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Editorial brush-ups on June 13, 2010

Climate Change and the Ethics of Responsibility:
The View from Ontario


Centre of Ethics/UT’s event – Munk Ctr, U of Toronto, April 27, 2010.

c/o Melissa Williams, Director & Prof. of Political Science, UT


The position statements of 4 of 5 panelists will be “edited and webcast”, no date announced at forum. > Public Forums > Past Events

NO Powerpoints used, just oral, so no uploads expected


From page above:

Ted Parson, Joseph L. Sax Collegiate Professor of Law, University of Michigan
Steven Vanderheiden, Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Colorado at Boulder
Skip Willis, Principal, Willis Climate Group
Keith Stewart, Director, Climate Change Program, WWF

Jane Gray, Ontario Climate Change Secretariat”

[Steven V = Associate Prof. ; WWW = World Wildlife Fund]


Below: web search results on panelists + notes from statements


***Steven Vanderheiden

Associate Prof., Department of Political Science, University of Colorado, Boulder

Interests: Normative political theory and environmental politics


Atmospheric Justice: A Political Theory of Climate Change (2008)

Political Theory and Global Climate Change (ed., 2009)


defined 3 senses of “responsibility” – causal, non-causal, remedial (called it, tongue-in-cheek somewhat, the “philosophical” p.o.v.)

CC ethics = quasi-legal issue

The remedial sense of “responsibility” must be applied; the question to ask & negotiate, How remedial obligations are apportioned (richer poorer countries…); if we go according to responsibility as guilt, won’t go far; nor can we get much out of holding “responsible” natural phenomena (bad luck).


Thus, mitigation/adaptation obligations are the ethics of CC, what nations and groups can/should be held responsible for. This would allow to base it on climate justice literature.

Encourage being responsible as proactive.

Go for preventative action/mitigation, rather than after-the-fact adaptation.


CC as moral-ethical issue = leftist position; SV has been trying to win debate with Graham Saul, Executive Director of the Climate Action Network – Canada, admits hasn’t won yet (hat tip to Canadian audience?)

(cf. Graham Saul:


SV noted that for the last 5 years there has been a decrease in energy use, which is due not just to economic recession but also initiatives at all levels – farmers, 1st nations, medium size businesses => workable solution, fair and effective means of living up to our responsibility

(did I get this right?; what initiatives? – perhaps yes, if the drift is not to pile up financial responsibility on big business only, but for all to do their share, however economically underprivileged)


Ended with “we must craft a new common sense approach of our attitude to the planet”, added a quote from author-educator-environmentalist Bill McKibben’s latest book Eaarth (, roughly, [we must carefully and gracefully live on the planet which is the only home we’re going to get]


***Ted Parson

Professor of Law and Professor of Natural Resources & Environment at the University of Michigan


1. CC is a technological not moral issue

2. treating it as a moral issue can spin off in totally unproductive directions

3. significant magnitude of uncertainty re CC

it’s bad but we don’t know how bad = not hard science

nevern-ending policy debates due to left-right polarization

drift – cannot push for an extreme left (or right) solutions, compromise needed

4. not individual but collective political act

investors must be convinced & motivated to sponsor technological innovation

5. phenomenon of unprecedented scale – “trainwreck in slow motion”


mentioned in passing to use geoengineering (presumably, doing it cautiously!) – which Prof. Pierrehumbert, geophysicist UChicago, opposed as a “moral abomination” without hesitation last week, Thursday lecture


Summary & conclusion

Govt’s are failing; what is being done is not out of the starting block yet; multiple pernicious forms of obstruction, e.g., a massive denialist mvmt; (extreme) opinions on the right vs. left

Drift – A technological solution is plausible/doable, let’s go that way without delay.



***Keith Stewart

PhD degree in Polit Sci, from York U; has taught at York, UT, Ryerson, Trent


book: Hydro: The Decline and Fall of Ontario’s Electric Empire and has authored a number of articles on climate change policy and politics.

CC is both technological and moral issue; easy and hard;…

it should be easy – cost of reductions = 1% of GDP (did not present calculations; reference = his book, perhaps?)

Started and ended with his recurring rhetorical question: So, WHY is this so hard, 1% of GDP?!


***Skip Willis, currently with Ctr for Enviro, UToronto 

started by jokingly noting that he’d been introduced as being “on the extreme left”, but on the panel is sitting on the extreme right (and didn’t sound all that leftist either)

false dilemma: economy vs. enviro – it’s been proven by practice that the two can agree:

British Petroleum under Sir John Brown – set goals & achieved them by 2006, saved $60,000 (NOT pounds?)

(panelists talked at lunch) Alberta tar sands/oil sands – if yes to development, why and how


WHY no progress re CC so far?

– fear of unknown; every day, industrialists compute currency risks, labour market risks, etc.


  1. optimistic scenario – start small, continue gradually => reductions can happen
    the metaphor of a young child being taught to swim – starts at shallow end of pool, water is not so cold, adapts gradually and successfully, withot fear or trauma
  2. pessimistic – everybody is waiting for a pioneer and everybody is afraid to be one => a deadlock
    pioneers in Ems Reds – California, BC, Alberta “in its own way”, but pioneers are the ones “with the knife in the back”


Solution: Gov’t regulation is a must; but should not be prescriptive

Open question: what industrialists can do in their sleep cannot be done because CC risks are undefinable


***Jane Gray, recently moved to Gov’t of Ontario – NOT VIDEOTAPED


Involved in Manitoba’s climate policy making, incl. on international stage

a.o.t., Executive Director of the newly formed Climate and Green … Board member of the International Institute for Sustainable Development


  • Part of it disclaimer – not speaking on behalf of Gov’t of Ont., still new here
  • Part pep talk (there were some international agreements reached at Copenhagen; TO mayor David Miller green cities initiative – Toronto, Vancouver, internationally – also met at Copenhagen)
  • Part positively diplomatic account of the past and future of CC handling – recognizes higher efficiency at sub-national level than at national level; Green Energy Act of Ontario  + CC is NOT the only enviro issue we (gov’t?) are dealing with
  • Wrap up – Ontario plans to phase out coal by 2015, the whole world by 2020 (?); should not focus on CC only but all enviro problems; some (Ont) jurisdictions are showing progress; young people are increasingly getting engaged in enviro issue solution (& employed)



A few observations, some, at least, not unexpected:



§      The people who came up to the mike for Q&A mostly stayed anonymous; 2-3 times as many left after the position statements.

§      An older gentleman insisted that we should stop spending on innovation and go back to cheaper technologies that worked just as well & did much less harm.

