Sunday, July 29, 2018

Nat Rich blames our "Losing Earth" on "human nature." Is he right?

''LIVE'' ONLINE NOW HERE: The NYT SUNDAY MAGAZINE Nat Rich piece on climate change. #LosingEarth LINK TO NYT: https://northwardho.blogspot.com/2018/07/this-nyt-sunday-magazine-narrative-by.html
***"Curious, empathetic, compassionate: What we should be as human beings."***

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Nat Rich's 30,000-word essay in NYT mag this week ''LOSING EARTH'' will become a paperback book in early 2019 and be compared favorably with John Hersey's 1946 nonfiction book ''HIROSHIMA''. Film rights for both straight docu HBO style and Hollywood cli-fi film with ensemble cast.

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/08/01/magazine/climate-change-losing-earth.html 




Great article from Mirriam-Webster dictionary about the rise of #CliFi! -

https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/cli-fi-clifi-climate-fiction-genre-words-were-watching

#CliFi #scifi #genre [see Margaret Atwood ''shout out'' there, too!]

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Editor’s Note

This narrative by Nathaniel Rich is a work of history, addressing the 10-year period from 1979 to 1989: the decisive decade when humankind first came to a broad understanding of the causes and dangers of climate change. Complementing the text is a series of aerial photographs and videos, all shot over the past year by George Steinmetz. With supportfrom the Pulitzer Center, this two-part article is based on 18 months of reporting and well over a hundred interviews. It tracks the efforts of a small group of American scientists, activists and politicians to raise the alarm and stave off catastrophe. It will come as a revelation to many readers — an agonizing revelation — to understand how thoroughly they grasped the problem and how close they came to solving it. Jake Silverstein

In late July 2018, the New York Times Sunday Magazine announced that its August 5th issue would contain just one long article, a book-length investigation by reporter Nat Rich, titled "Our Coming Climate Issue: Losing Earth." The glossy elitist magazine has devoted an entire issue (plus advertisements for expensive cars and watches and luxury homes for the wealthy) to an important issue of concern to every nation on the planet, not just America.

The single-themed edition called "Losing Earth," looks at scientific discoveries and decisions made from 1979 to 1989 through the story of a former NASA scientist, James Hansen, who has a new book coming out in October titled "Sophie's Planet," a series of letters to his 20-something grand-daughter Sophie.
Nat centers his story on two white American Christian men, Rafe Pomerance, an environmental activist and former NASA scientist James Hansen, one of the first to warn Americans about the dangers of a climate change and global warming and a Greenhouse Earth.

But Nat places most of the blame on the failure of political leaders to stop greenhouse gases on "human nature." So it is true that we can lay all the blame on human nature, and not on anything else? Many readers around the world who will be eating up every word of Nat's book-in-progress "Losing Earth" will be wondering where the blame lies and many will be coming up with their own conclusion. Maybe it's not human nature. Maybe it's capitalism, maybe it's a corrupt political system, maybe it's a corrupt United Nations, maybe it's scientists in denial or scientists too much alarmed by things that cannot pin down to a science. We shall see what the fallout from Nat's risky venture into controversial issues like greenhouse gases ensues.
Nat told a TV reporter a few days before the story broke: "By 1979, there was a strong consensus within the scientific community about the nature of the problem. The fundamental science hasn’t really evolved since then. It’s only been refined really. There was no politicization of the issue throughout the decade. A number of prominent Republicans were leading the charge to insist on a major policy, and industry, which we now blame for much of our paralysis, had not turned against science or truth and if anything, especially in the early part of the decade, was engaged in trying to understand the problem and determine solutions. Over the course of the decade, the issue rose to major national attention and a process for a global treaty was in hand. We failed at the end of that to sign a binding agreement."
Why did things fall apart?
"Well, there’s sort of a simple political answer, a very narrow answer I suppose you could make which is that in the first George Bush administration, his chief of staff -- former governor of New Hampshire John Sununu who is an engineer, a Ph.D. -- was very skeptical about the science and he suspected that it was being used by a cabal of folks who wanted to suppress growth and economic advancement and all of that, and he managed to win an internal fight within that White House against action," Nat said. "That’s that’s kind of the most limited possible answer. That piece tells the story of that political conversation."
The story that the Times is running is titled ''Losing Earth: The decade we almost stopped climate change.'' Notice the use of the "we" in the subtitle. Does "we" mean white American policy makers making policy for the entire world, where billions of ''people of color'' in Africa and India and Asia and following non-Christian religions live and raise families? Or does that "we" mean the entire planet of humankind, mankind, womankind. The editors of the Times need to address this issue and hopefully they will after this tempest in a global teapot dies down. If it ever dies down.
''I think the larger answer has to do with how we as a species try to reckon with vast technological problems that will only affect folks decades or generations from now," Nat added, when speaking with a PBS-TV reporter. ''Of course, that’s not the case anymore. But in the early 1980s, that was how the conversation was being constructed. And so I think there’s a kind of larger conversation to be had about why we were so unable to tackle this when we had a great opportunity to do so, and then there’s the more narrow conversation about the inside politics of the matter."
Jake Silverstein, editor of the Sunday magazine which set this issue up in conjunction ace reporter Nat Rich, put is this way in an online advertisement letting readers know that something was brewing at the Times: "Next week's issue of The New York Times Magazine is an unusual one. It's dedicated to a single long story, by writer-at-large Nat Rich, about the ten-year period from 1979 to 1989, the decisive decade when humanity settled the science of gteenhouse gases and came surprisingly close to finding a solution. The world was ready to act. But 'we' failed to do what was necessary to avoid a catastrophe. Nat's story is a gripping narrative that reads like a historical whodunit.''
Again with the "we." Who is this "we"? Is America and the Times trying to say that only Americans can save the planet and that only the U.S. government can solve the problems we face. Not the scientists or politicians of Australia or Britain or Germany or Norway or South Africa or Japan or China? Just leave it to white American policy makers to serve as "saviors" of the entire planet, just as Jesus is said to be the ''savior/messiah'' of all mankind? Is the New York Times asleep the wheel again?
Accompanied by a series of stunning photos from around the world by George Steinmetz, “Losing Earth” will forever alter the way you see the world, the Times wants readers to believe. But it's not true. The Times story will merely serve to provoke more arguments and more scientific forums and more government meetings and Congressional hearings? Under the administration of Donald Trump, "we" are in for one wild ride. Hold on!

