Thursday, July 19, 2018

James Bridle on dealing with situations like climate change (from an interview for his new book ''NEW DARK AGE'')

James Bridle on dealing with situations like climate change (from an interview for his new book ''NEW DARK AGE'')

Question: ......How do you deal with situations like climate change, where you need really large-scale systemic change?
James Bridle: ''There’s a couple of things I talk about regarding climate in the book, and one of them is to be really, really super direct about the actual threat of it, which is horrific, and it’s kind of so horrific that it’s difficult for us to think about. Simply the act of articulating that — making it really, really clear, exploring some of the implications of it — that kind of realism is a super necessary act.''
''We’re still fighting this rear-guard action of, “Oh, it’s manageable,” “Oh, we can mitigate it,” or “It’s not really real.” We’re still, despite everything we know, everything people say, stuck in this ridiculous bind where we seem incapable of taking any kind of action. And, for me, that’s part and parcel of this continuous argument we have over numbers and facts and figures and the data and information that we’re gathering, as though this is some kind of argument that has to be won before we do anything. That excludes the possibility of doing anything concrete and powerful and present.''

Artist and writer James Bridle’s book ''New Dark Age'' contends that an overload of information has hurt our ability to understand the world. It was released in the USA on July 17, 2018

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

How do we process doom-and-gloom climate news? How should we?

[Audio report from PRI]
How do we process doom-and-gloom climate news? How should we?
Livable Planet
Frightening stories about climate change seem to come in a never-ending wave these days.

In just the past week, we've learned that Antarctica is melting three times faster than it was a decade ago, rising seas might flood more than 300,000 USA homes twice a month within decades, and that India is facing the worst water crisis in its history.

How do our brains respond to this onslaught of negative news?
Not well.

"Climate change has all the hallmarks of an issue which is difficult for people to engage with psychologically," says Lorraine Whitmarsh, professor of environmental psychology at the University of Cardiff in Wales.  

People perceive the risks of climate change "as both considerably uncertain and also as being mostly in the future and geographically distant, all factors that lead people to discount them," according to a 2009 American Psychological Association report on the topic.

In other words, the worst impacts of climate change feel far away - in both time and place - to many Americans. So while it will increasingly impact all of us, every day, it's hard for us to get worked up about it.

So do news stories with frightening projections about the future prod us to action, or make us stick our heads in the sand?

It's a debated topic in psychology, and some recent research suggests there's not enough evidence to empirically say whether or not "arousing fear" is an effective way to communicate the risks of climate change. But other psychologists argue we know enough to say scare tactics don't work when it comes to engaging the public.

"What we know from psychological studies is that if you overuse fear-inducing imagery, what you get is fear and guilt in people, and this makes people more passive, which counteracts engagement," Norwegian psychologist and author of "What We Think About When We Try Not To Think About Global Warming," Per Espen Stoknes, told YaleEnvironment360.

So what does work in effectively communicating the risks of climate change?

Making it personal, Whitmarsh says. "Talk to people about the impacts of climate change on things that are important to them, things that they value," Whitmarsh tells The World. "They may be family, or their local area, or objects or areas that are important to them, rather than talking about distant regions."

When it comes to changing behaviors that impact the environment, Whitmarsh has found it's often more effective not to raise the issue of climate change at all.

"If you want people to save energy, reduce the amount of meat they're consuming, reduce the amount of flights they're taking, for example, you don't necessarily need to make an environmental or climate change argument to get them to do that," Whitmarsh says.

Explain the economic argument for using less energy, for example, or the health benefits of eating less meat. Some research has shown, for example, that real-time energy usage readings help people use less energy.  

"Emphasizing those (personal benefits) when you're communicating and trying to persuade people to change their behaviour is more likely to be effective," Whitmarsh says.

Accentuate the positive
It's a tactic climate scientist Peter Kalmus takes in his book, "Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution."

Kalmus writes about his experience cutting his carbon footprint to a tenth of what it once was by giving up flying and eating meat, taking up biking, and scavenging and growing his own food. These changes not only helped him live more sustainably, it also made him happier and feel more connected to his community.

