the leadership fallacy, if you will. For people are unlikely to do what needs to be done concerning climate change before they are pretty sure that it is both real and brought about by people like themselves. Powerful as they are, presidents cannot do much in such a situation. If calamity is to be avoided, it is the people that need persuading rather than their leaders, avid followers of public opinion that they invariably are. "Dear Mrs. Smith" would be the right sort of letter for your editors to write again and again. And tirelessly. Only if people at large start pushing for a clean-energy policy will their so-called leaders be ready to do a thing. 77
Now, this is a real challenge for your journal. To wit, what can technology do to make people understand the threat of climate change? Addendum (February 23, 2013) As soon as it was written, this letter went by electronic mail to Jason Pontin, the editor of The MIT Technology Review. It was a joy to receive his reply only a few minutes later. "This is a clever letter," he wrote. "Thank you." I thanked him in turn, and then he wrote back one more time. "We'll post it in the letters/comments about the story," he concluded. All this took place within ten minutes at most. God bless the World Wide Web one more time. By the way, I have written many a letter to the same journal, and some of them appeared in print, but it used to be The Technology Review until recently. I am glad that the acronym of the Institute is now squarely in the name of the journal, which I am receiving as an alumnus. If there is any institute worthy of mention in the same breath as technology, it is surely MIT. DO NOT HOLD YOUR BREATH: A PROPHECY FOR THE NEXT MILLION YEARS (April 5, 2013) When will the next glaciation period start? Put differently, as well as much more practically, when will the present interglacial period end? Do not ask the scientists, though, for they have no idea. All they can tell you is that the present interglacial period has already lasted about twelve-thousand years, and that there have been four such periods of various lengths in the last half a million years or so. The same holds for the glaciation periods, which have lasted a hundred-thousand years on the average over the same time span. And that is the very limit of their knowledge. Now, scientists know that the human species has come into existence early in the previous interglacial period. Another thing the scientists know about the past is that temperatures drop precipitously at the end of the interglacial periods, and that ice on polar caps and around tallest mountains builds slowly over glaciation periods, only to melt away during the interglacial periods. What will happen with the human population once the next glaciation period starts, though? Once again, do not ask the scientists, for they are in the dark about such questions. Chances are that humans will be decimated. Actually, it would be wonderful if one in ten humans survives. As a consequence, the civilization will collapse. In short, prehistory or posthistory looms. And so does the next attempt at civilization in the upcoming interglacial period a hundred-thousand years from now or so. The real question is how many such periods in a row will the human species need to reach a civilization capable of surviving the glaciation periods, as well as capable of seeking refuge in space, where there are many planets much more hospitable than the earth. For the last time, do not 78
ask the scientists. They can be kind of sure of themselves only with respect to the past. Returning to the last question, it may take as many as ten interglacial periods for humans to evolve sufficiently to save themselves from the earth. Roughly speaking, that entails about a million years. In the meanwhile, do not hold your breath. SANDALS, WHAT SANDALS? (April 9, 2013) The weather has been so miserable day after day that I have decided to search my writings for the first day I have worn sandals since my arrival in Motovun. That is a momentous day for me each and every year. Now, I moved to the hilltown in 2003, but that was in the summer. In 2004, the first day for sandals was on April 15. In 2005, it was a full month earlier, on March 16. In 2006, it was February 1, of all dates. For a while, the weather was so gorgeous even though it was still winter that I could not stand my shoes any longer. In 2007, it was March 4. These are the years I remember most fondly, for the weather has changed in the meanwhile. And how. In 2008, the first day for sandals was April 24. I cannot be sure about 2009, but I lamented on May 4 that sandals were still out of my reach. In 2010, it was April 8. Unfortunately, there is no mention in my writings of the precious date in 2011. And in 2012, the first day for sandals was April 4. As for 2013, the day to rejoice seems to be far off. As a matter of fact, I am still in my full winter gear. As my record shows clearly enough, the weather in Motovun has been all over the place over the last decade. And this is how it is likely to remain. Sandals, what sandals? "THE END OF A EUROPEAN CLIMATE POLICY" (April 22, 2013) Thus Der Spiegel today. "Europe's once celebrated cap-and-trade system to limit carbon emissions has languished," elaborates the newspaper. "The economic crisis has caused the price of emissions licenses to plummet, and a recent remedy to the problem has been rejected by the European Union's lawmakers." Indeed. The only surprise here is that the subject is still in the news. Climate policy has long been dead not only in Europe, but also in America and Asia. And all it took was the economic crisis following the financial bust. Once unemployment came to the fore as the main subject of any policy across the developed world, climate change was swiftly forgotten. If only economic policy had any significant impact upon unemployment, though. One way or another, humans are not capable of collectively dealing with anything of any importance, let alone climate. "The End of All Policy" would have been a much more pertinent newspaper title. 79
ON PRIMITIVE COMMUNISM (May 7, 2013) The so-called primitive communism is commonly associated with hunting and gathering of prehistory. In the absence of social classes, equality prevailed. Prehistoric people cooperated to provide for their needs. Thus they attracted the attention of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, who projected the same model into the future. Following slavery, feudalism, and capitalism, which are characterized by a growing competition between people, communism would emerge as a classless society in which people would cooperate once again to provide for their needs, albeit under conditions of plenty by comparison with prehistoric peoples. Socialism as an intermediate stage in social development would eventually lead to communism, or so they believed. For better or worse, socialism failed in less than a century. Communism thus became a pipedream. But Marx and Engels are bound to be right in their predictions in view of the coming posthistory ("Prehistory, Posthistory," February 14, 2012). The dissolution of our civilization due to the coming glaciation period will follow the path from capitalism to feudalism to slavery to primitive communism of hunting and gathering ("Michio Kaku and I," October 1, 2012). Although Marx and Engels would be loath to accept posthistory, their vision still holds. What is more, primitive communism and capitalism will be the two poles of the social development process spanning glaciations and interglacial periods for many such cycles to come ("Do Not Hold Your Breath: A Prophecy for the Next Million Years," April 5, 2013). Given the relative lengths of glaciations and interglacial periods, primitive communism will remain the dominant model of social organization throughout. I only wonder what Marx and Engels would have to say about my wholehearted support of their predictions. THE ANIMATED MAP (May 10, 2013) There is much to learn from Howard Bloom's masterful book about bacteria that run this world with intelligence well beyond our ken.[15] Our antibiotics only give them unprecedented strength. But there is much more yet to learn about bacteria and climate change--from the ongoing global warming to the upcoming glaciation. Add globalization, which involves massive trade across the planet, as well as international travel for both business and pleasure, and the picture becomes mesmerizing, indeed. Only imagine a map of the world showing the response of bacteria to all of the above. Imagine them moving, growing and declining in numbers, colliding with each other, and changing all the while in line with shifting conditions. Also imagine the animated map glowing in all the colors of the spectrum. Now, what can our poor doctors do in view of this mindboggling spectacle spanning "our" planet entire? Nothing whatsoever, it goes without saying. Like anyone else, they can just stare at the map in awe. 80
A RECIPE FOR FOOLPROOF SUBVERSION (May 14, 2013) For foolproof subversion, follow this simple recipe. Start with Les U. Knight's straightforward instructions for voluntary human extinction. Add Keith Farnish's instructions for step-by-step withdrawal from civilization. Add Mahatma Gandhi's instructions for non-cooperation, non-violence, and peaceful resistance. For good measure, add Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen's instructions for negative economic growth, also known as degrowth. Finally, add Yogani's instructions for the eight limbs of yoga. For yoga stripped of all metaphysics, follow my own instructions. All of the above are available on the World Wide Web. This recipe for subversion is foolproof both in terms of its eventual success and in terms of its followers' protection from persecution. It is applicable anywhere and anytime. Either morally or legally, all the instructions in the recipe are beyond any reproach whatsoever. The larger the number of followers, the faster will the subversion meet with complete and total success. "CLIMATE CHANGE: THE MORAL CHOICES" (May 24, 2013) Thus the title of David Rotman's book review in the last issue of The MIT Technology Review (Vol. 116, No. 3, May-June 2013). "The effects of global warming will persist for hundreds of years," he opens. "What are our responsibilities and duties today to help safeguard the distant future? That is the question ethicists are now asking." I felt attracted by the review at once, but I kept putting it off again and again because something bothered me about the title all the while. In publication order, the first book reviewed is by Stephen Gardiner,[16] the second by John Broome,[17] and the third by Clive Hamilton.[18] All three are professors of philosophy with an accent on ethics. As I surmised from the beginning, though, they have little to offer by way of practical advice. Predictably, the review ends up pretty much nowhere, as well. In the last sentence, Rotman quotes Gardiner: "The time to think seriously about the future of humanity is upon us." And it was this sentence that finally reminded me of Keith Farnish,[19] whose book precedes the first book reviewed by a couple of years. As he argues to my satisfaction, the time to think seriously about the future has long passed. In other words, humanity is not facing ethical tragedies and moral storms any longer. What it is actually facing at this juncture is mere survival. Put differently, earthmasters we surely are not. Rather, we are much closer to being earthslaves. FEAR NO SPYING (June 11, 2013) As I am reading more and more about the American intelligence services spying on the entire world, I feel kind of vindicated. They must be spying on me, too. But my writings tell everything about myself, and by my own design. They are widely available on the 81
World Wide Web. And they also include my most subversive ideas, such as a recipe for foolproof subversion, which anyone can read about without any fear of retribution. Mind you, my recipe beats armed revolutions, let alone terrorism. My only secrets are those of a few people close to me, who are not yet strong enough to share them with others. Banal as these secrets happen to be, they are not susceptible to spying, anyway. In short, everything about me is out there. Smack in the public domain. It is thus impossible to spy on me. The American intelligence services can go fuck themselves. Ah, what a wonderful feeling this is! Follow me, dear reader! Have no secrets and fear no spying. "PEOPLE NOW REALIZE WHAT CLIMATE CHANGE MEANS" (June 27, 2013) Thus Der Spiegel today quoting the European Union's climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard. "The European system of carbon trading has practically collapsed as politicians prioritize the economy over the environment," the newspaper explains. Of course, she is referring to the recent flooding in Central Europe, which brought havoc to the region. Thus the title. The article is dedicated to an interview with the commissioner about her renewed efforts concerning the response to climate change. It is hardly worth reading, though. Hedegaard has nothing to say, that is. By the time people around the world understand what climate change means, their collective response will be laughable at best. The same holds for the vaunted Union. The best it can do is to shut down the useless commission and replace it with a commission for disaster management. It would have a bright future. In the meanwhile, the best Hedegaard can do is to resign. At least she would be remembered for her guts. As well as her bold foresight. THE GOOD TIMES (July 3, 2013) The return of China to world affairs, and the consequent shift of American attention from the Atlantic to Pacific regions, has an interesting affect on the place of Europe in the world affairs. Europe has become a market boasting of half a billion relatively rich people. For the time being, at least. Bereft of power, it is of value as such, as a market, whence the European Union as a common market of sorts. This is how it is seen by both America and China, which are competing for outlets for their products and services. Currently, both stand to gain from peace on the sub-continent. The only fly in the ointment is Russia with its own growing ambitions in both Europe and Asia. The trouble with Russia is that it has little to offer except raw materials, including oil and gas. As these are needed both west and east, it is impossible to neglect in world affairs. As the attention of 82
both America and China is turning to Africa and South America, however, the geopolitical picture is rapidly changing. In a generation or two, Europe is likely to become much less important to either world power. As well as to Russia hedged between them. Peace on the subcontinent will gradually lose its economic significance. What then? This is the key geopolitical question for the not-so-distant future. Add climate change, which cannot but contribute to growing global migration, and it turns into an enigma for all. In the meanwhile, enjoy the good times! "THE CONSEQUENCES OF ACCELERATED MODERN LIFE" (July 5, 2013) Thus Der Spiegel today in its review of a new book by German sociologist Hartmut Rosa of Jena University. "Faster! Faster! Even faster!" elaborates the newspaper. "The phenomenon of acceleration is a defining characteristic of modern life. A new book analyzes how it fuels a constant need for new experiences and a counterintuitive shortage of time." Beschleunigung und Entfremdung or Acceleration and Alienation is the book's title, which obviously harks back to Marx. It was published by Suhrkamp in Berlin. According to Rosa, acceleration is the key concept of our age. He claims that the concept deserves at least as much attention as globalization. But he seems lost when it comes to taming the monster, points out the newspaper. He is not against capitalism, either, which would make him realize that acceleration goes very well with accumulation of capital. Thus he is quoted: "At the moment I don't even have a rough sketch on how that could be accomplished." But the remedy is clear enough. Decelerate, decelerate, as Marx would have put it in a jiffy. It is within anyone's power, too. This would take care of anxiety and insomnia that go together with relentless acceleration, as well as strike at the very core of capitalism. Best of all, it would be a welcome part to my own recipe for subversion not only of capitalism, but also of civilization as a whole ("A Recipe for Foolproof Subversion," May 14, 2013). Pace Rosa. GLOBAL WARMING FOR BEGINNERS (July 22, 2013) Today I learned from some friends who now live in France that winemakers from topmost wine regions in the country, such as Bordeaux and Languedoc, have been establishing a foothold in New Zealand on account of global warming. In about fifty years, France is expected to become inimical to wine making. The news electrified me. Global warming got an entirely new meaning for me. In addition, New Zealand became even more attractive than ever before. Which only goes to show that abstract concepts like global warming are entirely pointless. They mean next to nothing to most humans. They need to be made concrete, and in many different ways, so that everyone can 83
appreciate them better. For wine drinkers like me, the demise of wine in Europe does the trick. And no kidding. I am prepared to swim all the way to New Zealand, too. Addendum (July 23, 2013) Only imagine the scientists telling us that global average temperatures would rise by a few degrees Celsius on account of global warming. Say, one or two. Even my beloved, who is far from stupid, was no less than delighted by the news. By the way, she is always cold. And August is her favorite month. But the scientists failed to elaborate on those few degrees, each of which has tremendous consequences across the globe. Now, how stupid do you have to be to be a scientist? To be gentle, very stupid. Perhaps even very, very stupid. CATS AND DOGS (September 1, 2013) The precipitous rise of the human population over the last century or so has been pretty good for some other species. They go by the common name of pets. There are crocodiles and pitons among them nowadays, but most of them are cats and dogs. Their rise must have been precipitous, too. I have not come across any pertinent statistics, which must be easy to find, but I can imagine that cats and dogs are more numerous than ever before. In fact, their populations must be exploding as of late. Which is why I feel kind of sorry for them well in advance. The upcoming decimation, to use a polite term, of the human population will result in the concomitant decimation of all the pets. In hard times, the pets will be the first to go. Cats and dogs will suffer most among them. What is worse, they will come across each other without the benefit of their erstwhile masters. To my horror, I can already hear them screeching and wailing to high heaven. "HUMANS BLAMED FOR GLOBAL WARMING" (September 27, 2013) Thus The Financial Times today. "IPCC releases first report for six years," elaborates the newspaper. Pithy, this. And hardly surprising. The United Nations' International Panel for Climate Change has been battered for years, whence the scarcity of its reports in recent years. At least the scientists involved in its making are in agreement about the culprit, though. Given all the givens, this is a big step forward. As for IPCC's detractors, let them have a go in turn. They will change little, anyhow. Returning to humans from the title, little should be expected, as well. Well, "little" is too optimistic an assessment. How about "nothing," instead? They are bright enough to mess up the planet of their birth, but not bright enough to do anything about the mess they have unwittingly created. This is the very definition of human 84
intelligence, to be sure. In the meanwhile, enjoy global warming to the hilt! "LEADERS MUST SPEED UP ON CLIMATE CHANGE" (September 30, 2013) Thus The Financial Times today. And the newspaper explains: "Businesses will watch governments to check they understand the IPCC findings, says Nicholas Stern." Great news for the United Nations' International Panel on Climate Change, which just came up with yet another awesome report. And great news for good old Stern, an economist of some renown, who has a nose for academic bravado. Otherwise, his prediction is nothing less than ridiculous. The IPCC is old news already, and no government worth mentioning will do an iota about it. The same goes for businesses, it goes without saying. If there is any truth to Stern's prophetic boast, business will behave as though they are checking on governments, and governments will behave as though they understand the earthshattering report. And that will be that. Well spotted, Baron Stern of Brentford. ON SCIENCE FAILURE (October 23, 2013) There is not a cloud in the sky. It is bright and balmy. The day is such a joy that I am going around in my T-shirt and sandals. And it is late October, which cannot but bring me to climate change once again. As I write, fires are gobbling up swaths of Australia. Only a short while ago, winds and high seas were battering the coast of China. Etc. The weather is all over the place, but we are none the wiser about what is going on, let alone what is still in store. How is this possible? How could science fail us so badly? For the weather is not about meteorology alone, it goes without saying. It is about a wide variety of scientific disciplines, which have been brought together by the rapid change in climate. To no avail, it seems. Just as other human endeavors can fail, so can science. Returning to my T-shirt and sandals, though, it is time for a good walk. Screw science failure, at least on such a delightful day. I can always return to it on a dismal day in July or August. "PANEL SAYS CLIMATE CHANGE POSES RISK TO FOOD SUPPLIES" (November 2, 2013) Thus The New York Times today. "A leaked draft of a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that climate change could reduce output and send prices higher in a period when global food demand is expected to soar," explains the newspaper. Well, well. Has this not been obvious from the very start? Put differently, does this not look like sheer spin? Add the leak and the draft, and the story 85
sounds so much more plausible than ever before. But anyone with a bit of a brain would have understood long time ago that climate change could not but affect the food supply, and especially in those parts of the world where food is scarce, anyhow. Which could not but lead to the movement of the population in search of food. As well as strife and war. Give a year or two, and the risk of war will pop up in a leaked draft of a report of the vaunted panel. In the meanwhile, keep it a secret. Shhh! THE SUPERTYPHOON (November 8, 2013) The news about a supertyphoon that has recently smashed into the Philippines cannot be missed on the front page of my Internet service provider. Whenever I go to my electronic mail, and I check my mail every few hours, I have to go through the front page. At any rate, the supertyphoon in question has already smashed all the historical records. Millions of people are in imminent danger at this point. But there is not a word about climate change in the articles I have come across concerning the latest calamity. It is but a storm, stupid. Or so the tacit argument seems to go. A simple question thus forms in my mind: how many more record-breaking storms, as well as other calamities associated with the weather, will be needed for the connection with climate change to become apparent to my fellow humans? Given the pitiful level of human intelligence, this will ultimately depend on the number of lives lost to the weather. No other statistic would or could do. In addition, the lives lost must be in a country close enough to count. For most Americans and Europeans, for example, the Philippines will be too far to matter. Be that as it may, I am afraid that it will take millions of lives for the connection with climate change to be forged for good. Once this happens, the worldwide panic will spread like wildfire. And it will lead to many more lives lost, to be sure. All by itself, the panic will be the supertyphoon to remember. Come to think of it, human stupidity is not such a bad thing, after all. Addendum I (November 11, 2013) According to the media, the number of casualties in the Philippines is "at least" ten-thousand people. The final count is anyone's guess at this point, for the whole country is in complete disarray in the wake of the supertyphoon. But it is already clear that this particular event will not have any palpable effect on public perception of climate change around the globe. The number of lives lost is not high enough in this regard. In addition, the location is neither here nor there. Most Americans and Europeans have no idea where the Philippines actually are, anyhow. For better or worse, the real supertyphoon is some way off still. 86
Addendum II (November 14, 2013) The supertyphoon's death toll has been all over the place the last few days. Today, it is just below two-thousand and a half. This is where it is likely to stay, too, for less than a hundred people are still missing. At a quarter of the highest estimate to date, it is even less promising in terms of triggering panic across the globe, let alone in the richest countries. In this regard, America is most likely to lead the way one fine day. A clutch of hurricanes and a gang of tornadoes could easily produce an upheaval of historic proportions. Add an earthquake out of the blue, and the threshold could well be crossed. Indeed, America is the country to watch. And tremble. Addendum III (December 6, 2013) The death toll is edging toward six-thousand at the moment. Amazingly, the final account is anyone's guess nearly a month after the event. It is obvious by now that the Philippines have been devastated by the supertyphoon. The way things have shaped in the archipelago, the real death toll will in all likelihood never be known. It is high time for me to stop checking, too. ON FOLLOWERS (November 12, 2013) Would I wish to have followers? Well, I would. Why? All I would wish them to do is to follow my recipe concerning this failed civilization of ours ("A Recipe for Foolproof Subversion," May 14, 2013). The ingredients come from a number of others, anyway. Is that all? It is for the time being. Right now, I would not wish to have followers for any other reason. Could my wishes ever change? They could, no doubt, but I do not wish to be guessing ahead of time precisely how and why. My recipe could improve in time, for instance, bringing together ingredients from many more others. Others, why others? They are my only company for the time being. Or my best company, at least. As well as the only proof I can muster that I am not insane. Not yet, that is. Pace followers, but you are nothing but a figment of my imagination at this point in time, if not forever. WARSAW, SCHMARSAW (November 24, 2013) After a deadlock that took an entire day, the Warsaw climate talks involving close to two-hundred nations have come up with an agreement on the principles of how to combat global warming. These principles are to form the basis of a global deal to be signed in Paris in 2015 to replace the 1997 Kyoto deal. If everything goes according to plan, the new deal will go into effect in 2020. Not surprisingly, the news of the Warsaw agreement are far from the top of the news. After 87
Copenhagen, nobody seems to care about the subject any longer. People are growing tired of the shenanigans. What is even worse, few believe that the new Kyoto deal will get us anywhere, anyway. So, why is the charade continuing at all? The only possible reason is that the governments around the world need to pretend that they are doing something about climate change. And almost anything would do. For them, Warsaw offers a welcome excuse. Luckily, 2020 is years away. As for global warming, perhaps it will go away all by itself in the meanwhile. OTHER SUITABLE HABITATS (November 25, 2013) The subject of intelligence of the human species crosses my mind surprisingly often. My first attempt at defining it with some precision is always with me: it is high enough to damage its natural habitat, but too low to repair the damage ("To Repair the Damage," September 21, 2007). In another attempt, I added several qualifications to this definition ("Toward a Definition of Human Intelligence," April 11, 2012). But I am now ready for yet another definition of human intelligence that strikes me as more precise than the previous ones: it is high enough to fatally damage its natural habitat, but too low to seek and find other suitable habitats in the universe. Indeed, the task of seeking and finding suitable habitats is fundamental to the survival of any species. The technology and social organization required for such a feat are beyond the human capabilities, though. Vast and rich as it is, the universe is thus beyond its ken. But I should add that this definition comes along with the deepest of disappointments with the human species ("You Promised Me Mars Colonies," December 25, 2012). Knowledge hurts, as ever. UNDERMINING THE UNDERMINERS (November 29, 2013) Keith Farnish has come up with a new book. Entitled Underminers: A Practical Guide for Radical Change, it was published a few months ago by New Society Publishers in Canada. It follows directly from his previous book, Time's Up, which appeared four years ago ("Withdrawing Together with Keith Farnish," July 2, 2009). However, the new book strikes me as a dash too radical. Or a dash too impatient, in fact. Undermining is fine with me, and it should be radical to boot, but anything promoted with radical change in mind is not exactly to my taste. Too many people are liable to get hurt in the process, that is. Going back to my own recipe for subversion, which includes Farnish's step-by-step withdrawal from civilization, it eschews radical change of any sort ("A Recipe for Foolproof Subversion," May 14, 2013). Gently does it. But without let or hindrance. Forever. Pace Farnish, but impatience will get us nowhere, and fast. 88
YET TO BE BORN (December 3, 2013) Nowadays, I cringe whenever I spot a pregnant woman. And I just saw one in the center of Zagreb. But the cringing has little if anything to do with her. Birthgiving is neither here nor there. Childrearing is a chore, and especially early on, but this is nothing to shed tears about. I cringe on account of the yet to be born child. I cannot be completely sure, but I am sure enough that this century will be one of the worst ones ever for the human kind. Which is why I cannot but feel a bit cross with any pregnant women I see, as well as her partner. Partner in crime, as a matter of fact. Why put the child through the horrors ahead? Why follow the primordial urges against better judgment? But this is where my anger quickly turns into pity tinged with loathing. Stupidity, of course. Ignorance, too. Alas, the best I can do when I see a pregnant woman is look another way! The yet to be born is quite comfortable at the moment, anyhow. All the horrors are yet to be born, too. Right now, they are quite comfortable in their mothers' belies, as well. THIS FAILING CIVILIZATION (December 10, 2013) The world's leading authors have signed an open letter to Barack Obama against surveillance of personal data. There are five Nobel laureates among some five-hundred signatories, too. Surveillance is theft, they say in unison. They urge the United Nations to create an international bill of digital rights to curb abuses of this sort. And so on, and so forth. I am not among the signatories, of course. Not because I am not among the leading authors, I hasten to add, but because I do not give a damn about surveillance of personal data. Or the leading authors, for that matter. As far as I am concerned, they can spy on me all they want ("Fear no Spying," June 11, 2013). This is the least of not only my own problems, but the least of our problems, as well. This civilization is our one and only problem. Civilization is murder, not to mention theft. But it makes no sense to write open letters to Obama or anyone else about it. And it makes no sense to urge the United Nations or any other international organization to create yet another useless document pertaining to this failing civilization. The only way out is entirely personal, as well as step by tiny step ("A Recipe for Foolproof Subversion," May 14, 2013). If the leading authors are leading anywhere else but the market for literary entertainment, this is what they should write about. And in earnest. AS BORING AS DEATH (December 20, 2013) Randy Olson is in the news. A scientist turned filmmaker, he claims that the main problem with climate change is that it is the most boring subject on earth. According to Olson, Al Gore's movie on the subject was also boring to death. It, too, was but an inconvenient bore. What 89
Olson wants is a coherent, singular strategy worked out in advance rather than the customary dilly-dallying by the scientific community. Besides, it has to be presented with a "narrative instinct" that only professional storytellers and actors have. And so forth. Given the stupidity of the human species, Olson is not far from the truth. As a matter of fact, scientists are bores one and all. Thus I am looking forward to the movie about climate change he has up his sleeve. Let me guess, it will be about sex and money and murder. Have I missed anything? Ah, screw science! It is as boring as death, anyway. Good luck, Olson! From now on, climate change is in your able hands. POSTHISTORY BECKONS (January 8, 2014) As all my writings on the subject testify, I am looking forward to posthistory. I accept it with open arms. Although I will not witness it, I can already feel it in my bones. After a detour that will have lasted an entire interglacial period, humans will return to the tribal mode of existence. This is where they come from in prehistory, and they will thus feel at home in posthistory, as well. The only trouble is the demise of civilization as we know it, which may take a thousand years or maybe a bit longer. The onset of the next glaciation period will be swift, and the transition back to tribal life is therefore not likely to last all that long. The rapid and rough drop in human population notwithstanding, posthistory beckons. Only imagine the warmth of the open fire in the evening, the glow of familiar faces, and the fragrance of the roast being prepared for all. Everything will be just right. The howling of wolves in the neighboring mountains will be almost a pleasure, too. Tomorrow's hunt will be on everyone's mind. The feast coming in its wake will induce many a smile. Whenever eyes meet, smiles will turn into grins. Posthistory! ONE-IN-SO-MANY-YEARS VERBIAGE (January 10, 2014) The so-called polar vortex that hit the States last week is winding down. The economists are now trying to assess its impact. By comparison with Sandy, the hurricane that hit the eastern coast not so long ago, the vortex is a relatively mild event. Its cost is estimated to be around five-billion dollars, whereas Sandy was thirteen times more costly in terms of property damage alone. The vortex hit a much wider area and affected many more people, but that is about all. The main problem with all the estimates I have come upon so far is that the vortex is usually presented as a one-in-twenty-years event. Given rapid climate change, such reckoning is entirely meaningless, as I have argued several times already. Where do such expressions come from, though? They come straight from the denial that unusual weather events have anything whatsoever to do with climate change. Thus the reliance on the historical record, of course. And one-in-so-many-years verbiage comes straight from the United States of America. The 90
country that is still to learn that rapid climate change changes all records at a clip. It renders them no less than useless in only a few years, too. "INDUSTRY IN US GROWS AWARE OF THREAT FROM CLIMATE CHANGE" (January 24, 2014) Thus The New York Times today. "After a decade of damage to CocaCola's balance sheet as weather threatened the ingredients for drinks, the company has embraced the idea of climate change as an economically disruptive force," explains the newspaper. Heartfelt congratulations to Coca-Cola! Perhaps other companies in the States will in time pick up on this company's change of mind. As for the industry as a whole, it will take another decade or so, but the prospect is surely good. Congratulations all around. The only surprise in the article in question is that it took Coca-Cola an entire decade to figure out that climate change is an economically disruptive force. One would have suspected that the company wielding the most global of brands was run by the best and the brightest. Alas, live and learn. Returning to the American industry as a whole, two or three decades will perhaps do. Besides, they have climate change on their side. The way things are going, it is becoming an ever more disruptive force economically and otherwise. THE HUMAN PROBLEM (January 29, 2014) In 2003, Nobel laureate Richard Smalley outlined humanity's top ten problems for the next fifty years: energy, water, food, environment, poverty, terrorism and war, disease, education, democracy, and population, in that order. I beg to disagree. To begin with, his ten problems are deeply intertwined. Take the environment and population, for example. When there were about five-million humans at the beginning of the current interglacial period, there was no problem with the environment. And there was no problem with energy, water, food, and so on. Most of Smalley's problems have to do with the current explosion of the human population, but that is a sacred cow few people are willing to touch. Although he was talking about the next fifty years only, his list shows perfectly well that it ultimately boils down to one problem, that of mushrooming human population. But the human problem goes still deeper. It has to do with the gap between the human ability to act and the human ability to understand the consequences of that action. If anything, it is only growing. Neither individually nor socially can humans close that gap, as the current problems with climate change aptly demonstrate. Humans could not close that gap when they were still living in tribes of a few hundred people, and they cannot close it now that they are living in a deeply intertwined social, economic, and political agglomeration of some seven-billion individuals. The human problem remains 91
