Sunday, August 27, 2006

An inconvenient truth

So goes the title of the lecture/political manifesto by Al Gore about the environment which I saw last night. He does a good job of unequivocally, rudely and effectively spelling out just how critical the climate change situation is. The cinema was packed out and you could feel the guilt radiating back into the atmosphere from the audience as Gore delivered hammer blow after hammer blow.

Greenland is melting. The Atlantic conveyor is stopping. Atmospheric CO2 is so far above averages from the last 650,000 years that there is no doubt what is to blame. We are.

We are all being affected now by climate change, as it happens. 100s of millions will soon be affected by catastrophic rises in the sea level. Hurricane Catrina is merely a taster of what this might mean, from San Fran to Shanghai, Holland to Calcutta.

It's enough to make you want to go out and buy a Toyota Prius. Indeed this is something I am looking into.

The problem with Gore's preaching is that his solutions are opaque and halfhearted, mealy mouthed and half assed. He is saying his piece, yes. But his suggestions for reducing our CO2 emissions and attempting to avert the crisis are just as much hostage to big business and vested interests as are many of the 'scientists' and commentators who still refute the climate change evidence. As the titles roll we are told how we can make a difference - reduce, recycle, decrease, redesign, rethink.

Nowhere is there mention of the concept of lowering consumption and a way to achieve this paradigm shift that is really at the centre of the dilemma. To say so would be political suicide.

And the irony of all this, if we accept the thesis that materialism is simply the manifestation of subconscious fear - a fear of some threat to our very essence as humans and individuals, which results in a fight or flight response bizarrely transmuting into this phenomenon of consumerist capitalism -, is that we have in fact created by our actions the very greatest threat to our own survival of which it is possible to conceive.

If this is not as clear a demonstration of bounded rationality as is possible then I cannot imagine how to put it more succinctly.

And Gore is suggesting that we leave our fate in the hands of consumers

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