This so-called “Global Warming” which some lamebrains continue to insist does not exist mugged Connecticut but good. Hundreds of thousands of my fellow citizens were plunged into darkness for days on end. I could be petulant and condemn the Connecticut Light and Power Company and its handmaiden, the State of Connecticut for my recent return to domestic primitivism and business shutdown. I could decry Government inefficiency and sloth or Corporate indifference each time I lugged another galvanized bucket of flush water up the hill from the Sprain Brook. Believe me, about the 10th bucket up the hill to flush the wife’s toilet or wash the dishes, one is looking mightily for an eye socket to thrust a crooked thumb deeply into. Being a man, I sucked it up and squatted in the woods with the Bears while keeping my complaints to myself, until now.  After all, the fruits of modern life are not guaranteed. Men Haul, it is our job. For too many years, we’ve hauled more than we reason, for better or worse but now the worse seems to dominate. We are actively hauling ourselves into perdition.

To be sure, my problems are minor in comparison to the catastrophe just experienced by the Oaks, Magnolias, Birch and Cherry hereabouts. These species were mauled roundly by wet snow and left a shattered wreck.  80 to 100 year old oaks careened down off the rain-soaked hillsides, taking everything with them.  If they did not topple over, they still stand, like mangled amputees. “Widow-Makers” will be dropping for months. The only benefit of a sunroof will be that you might catch a glimpse of movement before the six hundred pound branch drops out of the sky into your lap after mangling the sainted GPS.

A mature cover crop climax forest has been whipsawed at vibrant maturity. Nature giveth but then, nature doth take away. Increased sunlight penetration will no doubt unleash a vigorous round of invasive species expansion. Then again, the young Maple and Beech beneath the toppled oak will grow more quickly now. However, anyone who might care for the beauty of our individual trees must weep for the special burden borne by the Druid-endorsed species of the venerable species Quercus, whether Red, Scarlet or White. Quercus took a rabbit punch and these noble trees will not soon recover. I uncovered a young one from beneath the broken pines and it will now aspire to meet the standards of its broken forebears after a hundred years goes by. Forests exist in our quarterly human increments but they do not live that way. They live without deadline or quarterly report. As a result, they are far more grand than anything we uncomprehending humans could devise. Sure, they are a tad messy and decay is actually production in a fluid assembly line of death and life but in the end, they simply grow and adorn our lives in an un-returned gift.

Ten days in this day and age is a long time to go without the automatic comforts of the modern era, particularly when nights dip into the low twenties. Fortunately, I designed my little imported Finnish Pine Palazzo with an eye out for interruptions. A venerable and beloved Vermont Casting Wood Stove with several seasoned cords always at the ready, a romantic array of candlelight flickering off the Baltic Pine paneling, proper insulation and a gas-fired range allows easy passage through the intermittent power outages which occur in the hills of southern New England.

This one was different however. Very different. So different that a new definition of difference is composed.

It started on the Saturday before Halloween. Forecast to buckle down after nightfall, it beat the predictions and descended around noon. I watched the squall line approach across the distant hills while heading toward a lunchtime meeting in the next town. Taking care of business and then advising my clients to eat and run back to New York, I skidded home through the wet cement mix and began to ponder the hunkering down of a classic, if early New England Nor’easter. The Oaks were still in their full russet glory underneath the first wet flakes.

Power outages in these Litchfield Hills are usually intermittent and only mildly irritating. I once stood out on my porch in order to listen to the chorus of nearby generators filling my Nettleton Hollow sound chamber and scoffed at their profligate efforts on behalf of empty houses owned by weekenders. Hurricane Irene changed this. An electrician is going to get a nice Generator contract from me.

One would think a single natural climatic disaster is enough per year. My escape-travel budget only affords two. But we’ve had at least three.