throughout, and it would remain even if humans spread to space. The gap between action and understanding cannot be closed. Amen. Addendum I (June 21, 2015) Gosh, how very polite I can be in my writing! Talking about the gap between the human ability to act and the human ability to understand the consequences of that action is an excessively polite way of talking about human intelligence deficiency. Or human stupidity, to put it simply. Indeed, the human problem boils down to human stupidity. Which is to say, the human problem is unsolvable, at least at this stage of human evolution. To solve it, millions of years will have to pass. And even then the solution amounts to no more than a dream. Nay, a biological miracle. Addendum II (April 13, 2016) Well, I was wrong. Dead wrong, in fact, and it is high time to admit it. Actually, not only can the human problem be solved in the fullness of time, but it can be solved right now, as well. This very second, as a matter of fact. It is enough to stop thinking about it, and it disappears as if by magic. The same holds for any problem at all. Just stop thinking about it, and it is as good as solved. Bingo! For instructions on how to stop thinking at will and for as long as desired, consult my book about yoga, which is available for free in Portable Document Format on my Ca' Bon Gallery website (www.cabongallery.org). Problems, what problems? NATURA SANAT (February 2, 2014) Thus the motto of a pharmaceutical company, which I came across minutes before I read that England had the wettest January on record. And the record goes back a quarter of a millennium, no less. "Nature heals," I mumbled under my breath, "but who from whom?" Indeed, what if nature is healing itself from us, the greatest vermin well before any record? Idle thoughts, to be sure, but Latin occasionally sounds soothing on account of its longevity. As well as its stubborn perseverance over more than a couple of millennia. For many of us, it is the oldest language on record, too. Addendum (February 3, 2014) The Latin proverb behind the motto is of interest, too: Medicus curat, natura sanat. Although the medic cures, or administers the cure, it is actually nature that heals. The notion that the medic heals is therefore wrong. Not a bad proverb, to be sure. But it is of no relevance to this piece, for the medic is entirely irrelevant when nature turns to healing itself. In fact, the medic is in peril when nature is in need of healing. 92
At any rate, a new Latin proverb is nigh: Natura sanat se ipsum. Medics beware! To James Lovelock THE FOLKSY PROVERB (February 7, 2014) One of the restaurants to which my beloved and I go for late lunch or early dinner about once a fortnight is decorated with folksy proverbs lining all the walls. They all come in their own frames. Most of them are neither here nor there, but one of the proverbs is quite to my liking, and I often find myself staring at it. "Human intelligence is limited," it declares blithely, "but stupidity is unlimited!" One cannot argue about intelligence, but there is something almost appealing about stupidity. Perhaps it is the only human trait that is unlimited, indeed. In fact, I cannot come up with any other trait of such distinction. Judging by the historical record, human stupidity is no less than prodigious, as well. But the future promises new flights of stupidity, some of which will surely be remarkable in their daring. Go humans, go! The historical record is there to be broken over and over again. And the folksy proverb is squarely on your side. The sky is the limit! MY LONG-TERM WEATHER PREDICTION (February 11, 2014) It has been drizzling a lot the last few weeks, but it is raining in earnest this morning. It is likely to keep raining all day long and into the night. Which reminds me of my long-term weather prediction that there will be two seasons in this part of Europe, one wet and another dry, and that they will last about six months each ("Wet, Dry," February 14, 2013). The wet season will most likely start in November and last through April, while the dry season will start in May and end in October. On occasion, when the temperature drops below freezing, there will be some snow during the wet season, but it will last only a few days. As global warming progresses, snow will be ever more rare. And so on, and so forth. All I can add to my longterm prediction is that it is a joy revisiting it. Would that the weather people could ever come up with predictions so easy to pick up and keep in mind from year to year. It will take them a few decades to confirm my prediction, too. WELCOME TO CLIMATE CHANGE! (February 12, 2014) While my beloved is taking her morning shower, I am checking the news on the Wide World Web. The local media are abuzz with stories about flooded basements in and around the Croatian capital. Firefighters are called left and right to pump the water out. There are hundreds of calls this morning. The Sava and its tributaries are on the 93
rise after a few weeks of steady rain, and there is a growing danger of serious flooding. Groundwater is thus rising, too. When my beloved comes out of the shower, I tell her about the flooded basements. She seems nonplussed. "Our basement must be flooded by now, as well," she comments. And then she tells me that this is kind of normal in her apartment building. She went to see the basement only once just after she bought the apartment, and it was covered with water at the time. Much of Zagreb is actually sitting on the Sava's floodplain. Wet seasons that winters have become will thus bring ever-greater dangers of flooding. Welcome to climate change! Addendum (February 13, 2014) As it turns out, we had a record-breaking night in Zagreb and a good chunk of Croatia around it. According to the meteorologists, the amount of rainfall per unit area has not been as high as yesterday ever since the beginning of measurement. The only problem with the latest news is that there is no mention of the year in question. When does the record start, that is? Not to worry, though. It is likely to be broken again quite soon. The weather is not kidding any longer. FLOODING (February 14, 2014) This morning I found on the World Wide Web many areal photographs of flooded areas not far from Zagreb. Most of them are along the Sava and its tributaries. Taken from helicopter yesterday morning, when the sky was cloudless, the photographs are mazing to behold. But one thing is obvious at first glance: the flooded villages along the rivers are way too close to the riverbanks. In olden times, they would never be located on the floodplains and thus exposed to the risk of flooding. It is obvious that most flooding problems nowadays have to do with fundamental errors in location, which ultimately point to to the government authorities that stand behind spatial or physical planning. And this is true of flooding all over the world. As the number of people grows, a growing number of them are located in areas that were once considered off limit. Regulation of rivers only adds to the problem, as it is based on statistics that have little or nothing to do with climate change. In the future, rivers will break their banks ever more often. And flooding will be in the news all the while. ENJOY LIFE WHILE YOU CAN (February 22, 2014) My No. 1 son sent me a link to an article in The Guardian by electronic mail. Not a word accompanied it. I found it this morning, and opened it immediately. The article is about James Lovelock, the climate change "maverick" of renown. He paints a grim picture of the future, saying that all attempts at limiting the impact of climate change are either a joke or a scam. Sustainable development is for the birds. 94
About eighty percent of the human population will be gone by the end of the century. "Enjoy life while you can," he thus advises the newspapers readers. "In twenty years, global warming will hit the fan." Having read the article, I checked the date. It appeared in print on March 1, 2008. In my quick response to my son, I reminded him of our conversation about climate change in July or August 2009. He came to the island of Ilovik in the Adriatic with his then wife, Tina, whom he married in Motovun in August 2008, only five months after the article was published. When I told them about my views of climate change, both of them ridiculed me for my outlandish views, which were along Lovelock's lines. They divorced soon afterwards. New York, where both of them live to this day, started having real problems with the weather only last year. And the weather there has been getting worse and worse. Whence the link, I guess. By way a belated apology, that is. At any rate, Lovelock's advice still holds. Enjoy the remaining fourteen years, as it were! THUNDERSNOW (February 25, 2014) Also known as a winter thunderstorm or a thunder snowstorm, thundersnow is an unusual weather phenomenon that is becoming quite common in some parts of the States. Today I chanced upon the term in an article about unusual weather, and then I searched for it on the World Wide Web. To my surprise, the term is all over the place by now. There is even a Wikipedia page dedicated to it in its entirety. Interestingly, the term is not yet recognized by my word-processing software. It is thus underlined in red to indicate misspelling. At any rate, new terms for unusual weather phenomena will be popping up left and right in the future. Climate change will perforce lead to language change. And language change will be an excellent indicator of climate change in the years to come. This will be an excellent opportunity for wordsmiths of all sorts, to be sure. Whoopee! ON MARTIAL ARTS (February 27, 2014) Slowly but surely, I am becoming aware of yet another essential ingredient of withdrawal from civilization: martial arts. Although I have written a few words about it a couple of years ago, the subject has remained rather vague in my mind (e.g., "On Zen and Martial Arts," February 26, 2012). The growing unrest in many parts of the world makes this omission ever less palatable, though. My recipe for subversion will need to be updated sooner or later ("A Recipe for Foolproof Subversion," May 14, 2013). Survival and self-defense are inseparable, indeed. Martial arts go all the way back for this very reason. And their roots cover the entire planet. Every continent has had its own variety of martial arts appropriate to the time and place. In part, the revival of self-defense will go hand-in-hand with the revival of ancient hunting techniques. As civilization disintegrates, all this 95
will need to be relearned again. Enough said for the time being, but the subject is vast. As well as fascinating in its own right. THE PETRI DISH (March 9, 2014) As I am walking around the Croatian capital and looking at people walking past, I start thinking about history. Ancient history, that is. I think of Africa. I think of the Middle East. I think of Persia. I think of India and China. I think of Egypt. I think of Greece. I think of Rome. I think of Germany. I think of Venice. I think of Spain and Portugal. I think of France. I think of Holland. I think of Britain. I think of America. And then I think of India and China again. I think of the Middle East. A circle. A circular epidemic. Yes, a disease circling the planet over and over again. It takes me only a short while to sum it all up: the origin and spread of the human species. The migrations. The civilizations. The conquests. The rises and falls. The perpetual circle. The unending epidemic. By and by, I become despondent. But a happy end presents itself at last: the Petri dish! No matter what, the planet is limited in size. The epidemic will thus meet its end sooner or later. The disease will perish. And the circle will be closed for good. Alleluia! To Julius Richard Petri "HAS THE TIME COME FOR FLOATING CITIES?" (March 18, 2014) Thus The Guardian today. "From schools at sea to a city that perpetually sails the oceans, is climate change creating a bold new era of floating urban design?" asks the newspaper. The questions in both the title and byline are half the answer, to be sure. In spite of the picturesque images of seasteading communities that grace the article, the subject is enveloped in thick haze. Just like science fiction, it smacks of daydreaming. One more time, the need for self-defense is mentioned not even in passing ("Seasteading: A Letter to The Economist," December 4, 2011). And all this at an age when piracy is rife across the oceans. Not surprisingly, the article centers on the Seasteading Institute, a think-tank financed by Peter Thiel of PayPal fame and his merry friends. Are they naпve beyond compare, or are they engaged in yet another climate-change scam? These are the real questions behind floating cities, but the article offers no clues about the answers to these simple questions. Chances are that beatific images of floating cities are here to stay. Now that heaven on earth is not to be hoped for any longer, heaven on sea is taking its blissful place. 96
"WILL GLOBAL WARMING REALLY TRIGGER MASS EXTINCTIONS?" (March 26, 2014) Thus Der Spiegel today. "In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted that rising global temperatures would kill off many species," the newspaper elaborates. "But in its new report, part of which will be presented soon, the United Nations climate change body backtracks. There is a shortage of evidence, a draft version claims." As the article shows, the IPPC predicted in 2007 that between twenty and thirty percent of all animal and plant species faced a high risk of extinction should average global temperature rise between two and three degrees Celsius, but many uncertainties have become apparent in the meanwhile. To begin with, a large number of life forms are more adaptable than previously believed. In addition, there are many other causes of extinctions, such as monocultures, overfertilization, and soil destruction. All together, they wipe out more species than a temperature rise of a few degrees Celsius. Given the myriad other human encroachments in the natural environment, climate change is not the only culprit of mass extinctions. And that is the gist of the article. The only remaining mystery is why that was not clear from the title and the byline in the first place. All they suggest, wrongly, is that global warming is not such a bad thing. In fact, it is a leading one among many other human encroachments in the natural environment. All things considered, it is humans who are triggering mass extinctions one way or another. Amen. CAPITALISM TO THE RESCUE (March 29, 2014) The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is boxing clever as of late. Its last report, which is to be released any day now, is warning of the drop in global growth and crop yields. In short, the cost of climate change is coming into focus at long last. Judging by the top financial newspapers around the world, investors are starting to pay attention. It is high time, too. Where there are costs for some, there must also be benefits for others. And there is much money yet to be made from climate change. Revolutionary as capitalism has been from the very start, and Marx is my witness, the dominant socioeconomic system is here to solve all of our problems, climate change included. Hooray! For the time being, congratulations must go to IPCC, though. Cost is the word to cherish. The clever scientists have turned another leaf in the nick of time. As for climate change, it is as good as history already. NAMELESS HUMANS (March 31, 2014) The last report of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is finally out. Produced over three years by some three-hundred scientists, it numbers two-thousand and six-hundred 97
pages in thirty-two volumes. I just went through an article about the report in The Guardian, and I was impressed by the number of online comments trailing it. There are more than seven-hundred of them, and it is only around noon. Counting no more than a few dozen words on the average, the comments are all over the place, as expected. There are accusations, pleas, and threats galore. But not a single commentator has a name. A first and second name, that is. Or a given and family name. Many of them go by sheer numbers, too. What does this tell you about climate change, though? The main problem with climate change will not be the weather but the humans. They have not only brought climate change to the planet, but they will also sauce it up when the going gets tough. And what threat can be worse than that of nameless humans? BROKEN TREES (April 11, 2014) Gorski Kotar, a hilly and thickly wooded region between Rijeka and Zagreb, is quite a sight this spring. Many trees are broken in half. Quite a number of them are prostrate on the ground. Last winter was especially harsh. Unusually, large amounts of ice formed in the crowns of trees. It was the weight of the ice that caused the devastation. Even the trees that are broken in half are leafless by now. The ice killed them. I have heard about the widespread loss of trees, but the carnage is amazing to behold from the hurtling bus. Obviously, these trees have not evolved to deal with such a disaster. Although generally warm, last winter brought something entirely new to the region. Clearly, many plants will not have the time to adjust to the abrupt change in the weather. If the same thing happens several winters in a row, Gorski Kotar will be a different place. This is one aspect of precipitous climate change that is yet to be fully appreciated. As well as absorbed by the human kind. "UN URGES SWIFT ACTION ON CLIMATE" (April 13, 2014) Thus The New York Times today. "A United Nations report suggests that governments can still avert the more serious consequences of climate change provided they act quickly and aggressively to cut the accelerating pace of greenhouse-gas emissions," explain the newspaper. Humor, or what? Judging by the newspaper's lofty status in the States, though, humor it is not. But it should have been. As James Lovelock declared only a few days ago in The Guardian, "we should give up on saving the planet." The ninety-four year old scientist famous for the Gaia hypothesis, which maintains that life on earth is one and indivisible, is serious enough. By the way, he spoke in anticipation of the UN report in question. Environmentalism has become a religion, he believes, and it does not pay enough attention to facts. According to Lovelock, the facts suggest that nothing we could do at this point would change things much. So, he repeatedly advises 98
us all to enjoy life while we can ("Enjoy Life While You Can," February 22, 2014). Amen. THE EVOLUTIONARY ORIGINS OF THE DEPRESSION EPIDEMIC: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (April 15, 2014) Your review of Jonathan Rottenberg's The Depths: The Evolutionary Origins of the Depression Epidemic (New York: Basic Books, 2014) is rather disappointing, for it does not even mention the key words in the book's subtitle ("Tidal Wave," April 12, 2014). It mentions neither the depression epidemic nor its evolutionary origins. Now, Rottenberg suggests that setting unobtainable goals can trigger depression or low mood. In particular, depression may be the result of an overcommitment to goals that cannot be reached. Since the depression epidemic is now typical of the so-called west, does it have to do with its imminent economic downfall? Alternatively, does it have to do with the imminent downfall of our civilization as a whole due to rapid climate change? In both cases, the much-advertised goals cannot be reached. These would be explanations worth exploring, and not only in medical research. This is where the evolutionary origins of depression would be of greatest interest across the board, perhaps even in the so-called east. THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY FOR BEGINNERS (April 23, 2014) The readers of The Financial Times are regaled today by a guest post on one of the newspaper's blogs concerning the rest of the TwentyFirst Century. Dramatically, it comes in four acts. Written by two Brazilians from Fundaзгo Dom Cabral in Nova Lima, Brazil, the forecast is based on two sorts of cycles: hegemonic cycles of a hundred to one-hundred and forty years, and Kondratiev cycles of fifty to sixty years. Hegemonic cycles have to do with leading global economies and Kondratiev cycles with technological change, which moves from the military into commercial domains. Act I concerns the crisis of 2020s. Increasing energy and food prices will lead to increasing cultural and military conflicts. Act II envisages a technological revolution of 2040s. The main candidates are robotics and artificial intelligence; genetics and biotechnology; and green energy and space technology. Act III ushers world wars of 2070s and 2080s. This will be a chaotic period leading to transition in world hegemony. Act IV concerns the new hegemony and a new beginning for the world economy in 2090s and the first few years of the TwentySecond Century. The main candidates are the United States of Europe; United States of America merged with Mexico; China and its colonies; India and its colonies; and Brazil and its colonies. 99
"This prediction is a long shot," conclude the Brazilian authors. "In forecasting, to raise hypotheses, possibilities, and questions is more important than precision." Indeed. There are two more things needed in forecasting, though: knowledge and imagination. As for knowledge, the Brazilian forecast fails to mention the climate change that is already upon us. If at all, it appears only in terms of increasing food prices. Perhaps more important, the new hegemony does not envisage a drastic drop in human population due to both climate change and world wars. Such a drop would inevitably lead to the collapse of the world economy and reappearance of continental economies. Regarding imagination, the Brazilian forecast is pretty barren. Even neglecting climate change, the period of world wars is unimaginable without a significant change in the socio-economic order facing the world. The drastic drop in human population is likely to lead to a return to feudalism rather than any sort of capitalism. And it is likely to lead to a return to slavery on some continents, most notably Africa, and perhaps even South America. The beginning of the TwentySecond Century is thus unlikely to be a rosy period depicted in the Act IV of the Brazilian forecast. Far from it. At best, it will usher a repeat of the dark age following the collapse of Rome. And this is where imagination is crucial in forecasting. MEMORIES OF ENGLISH WEATHER, AGAIN (April 24, 2014) The weather has been so miserable day after day that I have decided one more time to search my writings for the first day I have worn sandals since my arrival in Motovun. Luckily, the record is already there ("Sandals, What Sandals?" April 9, 2013). Last year I started wearing sandals on April 14 ("My Winter Shoes," April 14, 2013). So far, the worst year was 2009, when I lamented on May 4 that sandals were still a dream ("Memories of English Weather," May 4, 2009). This year is likely to be the same and perhaps even worse, though. According to all the weather forecasts I am aware of, it is supposed to continue raining through the end of April. The beginning of May cannot be much different, either. Memories of English weather thus make me shudder again. And these are painful memories, to be sure. Which is why I do not even dare look through the window right now. Dark and drizzly Istria looks exactly like dark and drizzly Berkshire, I can tell without looking. A TABOO THEME (April 28, 2014) A string of deadly storms hit the American Midwest and South yesterday. Eighteen people are reported dead. Arkansas suffered worst damage, but Oklahoma is not far behind. Louisiana was also hit, but not so severely. Interestingly, yesterday was the third anniversary of a string of deadly storms that struck Mississippi, Alabama, 100
Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia. One-hundred and twenty-two tornadoes killed three-hundred and sixteen people. Amazingly, not one of the articles about yesterday's storms I have found on the World Wide Web mentions any connection with climate change. Evidently, that is a taboo theme nowadays, and especially in America. The connection between violent storms and climate change has not been established by science beyond reasonable doubt, and that is all there is to it. By the way, leading meteorologists in America declared the string of storms three years ago as one-in-a-century sort of event ("Tornadoes, Hurricanes: A Letter to The Economist," May 9, 2011). As I argued back then, sweeping climate change under the rug will not do for much longer. This is where there are taboos galore. To be reckoned with, climate change will have to be recognized first. Or else. Addendum (May 1, 2014) Deadly storms have kept raging. Seven states have been hit thus far. And the number of casualties has risen to thirty-five by today. All in all, the rampage is ever more reminiscent of the one-in-a-century event three years ago. I only wonder what the leading meteorologists will have to say about this strange confluence of events. Will it turn out to be one-in-a-millennium sort of thing? "THE RIGHT LESSONS FROM CHERNOBYL" (May 2, 2014) Thus The New York Times today. "The dangers of nuclear power are real, but policy makers should not be spooked into shutting down a vital source of clean energy in a warming world," explains the newspaper. Well put. This is what James Lovelock, among few others, has been arguing for quite some time, but the message appears to have finally hit home. The only question is how violent is the warming world likely to become in not so distant future. For nuclear power plants would be prized targets of military action. And the probability of global warming ending up in global war is perforce rather high. Which is why I would beg to differ. The argument holds only under the assumption that global warming will be a peaceful process. Fat chance, though. "CLIMATE CHANGE IS A PRESENT DANGER" (May 4, 2014) Thus The Guardian today. "National Climate Assessment, to be launched at White House on Tuesday, says effects of climate change are now being felt," elaborates the newspaper. Alleluia! A bulky report compiled by some three-hundred leading scientists and experts is meant to be a definitive account of climate change in the States. And the verdict is that no American will be left unscathed. "Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly 101
into the present," a draft version of the report says. Here is another straightforward quote worth cherishing: Americans are noticing changes all around them. Summers are longer and hotter, and periods of extreme heat last longer than any living American has ever experienced. Winters are generally shorter and warmer. Rain comes in heavier downpours, though in many regions there are longer dry spells in between. Indeed. In short, scientists and experts are catching up with common people at long last. And that is very good news. The remaining question is what to do about it. Not in the sense of checking it, for that is beyond the human species at this point in time, but in the sense of preparing for the disasters to come. Sadly, the article is rather quiet on this score. Chances are that Americans will need to wait for the next National Climate Assessment for useful stuff of this sort. Right now, only survival is worth talking about. Everything else is for the birds. With some luck, scientists and experts will keep catching up. ON MARX AND MARXISTS (May 5, 2014) Marx and Marxists are in the news. Again. The New York Times recently ran a forum with leading economists entitled "Was Marx Right?" Books are hastily written on this subject, too. And the work of Marx and Marxists is now available online in a large number of languages through the Marxists Internet Archive (www.marxists.org). And for free. So, why am I neglecting all this in view of my early writings, which still play an important part in my magnum opus? The answer is clear albeit somewhat heartless: I now believe that humans are not capable of socialism, let alone of communism. This is where Marx and Marxists, including myself, have consistently erred. Put differently, the highest stage of human development possible at this stage of human evolution is capitalism. The only hope for socialism is in human evolution, but it may take many hundreds of thousands of years to reach it. That is, quite a number of glaciation cycles, during which the human species will cycle through the stages experienced so far--from hunting and gathering to capitalism, and back again. But how could I be so sure about all this? I experienced socialism first hand, while Marx and most Marxists could only dream of it. And neither Marx nor Marxists could even dream of glaciation cycles, let alone climate change. MAY 1914 (May 12, 2014) There is an interview in Der Spiegel today with Lennart Bengtsson, a Swedish meteorologist who has long been thought of as a cool head about climate change. The former director of the Max Planck Institute 102
of Meteorology in Hamburg, one of the leading climate-change research centers, he has recently decided to join an organization that is skeptical of major changes in the world's climate. This is the Global Warming Policy Foundation, which is based in Britain. Thus he is asked why he had made such an unexpected choice. Bengtsson's reply is worth quoting in full: Throughout my life, I have been fascinated by predictability and frustrated by our inability to predict. I don't believe it makes sense for our generation to believe or pretend that we can solve the problems of the future because we do not understand what these problems will be. Just do this thought experiment: imagine you're in the month of May 1914, and try to work out a plan of action for the next hundred years! Hardly anything would make sense. The next question in the interview and his answer turn to the most plausible response to climate change. "We must embrace new science and technology in a more positive way than we presently do in Europe," he says. And then he turns to nuclear energy and genetically modified food, among other measures. This is where the interview ends, as well. All of this is neither here nor there, but I still appreciate his thought experiment. Just imagine you are in the month of May 1914. Your plan of action for the next hundred years would hardly make any sense today. Indeed. CAPITALISM WITHOUT LIMITS (May 13, 2014) The Financial Times is quite funny today. "European stocks hit sixyear high," blares the newspaper at the top of the page. Right next to this happy note there is a picture of melting ice in high mountains. "Melting glaciers threaten sea levels," the caption announces. To wit, stockmarkets are not affected by climate change. Not a bit. The way unbridled capitalism works, climate change will have no impact whatsoever on stockmarkets. "Accumulate, accumulate," I remember good old Marx at once. Chances are that climate change will only give new wings to capitalism without limits. Up to a point, that is. The earth is the ultimate limit. SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST (May 19, 2014) After several weeks of heavy rains, today's blue sky is a godsend. It is still a bit chilly in the morning, but it will get quite warm by the afternoon. According to the weather forecasts, it will be sunny for several days, and the temperature will keep rising. The only fly in the ointment is that much of the Balkans is flooded. Serbia and Bosnia have been hit worse than Croatia, but all three countries have been hit 103
hard by greatest floods on record. All told, there are more then fifty people dead by now, but the number of casualties is rising all the time. Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated, and it is anyone's guess how many more are still to be evacuated. For the largest rivers in the region are still rising in spite of the blue skies. The floods are reminiscent of those that hit Germany and several neighboring countries less than a year ago. What is going on? Climate change, of course. By and by, everyone on the planet will be affected by the weather in unmistakable ways. And people will finally realize that the only remaining question is survival. Survival of the fittest, to put it bluntly. ON DISASTER MANAGEMENT (May 20, 2014) Climate change is upon us. Nothing can be done to stop it. The only thing that remains to be done is disaster management. It concerns preparing for natural and manmade disasters, responding to them, and recovering from them. In the last analysis, this is the task of each community of organized citizens, for little can be expected from governments. Preparing for them involves listing possible disasters and best responses to them in accordance with the community's resources. Responding to them involves organized community action in accordance with plans and adjustment to unforeseen circumstances. Recovering from disasters also involves organized community action in accordance with plans and adjustment to unforeseen circumstances. Having recovered, the community needs to start preparing for upcoming disasters once again. The cycle of preparation, response, and recovery continues indefinitely. Disaster management also involves the defense of the community from unwanted intruders. In response to climate change, the principles of disaster management appropriate to each community need to be made comprehensible to all concerned. As they are developed, they need to be passed from one generation to another. And that is all that needs to be done about climate change at this stage of human development. "WEIGHING THE FUTURE" (May 22, 2014) Thus The Economist today. "Climate change poses economic and ethical challenges," explains the newspaper. Now that climate change is starting to be taken seriously, some economists are saying that significant investment may be justified to fend it off. "There is a risk that climate change will happen faster or be more costly that we anticipate," adds the newspaper, "possibly threatening humanity's very existence." But there is a question of how much people would be willing to pay today to avert the danger so many years later. This is the question of discounting. If we look much beyond a century, which adds up to four generations, the discount rate rises precipitously and costs quickly outweigh the benefits. The humanity's very existence is 104
valued at about zero in the long run. Alas, this is how the mental calculus works! In other words, significant investment may be justified only if benefits can be expected rather soon--say, two or three generations. But the mighty newspaper fails to mention what sort of investment, no matter how large, would be justified in this case. Cutting production so as to cut emissions of greenhouse gases? Geoengineering? Building protective structures to secure survival of large numbers of privileged people? Space colonization? This is where humanity would have no chance on deciding the best course of action. By comparison, choosing the appropriate discount rate would be a trifling. "GLOBAL WARMING VERSUS CLIMATE CHANGE" (May 27, 2014) Thus The Guardian today. "Yale researchers find that the two terms, often used interchangeably, generate very different responses," explains the newspaper. New research found that Americans care more deeply when the term "global warming" is used to describe the major environmental challenge than "climate change," which leaves them relatively cold. These two terms are used interchangeably, but they generate very different responses. Interestingly, the difference was even more pronounced among Latinos, African-Americans, women, and young people. But scientists often prefer climate change to global warming for technical reasons. That is, global warming may result in colder weather in some locations. One way or another, this is a useful reminder that phrasing matters. Occasionally, it matters a great deal. Which reminds me of the proverbial practice in the AustroHungarian army of testing all messages to the troops by having them read first by the most stupid among the soldiers. An exemplary practice, this. "A PRICE ON CARBON AS A CLIMATE RESCUE PLAN" (May 30, 2014) Thus The New York Times today. "A California initiative that provides funding to companies to reduce emissions is gaining traction as a weapon against global warming," explains the newspaper. And in all seriousness. There is not even a suggestion that this could be a financial hoax, whatever its benefit to the founders. For there are no weapons against global warming left to the human kind. The game is over. But there will be hoaxes galore, as witnessed by this California initiative. As climate change turns nastier, and as it takes ever more lives, the number of contrived solutions to the calamity will grow and grow. Up to a point, though. Sooner or later, the malefactors will figure out that the only way to protect their precious bums is to focus on practical weapons against global warming. Very practical. Such as fortresses out of sight, stashes of cleaver weapons, and well-trained 105
private armies. And all this will have to come with a well-protected source of drinkable water, greenhouses for food production, and sturdy stables for cattle. Everything else is for the birds.