"There was a lot about it that I liked, that I would do even if there wasn't a climate emergency," Kalmus says, including biking, gardening, and converting his car to run on waste vegetable oil. "I really enjoyed all of these things."

Kalmus, a climate scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California who speaks on his own behalf and not for NASA, tells The World that he had an "unpleasant wake-up call" when he started learning more about climate change and decided to switch his field of study from astrophysics to atmospheric science.

"I was kind of shaking people by the proverbial lapels and telling them 'We need to stop burning fossil fuels,'" Kalmus said. "And then I realized 'Hey, I'm not actually doing that myself.' So maybe I can reduce my own use of fossil fuel."

About eight years ago he sat down to take stock of his own personal CO2 emissions. He found that flying produced about three-quarters of his 20-ton annual carbon footprint, and in 2012, he gave up flying. He still travels with his wife and kids - they just opt for trips within California and, about once a year, drive their bio-fueled car or take the train to visit family in Chicago, camping along the way.

Kalmus recognizes that not everyone can easily bike to work, or give up flying altogether.

But he says an easy first step for those interested in cutting their carbon footprint is sitting down to do a personal CO2 audit.

"Figure out how your actions are connected to CO2," he says, can help you pinpoint the biggest steps you can take to reduce your CO2 emissions. "So hopefully people can find something that makes them happier and also reduces their footprint. And then that's a sustainable change, and hopefully they'll be eager to try taking the second step."

One person can't fight climate change alone. But Kalmus hopes he'll be an example others can follow.

"What I'm doing is trying to push for a cultural shift," Kalmus says. "As more and more people start demanding alternatives to the fossil-fueled infrastructure, I think the systems will start to catch up."

Monday, July 16, 2018

If in fact Climate Change is behind the global heat wave, then Why won't the media say it?

If in fact Climate Change is behind the global heat wave, then Why won't the media say it?

[Dept of Media competence]

Climate change is behind the global heat wave. Why won't the media say it?

JUL 15, 2018

Climate change is behind the global heat wave. Why won't the media say it?

Last week's heat wave brought record temperatures to Southern California. Hot winds blew fire into my community in Santa Barbara County, ripping through a dozen homes and threatening hundreds more.
I tuned into the local news channel, where reporters reminded viewers that we had just finished a record-breaking fire season. They strained to list all the fires we'd had over the past decade. There were too many to recall.
Fires are happening a lot more often across California. You can't accurately call it a fire "season" anymore. The season is year-round.
But journalists who report on the fires or heat waves rarely acknowledge this reality. Last week, the local newscasters in my area never did, even though it has a very familiar name: climate change.
The same is true of the media at large. Although it reports on each fresh disaster - every fire, every hurricane, every flood - it tends to stop short of linking extreme weather events to global warming, as though the subject were the exclusive province of reporters on the climate beat.
The science is clear. Journalists need to start using it.
As a result, we're missing what is arguably the biggest story of all: The climate we knew is no more. We've already warmed the planet, whether we deny it or not.

It's not hard to spot global warming in the news. If you're looking, its marks are everywhere. Right now, southern Japan is flooded. Two months' worth of rain fell in five days, a day's worth in an hour. Mudslides followed. More than 200 are dead, more are missing, millions are displaced.
But to get the larger story about extreme weather events, you have to read between the headlines.
There is no sound justification for this. Not anymore. Scientists have been churning out evidence of human-caused climate change for more than a century. Some are figuring out exactly how much to blame global warming for any given weather event. They're getting really good at it.

We can now link many recent disasters and weather events to climate change. We know, for instance, that more than three-quarters of moderate heat waves are connected to warming. We also know that, were it not for climate change, fires in the West would have burned half as much land since the 1980s. Scientists have been documenting the increase in extreme rain events in Japan since the early 1990s.
There are reasons they haven't. Reporters are trained to distinguish weather from climate. They are also conditioned to avoid the appearance of political bias, and a decades-long campaign to sow doubt about global warming has cast a partisan aura on the facts.