The first one involved epic snows and consistently cold temperatures that scuttled barns all over the region. In more than one instance, collapsing barns killed and injured livestock or demolished equipment. My own customarily trusty metal roof held onto the snow and ice all winter instead of shedding it as designed. During the first thaw in February, the frozen mass began to slip off just as I was fleeing to the Gulf Coast to escape the icy grip. Landing in Fort Meyers, my first call was from my son who proceeded to inform me that the shedding ice had torn off the electrical and cable service as it came down and just to make a point, a plate of ice plunged through the windshield of the Concept’s Passat parked in the drive. This is never a good thing when the ongoing skirmish with said wife is why her car has to be parked outside and my antique Buicks inside.  An electrician and plate glass installer later, we had recovered. Spring was long and chilly but the return of the sun was a delight. I do, however, miss the lost barns mightily.

Then, after a wet spring, a two-month long mid-summer drought ensued only to then evolve into a regular deluge before Hurricane Irene came through. We had a 2” rainstorm the day before Irene that was lost in the shuffle of records. A few days after Irene, another massive storm dropped several more inches of rain. Suffice to say, we are a delighted recipient of an average of 42” of rain annually but received over 30” of rain in the month and a half before fall arrived.

That is a lot of water.

The weird weather this summer produced a major defoliation of the Maples, an ill omen but it saved these trees from the oak’s fate.  Just as our forests have been kicked around, so too are our river’s and stream’s benthic environment the sufferers of an epic catastrophe. Gravel deposits and bank erosion have completely re-arranged our local streams. Huge uprooted trees litter the beds of our waterways. A massive Sycamore lies atop the stone dam in Roxbury and shows no signs of leaving, yet. Some of these logs will no doubt come into use as battering rams sometime in the near future. Vegetable crops were also hit hard. Our usually abundant heritage tomato crop was a bit tepid. Corn, on the other hand, was not bad. In the cruelest disappointment though, The Concept sent me to four separate farms in search of beets for her annual winter pickling to no avail, the crop was bad all around. January is always made a little more tolerable by rich purple beets. Not this year.

Then we had Hurricane Irene. We dodged a bullet but power was still out for days and after a serial tree-blocked trip to the coast, I had the rare pleasure of a rescue by client’s Limo after my car conked out on the Merritt Parkway at rush hour. After the fourth dark night, the wife and I fled to Nova Scotia on pleasure trip, escaping from the mess.

A month after the rescue by client’s limo in the recovering aftermath of Hurricane Irene, all Hell broke fully loose. There were some warnings of it. Talk of strong winds and wet snow but in this new era, experience was out the window and we were on our own. 30” of rain within 40 days followed by this wet snow was a disaster in the making.  About two in the afternoon, the first big oak broke loose from the rocky hillside about a hundred feet south of the house and took out the power lines before we had a chance to glean our full supply of well water. An hour later, another huge oak, a scant 50’ from the house careened down in the gloaming. At that point, I assumed sleep would be fitful.

We live amongst the trees here in New England. Massive trees averaging eighty to a hundred years old grow all around us here and we love the stately Arcadian verdure they afford. Here in southern New England, we live at the collision of Mid-Atlantic and New England habitats. Oak and Maple collude to create one of the most remarkable forest environments on earth, however tainted by the paltry Barberry or Bittersweet interlopers. One of the most crowded areas of our nation is made more hospitable by a verdant growth of stubbornly rich forest. Bear, Turkey, Deer, Catamount and Bobcat cross your path within an hour’s drive of Gotham. I always love it when a Bobcat turns foursquare about as you cross their path, giving you a stern Travis Bickle of “you talkin to me?” The return of a diverse wildlife population to this formerly cleared zone is a remarkable thing.  The other day, I was treated to the rare sight of a bright white Albino Squirrel twitching along a log near the road. Over all this teeming mammalian life, stands the noble architecture of our forest. One cannot live with trees and ignore their noble beauty. In this storm however, they were live ammunition.

Time passes slowly when the snapping of large trees sounds like gunfire all around you in the dark. I lay in bed wondering if we might be smart to descend to the basement but thought better of it and slept fitfully as the cracking and thudding sounds filled the dark night. Weirdly, the Northern Lights were particularly prominent after a major Solar flare and so the breaking power lines flared on and off as the Northern Lights pulsed in the clouds and the snow built up and the trees came down. It was a waking dream of dull fright.

