In lead to December’s 20th UN Conference of Parties on climate change, scientists and policymakers are reflecting on the future of climate science. Many are questioning whether the existing mechanisms that feed scientific evidence into international politics are working well enough.
In this interview Ilan Kelman argues that, despite its important work, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, with its consensus-based approach, is no longer suited to the new challenges posed by climate change.
On Monday night’s episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, host Jon Stewart devoted the first segment of his program to the subject of climate change. He discussed the People’s Climate March that took place in New York City on Sunday,where over 100,000 people took to the streets to bring awareness to the dangers facing our planet due to rapid global warming. Stewart pointed out that, while you would think people around the world are now acutely aware of the existence of climate change and its effects on the environment, this march was necessary because House Republicans continue to deny its existence.
The Daily Show host then directed his attention to a recent hearing by the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, where White House Science Director, John Holdren,spoke in front of the committee to discuss President Obama’s initiative to reduce carbon emissions 30% by the year 2030. Stewart lamented that Holdren had the unenviable task of “pushing a million pounds of idiot up a mountain.”
Stewart highlighted the various Republicans on the committee who peppered Holdren with idiotic questions or flat-out conspiracy theories. Confirmed moron Steve Stockman asked Holdren about global ‘wobbling.’ Stockman wanted to know why it wasn’t included in any climate models when he had read somewhere that it helped contribute to the last major ice age. Holdren patiently pointed out to Stockman that ‘wobbling’ refers to changes in the planet’s tilt and orbit and takes place over tens of thousands of years. It is very slow and has a tiny effect within a time scale of 100 years, which is the normal time frame for climate models.
Of course, the stupid wasn’t just contained to Stockman. A clip was played showing California Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, a well-known climate skeptic, tossing out a question about the dangers of carbon dioxide Rohrabacher wanted to know at what level does carbon dioxide become dangerous for human beings. When Holdren stated that he always enjoys his interactions with Rohrabacher, Stewart interjected, claiming Holdren meant it in the same way someone enjoys playing peek-a-boo with a baby or teasing a cat with a laser pointer. Stewart then showed Holdren’s response, where Holdren told Rohrabacher that his question was a red herring. As Holdren stated, the focus on CO2 is not about whether or not humans can breathe with increased levels, but if those increased levels trap heat in the atmosphere and rapidly change global temperatures.
However, the worst may have been Indiana Representative Larry Bucshon. The Congressman revealed himself as a full-fledged denier on the tin-foil hat variety during the hearing. He wondered why Holdren wasn’t listening to public comments on global warming. Holdren answered that perhaps Bucshon should read the scientific literature available on the subject instead of public opinion. As exasperated Stewart stated that Bucshon should read a climate science journal instead a teabaggers YouTube comments. Stewart then said Bucshon gave away the game when Bucshon told Holdren that he doesn’t believe scientists because it is their job to do these studies. In his opinion, scientists have a vested interest to create a hoax and therefore he won’t read what they produce.
After pointing out Bucshon’s idiocy, while also revealing that Bucshon’s biggest campaign donors are energy companies, Stewart then turned it back to Stockman to end the segment. He showed Stockman asking about the rise of sea levels and wondering how long it will take. Then, Stockman amazingly insisted that sea levels won’t rise because of displacement, using an example of melting ice cubes in a glass. This finally set Stewart off. Stewart tore apart Stockman’s lack of understanding of grade-school science by bringing out a glass of ice water and a bowl of ice. Stewart then proved the point that displacement only takes into account ice that is already in a body of water. However, if you take ice from elsewhere, say land, and put it in a body of water, that water level will rise.
All in all, this was one of Stewart’s best segments in a while. He tore apart the willful ignorance and Koch-funded denial of the Republican Party when it comes to the issue of climate change. The fact is, Republicans are placing us in great harm by refusing to act at all when it comes to global warming and the devastating effects it is having on our country and planet.
