Monday, June 13, 2011

Spokane is Red, Seattle is a Bubble, Most Americans can't see their own Flashlight Beam through the Fog of Agnotology

Okay, you have to look up that word, agnotology. Here's a good primer into it:

**see at the end of the blog more on agnotology, our modern culture's syphillis of the mind, memory, history, facts.

I'm embarking on a move from Spokane to Seattle, and while the economic news is abysmal for a college teacher, journalist, guy with masters in urban planning, in this off-shoring and money grubbing corptocracy, I am going into this move with steel -- a couple of novels to write, articles already assigned -- as in freelancing -- teaching, and a robust search for some of those part-time jobs the US of A is now famous for, and moving into the next evolution of a relationship.

Alas, the blog, is going to keep going strong.

As part of the move, I get to attend the U of British Columbia's Summer Sustainability Institute. I'm working on a long article for Planning Journal -- on greenwashing, as in how US cities might be pushing programs, architecture, building, transportation and other forms of messing with the built environment as a panacea, not the real things: climate change, climate disruption, oil and fossil fuel shortages, heat waves, economic and climate Diasporas, and pollution and economic instability based on a flawed model of consumer empire and war mongering.

The problem as always are the delayers, deniers and climate idiots. Those who think sustainability is some sort of UN plot are not only reckless, but now considered dangers to human and non-human populations. Media do not help, as most mainstream outlets are untrained and superficial, to say the least. Weiner or Palin or any of the rotten Republican contenders for the paid-off high office -- US presidency -- certainly need to be pushed way back into the commode of the news cycle. Rabid dogs are more important news stories than the next ethically-challenged politico.

So, here we go again -- more idiocy coming from the dead-end boys:


Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum sure doesn’t think so. The other day he told Rush Limbaugh "the idea that man… is somehow responsible for climate change is, I think, just patently absurd." He went on to call it a left-wing conspiracy, "just an excuse for more government control of your life… I’ve never been for any scheme or even accepted the junk science behind the whole narrative."

Better you should listen to Ram Khatri Yadav, a rice farmer in northeastern India, who recently complained to The New York Times, "It will not rain in the rainy season, but it will rain in the nonrainy season. The cold season is also shrinking." He’s experiencing climate change as a life or death reality. In a June 4 article headlined "A Warming Planet Struggles to Feed Itself," the Times reported, “The great agricultural system that feeds the human race is in trouble… Many of the failed harvests of the past decade were a consequence of weather disasters, like floods in the United States, drought in Australia and blistering heat waves in Europe and Russia. Scientists believe some, though not all, of those events were caused or worsened by human-induced global warming.”

For years, scientists believed that the carbon dioxide produced by greenhouse emissions were at least in part beneficial for crops, acting as a fertilizer that helped counterbalance the deleterious effects of climate change. But according to the Times, new research indicates "extra carbon dioxide does act as plant fertilizer, but that the benefits are less than previously believed -- and probably less than needed to avert food shortages."

The World Bank estimates that there may be as many 940 million hungry people this year. The international relief agency Oxfam projects already high food prices more than doubling by 2030 with perhaps half of that spike due to climate change. With those increases could come hoarding, gouging, panic buying and food riots like those that led to the overthrow of the Haitian government in 2008.

Nor is it just our food supply that has climate change breathing hot and heavy down our collective necks. City and state planners also are examining its impact on urban centers and preparing for the worst. A May 22 Times article notes, "Climate scientists have told city planners that based on current trends, Chicago will feel more like Baton Rouge than a Northern metropolis before the end of this century... New York City, which is doing its own adaptation planning, is worried about flooding from the rising ocean."


The attack against science is the same attack against liberal arts, against critical thinking, and against P/K-12 and public universities and colleges. Teachers who read deeply, research widely and innovate in focused ways, those who are part of the larger body of instructors, lecturers, adjuncts, professors, faculty, what have you, who in turn look to the academy as a large and multi-interdisciplinary body where innovation and collaboration works both at the experimental level and intellectual level -- they are under attack from the tea baggers and right-wing camps.

So how difficult is it to see the writing in the geophysics about climate change?

Maybe these lobbyists' heroes can't read --

The Stockholm Memorandum

Tipping the Scales towards Sustainability

3rd Nobel Laureate Symposium* on Global
Sustainability, Stockholm, Sweden, 16-19 May 2011

So here's the first section to this recent paper on climate and a species, us, failing to act:

I. Mind-shift for a Great Transformation

The Earth system is complex. There are many aspects that we do not yet understand.
Nevertheless, we are the first generation with the insight of the new global risks facing humanity.

We face the evidence that our progress as the dominant species has come at a very high price. Unsustainable patterns of production, consumption, and population growth are challenging the resilience of the planet to support human activity. At the same time, inequalities between and within societies remain high, leaving behind billions with unmet basic human needs and disproportionate vulnerability to global environmental change.

This situation concerns us deeply. As members of the 3rd Nobel Laureate Symposium we call upon all leaders of the 21st century to exercise a collective responsibility of planetary stewardship. This means laying the foundation for a sustainable and equitable global civilization in which the entire Earth community is secure and prosperous.

Science indicates that we are transgressing planetary boundaries that have kept civilization safe for the past 10,000 years. Evidence is growing that human pressures are starting to overwhelm the Earth’s buffering capacity. Humans are now the most significant driver of global change, propelling the planet into a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene. We can no longer exclude the possibility that our collective actions will trigger tipping points, risking abrupt and irreversible consequences for human communities and ecological systems.