The morning after was a wonder. Dawning in red, thick snow draping all, a lovely calm was present over the disaster but on inspection, we were trapped by a massive tangle heaped across the drive. No matter, a little fire in the stove, coffee and some eggs and bacon would intervene. Fed, girded, we ventured out.

Trees, large trees, noble trees had dropped all around but had remarkably spared the house. Three big Eastern White Pines had snapped off 40’ in the air and brought everything with them across the drive. To the south of the house, the scene had all the charms of a bomb blast with my best standing oak crop now on the ground. A 40’ long top of a 14” caliper White Pine had snapped and driven itself firmly into the ground like a mammoth spear, narrowly missing the septic line. It reminded me of Hunter S, Thompson’s “Large Negro Shinbone “ from the “Curse of Lono” and so was named such until removed. Had it come through the roof, it would have plunged through both the mattress and me until the basement floor stopped it. A client advised that this would have been an abuse of a perfectly good mattress. My favorite Jonathan apple was a snapped pile of mush beneath the pine. Another favorite Beech was toast beneath the fallen oak. Fortunately, my White Birch arch over the drive survived unscathed if a little more arched, as is its delightful wont.

We lived now in a wrecked forest, but this is only the beginning.

Nettleton Hollow Road was impassable both north and south. Wires were down everywhere and the first people venturing out were private contractors summoned by the weekenders with orders to hack a way through to civilization. It took many days before the utility companies arrived, some from as far away as Vancouver or Missouri. Connecticut Light and Power was rumored to have been slow to pay after Irene. On road trips southwestward, it took at least 5 days before I saw convoys of trucks approaching the State from points west.

For 10 days, we listened to the officials describe their challenges and quantify their response but in the end, Corporate-Government speak is entirely insufficient. We need to understand that this beneficent climate of ours is in a period of profound flux and no amount of promotional gloss or strategic planning will make it go away.

It is a matter of physics. Water, in climate, is like gas on a fire. Via burning petrol together with the mysteries of climate cycles, we have seen a lot of water unleashed into the water cycle. It is a matter of increased energy now, of the disastrous kind.  I really do not care if our burning of petroleum coincides with a natural climactic change or if, indeed, we are substantially to blame. It is, as they say, what it is. Do we need to keep ignoring it, refuting it and then watching the carnage unfold at great cost? Or, do we commit to the sapiens honorarium and actually begin the difficult yet rich task of dealing with the hand dealt?

We are here, within our disaster-rich environment, staring into the face of one of the biggest potential economic windfalls in human history. While we cling stubbornly to a paradigm of diminishing and dangerous returns, we delay the opportunities presented by a necessary scientific innovation that respects our environment rather than simply plunders it. An authentically free society would embrace this change. But we are free only in pride. Worse yet, we continue to pay strident homage to our jailer.

As I drive about the countryside looking at the broken forest, I surmise it will adapt in the long term far better than we stubborn humans will. Climate change and roving catastrophe is upon us worldwide. It is not the gently sounding “global warming” either. It is floods, drought, tornados, wildfires, and property damage on an epic scale with a bureaucratic government–corporate combine incapable of responding to it in an efficient manner. It really does not matter why it happened but is we to keep crapping in our own nest? Given what passes for “information” in this proudly touted “Information Age”, it is my guess that “self-delusion” will be just one of the un-indicted co-conspirators in our concatenation of “information”.  Unfortunately, this sorry state of affairs will likely keep us from dealing with the immediate challenges in a timely manner but more importantly, it will delay the unleashing of a vast new economic generator in an entirely “New World”. Sixty years ago, we might have been up to the challenge but by all demonstrable indicators, we are, at this time, utterly incapable of helping ourselves. Entertainment has won too many rounds against a beleaguered and commodified reality.

Perhaps the Merchandisers will mine a bright spot called “Disaster Chic”. They can come see my oaks and conjure a campaign from there. It will be a nice compliment to the vigorous “Zombie “ genre now cannibalizing the airwaves.