Ban Ki-Moon, secretário-geral da Organização das Nações Unidas (ONU), prometeu na manhã desta segunda-feira, 22, lutar contra a exclusão e a marginalização a que povos indígenas estão submetidos no mundo. A declaração acontece a propósito da abertura da 1ª Conferência Mundial sobre os Povos Indígenas, na sede das nações Unidas, em Nova York. A fala do secretário-geral da ONU, neste momento histórico, ocorre na ocasião em que pela segunda vez no ano uma liderança indígena é impedida de sair do país pelo governo brasileiro.
A reportagem é do portal do Conselho Indigenista Missionário –Cimi, 22-09-2014.
O cacique Marcos Xukuru recebeu o aviso da Funai, na última sexta-feira, 19, de que não poderia embarcar para Nova York e participar da conferência devido ao fato de ter pendência com a Justiça brasileira. O cacique integraria a delegação indígena do Brasil. A pendência, na verdade, trata-se de um processo judicial envolvendo a luta pela demarcação da Terra Indígena Xukuru do Ororubá, no município de Pesqueira (PE), em 2003, que já transitou e foi julgado pelo Tribunal Regional Federal da 5ª Região (TRF-5).
“Não há nenhum impedimento judicial dizendo que eu não posso sair do país. Recentemente tive duas vezes no exterior para fazer denúncias de violações aos direitos humanos contra os povos indígenas. Uma delas em Nova York, inclusive. Houve um boicote que partiu do Ministério da Justiça. Sabemos que existe receio por parte de gente do governo quanto ao que podemos dizer para o mundo”, afirma o cacique. A Assessoria Jurídica do Conselho Indigenista Missionário (Cimi) diz não ter conhecimento de nenhum outro processo envolvendo o cacique fora esse já encerrado.
A presidente da Funai, Maria Augusta Assirati, conforme Marcos Xukuru, fez o convite para que ele participasse da conferência. Foi ela também que justificou as razões do impedimento ao cacique, numa ligação onde Maria Augustadisse que a suspensão da viagem se deu por questões diplomáticas, em face da pendência judicial. “A Funai me convidou para ir com outras lideranças. Um processo que não me proíbe de viajar foi usado. É uma situação. Sabemos que isso veio do Ministério da Justiça”, diz o Xukuru. O cacique, por medida cautelar da Organização dos Estados Americanos (OEA), faz parte do programa de proteção do estado de Pernambuco.
O demais integrantes da delegação do Brasil que se deslocou para Nova York ameaçou boicotar o encontro caso o cacique não fosse reintegrado ao grupo. Porém, o Xukuru explica que pediu aos parentes que demovessem a ideia e fossem à conferência, alegando que “é um momento único para dizer o que se passa no país, quais violações estão acontecendo aqui e que lideranças estão sendo impedidas de dialogar em âmbito mundial justamente pela criminalização que sofrem quando lutam por seus direitos”, ataca o cacique Marcos Xukuru.
Este ano já é o segundo caso de lideranças indígena impedida de viajar ao exterior para agendas políticas, de denúncia de violações aos diretos destes povos. Em abril, o cacique Babau Tupinambá, uma das lideranças da luta pela demarcação da Terra Indígena Tupinambá de Olivença, no sul da Bahia, foi barrado a ir ao Vaticano para encontro com o Papa Francisco, a convite da Conferência Nacional dos Bispos do Brasil (CNBB). Depois de conceder o visto, a Polícia Federal voltou atrás alegando que existiam ordens de prisão contra Babau e pediu que ele devolvesse o passaporte apresentando-se à autoridade policial.
A 1ª Conferência Mundial sobre os Povos Indígenas termina nesta terça, 23. Um documento sobre os direitos dos povos indígenas e sua implementação, preparado diante de consulta aos países integrantes da ONU e povos indígenas, deverá concluir o histórico encontro mundial. Segundo a ONU, existem 370 milhões de indígenas de mais de 5 mil comunidades espalhados por 90 países. Eles representam 5% da população global. No Brasil, são quase 900 mil indígenas divididos em 305 povos. O país também concentra cerca de 94 grupos livres, ou seja, povos em situação voluntária de isolamento.
