Science Fiction and the End of the World

Science fiction writers have often imagined the various ways the world could end. An oft-encountered method is the end of the world through nuclear war. In many of these scenarios the danger looms clearly, and the villains are recognizable. But what if disaster crept upon us, slowly and surely, while we lived out our lives? What if we were warned about it but because the scale of it was longer than our lives, or because it seemed impossible to believe, or because we didn’t know what to do, or because it wasn’t clear who to point fingers at, we continued with our lives as though nothing was going to happen?

I can imagine the last two lines of the story.

And we did nothing.

And the world ended with a whimper.

This slow and painful dying is not as dramatic as the one where the world succumbs to a nuclear holocaust, but is it less likely? Would we, the readers, end up saying: “this story isn’t plausible; if humanity were faced with such a threat, something would be done to avert it?”

Perhaps not. There are many books out there, including a frighteningly large number for young readers, that are post-apocalyptic in nature. Earlier this year I had a chat with British critic Farah Mendlesohn, and she mentioned that what these books seemed to be saying was this: apocalypse (of whatever nature) is inevitable, the earth is going to be destroyed no matter what, and the best that can be done is to pick up the pieces and rebuild after Armageddon is over, assuming we survive it. Perhaps they are intended as warnings, but if we have nothing in fiction apart from doom and helplessness, they condemn us — and our young people — to despair.

So today I want to look at the possible roots of this alleged gloom and doom, and I want to do so in the light of an honest-to-goodness, real, looming disaster that is coming up ahead: global warming.

The interesting thing about the imaginary scenario I talked about in the first paragraph is that it is not imaginary. Here’s a perfectly plausible disaster creeping up us while we’re going about our daily lives. And it is actually possible that we will do nothing but twiddle our thumbs until it is too late.

Recently I spoke with a colleague who is a geologist and has quite a specialized knowledge of oceanography and meteorology as well. I’d just read something disturbing online about the methane time bomb. Apparently the warming of the Arctic Ocean had not only resulted in a record melting in 2007 but also in the outgassing of methane from under the sea. Methane from rotting vegetation, in the form of clathrates, has been kept under a lid of permafrost at the bottom of the ocean, and the outgassing suggests that warming Arctic waters are melting holes the permafrost and releasing the methane. This is not unexpected but my understanding is that we didn’t expect this to be happening quite so soon. Here’s a quote from the article:

Orjan Gustafsson of Stockholm University in Sweden, one of the leaders of the expedition, described the scale of the methane emissions in an email exchange sent from the Russian research ship Jacob Smirnitskyi.

“We had a hectic finishing of the sampling programme yesterday and this past night,” said Dr Gustafsson. “An extensive area of intense methane release was found. At earlier sites we had found elevated levels of dissolved methane. Yesterday, for the first time, we documented a field where the release was so intense that the methane did not have time to dissolve into the seawater but was rising as methane bubbles to the sea surface. These ‘methane chimneys’ were documented on echo sounder and with seismic [instruments].”

Here is a similar report from Spiegel International.

Why is methane outgassing bad news? One, methane is a much stronger greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. It makes for a better thermal blanket, in other words.

The other is that methane is combustible. One might think that this is good news, that we could use methane as the new fossil fuel, and to some extent this might be true. However the problem is that the outgassing is uncontrolled and unpredictable, and if it gets worse it might happen on a large scale. If that is the case methane concentrations in the atmosphere could go up enough to result in giant fireballs.

According to this report in 2003, methane might have contributed to the Permian/Triassic Great Extinction 250 mllion years ago. During that time 96% of marine species and 70% of land species were wiped out.

On a very small scale methane (also known as marsh gas) bubbling up over a bog might give rise to a will o’ the wisp. On a larger scale there could be local disasters such as the outgassing from Lake Nyos in Cameroon which killed 1700 people in 1986 and the eruption rippled as far away as 25 kilometers. On a global scale it might just mean apocalypse.

So I asked my geologist colleague what he thought this meant. I’ve been following the climate change situation for the past few years. I’ve taught the greenhouse effect in all my classes, dug into the research, looked at absorption spectra of the greenhouse gases. I have a non-expert scientific understanding of the basics (my area of expertise used to be a sub-area of quark physics in my research days). I told my colleague that I’d heard some years ago that we had maybe 50 years to clean up our act and thus avoid irreversible climate change. Last year I heard 25 years, and this year I heard we had ten years.