At this juncture, we desperately require a fusion of political philosophy, political administration and business but we are awash in a fission of special interest holding desperately to failure because it pays the bills or manufactures a duplicitous poll number. Our climate will eventually have its way with us. We can be smart now and unleash remarkable economic opportunity with real human progress or we can hold onto our stubborn conceits within a deteriorating and wrecked darkness. My amputee and fallen oak is a monument to this culture’s determined idiocy. Next winter they shall warm me. I’d rather have their hundred years of solar energy cycle still standing.  We keep disputing the obvious and our last soapbox will be a well-earned coffin.

16 COMMENTS

  1. I think Mr Sabin is saying that natural climate variability is something to take seriously. OK. But the climate science is embryonic so I’m not sure whether what is being asked for is greater predictive precision, acceptance of nature’s caprice or what? http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/11/18/the-gwpf-responds-to-new-ipcc-report/#more-51371

    And I’m not sure at all what ‘Global Warming’ means to Mr Sabin the catastrophists have been scrupulous in avoiding that term since measurements have indicated no warming for the last decade.

    The necessary scientific innovation was left unnamed also. Even Google, not lacking in investment dollars, understands the difference between prudence and wishful thinking http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/11/24/google-abandons-renewable-energy-projects/

    In the face of massive rorting through the idea of ‘global warming’ http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/europes-287bn-carbon-waste-ubs-report/story-fn59niix-1226203068972 lining the pockets of the political class I’m not sure how more articles on it from FPS serves our localism aims. The latest release of private emails from the major CAGW scientists was prefaced by the anonymous hackers with:

    “Over 2.5 billion people live on less than $2 a day.”

    “Every day nearly 16.000 children die from hunger and related causes.”

    “One dollar can save a life” — the opposite must also be true.

    “Poverty is a death sentence.”

    “Nations must invest $37 trillion in energy technologies by 2030 to stabilize
    greenhouse gas emissions at sustainable levels.”

    Today’s decisions should be based on all the information we can get, not on hiding the decline.”

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/11/22/climategate-2-0/

    When I think of all the intellectual and financial resources that have been squandered by the AGW mania I think we ought to pause before we bandy about names like ‘lamebrain’.

    The CAGW people of course bear out one of Aristotle’s famous sayings, “Truth is like the proverbial barn-door which no one manages to miss entirely”. I’m fully aware of Luke 21: 25-36 “On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea” but I’m not sure Mr Sabin has quite shown the middle way he wanted to.

  2. Greetings from Tolland, CT, Mr. Sabin. I identify with you about as closely as a FPR can. Nevertheless, I remain doubtful that the bureaucracy you impugn can save us. Let us say, for the sake of argument, that we all subscribed to the current fashions in science regarding climate change ( I am not unsympathetic to these fashions) — what level of confidence could we muster that our friends at CL&P and the statehouse in Hartford would rise to meet the challenge? (One look at the mendacity of Soviet Russia tells us that the free market is not the only haunt for private interests.)

  3. Humans are responsible for air pollution, such as the infamous ‘London fog’ or LA smog.
    Humans have polluted rivers, lakes, and stream. Some of them became ‘dead zones.’
    Humans are responsible for acid rain.
    Humans are responsible for the lowering of water tables in various parts of the world.
    Humans are responsible for the depletion of the ocean’s fish and mammals.
    Humans are responsible for the entrance of poisonous chemicals into our food, air, water.
    But there is no way that humans could be responsible for the warming of the globe’s air, for the so-called greenhouse effect?
    Not even a little bit?

  4. Well, here we go again, the various “true science” partisans impugning my “science”. My science is a mangled forest and a significant perturbation of the blithely accepted notions of “modern life. My science is based upon over 50 years of wandering my environment , looking at it closely and trafficking in the prosaic kingdom of the plants and soil. It is entirely more difficult now to reliably grow things without disruption than it was just 15 years ago. Anybody who refutes this is a stooge…… or a lamebrain. On the other hand, wildlife populations have rebounded robustly.