Processo contra o cacique do povo Xukuru
Cacique Marcos Xukuru, em 2003, sofreu um atentado em um trecho da estrada que corta a Terra Indígena Xukuru do Ororubá. Na ocasião, dois jovens indígenas acabaram mortos e um terceiro conseguiu fugir, avisando as demais lideranças do povo. Com dois mortos e o cacique desaparecido – ele havia corrido para o interior da mata – a comunidade, tomada por uma comoção coletiva, incendiou a sede da fazenda localizada onde o atentado ocorreu e se dirigiu para a Vila de Cimbres com o objetivo de retirar da terra indígena o que restava de invasores e aliados dos fazendeiros.
O conflito entre os xukuru e os invasores foi inevitável. A terra indígena, naquele momento, já tinha sido demarcada. No entanto, o cacique, então vítima de um atentado, passou a ser acusado de ter liderado os ataques contra os fazendeiros e demais invasores do território. Um processo de desenrolou por quase 10 anos, até que o TRF-5 o julgou condenando cacique Marcos e mais 20 lideranças do povo Xukuru a quatro anos de prisão. A sentença, no entanto, foi revertida em pena alternativa com o pagamento de cestas básicas.
No dia 3 deste mês, a Assembleia Legislativa de Pernambuco condecorou o cacique Marcos Xukuru com a comenda Leão do Norte, na categoria Direitos Humanos.
Jeffrey Sachs – Director, Earth Institute at Columbia University; Author, “To Move the World: JFK’s Quest for Peace”
Posted: 09/06/2014 8:21 am EDT Updated: 09/07/2014 10:59 pm EDT
That Rupert Murdoch governs over a criminal media empire has been made clear enough in the UK courts in recent years. That the Wall Street Journal op-ed pages, the latest victim of Murdoch’s lawless greed, are little more than naked propaganda is perhaps less appreciated. The Journal runs one absurd op-ed after another purporting to unmask climate change science, but only succeeds in unmasking the crudeness and ignorance of Murdoch’s henchmen. Yesterday’s (September 5) op-edby Matt Ridley is a case in point.
Ridley’s “smoking gun” is a paper last week in Science Magazine by two scientists Xianyao Chen and Ka-Kit Tung, which Ridley somehow believes refutes all previous climate science. Ridley quotes a sentence fragment from the press release suggesting that roughly half of the global warming in the last three decades of the past century (1970-2000) was due to global warming and half to a natural Atlantic Ocean cycle. He then states that “the man-made warming of the past 20 years has been so feeble that a shifting current in one ocean was enough to wipe it out altogether,” and “That to put the icing on the case of good news, Xianyao Chen and Ka-Kit Tung think the Atlantic Ocean may continue to prevent any warming for the next two decades.”
The Wall Street Journal editors don’t give a hoot about the nonsense they publish if it serves their cause of fighting measures to limit human-induced climate change. If they had simply gone online to read the actual paper, they would have found that the paper’s conclusions are the very opposite of Ridley’s.
First, the paper makes perfectly clear that the Earth is warming in line with standard climate science, and that the Earth’s warming is unabated in recent years. In the scientific lingo of the paper (it’s very first line, so Ridley didn’t have far to read!), “Increasing anthropogenic greenhouse-gas-emissions perturb Earth’s radiative equilibrium, leading to a persistent imbalance at the top of the atmosphere (TOA) despite some long-wave radiative adjustment.” In short, we humans are filling the atmosphere with carbon dioxide from fossil-fuel use, and we are warming the planet.