§      Another stood up in defense of Alberta as a whole and the oilers in particular: if they are developing the tar sands, they are going about it reasonably and responsibly. The “should” of the panelists’ discussion at lunch, which was referenced by Ted Parson above, was turned into an “is”.

§      On the more trivial side: 1 woman on the panel and 4 men, which pretty much reflected the ratio of bodies in the audience.

§      At the door, in front of the David and Vivian Campbell auditorium, forum attendees were greeted by activists from advocating phasing out coal in Ontario not “by 2015” (current McGuinty Gov’t proposal) but “right now”. They were handing out cards to send to the Premier Dalton McGuinty. See the flyer, print and mail if you are so inclined.


§      Premier Dalton McGuinty

Legislature Building

Queen’s Park, Toronto ON M7A 1A

Editorial brush-ups on June 13, 2010

Last updated: Oct 22, 2010




CBC Radio’s podcasts
(interviews with Minister Jim Prentice, “#1 (US) climatologist” James Hansen, best known Canadian “climate skeptic” Lawrence Solomon, founding member of the YES Men… –  exact links TBA)


  • Dr. James Hansen’s websites:
  • Dr. Stephen Schneider’s StanfordU climate site:
  • Jim Prall’s database
    == UofT systems administrator. Researched 615 scientists, who have published more than a hundred peer-reviewed papers on climate change, the skeptics are outnumbered 601 to 14.
  • David Suzuki Foundation
  • Ontario’s Green Future — their Petition — their No Nukes News
  • Clean Air Alliance
  • Health Power – Canada
  • “The Girl Who Silenced the World” video of Severn Cullis Suzuki’s statement, read at age 12 at the 1992 UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro
  • How Alberta takes care of pollution, including its tar sands prospecting and carbon capture amelioration:
  • I did not like the way other provincial premiers turned against Alberta – on the international scene at COP15 – Jean Charest (Quebec’s Premier) according to my sources, and from what Ed Stelmack (guilty Alberta’s Premier) mentioned in a post-COP15 interview, Dalton McGuinty (Ontario’s Premier), too. If there are no mechanisms to regulate equitable distribution of Carbon footprint Brownie points vs. penalty points among the provinces, it’s nothing to brag about. If Canada-internal problems were aired at a convention with representatives from 192 (CBC Radio stats) countries from around the world, it’s even worse. So, Qs: What research is being done In.Any.Province in CA, that would help Alberta prosper WITHOUT having to resort to the well-trodden and indisputably polluting path that the world is being veeeeery sluggish in stepping away form. Mitigation is better than mere Adaptation. BUT what’re the substitute(s)?! Innovation?
    Note to self: ES needs a separate post on Canada-internal eco-dissonant, and at least in theory, possible eco-consonant national political-economic interchanges – much better coordination Certainly.Is.Mandatory at the Federal level!

Public Debates

  • Munk Debate “Be it resolved that climate change is humanity’s defining crisis & requires a commensurate response”, held at the Munk Centre, Toronto, on December 1st, 2009.
    == PRO: Elizabeth May, leader of Canada’s Green Party, George Monbiot, author and human rights, climate change activist
    == CONTRA: Bjørn Lomborg, political science graduate, auhtor and public figure, Lord Lawson, formerly British minister of finance
  • Climate Change and the Ethics of Responsibility: The View from Ontario, Centre of Ethics/UT’s event – Munk Ctr, University of Toronto, April 27, 2010. | ES post
  • NO Powerpoints used, just oral, so no downloads expected. With the exception of Jane Gray’s, the position statements of the panelists are expected to be “edited and webcast”. No date announced at forum, no formal announcement re the webcast either.Participants (quoting from site):
    == Ted Parson, Joseph L. Sax Collegiate Professor of Law, University of Michigan
    == Steven Vanderheiden, Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Colorado at Boulder
    == Skip Willis, Principal, Willis Climate Group
    == Keith Stewart, Director, Climate Change Program, WWF [= World Wildlife Fund]
    == Jane Gray, Ontario Climate Change Secretariat

Last updated: Oct 22, 2010


Well, it’s not exactly a soaring flight:), just getting ES’s feet wet.

Still looking for the right rhythm while being pulled in many directions by many options genre-wise, topics-wise, format-wise…

So far, so good.

There have been times when the suspicion that, if I had the chance, I’d be living a life of travelling from conference to conference (note the anti-ecological implications of air travel), and/or convening/helping to convene symposia-workshops-summer schools… back to back locally (so they MUST invent alternative airplane fuel), has been more of a real budding possibility (one more black point a/st “tar sands” and Co.). I mean, I truly love not even to present but to be there and (literally!) feel the vibes of energized thought flow; to have a great choice of talks, to meet people who are like minded and challengingly, or at least curiously, differently minded or educated, whether in my bunch of disciplines or other disciplines; to chat informally in the breaks, exchange cards, even if – let’s face it – I never get to use the contact. (Oh, you too?)

To my thinking, a good conference is a space&time where people are intensely intelligent and generously giving. And don’t even think of bringing me down from the clouds on this point, to where most of my existence, shall we say, occurs, as it is:)

Disclaimer-Invitation:) Links listed below are OK as of today, May 21, 2010. But, no guarantee re how long, or that they are the best there is – for you – so search and “dare to trust your own understanding” (if I may thus synthesize numerous translations of Kant’s injunction, “Sapere aude!”).

Putting Together an Abstract
(adapted from UT tips online + personal exp.)

  1. Introduce the topic of the paper and the problem to be solved, viz. restate/rephrase the title unfurling any unconventional metaphors you may have used, spell out any acronyms, which would help to “tag” your work thematically and situate it within (a cluster of) theoretical approaches.
  2. Summarize what has been achieved (or not) on this problem so far (refer to both recent and not so recent publications/sources)
  3. I’d go more general here and say, explain what motivated you to do the research – (straightforward) mistakes, major or minor, unaddressed aspects, introduction/discovery of new approaches/technologies that are better than those previously used, or may need to be (re-)tested, e.g., using the former as the control.
  4. Elaborate on the research: I’d say, state your “research question(s)” here (compared to/in contrast to previous studies), mention sources you used, citing the year, what difficulties you encountered and dealt with, presumably successfully. The humanities may be content with stating a question properly (in a new or better way) and elaborating on the challenges; also evaluating other theories and positioning the abstract author(s) with respect to those theories, whether by backing one or the other, or borrowing from all, or bringing them all down, for that matter. The sciences would be presenting evidence, hypotheses confirmed or rejected, experiments conducted, models tested – what would look like a tangible result.
  5. Give yourself kudos, to the extent that you dare:)
  6. Yes, I agree with what you’re thinking – do it intelligently, and if it doesn’t ring true to you, stick to a neutral recap of what you set out to do and did do.