“How much time do we really have to fix things?” I asked.

He said: “We’re screwed.”

From the windows you could see a perfect autumn day, leaves starting to change color. The clamour of birds, students sunning themselves on the green lawns. Because I have a science fictional imagination, my brain fast-forwarded to a scenario not dissimilar to this one.

When I recovered (temporarily) I asked him exactly what he meant. He said that the actual changes in global climate have been found to be ahead of climate model predictions — that is, the reality is worse than what we thought it would be based on our science. And since people, at least in the U.S. are still embroiled in debating whether global warming is really happening (when they are not ignoring the issue), instead of doing anything about it, he couldn’t imagine that we would act in time to avoid the point of no return.

Later I dug up a report from the Scripps institute of Oceanography, which essentially said the same thing, about how we’ve underestimated global warming. SIO is at UC San Diego and pioneered such things as the famous Keeling curve, that shows how Carbon Dioxide levels have gone up. This news item from 2007 says that the most pessimistic climate models predicted that summer sea ice in the Arctic would be gone by 2050. Current observations indicate that sea ice is melting faster than the gloomiest predictors and that it might be as early as 2030 that the summer sea ice is gone in the Arctic. No ice means more warming.

I talked to a few more scientists over the next few days. One geologist friend who is retiring told me that she is glad she is as old as she is, because she will not live to experience the worst of it. “But I feel terrible for the children,” she told me, with anguish. “For what they’ll go through.”

I spent the next few days reading and researching a lot, not sleeping very well. Each time I looked out of the window or took my dog out, I was struck by the beauty and fragility of the world. To know what I knew and through that knowledge to be witness to the crisp fall air, the calls of the Canada geese overhead, the innocence of squirrels gathering acorns for the winter, the children on bicycles, even the grumpy postman on his rounds — it was almost unbearable.

But I’m an optimist at heart. I might have an over-active, science-fictional imagination, but my imagination works both ways, after all.  And my training gives me ways to perform reality checks when I need to rein in that imagination.  

So when I’d thought about it a bit, I reminded myself that scientists, bless their hearts, tend to have, generally speaking, limited sociological imaginations. When they have bad news, they tend to tell the governments and if the governments fail to act, they don’t necessarily know what to do. And while I’m a scientist too, I’m also an SF writer from India, and I’ve had some experiences that allow me to have some hope. For instance I’ve seen what “ordinary” people can do when their leaders fail them.

The situation is dire. So much so that the IPCC (Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change), a scientific intergovernmental body set up by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)) issued an appeal as quoted here: “Desperate Times, Desperate Scientists.”

Quoting IPCC chair, Rajendra Pachauri.

“If there’s no action before 2012, that’s too late. What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future. This is the defining moment.”

The article says that Pachauri “has the distinction, or misfortune, of being both an engineer and an economist, two professions not known for overheated rhetoric.”

So, according to Pachauri, we have four years.

I’ll take four years over “no time” or “we’re screwed.”

But all this still sounds fantastical, as though we are caught in a poorly thought out apocalyptic SF novel. Is there evidence for Global Warming? Should we take these dire predictions seriously?

There is, unfortunately, plenty of evidence. There are also some uncertainties that I’ll mention below, but if there is even a small chance that we are headed for disaster, shouldn’t we do all in our power to avert it? And it seems from the fact that global warming is proceeding faster than our science has been able to predict, that “small chance” may not be so small after all.

Before we can talk about how to change things so that climate change will ultimately reverse, we must have some idea of the science. This blog post is not the place for a tutorial on climate change, but I’ll point you to links that explore what I consider some important aspects of the subject.

  • The most reader-friendly site I’ve found is at New Scientist: Climate Change: A Guide for the Perplexed, which also lists several climate change myths and debunks them
  • A great site is RealClimate: Climate Science from Climate Scientists and also reports from the German Advisory council on Global Change WBGU
  • It is important to be aware that there is a concerted effort to discredit and suppress scientific work showing evidence for global warming. It wasn’t too long ago that the tobacco industry waged a huge public campaign to cast doubt on scientific research showing the adverse effects of smoking, which led to delays in anti-smoking regulations. According to a comprehensive report from the Union of Concerned Scientists, Big Oil is doing something similar to cause confusion about global warming in the public mind. Apparently ExxonMobil spent around $16 million to fund skeptic groups.