    Frankly Scarlet, as stated, I don’t give a damn about the wooly-headed Man-Caused-vs. Nature Caused Climate Debate. What I do give a damn about is the stolid addiction to consumptive, throw-away, 10-minute culture and how this culture consumes the resources of the earth in an economic paradigm gone antique.
    I most expressly do not seek a “middle way” . We’ve been swallowing “middle way” to ill effect. We require an intelligent way and sometimes the middle compromise is dumb as a damned hammer.

    Simply put, we can do far better and this “better” represents an economic generator which bypasses the highly touted “information age” in generative potential. It is a gift of our perceptive intelligence going ignored.

    I rely little on my government which is a good thing because it so often produces outcomes at cross purposes to a healthy polis. This does not make me “anti-government” as the next round of statist invective might suggest, it makes me observant. I would whole-heartedly support a government which actually concerned itself with efficient governance rather than engaging in a sideshow of special interest entertainment and payola.

    “Bad Science”. Really? Come on over with a chain saw and we might discuss the apodictic reality of “Bad Science”. Although, as clearly stated, I don’t give a rats ass about the pieties of current opinion in the polite schools of Commercial Science. My amputee oaks don’t have much faith in it either. 30″ of rain in 45 days don’t really care neither. We are in a period of flux, we either adapt or fight it and lose opportunity in the fight.

  5. That’s observation, not science. While I agree with many of your concerns about the culture and government, the connections you’re making strike me as specious. News flash: human beings are in a period of flux.

    Lincoln: of course there’s a way humans can be responsible for such things. In fact, I think it’s likely. But cobbling together observations and apocalyptic inferences doesn’t seem to me to help us either in understanding problems or putting together sound policies. And having no philosophy of science is not a good way to engage science.

  6. Mr. Polet,
    Science, at its fundamental heart is observation. Anyone who suggests otherwise has a faulty understanding of that commodified thing we refer to as “science” in this cross-purpose world. It is not a talking point edited by a management board of a Think Tank. It is not some academic in a warm office sipping tea while reading reports and divining the quickest way to tenure. It is on the ground observation in the hot or cold , feet in the dirt and spiced with the passage of time. It is trafficking in the here and now, not someone’s political agenda. Above all, science is an affront, a challenge, a trickster and a demand that we constantly question conventional wisdom. Surely, you are fulfilling the last qualifier robustly but your dismissal of the others smacks of pride and lethargy, the occupation of the dilettante who traffics in the mere opinion you deride.

    “No philosophy of science”. Come now Mr. Polet, and here I was losing sleep over asserting you might be “lamebrained”, a most unfair accost. Because my philosophy might vary from yours does not mean I am bereft of one. You obviously are not “lamebrained” my friend but what is it that you dispute? Do you actually dispute that the climate is in catastrophic flux? Do you dispute the idea that Homo sapiens sapiens might being doing a better job of nest hygiene? Do you dispute that we are experiencing an anomalous degree of climate perturbation? Or, do you simply ascribe to the rather befuddled notion that we humans are the recipient of a gift and so will always do right with the gift? We can solve the latter by simply admitting our fallen state and hoping that the better angels might prevail. Don’t hold your hands on your hips waiting. The most profound phrase Augustine uttered was “just not yet”.

    But, in your standard issue stance against this rantish essay, you miss the point entirely, a typical predilection of modern issue politics. From stem to stern, the continent is subject to stronger climactic imposition. My central premise is that your kneejerk dismissal of climate flux is impeding the kinds of economic gain….and its progenitor, technological advance….. that are central to a continuation of the formerly fecund American Experience.

    Climate is both global and local. Given the fact that dealing with it is a very local endeavor, I believe Conservatives, if there is such a thing any longer would do themselves a favor if they re-acquainted themselves with a word that includes them:

    CONSERVATION.

    After all Mr. Polet, Burke aligned himself with the rabble of the American Revolution because he discerned that it coincided with certain intelligent realms of the Republican Mind. But then, silly me, I romantically assume the Republican mind still exists.