  7. Pace your rhetorics by not exceeding a certain sentence length, or else you run into problems with clarity, flow, even ambivalent anaphora (e.g., the pronoun “it” can equally refer to a mop and a butterfly), which is bound to push the reader off track. After all, if you’re to be rejected, that had better be for mistakes you did make, not for ghost ones that your convoluted style created.

Never ever even think of submitting an abstract listing as co-authors people who have not explicitly accepted and, one would hope, knowingly contributed to the research presented. It may not be appreciated, to say the least, however self-evident and harmless, even generous the act may seem to you.
Just as important, if you’re still considering your options and working out your theoretical commitments, or if you’re in the process of conducting tests, avoid like the plague presenting expected outcoumes as a sure thing. Or else, you may have to face the exercise of going back on your abstract-word in front of an audience, if you get that far, so in a conference abstract aim for “concrete” and “actual”.

PRESENTATION: PowerPoint or Comparable Format

Critical Development Studies – A global research network site:
A quote to motivate you to take a peek:

We have all suffered through slide presentations filled with paragraphs of text, mind-numbing and unreadable charts, and endured presenters whose monotone delivery could cure insomnia permanently.

More software support from there:
Apart from Microsoft’s PowerPoint, there is Keynote for Apple Macintosh, both OpenOffice and NeoOffice offer the (free) open-source program Impress.
(Note to self to look into the popularity of the alternatives to the MS and Apple giants)

A PSU hub – not huge but more than enough to give one handy criteria to decide what/how/when to prioritize. Gives the “basics”: Planning, Layout, Fonts, Color, Images:

Resources pasted FYC below:

[NOTE to “GHG” vocab list entry]

Re: comparing 2 GHGs – H2O vapour > CO2

Q: Why target CO2 if water vapour causes the largest climate feedback, and is natural? (In Hansen’s experience, a recurring contrarian pique)
A: As to Hansen’s immediately quoted standard rebuttal to the pique above – “… but the amount of water vapour in the air is determined by t” (p 43), I inadvertantly collided with what looks like an implied “by contrast, the amount of CO2 in the air is NOT determined by t”.

quasi-syllogistic practice
Premise I: Liquids and solids + heat = gas (+ x)
Premise II: CO2 and H2O vapour are gases
=> CO2 needs (an increase in) t to become a GHG, as does H2O vapour.

Premise I’: CO2 needs t to become a GHG, as does H2O vapour.
Premise I”: H2O vapour’s turning into snow or rain naturally is a function of t (Hansen, pp 42-43: “…[water] vapor… condense[s] out as water or ice”)
=> The difference that matters is not between H2O vapour’s and CO2’s (natural) becoming a GHG but in their (natural) un-becoming.

working hypothesis
For CO2’s departure (the part that is in excess, compared to the range of what the global ecosystem’s business-as-usual can handle) from the atmosphere to necessitate the active – and prompt – participation of humans – unlike H2O vapour:
The precondition would have to be:
1) either there is no natural mechanism to extract CO2 from the air,
2) or, if such (a) mechanism exist(s), it is/they are not sufficiently active on its/their own to serve as the much needed negative feedback(s). [to help de-throne CO2 from its elevated GHG position, so that an unprecedented (in human history) atmospheric CO2 over-saturation (however “small” the quantity compared to H2O vapour) does not tip the global ecosystem toward reshuffling its energy balance (global warming), chemical balance (poisoning the seas/oceans), bio balance (who/what stays and who/what goes?) etc.]

Q: Whose business-as-usual: humans’ OR the Earth ecosystem’s?
If the above is correct, then it is a toss between us humans continuing business as usual, or allowing the Earth’s ecosystem to continue its business as usual.

A: …no-brainer?!
“Thinking about it” would seem to be necessary if we were not part of said ecosystem. Since the likelihood of what upsets it will upset us, moreover in ways that we not only may not like but may not be able to change either…, shouldn’t the choice – while we still have that chance – be a no-brainer?!

May 13 addition
Oh, a Hansen quote that’s right on target (pp 279-280):
LINDZEN: “Even if all the other greenhouse gases (such as carbon dioxide and methane) were to disappear, we would still be left with over 98 per cent of the current greenhouse effect.” Cato Review, Spring 1992, 87-98. “If all CO2 were removed from the atmosphere, water vapour and clouds would still provide almost all of the present greenhouse effect.” Research and Exploration 9, 1993, 191-200.
HANSEN AND ANDY LACIS: Removing CO2, with water vapour kept fixed, would cool Earth 5-10 [degrees] C; removing CO2 and trace gases with water vapour allowed to respond would remove most of the natural greenhouse effect.

Well, “no GHG effect” would effectively propel the planet’s ecosystem outside of the habitability zone (cf. “habitability” vocab list entry), H2O would “respond” by “condensing out” as… not even water but straightforward ice (?)

Assuming that Prof Hansen and Lacis’s assessment is backed up by computer-modelling, even back-of-the-envelope squiggles, could it be that MIT’s Prof. Richard Lindzen was… “eyeballing it” somewhat, rather than bothering with the math???

Last updated: November 9, 2010 | aft a long-long break, June 15, 2012 | October 16, 2012

…so here I am, labouring on the alphabetically arranged list:)

The “Offsets”: The etymology can be fun, the history mind-boggling, yet without either of them mitigating the conceptual forcing of the exercise, which – through iterative re-modelling – is bound to yield positive hermeneutic feedback in the final analysis.

BUT: Juggling CC terms aside, I suspect that the opportunity to subvert the blog entry standard length-wise could very well have been the profound subterranean impulse: mea culpa – hopefully minima, rather than maxima, you’d agree (?) FTR: 5 screens tall at birth, @17 entries weight!

albedo = the ability (for the issues at hand, of sufficiently large objects on Earth’s surface) to reflect solar radiation. Reflectivity has a cooling effect, which is helpful in restraining global warming (GW). [etymologically: “whiteness” < Latin albus “white”. Thus the whiter, the more reflective, the darker the more absorbent – think of snow/ice (reflect => cool off) vs land or water mass (absorb => warm up)]

axiology = (theory of) system(s) of values

All.Is.Amazing, acronymized AIA, pronounced /ei-ya/ : Ecosonance axiom. Can be acronymized as AIAA, to distingguish it from the otherwise homophonic Average.Is.Amazing Principle, even if the same-sounding phonetics (AIAP cf. AIAA) delightfully echoes the conceptual inheritance. In a way, AIAA’s genealogy goes back to Natality (introduced by Hannah Arendt, a student of Martin Heidegger), though from the point of view of non-neutral, i.e., eco-consonant perception, rather than that of potentiality (and will) for (political choice and) action.