Second, the total warming is distributed between the land and ocean surface on the one hand and the ocean deep water on the other. The total rise of ocean heat content has continued unabated, while the proportion of heat absorbed at the surface and in the deeper ocean varies over time. Again, in the scientific lingo of the paper, “[T]his forced total OHC [ocean heat content] should be increasing monotonically over longer periods even through the current period of slowed warming. In fact, that expectation is verified by observation …”. In other words, the ocean has continued to warm in line with predictions of just such a phenomenon seen in climate models.
Third, it is the “vertical distribution” of the warming, between the surface and deep water, which affects the warming observed on land and at the sea surface. The point of the paper is that the allocation of the warming vertically varies over time, sometimes warming the surface rapidly, other times warming the deeper ocean to a great extent and the surface water less rapidly. According to the paper, the period of the late 20th century was a period in which the surface was warmed relative to the deeper ocean. The period since 2000 is the opposite, with more warming of the deeper ocean. How do the scientists know? They measure the ocean temperature at varying depths with a sophisticated system of “Argo profiling floats,” which periodically dive into the ocean depths to take temperature readings and resurface to transmit them to the data centers.
So, what is Ridley’s “smoking gun” when you strip away his absurd version of the paper? It goes like this. The Earth is continuing to warm just as greenhouse gas theory holds. The warming heats the land and the ocean. The ocean distributes some of the warming to the surface waters and some to the deeper waters, depending on the complex circulation of ocean waters. The shares of warming of the surface and deeper ocean vary over time, in fluctuations that can last a few years or a few decades.
If the surface warming is somewhat less in recent years than in the last part of the 20th century, is that reason for complacency? Hardly. The warming is continuing, and the consequences of our current trajectory will be devastating unless greenhouse gas emissions (mainly carbon dioxide) are stopped during this century. As Chen and Tung conclude in their Science paper, “When the internal variability [of the ocean] that is responsible for the current hiatus [in warming] switches sign, as it inevitably will, another episode of accelerated global warming should ensue.”
Mr. Murdoch, and the Wall Street Journal, can it be any clearer than this?
* * *
The Wall Street Journal downplays global warming risks once again (The Guardian)
The fact is that the actual peer-reviewed scientific research shows that (a) the rate of warming over the past century is unprecedented as far back as the 20,000 years paleoclimate scientists are able to extend the record and (b) that warming can ONLY be explained by human influences.
Indeed, it is the RATE of warming that presents such risk to human civilization and our environment.
Climate scientists Michael Oppenheimer and Kevin Trenberth also took issue with Koonin’s assertion about the impact of human activity, saying,
Warming is well beyond natural climate variability and projected rates of change are potentially faster than ecosystems, farmers and societies can adapt to without major disruptions. Many details remain to be settled, and weather and natural variability will always mask some effects, especially regionally. But economic analysis of these risks supports substantial action beyond “no regrets” strategies. To argue otherwise as Koonin does is to ignore decades of research results.
Koonin primarily focused on the uncertainty in the specific impacts of continued rapid global warming. However, he glossed over the fact that those uncertainties range from generally bad impacts to potentially catastrophic impacts. Even in a best case scenario, climate science research indicates that we anticipate experiencing widespread coral mortality, hundreds of millions of people at risk of increased water stress, more damage from droughts and heat waves and floods, up to 30% of global species at risk for extinction, and declined global food production, for example.
Those are the anticipated impacts if we limit global warming to not much above 2°C warming as compared to pre-industrial levels. Accomplishing that would require intensive efforts to reduce human greenhouse gas emissions, and if we fail, the consequence will be far worse.
As Koonin noted in his piece, risk management is key in determining how to respond to the threats posed by climate change. On the one hand, we have a threat to the entire global climate on which every species on Earth relies, which humans are in the process of destabilizing at a rate more rapid than many species can adapt.
On the other hand, we have concerns about the impacts of climate policy on the economy. However, numerous studies have found that if done right, those policies can grow the economy, and will certainly be cheaper than paying for the damages of unabated climate change.