    Conservatives, in their mad fear of anything environmental have surrendered the realm of “environmental politics” …as if this thing ever existed in a productive political atmosphere, to the Democrat, an entirely insufficient force for the authentic realm of American Conservation. Just to keep it clear, this authentic realm of American Conservation does not include the mercenary asides of candidate Gingrich. He does not flip-flop in issues, he does so in single sentences. He is the perfect circular interlocutor for a Republican Party staring deeply into the abyss of its navel.

    So, Mr. Polet, rather than simply dismiss a thing as “bad”……well then, what exactly makes it “bad”? Conservatives are humbug regarding Conservation to their detriment. In this instance, they have forgotten their innate American Genius at adaptation and are ensconced within the empire of exploitation, an exploitation by a new class of corporate-government royalty that claims personhood but lacks that essential thing of personhood called a conscience. It is called a conscience because it is based upon cognizant observation, that thing you dismiss.

    “Apocalyptic references”…….well now , I do hope you are not subject to the very real experience of climate flux that has whipsawed an increasing number of our fellow citizens. It aint pretty and we are now only reactive to it, in a state of fear and confusion. It costs us money, we should do better by attempting to make money on it.

    Ahoy Mr. Wiley, I hope you were not as mugged as we were here in Litchfield county. I do not place too much reliance on the State to help us through this transition but it would be nice if they might not work at cross purposes to it. A vain hope but what I most favor is a re-emmergence of the profoundly productive force our environment has been for we puny humans, from a time when we admitted our puniness and lived in a world by our wits because it was a result of our , ahem. observation. That is, we did not feel our technology could over-ride our environment but instead, it could make our lives in this environment more productive.

    Lastly, as a general rule, I am loathe to call anyone a lamebrain but this does not mean that certain people cannot help themselves from exhibiting lamebrainishness.

    Some folks are prolix too, a rather detestable version of lamebrainishness of which I am proudly guilty. We should spill a lot of words here on the porch regarding the environment, it was once a fine Conservative redoubt.

  7. “My central premise is that your kneejerk dismissal of climate flux is impeding the kinds of economic gain….and its progenitor, technological advance….. that are central to a continuation of the formerly fecund American Experience. ”
    We need to acknowledge that the climate is changing and will continue to change. I am majoring in Geology so I fully understand that the climate may become vastly different than it is today. Many coastal areas may become inundated with water, while colder areas such as inland Antarctica or Greenland can in fact expect Glacial Expansion.

    However I am not sure that we should rush to make this a justification for expanding institutions that have shown dysfunction. The Confucian scholars asserted that cultivating virtue and simplicity were the most important things out there.

  8. Mr. Sabin,

    You’ve drawn conclusions from my comments the same way you’ve drawn conclusions from a heavy rainfall. I’ve never dismissed the idea that the climate is changing. I simply think it’s a very complicated issue. Your questions:

    Do you actually dispute that the climate is in catastrophic flux? Do you dispute the idea that Homo sapiens sapiens might being doing a better job of nest hygiene? Do you dispute that we are experiencing an anomalous degree of climate perturbation? Or, do you simply ascribe to the rather befuddled notion that we humans are the recipient of a gift and so will always do right with the gift?

    I object to the use of the word “catastrophic” in the first question. Is it in flux? Yes. ‘Twas always thus. Do I dispute the idea that humans might do a better job of environmental stewardship? Nope, I sure don’t dispute that. Do I dispute we are experiencing an anomalous degree of change? I object to the word anomalous. After all, I live on the shores of the great lakes which were formed by melting glaciers. As to your last question, that seems to me simply leading.

    Science is not simply observation. It also involves the reliable collection of broad data, the collection of which we have sufficient reasons for skepticism, and the analysis of which has been even more troubling. It also involves clear definitions, and the constant shifting of definitions gives one pause here. It also involves testable hypotheses, which have not been forthcoming. It also involves falsification, which has not been provided for. Mostly, it involves dispensing with the idea of apodicticity (even the IPCC report peddled only in probabilities). I don’t really know what, if anything, is happening climatically (but not for lack of study), but I get piqued when individuals act as if they do. And I get even more piqued when they act as if the world as we know it is ending as a result. I don’t think we need to bludgeon our wasteful consumer culture with apocalyptic hammers in order to make the points you otherwise eloquently make.