We cannot continue on our current path. The time for procrastination is over. We cannot afford the luxury of denial. We must respond rationally, equipped with scientific evidence.

Our predicament can only be redressed by reconnecting human development and global sustainability, moving away from the false dichotomy that places them in opposition.

In an interconnected and constrained world, in which we have a symbiotic relationship with the planet, environmental sustainability is a precondition for poverty eradication, economic development, and social justice.

Our call is for fundamental transformation and innovation in all spheres and at all scales in order to stop and reverse global environmental change and move toward fair and lasting prosperity for present and future generations.


What more do we have to do to convince these haywire politicians and business tyrants like the Koch "brothers" that they are in a whole other century, one broken by superstition, feudalism, and oligarchy?

Here's another great blog, from afar, that deals with rain, storms and disruptions:

News from Down Under, on the stormy climate --

from blogger -- Barry Brook

I was asked by the Adelaide Advertiser newspaper to write a short piece last week which addressed the question “Does all the recent rain across the country prove man made climate change is real?“, in less than 500 words. My response, given below, appeared in the print edition on Thursday 9 September 2010:
Does all the recent rain across the country prove man made climate change is real?


As Dorothea Mackellar wrote over a century ago, Australia is naturally “A land… Of droughts and flooding rains”.

Putting the impossible issue of ‘proof’ aside, scientists certainly do expect climate change to lead to an increase the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. After all, a warmer planet holds extra energy, making today’s climate system more dynamic than when Mackellar penned her poem.

In short, as the Earth’s atmosphere traps more heat due to an increase in greenhouse gases, it triggers more evaporation of water from the oceans. Average global humidity and precipitation rise in response.

As such, climate scientists predict increasingly energetic storms, heavier bursts of rain, and more intense flooding. In many parts of the world, deeper droughts and longer, hotter heat waves are also forecast.

So, while it is impossible to attribute any one event solely to human-caused warming, a useful analogy is that “weather throws the punches, but climate trains the boxer”. Another way to look at it is that human impacts are “loading the climate dice” towards more unfavourable (and previously unlikely) outcomes.

We have probably witnessed this in the unprecedented heat wave in Russia and record floods in Pakistan. These impacts cause great human misery and severe economic and environmental damage.

Earlier this year in Australia, the Bureau of Meteorology released a Special Climate Statement on the recent exceptional rain and flooding events in central Australia and Queensland. February 28th 2010 was the wettest day on record for the Northern Territory, and March 2nd set a new record for Queensland. Over the 10-day period ending March 3rd, an estimated 403 cubic kilometres (403,000 gigalitres) of rainfall fell across the NT and QLD. Extreme, indeed.

It’s clear that if such ‘unusual’ climatic events are visited upon us ever more regularly, then there will be practical limits to adaptation, or at least exponentially rising costs involved in coping.

The need for action on eliminating our dependence on fossil fuels is urgent and our window of opportunity for avoiding severe impacts of climate change is rapidly closing. Yet the obstacles to change are not principally technical or economic, they are political and social. But that’s another story.


This story is dead on arrival, when it comes to the sad humans -- mostly in this country -- who are running around thinking a few moments with Rush Limbaugh or Ted Nugent make them experts in the fields they couldn't even pass as introductory courses in biochemistry, geophysics, meteorology, anthropology, marine sciences, physics, chemistry, what have you.


Okay, the answer to, What is agnotology?

"Agnotology: Ways of Producing, Preserving, and Dealing with Ignorance," Bielefeld University, May 30-June 1, 2011.

Within the last 10 years historians of science such as Robert Proctor, Londa Schiebinger, Peter Galison, and Naomi Oreskes, have been promoting a new area of enquiry—Proctor calls it agnotology, the study of ignorance—which they suggest is of as much relevance to philosophers and social scientists and others as it is to historians. Indeed, the suggestion is that agnotology offers a new approach to the study of knowledge, an approach at least as complex and important as its more established sister, epistemology. The aim of this workshop is to map out this new ignorance-centered terrain in an effort to determine just what and where it might add to knowledge-centered terrains such as epistemology and philosophy of science and how valuable the additions might be. Topics will range over the naturalness and even inevitability of certain kinds of ignorance and the unnaturalness or deliberate production of other kinds—for example, on ignorance created through government secrecy and censorship, cultural prejudice, industry influence on scientific research, and so on—and the epistemological and societal implications of such ignorance. The ultimate goal is to make a significant contribution to this new kind of enquiry.

Speakers will include historians Norton Wise (UCLA), Naomi Oreskes (San Diego), Peter Galison (Harvard), and Robert Proctor (Stanford); sociologists Peter Weingart (Bielefeld) and Stefan Böschen (Augsburg); neurobiologist Stuart Firestein (Columbia); mathematician/philosopher of science Daniel Andler (Sorbonne); and philosophers Nancy Cartwright (LSE and San Diego), Philip Kitcher (Columbia), Pat Kitcher (Columbia), Hugh Lacey (Swarthmore and São Paulo), Kevin Elliott (South Carolina), Torsten Wilholt (Bielefeld), Martin Carrier (Bielefeld), and Janet Kourany (Notre Dame). The program will also feature a screening of Peter Galison and Robb Moss’s documentary film “Secrecy.”

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