It’s critical to grasp not just that there are uncertainties about the impacts of climate change, but what those uncertainties tell us about the range of potential outcomes. It’s easy to simply say “the impacts are uncertain,” but when those uncertainties range from bad to catastrophic, taking action to mitigate the threat is a no-brainer. Additionally, larger uncertainty means that we can’t rule out the most catastrophic potential impacts, and actually makes the case for taking action stronger, as a study published earlier this year showed.
The bottom line is that while there are and always will be uncertainties in climate science that require further research, it’s already been several decades since we’ve understood climate change well enough to justify taking serious action to solve the problem. The longer we wait, the costlier those actions become, and the worse the impacts of human-caused global warming will be. The hundreds of thousands of people who marched yesterday understand that, but the Murdoch media hasn’t caught up yet.
If Horton could hear a Who, there’s no reason the rest of us can’t hear the warnings about climate change.Photograph: c. 20th Century Fox / Everett / Rex Features
All of Dr Seuss’s children’s books – or, at least, the best ones – are sly, radical humanitarian and environmental parables. That’s why, for example, The Lorax was banned in some Pacific Northwest districts where logging was the chief economy.
Or there’s Horton Hears a Who: if you weren’t a child (or reading to a child) recently, it’s about an elephant with acute hearing who hears a cry from a dust speck. He comes to realize the dust speck is a planet in need of protection, and does his best for it.
Of course, all the other creatures mock – and then threaten – Horton for raising an alarm over something they can’t see. (Dissent is an easy way to get yourself ostracized or worse, as any feminist receiving online death threats can remind you.) And though Seuss was reportedly inspired by the situation in post-war Japan when he wrote the book, but its parable is flexible enough for our time.
You could call the scientists and the climate activists of our present moment our Hortons. They heard the cry a long time ago, and they’ve been trying to get the rest of the world to listen. They’ve had to endure attacks, mockery, and lip service … but mostly just obliviousness to what they’re saying and what it demands of us.
Recent polling data suggests most of us do want to see things change. “Two in three Americans (66%) support the Congress and president passing laws to increase energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy as a way to reduce America’s dependence on fossil fuels,” reports the US Climate Action Network. But I hear firsthand from people who aren’t particularly informed and still tell me that they are avoiding thinking about climate because it’s too late.
It is nearly too late, because we’ve know about climate change for 25 years, but the most informed scientists think that we do have a chance and some choices, if we make them now.
To listen to such scientists is an amazing and sometimes terrifying thing: they fully comprehend what systemic collapse means and where we are in that process. They – and others who pay attention to the data – see how terrible the possibilities are, but they also see the possibilities for averting the worst.
Seuss’s Horton was alone. Climate activists in the United States are a minority, but there are vast numbers of people across the world who know how serious the situation is, who are facing it and who are listening and asking for action. Some of them will be with us when the biggest climate march in history takes place on Sunday in New York City – starting on the southern edge one of the nation’s largest urban green spaces, Central Park, running around Times Square and then moving west to the Hudson River – to demand that the UN get serious with this attempt to hammer out a climate change treaty at its summit next week.
A whole lot more people are going to come together to demand that our political leaders do something about climate than have done so before. In a symbolic action, at 12:58pm local time, they will observe a collective couple of minutes of silence dedicated to the past. Wherever you are on Sunday, you can join us in observing that silence and remembering the millions displaced last year by the kinds of floods and storms that climate change augments, or the residents of island nations whose homes are simply disappearing under the waves; the small shellfish whose shells are dissolving or the species that have died out altogether; the elderly and inform who have died in our longer, hotter heatwaves or the people who died in New York’s Hurricane Sandy not quite two years ago.
At 1pm local time, we will face the future, and demand that our leaders face the music. The marchers will make two minutes of noise, and every pot-banger, church-bell-ringer, hornblower and drummer on earth is invited to join in. Churches are invited to ring their bells; synagogues to blow their shofars; mosques to use their loudspeakers; secular humanists to get their brass bands on. Get your own pots and pans, or your trumpets and whistles.