One of the most interesting aspects of the climate change phenomenon, which is related to how we confront it, write about it, make up stories about it, is this: global climate is an example of a complex system. A complex system is one with a large number of interacting components; it exhibits non-linear behavior, is extremely sensitive to initial conditions and it is hard to predict how it evolves. Other complex systems include the human body and human social systems.

Because we can’t use normal mathematical methods to study complex systems, we often have to resort to studying them via enormous computer programs. Climate scientists make computer models of the global climate system and test them by running them backward in time (so as to check if they reproduce past climate conditions). Even so, because complex systems are so sensitive to initial conditions, even slight changes in input parameters can change the result. However this does not mean that one can’t predict anything from these models. When one global parameter such as temperature suffers an overall increase, this limits the number of possible outcomes to just a few. (This is illustrated beautifully by my favourite physics toy, the chaotic pendulum: observe the animation here). Thus climate models tend to all predict, roughly, that global temperatures will continue to rise at current rates of CO2 emissions, although the predictions differ on what the specific temperatures might be at a certain point in the future. So climatologists take ensembles of different climate models and base their estimates on the ensembles rather than on any one model.

So what does Rajendra Pachauri mean by saying that it will be “too late” if we don’t act by 2012? Why are my scientist friends and colleagues in the field suffering from terminal depression? This is related to another feature that complex systems possess: the feedback loop.

A positive feedback loop is what we are most afraid of. So, for example, the oceans possess an ability to absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide and thus control warming. But as we produce more CO2, and increase global temperature, this warms the oceans. Increased ocean temperature reduces the ability of the oceans to sequester CO2, leading to a further increase in atmospheric CO2, and thus to more warming. I imagine warming oceans releasing methane constitute another positive feedback loop, as more methane in the atmosphere causes more warming, and more outgassing. We are already seeing positive feedback loops in the global climate system, which is one reason why we might be close to a tipping point — a point of no return, where the rate of climate change suddenly accelerates. That’s what Pachauri is talking about.

“Too late,” the point of irreversibility, could be as close as 2012.

Elsewhere on the internet, people in the SF community have been asking questions about whether SF should be more cheerful and less gloomy, and whether SF should be about reflecting reality or making change: see here also . Given the crisis that is upon us, I don’t think we have the luxury of argument. Whether we are plumbers or SF writers, ballerinas or construction workers, we should be thinking and talking about climate change, not only reflecting the reality but imagining change. As SF writers we have the imaginative skills necessary to come up with various future Armageddons, but we can also harness this imagination to visualize alternate futures. Now I’m not talking about writing preachy or didactic stories — I don’t think bad stories can do any good. I think we need good stories, stories that come out of new ways of thinking and imagining. But I’m not just talking about writing stories. We can’t depend entirely upon them. The trouble with stories is that they take a while to permeate the public consciousness, even with the best stories in the best of times. And the one thing we don’t have much of is time.

So we can’t solely rely on the transforming power of new stories, although I’ll get back to them in a moment.

What I’m calling for is a dialogue among SF writers about climate change. Not an argument about whether it is real or not but a brainstorming session in which we sit down at our computers across the world and think of ways to avert what might already be upon us, before it is too late. But since we are dealing with a complex system, these ways can’t be simplistic. They can’t be technological alone. We have to draw upon our sociological imaginations as well. We have to draw upon what different cultures around the world have come up with to inspire and mobilize people. It has to be a massive, interdisciplinary effort. We have to pull in scientists and community organizers, village women and students. Perhaps we are uniquely qualified for such a discussion because many of us SF types straddle boundaries of various kinds.

And then I want us — and the plumbers and ballerinas — to act.

But to understand what’s involved, I want to ask that question again, the one I posed at the beginning of this essay: Why don’t we have many books that tell stories about avoiding the apocalypse? Why do we have so many that are post-apocalyptic?

I have a hypothesis about this. Apart from the fact that it is so much easier to posit an apocalypse and start from scratch, my suspicion is that we are caught in a certain mindset, a way of thinking, a paradigm.