"HAVE CHILDREN NOT PETS" (June 3, 2014) Thus The Guardian quoting Pope Francis today. "Pontiff says married couples who decide not to procreate and opt to get a dog or cat instead face the `bitterness of loneliness' late in life," elaborates the newspaper. At the ripe age of seventy-seven, the pontiff knows what he is talking about, I guess. If he is insisting on procreation, he must be of two minds about his own decision to go childless through life. Instead of opting to get a dog or a cat, he opted for zillions of sheep. On top of loneliness and bitterness of old age, he also gets all the bleating of his untold followers. But I cringe when I think of his poor parents, as well as the parents of so many like him through the ages. Have no popes for children, I would say by way of advice. To Les U. Knight
Thus The Financial Times today. "Venice, ruled by a Council of Ten for five-hundred years, has a long history of secretive government by a cosy nexus of political and business interests," elaborates the newspaper. "Some Venetians are asking how much has changed after the latest corruption scandal to hit la Serenissima." The story centers on Giorgio Orsoni, the city's mayor until a few days ago, and bribery linked to the five-billion euro Mose flood barrier project. Mose is Italian for Moses. The project was commenced in 1987 and is due for completion in 2016. Close to forty people were arrested recently, and more than a hundred are also under investigation. Many people in Venice believe that corruption extends to all major projects in the city. They have held street protests against the scandals, but there is little optimism about the future. As they say, this is not a case of a rotten apple, but a rotten apple tree. But the article provides a wonderful quote of a certain Maria Pia, and eighty-year old Venetian, who spoke about the scandal on a ferry on the Giudecca canal. "We are all used to the high water, and we all have our boots," she said. "The only ones who need the Mose are those who want to get fat on public money." Very well put. But the comment extends to all major projects everywhere around the globe. Corruption is an essential part of every major project, and Italy is not an exception. The larger the project, the more corruption there will be. The best that people can do no matter where they live is stick to their own trusted devices. Mrs. Pia's wisdom is worthy of collective recollection.
"GLOBAL REFUGEE NUMBERS PASS FIFTY-MILLION" (June 20, 2014) Thus The Guardian today. "Highest number of displaced since second world war, with children comprising more than half, says UN refugee agency," elaborates the newspaper. A good number to remember, this. With seven-billion people around the world, this is still a pittance, but the connection with the last world war is surely sobering. As many have worried over the years, climate change is bound to displace so many people that war would be unavoidable. But could it cause another world war all by itself? That is anyone's guess, of course. The continents to watch are Africa, Asia, and South America. If conflagration starts at several continents at once, this would be a world war in anything but name. At any rate, the number of displaced people around the world is a number too watch. And serious troubles are likely to come when it reaches about a hundred-million. The rich countries add up to about a billion people, and this would be a tenth of their own populations. Feeding so many people, half of whom are children, would be nigh impossible anywhere around the world. ON FAMILY (June 27, 2014) Family is on everyone's lips nowadays. The church loves it, and so does the state. In the minds of the many, family is at the very hub of human existence. But there is much confusion about what the term entails. The nuclear family of this day and age has nearly nothing to do with the extended family a century ago, let alone the clan. Kinship has changed meaning many times over in the last millennium or two. Going back ten millennia or more, kinship was an entirely different notion, and family in today's guise did not even exist. Mothers were known with certainty while fathers were but a guess of the wise. Brothers and sisters were of the same mother and hearth, but that was about all. The tribe was on everyone's lips at the time, for it was the hub of human existence beyond any doubt. The only reason for the insistence on the family as of late is property and its passage down generations. Property as such goes back only five or six millennia, though. All in all, there is little else except property that holds the family together at present. And family is but an impediment to jealous brothers and sisters, as well as their even more jealous children. Family quarrels over inheritance are thus rife. Which is perhaps the only reason why family is beloved of both church and state, for they are always there to intervene one way or another. As for me, I cherish the return to prehistory that lies ahead. Or posthistory, to be a bit more precise. At long last, the silly banter will stop. Family will first fade into a vague memory, and then it will vanish altogether. The bliss. 107
COOPERATION, CONFLICT (July 3, 2014) Every now and then, I find myself thinking about the long-term future of the human race. Will humans get into conflict under protracted adversity, such as rapid climate change, or will they cooperate? By and by, the answer is shaping in my mind. Humans will cooperate, but only within small communities in which they know and trust each other. They will be in conflict with everyone else, whom they will summarily distrust. This bodes well only for humans who already live in rural environments, where food can be grown. And it bodes ill for all the other humans, about a half of whom now lives in large urban agglomerations. Under adversity, as well as bereft of food and potable water, they will be heading for small communities within reach. But they will not be received well. The conflict will be intense for a while. Once it subsides, the marauding bands will be the main problem the small communities will face. Their number will subside over time, and small communities will come to their own. Conflict will wane and cooperation will rein most of the time. By then, the number of humans will have dropped to between a tenth or a twentieth of the present numbers. In a nutshell, this is the price of cooperation between humans. "BIG PROJECTS FACE GROWING RESISTANCE" (July 12, 2014) Thus Der Spiegel today. "In recent years, a new protest culture has made it more difficult for to complete big infrastructure projects in Germany," explains the newspaper. "Now leaders are growing increasingly frustrated with protesters' unwillingness to compromise, and worry they're endangering the country's future." Among the projects are the new Munich airport, Stuttgart's new railway station, and the new soccer stadium in Freiburg. Disruption of affected communities, spiraling costs, and alleged corruption are the main causes of strife. According to the article, grassroots groups have become so livid, intransigent, and single-minded that even the most respected politician in the country, Angela Merkel, is feeling their sting. I cannot but feel jubilant about the new protest culture, though. Big projects are suspect from the start. And so is the government, which is forever catering to the rich. Besides, the new protest culture brings communities together at long last. And that is the only way to face the uncertain future ahead of us. Fingers crossed. DUNBAR'S NUMBER (July 7, 2014) Robin Dunbar, a British anthropologist of renown, has argued that the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships is around one-hundred and fifty. This is now known as Dunbar's number. He suggested that the limit is imposed by the brain's processing capacity. Evidence from prehistory shows that the 108
size of stable social groups varied from about one-hundred to twohundred and fifty, but Dunbar's number is still a useful idea linking brain size and social group size. Why am I going on and on about all this? This morning I found an electronic-mail message from my No. 1 son, who forwarded me something from a blog that mentions Dunbar's number. In the blog, the number is used to show why people listen to prophets of doom, who are often closer than their own relatives, but the argument is hopelessly garbled. If people's capacity to follow prophets is limited by their brain size, prophets of boon would have an equal chance as the prophets of doom. In my quick response to my son, I mentioned that Dunbar's number is often on my mind in connection with our eventual return to prehistory. That is, posthistory. Once again, we will be with as many people as our brains can process in sufficient detail. This I am quite sure about. I am only confused about my status: am I a prophet of boon or doom? THE BEGINNING OF THE END (July 8, 2014) The world population is expected to reach about ten-billion around the middle of this century, and it is expected to decline afterwards. This forecast has to do with many things, but chief among them is the assumption that there will be no major changes in the world economy. I am not likely to witness the moment when the record population will be reached, but I wonder whether it will ever be reached. The assumption of no major changes is questionable at best. To begin with, climate change will have a major effect on the world economy, and thus on the world population. On top of this, climate change is likely to trigger major wars, if not World War III itself. The combined effect of these two changes on the world population will be appreciable. Am I likely to witness such calamities, though? I would say so. By the time I reach ninety, which will be in twenty-two years, the world will be rather different than it is today. The world population will have peaked by then, but only around eight-billion. And I feel quite lucky that both of my parents had died at the age of ninety. It is a sort of guarantee I will witness only the beginning of the end. The rest of the end is better skipped, anyway. Besides, it may well stretch over the rest of the century or even longer. "WHITE HOUSE UNVEILS CLIMATE CHANGE INITIATIVES" (July 16, 2014) Thus The New York Times today. "The actions are meant to reduce risks of catastrophic weather events," explains the newspaper. Congratulations to Barack Obama. The initiatives to be announced today are aimed at practical things, such as guarding the electricity supply at local level, improving local planning for floods and droughts, and better predicting of landslide risks as sea levels rise and storms intensify. The emphasis is on climatic catastrophes and the best way to 109
prepare for them rather than on curbing climate change as such. The latter is beyond our reach at this stage, anyhow. The best we can do is to prepare for catastrophic weather events and manage our way through and beyond them. This is best done on the local level, and the most the government can do is to prepare the ground for local action. It is reassuring that Obama understands all this. With some luck, other governments around the globe will pick up his lead. WHAT IS TO BE DONE? (July 25, 2014) As soon as I thought of making yet another selection from my Residua, this time about climate change and what is to be done about it, I thought of Lenin and his revolutionary guide from the beginning of the Twentieth Century. Indeed, what is to be done about this calamity that is shaking the whole word? Well, nothing! Following James Lovelock, I see no way out of the mess. Convinced of human collective stupidity, I am squarely on his side from the beginning. The best we can do is to embark upon disaster management on communal level. The smaller, the better. Besides, we can economize with our environmental resources following Keith Farnish's lead. As there are plenty of pieces of writing on all of the above in my magnum opus, a chronologically arranged collection would make sense. The title was the only missing bit, but Lenin came to my help in a jiffy. Everything that is to be done about climate change will come to the human species without any thought. Or organization, let alone revolutionary one. Pace Lenin, but a spoof is the best you can possibly deserve. "KIDS, GUNS, AND THE AMERICAN WAY" (July 26, 2014) Thus The Guardian today. "In parts of rural America, children as young as four learn to handle guns," elaborates the newspaper. "It's a long-held, fiercely defended cultural tradition." Much of the article is about hunting, as well as deadly hunting accidents. But the private arsenal many households have amassed is also ready to repel intruders. This is a part of the American tradition, many people in rural America proudly maintain. The article wraps up by pointing out that killing sprees are a part of the same tradition. And so are suicides. Close to a hundred people die from guns on an average day, experts claim. Nonetheless, rural America is likely to survive the turmoil of climate change better then many other parts of the world. While the ammunition lasts, at least. With some luck, this might stretch across three or four generations, which would be enough to make it through the worst of what is to come. The intimate knowledge of fruits, vegetables, and domestic animals could not but help in this endeavor. Looking way forward, a few accidents, suicides, and an occasional killing spree are a good price to pay for the privilege. Yoo-hoo! 110
ON CLIMATE CHANGE AND TOURISM IN CROATIA (July 29, 2014) Tourism is the only branch of the Croatian economy that still keeps the country afloat. Trade, the other buoyant branch, is neither here nor there is this respect. And tourism started well this year. Visitors came in droves in May and June. There was much hope that this would be the record year, as well. Things have changed, though. The weather has been strange most of July. There is much rain and temperatures are surprisingly low. On top of that, there are frequent storms, which drive tourists away. Judging by the latest numbers, tourism is a huge disappointment. The opposition is clamoring against the minister of tourism, who happens to be from Istria, which is also hit by inclement weather. Interestingly, not a single article I have seen in the Croatian newspapers mentions climate change in the context of tourism. Unseasonable weather is just that, unseasonable. In short, climate change is still a mystery in Croatia. Its effect on tourism is an even greater mystery to all concerned, and especially in the long run. The possibility that tourists will be flocking to the north of Europe one fine day is left to science fiction. Climate change, what climate change? NOTHING BUT SHAME (August 2, 2014) As of late, I have been ploughing through my Residua in search of pieces about climate change and the future of mankind ("What is to Be Done?" July 25, 2014). I use a plethora of search words and phrases, and I come up with a wide variety of pertinent pieces. I started with the obvious, such as "global warming," but I have moved toward the personal, such as "sandals," which sheds quite a bit of light on my own experience of climate change. Slowly but surely, the new book is taking shape. There is no need to rush anything, for a publisher on a white horse has long been history, but I expect it to be complete by the end of this month. In the worse case, I can put the book on the Ca' Bon Gallery website, where all the others can be found already. Anyhow, I am learning a great deal as I plough along. The most interesting thing that has come to my mind only this morning is that the subject of climate change coincides in my writings with that of Motovun. Prior to my move from Reading, Berkshire, I was as good as oblivious to it. And that entices nothing but shame on my part. How could I have been so blind to the world around me before the turn of the millennium? ONLY A WARNING (August 3, 2014) To add substance to Saint Stephen's day, the one on high sent an amazing storm to Motovun just after mass. It rained and hailed and thundered for quite a while. Some of the thunderbolts landed pretty close to my house. The whole house shook and I cowered in awe each 111
and every time. The power supply conked out soon after the storm started, and it is anyone's guess when it will be restored. It has been a couple of hours already. When the storm subsided a bit, I opened the shutters of a door leading to the terrace. It was covered with hailstones, many of which were the size of partridge eggs. It looked as though it had snowed. The terrace was filled with water, too. I took an umbrella and went out to unplug the two grills that drain the terrace, but I found them in perfect order. So much water had come down so fast that the grills could not swallow it. When I opened the front door, I saw foaming torrents coming down Borgo. Hailstones large and small filled every nook and cranny down the street. "We get the message," I grinned toward the sky. "This is only a warning, right?" What are patron saints for, anyway? OCTOBER IN AUGUST (August 5, 2014) The last few days have been incredible. The weather is all over the place. And people around me are grasping for words. "October in August," I just heard a dismayed friend's assessment of the weather. "Exactly," I responded. "I often find myself using such comparisons lately." Used to seasons, everyone is getting confused. Comparing months far apart is the trick many people find useful. Which leads me to a quick calculation. January can thus happen in the eleven succeeding months. The same holds for February, except that ten months succeed it and one month precedes it. And so forth, all the way to December. All told, there are twelve times eleven possibilities for mismatched weather by month. Or one-hundred and thirty-two of them, to be exact. Even though most people are not likely to compare months close by, such as January and February, the large number of remaining possibilities will still lead to increasing confusion. Memories of "normal" weather will also fade rather fast. By and by, everyone will get used to the fact that the weather is weird, and that will be that. "October in August?" they will ask. "Am I missing a joke?" POSTSCRIPTUM XV (August 6, 2014) So far, every selection from my Residua felt complete at some point. As if by miracle, I knew it was finished and done with. From that moment on, I would not even dream about adding to it or subtracting from it even a single piece of writing. It is different this time, though. Quite different. Climate change is still a mystery to us all. The upcoming glaciation is but a premonition based on science, which totters forever on its flimsy legs. In short, the completion of this selection on what is to be done about climate change is accompanied with a dash of unease. Nay, worry. But this will not stop me from completing my selection. Deep down, I feel confident in my prophecy, if that is what it is. Posthistory, here we come! And we are grinning 112
from ear to ear, for few joys can ever beat homecoming. Odysseus is my witness. 113
Sundry Afterthoughts MOTOVUN'S DEFENSE STRATEGY (August 11, 2014) I have long entertained my friends with stories about Motovun's medieval walls, which could come handy once climate change takes its bite and marauders of every description start roaming the earth ("With a Little Bit of Savvy," September 8, 2006). Yesterday evening I talked about the walls with Ljubo Miscevic from the Architecture Faculty at the University of Zagreb, who runs the Summer School of Architecture in Motovun. I suggested that an interesting exercise for his students could be the transformation of the hilltown into a fortification once again. The exercise would demand quite a bit of thought. Several gates need to be rebuilt. Houses leaning against the walls need to be brought down. Subsidiary walls also need to be rebuilt. Trees growing around the Motovun hill need to be felled. All this needs to be accomplished while conserving both materials and labor. And it needs much thought about defense as such. If an additional requirement would be to accomplish everything in a fortnight, for the marauders have just crossed Ucka to the east and are marching west, the exercise would become quite exciting. This morning I heard from Ljubo that he was considering my suggestion quite seriously. He may propose it to the summer school students as early as next year. After a few summers, we may well have Motovun's defense strategy considered from every plausible angle. Addendum (August 14, 2015) This year's summer school is over by now, and both teachers and students are already gone, but Motovun's defense strategy has not been addressed at all. When I mentioned it in passing to the assembled students in a few words of welcome on the day of their arrival, they looked at me without comprehension. And Miscevic just giggled for all to see. I did not expect that my suggestion would fly any time soon, anyhow. Although I did hope that he would talk about it with the students, hope is only hope. The future is bright, though. Assuming that the summer school is still around in a decade or so, the defense 114
strategy of the hilltown will surely be embraced by both teachers and students. The need for it will be palpable enough by then, I reckon. GO BELGRADE, GO! (August 29, 2014) Another selection from my Residua is about to be published. And in Belgrade, of all places. Two such selections have already been published in the capital of former Yugoslavia more than a decade ago. The first was about my growing up in Belgrade, as is only appropriate, but the second was about my "return" to Istria, where my parents hailed from. Both were in English. At first blush, this was like publishing a book about some Serbian boondocks in the Croatian capital, of all places. And in French, of all languages. Bordering on the impossible, that is. In fact, no Croatian publisher would ever think about publishing a book in a foreign language no matter the subject. But Belgrade is a special place to this day in spite of the many changes since the breakdown of Yugoslavia. It remains the largest city in the Western Balkans. One way or another, it remains its intellectual capital, as well. Whence my latest book about climate change, a planetary subject par excellence. And the fact that it will soon appear in Belgrade makes me quite happy. Nay, exuberant. In the years to come, I expect many a surprise of this ilk from the city of my youth. For my sins, I already have a couple of books in mind. Go Belgrade, go! ONE LONG HOLIDAY (August 30, 2014) In his interview for The Guardian earlier this year, James Lovelock likened the current period to that preceding World War II. "We all knew something terrible was going to happen," he said, "but we didn't know what to do about it." Once the war finally started, everyone got excited. People loved what they could do. "It was one long holiday," as he put it half in jest. "A sense of purpose--that's what people want." But the interview took place before the crises in Ukraine and the Middle East took shape. Now we all know something terrible is going to happen, but we do not know what it will eventually be. Will it be climate change all by itself, or will it be World War III, as well? In the former case, we would still not know what to do about it, but we would know pretty well what to do in the latter case. It would be one long holiday once again. The unknown terror of climate change would be mitigated by the known terror of a world war. In some sense, the two terrors would be so much easier to bear together. Come to think of it, is this why World War III is all but inevitable? 115
PALEOLITHIC DIET (September 2, 2014) Paleolithic diet is in the news. Only the stuff eaten by our ancestors is recommended. Everything introduced by the agricultural revolution is out, let alone the contemporary gobbledygook. This includes grains and dairy products, which dominate today's diet across the Atlantic. In addition, cooking is out. Our ancestors ate their food raw. Paleolithic diet has attracted a good number of critics, it goes without saying. Some of them are scientists, who point out that quite a bit of evolution has taken place over the millennia. What was true of our ancestors is not necessarily true of us. And so on, and so forth. As I bump into a growing number of arguments and counterarguments concerning our diet on the World Wide Web, I cannot but smile on occasion. Paleolithic food is right in front of us one way or another. If not by choice, it will be foisted upon us by circumstances. What with climate change and the upcoming glaciation, much of what we eat today will be history. In short, the debate is misplaced. As far as the diet is concerned, prehistory and posthistory cannot possibly differ very much, if at all. The only question is how much time we will have for the return. This time around, the change in the diet is bound to be rather swift, I am afraid. "WERE WE HAPPIER IN THE STONE AGE?" (September 6, 2014) Thus The Guardian today. "Does modern life make us happy?" asks the newspaper. "We have gained much but we have lost a great deal, too. Are humans better suited to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle?" The article offers loads of inane questions of this sort. And no answers, of course. How could we possibly gauge happiness across tens of thousands of years? Indeed, how can we gauge happiness across the planet at this very instant? Are humans in the Amazon forests happier than those in the suburbs of Toronto? The article offers next to nothing on the hunter-gatherer lifestyle, either. Humans have lived as hunter-gatherers much longer than as anything else, and that is why they can be expected to be better suited for such a lifestyle than any other. After all, quite a number of humans still live as hunter-gatherers at this very instant. But the greatest disappointment with the article is that it does not offer even a hint that humans will be returning to the Stone Age willy-nilly. What with climate change and the upcoming glaciation, there is no other way than back. In other words, humans will soon address the inane questions presented by the article in most practical terms. The best we can say in advance is that everything will in all likelihood be hunky-dory precisely because the hunter-gatherer lifestyle suits humans best on account of their long experience with it. All other speculations are for the birds. 116
ON SOCIAL PLANNING, AGAIN (September 9, 2014) As I was taking my morning shower, I realized out of the blue that everything I had written about social planning in my youth would ultimately come to pass. So much of my thought has not been in vain in spite of the fact that neither socialism nor communism stand a chance any longer. To begin with, primitive communism is awaiting us once again ("On Primitive Communism," May 7, 2013). Social planning as I imagined it nearly forty years ago will be at its foundations. Perhaps it should be called tribal planning, but its essence remains the same. Also, disaster management is not far ahead, and it will be the backbone of communal survival in the context of dramatic climate change ("On Disaster Management," May 20, 2014). Protection of small communities from the ravages of wild weather is unimaginable without communal planning. Although both communal and tribal planning will take shape spontaneously, without any need for philosophical underpinnings, their principles can be appreciated well in advance. And this is where my early writings on social planning offer much food for thought. The idealism of my youth has finally found its resting place. GREENWASHING (September 13, 2014) Naomi Klein has come up with a new book about climate change and capitalism.[20] In short, she argues that the market cannot save the planet. The attempt to sell the capitalist solution to climate change is thus denounced as greenwashing. This is entirely to my liking, it goes without saying. Her book also delves into her personal problems with pregnancy, which she links to the Florida oil spill four years ago. She went there to investigate and ended up impaired. Or so she believes. Although this adds to the book's appeal, it is neither here nor there. The main problem with the book is that Klein does not yet fully understand what is in store. She talks about Armageddon, but she keeps looking for ways to skirt it. Indeed, she still appears to believe in some sort of miracle that will get us out of the mess we have gotten into with capitalism's lavish help. And that is yet another brand of greenwashing, I am afraid. Which is why I would not even dream of reading her book. Survival is the one and only thing left for us to think about. Miracles are for the birds. MY LAST BOOK (September 29, 2014) Although my last book is still uppermost on my mind, as is the case with every selection from my Residua after its completion, I rarely talk about it. The best I could do about it was to make it available on my Ca' Bon Gallery website (www.cabongallery.org). But I still broach the subject every now and then, and especially when I talk to people one-to-one. To my amazement, I have not yet talked to anyone in and 117
around Motovun who has disagreed with my basic points. To wit, there is nothing we can do about climate change. The shit will hit the fan in a couple of decades. By the end of the century, the earth will be a different place. The best we can do about it is disaster management, for survival is at stake. Most of the people I talk to do not bat an eyelid at any of these points, but they perk up when I turn to the local scene. Istria is off the beaten path. Local people know their chickens and potatoes as well as their wine and truffles. Members of small communities, they can organize themselves when the going gets tough. Interestingly, the people I talk to who agree most with the last few points are newcomers, like me. Many of them foreigners, they can easily imagine how badly things could go back home. After a number of years in these parts, they know the local people well enough, too. As far as survival is concerned, Istria is a pretty good place. And the best I can hope for is that my last book will find but a few readers away from the magical peninsula. BELGRADE BOOK FAIR (October 3, 2014) This year's book fair in Belgrade will take place between October 26 and November 2. It will be the fifty-ninth in a row. One of the oldest and most important literary events in the region, it kicked off in 1957. I was eleven at the time. Last year it attracted close to one-hundred and sixty-thousand visitors. I remember going to the fair while I was living in Belgrade, but I do not remember exactly when or how often I visited it. The only reason why I am going on and on about it is that I will take part in the event this year. Actually, I will present my book about climate change at the fair ("Go Belgrade, Go!" August 29, 2014). Published in English by HESPERIAedu, a Belgrade publisher of some renown, it is supposed to go into print early next week. I am not yet sure what will be asked of me at the fair, but I expect one or two public appearances at which I will have a chance to present my last book. Nearly a month ahead of time, I already feel a bit awkward. My book offers little if any hope in the short or medium run, and its title is only a spoof on good old Lenin ("What is to Be Done?" July 25, 2014). Nothing can be done, that is. All is well in the long run, though. We are all dead, of course, but the children of our children's children return to tribal life of our ancestors, for which they have all the right genes. Alleluia! To John Maynard Keynes THE MESSAGE (October 13, 2014) As I just learned from Belgrade, my book on climate change is going to the printers today ("Belgrade Book Fair," October 3, 2013). Threehundred copies will be printed at this stage. Even though this is mere peanuts, I am still delighted. With some luck, the book's message will 118