  9. Apodixis now, and not apocalypse? I’m going to go out on a limb, Jeffrey, and say that you will not see the age of 95. I can’t prove it. I am making that prediction based only on experience, science and probability. But I am reasonably certain of it, so much so that if my own (or my children’s) wellbeing depended on your getting there, I would be very nervous.
    Likewise too much science (and too many scientists) is/are on the side of a significantly human contribution to global warming for me to be convinced otherwise.

  10. I challenge anyone to look at what I’ve said and show me where I have denied – gee, what is it now? global warming? or climate change? I can’t remember what the current term of art is, given that the so-called facts are either cherry-picked, inconvenient, or sufficiently doctored by scientists, too many scientists, who have either political, pecuniary, or ideological reasons for doing so. But that said, I am willing to concede that human beings often have a deleterious effect on the natural environment, and that such effect is frequently worse than we might believe, and that we ought to be intelligent stewards of such. I have said as much, and am frankly of the opinion that overdramatizing the problem diverts us from more concrete solutions to actual problems. What I won’t concede is that we can be certain doomsday is right around the corner. I’ve seen too many of these predictions over the years, and I’m willing to make a Julian Simon/Paul Ehrlich type bet with anyone who is as utterly convinced as Mr. Sabin is, and this by the fact he almost got hit by a falling tree limb. If science is what Mr. Sabin says it is, then I can’t see why he would be taking it as seriously as he seems to. But I seem to be taking him more seriously on this than he himself. If that makes me a lamebrain, so be it. I’ve been called worse.

  11. One of the things that is not often acknowledged is the implied moral argument; also, taking a cue from Snell’s very recent post “Small-souled Masters of the Universe”, there is an implied idea of this being a controllable or rational or human-sized problem, like switching a light bulb, and I don’t think it is.

    I’ve stewed over this for a bit, and think the easiest way for me to express it is to give my opinion, which is that at one time there was a lot of carbon in the air, and the sea level was quite different. That’s where we are going. But, and this is my point, I have little to no faith that we’ll be able to make enough progress with our models to know at what point or when or how things change. I just don’t think we are that smart. More than that, underlying our attempts to understand the climate seems to be the exact attitude that Snell refers to when he writes “Bill Vitek and Wes Jackson claim that a “knowledge-based worldview” is the cause of our sense of mastery and “both makes possible and drives the pursuits and principles that typically get all the attention: individual freedom, economic growth, scientific progress … liberty.” They suggest a balancing force, namely the virtue of ignorance, admitting that we do not know how it all hangs together and that much could be learned and gained by attempting to understand and follow the limits of nature rather than overcome and alter them.”

    In my opinion, the language of science will fail us in this arena, and it will be the language of myth that best serves – the frost giants are loosed, or the furies, or titans. I often think I hear strains of the ride of the Valkyries whenever I read Sabin anyway, but he’s unique.

    The unstated moral argument to me has to do with profligacy versus thrift and prudence, and I think it is important to recognize that disagreeing with the scientific argument is not the same thing as excusing profligacy; at the same time, it is important to note that for some of the agents that is exactly the point of arguing the science. And that is one of the interesting things about the debate for me – the final arbiter, what everyone waits breathlessly to hear, is the word of science.

    I’m thinking back to the piece Mr. Polet wrote on the BYU scandal, and I believe his line of thought can be bent to apply to what we consume as much as with whom we lay, but for some reason or another the only type of argument that gets bandied about is the scientific one. I don’t know if we are afraid of mentioning our consumption or what, but I think the moral arguments implied in the debate are most important, and it frustrates me that they are rarely raised – it’s as if it’s a proxy war.

    So I think the scientific global warming debate is in some ways a distraction, and the debate we ought to have is about why we live as we do – i.e., to Mr. Snigg, you know, Exxon’s profit last year was some 30 billion, with which they could feed ($1 day) 16,000 kids for 5,000 years or so. That’s a long time. The context in which the costs were mentioned made it seem as if, as an example, Exxon is having to choose whether to feed the hungry or invest in new energy technologies, and I don’t think that is what’s going on here at all. (Neither do I mean to imply that you support profligacy.) The question is, what exactly are they doing with that money? Is it any of our business? I think you make a good point. And let’s assume global warming is false -every day, we still have 16,000 kids dying of hunger. What should we expect of Exxon? Of ourselves? Is our only recourse the science surrounding global warming?