I think we don’t know how to deal with complex systems. We want things that are simple and easily predictable. We want certainties in an uncertain world. So when we are confronted with complex problems we tend to ignore them or over-simplify them. In SF literature as much as in anything else.

My suspicion is that some of this might come from reductionism, the notion that you can understand something if you break it down into its parts and analyze each separately. This is the basis of the traditional practice of science, but it is also the way we’re encouraged to think in general. Now I’m not entirely dismissing reductionism, because my training is in science and reductionism has brought us really far in understanding our world. But because reductionism tends to encourage looking at the world in fragments, perhaps it prevents us from seeing connections between things. And part of our current crisis is that we have lost the knowledge of connection — between us and so-called Nature, between each other. Between our actions and their consequences. Perhaps we have reached the end of the usefulness of the reductionist paradigm.

One idea that comes to mind, in literature, is the notion of the lone hero. This is such a common notion in Western SF and fantasy — the One True Hero fighting off the monsters to save the world. Problem and solution are clearly defined, and all depends on a single person, usually a man, who, through his prowess, will accomplish the impossible. He’s usually allowed to have friends and side-kicks, but it is obvious that the mission depends almost entirely on him.

Imagine the impossibility of such a hero solving a problem like global warming.

To solve such a problem we need the participation of millions of people around the world. We need people to inform and inspire, true, but the traditional hero won’t do. The monsters we have to fight include the face you look at every day in the mirror. How to fight such a battle? How to write about fighting such a battle?

Let me make this clear: I believe that technology is an important part of the effort to slow and ultimately reverse global warming. It would be wonderful if we could come up with something that could absorb atmospheric CO2 and methane. Clean energy technology, if implemented fast enough, will go a long way in decreasing emissions of greenhouse gases. But technology, while necessary, is not sufficient.

Given that, what kinds of thinking, paradigm shifts and viewpoints can turn things around?

I want to refer back to something Anil Menon talked about a couple of posts ago. He mentioned James March’s notion of the technology of foolishness. This concept includes going against received wisdoms and prejudices, of calling into action creativity and play. Mohammad Yunus’ micro-credit scheme, Gandhi’s concept of achieving freedom by civil disobedience, are examples of these. They go against what one might consider “rational” ways of doing things, relying instead on the desire, the pride, the dignity and creativity of ordinary people.

This week I’ve mentioned how these so-called “ordinary” people have taken their fate into their own hands in an attempt to positively change the world. This has included some of the world’s poorest and most disadvantaged people, many of whom are illiterate. When governments and corporations not only fail us but contribute to the problem, we need to confront them, to get appropriate legislation passed and so on. But we also need to harness the power of millions of people. How do we do that, when we have so little time?

For instance individual action (changing light-bulbs, other energy saving measures) cannot have an appreciable effect on emissions, but such action multiplied by millions or billions of people can. In the documentary Kilowatt Ours, filmmaker Jeff Barrie goes on a tour of the U.S., looking for ways that people have turned to clean energy. He tells the story of the state of California, where people responded to a government initiative to save energy — you know, turn off light bulbs when leaving the room, adjust the thermostat a couple of degrees, that sort of thing. They saved so much energy that they did away with the need to build 10 power stations. And since coal-fired power stations are the single greatest source of anthropogenic CO2, this is an important step in a direction away from global warming.

Incidentally the movie Kilowatt Ours is worth watching. While I have issues with some aspects of it, it is a wonderfully positive, upbeat movie on a subject in which there is little enough to feel positive about. It also manages to be informative — for instance I didn’t know, before I watched it, that coal mining in the Appalachians involves blowing up entire mountain-tops, forests and animals and all. This “mountain-top removal” has caused so much environmental damage that it makes the historic Exxon-Valdez oil spill look small in comparison.

But how to we harness the power of millions of people in a short time?

We have a very powerful tool: the internet.

I want to give a small example of that.

There is an annual event called Earth Hour originated by the WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) in Sydney, Australia, in which several participating cities around the world dim or turn off non-essential lighting for an hour on one day of the year. It has been praised as contributing to global warming awareness and criticized as being the worst kind of tokenism, as it makes absolutely no difference to carbon emissions around the world. However several tens of millions of people apparently participate in it, and it even inspired four young people in Mumbai to organize an apparently successful Batti Bandh (Lights Out) last December. None of these events is likely to have an impact on emissions but there is potential here for spreading awareness. Consider this thought-experiment: a campaign like this, not once a year but maybe once a week, calling for more and more people to participate every week around the world, perhaps ultimately making a difference in decreasing emissions while also recruiting the army of millions. I can see it snowballing like Gandhi’s historic Salt March, becoming a tipping point of its own. Perhaps it is foolish enough an idea to work.

