I’m looking quizzical, rubbing my chin. Adam Curtis appears to have lost control of his mind, or at the very least, is showing signs of unhealthy self contradiction. Where are the checks and balances ?
At the start of Part 2 of “All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace”, he unpicks, and, I would suggest, stamps on, the idea that ecosystems are networks of feedback loops, tending to re-balance. And then at the end of the same presentation, he asserts that human revolutions fail, and society folds in on itself and returns to the state of power and control it was in before. Now which is it to be, Adam Curtis ? Self-correcting stability or non-correcting ebbs, flows and shifting sands ?
I found this excellent little CATO Institute debate somewhere in my Twitter stream, and I watched the whole of it, despite the annoying accents and speaking styles of the speakers, and the insider economics references to Pigou and Coase (they’re only theorems, you know).
I thought that Kate Gordon made some excellent rebuttals to Andrew Morriss’ whining, pedantic free marketeering, and I was with her right up until the last few frames when she said that the Center for American Progress, of course, supports a carbon tax, as this is, of course, the best way to prevent Carbon Dioxide emissions.
Such disappointment ! To find that somebody so intelligent cannot see the limitations of carbon pricing is a real let down. I tend to find that American “progressives” on the whole are rather wedded to this notion of environmental taxation, “internalising the externalities” – adding the damages from industrial activities into the cost of the industrial products. I do not see any analysis of the serious flaws in this idea. Just what are they drinking ? What’s in the Kool-Aid ?
Many news articles now follow a predictable path. Some awe-inspiring, statistics-shaking weather event hits town – in the case of Joplin, literally. Then some people muse about whether these extreme events could have anything to do with Global Warming. Then some other people smother the idea very publicly. “No one weather event can be attributed to Climate Change !”, they insist, and yes, in the grand scheme of things they’re right – you cannot say for certain that one freak tornado, hurricane, flood or storm can be cast iron guaranteed to have been caused by atmospheric heating and increased sky water vapour. There is No Connection, official, and we can all breathe a sigh of relief and donate to a worthy clean-up cause.
“Fires rage through much of Texas; more than 1 million acres burned : April 20, 2011 : Several massive wildfires in North and West Texas continued to rage Tuesday, racing through parched fields and woods and adding to a sweeping acreage toll that has reached almost 1.2 million in less than two weeks. A wildfire spanning four counties west of Fort Worth near Possum Kingdom Lake has consumed nearly 150,000 acres, destroyed 150 homes and a church, and forced hundreds to flee since it began Friday, Texas Forest Service spokesman Marq Webb said. The fire, which nearly doubled in size in a day, is one of more than 20 active fires that the Forest Service is fighting statewide in an April that has been plagued by a fierce drought, high temperatures and gusting winds – conditions that have allowed wildfires to ignite and spread quickly in several parts of the state, including Austin…”
The situation is so bad, that the God Squad has been moved to participate, some in practical ways and some in the spiritual department. People are dying, but meanwhile, some in the Heavenward crowd are in denial about Climate Change. Seems that some tombstone-headed American Christians would rather crucify their country than admit that Global Warming Science is right.
State policy on fighting fire seems rather contrary to the trends – and that’s probably because “big government” social budgets needs to be cleansed of too much “red tape”.
Will Texas become uninhabitable, with terrain where nothing can grow; the domain of wind farms, solar fields and duststorms ?
