Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Warming Wednesdays: suicide watch on May Day?

Last Wednesday, I quoted Ryan Cooper explaining that climate change means "our society [is] slowly destroying itself." He's explained in a video if that's your medium:
Grist writer David Roberts breaks down what stands in the way of our making the changes we need for species survival.

Presidential science advisor John Holdren is fond of saying that there are only three possible responses to climate change: mitigation, adaptation, and suffering. We’ll prevent what we can, adjust to what we can’t prevent, and suffer through what we can’t adjust to. All that remains is to determine the proportions…. Different individuals assess risk differently. And crucially, debates over what is acceptable vs. tolerable vs. intolerable risk can slow collective responses.

There’s also a rather obvious point to make here about equity, though the [writers of a paywalled article Roberts is discussing] do not make it. The members of a society with the most economic or political power will also be the ones most buffered against risk. As the last to be adversely affected by risks, they will be the least inclined to take adaptive action, especially if it’s expensive. And because they are also the ones with the most political influence, they will be able to delay collective action even as risks are ravaging the more vulnerable.

To put the point more bluntly: The 1 percent can delay adaptive action even when the 99 percent are suffering. By the time the 1 percent are swayed to action, the risks to the broader collective may already have become intolerable. Thus do the social limits of adaptation bite harder, and faster, than any physical or economic limits.

As is usual in human societies, it's all about who's got the power to get their way -- and this time the implication is murder. Are we willing to let that come to pass? The planet will be fine after all -- as Cooper says, this is just a rock. The rock's current inhabitants, not so much -- so if we leave things to the 1 percent.

On International Workers Day -- that's today, May 1, in much of the world -- we're reminded that human civilization is still made, nurtured and preserved by millions of human hands.

Despite every other legitimate concern, we cannot ignore that our economic and social system is rapidly making the planet less habitable. So I will be posting "Warming Wednesdays" -- reminders of an inconvenient truth.


Michael Strickland said...

Happy May Day, Ms. Adams.

Hattie said...

Thanks for dropping by. This is really a nice blog you've got here.

Hattie said...

Oh, and I have discovered Micheal Strickland's blog and added that, too.

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