People around the world are getting tired of the betrayals of governments and corporations. This is not to say that governments and corporations don’t have a role to play, but consider this news item: just this past September Greenpeace activists in the UK were acquitted by a jury of their peers of criminal damage to a coal-fired power plant. The six activists scaled the chimney of a coal fired power plant and painted part of the phrase “Gordon, Bin it” on it to draw attention to PM Gordon Brown’s lack of support for climate change action. “The jury, consisting of representatives from the British public, found their actions justified when considering the damage to property caused around the world by CO2 emissions from the plant. The defence used evidence to prove that burning coal inflicts enormous damage upon ecosystems, people and property across the planet – and that the UK government was failing to take effective action.”

This is the first case where preventing property damage from climate change has been used as part of a ‘lawful excuse’ defence in Crown Court.

So let us imagine a future where catastrophic global warming has been averted. What would we see? Would there be farm towers in cities, a rewilding of the world? How would we change the way people live so that scarce resources like drinking water would be conserved? I don’t see manicured lawns or SUVs. What do we see instead? Kim Stanley Robinson took us part of the way in one direction, with his Science in the Capital series. Another book near the top of my reading list is an anthology edited by John Joseph Adams: Seeds of Change. We need more of these imaginings.

Perhaps in giving the world our intelligent imaginings, in breaking free from tired old ways of thinking, in having the intellectual audacity to change or discard the various isms (from American capitalism to Soviet communism) that have taken the natural resources of our world for granted, and in doing these through action as well as the written word — perhaps in doing all this we can enable our species and all the other living things of the earth to have a future.

And we did something.

And we saved the world.

It wasn’t just a dream after all.

19 comments on “Science Fiction and the End of the World

  1. santhosh says:

    Many science fiction writers will come to a point during their career where they seem to run out of fresh new ideas. They may wander around for a long time wondering where they can find their next point of inspiration. Science fiction writers do not need to look further then the Weekly World News.

    ———–
    david

    this is my blog

  2. Bob Lock says:

    What about the end of the world that isn’t all down to humans? Where are the aliens who want to make a bypass through our system? The huge planet-killer asteroids. The giant galaxy-eating squids or gerbils, even.

    I see us going out like this….

    Whilst Mankind awaited the end of the world by the planet-devouring null-matter (accidently produced as a by-product of a Large Hadron Collider), the galaxy-sized Space Gerbil (which was attracted to the human’s area of space by said null-matter) consumed their solar system in one gulp. It is surmised that the Space Gerbil, (desolated by the fact that the null-matter wasn’t the trace of mating spoor it thought it was), dashed to the edge of the universe and threw itself off into the next brane which was composed of anti-matter. And so the next big bang occurred, however, it wasn’t the one the Space Gerbil was hoping for…

    The last recorded words we received from Humankind was-

    ‘Well, at least it isn’t raining…’ (Allegedly from Wales, UK)

    The end of the world will probably happen when our sun either goes out or becomes a red giant, however, by then we’d have most likely become extinct anyway. So, I don’t think we’ll be the cause of the end of the world, we’ll just shoulder the responsibilities of the death of all the life-forms upon it. We’ve made a good start, I wonder how many animals we’ve made extinct already?

  3. Anil Menon says:

    Ref: “How to write about fighting such a battle?”

    A modest proposal… It might help to understand how entrepreneurs are so effective at changing the world. Practically everything we do, right from the exhausting morning shower to the last defeated gaze at the mirror, is enabled by some entrepreneur who brought people together and constructed new markets. Entrepreneurs are the real mad-scientists of the world. One can make a case that entrepreneurial-action is to action what the scientific-method is to reasoning. Unfortunately, most of the stories we read about entrepreneurs are these irritating Campbellian hero-type stories you mentioned in your post. But the facts show a very different picture. Entrepreneurs are catalysts and to describe an entrepreneurial story only in terms of entrepreneurs is as silly as describing a catalytic reaction only in terms of its catalysts. This is especially so in the case of social entrepreneurs. Ernesto Sirolli’s Ripples from the Zambesi: Passion, Entrepreneurship and the Rebirth of Local Economies and David Bornstein’s How to Change the World should provide a lot of fodder for the creative cow in our heads.