But with a bit of nuance, journalists can carefully identify the pattern. Any weather event has multiple causes. More and more, climate change is one of them, and its share of blame is growing.

The public is not entirely in the dark. In fact, research by Peter D. Howe, a geographer at Utah State University, shows that 60% of people in 89 countries correctly perceive that temperatures where they live have warmed over time. According to a study by the political scientists Matto Mildenberger and Dustin Tingley, most Americans underestimate how many people share their belief that climate change is real. Most of us know this is not a drill, and most of us want our government to do more.

We all need to do more. Countries around the world need to go beyond the commitments made in Paris. We need more wind and solar energy. We need states to keep nuclear plants open when they are safe, because they already produce clean energy. We need to stop rolling back renewable energy laws, as my research has documented in Ohio, Texas and Arizona.

But we won't do any of this until we can see what's happening. Journalists play a critical role in helping the public to make these connections. They need to start telling the whole story.
Leah C. Stokes (@leahstokes) is an assistant professor of environmental politics at UC Santa Barbara.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

LIBERATION: Olivier Postel-Vinay, directeur du magazine «Books», et «cli-fi» (prononcez «claï- faï»)


A French newspaper

Mr. Olivier Postel-Vinay, directeur du magazine «Books», et «cli-fi» (prononcez «claï- faï») .....


Par Olivier Postel-Vinay Fondateur et directeur du magazine «Books»— 22 août 2015 à 16:24

1300 romans de 'climat fiction'

Le genre a un nom : «cli-fi» (prononcez «claï- faï»). Ce sont les romans dystopiques sur le climat. 1300 titres recensés sur Amazon. Tous les clichés du catastrophisme écologiste se pressent au portillon. Une aubaine pour de jeunes auteurs, qui aspirent aussi à voir leur essai transformé à l’écran, dans le sillage d’un Christopher Nolan ou d’une Margaret Atwood. Le terme «cli-fi» a été lancé en 2007 par l’écrivain militant Dan Bloom. Atwood l’a repris à son compte dans un tweet, attirant d’un coup ses 500 000 followers. Le genre attire un nouveau public de jeunes lecteurs sensibilisés à la question du réchauffement climatique. L’université de Cambridge a ouvert une formation en «cli-fi». 
Source : The Atlantic, 14 août 2015, 9300 signes. L’auteur : J.K. Ullrich est romancière. Elle a publié une fiction climatique, Blue Karma, au printemps 2015.

"What can we do about climate change?" is a question best left to cli-fi novelists and film directors, not so-called PhD "experts" ....

"What can we do about climate change?" is a question best left to cli-fi novelists and film directors, not so-called PhD "experts" ....  

In ''RADIO FREE VERMONT,'' set for paperback release in October, the editors of Bill McKibben's fun-to-read 'cli-fi lite' novel lowercase the word EARTH all through the text, calling our home planet as "earth" rather than "Earth," with a capital E. Let's hope Bill can ask his editors to rectify this glaring gaffe in the paperback edition. Bill?

In RADIO FREE VERMONT, set for paperback release in October, 2018, the editors of Bill McKibben's cli-fi lite novel lowercase the word EARTH all through the text, calling our home planet as "earth" rather than "Earth," with a capital E.

Let's hope Bill can ask his editors to rectify this glaring gaffe in the paperback edition.


Bill" Can you do anything about this? Your editors do not answer my emails or tweets. It's a wonderful book, I loved reading it, but hey, Mr 350.0RG, our home planet should be capped in first letter E, as in Earth. The New York Times Climate Desk (and the entire newspaper itself) also has a problem with lowercasing the word EARTH, and of all people, YOU BILL should stand up for the Earth and demand that your editors fix the gaffe in the paperback edition. Or at least issue an apology or an explanation for lowercasing the word all through the text.


Page 4

Did you know we had more breweries per capita than any place on earth?

Please fix to read:

Did you know we had more breweries per capita than any place on Earth?