We needed someone to ring the alarm all these decades of inaction. On Sunday don’t wait to hear it from someone else: make some noise yourself. It’s time to start making the future we hope for instead of waiting for the one we fear.
I wish that I could write a pat ending for the story of how we saved the earth, but that is, so to speak, all up in the air right now.
But at the end of Horton Hears a Who, the small people of Whoville decide to make a huge roar so that everyone else could hear them: they all roar and bang and blast, but it takes a boy named Jojo (playing with his yoyo) to add his yapping voice to the roar for them to become audible.
This is our planet: our little blue sphere in the Orion Spur of the Milky Way Galaxy, with the beautifully elaborate systems of birds and insects and weather and flowering plants all working together – or that used to work together, and which are now falling apart. And it’s your voice that’s needed, so raise it on Sunday. Join the roar, so that everyone who wasn’t listening finally has to hear.
• This article was updated on 17 September 2014 to reflect that the the New York City Police Department only granted the People’s Climate March permission to march to Sixth Avenue, and not all the way to the United Nations building on First Avenue.
Anarcho-primitivists are the ultimate Luddites — ideologues who favor complete technological relinquishment and a return to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. We spoke to a leading proponent to learn more about this idea and why he believes civilization was our worst mistake.
Philosopher John Zerzan wants you to get rid of all your technology — your car, your mobile phone, your computer, your appliances — the whole lot. In his perfect world, you’d be stripped off all your technological creature comforts, reduced to a lifestyle that harkens back to when our hunter-gatherer ancestors romped around the African plains.
Photo via Cast/John Zerzan/CC
You see, Zerzan is an outspoken advocate of anarcho-primitivism, a philosophical and political movement predicated under the assumption that the move from hunter-gatherer to agricultural subsistence was a stupendously awful mistake — an existential paradigm shift that subsequently gave rise to social stratification, coercion, alienation, and unchecked population growth. It’s only through the abandonment of technology, and a return to “non-civilized” ways of being — a process anarcho-primitivists call “wilding” — that we can eliminate the host of social ills that now plagues the human species.
As an anarchist, Zerzan is opposed to the state, along with all forms of hierarchical and authoritarian relations. The crux of his argument, one inspired by Karl Marx and Ivan Illich, is that the advent of technologies irrevocably altered the way humans interact with each other. There’s a huge difference, he argues, between simple tools that stay under the control of the user, and those technological systems that draw the user under the control of those who produce the tools. Zerzan says that technology has come under the control of an elite class, thus giving rise to alienation, domestication, and symbolic thought.
Zerzan is not alone in his views. When the radical Luddite Ted “the Unabomber” Kasczinski was on trial for killing three people and injuring 23, Zerzan became his confidant, offering support for his ideas but condemning his actions (Zerzan recentlystated that he and Kasczinski are “not on terms anymore.”) Radicalized groups have also sprung up promoting similar views, including a Mexican group called the Individualists Tending Toward the Wild — a group with the objective “to injure or kill scientists and researchers (by the means of whatever violent act) who ensure the Technoindustrial System continues its course.” Back in 2011, this group sent several mail bombs to nanotechnology lab and researchers in Latin America, killing two people.
Looking ahead to the future, and considering the scary potential for advanced technologies such as artificial superintelligence and robotics, there’s the very real possibility that these sorts of groups will start to become more common — and more radicalized (similar to the radical anti-technology terrorist group Revolutionary Independence From Technology (RIFT) that was portrayed in the recent Hollywood film, Transcendence).
But Zerzan does not promote or condone violence. He’d rather see the rise of the “Future Primitive” come about voluntarily. To that end, he uses technology — like computers and phones — to get his particular message across (he considers it a necessary evil). That’s how I was able to conduct this interview with him, which we did over email.
io9: Anarcho-primitivism is as much a critique of modernity as is it a prescription for our perceived ills. Can you describe the kind of future you’re envisioning?