spread. Although it is unlikely that humans will get the message any time soon, it will spread unimpeded from now on. But I already cringe in awe at the day when humans really get it. The message. The quiet panic will be heard all around the globe. The silence will be deafening. What follows will define the human species for centuries to come. Some will go nuts, but it can still be hoped that most will hunker down and pay due attention to survival. Mere survival. TRIBAL INSTINCT TO THE RESCUE (October 23, 2014) Humans are not individuals. Neither are they social animals, where society is an abstract entity, such as a nation or a religious community. Humans are tribal animals. Just like other primates, they are at home in groups of a few hundred individuals held together by kinship and shared culture. Ever since the appearance of larger social entities, most humans have lived in villages organized along tribal lines. As of late, humans living in towns and cities keep looking for ways to satisfy their tribal needs. These needs go so deep that they can be thought of as an instinct. The tribal instinct has been honed for millennia, and it cannot be replaced by larger social entities. As Charles Darwin noted in his Descent of Man (1871), a tribe possessing a high degree of communal spirit, where one member would always be ready to help another, would be more successful than other tribes, and this would provide another example of natural selection. Only the last five millennia or so have disrupted this evolutionary process, and this is true only of urban societies. Although an ever larger number of humans now live in cities, they can always return to tribal life if cities come in danger, as is likely to happen with dramatic climate change. This is where the tribal instinct will come to the rescue of endangered humans. Addendum (October 13, 2015) The tribal mode of existence has been uppermost on my mind lately. And so is primitive communism that goes with it. Which is why I see the ravages of climate change and environmental degradation in an entirely different light than most of my fellow humans. As I like to say, the horrors that can be expected in the short and medium run are well worth the trouble in view of the bliss in the long run. The same holds for the very long run, which covers several glaciation cycles yet to come. Looking back, the human species as we know it has been around for at least a hundred-thousand years while the interruption in the tribal mode of existence has lasted a bit more than five-thousand years. So-called civilization is but a blip in human experience. Chances are that the next few glaciation cycles will not be very different in this respect. Five percent give or take a few! It is thus not surprising that my optimism about the distant future is growing by the day. 119
PABLO PICASSO AND I (November 19, 2014) Paintings collectively valued at up to one-hundred and fifty-million dollars were stolen from the Kunsthal museum in Rotterdam in October 2012. Seven paintings went missing: Pablo Picasso "Harlequin Head" (1971); Claude Monet "Waterloo Bridge, London" (1901) and "Charing Cross Bridge, London" (1901); Henri Matisse "Reading Girl in White and Yellow" (1901); Paul Gauguin "Girl in Front of Open Window" (1898); Meyer de Haan "Self-Portrait" (1890); and Lucian Freud "Woman with Eyes Closed" (2002). Together with two other suspects, Radu Doragu from Romania was apprehended by the police in January 2013 in connection with the theft. Olga Doragu, his mother, confessed in July that year to having burnt the seven paintings in her kitchen stove in the Romanian village of Carcaliu in a bid to destroy the evidence when her son was arrested. According to her testimony, she placed the suitcase containing the paintings into the stove, added some logs, slippers, and rubber shoes, and waited until everything was burnt completely. Experts have analyzed the ashes, and found remnants of canvass, paint, and copper and steel nails, but they could not determine how many paintings were burnt. At any rate, a rendering of Picasso's lost painting now graces the opening pages of my book on climate change and what is to be done about it. In my mind, it serves two purposes. To begin with, it can pass as a likeness of the book's author. The harlequin is on the elderly side, that is. More important, it heralds many painful losses to come in the fullness of time. OBAMA'S BRAVE GESTURE (November 22, 2014) Immigration is in the news across the Atlantic. Neither Americans nor Europeans want any more immigrants, but Barack Obama has surprised many by opening his arms to them. There is much banter about his presidential powers in this connection, but the hubbub ultimately revolves around the legalization of the status of some fivemillion immigrants who are illegally in the States at this time. Fivemillion people are hardly worth the noise, though. Besides, they are already in the country. There must be about as many illegal immigrants in Europe, as well. The real question is what to do about the immigrants who have not yet started on their journeys to America or Europe. To make a wild guess, there are at least a hundred times more people who will seek refuge in the richest parts of the world when climate change starts biting in earnest. And half a billion immigrants is a conservative estimate, to be sure. By the end of the century, five-billion of them would not be surprising, either. This is where there is a need for some serious thought on both shores of the Atlantic. By comparison with the drama ahead, Obama's brave gesture is of little if any consequence. At best, it is a gesture. 120
SHAMANS' BRIGHT FUTURE (November 24, 2014) When humans find themselves at the end of the road, when they see no options left open, they go for sorcerers, fortune-tellers, witches, seers, conjurers, and wizards. In spite of the fact that humanity has never been at a higher level of development, which includes science and technology, shamans of old remain the last refuge to this day. In spite of all the outward signs of relentless change, humans remain primitive in their conceptions of the world. Which means that shamans of this world have a bright future. When climate change gets going, when the world starts coming apart at the seams, they will come to the fore once again. And they will rule the roost. Sooner or later, they will surpass all the rabbis and priests and mullahs in their art. Temples, synagogues, mosques, and churches will get deserted. The going religions will give way to the shamans of old. The only fly in the ointment will be the fierce competition between them. The angriest of all spells will fly against each other. "WORLD BANK WARNS OF CLIMATE PERILS" (November 24, 2014) Thus The Financial Times today. "Governments must tackle threat of man-made change," the newspaper quotes the bank's president, Jim Yong Kim. A "frightening world" of global instability threatens unless governments do something. Some of the world's most important food crops could be severely affected by weather extremes. Water supply is threatened in many parts of the world. Climate-related disasters are increasing in number, which will be reflected by food prices. Most important, food prices are reflected by social unrest. "As the planet warms further, heatwaves and other weather extremes, which today we call once-in-a-century events would become the new climate normal, a frightening world of increased risk and instability," he said. Well put, and especially on the idiocy of once-in-a-century events. But Kim has next to nothing to offer by way of advice to governments the world over. What could they do, anyhow? Each and every government will wait for climate-related disasters to hit before they act. Only then they will fumble along as best they can. And they can but little. Humans are not capable of any other reaction to climate change. As for yet another warning--many thanks, Kim! "US BUYS UP EBOLA GEAR, LEAVING LITTLE FOR AFRICA" (November 25, 2014) Thus The Wall Street Journal today. "The few global producers are ramping up production, but they are still straining to meet demand, especially since anxiety has risen in the US," explains the newspaper. This is yet another example of market failure on a global scale. Panicstricken Americans are richer than Ebola-ridden Africans, and so they 121
suck up the protective clothing, utensils, and equipment even though they do not need them. The United Nations should intervene in such a case to make sure that the gear goes to where it is needed, but this is only wishful thinking. The world is not working. Period. Unfortunately, this is how things will shape up in any future pandemic. In this sense, Ebola offers a useful model of things to come. Americans and Europeans will suck up the gear and drugs needed no matter where the pandemic erupts. And it is more likely to erupt in Africa, Asia, or Latin America than anywhere else. Add climate change to the picture, and the future is in plain sight. Weather disasters, crop failures, famine, disease, unrest, migration... LIKE A GOOD FISHERMAN (November 25, 2014) It has been nearly a month since my last book appeared in print, but there has been not a peep about it yet. The World Wide Web is my witness. So far, the book appears on the publisher's website and my two websites. And that is it. Even though I did not expect any sort of splash following the publication, I am still puzzled about the complete and total silence. Once again, the effort appears to have been in vain. But it all boils down to sheer luck, as ever. If the book gets into the hands of the right person or group of people, it will be trumpeted far and wide. If not, the present silence will continue indefinitely. Luckily, the book's message is that there is little if anything that can be done about climate change. And that everything that can be done about it will be done without any guidance on anyone's part, anyway. Perhaps the only message worth the effort is that there is light at the end of the tunnel. The light of the long-forgotten past, that is. Be that as it may, the best I can do is wait like a good fisherman. The net is in its place, and it takes some patience before the fish comes rushing in. Assuming there is any fish, of course. CHICKENING OUT (November 28, 2014) Given my view of the looming catastrophe due to climate change, I feel uneasy about my three children. Born in 1975, 1992, and 1995 to two different mothers, they face somewhat different risks, but they all face serious risks because they may live through a good part of this fraught century. If the shit hits the fan in fifteen to twenty years, as James Lovelock has prophesied, they will feel the brunt of what is to come while they are in their prime. And I feel responsible for their fate. Had I been more astute years ago, I would not have had any children, let alone as many as three of them. My recent book about climate change and what is to be done about it offers an early warning to them, too, but that is hardly a sufficient consolation for me. I should have known better. How do the three of them feel about being born into this predicament, though? I have sent my book to my two sons already, but I am not in touch with my daughter, who is the youngest 122
of the three. So far, I have not heard a word from either of my sons about my vision of the imminent future. Chances are that both of them think of it as off the wall, anyhow. In other words, they are not likely to be complaining about my faulty judgment regarding their birth. And I may be gone by the time the calamity gets going in earnest and their curses begin flying my way. Ahead of time, I feel that I am, as it were, chickening out. "OPTIMISM FACES GRAVE REALITIES AT CLIMATE TALKS" (December 1, 2014) Thus The New York Times today. "Even as United Nations negotiators gathering in South America this week expressed optimism that they may finally achieve a deal, experts caution it may not be enough to stave off the near-term impact of global warming," explains the newspaper. After more than two decades of trying but failing to forge a global pact on climate change, the current optimism follows the recent landmark announcement of Barack Obama and Xi Jinping committing the world's largest polluters to cuts in their emissions. Still, a growing number of scientists and climate-change experts warn that it may now be impossible to prevent the temperature of the earth's atmosphere rising by two degrees Celsius, which is deemed to be the tipping point ushering drought, food and water shortages, melting ice sheets, shrinking glaciers, rising sea levels, and widespread flooding. The objective needs to shift to staving off even higher increases in the temperature of the atmosphere, which might make the planet increasingly uninhabitable. Enough said. And it all comes from a newspaper of great renown rather than an old grump who abhors the human race. Optimism, schmoptimism. "ASTRONAUTS LIFT OUR SPIRITS, BUT CAN WE AFFORD TO SEND HUMANS INTO SPACE?" (December 7, 2014) Thus The Guardian today. "The success of the Orion spacecraft has paved the way for America to carry humans to Mars and beyond," elaborates the newspaper. "Yet many scientists say that manned missions are expensive and unnecessary, and that robot probes are the future." Apparently, quite a few scientists are distinctly unhappy about the Orion launch. Putting humans into space is futile, expensive, and ultimately harmful to real science, they argue. They are dismayed by the American commitment to manned missions. A Nobel laureate is quoted in the article as disappointed with Obama, who should have scrapped the extravagance. It is the bang for the buck argument, which undoubtedly holds for science as such. Manned space flight crowds out real science, the Nobel laureate claims. Amazingly, the article does not mention space colonization even once, for it would explain manned missions in a jiffy. If only the good scientists had a scientific argument against it, such as that it was too costly for the human race or 123
even impossible on account of unfriendly conditions or excessive distance. Or perhaps that it was too late for it in view of the upcoming climate change catastrophe, as I would argue. For the poor scientists, space equal science. Period. I bet that the inane article will outrage many a space cadet, like myself. Screw science--let us go all the way to the end of the universe! "FULL SCALE OF PLASTIC POLLUTION REVEALED" (December 10, 2014) Thus The Guardian today. "Over five-trillion pieces of plastic are floating in our oceans, says most comprehensive study to date," elaborates the newspaper. The scientists came from the States, France, Chile, Australia, and New Zealand. According to them, the plastic in the oceans collectively weighs more than a quarter of a million tons. These numbers came from twenty-four expeditions over a six-year period to 2013. Large pieces of plastic can strangle animals such as seals, while smaller pieces are ingested by fish and then fed up the food chain, all the way to humans. This may lead to serious problems in the longer run because of many toxins in plastics. Much of the rubbish accumulates in five large ocean gyres, which are circular currents. The gyres act like shredders to the plastic before dispersing it. The volume of plastic pollution is likely to grow because of the rising production of throwaway plastics. Only about five percent of the world's plastic is recycled at present. The article closes on an optimistic note, though, for the researchers hope that policymakers will soon come to the rescue. I wonder. Plastic rubbish is now throttling both continents and oceans. Changing the behavior of seven-billion humans is not likely to be an easy task. Now that plastic rubbish is in the food chain already, it is likely to stay there for thousands of years, if not longer. Not even the upcoming catastrophe brought by climate change can alter the course of events at this stage. "A STRANGE CLIMATE EVENT: WARMTH TOWARD US" (December 12, 2014) Thus The New York Times today. "While president Obama's policy on global warming has infuriated many at home, the United States' image abroad is soaring, as was evident during climate negotiations in Peru," explains the newspaper. America has long been viewed as one of the world's worst culprits in connection with climate change, but that has changed. To their surprise, American negotiators in Lima are being met with cheers, applause, thanks, and praise. The change has to do with the recent agreement between America and China, the world's largest polluters, to jointly commit to cut their emissions of greenhouse gases, which has led to unprecedented optimism prior to the international climate talks in Peru. Secretary of State John Kerry is there, as well, which is the first time that such a high figure has been 124
engaged directly in the talks. Meanwhile, Obama's opponents are preparing an all-out assault on his environmental policies. Even though they are not assured of success, the current optimism at climate talks may be fleeting. So far, Obama has failed to deliver on his promises in Copenhagen, and it is anyone's guess what he will be able to bring to Paris next year. The Republicans in the Congress and Senate will do their best to undermine the final round of climate talks, which is supposed to provide a legally binding and universal agreement on climate to replace the Kyoto protocol of 1997. If accepted, the Paris protocol of 2015 would be implemented from 2020 onward. Fingers crossed. "SPANISH EXODUS TURNS COUNTRYSIDE TO DESERT" (December 13, 2014) Thus The Financial Times today. "Rural flight creates area that rivals Lapland as least populated in Europe," elaborates the newspaper. Climate change, it goes without saying. Bereft of water, people are abandoning the scorched countryside. And there will be many more of them in the future. But the article brings Lapland into the story only for comparison. What would be wrong if people from the ever-hotter shores of northern Mediterranean would be helped into Lapland for a new lease on life? Nothing, of course. But the European Union is still blind to the opportunities on its own soil, for Spain, Finland, and Sweden are all members. Relocation of people across the subcontinent will soon become a must, and it is time to start thinking about it in earnest. The planning and construction involved would take quite a few years, anyhow. But the time for a coherent relocation policy is right now. LEADING TO TRAGEDY (December 13, 2014) Lima climate talks are in the news. They have continued well past the official close of business on the final day, which was yesterday. One of the reasons for extension is the demand of poorer countries for more aid from the rich ones. Also, many countries are against committing themselves to anything. This is an issue of sovereignty, they argue. And so forth. John Kerry has warned that the world is still on a course leading to tragedy, but to no avail. Can we expect more from Paris talks next year? Of course not. Paris talks may be extended for days or even weeks, but they will still end in acrimony. Given that they would be last in a long series of talks, the acrimony will only be that much more acrimonious than in Lima or even Copenhagen. The sad thing about all this is that the world would still be on a course leading to tragedy even if an agreement was reached in Lima. Or in Paris, for that matter. Even if coherent, the agreement would require implementation, and implementation would ultimately fail for lack of coordination among the leading polluters. Simply put, humans are not 125
up to the task. It is a matter of evolution, and evolution takes its time. Millions of years are like mere seconds to it. FOREVER WELCOMING (December 14, 2014) What is to Be Done? is yet another book of selections from Ranko Bon's vast Residua, which has been available on the World Wide Web since 2000 (www.residua.org). According to the author, it now counts about three-million words. This selection is dedicated to James Lovelock of Gaia fame. The author follows this student of planet earth of world renown, who claims that only about a twentieth of the human species will survive the ravages of climate change. However, he provides a glimpse of how the collapse of our civilization will look in socio-economic terms. According to the author, we will go backwards from capitalism to feudalism to slavery to hunting and gathering. This is where the road will eventually end for a considerable time, and the human species will find itself in a world that suits it perfectly one more time. Tribal life will flourish once again. The main message of the book is that the road to what the author calls posthistory will be horrendous, but that the destination will be most delightful. Prehistory is the cradle of the human species, and it is thus forever welcoming. On account of its mind-boggling conclusions and its punchy style, the book is a small marvel. From Dario Dandolo's "Posthistory for Beginners," De natura verbalis, Vol. XXXII, No. 4, Winter 2014, p. 1021 (in Italian). ALL THIS CRAP (December 15, 2014) Lima climate talks are over and Paris talks are to start a year from now. Even though all countries around the world are supposed to come up with detailed plans of climate action in the next six months, which is quite a task that should involve one and all, the topic has disappeared from the news. It seems to be of real interest only to a bunch of activists in each country. Everyone else is concerned with more important things--kids, spouses, and jobs. They all hope that Paris climate talks will eventually come up with the magic formula to save the world. What could they do all by themselves, anyhow? In each country, the petty officials from a few key ministries will come up with all the requisite numbers. And then the United Nations experts will crunch them in preparation for Paris climate talks, where a Kyoto-like protocol is supposed to be enacted for long-term action starting in 2020. Sooner or later, this will take care of climate change, which will be forgotten in due time. Or so the good people sincerely hope. And all the media help along with entertainment galore. "Don't worry," I can almost hear Bobby McFerrin crooning, "be happy!" The only question is why am I putting all this crap into writing. 126
Addendum (January 7, 2015) "Exactly," I feel like shouting as I read this piece three weeks later, which strike me as much longer than usual. "Exactly!" Judging by so many online newspapers, which I still visit from time to time in spite of so many solemn promises to myself that I will abandon them all once and for all, climate change is the last worry of the human species. As a matter of fact, it is hardly mentioned at all. But there is entertainment galore. And all the serious problems discussed are far from serious enough to warrant much time and space. For instance, the economic depression facing the whole world is beyond anyone's ken. And so is booming intercontinental migration with the attendant problems of race and religion. But why should I care about the collective stupidity that underlines this civilization? And why should I keep putting all this crap into writing day after day? It is high time to take Bobby McFerrin seriously and forget about this silly world. I have better things to do, anyway. This is much easier said than done, though. To my horror, I cannot shake the looming catastrophe out of my mind. Not yet, that is. "Don't worry," I croon to myself hopefully by way of a lame conclusion, "be happy!" FOR GOOD MEASURE (December 16, 2014) The French embassy in Zagreb is planning a Franco-Croatian symposium next fall in the context of Paris climate talks next winter. The first step in preparation of the symposium is a meeting that will take place in the embassy tomorrow afternoon. Vjeran Pirsic, the best known green activist in Croatia, has helped the embassy identify the best and the brightest among those concerned with climate change in Croatia. I am one of them. I know a few others among the invitees, but not too many. Judging by the missives sent around by Vjeran, everybody who is anybody in Croatia has heard about tomorrow's meeting and wants to take place in it. There will be at least fifty people there, I reckon. For good measure, I recently sent everyone on the list a brief electronic-mail message and the electronic copy of my book about climate change. I argued that the only remaining concern is disaster management on the local level. And I added that the motto for the future is simple enough: "Think locally, act locally." Interestingly, I have not received any reply. This I am dying to see what if anything will happen at tomorrow's meeting. Addendum I (December 17, 2014) The meeting ended up much more to my liking than I had expected. There were some twenty-five people present, for quite a number of the invitees could not make it this time around. The French ambassador opened the meeting with a warm welcome. Two people from the embassy led it. A French academic concerned with climate change was also there, and he offered some opening remarks that struck me as 127
quite useful for the first meeting. Among other things, he said that Croatia is expected to play a leading rфle in helping the neighboring countries through climate change. Serbia and Bosnia are expected to be hard hit. But Vjeran was excellent. He knew all the invitees very well. He has been working closely with some of them, as well. I expected quite a few stuck-up people typical of the Croatian capital, but there were none of them at the meeting. Most important, my emphasis on disaster management was accepted with open arms. Everyone agreed that adaptation to climate change was the only meaningful response at this juncture. For this reason, quite a bit of emphasis was placed on the civil society and local affairs. Along these lines, governments were not expected to be of any great help in the longer run. All in all, the group assembled by Vjeran may indeed come up with a few useful things. Although I am taken aback at my own optimism at this stage, I have no reason to hide it. Fingers crossed. Addendum II (January 20, 2015) Amazingly, I am optimistic about the whole venture even after our second meeting today. Now we have the Croatian Climate Change Panel, in which I am coordinating a group concerned with disaster management. Other groups are dealing with less gloomy topics, such as energy, food, and law. Today was the panel's first official meeting. Ably led by Vjeran, we now have a website, as well. It will be kicked off early next month, and it will serve as a platform for climate change activities across the Balkan peninsula, which is at least environmentally unified. Besides, the thickly wooded mountain range is paramount in biodiversity across the European subcontinent. Most important, the team of twenty-odd experts is very to my liking. The meeting was held in good cheer, which was occasionally peppered by a juicy expletive. But the acronym of the panel says it all, of course. It would not be very funny before the breakup of Yugoslavia, but now it is nothing if not funny. Lenin must be turning in his grave. Addendum III (September 14, 2015) So many months later, the Croatian Climate Change Panel is dead in the water. The Franco-Croatian symposium is planned for early October, but the panel will not play any significant rфle in it, if any. Apparently, the French embassy in Zagreb got in touch with Vjeran last year after failing to establish contact with the Croatian government. A year later, the contact has been established, and a ministry dealing with many things including the environment will play a part in the vaunted symposium. Panel members have been invited to it, but only as spectators. It is thus not surprising that the CCCP website, which was put together early this year, contains nothing of any importance. The only proposal for the Croatian government is my own. In particular, I am proposing that disaster management teams be established at the lowest levels of local self-government. And by law. 128
"Think locally, act locally" is my motto for true. The rest of the panel can go fly a kite. THE WARMEST YEAR (December 17, 2014) Day by day, this year is getting closer to becoming declared the warmest on record. According to some scientists, it is the warmest in the last four-thousand years, no less. The trouble is that many other years in the new millennium are very close in the average global temperature achieved this year. It is getting warmer and warmer by the year, that is. But a brief search for the warmest year on the World Wide Web is great fun. Many are celebrating the horrible news. Others are deploring it. But some are bringing all sorts of evidence that this is not the warmest year on record, after all. The evidence arrayed by the key institutions concerned with meteorological phenomena is declared pure fiction. At any rate, the cacophony is simply amazing. Thus I can already envisage two humans meeting in the middle of New York City or London a century or so from now and arguing vociferously about the reasons for the deplorable ruins surrounding them. "Climate change!" yells one. "Pure fiction!" yells the other. And the winner is decided by a bloody fistfight. Addendum (January 21, 2017) As it turned out early in 2015, 2014 was indeed the warmest year on record. Soon enough, it was surpassed by 2015. And by quite a margin. As of a few days ago, though, the warmest year on record is 2016. Judging by the chart put together by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, which points straight up the last few years, new records are just behind the corner. And 2017 is the next in line, soon to be followed by 2018, and so on. Alas, climate change is getting to be boring, boring, boring... AMERICAN SURVIVALISTS: A LETTER TO THE ECONOMIST (December 29, 2014) Your account of the American survivalists--or preppers, as they are also known--is quite amusing ("I Will Survive," December 20, 2014). The end of the world as they see it will come after a huge solar flare, an asteroid strike, or a dirty bomb in a big city. Their inspiration for survival is drawn from the pioneers. The Federal Emergency Management Agency urges everyone to have a survival kit containing enough, food, water, and other supplies to last three days, but survivalists go for much longer periods. The cleverest among them have a well-supplied hideout somewhere in Idaho, Montana, or Wyoming. What strikes me as amusing in your account is that climate change is not even mentioned, and that long-term survival is unimaginable without a good number of other people. Without a small 129
