That was then this is now

This is another post on the theme of future and past times and how we view them. It was prompted in part by reflecting on the Lamar Smith witchhunt of Karl et al at NASA and the scientists who have been analysing and improving the historical temperature record.


It is possible to reconstruct from the press releases of the Senate science and technology committee the underlying attitudes and beliefs of the chair of that committee. In the last post I tried to reconstruct The contents of the emails that Lamar Smith apparently believes he might find. He is not alone in these beliefs; a short perusal of WUWT, or the comment stream after any Fox News climate report, reveals a vocal constituency of strong belief in the idea that a GW is a political hoax, a tactic designed to advance an ideological agenda.

The common form of this dogma is that governments invent future catastrophes in order to achieve greater power and control of their population by insisting that policies to respond to this catastrophe must be followed. For the free market libertarian the policies are seen as restricting individual freedom and entrepreneurial activity. For the hardline denihilist any scientific findings that support the claims that policy must respond is cast iron proof that the scientific findings are fraudulent and have been manipulated to support the policy.

The idea that policy may evolve from scientific findings is not one that they can contemplate. After all they know that their own political ideology is fixed immutable (considered a feature not a flaw) and that they manipulate scientific findings to support their own position. So it is only logical to assume the other side in the political conflict does the same.

The idea that government’s play chicken little  and claim the ‘sky is falling’ as a means of imposing policy and encouraging social cohesion is not new. There are certainly historical examples. Nazi Germany identified Jewish international bankers, Soviet Russia, capitalist imperialism and imperialist capitalism identified Soviet Russia as the existential enemy.

The original form of this narrative comes from the Talmud/ old Testament/ Koran stories of Joseph and his multicoloured coat advising the Egyptian leader that times of plenty would be followed by drought and famine. As a result the means of production and the free labour of the individual became, by force, the property of the state. It is the root story of autocratic takeover ending in slavery for some and government taxation and domination for most. All justified by a future prediction of catastrophe.JOE7

The ethnological history reveals similar stories in many past cultures. In the distant past a strong ruler prevents disaster by imposing order and central control. Often by leveraging the threat of war famine drought flood or fire.

While these origin of civilisation stories hold a political message about the rise of political power they may record a real transition in the form of human societies. The move from loosely cooperating tribal groups of farmers and semi-nomadic pastoralists to large cities, intensive agriculture and animal husbandry is a qualitative change in the political organisation of human societies. It may well have been driven by local conflict or by environmental change that required improve agricultural production to sustain a growing population. The Joseph and the seven good and lean years story then represents the necessary development of city society and the forms of central control that inevitably emerge from the logistics of a city state. What ever ideological preferences we may have for individual freedom and state control the logistical exigencies of 20,000 people living in an urban environment creates the need for some form of communally agreed or violently imposed authority.

Perhaps the hardline denihilists have glimpsed the truth from their position. AGW and the impacts of climate change will require more than local government responses. As a global problem it will require a global response. Just as the warring tribes of primitive agriculturalists found in the neolithic a new government structure was required to cope with a failing agricultural system. Only the new organisational structure could provide the communal work required to generate large agricultural surpluses that supported a growing population and a growing diversity of invention and production. In the same way the global threat of climate change may, of necessity, generate a new global governance to respond to the problems and impacts it generates.

Perhaps in another few thousand years the national state governments will be seen as a past utopian Arcadia, sought by delusional Conservatives in reaction to the form of communal governance at a global level that climate change will impose.

One response to “That was then this is now

  1. Pingback: back again | izen

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