Page 96

''In 1777, while still an indepedent republic, Vermont became the first sovereign state on earth to constitutionally outlaw slavery...''

Please fix to read:

''In 1777, while still an indepedent republic, Vermont became the first sovereign state on Earth to constitutionally outlaw slavery...''

Page 97

''...that would make America the the most democratically educated place on earth....''

Please fix to read:

''...that would make America the the most democratically educated place on Earth....''

Page 2

But funny, Bill on page 2 this sentence caps the word earth as ''Earth,'' the only time in the entire book that this is allowed.  The lowecasing of the name of our home planet Earth (lowercased as ''earth'' each time) occurs through the book, almost 34,513 times....

WAKE UP, BILL, and I know you are awake, very awake, so wake up your editors and proofreaders for the paperback edition, or at least make an attempt to wake them up, and while you are at it, try to wake up the New York Times editors the Climate Desk, too. They lowercase earth every time. Go look!

BUT: Our home planet deserves a cap E, yes or no?

SEE: page 2:

''The other 34,513 Starbucks scatttered across the planet Earth and aboard our...''

Introducing a New Genre: Cli-Fi

Introducing a New Genre: Cli-Fi

Buttersworth, "Ship in Storm"
Buttersworth, “Ship in Storm”
As I plan my Introduction to Literature class, which has “Nature” as its focus, I am finding useful a November Kathryn Schulz New Yorker article on literature and the weather. Schulz discusses how, in response to global climate change and increasingly frequent extreme weather events, a new literary genre is emerging: cli-fi.
First, however, she looks back at how we have interpreted weather over the centuries—by which she mostly means extreme weather since we don’t pay attention to the other kind. She appears to see four stages in the process:
–Up until the emergence of Renaissance humanism, extreme weather was seen as the work of angry gods. Piss off Poseidon by poking out the eye of his Cyclops son or eat the cattle of the sun god Helios and you’ll be shipwrecked and all your men will be killed. God in those days punished whole nations or groups of people;
–With the Renaissance and a Protestantism that emphasized one’s personal relationship with God, extreme weather became seen as the result of individual failings. For disobeying his father, Robinson Crusoe is subjected to a series of increasingly violent storms and finally finds himself stranded on a desert island. Then, for extra measure, God sends an earthquake that nearly buries him in his cave;
–With the scientific revolution, the weather became increasingly seen as uninfluenced by humans and so was regarded as merely metaphorical. Then even the metaphorical use of the weather got attacked, with John Ruskin saying that those authors who use weather to convey inner emotions (think of the storm in King Lear) are guilty of “the pathetic fallacy.” Their mistake was indicating a connection when there wasn’t one.
–Schulz says that this view prevailed for a while and extreme weather dropped out of literature (although she mentions exceptions like Grapes of Wrath). With the advent of human-caused climate change, however, weather is making a comeback.
Let’s look at each of these stages in turn. I’ve talked many times about how literature helps us make sense of the world. In ancient times humans had little control over nature, which panicked them. An explanation such as “angry gods” provided the kind of security that explanations offer us and it even suggested a course of action: offer the deities proper obeisance.
I remember reading Homer as a child and wondering why the Greeks so often failed to offer up the proper sacrifices to Poseidon or Zeus. Didn’t they know bad things would happen if they didn’t? But of course, storytellers are Monday morning quarterbacks: looking back at a disaster, they conclude that someone did something wrong. They don’t mention those times when nothing bad happens even though sacrifices are omitted.
Nature became more personal when our relationship with the gods, set in motion by Jesus but coming into fruition with Renaissance humanism and the Protestant reformation, became one-on-one. Schulz cites the change in Milton’s Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve eat the forbidden fruit. Before they took the bite, I tell my students, the weather was like Southern California all the time. Afterwards, not so much.
We get a sense of what is in store when Eve reaches for the apple:
So saying, her rash hand in evil hour
Forth reaching to the fruit, she plucked, she ate:
Earth felt the wound, and Nature from her seat
Sighing through all her works gave signs of woe,