Average.Is.Amazing, acronymized and pronounced as All.Is.Amazing, or AIAP to distingush the two: Ecosonance principle premised on the axiom All.Is.Amazing, which entails that every single one or a group of 2 and more has “amazing” as its predicate. This derivative principle debunks the connotation of pejorativity (cf. “mediocre”), drawing around it instead the aura of “special, unique”. See Average.Is.Amazing post, rid of formal logic heuristics.

AGW = anthropogenic global warming. Do not miss the “anthropogenic” intro to the “global warming” phenomenon! Just “talking to people”, including e.g. medical professionals and relatively well educated selves, I keep hearing comments like, “No-no, we humans cannot possibly cause a change of catastrophic proportions to something like the Earth’s climate”. There are also those who insist that the “forces of nature” have the potential to balance out whatever “harm” puny humans can possibly concoct. Hansen (2009) places scientist Richard Lindzen in the latter category, defining his ideas in the vein noted above as being of “a theological or philosophical perspective that he [Lindzen] doggedly adheres to” (p 55) – and the stance he assumes – firmly against “alarmist” tendencies among scientists, thus in support of dodging GHG emissions reductions.

biosubjectivity – per the 2011 book  Becoming Biosubjects by Gerlach et al. (see Alexandrova 2012) relates to subjectivity that comes specifically with genetic technologies, in the latter part of the 20th century; to my mind, staying with the meaning of the lexical components, the term can encompass any kind of biological subjectivity, from the macrobiological to the gene/submolecular level.

cf. = I use it in the meaning of “compare with/to” [Latin confer], “see (and compare)”, “refer to (and compare)”. Bypassing the book binding and baseball senses.

climate vs weather: A useful analogy, perhaps, is thinking of climate as the “category”, a generalized abstraction, and of weather as its actual “instantiations”, in real time. It can be expected, then, that climate modelling and weather forecasting are significantly different.

climate and social climate: standardly used metaphorically, “social climat-e/-ology” – in a sense a mirror counterpart of “technoscience” (see respective entries) – gestures to the continuum that the totality of human ~ other fauna ~ flora ~ abiotics represents, along the lines of global ecosystematicity.
Notion of social climatology employed in this post.

CC = climate change. Introduced as a gesture to political correctness of sorts, to euphemize the much more unequivocal “global warming”.
CC results from altering the Earth’s energy balance (aka global energy balance) between the light and ultraviolet radiation that the planet receives from the Sun and the infrared heat energy that it sends back into space.

climate forcing = any process or event that causes a change in the Earth’s climate due to a change in its energy balance.
External forcings may come from comets or meteorites, which happen not more often than every 20-30 million years. Changes in the Sun’s own energy cycle can also impact the planet’s energy balance.
Forcings from within the Earth’s climate system operate on shorter time scales. The global energy balance can be altered due to changes in ocean circulation or in the chemical composition of the atmosphere. Volcanoes can also act as planet climate system-internal forcings and, I’d imagine, including indirectly, by influencing or even triggering either of the above forcings.

climate feedback = processes that augment or diminish the original influence of a climate forcing, thus in a sense, acting as secondary forcings. The respective alternative terms are positive and negative feedback.

climate system inertia – see inertia of the climate system below

CMP = annual meeting of the parties to the Kyoto Protocol. The most recent one, CMP5 was held in Copenhagen, December 7-19, 2009, parallel with COP15.

communication = within Ecosonance Theory, Communication would be the various modes (supporting technologies, if you like) of Relatedness, i.e., what bridges the two terms of the Relatedness function.

  • profound communication = Crucially to Ecosonance Theory, which encompaces Human, other Biotic and Abiotic Relatedness, communication goes beyond (non-)verbal human communication. ES allows, e.g., two-term combinations of H-H, H-oB, H-A, oB-oB, A-A, oB-A, … Hence the qualification “profound”, which in addition to the universalist dimension implies conceptual depth. More in  Nov 3 2010 Profount Communication post

context = see situated(ness) entry

COP = annual conference of the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The most recent summit, COP15, was held in Copenhagen, December 7-19, 2009. Contrary to hopes, yet predictably, it did not achieve a “binding” (=having legal implications) international agreement of a scope much wider than that of the Kyoto Protocol (see entry below), potentially incorporating all Convention signatories (currently 194 parties, approx. the number of countries represented in Copenhagen per CBC radio coverage).

cyborg = cyber [= (mechanical) ctrl, steering] + organism. See website of University of Toronto’s Prof. Steve Mann, hailed as the creator of the first human cyborg, himself + vision-correction&video-recording device (the “wearable camera”).

deniers-denialists-(skeptics) and alarmists: Reciprocal far-from-flattering labels traded between those who know CC is happening or believe so based on trusted sources/opinions, and those who either honestly believe (some) scientists may be exaggerating or doing bad science, and may even have proof (including fraudulent or controversial) that scientists make mistakes (disputable or not – see Canadian “skeptic” Steve MacIntyre), or just as genuinely insist on representation of alternative views (the media), or represent/are recruited to/prefer to support (e.g. oil) industry interests.

As a working taxonomy, I’d opt for the label “denialist” (due to a measure of affective/derogatory neologistic impetus) in the case of people with partisan interests, or e.g. those who mistrust “fear-mongering” (cf. Iraq), or “scientists”, or whatever is mainstream, as a matter of principle; giving credit to the heritage of philosophy, “skeptics” for those who are withholding their trust and searching for evidence to confirm or overturn a currently contra or at best ambiguous (A)CC position; “deniers” for those who say No – for whatever reason – for the time being or “now and forever”, either to CC or to its (critical!) anthropogenic causes. To visualize, in my mind’s eye, Denialists are a subset of Deniers, Skeptics partially overlap with Deniers, and I’d imagine the stubborn but “innocent”/misinformed part of Denialists.

