This was supposed to be a trip around the development of the world since Henry George’s death and the snuffing out of his ideas. It’s been highly selective and peered a little into some huge issues; there are many things, huge historical events, that haven’t been mentioned at all, no mention of so many things. But there is an issue that can’t go completely unmentioned, and it’s the most fundamental question of all, of course. This is the infinitely huge issue of – the best term we’ve heard - Biosphere Distress. Don’t worry about the planet, it’s the biosphere, the film-like layer on the planetary surface that we have existed in.
Of course, it is the biggest story in the world as The Guardian name their climate change podcast.
For 50 years and more, growing decade by decade, there’s been awakening consciousness and acceptance of, and failed attempts to address, what overwhelmingly corroborating numbers of the global scientific community started saying was a very serious problem with the biosphere. Existentially serious. Thresholds which were thought to be unpassable are being passed, the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere has passed 400 parts per million – previously seen as a red line - and will continue to grow.
This all amounts to a direct threat to the existence of many, many millions of people, and the possibilities then range all the way up to the extinction of the human species and most other life on Earth; really as serious and as frightening as can be.
This is what’s happening.
And this is from the introduction to This Changes Everything, by Naomi Klein. This is the second part.
The growing consciousness of matters has been countered by a very well financed and persistent campaign of disinformation which often succeeds in creating the impression of this being a balanced argument. This has been largely funded by large business interests, the same kind of academic-sounding think tanks that propagated neoclassical economics and neoliberal economics, etc. The academic support couldn’t this time be mobilised to quite the same effect – there’s no school of neoecology - though there’s been considerable success in obfuscating the issue. There is now an alarming disconnection between ordinary people’s perception of the problem and the growing certainty of the world’s scientific community.
Meanwhile, nature is starting to spell things out very clearly now. It's starting to happen before our eyes. We’re no meteorologists, but it can’t be missed how there’s now permanently an extreme weather event happening somewhere in the world. The state of the world now is that most people exist in a perilous condition. That’s a very poor return for this era of scientific human civilisation. Here’s a sickening series of photographs.
International politics has been almost completely ineffective, almost completely powerless in its response to this situation. And as George Monbiot said in December, 2011 referring to Lord Stern’s formulation for what we need to save the world (and also read here.)
Lord Stern estimated that capping climate change would cost around 1% of global GDP, while sitting back and letting it hit us would cost between 5 and 20%. One per cent of GDP is, at the moment, $630bn. By March 2009, Bloomberg has revealed, the US Federal Reserve had committed $7.77 trillion to the banks. That is just one government’s contribution: yet it amounts to 12 times the annual global climate change bill. Add the bailouts in other countries, and it rises by several more multiples.
This support was issued on demand: as soon as the banks said they wanted help, they got it. On just one day the Federal Reserve made $1.2tn available – more than the world has committed to tackling climate change in 20 years.
That really puts it into perspective. The world certainly seems to be in the grip of some very distant and detached power.
The Guardian are putting the issue front and centre now. This is a very informative piece by activist and educator Bill McKibben.
And they have created a new interactive tool to show how much fossil fuel the world is extracting right now – and how much it has been in the past. The tool also promotes the Guardian’s climate change campaign, Keep it in the ground, which is calling on two of the world’s biggest charitable funds to divest from fossil fuels.
They invite people to embed the tool on their own site, and here it is:
Fossil fuel interactive embed code
There is something deeply dysfunctional about the way the world works, and it’s terrifying. As President Lincoln trembled for the safety of his country back in the 1860s, we can’t help but tremble for our world.