comments?

  • Discussions about climate change are inevitably expressed in language about its devastating effect on the planet, but the underlying reality is that the planet has been here for billions of years longer than humans have and the part of the biomass that we're worried might be at risk is us.
    But that having been said it's still possible for us to mess things up for a lot of other organisms. The buried carbon we've been burning and dumping into the atmosphere in the course of a few decades is reverting our geochemistry to a CO2 abundance that we haven't seen for 360 million years.
    I suppose it's reasonable to note that there were things just starting to walk around on land back then, but it's also worth noting that almost every species that thrived back then is extinct now.







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        CO2 has only been a catalyst. By far, the atmosphere's primary greenhouse "gas" is water vapor. Added CO2 tipped the instability balance. Warming atmosphere passed heat to the oceans. Warming oceans pass more water vapor to an atmosphere that increases its moisture capacity as it warms. The oceans are also the planet's primary CO2 sink; as they warm, they decarbonate like our warming carbonated beverages. This all combines into a feedback loop that's already acquired its own momentum.







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            I'd say the oceans are more like a working carbon reservoir rather than a sink. Carbon that went into those Carboniferous Period coal swamps stayed locked in stone for hundreds of millions of years.







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                CO2 has a solubilty that's maximum near freezing. With temperature increases, it exsolves, effectively degassing as solubility decreases. It wasn't coal swamps that created limestones. That was about excess carbonate salts precipitating in shallow seas as evaporites. Deep oceans are a different chemical concentration environment.







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                    Carbonate rocks like limestone do lock up carbon, but limestone just doesn't burn like coal. It doesn't give shivering humans a reason to dig it all up.
                    Also worth noting is that while carbonate shoals are continually forming even today in lots of locations, the anoxic conditions that formed those deep beds of Carboniferous plant matter sediment just aren't happening today. We aren't burying new coal.
                    But you're 100% correct about carbon frozen in the deep oceans. If those reserves are released we're all in big trouble.







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                In 1980 it was still possible to think about a sustainable level of human population. That ship has sailed, and all we can really discuss is ways of postponing the inevitable.







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                    In the Fifties, the ZPG (Zero Population Growth) movement made populist noise as WWII refugees swarmed into the US. But when pithier issues, like the Berlin Wall and the Cuban Missile Crisis, arose, ZPG was relegated to the esoteric realms of academia and never really heard from again on street corners. Vietnam and many other subsequent distractions have kept population concerns sidetracked. Even when, at the Millennium, population analysts announced that there were more people alive than had ever died...most folks never blinked. Even today, the knee jerk response to recent immigration surges has been a NIMBY reaction more than concern about world population.