    I’m not trying to win any argument, I just think it is important to recognize and make plain the various dimensions of the debate – otherwise we’ll end up twisting in the wind.

    Sorry for the length.

  12. Philosophy of Science? This works for me.
    “The ideal of every science is that of a closed and completed system of truth. The charm of most sciences to their more passive disciples consists in their appearing, in fact, to wear just this ideal form. Each one of our various ologies seems to offer a definite head of classification for every possible phenomenon of the sort which it professes to cover; and so far from free is most men’s fancy, that, when a consistent and organized scheme of this sort has once been comprehended and assimilated, a different scheme is unimaginable. No alternatie, whether to whole or parts, can any longer be conceived as possible. Phenomena unclassifiable within the system are therefore paradoxical absurdities, and must be held untrue. When, moreover, as so often happens, the reports of them are vague and indirect; when they come as mere marvels and oddities rather than as things of serious moment, – one neglects or denies them with the best of scientific consciences. Only the born geniuses let themselves be worried and fascinated by these outstanding exceptions, and get no peace till they are brought within the fold. Your Galileos, Galvanis, Fresnels, Purkinjes, and Darwins are always getting confounded and troubled by insignificant things. Any one will renovate his science who will steadily look after the irregular phenomena. And when the science is renewed, its new formulas often have more of the voice of the exceptions in them than of what were supposed to be the rules.”
    William James
    “The Will To Believe”

  13. Mr. Polet, I believe you set off this freshet when you dismissed the notion of climate change as “bad science”. The pronouncement brought to my mind the Laputans. As to your uncertainty about a supposed intemperate use of the word “catastrophic”, I believe you might want to review any number of extraordinarily severe weather events over the last year, from the mountain valleys of Pakistan to recent floods in Thailand and repeated severe weather events on our own continent as well as points southward in Guatemala etc. “Catastrophic” is the perfect description for them. “uncomfortable” would seem to be somehow insufficient.

    But , again, I don’t really hold much faith in the competing ideologues of institutional science. They need the inconclusive studies to keep the charade going and divert attention from maintaining their respective highly remunerative sinecure. Global Warming is a perfect term to ogle their Laputan eyes around.

    We will respond to whatever might happen in the future and it would be nice if we might do it the smart way because practicing a more fully developed sense of conservation within our habitat would be a great outcome, mistaken motivations or not.

    “The virtue of ignorance” ehh? Thank you, I now know the roots of my erratic virtue.

    As always, Ms. Dalton, a pleasure

  14. Nice essay, and I admire the science too. I’ve been trying to acknowledge the thoughtful balance in Mr. Polet’s challenge, but after running through several layers, I’ve concluded that he wants to have it all ways at once, sound reasonable, not be among the deniers, but not feel obligated to lift a finder to DO anything at all.

    I don’t expect that a solution to increased concentration of greenhouse gases, and the perturbations in climate and weather that go along with it, is going to come from people of good will coming up with rational and wise responses. That never hurts, but it doesn’t motivate masses of people, nor individual behavior, nor economic development.

    Perhaps nothing will happen until everyone is suffereing excruciatingly, or we have simply destroyed our ability to keep a global economy functioning. The oil will glut in some places and be impossible to obtain in others. Or, hopefully, we will stumble on our way and manage to find ways that renewable sources of energy are actually convenient or cheap enough, or the alternatives expensive enough, that its worthwhile to bring the new stuff on line and make it efficient.

    I’m on a rather limited budget, but I do drive a car I could once afford and can still manage to maintain. I’m glad gas is well below $4 a gallon, but I would not want it to fall below $2.50 again. If it does, the mass and individual incentive to actually buy fuel efficient cars and develop electric vehicles will fade away again.

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