21 04 2009

Cicero was a famous Roman attorney and orator of the first century B.C., a period when mastering the art of rhetoric was considered such a necessity to a noble Roman that the subject dominated their schooling. Cicero was said to believe that words could do almost anything. He in fact did some wonderful things with them. A fine historical novel about him is Imperium by Robert Harris.

So let’s look at an interesting bit of rhetoric on a modern subject!



In the New York Times, an imaginative but uncredentialed fan of economics named John Tierney creates an argument to show that, “Hey, we don’t have to do anything about global warming! The act of continuing to consume will itself solve the problem!”



One Bob Comments Thus:

“I can’t improve on the thoughtful comments here showing the specious and incomplete nature of this type of analysis.

“I think trying to justify a lifestyle so egregiously wasteful is like a disease. The symptoms are overconfidence and denial. The only word I can think of for this disease is megalomania, except that in this case it applies not to an individual but to our entire civilization. Growth and development and technology come at a price. The price is the destruction of the natural systems of the world – on which all life depends. Where are the examples of natural systems being recreated on the scale in which they were destroyed? Farming gets better and therefore depleted farmland magically returns to an ecosystem with the same biodiversity and regenerative capacity as virgin forest? Maybe in 1000 or 10,000 or 100,000 years. Fished out oceans, that have had the seabed scraped clean from factory trawlers, are being to restored healthy ecosystems capable of regenerating the fishing stocks on which our burgeoning population depends? We don’t even know how these ecosystems work and we never will because we’ve destroyed them. In a world of exponential population growth natural systems aren’t being restored and they will never be. We can’t even get the Icelanders to stop hunting the last whale, the Japanese to stop hunting the last tuna, a poor Indonesian or African farmer from cutting down the last tree to feed his family, the American to give up anything…

“We are so grandiose in our aspirations that we believe we could re-engineer an entire planet to our wishes? That we can destroy natural systems and recreate them at our whim? We are many generations away, or perhaps an infinite distance away from that ability. And if we could, would we want to anyway? We could create a world more beautiful than that which was created for us? No amount of technology can fix this. Every attempt to leads to more problems, deeper, more subtle, more intractable than the problem that was supposedly going to be fixed. Perhaps we should discard our hubris and accept that there are limits we can never overcome.

“To be sure, this is a screed. But a fitting rebuttal to the specious and dangerously naive idea that more growth and more technology is going to fix this. The very activity that created these problems is going to suddenly and miraculously transform from the agent of destruction into the agent of restoration?

I’ve had enough of specious, misleading and ultimately useless theories from economists. When we’ve transformed the natural world into a pile of money, what shall we do? Eat money? Perhaps we should listen to the Ph.D. Ecologists instead.

A Faustian bargain we’ve made and now were stuck with it. The answer is to stop, admit we’ve made a mistake, consider what we are doing and take a step back. Before it’s too late.”


Bob whupped Tierney’s ass!




2 responses

22 04 2009

Hi Nightman1

I like to give you this response to your post.

Interesting what you say here. However, I also see it a bit differently.

You mention Icelandic whaling and japanese tuna fishing. Overfishing and overhunting must of course be stopped. The fish and whale population must never be at risk.

I truly believe that it is important to respect different people’s culture. Especially when it’s doing no harm to the population of whales and fish.

I see the threat in “Globalisation” exterminating small cultures. Cultures that might disappear.

For example, “environmentalists” like canadian Paul Watson love to blast the faroese whenever he is given the oppurtunity in the media. He says that the hunt of pilot whale is only a barbaric tradition and therefor must be stopped.

The real irony is that whale hunt may disappear, not because of people like him screaming away, but because of pollution in the sea. Heavy metals, like mercury are present in large amounts in all whales, also fish. In fact the authorities recommend NOT eating pilot whale, becuase of pollution.

In countries around the baltic sea, like Sweden, it is standard practice in fish factories to slice off large parts of the fish, because of heavy metals. Only a part remains to be sold to human consumtion.

“Save the whales!!!” A great slogan, but how is that going to help anyone? The sea is still the large industries, both west and in China, wastedump.

22 04 2009

Very informative! The great thing about the Internet’s international reach is that you get to hear ideas and experiences that you would likely never come in contact with without the Internet.

First, there is the point about protecting small cultures–a very good one.

Second, for me, is the wholly new knowledge that we are now poisoning the SEA. I knew we were creating a archipelagoes of floating plastic fragments. I knew nothing of the heavy metals.

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