Zerzan: I want to see mass society radically decentralized into face-to-face communities. Only then can the individual be both responsible and autonomous. As Paul Shepard said, “Back to the Pleistocene!”
As an ideology, primitivism is fairly self-explanatory. But why add the ‘anarcho’ part to it? How can you be so sure there’s a link between more primitive states of being and the diminishment of power relations and hierarchies among complex primates?
The anarcho part refers to the fact that this question, this approach, arose mainly within an anarchist or anti-civilization milieu. Everyone I know in this context is an anarchist. There are no guarantees for the future, but we do know that egalitarian and anti-hierarchical relations were the norm with Homo for 1-2 million years. This is indisputable in the anthropological literature.
Then how do you distinguish between tools that are acceptable for use versus those that give rise to “anti-hierarchical relations”?
Those tools that involve the least division of labor or specialization involve or imply qualities such as intimacy, equality, flexibility. With increased division of labor we moved away from tools to systems of technology, where the dominant qualities or values are distancing, reliance on experts, inflexibility.
But tool use and symbolic language are indelible attributes of Homo sapiens — these are our distinguishing features. Aren’t you just advocating for biological primitivism — a kind of devolution of neurological characteristics?
Anthropologists (e.g. Thomas Wynn) seem to think that Homo had an intelligence equal to ours at least a million years ago. Thus neurology doesn’t to enter into it. Tool use, of course, has been around from before the beginning of Homo some 3 million years ago. As for language, it’s quite debatable as to when it emerged.
Early humans had a workable, non-destructive approach, that did not generally speaking involve much work, did not objectify women, and was anti-hierarchical. Does this sound backward to you?
You’ve got some provocative ideas about language and how it demeans or diminishes experience.
Every symbolic dimension — time, language, art, number — is a mediation between ourselves and reality. We lived more directly, immediately before these dimensions arrived, fairly recently. Freud, the arch-rationalist, thought that we once communicated telepathically, though I concede that my critique of language is the most speculative of my forays into the symbolic.
You argue that a hunter-gatherer lifestyle is as close to the ideal state of being as is possible. The Amish, on the other hand, have drawn the line at industrialization, and they’ve subsequently adopted an agrarian lifestyle. What is it about the advent of agriculture and domestication that’s so problematic?
In the 1980s Jared Diamond called the move to domestication or agriculture “the worst mistake humans ever made.” A fundamental shift away from taking what nature gives to the domination of nature. The inner logic of domestication of animals and plants is an unbroken progression, which always deepens and extends the ethos of control. Now of course control has reached the molecular level with nanotechnology, and the sphere of what I think is the very unhealthy fantasies of transhumanist neuroscience and AI.
In which ways can anarcho-primitivism be seen as the ultimate green movement? Do you see it that way?
We are destroying the biosphere at a fearful rate. Anarcho-primitivism seeks the end of the primary institutions that drive the destruction: domestication/civilization and industrialization. To accept “green” and “sustainable” illusions ignores the causes of the all-enveloping undermining of nature, including our inner nature. Anarcho-primitivism insists on a deeper questioning and helps identify the reasons for the overall crisis.
Tell us about the anarcho-primitivist position on science.
The reigning notion of what is science is an objectifying method, which magnifies the subject-object split. “Science” for hunter-gatherers is very basically different. It is based on participation with living nature, intimacy with it. Science in modernity mainly breaks reality down into now dead, inert fragments to “unlock” its “secrets.” Is that superior to a forager who knows a number of things from the way a blade of grass is bent?
Well, being trapped in an endless cycle of Darwinian processes doesn’t seem like the most enlightened or moral path for our species to take. Civilization and industrialization have most certainly introduced innumerable problems, but our ability to remove ourselves from the merciless “survival of the fittest” paradigm is a no-brainer. How could you ever convince people to relinquish the gifts of modernity — things like shelter, food on-demand, vaccines, pain relief, anesthesia, and ambulances at our beckon call?