  4. In the spirit of your post, Anil, I’d like to add another recommendation: a book called “the Starfish and The Spider” by Brafman and Beckstrom. It is subtitled “The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations.” It tells the success stories of groups as varied as Alcoholics Anonymous and undercover animal rights groups, and software pirates and Wikipedia. Among the things these groups have in common is a very flat rather than hierarchical structure and a willingness to let people in other places take the initiative so as to let the movement grow. It is quite a remarkable book, well worth reading.

    Santhosh, good point.

    Bob, thanks for sharing, especially the Welsh quote! I don’t have the answer to your last question but some indication can be obtained from the site of the IUCN, which maintains a red list of species in danger of extinction: http://www.iucnredlist.org/.

    Vandana

  5. Shelly T. says:

    Thank you for this. I’m going to spread the word. What else can we do?

  6. wordjunkie says:

    A very well written post, which I will certainly be sending to friends.
    However, I must admit to sharing the gloom of your geologist colleague. Slowing down climate change is going to mean hard lifestyle changes across the planet, commitment from governments on clean technologies and policies that will drain them economically (and wipe out vote banks), global climate policy agreed upon by every country around the world. We are nowhere near the targets set in the Kyoto Protocol and, rather than talking of curbing emissions, we have begun flirting with technologies like carbon capture which will only open the gates for increased emissions. … I wish I shared your optimism, but compared to the scale of this problem, the Salt March was quite literally a walk in the park.

  7. Johanna Vainikainen-Uusitalo says:

    “The Sands of Sarasvati” is an important book I’d like to recommend here! It is an ecotriller set in the near future by Finnish author Risto Isomäki, and it is based on scientific research about the climate change. It was nominated for the most important literary award in Finland, the Finlandia award. If I understand right, it is soon going to be published in English, in India! It is also translated into Spanish and number of other languages, and the comic adaptation is already available in English (Jeff, just let me know if you’d like a copy!):

    http://chawedrosin.wordpress.com/2008/09/30/the-sands-of-sarasvati/

    http://sarjakuvantoivo.fi/index.php?page=shop.product_details&category_id=33&flypage=garden_flypage.tpl&product_id=357&option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=1&vmcchk=1&Itemid=1

  8. Shelly T., thanks. I think there is a lot people can do, both on a small scale and on a large scale, and I’m still trying to figure out what the possibilities are, but in the meantime you might try reading the 18 October issue of New Scientist (in general New Scientist has been a really good source of information on global warming, and in this particular issue they focused on how messed up our economic theories are (“the Folly of Growth”). Here is a link to one article in that issue about what you can do:
    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20026786.800-tips-from-scientists-on-how-to-save-the-planet.html.

    Wordjunkie, there are days when I feel like you do. But I also feel that giving up is not an option — if we have a chance, however small, to change things for the better, it can only be realized if we have hope. So I hang on to hope. Among other things it helps me focus on possible solutions rather than doom and gloom. The thing is that the systems we are dealing with are so complex — both the climate system and the systems of human societies — that there is a chance for new and unexpected strategies to come up. I think we need to keep our imaginations open to these possibilities.

    To clarify, my example of the Salt Satyagraha was not meant to suggest a similarity of scale with global warming. Rather, it was an illustration of “snowballing,” where a small effect accumulates momentum and becomes a large effect. My point was that if we could find a way to realize such an effect — in taking global action, for instance — it might just tip the scales in favour of our survival.

    Johanna, thanks for your book recommendation, I will certainly look it up. Who is the Indian publisher?

    To sum up — I would love to see more discussion of global warming in the SF community, whether at cons or in writing workshops or on the internet. I’d like to hear about what people think with regard to writing about it, and also with regard to what can be done. I’d like to see people use their sociological imaginations as well as their technological farsightedness. How about it?

    Vandana

  9. Christian says:

    “But how do we harness the power of millions of people in a short time?”

