Cam's Blog

June 24, 2011

Confusing the unprecedented with the improbable

Filed under: Politics, Science — cfranc @ 11:17 am

Here’s a nice piece by Al Gore in Rolling Stone on climate change. It’s long but worth the read, in particular for a list of ways that you can personally get engaged with the issues and help to make a difference (at the bottom of the article). The title of this post is taken from the following excerpt:

The emergence of the climate crisis seems sudden only because of a relatively recent discontinuity in the relationship between human civilization and the planet’s ecological system. In the past century, we have quadrupled global population while relying on the burning of carbon-based fuels — coal, oil and gas — for 85 percent of the world’s energy. We are also cutting and burning forests that would otherwise help remove some of the added CO2 from the atmosphere, and have converted agriculture to an industrial model that also runs on carbon-based fuels and strip-mines carbon-rich soils.

The cumulative result is a radically new reality — and since human nature makes us vulnerable to confusing the unprecedented with the improbable, it naturally seems difficult to accept. Moreover, since this new reality is painful to contemplate, and requires big changes in policy and behavior that are at the outer limit of our ability, it is all too easy to fall into the psychological state of denial. As with financial issues like subprime mortgages and credit default swaps, the climate crisis can seem too complex to worry about, especially when the shills for the polluters constantly claim it’s all a hoax anyway. And since the early impacts of climatic disruption are distributed globally, they masquerade as an abstraction that is safe to ignore.

And I’ll just put this right here:

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1 Comment »

  1. John Baez has a very interesting blog and project on that (link) and related themes (e.g. what mathematicians can do).

    Comment by Thomas — June 28, 2011 @ 10:32 pm


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