It is reality that will “convince” people — or not. Conceivably, denial will continue to rule the day. But maybe only up to a point. If/when it can be seen that their reality is worsening qualitatively in every sphere a new perspective may emerge. One that questions the deep un-health of mass society and its foundations. Again, non-robust, de-skilled folks may keep going through the motions, stupefied by techno-consumerism and drugs of all kinds. Do you think that can last?
Most futurists would answer that things are getting better — and that through responsible foresight and planning we’ll be able to create the future we imagine.
“Things are getting better”? I find this astounding. The immiseration surrounds us: anxiety, depression, stress, insomnia, etc. on a mass scale, the rampage shootings now commonplace. The progressive ruin of the natural world. I wonder how anyone who even occasionally picks up a newspaper can be so in the dark. Of course I haven’t scratched the surface of how bad it is becoming. It is deeply irresponsible to promote such ignorance and projections.
That’s a very presentist view. Some left-leaning futurists argue, for example, that ongoing technological progress (both in robotics and artificial intelligence) will lead to an automation revolution — one that will free us from dangerous and demeaning work. It’s very possible that we’ll be able to invent our way out of the current labor model that you’re so opposed to.
Technological advances have only meant MORE work. That is the record. In light of this it is not quite cogent to promise that a more technological mass society will mean less work. Again, reality anyone??
Transhumanists advocate for the iterative improvement of the human species, things like enhanced intelligence and memory, the elimination of psychological disorders (including depression), radical life extension, and greater physical capacities. Tell us why you’re so opposed to these things.
Why I am opposed to these things? Let’s take them in order:
Enhanced intelligence and memory? I think it is now quite clear that advancing technology in fact makes people stupider and reduces memory. Attention span is lessened by Tweet-type modes, abbreviated, illiterate means of communicating. People are being trained to stare at screens at all times, a techno-haze that displaces life around them. I see zombies, not sharper, more tuned in people.
Elimination of psychological disorders? But narcissism, autism and all manner of such disabilities are on the rise in a more and more tech-oriented world.
Radical life extension? One achievement of modernity is increased longevity, granted. This has begun to slip a bit, however, in some categories. And one can ponder what is the quality of life? Chronic conditions are on the rise though people can often be kept alive longer. There’s no evidence favoring a radical life extension.
Greater physical capacities? Our senses were once acute and we were far more robust than we are now under the sign of technology. Look at all the flaccid, sedentary computer jockeys and extend that forward. It is not I who doesn’t want these thing; rather, the results are negative looking at the techno project, eh?
Do you foresee the day when a state of anarcho-primitivism can be achieved (even partially by a few enthusiasts)?
A few people cannot achieve such a future in isolation. The totality infects everything. It all must go and perhaps it will. Do you think people are happy with it?
Zerzan’s critique of civilization is certainly interesting and worthy of discussion. There’s no doubt that technology has taken humanity along a path that’s resulted in massive destruction and suffering, both to ourselves and to our planet and its animal inhabitants.
But there’s something deeply unsatisfying with the anarcho-primitivist prescription — that of erasing our technological achievements and returning to a state of nature. It’s fed by a cynical and defeatist world view that buys into the notion that everything will be okay once we regress back to a state where our ecological and sociological footprints are reduced to practically nil. It’s a way of eliminating our ability to make an impact on the world — and onto ourselves.
It’s also an ideological view that fetishizes our ancestral past. Despite Zerzan’s cocksure proclamations to the contrary, our paleolithic forebears were almost certainly hierarchical and socially stratified. There isn’t a single social species on this planet — whether they’re primates or elephants or cetaceans — that doesn’t organize its individuals according to capability, influence, or level of reproductive fitness. Feeling “alienated,” “frustrated,” and “controlled” is an indelible part of the human condition, regardless of whether we live in tribal arrangements or in the information age. The anarcho-primitivist fantasy of the free and unhindered noble savage is just that — a fantasy. Hunter-gatherers were far from free, coerced by the demands of biology and nature to mete out an existence under the harshest of circumstances.