community or "tribe" capable of survival, it is hardly survival at all. To wit, American survivalists are not up to the task. For survivalists worthy of that name, go to the remote rural areas of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, and perhaps even the outskirts of Europe. FORETELLING (January 1, 2015) Imagine that I could foretell the ravages of climate change with good precision. Also imagine that I could foretell the geopolitical repercussions of the upcoming tumult. On top of that, imagine that I would post all this on the World Wide Web. What would happen? Absolutely nothing. Even if everything happened exactly as I foretold it, nobody would pay it any attention. At best, some would curse me for my foretelling as though it was of my own making. So, why should I concern myself with the future of the human species? A good question, this. And so is the answer, which is so obvious that spelling it out is outright superfluous. I will be sixty-nine in a few months. As far as I am concerned, the future is nothing if not bright. Nay, dazzling. Addendum I (January 6, 2015) This was written with my last book in mind. For all my unabashed foretelling, it was of no interest to anyone. This was pretty much what I had expected, but it still hurt me. Not on account of yet another failed attempt at fame, I hasten to add. At best, I expected a little commiseration from the closest of friends. Anyhow, this piece suggested I was ready to throw in the towel at long last. The future of the human species is hardly any business of mine. Thus I thought I would let the book die quietly, just as it was born. I had distributed it to all and sundry both in hard and electronic copy, and thus I felt my job was already done. But I surprised myself today with yet another avalanche of electronic copies of my book sent to friends and acquaintances far and wide. Cui bono? An excellent question, this. Addendum II (January 21, 2015) To my credit, I have stopped pushing my book soon after the previous addendum was written. It is none of my business, I reckon. I have done my bit already. The book is out there. It is available to all and sundry. If it attracts some readers, fine. And if it does no, fine again. As for my friends and acquaintances, nearly all of them are keeping mum to this day. So far, I have gotten only a few comments, but none of them have touched the gist of the message. Many of the good people have not even thanked me for my gift. A few words would have been enough, I hasten to add. All in all, foretelling the ravages of climate change is of no interest to anyone nowadays. The way humans are, they will notice that something is amiss when the proverbial 130
waters comes to their necks. Expecting anything else from my fellow humans would be foolish. Addendum III (September 7, 2015) So many months later, there is no change to my story. Same old. In short, my book is dead in the water. I have done my best to make it both visible and available to all, but to no avail. The aftermath of climate change and environmental degradation is of no concern to the vaunted consumer today. This is a bit like beating a dead horse, but I will abandon all attempts at foretelling from now on. If I write a few words about the future of the human race every once in a while, it will be for my own edification. As well as entertainment. I will be seventy next year, and I will dedicate myself to my own affairs. Totally and completely. And my own future is dazzling, indeed. Addendum IV (March 29, 2016) The last few lines of the original piece make me smile. Alas, I will be seventy in a few weeks! But it is not the future that I find dazzling any longer; rather, it is the present. As for climate change, it is none of my business at this stage of my life. I will post my book on the subject on the World Wide Web any time soon, and that will be that. I have promised myself months ago not to write about climate change any more, minus an occasional addendum, such as this one ("Postscriptum XVII," December 14, 2015). Foretelling is for the birds, anyway. NESCIUNT QUID FACIUNT (January 1, 2014) Jesus's words are with me ever since I woke up this morning. "Dimitte illis," he addressed his father from the cross, "quia nesciunt quid faciunt." Well put. What else could one say about the human species? I am thinking about climate change, of course. And I am addressing myself rather than any old father. For better or worse, he was but a figment of Jesus' imagination, anyhow. At any rate, I pardon my fellow humans. Nesciunt quid faciunt, to be sure. THE END OF HISTORY (January 15, 2015) What with climate change and the upcoming end of the interglacial period, our civilization will meet its end in due time. There will be no apocalypse, though. Apocalypses are the stuff of religion, as well as of pulp fiction. The best model of the demise is the fall of Rome. Although not global, the process took many a century. If Attila's raids of Italy mark the beginning of the end and the fall of Constantinople to the Turks marks the end of the end, the whole process had taken an entire millennium. Our civilization may well take as long to reach a point where history as we know it will also meet its end. Literacy will 131
diminish gradually, but it will vanish at some point. Slowly but surely, its place will be taken by oral accounts of times past, which will soon become enveloped in legend and myth. Books will become useless, let alone computers and electronic memory devices of all sorts. They will be used for other purposes, such as kindling. But there is one big difference between Rome and our civilization in this respect. Romans could not fathom what was to come in a thousand years, but we surely can. By comparison, we understand quite a bit not only about the end of history, but also about posthistory that awaits us. And the study of our civilization's most likely demise may even become a scientific discipline in the foreseeable future. Endism, let us say. Many a clever student will be attracted to it any time soon. By and by, endism will become one of the favorite disciplines. Ah, who says the mother of all falls is an unhappy topic? Cut out his lying tongue! CLIMATE CHANGE? (January 16, 2015) Last year is now officially the hottest on record. Moreover, thirteen of the fifteen hottest years have occurred since 2000. Anything to do with climate change? TEN PRINCIPLES OF DISASTER MANAGEMENT (January 19, 2015) 1. Climate change can be neither stopped nor slowed down. In fact, it will gather momentum in the years to come. The threat may last a few centuries at least. The only way forward is disaster management on the community level. Help from the outside is always welcome, but it cannot be counted upon. Each community needs to fend for itself to the best of its ability. 2. Depending on its size, location, and resources, every community will face different threats. However, all communities will need to engage in disaster management, which will become ever more challenging as climate change becomes increasingly threatening. The principles of disaster management will be the same for all communities around the globe. 3. Disaster management needs to follow a regular cycle, which includes four distinct phases: preparation, response, recovery, and mitigation. This cycle will be repeated indefinitely. The community facing disasters will continually learn and adjust to changing conditions it faces. Disasters to fend against include both natural and human ones induced by climate change. 4. Each community will need to elect a person responsible for the coordination of the entire disaster management effort, who will appoint his or her team. Each phase of the disaster management cycle will 132
require undivided attention of a member of the team. The coordinator and his or her team need to have full authority to conduct all activities required in the disaster management cycle. 5. Every member of a community will need to take part in the disaster management cycle. Toward this end, they will need regular training. Each member of the community will contribute to disaster management according to his or her ability. Also, each community member will be rewarded according to his or her needs. 6. In the long run, the only way for individuals or families to survive the ravages of climate change will be to join a community capable of sustained disaster management. Fending for themselves without communal support will be reserved for a very small number of exceptional individuals or families, but only over a part of their life cycle. Both in youth and old age, they will need support of others. 7. Communities successful at disaster management will attract stranded individuals or families in need of communal support. Depending on their demeanor and skills, some of them will become welcome members of a community. They will need to be integrated into the disaster management effort as quickly as practicable. 8. Communities that are most successful at disaster management will also attract robbers and marauders in small or large groups. They will therefore need to defend themselves against unwanted intruders. Defense is an important part of the disaster management effort. Community members capable of taking part in defense activities will need to be trained and provided with all the resources required. 9. Communities successful at disaster management may grow in size to the point where they will need to split up so that a portion of the community will look for another suitable location to form a separate community. For this purpose, they will require appropriate resources. Also, less successful communities may need to join more successful ones so as to better cope with ravages of climate change. 10. Each community needs to maintain good relations with communities in its proximity, and especially those that are most successful at disaster management, so as to share knowledge and resources needed for the effort. These good relations will be useful in collective preparations for upcoming disasters. Also, they may be essential in collective defense against large groups of marauders. To James Lovelock 133
STRAIGHT TALK FROM A CLEVER GUY ­ COINCIDENTALLY MY FATHER (January 31, 2015) Although I am fairly biased, this book being written by my father, I still strongly recommend it. One simple reason: I thought he was a bit of a loon about the severity of climate change when he spoke passionately about it some 10 years ago. His basic premise, and that of the book, is that it's all coming much faster than even the more intelligent of us thought. As many of us are now aware, we will see extreme effects from climate change within our lifetimes. This sounded outlandish a decade ago, and I imagine in another decade's time our collective lethargy will seem outright criminal. Some lovely parts of note: He often writes in a digital-haiku style, limited to 160 characters, including spaces, which is the text-limit of his cell phone. One such haiku reads: "Intelligence of the human species can be defined with good precision: it is high enough to fatally damage its natural habitat, but too low to repair the damage." The book is written in bite-sized chunks, a format that follows the writing style that he introduced in 1976, which can be found at http://www.residua.org. This makes for lively jumps between the various nuances of the subject matter, an ultimately very entertaining read about the impending doom we've so blithely created for our planet, From Marko Bon's Amazon review of Ranko Bon's What is to Be Dome? Climate Change for Beginners, Belgrade: HESPERIAedu, 2014. CAUSE, EFFECT (February 5, 2015) I just skimmed through an article in The Guardian dedicated to the most common European fears. Predictably, fears differ quite considerably from country to country. Also, there are general fears and those closer to home. The countries surveyed in the article are Britain, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Poland. Much of the article is outright funny on account of cultural differences, but I focused on one thing only: the fear of climate change. And the verdict is straightforward: by and large, Europeans are not afraid of climate change. Terrorism and pandemics are way ahead in a number of surveys. And so is Russia. The article thus made me smile. Nay, smirk. Humans are too stupid to distinguish between causes and effects. More often than not, they are more afraid of effects than causes. The question of intelligence, no doubt. 134
CLIMATE SLAVES (February 9, 2015) Given that humans are tribal creatures, what made them leave their cradle? Why did they ever abandon their hunting and gathering mode of existence? How did the human population grow beyond the size comprehensible to an average human? Questions like these have been uppermost on my mind the last few days ("Tribe and Nothing but Tribe," February 6, 2015). The agricultural revolution was the obvious culprit, of course. It brought the first population explosion and the sedentary way of life. But the loss of the earthly paradise is still remembered in the bible. It did not take me long to remember that the agricultural revolution was underpinned by climate change. The current interglacial period is squarely behind it. Starting some ten-thousand years ago, it made the agricultural revolution possible. The growing population in turn led to slavery, feudalism, and capitalism in quick succession. What goes by the name of civilization evolved in just a few thousand years. The good weather was the end of hunting and gathering, as well as the tribe. It also brought the flooding of the Mediterranean caused by the melting of the ice caps. Once again, it is all in the bible. To my surprise, yesterday evening I got an electronic-mail message from my No. 1 son, who sent me a link to an interview with Yuval Noah Harari, an Israeli historian. His recent book, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (New York: Vintage Books, 2014), has become a bestseller. Amazingly, the interview revolves around the agricultural revolution. Harari is cited as saying that the scientific community acknowledges nowadays that it was not such a good idea. It made the human kind much more powerful, but the individual human being probably had a worse life than before. Precisely. He does not mention climate change that ushered the agricultural revolution, though. Nor the obvious fact that humans are climate slaves. ON RECIPROCAL ALTRUISM (February 12, 2015) Altruism and cooperation have long puzzled biologists. Robert Kurzban offers a fine overview of the subject, which also includes the humans.[33] Altruism is defined as behavior that benefits another organism, not closely related, while being apparently detrimental to the organism performing the behavior. Both benefit and detriment are defined in terms of their contribution to inclusive fitness. An organism behaving altruistically thus necessarily endures a fitness cost.[34] Broadly speaking, for reciprocal altruism to work, the following minimum requirements must be met. First, the environment must be one in which there are benefits to be conferred. Second, organisms must have repeated interactions with one another. Third, organisms must have sufficient information-processing abilities that they are able 135
to distinguish among individuals and remember which ones have and have not delivered benefits in the past. And forth, organisms must have sufficient information-processing sophistication and behavioral flexibility that they can interact with other organisms contingent on the history of interaction.[35] Two of these requirements for the evolution of cooperation through reciprocal altruism refer to the structure of the environment. Is there evidence that these requirements have been met during human evolution? Although it is impossible to answer this question with certainty, Kurzban argues that there is sufficient evidence that our ancestral conditions did have these particular features. If lucky hunters shared their food with their less fortunate band members, each would have been able to buffer food variability that a hunting lifestyle entails.[36] In addition, humans have specialized cognitive mechanisms for detecting cheaters.[37] However, Kurzban points out that it is unreasonable to expect that the specialized cognitive machinery designed to generate adaptive behavior in ancestral environments will continue to do so in modern ones. Systems designed to function well in tight-knit and stable communities might be entirely inappropriate in the modern world, in which encounters with others are frequently one-shot.[38] Interestingly, Kurzban leaves it at this. By implication, the blissful ancestral conditions engendering reciprocal altruism are unreachable today. One is left daydreaming about tight-knit and stable communities of yesteryear. "TWELVE WAYS THE WORLD COULD END" (February 13, 2015) Thus The Financial Times today. "What are the chances of all human life being destroyed by a supervolcano?" the newspapers asks. "Or taken over by robots? A new report from Oxford University assesses the risks of apocalypse." Although the title and the byline smacked of today's date, as well as the fact that it also happens to be Friday, I could not but take a peek. The report comes from Oxford University's Future of Humanity Institute and the Global Challenges Foundation, no less. Most of the challenges are accompanied by a probability assessment of their occurrence in the next hundred years, but the probabilities of a few of them are deemed impossible to assess by science today. And here is the list of challenges in the order in which they appear in the article: unknown consequences (sic), asteroid impact, artificial intelligence, supervolcano, ecological collapse, bad global governance, global system collapse, extreme climate change, nuclear war, global pandemic, synthetic biology, and nanotechnology. I was primarily interested in climate change, and the probability of an extreme version of it is assessed at 0.01 percent. I almost laughed when I saw the figure. As it happens, it is the same as that associated 136
with synthetic biology and nanotechnology. Also, ecological collapse is declared to be one of the most complex risks in the study, and thus there is no probability assessment attached to it. I only waved my hand this time around. On top of everything, unknown unknowns are associated with the probability of 0.1 percent, which is the highest assessment of all. By the time I finished the article, I felt sorry for Oxford University, not to mention The Financial Times. THE DECLARATION (February 14, 2015) David Cameron, Nick Clegg, and Ed Miliband are in the news. Unusually, they have signed a joint declaration on climate change. The three party leaders have done this during the general election campaign in Britain. As the prime minister, deputy prime minister, and leader of the opposition party declare, "climate change is one of the most serious threats facing the world today." Besides, "it is not just a threat to the environment, but also to our national and global security, to poverty eradication, and economic prosperity." Most important, "it is in our national interest to act and ensure that others will act with us." Fabulous, this. The declaration was welcomed by Al Gore as "inspiring leadership." The former vice president of the United States added that Britain is a good place for climate-friendly investment. The multiparty agreement was in sharp contrast to America, Australia, and Canada, where the conservative politicians typically argue against the need to act on climate change. But the declaration shows that they will all agree sooner or later that climate change is one of the most serious threats facing the world today, for none of them will miss the message concerning climate-friendly investment. Capitalism is at stake, after all. ON HUMAN INERTIA (February 22, 2015) Whenever I look at the media, I am amazed by the scant attention that climate change gets. By comparison with other topics of concern to my fellow humans, it is of minor importance. Right now, it is the Oscars that are in everyone's focus. Greece and Ukraine get some attention, and so does the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, but the bulk of the news is about entertainment and sports. Climate change pops up every now and then only to sink into oblivion once again. Which started me thinking about James Lovelock's comment that climate change may be an issue as severe as war, thus requiring meaningful action by modern democracies ("Humans are Too Stupid to Prevent Climate Change," November 16, 2014). As he put it, even the best democracies agree that when a major war approaches, democracy must be put on hold for a while. The same holds for entertainment and sports, it goes without saying. Given the human inertia, though, this will happen only when the proverbial shit hits the fan. By then, it will be war in anything but name. The trouble is that it will last centuries. 137
GOOGLE TRENDS: CLIMATE CHANGE (February 23, 2015) I just searched "climate change" on Google Trends, but I am still reeling from what I have found. Starting in January 2004, the interest in the subject has grown until the peak in December 2009, but it has declined ever since. If it was at 100 points at the peak, it ended up at 34 points this month. The most recent peak was in September and December 2014, when it was at 44 and 42 points, respectively. The last date coincided with Lima climate talks. Judging by these numbers, I would guess that Paris climate talks could get to no more than between 50 and 60 Google points. Amazing! Humans are losing interest in the subject. By extension, they are loosing interest in their own future. The present is the present, after all. Addendum I (November 28, 2015) It is just a couple of days ahead of Paris climate talks, and so I searched for "climate change" on Google Trends once again. There is a new peak forming, all right, but it is at 57 Google points at present. This is what I predicted in the original piece, as well. I would expect this figure to rise a bit next month, but that will be that. By comparison with the previous peak, this one will remain puny. Simply put, climate change will not be of much interest to my fellow humans before the proverbial shit hits the fan. And I have the rich world in mind. Only when floods and droughts and storms and fires start threatening Americans and Europeans on a regular basis will there be a new peak of interest in climate change worth talking about. In the meanwhile, forget it. As far as Google Trends go, the peaks to watch for will be in entertainment and sports, as ever. Addendum II (April 7, 2016) To wrap up this sad story, here are the latest Google results regarding "climate change" as a search phrase. Last November and December are at 60 and 65 Google points, whereas January and February this year are at 43 and March at 48 points. For the last time, the interest in the subject has peaked around Paris climate talks and drooped afterwards. And this conclusion comes straight from the search information provided by the topmost browser on the World Wide Web. Amen. DAM OF DENIAL (February 25, 2015) Zoran Skala, a colleague from the Croatian Climate Change Panel, sent me today an article by a certain Paul Gilding, an independent advisor on sustainability, with an interesting title: "The Year the Dam of Denial Breaks on Climate Change" (www.paulgilding.com). "Maybe the man is right...," commented Zoran tersely. Thus I read the article at once. As the argument goes, the market will finally wake up to the 138
economic opportunity offered by climate change. This will unlock government policy and public opinion. So far, many people have lived in denial. As climate change became more dramatic, the denial turned more entrenched. But the end of this perverse cycle is finally within sight. It is not difficult to agree with Gilding that science has become largely irrelevant in this connection. If the scientific evidence were going to change things, it would have done this by now. Thus we need to look for the shift in the human response, which points to economics and politics. Here he points at several big changes: the climate deal between the States and China, the collapse of oil prices, and the continual fall in prices of solar and other renewable energy systems. Big business cannot but notice these shifts, and it comes with considerable political clout. To wit, big business can push governments, too. So, it is big business that will start the ball rolling according to Gilding. The historical turning point is nigh and the cracks in the dam of denial are already showing. This sounds plausible enough, no doubt. Still, he fails to convince that 2015 is the year that will be remembered as the pivotal one. As I was reading the article, I was looking for a mention of Paris climate talks, but I found none. Gilding's perspective is American to boot. That is, parochial. Although it is hard to argue with him that the market opportunity for sustainable development may be crucial to the demise of the dam of denial, its timing remains open to question. It is here that the Paris event may well have a marked effect across the world. Willy-nilly, governments will have to commit themselves to action in Paris. There will be much publicity to the event. Big business cannot but take notice, and this is where Gilding may turn out to have been right in his prophecy. THE GATEWAY BELIEF MODEL (February 26, 2015) Tomislav Longinovic, known to many as Tom Long, sent me today a fresh paper on how humans react to perceived scientific consensus on climate change. Written by Sander van der Linden, Anthony Leiserowitz, Geoffrey Feinberg, and Edward Maibach, the paper appeared in an American open access scientific journal called Public Library of Science or PLOS (www.plos.org). Entitled "The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change as a Gateway Belief: Experimental Evidence," the paper was published only yesterday. Based on credible data and methodology, the paper rests on the so-called gateway belief model or GBM. 139
The model is presented in a simple diagram with six boxes. Perceived scientific agreement on climate change leads to the belief in climate change, belief in human causation of climate change, and worry about climate change, where the two beliefs additionally increase the worry, and where all three lead to support for public action on climate change. In addition, messaging about consensus leads to the perceived scientific agreement on climate change. It is the consensus messaging that drives the whole model. In short, the stronger the messaging about scientific consensus on climate change, the greater the support for public action on climate change. Thus the GBM also explains the success of influential ideological and politically motivated actors, also known as "manufacturers of doubt," who publically dispute the scientific consensus about climate change. "Plausible enough," I wrote back to Tom. "All that GBM actually says is that humans are herd animals. Sorry, tribal creatures." After some reflection, I added a few more words: "The only problem is that there are no tribes in sight any longer, which makes humans mightily confused." Anyhow, I enjoyed the paper quite a bit. Many thanks, Tom! NAOMI KLEIN'S SCAPEGOAT (February 26, 2015) Naomi Klein is in the news. Her last book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism versus the Climate (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2014), is grabbing headlines. But she is barking up a wrong tree. Capitalism is the system that best suits humans at this stage of evolution. It was not invented by capitalists, either. Besides, there are few humans who would not wish to be capitalists. Most important, replacing capitalism with socialism or even communism would change nothing in terms of climate change. There are too many humans on earth, and that is the main problem we are facing at present. In short, capitalism is but the proverbial scapegoat for Klein. Not that I am defending capitalism, I hasten to add. It only reflects the human nature at this stage of evolution. Sadly, it reflects it all too well. A GROWING RIFT (March 13, 2015) The Croatian Climate Change Panel officially met for the third time today. Counting our initial meeting, at which the formation of the panel was proposed and enthusiastically accepted, this is actually our fourth meeting ("For Good Measure," December 16, 2014). So far, everything is going pretty well, and my enthusiasm about the venture remains untouched. Most important, Vjeran Pirsic is leading it with aplomb. Still, I cannot but notice a growing rift with my CCCP colleagues. While I am concerned with disaster management, which appears to me to be the only topic worth discussing at this juncture, they are concerned with food, water, energy, and the like. They are 140
brimming with ideas about making the world a better place. Given all the givens, most of them strike me as way too optimistic about the future. That is, way too foolish about the ravages of climate change for comfort. Thus I am starting to wonder about all the upcoming meetings leading up to Paris climate talks at the end of this year. How many more will I be able to tolerate? Were it not for disaster management, which is ever closer to my heart, chances are that I would have stepped out of the panel already. FORECASTS, SCENARIOS (March 22, 2015) I am not fond of fiction, let alone of fiction writers, but I am thinking about the creed increasingly often. Their vaunted creativity may have a useful function, after all. My thoughts are driven by dramatic climate change, it goes without saying. Credible forecasts of things to come are expected from scientists, but they are focusing on funny numbers, at least from the vantage point of an average human. The increase of the average temperature on earth is uppermost on their minds. What does that mean for any particular place on the planet's surface, though? That is well beyond scientists, and this is where writers may be of help in years to come. They can come up with credible scenarios of things to come in place of barren forecasts. This is what I have been doing in connection with my hometown, as it were ("Motovun's Defense Strategy," August 11, 2014). The fortifications from the Thirteenth Century may well come useful once again in the Twenty-First. Thinking further along these lines, I can see the populations of Kaldir, Brkac, and Sveti Bartol huddled behind the stone walls as marauders keep coming in ever-larger numbers. Protecting the food supplies will be crucial to them, and not only life and limb. And so on. A writer in all but name, I may help my hometown more by thinking through scenarios of this kind than by trying to fathom scientific forecasts of all sorts. Enough said. Long live fiction! THE FUTURE OF CITIES (March 30, 2015) Cities have a glorious future in spite of climate change. Although they will be abandoned with the fall of civilization, for people will seek security in remote places where they will be able to grow some food far from everyone else, cities will attract scavengers for centuries and maybe even millennia. Steel knives will be sought. And so will steel pots, not to mention tools and weapons of all sorts. Scavenging will become a way of life for many people. In exchange for food, they will offer a wide variety of things unearthed in crumbling cities. After a short while, the ruins will be covered with bushes and trees, and it will take ever more skill to navigate the baffling crevices. Scavengers will need quite a bit of savvy, as well as courage in view of their crafty competitors in search of fortune. Even after a long time, scavenging 141