    We must facilitate the generation and dissemination of the personal struggles which, when later told by the Survivors of the Age of Oil to their Children, will stir up tears, wonder, and great pride in those who would listen.

    1) Through web-based tools and co-operative paradigms which motivate and aid the users in creating content (e.g. Youtube)

    2) By hosting an extensive discussion of the impediments to change, recognizing that these include:
    a. the physical problems of mitigation,
    b. the mindsets of those who resist positive change,
    c. the need to challenge our own ego’s inflexibilities.

    A. is self-evident, and B. is Politics. The last is not as obvious.

    Hope and expectations, appointments from which one may dis-appointed, form our defense against a devastating perception – the enormity of our environmental challenges. If we could most clearly see the scale and scope of sea level rise, desertification, etc., we could put our effort into goals actually achievable; i.e. prizes “in the offing”, not those inspired by sad wishes, and which were never in practical reach.

    Triage is called for, and so we must come to appreciate the brutal and naked reality.
    Ego is that last, hardest veil to perceive and to pierce. Ask Alan Greenspan about the perils of a personal ideology with unchallenged assumptions. His model was fatally flawed, and his many years of effort have led to financial prosperity which is perilously “fragile and reversible” (to borrow from General Petraeus, characterizing the stability of Iraq in April 2008).

    – Chris, in Philly

  10. Peter Atomic says:

    Here’s something to add to this discussion. I’ve been researching the GW thing for quite a while, especially when it comes to the Perfect Storm (sorry for the metaphor) between science, policy and the general public. How science is so conservative in its predictions, policy-makers are too indebted to entrenched economic structures and the gen pub has such a hard time conceptualizing the crisis.

    In the midst of this “storm of sluggish response” I came across a book by a Jungian prof called “Archetype of the Apocalypse” which posits the apocalypse as an archetype embedded in our collective unconscious. Its an overlay. A filter. A perceptual interruptor… So what if the main problem with motivating the public is that we’re constantly up against this unconscious filter that thinks the world is gonna end ANYWAY, so whats the point? I’ve caught myself having that though flitter through and over time have become more convinced that this is the real obstacle.

    For my part I made an electronica album about the theme and hope it jars people to confront this archetype and realize we can conquer it. Peace to all in the coming years…

    Peter

  11. Mkhan says:

    The world will not end because of earthquakes, tsunami, meteor strike, nuclear war, supernova, or any other natural or man made disaster. End will not happen on any arbitrary date like December 2012. The end of the universe has been designed into the laws of the universe by the creator. The contraction of the universe will commence the beginning of the end which will last for thousands and possibly millions of years. We will however be gone far before that time removed from the dying universe. To find out how all that will happen go to the nest page.

  12. Cassandra says:

    Hey dude, While checking this, I totally wanted a cigarette so bad.

  13. markkuss says:

    This reads in one breath… And kinda fun… and kinda true… :(

    But whether true or not, the global warming (GW) just points out at the bigger problems of modern humanity: the unwillingness to take action and stop self destructive practices.

    – There are debates whether GW is true or not, but if we take action none the less, in the best case, we’ll live in a cleaner world (maybe without comfy SUVs or handy plastic bags) in the worse case we will have to dealwith this problem sooner or later.
    – Weapons. yes, GW is not the only idea we need to focus on, everyone agrees that wars are bad, yet in the US only, people can’t agree on gun control! Like c’mon, really?!? That’s not mentioning that the leading powers are also the leading weapons manufacturers (those same weapons that are ultimately used turned against them)
    – God? (I’m not pushing beliefs on anyone) but talking about myself, I’d rather feel free in my actions and desires rather than believe that a certain being will punish me for living a certain way. All the religions i heard of, some more or less tolerant or liberal all call for compassion,and kindness and keeping away from perversion
    – Money. When I read news about chemicals in certain foods affecting societies, I’m bewildered. Sure, yes… Those chemicals are needed probably to produce more food to feed augmenting populations, and to preserve those foods for longer periods of time, but HFCS (corn sirup) in soft drinks, The Fast Food industry, and Alcohol companies surely don’t seem concerned about starving populations, are they?

    There are many more issues than the few I mentioned here,so it seems to me that as society in whole, there’s something wrong. Perhaps, we’ve lost our values?
    (Perhaps like Egypt did last week, we should protest en mass some actions our governments allow?)

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