But what do we do with the demographic who cannot make up their mind about, or never thought to get interested in the “debate”, e.g., because it’s a moot point – for a surprisingly wide range of reasons? In an upcoming blog “The Denialism vs Alarmism Dichotomy Revisited” – further thoughts, including on:

  • James Hansen’s The Storms of My Grandchildren: The truth about the coming climate catastrophe and our last chance to save humanity (2009)
  • Stephen Schneider’s Science as a Contact Sport: Inside the battle to save Earth’s climate (2009)
  • The Current’s interviews with CC media/PR profiler James Hoggan, CC skeptic-denialist Lawrence Solomon, UofT compu wiz Jim Prall

eco(logical)-evolutionary ethics – the composite qualifier foregrounds the organic entanglement of ecological interdependencies and evolutionary consequences, which ethics can be recruited to keep healthy, or at least healthier. (my coinage, see book review essay 2012)

ecosonance n (ecosonic adj, ecosonize, v) = (the study of) Human Relatedness to Self, Other, biotic and abiotic Nature.

I coined the term because I wasn’t thrilled by the sound of “ecosophy”, which was the obvious choice for a generic philosophy of ecology. In the way of compensation, perhaps, the two can be acronymized as ES. Not unimportantly, while the –soph– = Gk “wise, wisdom” part of the stem is not all that obviously ascribed to abiotic surroundings, –son– < Lat sonus “sound”, [apologies: had Gk instead of Lat] and by extension vibration, are equally applicable to biotics and abiotics.  Even on the (let us call it) aesthetic side, there’s the added bonus of equitably combining the sound of English in eco [‘eekow] and French [so’na:ns]. Ecosonics was given consideration too, but compared to ecosonance, it somehow lacks the latter’s cadence, not to mention the Eng-Fr connection, and also seems somewhat bland stylistically.

Using sound as a proxy for vibration (through the –son– root) lends etymological support to the Profound Relatedness/Communication thesis, whereby relatedness and (Gregory Bateson-style) communication obtain at all levels of the known universe.

eco-consonance, (-ant) = (causing, characterized by, having to do with) felicitous, harmonious Relatedness

eco-dissonance, (-ant) = (causing, characterized by, having to do with) infelicitous, disharmonious Relatedness

Oct 1, 2010 update


It’s been 2-3 months and no one commented on the con-/diss- switch: eco-consonance had the explanation for eco-dissonance, and eco-dissonance the one for eco-consonance. I’ll draw the natural, doubly eco-consonant conclusion: either our audience has an ironic sense of humour (if the switch was interpreted as a rather unfortunate flat joke, and left to fend for itself) or you are all people of noble spirit (if the switch looked like an honest cut&paste error that did not need commenting)

    . What was the HTML code for the “hats off!” symbol again?

Exx-ez, or EXX, for short = a unit of oil pollution, equal to the amount that oil tanker Exxon Valdez spilled in Alaska on March 24, 1989, estimated at 257,000 barrels total. Established by ES, July 12, 2010.
Cf.: The US Gov’t (Flow Rate Technical Group, including scientists) have had to raise their “best estimate” from 12,000-19,000 barrels per day announced on May 27 to 20,000-40,000 bpd on June 10 to 35,000-60,000 bpd (1.47 million and 2.52 million gallons/5.57 million and 9.54 million litres) as of June 15, 2010. Kristen Hays, Reuters.

FTR = for the record, of course 🙂

geosubjectivity – applies to the abiotic component of the planet (and beyond, if we have to be thorough) and seems like a fit coinage to complement my broader use of Gerlach et al.’s (2011) biosubjectivity, so that the submolecular – planetary stretch of the existential continuum gets “covered.” (my coinage, see book review essay 2012)

GHG = greenhouse gas (listed in descending order according to positive forcing ability: water vapour, CO2, methane, black carbon, a.k.a. black soot – Hansen p 51)

CO2 and H2O vapour
Q: Why target CO2 if water vapour causes the largest climate feedback, and is natural? (In Hansen’s experience, a recurring contrarian pique – the point being, who on earth would even think of treating as “harmful” all those huge amounts of H2O vapour; by comparison, CO2 seems insignificant)
I certainly agree with Hansen, and others, that a strong argument in favour of prioritizing CO2 reductions is the fact that it, e.g., influences the acidity of oceans, with serious implications for sea life, hence for various chemical processes throughout the climate system.
A: As to Hansen’s immediately quoted standard rebuttal to the pique above – “[silent “But,”] the amount of water vapour in the air is determined by t” (p 43), I inadvertantly collided with what looks like an implied “by contrast, the amount of CO2 in the air is NOT determined by t”. Working on it – and Sci Innocence does work in strange ways: Temperature works for H2O vapour but not for CO2.

habitable conditions/zone = the narrow margin of geophysical conditions that accommodate a water-habitable Earth in large part determined by its position relative to the Sun => there is (enough liquid) H2O, gravity is just right, a sufficient amount of atmospheric GHGs to keep it just warm enough (-15 Celsius average surface t) for life as we know it…
[entry inspired by “At the Outer Limit of the Habitable Zone“, the last of 5 lectures by U of Chicago geophysicist Raymond Pierrehumbert, U of T, April 23, 2010]

Earth is positioned between Venus and Mars, Venus being closest to the Sun, and Mars the farthest; Venus is the warmest (450 Celsius average surface t), and Mars the coldest (-50 Celsius average surface t): Venus is 95% of Earth’s size, Mars is by far the smallest, thus with weakest gravity. Neither Mars nor Venus have water currently (Hansen 2009, Chapter The Venus Syndrome, pp 223-236); Venus lost hers in her infancy, due to a steep rise in temperature, Mars must have had at some point his share of water too, judging by the canal-like prints on the planet’s surface. (I take blame for anthropo-morphizing, theo-morphizing, rather – but we are speaking of Gods, no?)
More thoughts on whether we have a Plan(et) B, if we some day achieve sufficiently thorough destruction of our fair planet – in the Pierrehumbert post.

IM(H)O = in my (humble) opinion

inertia of the climate system: This is what explains why, despite the significant human-inflicted GHGs forcing, overall “we” do not see significant changes to the climate at present; thanks to this same inertia, once the ball (CC) gets rolling, it will be much harder to stop it, and whatever measures get introduced, however efficient they may be, they will not be (immediately) effective – per Hansen (2009:274-275).
On the relative socio-political and geographical nature of “no visible CC at present”, see upcoming post “A Note on the Relativity of Climate System Inertia”.

IPCC = Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in 1988 to assess the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant for the understanding of *human induced* climate change, its potential impacts and options for mitigation and adaptation.” (see, emphasis added)

By 2007 IPCC had published 4 assessment reports (ARs), and AR5 is planned to be completed by 2013-14, including the Synthesis Report.