will remain a most profitable pursuit. And the provenance of recovered objects will become one of their most coveted features. The names of major cities across the globe will gradually change over time, but they will still resonate proudly for untold generations. THE RECIPE (April 8, 2015) Lately, when I search the World Wide Web with the "Ranko Bon Residua" phrase, the piece of writing that is my current favorite comes topmost ("A Recipe for Foolproof Subversion," May 14, 2013). And it says it all in one-hundred and fifty-one word, including the date it was written. Although I am aware that the same search phrase may yield a somewhat different outcome on another computer, for Google results depend on all previous searches from the same computer, I feel kind of proud of my readers. They got the message. The most intrepid among them will also read my book about climate change, which includes the recipe, but that is hardly essential at this stage.[39] The most gifted among my readers will figure out everything that needs to be figured out all by themselves. No need to load them with words. Endless reading is not a part of the recipe, anyhow. MY SPRING (April 11, 2015) This year, this is the first day for sandals. But only just, for I wore them for no more than a few hours in the middle of the afternoon. Tomorrow is anyone's guess, though. The weather is all over the place as of late, and it may take a while longer for sandals to make sense day after day, as well as all day long. Be that as it may, I am still delighted by today's weather. Early as it has started this year, the spring is finally here in terms I can appreciate personally. My spring, as it were. It is defined by sandals and nothing but sandals. My favorite footwear, to be sure. With some luck, my fall will also be late this year among years. Addendum I (May 5, 2015) Well, I rushed the spring a bit, as it were. I wore the sandals for just a few days in mid-April. Afterwards, there was much rain and temperatures turned surprisingly low. The central heating in my house has been working all the time. Today appears to be the first day for sandals for true. Even though some rain is expected later this week, the temperatures are likely to stay rather high. But the weather is all over the place as of late. It may well be that my division of the year in terms of sandals and shoes is passй by now. The choice will have to be made by the day rather than season. In a few short years, I will get used to the new weather pattern, or so I sincerely hope. 142
Addendum II (November 26, 2015) As I guessed in the first addendum, the very notion of the first and last day for sandals is out of sink with the weather by now. Years ago, the last day for sandals was in mid-September, but there was no such day this year. The weather kept shifting, and I chose either sandals or shoes as I saw fit. I thought of sandals only a fortnight ago, but I decided for the shoes in the end. The weather was so wonderful for so many days that it felt like spring again ("May in November," November 16, 2015). One way or another, it is high time to give up the notion of seasons. Seasons are history. Accordingly, the footwear choices must be made on a daily rather than seasonal basis. And that is the long and short of it for many years to come. Phew! WELCOME BACK, SHAMANS! (April 12, 2015) I just came across an article about the rise of astrology, magic, witchcraft, fortune telling, and so forth. This is against the precepts of all major religions, let alone science. Apparently, the number of those who offer services of this ilk is growing quite rapidly across the world. The article focuses almost exclusively on the supply side, though. Where are the providers of these services coming from? But the demand side is of much greater interest in this case. Whence the growing need for such services? The proximate cause is climate change, no doubt. An ever-larger number of humans can figure out, no matter how vaguely, that this world is up shit creek. But the ultimate cause is much more interesting, as ever. Although humans are not bright enough to understand the world in which they live, they cannot go without guidance about the future, no matter how dodgy. Not surprisingly, that demand will be met with adequate supply, for the market for services in astrology, magic, witchcraft, fortune telling, and so on has been around since the appearance of the human race. Welcome back, shamans! Addendum (April 2, 2016) In spite of all the hoopla about ever-faster technological development, the evolution of the human race has not changed its pace very much since the industrial revolution a couple of centuries ago. To start with, there have been no more than ten generations of humans over that period. Chances are that the development of medicine has actually made things even worse the last century or so, for way too many humans not only survive life-threatening illnesses, but also reproduce afterwards. Be that as it may, the rise of astrology, magic, witchcraft, fortune telling, and so forth only shows that the human brain has not changed very much over long stretches of time. Since the agricultural revolution some ten-thousand years ago, there have been only around four-hundred generations of humans all together. Evolution is a very slow process, anyhow. In short, even if climate change obliterates this 143
civilization, the few surviving humans will quickly adjust to the calamity. In just a few generations, shamanism will be back in full force. And the future will become plain one more time. "BRITAIN UNCOVERED: THE ATTITUDES AND BELIEFS OF BRITONS IN 2015" (April 19, 2015) Thus The Guardian today. "With three weeks until Britain goes to the polls, we gauge the mood of the nation," elaborates the newspaper. More than a thousand Britons were interviewed earlier this year. Skipping the attitudes and beliefs relevant to the upcoming elections, I browsed through the lengthy article in search of climate change. To my surprise, it was nowhere to be found. The environment appears in the list of worries close to the end of the article, but only just. Amazingly, the greatest worries in Britain are the National Health Service (59 percent of those interviewed), terrorism (58 percent), and immigration (53 percent). Among the least worries reported, the membership of the United Kingdom in the European Union comes topmost (32 percent), followed by house prices (31 percent), the environment (30 percent), inequality (29 percent), education (28 percent), and housing shortage (27 percent). Of course, the link between terrorism and immigration, on the one hand, and climate change, on the other, is not even hinted at anywhere in the article. One way or another, Britons are not worried about climate change. Chances are that other Europeans and Americans would not differ very much from Britons in this regard. In short, the Paris climate talks at the end of this year will be a flop. Whatever is ultimately agreed will be of little consequence in the years to come. Humans uncovered, as it were. ON SUPERBUGS AND CLIMATE CHANGE (April 20, 2015) Antibiotic-resistant superbugs are in the news. The overuse of antibiotics around the world has not only diminished their effectiveness, but it has also helped breed ever-tougher bacteria. Doctors are often accused of overprescription of antibiotics, but to no avail. They do not want to be accused of being negligent with their patients, who ask for antibiotics when the going gets tough. Until the patient-doctor dynamic is changed, assuming that such a change can be expected, superbugs will continue to spread. According to some researchers, they may become deadlier than cancer by the middle of this century. And then there are researchers who claim that superbugs are as great a threat to humanity as climate change, and perhaps even greater. What is even worse, some researchers argue that climate change is likely to bolster the spread of superbugs in the form of deadly pandemics. Going through a growing number of such stories on the World Wide Web, I am occasionally tempted to burst into laughter. What else is in store? The way I look at it, the faster the 144
human population collapses to a tiny fraction of its present size, the shorter will the horror last. And the sooner will survivors face the world I consider more than welcoming to the human species in the very long run. In my book, superbugs are only helping along in their own unwitting way. Whatever else is in store, it cannot but help along, as well. OOPS (May 11, 2015) More than six months after my book about climate change and what is to be done about it has appeared in print, and in good old English, there is not a sign of any interest in it. Not a single review of the book has appeared anywhere around the globe even though I have sent it to many an editor of a leading newspaper both in paper and electronic form. It is as though the book does not exist. Even more, it is as though climate change is but a figment of my imagination, let alone its repercussions. How is this possible? Of course, the book could simply be too poor to pay it any attention. Pure gibberish. Why review it at all? Even a devastating review would thus be a waste of time. In short, why bother? My short biography at the end of the book shows that this verdict is not very likely to hold water, though. Given my superb education and quite successful academic career, I am not likely to come up with any writing that is this poor. At least a devastating review would thus be in order. But it is nowhere to be found on the World Wide Web. The way I see things, my book about climate change and what is to be done about it fits no niche available at present. Neither its biting pessimism about the medium run, nor its mellow optimism about the long run, can find a home in any bookshop or library in existence. No editor that has handled it and glanced through it can find a place for it in his or her newspaper, either. It can find no market in today's capitalism, that is. For it offers no way out, let alone a way that would require investment of any resources whatsoever. In fact, it would have been a huge surprise if the book attracted attention on anyone's part. The only reaction by a serious reader I can imagine would be rather terse: "Oops." And that would be that. Which is why I reckon that a comedian could pick it up in the fullness of time. Or a group of comedians, such as Monty Python. My book would finally come to life, and there would be much laughter about the human species and its travails. The only trouble with these happy thoughts is that comedians of the sort I am envisioning are nowhere to be found nowadays, and for the reasons already mentioned. Oops, indeed. 145
"MERKEL AND HOLLANDE ENVISAGE END TO FOSSIL FUEL POLLUTION" (May 19, 2015) Thus The Financial Times today. "Angela Merkel and Franзois Hollande have pledged to strive for an end to fossil fuel pollution as part of a `profound transformation' of the global economy this century," elaborates the newspaper. The pledge is the two countries' introduction to the Paris climate talks in December this year. "We will strive to decarbonize fully the global economy over the course of this century," the two leaders declared. Neither the German chancellor nor the French president explains how they will achieve this laudable goal, though. Large and important as their countries are, they are still a small part of the global economy, and fossil fuels are still dominant energy sources across the globe. The probability that the goal will be reached before the onslaught of climate change is left to the reader. But it is exactly zero, no doubt. If the pledge presages anything, it is the proliferation of similar pledges by so many clever leaders across the globe. By December, the profound transformation will be complete, albeit only on paper. All the rest will be left to hapless leaders of the dodgy future. ON CLIMATE CHANGE AND ETHICS (May 24, 2015) Ethics is often brought up in connection with climate change. In view of the upcoming danger, the right and wrong ways to address it are debated at increasing length. More often than not, dilemmas are presented in terms of present and future generations, but they are sometimes couched in terms of rich and poor nations coexisting at the present time. No matter how ethical questions are formulated, though, I find them irrelevant to the problem at hand. As far as I am concerned, the only question is how the upcoming danger will actually be addressed irrespective of what is considered right or wrong in terms of ethics no matter how defined. The question is not ethical but inherently practical. The right way forward is at best irrelevant if it does not lead to the desired results, and vice versa. In addition, I am convinced that there is no way around the upcoming danger. Right or wrong, all practical measures to deal with climate change will ultimately fail for the majority of humans. In the end, only a tiny fraction of them will survive the calamity, and its survival will have nothing to do with ethical choices made along the way. In short, ethics is bound only to confuse and potentially derail any practical course of action in view of the upcoming danger. Simply put, survival of the fittest and ethics have little, if anything, in common. Come what may, natural selection will provide the next step in human evolution. 146
"FRANCE'S SЙGOLИNE ROYAL LAMBASTS SLOW PACE OF CLIMATE TALKS" (May 29, 2015) Thus The Financial Times today. "France's environment minister has criticized the sluggish pace of UN climate negotiations, saying they are so unwieldy they threaten efforts to seal a global warming deal in Paris this year," elaborates the newspaper. "The procedure isn't really suited to what we need for climate change," Ms. Royal declared. "If you tried to run a business like that, it would have gone bust long ago." Negotiators from close to two-hundred countries of the United Nations have been working on the draft text of the Paris agreement since last December. The draft grew to more than eighty pages at a meeting in Geneva in February. Negotiators are to gather together once again in Bonn next week. Ms. Royal now argues that negotiators actually need to meet day after day rather than so many months apart. Otherwise, Paris may end up like Copenhagen in 2009. But the article points out that scientists are already dubious about the Paris climate talks. Whatever is agreed will most likely fail to be enough to ward off the threat of climate change. Apparently, limiting global warming to no more that two degrees Celsius from pre-industrial times is a pipedream. Put differently, Ms. Royal is barking up the wrong tree. Were the crucial gathering to take place elsewhere than Paris, chances are that she would have been quiet at present. It is all a question of national pride, no doubt. Associating the French capital with failure of international proportions would be a most painful blow to France. Quelle horreur! LIMA, GENEVA, BONN, PARIS... (June 2, 2015) The climate talks in Bonn are in their second day, but there is hardly a peep about the event in the news. Although it is hailed as an important step toward the Paris climate talks, which will be of crucial importance for many years to come, such language is limited to the United Nations behind the talks and a few environmental organizations around the globe. The same was the case with the Geneva climate talks last February. Hardly a peep. The Paris climate talks in December will fare somewhat better, no doubt, but the news will still be dominated by inane events, such as sports or movies. This was the case with the Lima climate talks last December, anyhow. But I am not complaining. All this was perfectly predictable long in advance. Simply put, the human species is not up to the task of saving the planet from itself. It is no less than ludicrous expecting it to be up to it, either. The climate talks in Lima, Geneva, Bonn, and Paris will ultimately achieve nothing worth even mentioning, let alone boasting about. When the shit hits the fan, everything will become perfectly predictable once again. Dramatic climate change will lead to confusion, tumult, and strife. There will be no end to war for a long time. The human species in a nutshell: its intelligence it is high enough to fatally damage its natural habitat, but too low to repair the damage. Period. 147
POPE FRANCIS AND I (June 15, 2015) I just skimmed through close to two-hundred pages of Pope Francis' encyclical on climate change in Italian, which was leaked earlier today to the chagrin of the Vatican, and I am disappointed that he has nothing to say about disaster management on the community level, which strikes me as the only way forward at this point in time ("Ten Principles of Disaster Management," January 19, 2015). To my surprise, the pope still believes that the global disaster can be averted, and he is thus calling for concerted global action irrespective of religion. The encyclical skips an article or two I hoped to find in it concerning the rфle of the church in disaster management on the community level. Alas, the pope and I are not on the same page for the time being. I can only hope that he or his successor will amend the encyclical in the fullness of time in line with my principles. In good part of Europe, as well as in the Americas and parts of other continents, the church can be of great help on the community level in alleviating disasters, which cannot but grow in intensity in the years to come. Qui tacet, consentire videtur. SULLA CURA DELLA CASA COMUNE (June 16, 2015) It is a joy reading Pope Francis' encyclical on climate change, and in Italian.[21] It will appear in four more languages in just a few days, but Italian is particularly close to my heart. After all, it is closest to Latin of all the other languages derived from it over the centuries. One passage that has attracted my attention concerns Saint Francis, whose name the pope has acquired upon embarking on his papacy. Now it is clear why, and in the pope's own words: Non voglio procedere in questa Enciclica senza ricorrere a un esempio bello e motivante. Ho preso il suo nome come guida e come ispirazione nel momento della mia elezione a Vescovo di Roma. Credo che Francesco sia l'esempio per eccellenza della cura per ciт che и debole e di una ecologia integrale, vissuta con gioia e autenticitа. И il santo patrono di tutti quelli che studiano e lavorano nel campo dell'ecologia, amato anche da molti che non sono cristiani. Egli manifestт un'attenzione particolare verso la creazione di Dio e verso i piщ poveri e abbandonati. Amava ed era amato per la sua gioia, la sua dedizione generosa, il suo cuore universale. Era un mistico e un pellegrino che viveva con semplicitа e in una meravigliosa armonia con Dio, con gli altri, con la natura e con se stesso. In lui si riscontra fino a che punto sono inseparabili la preoccupazione per la natura, la giustizia verso i poveri, l'impegno nella societа e la pace interiore.[22] 148
Saint Francis was a western buddha, no doubt. Enlightened people like him have appeared under all religious guises through history. They can be found in Judaism, Orthodox Christianity, Islam, and so on. They were all mystics and hermits, just like Saint Francis. Which also explains a tender spot I have felt for Pope Francis ever since his appearance on the scene several years ago. My appreciation of the man has nothing to do with religion, it goes without saying. I like the man himself. And who could be better at advising us all about the care of our common home? NIGH FORGOTTEN (June 18, 2015) The pope's encyclical on climate change was to be released today. As luck would have it, it got leaked four days ago. By this special day, it is nigh forgotten. Addendum I (June 28, 2015) I was kidding a bit when I penned this haiku, all right, but it is right on the money only ten days later. After some banter in the media, the encyclical is nigh forgotten, indeed. As luck would have it, so many disasters took place across the globe in the intervening period. Once again, climate change has been pushed into the proverbial corner. In short, not even Pope Francis, popular as he is around the world, can bring the focus on the greatest danger facing the world at present. And I doubt if anyone else could make a difference right now. Dalai Lama? Angelina Jolie? Lionel Messi? Stephen Hawking? All right, all right, I am only kidding one more time. But climate change is surely not. Addendum II (September 7, 2015) Less than three months later, the pope's encyclical on climate change is forgotten for true. And no kidding this time around. In the meanwhile, the world has moved on to more important things. As of late, the refugee crisis in Europe is the rage in the media. And so is the financial crisis in China. But this pertains only to the best and the brightest in the richest countries in the world, of course. As ever, celebrities, entertainment, and sports preoccupy the hoi polloi across the globe. Climate change will come to the fore during the Paris climate talks in December, but this will be only a brief interlude from the idiocy of everyday life. By Christmas and New Year's, climate change will become the proverbial history. If only it were kidding, too. Addendum III (October 22, 2015) I just searched for the pope's encyclical on climate change on Google Trends, which provides useful statistics on searches on the World Wide Web. And the verdict is loud and clear: the interest in the 149
encyclical skyrocketed as soon as it appeared, and then it plummeted following an almost identical trajectory. By now, a bit more than a month before Paris climate talks, the interest in the subject is almost at zero. And Google Trends does not lie about such things. By the way, the explosion of interest in the encyclical immediately upon its release has much more to do with the pope himself than with climate change as such. Which sums up the story pretty well. Humans are beyond redemption. Pace Pope Francis, but you had better stick to your job. Addendum IV (November 26, 2015) Only a few days before the onset of Paris climate talks, I cannot find any mention of the encyclical in the online newspapers I regularly visit. The pope has appeased his own conscience, and that is that. The encyclical is as good as dead. My own book on climate change is in the same boat, to be sure. But enough. It makes no sense to keep waiting for a surprise from the human species. It is as it is, and it will take thousands upon thousands of years for any change in its ways worth noting. As for significant changes, or changes worth bragging about, it is a matter of millions of years. Amen. DIVERSITА DI OPINIONI (June 24, 2015) The last few days, I occasionally return to Pope Francis' encyclical on climate change, and in Italian, which I a real joy to read.[23] One point that attracts much of my attention lately concerns the pope's rendering of the diversity of opinion about the way forward, where he attempts to pin down the extreme positions on the problem the humanity is facing at present. One extreme is that there are technological solutions to all problems at hand, and the other is that every intervention is only going to make things even worse for the planet. And the pope is arguing for a middle course through these positions: Infine, riconosciamo che si sono sviluppate diverse visioni e linee di pensiero in merito alla situazione e alle possibili soluzioni. Da un estremo, alcuni sostengono ad ogni costo il mito del progresso e affermano che i problemi ecologici si risolveranno semplicemente con nuove applicazioni tecniche, senza considerazioni etiche nй cambiamenti di fondo. Dall'altro estremo, altri ritengono che la specie umana, con qualunque suo intervento, puт essere solo una minaccia e compromettere l'ecosistema mondiale, per cui conviene ridurre la sua presenza sul pianeta e impedirle ogni tipo di intervento. Fra questi estremi, la riflessione dovrebbe identificare possibili scenari futuri, perchй non c'и un'unica via di soluzione. Questo lascerebbe spazio a una varietа di apporti che 150
potrebbero entrare in dialogo in vista di risposte integrali.[24] My problem with the pope's distinction is that I can recognize myself neither at the extremes he paints nor anyplace in between. The way I see things, the human race is ultimately destined to do nothing about the threat of climate change because it can never come to any agreement about what needs to be done. Whatever is eventually attempted as a piecemeal remedy will be entirely inconsequential, anyhow. In the end, the plummeting of the human population due to the ravages of climate change will offer the only meaningful solution to the problem caused by overpopulation, but that solution will not be premeditated in any sense of that word. But where am I in the pope's diversity of opinions, if anywhere? And my position is as extreme as they come. ON ETHICS (June 28, 2015) Humans are animals. Biologists have come up with a clear set of requirements that ensure cooperative and altruistic behavior among all animals, including humans ("On Reciprocal Altruism," February 12, 2015). Such behavior applies only in tight-knit and stable communities of several hundred animals. All evidence suggests that humans have evolved in communities of this character. The gradual dissolution of tight-knit and stable communities has started with the current interglacial period, which has ushered the agricultural revolution about ten-thousand years ago. The onset of the industrial revolution around two-hundred years ago has contributed to the further growth of human communities. Cooperative and altruistic behavior is incompatible with communities of several billion humans in existence today. The only hope for its return is the return to tight-knit and stable communities of yesteryear due to climate change followed by the onset of the next glaciation. Over several interglacial periods, the human species may evolve to the point where cooperative and altruistic behavior is conceivable even in large communities of several million animals, assuming that such behavioral patterns will ensure better adaptation of the species to its natural environment. When it comes to ethics, biologists are real pros. All the other scientists are only dabbling in the subject, not to mention philosophers or theologians. THE SNAG (July 6, 2015) I am, as I hope you will have gathered by now, an optimist. I do not envisage the death of Gaia, the Earth system, in the immediate future, either through human folly or otherwise. It can sustain human life for a good while yet, and human life can be the catalyst for Gaian survival in the much longer term. But there is one snag. The system cannot sustain the present level of human population for very much longer. 151
The future world may be a better place, but getting to there from here will not be easy, and we will not all make the journey. From James Lovelock's A Rough Ride to the Future, New York: The Overlook Press, 2015, p. 169. Addendum (June 5, 2016) Lovelock's last book was a bit too soft for my taste, I must admit. Although I understand our age difference, which adds up to no less than twenty-seven years, I still expected a bit more punch from him. In retrospect, though, this paragraph says it all, albeit in the gentlest words imaginable. Most important, it points at the source of all our troubles at this day and age--the size of human population. Which is why I plucked this particular paragraph from the book, it goes without saying. Besides, it was the last one in what is likely to be his last book. To be sure, he paid a good deal of attention to every word and every sentence of this terse paragraph. To his credit, it counts no more than one-hundred and four words. My belated apologies and heartfelt congratulations! ON HUMANS AND TERMITES (July 8, 2015) James Lovelock's last book, entitled A Rough Ride to the Future,[25] arrived by post from Amazon only a couple of days ago. I have been reading it uninterruptedly if haphazardly, but I have skipped very little of it so far. And the verdict is abundantly clear already: the book is a sore disappointment. Born in 1919, he is doing his best to sound as chipper as possible about the future of the human species. In many ways, it is obvious that this is most likely his very last book, and that he wishes to be remembered by its cheerful as well as helpful message. Although he still maintains that there are too many humans on the planet, and that their numbers will have to be drastically reduced pretty soon, he puts it in the nicest language he can come up with under the circumstances. Like in his previous books on the subject of climate change, Lovelock maintains that there is little, if anything, that humans could do about it. Therefore, the planet should be left in Gaia's able hands, but humans could find shelter in so many cities that would provide not only protection from the most dramatic changes in the weather, but also an opportunity for human evolution. This is the long-term "solution" he proposes in the book. Thus he dedicates an entire chapter to the subject, which is entitled "The Evolution of the City."[26] And the idea behind it is simple enough: "The survival of the air-conditioned nests of termites in the Australian desert provides a fine example of how we might approach the problem of survival in a hotter world."[27] If climate change turned out to be a false alarm, everything would be hunky-dory nonetheless: 152
Would it not be easier for us to survive global warming in purpose-built cities rather than try to air-condition the whole planet either by geoengineering or by attempts at what is called sustainable development? If it should turn out easier, more economic, and require less food to resist global warming by retreating to the nests, then the fact that people are moving spontaneously to live in cities should be seen as providing a wonderful opportunity. More than this: if we were wrong and global warming does not happen, the move to cities might be no great loss since we appear to be doing it anyway.[28] The evolutionary idea linking humans and termites can be found in other key places throughout the book. Here is one example: Is it possible that our spontaneous move to live in cities could solve our climate and population problems as well? The termite nests with their air-conditioning towers that rise a meter or more above the desert are a wonderful example of the power of natural selection to optimize cooling, and the north-south orientation of the nests ensures that removal of hot air from within the towers is maximized.[29] What is more, the idea purportedly offers many evolutionary possibilities for the human species: There are intriguing social possibilities if the ant or termite nest can be used as a model for human evolution in which we become a nest animal living in city nests. Would it bring a return to something similar to an idealized communist state, or a benign oligarchy--a state with a caste or class system and the disfavoring of democracy and egalitarianism?[30] In short, saving the planet is beyond our ken, but cities are already available as welcome "nests" that can ensure the survival of the species: We suspect that we have little time left to deal with climate change, overpopulation, food and water shortage, and the other adverse consequences of our accelerated way of living. But how do we choose between the remedies on offer? Do we try sustainable development and renewable energy? Or do we bite the atom and rely on nuclear energy? Some offer geoengineering the Earth to an ideal composition and climate. I think we might do worse than have trust in 153