“Draft of national climate change policy finalised : Noor Aftab : Monday, February 21, 2011 : Islamabad : The draft of National Climate Change Policy has been finalised after two years of deliberations and now the Environment Ministry would present it to the federal cabinet for final approval, the sources told The News here on Sunday. The sources said the recommendations in the draft would certainly test the government’s commitment as it has been proposed to go for alternative energy resources instead of using fossil fuel, considered one of the major reasons for environmental degradation. The sources said the draft recommendations prepared by a core group of the Environment Ministry mainly focuses on two areas including adaptation and mitigation with an aim to enable the country to cope with fast increasing environmental challenges. One of the top officials of the Environment Ministry told this correspondent that continuity of casual approach towards environmental sector has now made economic managers and policy makers feel the heat as environmental degradation has started costing five per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in Pakistan…”
“Sunday, February 20, 2011 : UK to keep helping Pakistan’s flood victims: Sayeeda Warsi : LAHORE: Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, a British cabinet minister of Pakistani-origin, said on Saturday that the United Kingdom would continue supporting Pakistan in the post-flood operations. “Today I have been heartened to see and hear how the UK is helping millions of people in Pakistan rebuild their lives, but there is much more to do, with widespread malnutrition and the risk of disease outbreaks,” Warsi said while talking to reporters in Islamabad. The primary purpose of Warsi’s visit to Pakistan is to learn how the country is recovering, what more needs to be done, and to see how more than Rs 27.7 billion from British people is supporting the flood victims. “When I was here exactly six months ago in August at the peak of the floods with the UK International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell I saw scenes of devastation,” the British lawmaker recalled. She said that some areas of Sindh were still under water, adding that reconstruction of millions of houses, bridges and schools that were destroyed would take years…”
Well, Mubarak’s made an exit – and real Egyptian democracy can begin – as long as the army don’t get crowd control ideas above their station and the old elites don’t interfere with the process of free and fair elections.
But democracy is not going to solve the problem of the price of bread.
“Food Speculation : What is the problem? : Banks, hedge funds and pension funds are betting on food prices in the financial markets, causing drastic price swings in staple foods such as wheat, maize and soy…”
“By now, you probably think your opinion of Goldman Sachs and its swarm of Wall Street allies has rock-bottomed at raw loathing. You’re wrong. There’s more. It turns out that the most destructive of all their recent acts has barely been discussed at all. Here’s the rest. This is the story of how some of the richest people in the world – Goldman, Deutsche Bank, the traders at Merrill Lynch, and more – have caused the starvation of some of the poorest people in the world. It starts with an apparent mystery. At the end of 2006, food prices across the world started to rise, suddenly and stratospherically. Within a year, the price of wheat had shot up by 80 per cent, maize by 90 per cent, rice by 320 per cent. In a global jolt of hunger, 200 million people – mostly children – couldn’t afford to get food any more, and sank into malnutrition or starvation. There were riots in more than 30 countries, and at least one government was violently overthrown. Then, in spring 2008, prices just as mysteriously fell back to their previous level…”
“The hedge fund guy sitting beside me was asked about his next plan for global domination. He’d done houses and gold – what was the new new thing? “Food,” he said between mouthfuls of lobster. “We’re piling into food. Weather’s getting weird, so there’ll be crop failures. There won’t be enough to go around.”…”
Many blessings for your newly-born democracy, Egypt, and we hope you can win the fight to secure affordable food, too.
Received by e-mail from Australia
18 January 2011
Thanks for this. The thoughts and prayers of […] friends are much appreciated.
Yes, the flooding across huge swathes of eastern Australia ([Queensland], [New South Wales], Victoria, Tasmania) has been terrible. The sheer scale of it is hard to comprehend. It hasn’t affected the areas of New South Wales where my family lives. We are, however, experiencing a very sticky and rainy Summer.
Three quarters of the state of Queensland, an enormous area, has been declared a disaster zone. Major population centres, including Brisbane, Bundaberg and Toowoomba have been affected, as well as various towns.
Horribly, in the Lockyer Valley, a sudden tide of water swept people to their deaths. Some 20 people have died across the state and there are still about ten missing.
The impact on farmers from the floods is severe. Mining has also been affected – including coal export – which has been talked about in the media largely without irony.
The [Queensland] Premier has announced a commission of inquiry into the disaster, and has launched a flood appeal. Emergency funding packages are being made available to people affected. A flood recovery taskforce has been established.