That all was lost…
And also when Adam does:
…he scrupled not to eatAgainst his better knowledge, not deceived,But fondly overcome with female charm.Earth trembled from her entrails, as againIn pangs, and Nature gave a second groan,Sky lowered, and muttering thunder, some sad dropsWept at completing of the mortal sinOriginal… 
At this point, God steps in and gets His angels to tilt the earth and rearrange the weather. (Among his other talents, Milton knows his science.) Here’s a sampling from what is a long passage:
While the Creator calling forth by name
His mighty angels gave them several charge,
As sorted best with present things. The SunHad first his precept so to move, so shine,As might affect the Earth with cold and heatScarce tolerable, and from the North to callDecrepit Winter, from the South to bringSolstitial summer’s heat…. 
To the Winds they set
Their corners, when with bluster to confound
Sea, Air, and Shore, the Thunder when to roll
With terror through the dark aerial Hall.
Some say he bid his Angels turn ascanse
The Poles of Earth twice ten degrees and more
From the Sun’s axle; they with labor pushed
Oblique the Centric Globe…
Romantic poetry, of course, saw nature as a reflection of the soul, but, as the 19th century progressed, weather came to be seen as lacking special significance. It was just part of the impersonal universe that one had to deal with. Some authors are very good at emphasizing ironic contrast, with nature oblivious to human tragedy. In Mary Oliver’s “Lost Children,” for instance, a father frantically searching for his lost daughter is serenaded by the “thrush’s gorgeous and amoral voice.”
With our present-day actions resulting in super storms and killer droughts, however, humans are once again discovering that they have a special relationship with the weather, which consequently is once more becoming significant in literature. As Schulz observes,
What used to be idle chitchat about the unusually warm day or last weekend’s storm has become both premonitory and polarizing. Nor is there any innate melodrama left in meteorology. Weather is, instead, at the heart of the great drama of our time.
And further:
It is not just that the facts about climate change have become clear; it is that, in establishing those facts, the scientific model of weather, which eclipsed the symbolic one in the nineteenth century, is now colliding with it. These days, the atmosphere really does reflect human activity, and, as in our most ancient stories, our own behavior really is bringing disastrous weather down on our heads. Meteorological activity, so long yoked to morality, finally has genuine ethical stakes.
And because literature never fails to take up the great dramas of our time, new kinds of books are being written:
That shift began to be reflected in literature in the later decades of the twentieth century, with the emergence of the genre now known as cli-fi—short for climate fiction, and formed by analogy to “sci-fi.” As that suggests, novels about the weather have tended to congregate in genre fiction. The dystopian novelist J. G. Ballard wrote about climate change before the climate was known to be changing; later, Kim Stanley Robinson, Margaret Atwood, and many others used the conventions of science fiction to create worlds in which the climate is in crisis. More recently, though, books about weather are displaying a distinct migratory pattern—farther from genre fiction and closer to realism; backward in time from the future and ever closer to the present. See, among others, Ian McEwan’s “Solar,” Barbara Kingsolver’s “Flight Behavior,” Nathaniel Rich’s “Odds Against Tomorrow,” Karen Walker’s “The Age of Miracles,” Jesmyn Ward’s “Salvage the Bones,” and Dave Eggers’s “Zeitoun.”
I particularly appreciate Schulz’s concluding observation that stories about apocalyptic weather disasters are, in one sense, escapist: they give one the illusion of control without one having to do anything. That’s how the stories of an angry Poseidon also work. Back then, however, there really was little one could do.
We, on the other hand, can take dramatic steps to reduce the threat of climate change. The challenge, as Schulz points out, is not to fatalistically accept what is happening but rather to figure out what to do next:
But apocalyptic stories are ultimately escapist fantasies, even if no one escapes. End-times narratives offer the terrible resolution of ultimate destruction. Partial destruction, displacement, hunger, want, weakness, loss, need—these are more difficult stories. That is all the more reason we should be glad writers are beginning to tell them: to help us imagine not dying this way but living this way. To weather something is, after all, to survive.