Gaia to regulate the Earth as she has done since life began, and retreat to the best cities that we can design and build with the objective of saving as many of us as we can; and entirely abandon the absurdly hubristic idea of saving the planet.[31] On the very last page, Lovelock reiterates with conviction that retiring to sizable cities is the best way of resolving the problem of global warming: "I still think that well-chosen city sites would offer us a better chance of survival."[32] All in all, the solution Lovelock has come up with is but yet another geoengineering trick, albeit a rather cushy and thrifty one. To wit, the construction industry as we know it would be up to it at a moment's notice. The cities that attract people nowadays are already in place with the infrastructure required. All that needs to be done is buttress the defenses by building protective domes, sheltering tall buildings, digging underground facilities, and so on. Again, the rest of the planet should be left to its own devices, for humans are not very successful in managing it, anyhow. Like islands on Gaia's turf, the cities would be independent of each other, just like termite's nests. It is difficult to imagine humans in this disjointed utopia, though. Real humans, that is. Assuming away the internecine strife within cities, the first thing humans would surely attempt after securing adequate protection in their own city is invading the neighboring ones in search of useful resources. They would destroy the cities that resisted such attempts. Some cities would join forces with others for either defensive or offensive purposes. City wars would ensue, and the most successful cities would keep pushing farther and farther in their conquest with the help of the cities they had already conquered and subjugated. And so on, and so forth. Pace Lovelock, humans are not termites, and will not become like them under any evolutionary regime. The history of human attempts at civilization over the last five-thousand years or so provides sufficient proof of their belligerent proclivities. Lucky termites! They will survive climate change without fail. "BENEFITS FAR OUTWEIGH COSTS OF TACKLING CLIMATE CHANGE, SAYS LSE STUDY" (July 13, 2015) Thus The Guardian today. "Improved air quality, energy efficiency, and energy security, plus falling costs of renewables, are among extra gains of reducing global emissions, says Fergus Green," explains the newspaper. The London School of Economics study points out that countries stand to gain more than they would lose in economic terms from almost all actions needed to meet an agreed global warming limit of no more than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. In short, the upcoming Paris climate talks are an economic boon. Fergus Green is a lawyer who presently serves as a policy analyst and research 154
adviser to Nicholas Stern, also at LSE. The study team lead by Green warns countries against looking for a "free ride" on the efforts of other countries. Instead, all countries should work together to achieve the common goal. According to the article, the study's conclusions echo those of the Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, who argues that "creating a green economy is not only consistent with economic growth, but it can also promote economic growth." Congratulations all around! At long last, capitalism and greenery are on the same page, and there is much money to be made in the foreseeable future. Having learned about the LSE study, I feel almost sorry for climate change. Still in its early stages, it is history already. THE RECIPE, STUPID! (July 18, 2015) Lately, I revisit my recipe for foolproof subversion almost every day ("A Recipe for Foolproof Subversion," May 14, 2013). And I go through its one-hundred and fifty-odd words with relish each and every time. On occasion, I even read it aloud to better appreciate every twist and turn in the pithy text. Whence this fascination with my own writing, though? For better or worse, it has nothing whatsoever to do with narcissism, let alone hubris. All I am trying to accomplish is to remind myself that the only way forward is to stop following the news. The world affairs, that is. Who cares about Greece or Europe or the world entire? The same applies to climate change and Pope Francis and the upcoming climate talks in Paris. Who the hell cares about anything except the instructions left by Knight, Farnish, Gandhi, Georgescu-Roegen, and Yogani? For the subversion to be not only foolproof, but to have any chance of success, I must start following the recipe myself. Sentence by sentence. Word by word. Letter by letter. Or so I keep reminding myself over and over again. The recipe, stupid! LIFE AND LIMB (July 28, 2015) There is ever more sturdy evidence that people around the globe are increasingly aware of climate change, but that they are not aware of the risks they are actually facing. In this regard, the division between the rich and poor countries is of special interest. Namely, people from poor countries are much more aware of the dangers ahead than those from rich ones. Many poor countries have already experienced the ravages of climate change, which is hardly the case with rich countries. Research shows that people from rich countries are thus aware of risks of migration, for example, but not of their underlying causes. And so on, and so forth. According to researchers in the field, the gist of the problem is that policy makers need to communicate the risks of climate change more effectively. The underlying assumption is that proper communication will make people across the world both aware of the dangers they are facing and ready to undertake the proper measures to 155
alleviate them. Of course, this is ridiculous at best. Communication will change little, if anything. People will not understand the risks of climate change before they become palpable. It is a question of life and limb. Everything else is for the birds, as all future attempts to communicate the risks of climate change will amply demonstrate. The only question is when researchers will finally get to understand their own species. TEOTWAWKI (July 29, 2015) Thus the popular acronym for "the end of the world as we know it," which is often used by survivalists around the globe, but especially in America, where the survivalist movement is thriving nowadays. Canada, Australia, and New Zealand are not far behind. Neither is Russia, for that matter. Disaster preparedness includes emergency medical and self-defense training, stockpiling of food and water, selfsufficiency training, building of shelters and retreats, relocation to safer places in view of different types of TEOTWAWKI, and so on. The roots of the movement go to the early decades of the Twentieth Century, but the threat of climate change has given it new wings. Acronyms abound among survivalists: BOB is "bug-out bag," BOV is "bug-out vehicle," and EDC is "everyday carry." In addition, WTSHTF stands for "when the shit hits the fan," WROL stands for "without rule of law," and YOYO stands for "you're on your own." The only problem with TEOTWAWKI is in its ending, though. How in the world can we prepare for a world we know nothing about? The only meaningful solution to the riddle is tribal mode of existence, which is well within our comprehension. Even more, it is still in our bones. For some strange reason, survivalists hardly ever mention the return to good old tribal life. They focus on individuals or small groups of like-minded individuals, who can survive only as such. But survival in the long run is inconceivable without an entire community capable of reproducing itself. This is where my book on climate change and what is to be done about it will be of value to the movement.[40] TMOE or "tribal mode of existence" beckons warmly once again. And we know it very well, indeed. I hope the new acronym will catch on with survivalists quickly enough. "ON THE ECONOMICS OF THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT" (August 1, 2015) Thus The Economist in its current issue. "How should economists quantify the cost of human extinction?" elaborates the newspaper. Easy-peasy. The cost of human extinction is infinite. That is, the human species is priceless. But the question is decidedly wrong, for human extinction is not at stake at this juncture. Massive reduction in the human population is actually at stake, as well as a massive impoverishment of the survivors, but the cost of that reduction is 156
meaningless to quantify. In other words, the article is a waste of the reader's precious time even though a whole bunch of Nobel laureates in economics are dutifully cited in it. Written by two professors from the Toulouse School of Economics, it is but an example of the dismal science at its worst. And most useless. To round it off, here comes my advice to the reader: when it comes to climate change and environmental degradation, make a wide circle around economics and the economists. The wider the circle, the better. The economics of the end of the world as we know it is a pile of crap, as this article from the mighty newspaper demonstrates beyond any doubt. THE ECO, GREEN, OR SUSTAINABLE BULLSHIT (August 14, 2015) As of late, everything that reaches me either by snail mail or by electronic mail is ecological or simply eco, green, or sustainable. This has held for a wide variety of products and services for quite some time, but now it also applies to science, philosophy, and art. Everything under the sun is eco, green, or sustainable nowadays. But is it really? Whatever these terms mean, nobody on this planet actually knows what is eco, green, or sustainable. And no kidding. It is a matter of opinion, as well as gullibility. Or faulty judgment, for the underlying knowledge is sorely lacking. Or pure deceit devised to sell or promote something or other. If this strikes me as perfectly plain, how long will it take my fellow humans to catch up? How long will it take for eco, green, or sustainable claims to go the way of the dodo? Hard to tell, of course. Human stupidity is limitless both on the supply and demand side of the market for eco, green, or sustainable stuff. But I still hope the day will come when these terms will get out of fashion once and for all. The eco, green, or sustainable bullshit is getting on my nerves already. The deceit stinks to high heaven. Addendum (November 24, 2015) It is wonderful to contemplate the day when these irksome terms will get out of fashion once and for all. That is, when greenwashing will exhaust its purpose and will start getting on everyone's nerves. Pray, when could we expect it? My guess is that the end of the eco, green, or sustainable bullshit will mark an important day in the history of the human species: it will be the day when it will dawn upon all and sundry that the shit is about to hit the fan. I am talking about the ravages of climate change and environmental degradation, of course. In other words, it makes a good deal of sense to watch for the end of greenwashing, for it will be a dead giveaway for the upcoming social upheaval of unprecedented proportions. As long as it lasts, all is well. Sort of, at least. For the jumble of diversion, transgression, aggression, and depression will be unprecedented, indeed. 157
"EASTERN MEMBERS SEEK PERMANENT NATO BASES" (August 18, 2015) Thus The Financial Times today. "States unite to lobby alliance amid fears of Russian aggression," explains the newspaper. The recent Pentagon plan to store weapons for as many as five-thousand American troops (sic) in several Baltic and Eastern European countries is ridiculous at best, it goes without saying. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization must put real military bases bristling with real soldiers along the Russian border, and as soon as possible. And the European Union must come up with an army capable of a real fight rather than mere political posturing. Although this is a tall order, it cannot be dodged any longer. One reason for these measures is Russia itself, for Putin is not kidding at all, but another reason is the coming unrest across much of Asia due to the ravages of climate change. The subcontinent is already hemorrhaging across Greece and the Balkans, but the immigrant onslaught will soon become unbearable without military protection worthy of that name. Why am I going on an on about this, though? Nobody is listening to me, to be sure. And nobody ever will. My wise words will feel almost soothing one fine day when the European Union hemorrhages across the entire eastern frontier. It was all foretold, at least. For neither NATO nor the vaunted Union will budge a finger to prepare for what is surely to come. Political posturing is all they are capable of at this juncture. BLACK MONDAY REDUX (August 24, 2015) The world economy is in turmoil. Stock exchanges are in panic. The leading financial newspapers are bristling with horrifying titles. "Global Stocks Dive," blares one. "China Plunges Eight and a Half Percent Triggering Global Rout," wines another. "Asian Shares Plummet as Shanghai Rout Accelerates," screams yet another. A brand new Black Monday is already bantered about. Interestingly, there was one such on October 19, 1987, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost nearly twenty-two percent in a single day. The drop drove all the major stock exchanges down by more than twenty percent by the end of the month. Where will this particular Black Monday lead the world economy, though? Given the rфle of China's economy in world affairs at this juncture, chances are that the effect will be much more pronounced than that of any other Black Monday in history. This time around, it is not only the financial world that is affected. Now that China produces a hefty portion of goods and even services consumed around the globe, the effect will be quite palpable. In addition, the country's political stability is also in question. But my thoughts go to Paris climate talks this December instead. If the financial turmoil persists, the talks are doomed. For what is climate change by comparison with a global economic rout? Peanuts, mere peanuts. By the time the talks start in earnest, everyone's thoughts will be on current troubles. Bad luck, or what? 158
Addendum I (August 25, 2015) Even though the Chinese stocks have fallen for the second day in a row, European stock exchanges appear to be shrugging off the slide. According to major financial newspapers, the risk appetite has returned already. Yesterday's frantic selling is now seen as overdone. Phew! Investors are only human, to be sure. Which is why it is too early to speculate about the months that leading up to the Paris climate talks. Still, it is good to remember that the climate just before the talks will be crucial to their outcome. The recovery from the global financial crisis seven years ago is in progress across both America and Europe, and this makes a meaningful deal in Paris possible. A new global crisis would be disastrous in this connection. Fingers crossed. Addendum II (September 1, 2015) Well, well. China is still casting its shadow across both America and Europe. More than a week after the tumult has started, it is hard to tell when will it end. Stock exchanges are in panic across the globe. But the analyses I have come across so far do not even mention the Paris climate talks in this connection. Climate change is hardly on anyone's mind at this juncture. This is precisely what troubles me most about the timing of Black Monday in China. And there are only three months to go... THE HUNGRY HORDES (August 28, 2015) Wherever I turn on the World Wide Web, immigration is one of the topmost topics lately. Rich countries are being inundated with immigrants from poor ones, who are fleeing either war or famine resulting from crop failure. America and Europe are thus in the news. The far right wants not only to stop the inflow of immigrants, but also to expel all those who have managed to get in by hook or by crook. The silent majority is leaning this way, too, while the far left is either very quiet or gone the way of the dodo. There is an outcry when something horrible happens, like when a pile of dead immigrants is found in a boat or a truck operated by reckless people traffickers, but that is about all. Clear and cogent ideas about how to deal with the growing problem are nowhere to be found. So, how do I look at immigration at this time? To begin with, the rich countries could have helped the poor ones many decades ago so as to stem the immigrant flow, but it is way to late to attempt anything of this sort at this stage. More important, climate change and environmental degradation will only add to the flow of immigrants. And how. The problems now faced by America and Europe are nearly negligible by comparison with problems yet to come. The last decade or so has seen some fiftymillion people on the move, but by a decade from now that number may well increase tenfold, and perhaps even more than that. Soon enough, several billion people will be looking for a safer place, basic 159
shelter, plain clothing, something to eat, and water to drink. Put differently, the present immigration problem strikes me as nigh trivial. But I cringe when I look a decade or two into the future. The hungry hordes stretch all the way to the horizon. "HEALING EUROPE'S EAST-WEST DIVIDE IS CENTRAL TO A LASTING REFUGEE SOLUTION" (September 4, 2015) Thus The Guardian today. "EU leaders need a new narrative if they want public opinion in eastern states to show more sympathy," elaborates the newspaper. How very true. And how completely oblivious to the untold difficulties of healing the divide, as well. Eastern Europe is the creation of two great divides that define the last century through two world wars. In addition, it is populated by the latecomers to the subcontinent, most of them of Slavic origin. In fact, Hungarians are the only exception. In other words, the divide goes back to the Roman empire, its division into two empires, and their ultimate demise. In other words, a new narrative that would change the refugee problem is a pipedream. But the newspaper is also insensitive to the refugee problem yet to come. Soon enough, there will be many more refugees due to the ravages of climate change and environmental degradation. And Eastern Europe will prove to be the bulwark that Western Europe could only hope for at this early stage. Luckily, no new narrative is needed here, either. The cordon sanitaire of the last century will come into play all by itself. The only remaining concern will be the sheer number of refugees. Alas, perhaps not even Eastern Europe can withstand the onslaught. ON climate justice (September 9, 2015) I have been invited to a conference dealing with, well, climate justice. It will take place in Zagreb this November ahead of the Paris climate talks in December. According to the organizers, climate change is driving social, economic, and political inequality to new heights. The poorest of this world are the most vulnerable. Ravages of the weather affect them disproportionately. Therefore, something needs to be done in response to this injustice. This is an ethical question in need of a timely response. The organizers hope that the conference will offer valuable insights to the upcoming Paris talks. Scholars are now being invited to submit papers for the conference. Now, I know the organizers, and I can imagine who the main speakers will be. The best and the brightest of the Croatian capital, to be sure. But it did not take me long to decide neither to submit a paper to the conference, nor to attend it. It will be a waste of time. Only a few crafty people will use the conference as a platform for making themselves look wonderful in the eyes of the tightly-knit audience. The show cannot but end up by being rather revolting. 160
The best model of the effect of climate change and environmental degradation that we have at hand is the fall of Rome. Justice and ethics were bantered about in high circles even in Roman times, but such topics were reserved for the few at the very top of the social, economic, and political hierarchy. But the most powerful families of the empire perished with its downfall, which was accompanied by many wars. Some of the downtrodden at its periphery survived in small communities, most often in hilly and inaccessible parts of the European subcontinent. Those communities fortified themselves to survive the onslaught of bewildered survivors. A new social order arose from the devastation of the old one. We can expect something similar to happen as the result of climate change and environmental degradation caused by the recent explosion of human population. The most wealthy and powerful people of this day and age will perish in the process. The coming wars will affect the largest cities of this day the most. Some of the downtrodden at the periphery will survive in small communities. Once again, they will find their foothold in hilly and inaccessible parts of the subcontinent. The Balkan peninsula abounds with places ideal for such communities. Large and powerful cities will end up in rubble in the meanwhile. Just like the city of Rome after the fall of the empire, they will attract only scavengers. Nothing that is about to happen has anything whatsoever to do with justice. Or ethics, for that matter. When it comes to social, economic, and political transformations of this magnitude, such notions are nigh meaningless. Although they may be of value to those who are presently in need, and who certainly need help, the coming calamity will recognize nothing but struggle for survival, which follows its primordial rules. Small communities will survive by following patterns of behavior that have prevailed for many tens of thousands of years across the entire globe. Just like troops of chimpanzees, these human tribes will not need any instructions on how to behave under the circumstances. It is all in the genes, anyhow. At this juncture, that is about all we need to know about climate justice. Or ethics, for that matter. The ravages of climate change and environmental degradation will take some time to play out. The inequalities and injustices of the moment mark nothing but the beginning of a long process that will not leave anyone out. Wars will only add to the misery of all, as has always been the case with the human species. Many twists and turns in justice can be expected this century and beyond. Focusing on this moment in the process is thus pretty meaningless, to say the least. At best, it can make for a cozy conference in which the best and the brightest can parade their supposed skills. As well as their moral acumen. Happily, I will miss the pointless show. 161
THE BEST OF ALL TIMES (September 11, 2015) Steven Pinker is in the news again. Good news, too. Following on his The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence has Declined (New York: Viking, 2011), he has updated the many graphs in the book showing that violence is on the decline across the globe. In spite of all the recent wars, some of which are still in progress, the number of people killed by year is scraping the bottom. The same holds for rape, sexual assault, and violence. Similarly, homosexuality is being decriminalized around the world. Historically speaking, we are living in the best of all times. As he puts it, we come to recognize the futility of violence and apply our collective ingenuity to reducing it. Nicely put, but I still wonder about the future. The data leading up to the Twentieth Century would show the same trend, only to be shattered by World War I and II. Similarly, the Twenty-First Century has barely begun. World War III is hardly far-fetched at this juncture on account of climate change and environmental degradation, which cannot but affect an ever-larger number of people. Most important, widespread famine is in the making. Given the explosion in human population, the death toll would be unprecedented, too. But enough. Let us rejoice with Pinker at this moment in history. Although his conclusions are too optimistic by half, his data offer much to be appreciated. As witnessed by both population explosion and the collapse in violence, we are living in the best of all times. No matter what happens next, we are the lucky ones for sure. MIGRANT ORIGINS AND DESTINATIONS (September 16, 2015) Search for any data regarding migrant origins and destinations across the globe, and the picture will be clear in a jiffy: migrants come from the poorest countries and they go to the richest countries. The poorest countries are in Africa, Asia, and South America. The richest countries are in Europe and North America. No surprises here. The data is presently changing due to the war in the Middle East, but it is otherwise stable. Now, add the ravages of climate change and environmental degradation, and the flow of migrants is intensified. The greater the ravages, the greater the number of migrants in search of food and shelter. In short, all the current migrant flows could have been predicted with great precision. As well as prepared for well ahead of time. Add a few years or decades, and the migrant flows will only intensify, and keep intensifying at a clip. How many migrants can be expected in the future? Give or take a few million, all the people from the poorest countries in the world will be on the move in a decade or so. A few billion people, that is. At least a billion people will be heading for North America, and at least a couple of billion will be heading for Europe. The consequences? A horror movie must be in the making already. 162
"PROGRESS SEEN ON CLIMATE, BUT NATIONS' GOALS STILL FALL SHORT" (September 28, 2015) Thus The New York Times today. "The pledges to battle climate change would still allow the world to heat up to a level that scientists say is likely to produce catastrophes ranging from food shortages to widespread extinctions," explains the newspaper. But, of course. What else could be expected at this juncture? A miracle? Regardless of the pledges, for they would remain nothing but pledges come what may, climate change cannot be stopped any longer. The only question is when will catastrophes come along and start piling up one on top of another, including wars that humans cannot possibly avoid when the going gets tough. Or have they started already? Actually, is there any other way to understand the refugee crisis that has been gripping Europe the last few months? Both Africa and Asia are in dire straights. America is not far behind, either, for South America is also in ever-greater trouble. The only mystery here is the growing disinterest in climate change. Articles like this one are of no interest to the majority of readers, and it remains to be seen how much longer will newspapers of renown keep offering them. In a few short years, they will disappear altogether, I would guess. Why pester poor folks with topics that are way beyond their prowess, anyway? "CARNEY WARNS OF `HUGE' CLIMATE CHANGE HIT" (September 30, 2015) Thus The Financial Times today. "Bank of England governor fears global warming fight will `strand' assets," elaborates the newspaper. In particular, Mark Carney is worried that investors in fossil fuels and their insurers will get stranded by policies to limit their usage that are in the making. And the Paris climate talks are only a couple of months away. In the next few months, the central bank will deliver a report to the British government concerning the "carbon bubble," as they call it. Indeed, only imagine all the capital invested in coal, oil, and gas around the globe. Some eighty percent of coal reserves, half of gas, and a third of oil may have to stay in the ground. Many a trillion of pounds, dollars, and euros is involved. According to a number of leading people in the world of finance, the carbon bubble may pose a far greater threat to the global economy than the credit bubble that burst in 2008. One way or another, it is a fair bet that the future is up in tangles. And contemporary capitalism is as touchy as the climate. DISASTER MANAGEMENT IN CROATIA: PROPOSAL TO THE CROATIAN GOVERNMENT FOR PARIS CLIMATE TALKS (October 1, 2015) The proposal below was originally prepared under the auspices of the Croatian Climate Change Panel's Disaster Management Team, which I 163
coordinated. It first appeared in February 2015 on the CCCP website (www.cccp.com.hr). Since no other teams have prepared such proposals to date, CCCP appears to be obsolete. Thus I am offering the proposal to the Croatian government under my own name. As will be shown below, the proposal is for the government to enact a new law regulating disaster management activities on the lowest level of local self-government ahead of Paris climate talks in December 2015.
1. For the upcoming climate talks in Paris, the Croatian government should make disaster management (upravljanje kriznim stanjima) a legal requirement at the lowest level of local self-government (lokalna samouprava) in the country. In particular, the lowest units of local selfgovernment should have an office for disaster management (ured za upravljanje kriznim stanjima), which should make plans in preparation of the weather-related disasters that are most likely in the geographic area they occupy.
2. Each office responsible for disaster management should be trained in the disaster management cycle, which includes four phases: preparation, response, recovery, and mitigation. This cycle should be repeated indefinitely. The community facing disasters should continually learn in the process and adjust to changing conditions it faces.
The most important aspect of disaster management is that it differs from one unit of local self-government to another. Therefore, each and every unit of local self-government should address disaster management separately and independently. Cooperation between neighboring units should be encouraged, but only at their own initiative.
The only common feature is the set of general principles of disaster
management, which can be found on the World Wide Web in many
languages including English and Croatian (for instance,
hr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upravljanje_u_kriznim_situacijama). My own
principles of disaster management can also be found on the web
3. In addition to the capital, Zagreb, there are 127 cities or towns (gradovi) and 428 municipalities (opine) in Croatia. City quarters (gradske cetvrti) and local boards (mjesni odbori) exist in some but not all cities or towns and municipalities. In addition, there are 6,757 settlements (naselja) in the country, which are organized within municipal borders.