It has been terrible, but at the same time I have been struck throughout how relatively well equipped Australia is to cope with such circumstances – in contrast, for example, to Brazil and Pakistan.
I am also glad to see how communities come together and support each other. I pray for such coming together before – not just after – the fact in the face of the challenge of climate change.
Dozens of towns in Victoria have also been flooded. The town of Horsham, on the Wimmera River, has seen its largest ever recorded flood.
As for Queensland, emergency funding, a flood appeal, and a recovery taskforce have been established. As far as I am aware, there have as yet been no deaths in Victoria.
The Churches’ Responses
Churches across the country are offering support to flood affected communities.
To read about various appeals and statements, see :-
We pray for all those in farms, small towns, and cities in Australia whose lives have been disrupted and whose dreams have been dashed by the floods that have devastated the country.
We pray for those who have lost their homes, their cars, their treasured possessions, their crops, their animals, and their livelihoods. It is a terrible thing to be homeless and helpless.
Be with and sustain those whose entire world has been torn apart and washed away.
Assuage their fears and be patient with their anger.
Grant them patience and hope that eventually they can rebuild their lives and start afresh.
We are grateful to the emergency flood workers and all those who were heroes in helping those in distress during the floods.
May they continue their missions of mercy.
Be with those who are caring for flood victims that their compassion and presence will be life-sustaining.
May they continue their missions of mercy.
We are thankful for those who serve others and provide us all with the inspiration to do the same.
We are sending love, peace, strength, and courage to all our brothers and sisters in Australia.
May this nightmare end shortly.
May healing begin swiftly.”
It is too soon to estimate the damage bill, and the crisis is ongoing, but I have heard figures of up to [AUD] $20 billion.
What seems clear is that higher ocean temperatures result in increased evaporation, increasing the amount of rain in this current La Nina cycle that is affecting eastern Australia.
This flooding comes on the back of severe drought, and in the middle of a consultation process in the development of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan – a national plan of management for the huge Murray-Darling river system, which runs through [Queensland], [New South Wales], [Australian Capital Territory], Victoria and South Australia.
The Murray Darling Basin has been overexploited and placed under severe stress – stress that may be temporarily abated with flooding but which will inevitably return.
“We are honoring the very bad weather, this 1800 mile wide storm descending now on New York, and the typhoon named Yasi in Australia. And we pronounce the natural disasters to be statements from a Fabulous Unknown who will instruct us what to do, now that we are standing on this painted wood stage together in a state of readiness. We have a lot of fabulous bad weather in our bodies. The deeply coded agreements between living things on this planet – how evolution presents new life – may not protect homo sapiens anymore. If it does, we are grateful. We’ll try to learn what the Earth is up to and help…”
“The fires and mudslides, blizzards and extinctions, tsunamis and quakes – are sweeping toward the chosen people. We can’t live by that expansionist, violent god of nations anymore. That is our promise by sharing this stage. The wilderness pulsing out there – has big plans.”
“27 January 2011 : Australia floods: PM Julia Gillard unveils new tax : Julia Gillard announces the details of the new tax : Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard has announced a new tax to help pay for devastating floods that she says will cost A$5.6bn ($5.6bn; £3.5bn) in reconstruction. Ms Gillard said the 12-month tax, starting from 1 July, would be levied on those earning A$50,000 or more, and those affected by floods would not pay. “We should not put off to tomorrow what we are able to do today,” she said…”
“Gillard warms to permanent disaster fund : Phillip Coorey : February 1, 2011 : THE Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, is prepared to entertain the idea of a permanent natural disaster fund if it helps win the support of key independents in both houses. But she is not prepared to bend on the details of her one-off $1.8 billion levy to help with flood reparations in Queensland. As negotiations began with independents yesterday before the legislation for the flood measures is tabled in Parliament next week, Ms Gillard would not rule out a permanent fund. ”We’re happy to have a conversation about the longer term,” she said. But the floods, she said, were ”an extraordinary circumstance which requires a response in the short term”…”