{May 1, 2010}   degrowth, day 2

Friday we had several presentations. They were…. not so great. A ton of doom and gloom – peak oil, population issues, how incredibly fucked we all are even if we were to turn things around right this minute. :/

I don’t much like that sort of thing. It’s depressing. It makes me want to give up. I got the impression that a lot of us don’t even believe in peak oil any more, anyways. One of the presentations was just a half-hour parade of graphs. *yawn* Good thing I had a book. ;)

Oh, but there was also an impromptu presentation by Village Vancouver – they’ve been building sustainable communities right here, and they seem to be running a lot of workshops. Neat. Maybe I’ll go to one of those sometime. :)

Afterwards, we split into discussion groups, and that was great. I ended up in the politics circle, whose topic actually wandered all over the place. we talked about apathy, about how few protests there are in north america these days, and how little they accomplish… about how we might get power back into the hands of the people. Someone reminded us that municipal governments are actually fairly open, and we can go to those meetings – but what they really need from us is metrics, numbers to back up what we’re saying so that they can justify their decisions. I got another history lesson: back in the 60’s, most people could actually afford a house and an education. In many ways, their standard of living was better than what we have now – despite, or because of, their economy being stagnant. We talked about the need to build community and connect with nature, about local currencies, privatization, how participatory government does and doesn’t scale… I’m going to have to sort through my notes later and find out what conclusions we actually arrived at, because this just scratches the surface. :)

The discussions went late, and then smaller discussions went even later. :) Someone told us about how the little redneck town she grew up in has become the local-food capital of the world – change *can* happen. :) We need more success stories like that, more examples of solutions, of what we can really do.

Today there’s another lineup of speakers – hopefully they’ll be a bit more optimistic than yesterday ;) But really, these conferences, it’s about the *people*, the discussions, meeting and connecting and finding out what other people have been doing and that you’re not alone. It’s not about those few people giving talks, it’s about everyone coming together to make things happen. :)

Tom McLernon says:

I agree, negativism should not be a theme. We need to focus on solutions and not exaggerate the problems. Sure there are world changes, but the reality is that this is not caused by humans. The ice is melting because of geothermal activity at the poles under the ice, the oceans are also warming because of that same geothermal activity. Warmer oceans alter the climate, and agricultural geography. The weight redistribution on the crust is causing more volcanic and earthquake activity. But that is all natural, humanity has been through these cycles before, and we are still here.

Chani says:

no, climate change is real. very real. it saddens me that people still think there’s something to debate there -scientists have known it’s real for years. I was reading New Scientist in high school and they were talking about the problems back then, and the problem of politicians refusing to believe them…

still, in the end I think that what caused it is less important than how the fuck we survive it without ending up back in the stone age. we’re still here, yes, but I’d rather not see humanity reduced to what it was at the end of the last ice age, y’know?

zak89 says:

Climate change is real – *absolutely true*. But it has always been changing, and the trouble is that, despite claims to the contrary (on both sides of the issue) *we do not have enough data* to prove what is or isn’t causing climate change. I’ve heard countless commentators both for and against man-made global warming definatively announcing that man is/is not responsible for the climate changes, but the fact is this is like trying to solve a 1000 piece puzzle with 3 pieces and no box.

Ironically, the climate change activists often do themselves harm be trying to claim that all environmental crises are due to man-made causes – this article from Times in 1974 illustrates the point:

“A series of unusually cold winters has gripped the American Far West… Telltale signs are everywhere —from the unexpected persistence and thickness of pack ice in the waters around Iceland…
“Man, too, may be somewhat responsible for the cooling trend …dust and other particles released into the atmosphere as a result of farming and fuel burning may be blocking more and more sunlight from reaching and heating the surface of the earth”,9171,944914-2,00.html

No doubt global cooling was very real in the 70s… as is global warming today. Is this a natural cycle? Who knows? Again, we don’t have enough data – man hasn’t been recording climate data for all that long, and trying to decipher past climate data from tree rings, glaciers, etc is fraught with assumptions and just-so stories – sure the data *could* be used to prove one point, but it can as easily be used to prove the oposite – it’s like trying reconstruct the history of Rome without using any recorded history – just bricks and coins.

My personal opinion is that whether or not man is the cause, what could be wrong with trying to be more responsible with our resources? But using climate change (since when has the climate *not* changed?) as a political weapon is rather shameful.

zak89 says:

@Tom – of course world changes are caused by humans – didn’t you hear that “immodest women” are causing earthquakes around the world? ;)

zak89, please stop parotting the 70s cooling myth, debunked here:

On another note: why should people ‘believe’ in peak oil? Nobody ‘believes’ in climate change, the data is their for all to see and check if that’s their thing. Similarly, nobody is asking you to take PO as an act of faith, it’s just that the way things are going, using linear regression we seem to be at the tipping point where we have extracted half the world’s oil.

zak89 says:

Thanks for that link, David – interesting stuff – obviously from the the vantage point of the realclimate folks the debate is over, but the general tenor of the article is “back then we needed more research – now we know for sure”. Not really a debunking.

I don’t have the time or inclination to dig to the bottom of this particular issue, but I’ve brushed up against enough of mainstream science education to know better than to take this issue all that seriously.

Your attitude on CC and PO is not particularly convincing – a form of begging the question (the statement is only correct if I assume it is correct) – but if folks enjoy that kind of reasoning, that’s ok.

zak89 says:

I’m *really* uninterested in this topic – I follow planetkde due to my interest in, well, KDE… so I’ll try to refrain from any more discussion here. I know that means the “other side” will get the last word, but hey, such is life.

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