The new law promulgated by the Croatian government should ensure the formation and continual operation of disaster-management offices at the lowest level of local self-government. In particular, it should be
instituted in each of 6757 settlements in the country with the assistance of 556 city or town and municipal offices that contain them. 4. The Croatian government should ensure that all disastermanagement offices are properly trained and equipped for disaster management in their units of local self-government. This obligation should be part of the proposed law. For this purpose, the government of Croatia should establish a central office responsible for disaster management, which should coordinate, oversee, and support the operation of all offices in the units of local self-government in the country while simultaneously ensuring their independence. Addendum (October 27, 2015) I sent this proposal to the Croatian minister of the environment, Mihael Zmajlovic. This morning I received a response from one of his aids to the effect that the ministry was already engaged in the development of several vital strategies in connection with climate change, including its mitigation. Concerning disaster management as such, I am advised to contact another state institution concerned with this particular topic. And that is that. Although I am surprised to have received any sort of response from the ministry, it is clear that my proposal has been entirely in vain. What else could I have expected, though? My proposal was half in jest, anyway. Whence my surprise at today's mail in the first place. PREENING (October 1, 2015) The primary reason why I am in Zagreb this time around is the FrancoCroatian symposium about climate change organized by the French embassy in support of the upcoming climate talks in Paris a couple of months from now. It will start tomorrow morning and come to a close the day after tomorrow in the evening. The first meeting leading up to the symposium took place in the French embassy in the Croatian capital last December ("For Good Measure," December 16, 2014). Following on that meeting, the Croatian Climate Change Panel was formed, and I took an active part in it. In particular, I lead the team concerned with disaster management, my one and only concern in this context. The CCCP met several times this year, and some of the meetings made quite a bit of sense. But we have had not a single meeting for a long while now, and the symposium was organized without our participation. In fact, most of us will attend it as mere spectators. Only a few of us will appear on the stage. Not even Vjeran Pirsic, who put together the CCCP team, has any visible rфle in the symposium. In addition to a few French luminaries, the majority of speakers on both days will be either from the Croatian government or from a few institutions supported by the government. To put it bluntly, the 165
symposium will be an opportunity for a few people to display their feathers. So, why am I attending the symposium that is a waste of time in my own mind? Well, just for fun. I will be observing my fellow humans addressing the toughest problem their species has encountered in a hundred-thousand years or so, and all they will do will be preening themselves for all to see. Grandstanding is a good synonym. And so is blowing one's own horn. And I will be sitting quietly in a back row and grinning at my fellow humans. As well as chuckling and giggling. And guffawing from time to time. Well ahead of time, I am sure the Franco-Croatian symposium about climate change will beat the theater of the absurd by a wide margin. With some imagination on the part of spectators, it will be tragedy and comedy combined in an unprecedented way. THE MISSING MINISTER (October 3, 2015) I went to the Franco-Croatian symposium on climate change for the second day primarily, if not only, because I wanted to hear what the Croatian minister of the environment, Mihael Zmajlovic, had to say. As well as to see how he would go about it, too. He was to be the first speaker of the day. By the way, he was the government official to whom I had sent my proposal concerning disaster management a couple of days ago ("Disaster Management in Croatia: Proposal to the Croatian Government for Paris Climate Talks," October 1, 2015). At any rate, he never appeared at the symposium. The missing minister sent someone else to say a few nice words to the audience. His replacement spoke for three minutes exactly. And that was that as far as the government was concerned. This was quite a slap to the organizers, and especially the French embassy in Zagreb. Alas, that is the Croatian government at its best. No price for guessing what will become of my proposal to the government. The garbage bin is its rightful place, to be sure. SCREW WORLD WAR IV (October 9, 2015) For no particular reason, I found myself in one of my favorite bookstores in Zagreb a short while ago. I went around its many rooms without any plan. All I wanted to see was whether or not a book on offer would attract me. I took a number of books from the shelves, and I browsed through a few of them, only to put them back in their places. But then I came across a book with World War IV in the title. I picked it up for one reason only, and that was World War III. Was this a sequel? To my disappointment, I quickly learned that the author considered the Cold War bloody enough to elevate it to the status of a real war. Thus, World War IV was squarely against Islamic radicals of all sorts. 166
I put the book down before I learned whether or not the war had already started, which would stand to reason. Irked by the book, I left the bookstore. In my mind, World War III is yet to be fought this century in connection with the ravages of climate change and environmental degradation. And World War IV would be its natural sequel, for it would leave many a conflict unresolved, as was the case with World War I. In my mind, that would be the last world war worthy of the name. There will be many wars to follow, but they will be regional or local in nature. By the Twenty-Second Century, feudalism will be entrenched across much of the globe, and all rulers would be concerned only with the boundaries of their shrinking fiefs, for climate change and environmental degradation will keep pestering them. Major religions will come to the fore once again, but not for long. Soon enough, slavery will return across the globe, and several ailing empires will be encircled by warring tribes forever in search of loot. By then, major religions of this day and age will be largely forgotten. Shamanism will come back with a vengeance, and it will rule the roost for many millennia to follow. Screw World War IV, though. It only makes me think way too far, as it were. For better or worse, the Twenty-First Century is still in its infancy. "EL NIСO STRIKES ETHIOPIA" Thus The New York Times today. "A severe drought and fears of mass starvation could be a harbinger of more weather-related disasters," elaborates the newspaper. Surprise, surprise. But the European Union will still be surprised when Ethiopians join the masses of migrants from Asia and Africa that are currently heading toward Europe. For all the talk about climate change and environmental degradation over so many years, nobody in the rich countries has the brains to figure out the consequences. As well as prepare for them in time. This includes North America, of course. Migrants from South America are heading north already, but their numbers will only grow over time. All told, some three-billion people will be on the move within the next decade or two. But the European Union is currently having a huge problem with no more than a million migrants. Peanuts, to be sure. The crunch is some way away, but close enough to hear it and smell it already. Just wait for the push of the migrants' bodies... A DIRE SCENARIO (October 30, 2015) A month ahead of the Paris climate talks, the United Nations has released its assessment of national plans to limit the impact of climate change submitted by one-hundred and forty-six countries so far. According to this assessment, the national plans are not sufficient to 167
prevent the global temperatures from rising by more than the threshold of two degrees Celsius. Nevertheless, the UN claims that this goal is within reach in a month. The key challenge for the UN is to make the national plans legally binding when heads of government and negotiators meet in Paris in a month. Most important, the failure akin to that in Copenhagen in 2009 is not expected at this stage. The onehundred and ninety-six countries around the world will most likely reach a binding agreement in Paris. In addition, a five-year review mechanism will track how countries are implementing national plans. But every single article I have come across about the assessment just released by the UN is more or less explicitly dubious about the ultimate outcome of the ongoing international effort. Although everyone agrees that Paris is way ahead of Copenhagen, optimism about limiting the impact of climate change is sorely lacking. And this is the most likely fate of Paris climate talks. The emissions pledges will be there, all right, but few people in the know will trust the document signed by heads of government from around the world. One way or another, it will be just paper. After a few five-year periods, but by 2030 at the latest, the review mechanism will most likely discredit the emissions pledges of so many countries that the international agreement will lose all its credibility. The ravages of climate change and environmental degradation will be undeniable by then, but each country will be on its own when it comes to dealing with them. By then, the UN will be obsolete, as well. And war will threaten many countries around the globe, which will further endanger all efforts to curb climate change. Plausible as it is, such a dire scenario is not investigated by anyone, at least not publically. How is this possible? If anything else, the most plausible results of a failure of the international effort should be there as a warning against confrontation, as well as an invitation to cooperation across the globe. What does this say about the human species at this stage of its evolution? Addendum (January 22, 2017) Only a couple of days after the inauguration of Donald Trump as the forty-fifth American president, it is already obvious that this scenario is far from dire enough. Believing that climate change is a hoax, he has installed likeminded people in key positions across his administration. Many of them will do their best to breathe new life into the oil and coal industries of yesteryear. The agreement reached in Paris will be farthest from their minds. Given that America is one of the greatest contributors to climate change and environmental degradation around the globe, many other countries will follow its example in due time. The United Nations will be powerless against the slew of defections from the Paris accord, which may be dead in the water in no more than five years. Although America will be blamed 168
for all the calamities of climate change lying ahead, Trump and his administration will remain aloof. Amerika ьber alles, as ever! "CHINA UNDERREPORTING COAL CONSUMPTION BY UP TO SEVENTEEN PERCENT, DATA SUGGESTS" (November 4, 2015) Thus The Guardian today. "Revelation may mean China has emitted close to a billion additional tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year," elaborates the newspaper. And China is the world's largest carbon emitter, too. Less than a month ahead of the Paris climate talks, this is a serious accusation. But it reveals the carbon game ahead for all to see. First, countries will underreport their emissions. Second, they will agree to hollow emission targets. And third, they will overreport emission reductions. In the end, the deal reached in Paris will be for the birds. Why? Because humans are born cheats. This has nothing to do with the United Nations behind the talks, or the city in which the talks are to be held. It has to do with the human species itself. Humans will play the carbon game just as they have played every other game in history. The only difference is that this time around there will be no winners. Only losers. Genes are genes, though. And there is no way around them even when the going gets tough. EASTER, CHRISTMAS (November 9, 2015) The day is superb. It is so sunny and balmy that I am walking around the Croatian capital in short sleeves. Too warm for comfort, my fleece is in my knapsack since the morning. Many people in the street are struggling with all the clothing that turns out to be unnecessary. As I am walking past two construction workers carrying all sorts of tools to their truck, I overhear one of them quip to the other: "It's as though Easter is coming up rather than Christmas!" Very well put. And in such a way that everyone in these parts understands what is meant. But climate change is still unlikely to come up in an interchange of this sort, and especially among construction workers. Not proven yet. As well as farfetched to boot. Easter and Christmas are an entirely different matter, though. Which is why I kept smiling to myself for a few blocks. Indeed, it is a question of language. "NOT LEGALLY BINDING" (November 12, 2015) Thus John Kerry, the American secretary of state, in an interview about the climate deal to be signed next month in the French capital. "It's definitively not going to be a treaty," he said. "They're not going to be legally binding reduction targets like Kyoto or something," he added, referring to the 1997 Kyoto protocol committing states to limit emissions of greenhouse gases. Judging by these comments, the 169
divisions over how to enforce the Paris agreement must be fierce. And this applies especially to America and China, the world's greatest polluters. According to a recent poll, neither the Americans nor the Chinese are very concerned about climate change. In spite of the global consensus about its dangers, and especially for the poorest nations, they are not convinced yet. In short, whatever happens in Paris next month, the deal will be for the birds. That is homo sapiens at its best. That is, most legal. Addendum I (November 13, 2015) Well, well. Franзois Hollande, the French president, rebuffs Kerry on the Paris deal. He insists that it will be a legally binding treaty. Not to worry, though. Legally or not, it is sure not to be binding for long. As the ravages of climate change and environmental degradation start to bite even the rich countries in North America and Europe, the treaty will unravel fast. And there will be finger-pointing every which way. The tiff between Kerry and Hollande is a good example of how the travesty will look. By the way, both of them are exemplary of homo sapiens at this stage of evolution. Legal to boot both of them. Addendum II (November 28, 2015) The latest news is that France has backed down on climate "treaty." Note the quotation marks that now spoil the upcoming deal well in advance. In concession to Kerry, emissions goals are not likely to be binding. In short, the legal status of Paris climate talks is contested only a few days before their onset. No prize for guessing the legal status of the eventual deal five or ten years from now. Homo sapiens in a nutshell. ON THE BRIGHT SIDE (November 14, 2015) According to the latest news from Paris, at least 127 people were killed in yesterday's attacks at eight locations. In addition, some 180 people were injured, 80 among them critically. This is the highest toll since Madrid, where many bombs exploded on four commuter trains within minutes of each other in March 2004. The blasts killed 191 people and wounded 1,841. Now that there are only fifteen days left till the opening of Paris climate talks, the question is what effect will latest attacks have on the event, which has long acquired a distinct French flavor. Judging by the overwhelming support that France has been getting from all around the world, it is quite likely that the attacks will buttress the climate deal. And how. The participants of the talks will do their best to agree on what is to be done without the usual bickering, and they will also strive for the best deal possible at this juncture. In spite of the deplorable loss of so many lives, the attacks may well have a very positive impact on global goodwill. Looking on the bright side, 170
those behind the murderous attacks made a huge miscalculation in their timing. IN PRAISE OD ROBERT CIALDINI (November 20, 2015) George Akerlof and Robert Shiller introduce Robert Cialdini early in their last book about manipulation and deception.[41] A social psychologist and marketer, Cialdini has written a book about psychological biases that has been accepted well by behavioral economists.[42] According to his list, humans can be influenced because they want to reciprocate gifts and favors; because they want to be nice to people they like; because they do not want to disobey authority; because they tend to follow others in deciding how to behave; because they want their decisions to be internally consistent; and because they are adverse to taking losses.[43] As Cialdini argues, each of these biases is paired with a common salesman's trick. Akerlof and Shiller thus follow Cialdini throughout their own book. But the first thought that came to my mind when I went through the list of psychological biases is that they reflected the tribal origin of the human species pretty well. In short, they smack of prehistory. And this is exactly how I see humans, as well. As I argue in my book about climate change and what is to be done about it, humans will fit well in posthistory, where they will return to tribal life that is still in their bones.[44] Luckily for them, capitalism with its tricks will be dead and buried by then. THE MOTHER OF ALL COMMUNITIES (November 21, 2015) Looking back, I am amazed at my tangled journey. As well as my luck, for there is no better word for it. Which is why Odysseus is my precursor, if not my alter ego, as well ("The New Odysseus," January 1, 1980). Way back, I understood the central place of community in the human endeavor ("On Excommunication," June 18, 1980). But it took me quite a while to understand the futility of all attempts to bring it to life outside of the tribe, the mother of all communities ("On Primitive Communism," May 7, 2013). As well as the inevitability of the eventual return of the human species to the primordial bliss ("What is to Be Done?" July 25, 2014). But I will witness it only in thought, for the collective return will take centuries. Whence a dash of envy toward Odysseus of old, whose luck remains unsurpassed to this day. Mythical to boot, his return is but a dream for mere mortals. GREENWASHING FOR PHOOLS (November 22, 2015) Today I gave George Akerlof and Robert Shiller's last book one more chance.[45] As the book provides a myriad example of manipulation and deception in all sorts of markets, I looked for trickery in markets 171
having to do with ecology, environment, greenery, sustainable development, and the like. This is where manipulation and deception are rife already, but where they will only grow in the years to come. The more calamitous climate change and environmental degradation become, the more supposedly green products and services will be on offer. Given that nobody can tell what is actually green and what is not, greenwashing will reach ever-greater heights. In the end, the only remaining choice will be between products and services that are green, greener, and greenest. At any rate, I went through the whole book, including the copious endnotes,[46] bibliography,[47] and index,[48] but found not a word about greenery. Surprise, surprise. Simply put, the most important instance of the economics of manipulation and deception of our times has been skipped altogether by the two Nobel laureates. I wonder who will pick it up after them, for greenwashing for phools will take quite some guts to investigate. And especially when the shit hits the fan. ONE RECOMMENDATION FOR PARIS CLIMATE TALKS (November 25, 2015) There is one item of discussion I would like to recommend for Paris climate talks that will start in a few days: what shall we do if all our attempts to stop climate change fail? A reasonable question, this. As well as a reasonable item for discussion between representatives of all the countries on the planet. Still, I wonder whether it will be discussed at all, let alone addressed in an appropriate way. Thus this recommendation. As far as I understand the situation that humanity faces at present, the only way out of the conundrum we are facing is disaster management. Protracted disaster management, that is. Chances are that this is the only response that faces many generations, perhaps as many as forty of them. And the only way forward is to start with the underlying principles (for example, see my "Ten Principles of Disaster Management," January 19, 2015, on the World Wide Web). Sooner or later, disaster management may well become a way of life for the human species. Mastering it as soon as possible is thus an important consideration at present. Each country across the globe needs to institute the disaster-management effort at the lowest communal level--such as villages, small towns, or urban neighborhoods. Underpinned by law, the sustained communal effort offers the best chances for survival. Again, Paris climate talks need to usher it in the case all attempts to stop climate change fail. Addendum I (November 26, 2015) For good measure, I posted this piece on the Croatian Climate Change Panel website. I am the coordinator of the panel's disaster 172
management team, after all. I sent it by electronic mail to the secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the administration of the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Having done all this, I feel that I have done my bit. The fact that no-one anywhere will pay it any attention is not my concern, though. As ever, my conscience is clear, and that is all that I am concerned about. Addendum II (November 27, 2015) Zoran Skala, a colleague from the disaster-management team, added a supportive comment to this piece on the CCCP website. So far, so good. We both hope that Paris climate talks will address this crucial issue, but both of us are aware that this is not very likely at this stage of international negotiations concerning climate change. The Paris deal will focus on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Across the globe, the hope is still that this policy will avert calamity. It takes a particular blend of pessimism and optimism to put due emphasis on disaster management. Pessimistic as I am, I always surprise myself about my underlying optimism. Posting this piece on the CCCP site is yet another example of my undying optimism about my fellow humans. To my comfort, this is where Zoran and I appear to be on the same page. "CLIMATE CHANGE MAKES PAST FIVE-YEAR PERIOD THE WARMEST ON RECORD" (November 25, 2015) Thus The Guardian today. "UN weather body says man-made global warming and El Niсo oceanic phenomenon made 2011-2015 the warmest five-year period on record," explains the newspaper. According to the World Meteorological Organization's report in question, this year is set to be the single hottest ever registered, as well. The planetary temperatures will pass the symbolic milestone of one degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The report comes just in time for Paris climate talks, and the article closes with words of hope for its success in preventing the planetary temperatures from passing the other and even more symbolic milestone of two degrees Celsius, which would spell disaster for life on earth. The chipper conclusion notwithstanding, the article seems to skirt mentioning the likelihood of a happy end. Apparently, that likelihood is so low that it is best left unmentioned. We are entering an era of tacit self-censorship that does not even need to be enforced by anyone. Just keep mum and everything will be hunky-dory... 173
"THE CLIMATE CIRCUS COMES TO TOWN" (November 26, 2015) Thus The Guardian today. "The soap opera of global climate talks has been playing for twenty years," explains the newspaper. There is more to the byline, but I skip it. And I skip the article, too. In the long-read section, it does not attract me one single bit. But the title is close to my heart, as is the first line of the byline. And I can well imagine how the show will look like when it comes to Paris on Monday. The climate circus, indeed. Starting in 1995, the list of cities where the United Nations climate talks have taken place is no less than formidable: Berlin, Geneva, Kyoto, Buenos Aires, Bonn, The Hague, Bonn, Marrakesh, New Delhi, Milan, Buenos Aires, Montreal, Nairobi, Bali, Pozna, Copenhagen, Cancъn, Durban, Doha, Warsaw, Lima, Paris... What is even more amazing, this is far from the end of the mind-boggling list. Marrakesh is already on the list for 2016. Many other cities are on the coveted waiting list, no doubt. Climate talks are due to continue, as it were, indefinitely. But one can already tell what they will ultimately achieve: nothing but entertainment for the precious few. For my sins, I will do everything in my power not to follow the soap opera any longer. Enough is enough. FINGERS CROSSED, AGAIN (November 30, 2015) It is past ten o'clock in the morning, which means that Paris climate talks have finally started. Many political figures are at the opening. There is much hoopla. And one cannot but wish the leaders of nearly two-hundred countries to reach an agreement on what to do beyond 2020, when the Kyoto deal about climate change will come to its end. The current goal is to keep the global temperature from rising above two degrees from the pre-industrial time. It is hoped that this would prevent climate change from reaching disastrous proportions. Fingers crossed. Would that the climate were the only environmental challenge facing the human species, the population of which is still growing in many parts of the world, and especially the poorest countries. Anyway, the Paris climate deal is supposed to be signed by all the participants by December 11. Chances are that the talks will take one or two days more, for the deal will depend on the provisions for the poorest countries that have been experiencing the worst of climate change to date. So, December 13, Santa Lucia's day, is the most likely day the talks will come to a close. In many parts of the world, it is believed that this day marks the Winter Solstice. Wrong as this is, and by nine full days this year, it is a good omen still. Fingers crossed, again. Addendum (December 12, 2015) Well, the negotiations went a bit better than I expected. The Paris climate deal was signed in the evening of Saturday, December 12. As 174
I write, there is much celebration across the globe. So far, the only thing that irks me about the aftermath of the talks is Barack Obama's pompous message. "Almost every country in the world just signed on to the Paris agreement on climate change," he tweeted, "thanks to American leadership." American leadership? Are you kidding? Anyhow, it is amazing that nearly two-hundred countries agreed on anything at all after twenty years of negotiations. Congratulations all around, including America! As for climate change and environmental degradation, the deal will hopefully have some effect. Chances are that this effect will be rather small, though. That is, far from sufficient to make much of a difference in years to come. HOW TO REDUCE ONE'S CARBON FOOTPRINT (December 3, 2015) While Paris climate talks are proceeding toward the vaunted deal to reduce carbon emissions around the globe, guidelines on how to reduce one's carbon footprint are in the news. All sorts of idiocies are on offer even in the best newspapers in the world. In general, the greater the carbon footprint of a country, the greater the idiocy of the guidelines intended for its citizens. Deep down, everything is rather simple: buy less and waste less. Also, drive less and fly less. On top of that, and mainly for the citizens of the richest countries in the world, eat less, and especially red meat. But there is one guideline that is conspicuously missing anywhere one looks: reproduce less. For it is still not clear to all and sundry that the one and only cause of climate change is overpopulation of the earth. Human overpopulation, that is. Whence the idiocy of all the guidelines on offer. At any rate, all one needs to know on how to reduce one's carbon footprint is right here, and in less than two-hundred words. Good luck! "THOUGH CLIMATE CHANGE IS A CRISIS, THE POPULATION THREAT IS EVEN WORSE" (December 4, 2015) Thus The Guardian today. "While the Paris climate summit focuses on global warming, the key issue is the prospect of ten-billion people on earth," elaborates the newspaper. What? I could not believe my eyes! One more time, the cause and effect of the greatest crisis that has ever faced the human kind are mangled, albeit in an entirely new and surprising way. Here, the actual cause of climate change is perceived as a separate, and an even graver, issue to ponder. Idiocy supreme, to be sure. The only thing to the article's credit is that overpopulation of planet earth indeed needs to be considered in all seriousness. There can be hardly any question about that, as the human population has tripled in my own lifetime. Sadly, the article misses the point that overpopulation is the very cause of climate change. The mother of all causes, in fact. Alas, human stupidity has no bounds! Come to think of it, it is the ultimate cause of both 175
overpopulation of the planet and climate change that ravages it. Live and learn. HALF A DEGREE? (December 7, 2015) It is commonly understood that the average global temperature should not be allowed to rise above two degrees Celsius by comparison with pre-industrial times. According to many scientists, a higher rise would be catastrophic for the human species. Therefore, this is the official target of current Paris climate talks. However, ever more countries participating in the negotiations now argue that this target is way too high, for they are already suffering from he ravages of climate change. Thus they want to lower it by half a degree to one degree and a half Celsius. The growing acrimony is dominating the latest news. Apparently, the climate deal is under a serious threat. After a quick look at the news, one does not know whether to laugh or to cry. Half a degree! Amazingly, it is now believed that the target of two degrees Celsius is well within reach. With some effort, the common story goes, the human species could get there before it would be too late. In the meanwhile, the average global temperature has already risen by one degree Celsius compared to pre-industrial times. In other words, we are only half a degree from the new and tougher target. Half a degree? Ah, it is better to laugh then to cry. After all, what is the human species for? MIRACLE, DISASTER (December 12, 2015) After protracted negotiations, the Paris climate deal was finally agreed upon earlier today, a day after the scheduled end of the talks. And? George Monbiot put it well in The Guardian today: "By comparison to what it could have been, it's a miracle. By comparison to what it should have been, it's a disaster." Exactly. Congratulations and condolences all around. Disaster management is coming up soon. "CLIMATE OBSTACLES EMERGE WITHIN HOURS" (December 14, 2015) Thus The Financial Times today. "Politicians and business play down impact of Paris accord," explains the newspaper. Surprise, surprise. The article is predictable to boot. Same old. What is to follow is of the same ilk. Those for and those against the accord will keep fighting each other for many years to come, and neither side will get the upper hand in the foreseeable future. The resulting procrastination will end only when the ravages of climate change and environmental degradation reach a new and breathtaking climax, by when the accord will be of no interest to anyone any longer. In a decade or two, the game will be over, and global concerns will turn squarely local. So, 176
what shall one do in the meanwhile? The best one can do is to enjoy the intervening period to the fullest. It can be thought of as the bonus for the wise. Of course, this course of action includes shunning the ever-fiercer fight surrounding the Paris accord. It is for the birds, anyhow. POSTSCRIPTUM XVII (December 14, 2015) This is a special day in my life. After careful consideration of all the consequences of which I am aware, I am ready for a momentous vow. I hereby swear that I will write about climate change and environmental degradation never again. Not a word. Looking back, I have already written all there is to write on this subject ("What is to Be Done?" July 25, 2014). The only deviation from this vow that I will allow myself is an occasional addendum extending an existing piece of writing on climate change and environmental degradation. This I solemnly swear, and in writing. Amen. 177
ENDNOTES 1. Boston: Beacon Press, 2007. 2. Boston: Beacon Press, 2007. 3. Une brиve histoire de l'avenir, Paris: Fayard, 2006. 4. London: Allen Lane, 2009. 5. Op. cit., p. 151. 6. Foxhole, Dartington: Green Books, 2009. 7. Op. cit., p. 221. 8. Op. cit., p. 197. 9. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009. 10. For details, see any translation of Argonautica by Apollonius of Rhodes. 11. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2009. 12. Op. cit., p. 6. 13. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2009. 14. Op. cit., p. 423. 15. Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century, New York: Wiley, 2000. 16. A Perfect Moral Storm: The Ethical Tragedy of Climate Change, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. 17. Climate Matters: Ethics in a Warming World, New York: W.W. Norton, 2012. 178
18. Earthmasters: The Dawn of the Age of Climate Engineering, New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2013. 19. Time's Up! An Uncivilized Solution to a Global Crisis, Foxhole, Dartington: Green Books, 2009. 20. This Changes Everything: Capitalism versus Climate, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014. 21. Lettera Enciclica, Laudato Si' del Santo Padre Francesco sulla Cura della Casa Comune, 2015. 22. Op. cit., pp. 9-10. 23. Lettera Enciclica, Laudato Si' del Santo Padre Francesco sulla Cura della Casa Comune, 2015. 24. Op. cit., pp. 46-47. 25. New York: The Overlook Press, 2015. 26. Op. cit., pp. 112-123. 27. Op. cit., p. 113. 28. Op. cit., p. 118. 29. Op. cit., p. 151. 30. Loc. cit. 31. Op. cit., pp. 155-156. 32. Op. cit., p. 169. 33. Kurzban, R., "Biological Foundations of Reciprocity," in Ostrom, E. and J. Walker, eds., Trust and Reciprocity: Interdisciplinary Lessons from Experimental Research, New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2003, pp. 105-127. 34. Op. cit., p. 105. 35. Op. cit., p. 111. 36. Op. cit., p. 115. 37. Op. cit., p. 117. 38. Op. cit., p. 119. 179
39. What is to Be Done? Climate Change for Beginners, Belgrade: HESPERIAedu, 2014. 40. What is to Be Done? Climate Change for Beginners, Belgrade: HESPERIAedu, 2014. 41. Phishing for Phools: The Economics of Manipulation and Deception, Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2015, p. 7. 42. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, New York: Harper Collins, 2007. 43. Akerlof and Shiller, loc. cit. In an endnote, Akerlof and Shiller explain that these correspond to Cialdini's categories of reciprocation, liking, authority, social proof, commitment and consistency, and scarcity (p. 186). However, Akerlof and Shiller have referred to the last category as loss aversion since Cialdini emphasizes that "the way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost" (Cialdini, op. cit., p. 204). 44. What is to Be Done? Climate Change for Beginners, Belgrade: HISPERIAedu, 2014. 45. Phishing for Phools: The Economics of Manipulation and Deception, Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2015. 46. Op. cit., pp. 181-232. 47. Op. cit., pp. 233-256. 48. Op. cit., pp. 257-272. 180
SHORT BIO Ranko Bon writes and paints. He has published several collections from his Residua, the Mother of All Blogs (www.Residua.org): Residua I-XX: Selections (London: The Hereford Salon, 1996), Belgrade Postcards (Belgrade: Vracarski Breg, 2002), Istrian Postcards (Belgrade: Vracarski Breg, 2003), Toward a Short History of Motovun (Munich: Elisabeth Sandmann Verlag, 2010), and What is to Be Done? Climate Change for Beginners (Belgrade: HESPERIAedu, 2014). In addition, he has published in several art and literary journals: Inventory (1996-1997), Flash Art (1998-1999), Butterfly (1999), Statement Art (1999), Tank (2000), Another Magazine (2001), The Jackdaw (2001-2010), and Gazet (2002-2003). He has exhibited at the Hereford Salon in London (1994-1999), Norwich Gallery in Norwich, England (1998), Made to Measure Gallery in London (2000-2001), Abbot's Walk Gallery in Reading, England (2001-2003), Ca' Bon Gallery in Motovun, Croatia (2003present), Five Towers Gallery in Motovun (2004-2005), Open Space, Zentrum fьr Kunstprojekte in Vienna (2010), and Calvert 22 Gallery in London (2011). He holds a Diplomate Engineer in Architecture degree from Belgrade University (1969), a Master's in City Planning from Harvard (1972), and a Ph.D. in Urban Studies and Planning from MIT (1975). He has worked in the Urban Planning Institute of Slovenia in Ljubljana (19751979) before teaching at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1979), the University of Massachusetts in Boston (1979-1980), Northeastern University (1980-1983), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (19831990), and the University of Reading (1990-2003), where he is professor emeritus. He lives in Motovun since leaving teaching and research in 2003. 181

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