The IPCC executive bodies include 3 Working Groups, a Task Force on Greenhouse Gas Inventories, supporting technical units.
WG I (The Science of CC) assesses the physical scientific aspects of CC.
WGII (Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability) moves into the policy making stage, evaluating the scientific, technical, environmental, economic and social aspects of CC.
WGIII (Mitigation of CC) analyses the costs, benefits and risks of the different approaches to mitigation, considering also the available policy tools domestically and internationally.

JIH = just in case

kudos, also kudoos What did you know (well, I didn’t), it comes from the Greek κῦδος – kydos, (literally “that which is heard of”), and the expressions (to give) kudo(o)s to s.o. have come to communicate giving/an invitation to give someone (well deserved) credit/praise. [sources: regular dictionaries and online references, incl. Wikipedia]

Kyoto Protocol (a.k.a. Treaty) – 1997. [Link] An international agreement, an extension of the UNFCCC and – unlike it – meant to be (legally) “binding”. It was adopted in Kyoto, Japan, on December 11, 1997 and entered into force on February, 16 2005. It sets targets for 37 industrialized countries and the European community for greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions reductions, which amount to an average of 5% compared to 1990 levels over the five-year period from 2008 to 2012. At this point, more “developed” countries have failed to meet their targets (notably Canada and the US), less have made progress.

mobilis in mobili = Lat. [something to do w/ movement?]
You are right, “mobilis in mobili” is the motto of Captain Nemo’s ship (the) Nautilus from Jules Verne’s (1828–1905) novels 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and The Mysterious Island . Yes, in Latin, which learned men of the time were taught as a matter of course and could use. And, it’s explained in 20,000 Leagues Under the Seago look. Can’t guarantee the quality of translation from French.
An M.Ed.’s site of the same name

Montreal Protocol – 1987. [Link] An international agreement signed by 191 countries concerning measures to compensate for ozone depletion. It has been successful – by the mid-1990s, developed countries phased out 5 of 7 targeted substances (Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and others) and froze the remaining 2 (Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and Methyl Bromide). Developing counties had lower targets. A complete phase-out around the globe is projected by 2010-2015, the only outlier being HCFCs, with respective target phase-out dates for the two groups 2020 and 2040.

The difference between level of success in bridging the science-policymaking&implementation distance for ODSs as opposed to GHGs deserves some elaboration.

ODS = ozone depleting substance

p.c. = personal correspondence/communication

ping, n and v = the WP signification aside (sorry, can’t be sure what it is), I take the term to mean automatic linking of posts/comments (by keywords). [WP has definitions of “pingback” and “trackback”]
== Para-ping = (para = “beside”) tags posts on the Posts/Blogs of Note list which I find and link to after I follow a ping to a post by the same author, on the same blog. So, “beside” the original(ly) ping(ed post).
== Meta-ping = (meta = “beyond”) tags posts on the Posts/Blogs of Note list which I find and link to after I follow a ping to a post by a different author, on a different blog/site. So, “beyond” the original(ly) ping(ed post).
== WPfind = I hope is self-explanatory – a post/blog I come across, not prompted by a ping.

profound communication: see communication above
[November 3, 2010]

rhizome   [rahy-zohm] < Neo-Latin rhizoma  < Greek rhízōma  root, stem. noun: a rootlike subterranean stem, commonly horizontal in position, that usually produces roots below and sends up shoots progressively from the upper surface.

notion in Deleuze and Guattari’s book A Thousand Plateaux: Refers to knowledge and its mental representation, revolving around the idea of multiple connections, absence of fixities.

rhi·zom·a·tous  [rahy-zom-uh-tuhs, -zoh-muh-] adjective of rhizome: As translation of Deleuze and Guattari’s adjective: rhisomatic

semiotics = theory of signs and their meaning; paternity (with an emphasis on language) attributed to Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure and American philosopher (logician and pragmatist) Charles Sanders Peirce (pronounced like “purse”)

Sliding Divide = a divide between presumably different entities, states…, which cannot be drawn invariably in the same way in the same “place”. In a sense, it stands for a deconstruction of (fixed) dichotomous pairs: See post Ecosonic Dilemma…

situated(ness) = “marked[ness] by [own] social positionality and … operation as political events in political contexts.” (emphasis in original, see Maureen Ford’s def. in “Situating Knowledges as Coalition Work” Ms. (n.d.), University of Toronto (read by L.A. Winter Semester 2009))
This author tends to use it in a broader sense, to include, e.g., professional/occupational, disciplinary background, nationality, “racial” and historical belonging… Interchangeable with “context”? I’d say, if the core signification of “siteated(ness)” is to include what basically comes down to “ideology”, e.g., “mindset”, and by extension “psychological make-up, temperament” would be drawn to “situatedness”, delineating it semantically from “context”.
FYI, Maureen references “social positionality” to Linda Martin Alcoff. 1988. “Cultural Feminism vs. Post-structuralism: the Identity Crisis in Feminist Theory.” Signs. 13,3(Spring): 405.

technoscience = technology + science. Term attributed to Gaston Bachelard (Robert C. Scharff and Val Dusek, 2003, p.85). It already appears in the names of journals and associations, and is currently being used by a growing number of scholars (Donna Haraway, Bruno Latour, Robert C. Scharff, Sherry Turkle), including in theorizations about Martin Heidegger and Auguste Compte’s philosophies, the former adherering to a negative and the latter to a positive view of technology. = tongue in cheek – I don’t completely acronymize, to make it more easily decypherable, hopefully

UNEP = United Nations Environmental Program. In 1988, UNEP and the WMO founded the IPCC.

UNFCCC = United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. An international agreement “enjoying near-universality”, which came into force on March 21, 1994. Starting in April the following year, conferences of the parties to the convention (COP – see entry above) have been held annually. UNFCCC has much broader participation (194 signatories) and is nonbinding in contrast to the Kyoto Protocol (see entry above), which it initiated to set binding targets specifically for developed countries.

virtual(ity) A funny twist on this one. In They know virtually nothing, “virtually” means “practically, totally, really/in reality”. In “virtual reality” which, on the former reading would be a bland tautology, “virtual” has morphed into an antonym of sorts, so we end up with a meaningful oxymoron – “unreal reality”, which presumably feels like it is “real”. Derrick de Kerckhove’s quip (p.c., not that it is not in his books, and the writings of many others) is pertinent here: “There is no “real”, there is “actual” and “virtual”, both are “real” to the mind.”

vision-and-rhyme = I am assigning this term to the genre of poetry that combines verbal flow rhythm and visual presentation – be that layout or image… See my poem in post …Mayfly Perfection…

viz. = namely, i.e. [< Latin videlicet, pronounced /videl’isit/ choosing Brit. pron., which departs minimally from the original, in contrast to the Am.]