                    • UPDATE from Hunter Cutting: P.P.S./July 29–while we are still days away from the release of Rich’s story, he appeared on PBS News Hour tonight to discuss his story. And indeed it does seem that this BU symposium presentation was a preview of his thesis, but the picture is still not fully resolved.
                      You can watch the interview here at the 18'35" mark.
                      Here are a couple key excerpts from the PBS transcript:
                      Hari Sreenivasan: so why did we fail? what was it that created that paralysis that we are so familiar with today?
                      Nathaniel Rich: well, there is a sort of a simple political answer, very narrow answer, i suppose, you could make which is that in the bush administration, the first george bush administration, his chief of staff former governor of new hampshire john sununu who was an engineer, ph.d., was very skeptical about the science of global warming, and he suspected that it was being used by kind of a cabal of folks who wanted to suppress growth and economic advancement and all of that, and he managed to win an internal fight within that white house against action. that is kind of the most limited possible answer, and the piece tells the story of that political conversation. i think the larger — the larger answer has to do with how we as a species to reckon with vast technological problems that will only affect folks decades or generations from now, of course that is not the case anymore, but in the early eighties that was how the conversation was being constructed. and so i think there is a kind of larger conversation to be had about why we were so unable to tackle this when we had a great opportunity to do so and then there is the more narrow conversation about the inside politics of the matter.
                      From that exchange it’s hard to know whether Rich is diagnosing the failure to take action back in the 1980s or the failure to take action over the three decades since then.
                      However, in a following exchange later in the PBS interview, Rich appears to double down on this BU presentation, blaming human nature.
                      Sreenivasan: one of the meetings you describe in great detail starts to get to the same changes we, challenges we have, you see people trying to water down language, not wanting to make a decision today, leave the decision for others.
                      Rich: there is still a basic discomfort with trying to propose a drastic transformation or immediate transformation of the — of our whole energy economy which is to say our economy, so even folks who agree on every aspect of the issue, the science and the politics still we are not able to a negotiate even the most basic statement of purpose and i think that we still see that problem today, frankly.
                      The proposition that even today “folks who agree on every aspect of the issue, the science and the politics still …are not able to a negotiate even the most basic statement of purpose,” is completely ridiculousWhile that may have been true back in the 1980s, that hasn’t been true for a very long time.
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                      In the 70's it was a coming ice age.







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                        The usual suspects - Republicans who would rather have their extra few dollars now and screw the next generation. Also see recent tax cut, trillion dollar deficit.







                        2 comments:

                        Anonymous said...

                        Hunter Cutting: P.P.S./July 29–while we are still days away from the release of Rich’s story, he appeared on PBS News Hour tonight to discuss his story. And indeed it does seem that this BU symposium presentation was a preview of his thesis, but the picture is still not fully resolved.

                        You can watch the interview here at the 18'35" mark.

                        Here are a couple key excerpts from the PBS transcript:

                        Hari Sreenivasan: so why did we fail? what was it that created that paralysis that we are so familiar with today?

                        Nathaniel Rich: well, there is a sort of a simple political answer, very narrow answer, i suppose, you could make which is that in the bush administration, the first george bush administration, his chief of staff former governor of new hampshire john sununu who was an engineer, ph.d., was very skeptical about the science of global warming, and he suspected that it was being used by kind of a cabal of folks who wanted to suppress growth and economic advancement and all of that, and he managed to win an internal fight within that white house against action. that is kind of the most limited possible answer, and the piece tells the story of that political conversation. i think the larger — the larger answer has to do with how we as a species to reckon with vast technological problems that will only affect folks decades or generations from now, of course that is not the case anymore, but in the early eighties that was how the conversation was being constructed. and so i think there is a kind of larger conversation to be had about why we were so unable to tackle this when we had a great opportunity to do so and then there is the more narrow conversation about the inside politics of the matter.

                        From that exchange it’s hard to know whether Rich is diagnosing the failure to take action back in the 1980s or the failure to take action over the three decades since then.

                        However, in a following exchange later in the PBS interview, Rich appears to double down on this BU presentation, blaming human nature.

                        Sreenivasan: one of the meetings you describe in great detail starts to get to the same changes we, challenges we have, you see people trying to water down language, not wanting to make a decision today, leave the decision for others.

                        Rich: there is still a basic discomfort with trying to propose a drastic transformation or immediate transformation of the — of our whole energy economy which is to say our economy, so even folks who agree on every aspect of the issue, the science and the politics still we are not able to a negotiate even the most basic statement of purpose and i think that we still see that problem today, frankly.

                        The proposition that even today “folks who agree on every aspect of the issue, the science and the politics still …are not able to a negotiate even the most basic statement of purpose,” is completely ridiculous. While that may have been true back in the 1980s, that hasn’t been true for a very long time.

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