WMO = World Meteorological Organization. No further comment, I think, they’ve earned it.

WPfind = I hope is self-explanatory – a post/blog I come across, not prompted by a ping. See entry ping.

WWF = World Wildlife Fund

Last updated: November 9, 2010

2B edited/reworked

Note the subtitle of a book hot off the presses:
Geo-engineering climate change : environmental necessity or Pandora’s box? / edited by Brian Launder, Michael Thompson.
New York : Cambridge University Press, 2010.
Engineering & Computer Science|Stacks|1 copy|TD885.5 .C3 G46 2010

anthropo-engineering – this would have to be engineering of human biology, which is what medication does.

Positing ecosonance as the umbrella term, consonance would result from ecological vibes in tune with one another, dissonance would entail discordant ecological vibes. Thus, the ecosonic dyad,
ecosonance: (+) eco-consonance (-) eco-dissonance

A well-known eco-dissonant anthropo-engineering example (which started in 1996 in the Toronto area) is the case of Nancy Olivieri, the Hospital for Sick Kids doctor and researcher hematologist who chose to oppose the introduction of a new iron-levels regulating, dialysis-free “panacea”. She had witnessed its harmful, even lethal, side effects at the experimental stage. The pharmaceutical company, to which she was beholden by a confidentiality contract, insisted on releasing the drug.

The ensuing battle was public, (reputation-wise and research-wise) costly, with profit being pitted against conscience, and with basic values and – literally – children’s lives at stake. To the tune of eco-dissonant orchestration, interspersed with clear eco-consonant notes, the plot unfolds: the full gamut of science-binding administrative structures, the wide range of media interpretations, the lurking pitfalls of public and private trade-offs, loyalties compromised and regained, allies lost and found, envigorating losses and draining victories intertwined.

A short article by scholars with a track record in medicine-related ethical issues:
The Olivieri Case: Context and Significance
Dr. Jon Thompson, Dr. Patricia A. Baird, Dr. Jocelyn Downie
Ecclectica, 2005

For a discursive cross-section of ecological thinking, democracy theory and epistemic responsibility operative in the case, see L. Code (2006).

December update:
2 upcoming books: Jan 2011
1) Principles of Planetary Climate (Cambridge University Press–January 31, 2011)
Book description: Provides a unified treatment of the basic physical principles of planetary climate phenomena on the present and past Earth and other planets. An invaluable textbook for advanced undergraduate and graduate students, and a reference text for researchers. Lavishly supported by hundreds of creative and stimulating exercises, software, datasets and algorithms.

2) co-edited with David Archer The Warming Papers (Wiley-Blackwell–January 25, 2011)
From the Amazon product description: “The Warming Papers is a compendium of the classic scientific papers that constitute the foundation of the global warming forecast.  The paper trail ranges from Fourier and Arrhenius in the 19th Century to Manabe and Hansen in modern times. Archer and Pierrehumbert provide introductions and commentary which places the papers in their context and provide students with tools to develop and extend their understanding of the subject.”

post 2B edited/reworked:

institutional page
re his textbook Principles of Planetary Climate, submitted to CUP
Real Climate blog

It has been a while since I enjoyed a couple of his talks as part of his full week of Noble Lectures (April 19-23, 2010), organized this year by the Program in Atmospheric Physics at the Department of Physics, UT. They are “right up the ecosonic alley”, so some thoughts below.

The main attraction for me was the opportunity to hear a recognized scientist’s take on 1) the ethics aspects of scientific endeavour, and also 2) how the habitable conditions on Earth project into the universe at large (or at least as large a chunk of it as we can currently see).
1. Climate Ethics, Climate Justice – Thursday April 22th
Lecture Slides; Nine Billion Ton Hamster
2. At the Outer Limit of the Habitable Zone – Friday April 23th
Lecture Slides

On the subject of “fairness”: The series of graphs on pp 41-46 (slides 38-43) is the first concrete comparative mapping I’ve come across of the US – China CO2 emissions contribution. France serves as a control case of sorts. China’s (roughly current) yearly cumulative emissions exceed those of the US, and either of these countries’ output by far exceeds that of France, p 41. By contrast, the US and France (as the runner up) are both larger contributors than China w.r.t. per capita emissions, p 42. Adding to the picture the standard of living (SoL) of the three, it looks like France is doing better than the other two, its SoL approaching that of the US, but its per capita emissions closer to China’s, whose SoL is considerably lower than that of the other two. (do not look for a SoL graph – the speaker was relying on “common knowledge”)

Given its steep climb, even if much later than the head start the US and France had since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution mid-19 century, China is expected to catch up not just with France, but also with the US in CO2 Ems. Per p 46, at present China and the US diverge in CO2 usage: the pink area marks the US’s carbon “overdraft” (=pollution tonnes over and above where the output should be now), the green one China’s carbon “balance” (call it “credit”=less pollution tonnes than the projected limit). Prof Pierrehumbert pointed to the pink area, saying that “that’s where climate justice lies!”. Indeed, if international agreements were to hold legal sway. At least, it is clear that pushing for stricter measures via a vis China, as the US did at the Copenhagen COP15 in December 2009, did not have the back-up of a US clean(ed up) record.

Another comment by Prof Pierrehumbert I’d rather attribute to an attempt to lighten up the tone, or similar. Comparing China and France, he suggested that if France managed to bridle in its Ems while maintaining its higher SoL, it may – idealistically – be possible for China to raise its SoL without increasing its Ems. The industrial heritage, the work force and intellectual/cultural capital are not comparable/interchangeable. Other than that, certainly, if collective international action kicks in, then there will be less fear that whoever reduces is being taken advantage of by those who don’t.

Another point worth mentioning is albedo (solar reflectivity) engineering (e.g., spewing aerosols into the atmosphere) as a means of controlling solar radiation and, by extension, reducing temperatures (see sources in Albedo Engineering post). Prof Pierrehumbert labelled it a “moral abomination” without hesitation – and I agree with the sentiment. It is in the same “scientific” style as the use of DDT last century, and a number of other extremely harmful pesticides, whose side effects by far outweighed their presumed benefits, ditto bio-engineering, even the use of chemo and radiation therapy for cancer treatment. True, there may be more than enough cases where no (sufficiently effective) nobler approach is available, and the toss may well be between using drastic measures as a last resort and giving up altogether. However, if as Prof Pierrehumbert noted, AE and similar measures may also be misguided/miscalculated, then in the absence of a commensurate antidote, they would act as purposeful pollution. “Involuntary manslaughter” comes to mind, which may not be far behind “natureslaughter”, the roughshod approach matching in eco-dissonance the “epistemic imaginary of mastery” that generates it, and that epistemologist Lorraine Code identifies as the still-dominant imaginary in the Western world, not excluding the realm of science.

A couple of comments on the “At the Outer Limit of the Habitable Zone” lecture. It was a detailed excursus in space (our galaxy) and time (e.g., back to the time of early Mars), comparing conditions on heavenly bodies (Prof P. did not use the term) such as Venus, Mars, the (Earth’s) Moon, Titan, to try and demonstrate how close they are, or have ever been/might ever be, to what constitutes the “habitable conditions” of our planet. The most frequently considered parameters were CO2, H2O, heavenly body size, gravity; related planetary and atmospheric chemistry. All of the above in the face of missing/unavailable/inaccessible data, which unavoidably gave the exercise a romantic twist, if you like. Notwithstanding the ensuing huge number of variables, that can clearly over-generate possible hypotheses far beyond the ones discussed, the journey was quite enjoyable.

Quite delightfully, Prof P. concluded with – believe it or not – a poem featuring Sir Gawain taking his leave, the point being that the knight was rather unwilling to bid goodbye.

Discordantly, yours truly had to jump in – after a number of noble technical questions – with an admittedly general public query: Should humanity be faced with a catastrophe, what are our chances of finding a habitable host, travel challenges aside? Having grown up as a sci fi fan, what I meant was, whether to his knowledge, researchers have been able to identify, or target potential candidates, for a habitable host, irrespective of the currently insurmountable speed-of-light barrier. The answer boiled down to, “In view of yesterday’s lecture, it is unlikely that we’d wipe ourselves out”. The conditions may be very unpleasant, but a resilient/resourceful species like ours will find a way to adapt (I imagine, technologically, and brrrr even genetically?). He mentioned “bubbles” on the surface, and looking at least half a billion years ahead, when the Sun will turn into a super-hot red giant, we might use super-size mirrors to reflect/deflect its radiation away from the Earth, thus putting off the planet’s ultimate destruction as we know it by a few million (?) years.

I did not ask about planetary engineering, nor did I breach my favourite subjects

    strategic deep-space research for similar planets
    research on renewable energies

In the latter case, including anything commensurate with Nikola Tesla’s project, the surviving memory of which has it that he was working on utilizing the Earth’s own atmosphere (tapping into the ionosphere’s energy) as a source of inexhaustible, free energy for all.

Among numerous other Tesla YouTube videos – likely a school project (?) in the voices of two girls, Maia MacCarthur and Kiana Wilson:

2B edited/reworked

FYI: Geo-engineering climate change : environmental necessity or Pandora’s box? / edited by Brian Launder, Michael Thompson.
New York : Cambridge University Press, 2010.
Engineering & Computer Science|Stacks|1 copy|TD885.5 .C3 G46 2010

I initially came across the “albedo geoengineering” concept in connection with purposeful, anthropogenic aerosol/dust forcings with the aim of bringing down atmospheric temperatures in Stephen Schneider (Science as a Contact Sport, 2009). He is not happy about it, because of the difficult-to-gauge consequences; as a matter of principle, it is a bad idea to compensate for one pollution factor by amplifying/creating another. For similar reasons, Raymond Pierrehumbert opposed albedo engineering in his last but one Noble Lecture Series, University of Toronto, April 2010. (see post)

Oliver Morton’s blog post from January 15, 2009, Leaf Albedo Engineering, sums up the risks pretty well:
“…Every geoengineering scheme has strange knock-ons and side effects around the edges, and it seems reasonable to suspect that the more such schemes you have, the more chance there is for one of the side effects to be unexpectedly serious — or for two of them to interact with each other catastrophically…”

His blog addresses a further accomplishment, “bio-geoengineering”. Plants are genetically modified (by increasing the glossiness of the leaves) to influence atmospheric temperature feedbacks. The blog post does not in principle dispute science’s (self-assigned) entitlement to re-engineer nature. However, reading between the lines, one can detect a putative cautioning against pushing the forces of nature too far, and be content with optimally balanced moderation:
“…the fact that it is probably a lot easier to find little forcings than big ones suggests that the portfolio approach may be in the ascendant for a while.”

Here is Morton’s official response to Ridgwell et al. (2009):
“Crops That Cool”
15 January 2009 | Nature | doi:10.1038/news.2009.33

The original article:
Tackling Regional Climate Change by Leaf Albedo Bio-geoengineering
Andy Ridgwell, Joy S. Singarayer, Alistair M. Hetherington and Paul J. Valdes
Current Biology, Volume 19, Issue 2, 146-150, 15 January 2009.
Elsevier Ltd. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2008.12.025

“The likelihood that continuing greenhouse-gas emissions will lead to an unmanageable degree of climate change has stimulated the search for planetary-scale technological solutions for reducing global warming… Specifically, we propose a bio-geoengineering approach to mitigate surface warming, in which crop varieties having specific leaf glossiness and/or canopy morphological traits are specifically chosen to maximize solar reflectivity…”

Wisely offering to GM only plants that are not food crops does not cut it – for me. Coethe’s Faustus at least knew he was trading his soul for power, immortality, romance. Science, cheered on by what philosopher Lorraine Code (2009) aptly terms “social-epistemic imaginary of mastery” (building on Cornelius Castoriadis’s concept “(social) imaginary”), has been and in more than enough cases at present still enjoys a reprieval from what should be an obligatory part of requirements nature-engineering. Namely, social-epistemic responsibility and accountability. Provided that a nature engineering project can make it through – to start with – that is.

The obvious pending question (unfortunately failure-prone), which is as much epistemological-scientific as it is moral-ethical, would be “When can one be sure that it is safe to transit from the experimental to the implementation stage?” There are all too many (for comfort) recorded cases of pesticides, medical treatments, cosmetic procedures, food processing technologies – “scientifically tested”, offered by “leaders in the industry” – that have gone wrong. Sometimes not even “in the long run”, but prior to the projected commercial release date.

Away from climate change-related nature engineering, but still heavily ecosonically charged, pharma-anthropo-engineering: Anthropo-Engineering – Ecological Consonances and Dissonances.


May 2010


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