“Leading climate scientist: ‘democratic process isn’t working'”

David Adam, Guardian
Protest and direct action could be the only way to tackle soaring carbon emissions, a leading climate scientist has said.

James Hansen, a climate modeller with Nasa, told the Guardian today that corporate lobbying has undermined democratic attempts to curb carbon pollution. “The democratic process doesn’t quite seem to be working,” he said…. “The first action that people should take is to use the democratic process. What is frustrating people, me included, is that democratic action affects elections but what we get then from political leaders is greenwash.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2009/mar/18/nasa-climate-change-james-hansen

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6 Responses to “Leading climate scientist: ‘democratic process isn’t working'”

  1. Eddie says:

    “I think that peaceful actions that attempt to draw society’s attention to the issue are not inappropriate,” Hansen said.

    While peaceful protest, made popular by Gandhi’s successful passive resistance (originated in Thoreau actually) in India to British rule, and used as well by King in the civil right’s movement in America, I argue that our modern ideological systems negate the effectiveness of such protest. Gandhi’s success was universally recognized, while King’s was seemingly successful, protests against the war in Vietnam added pressure to an administration almost universally under fire, and which heightened the outrage with violent engagement of protesters like Kent state and elsewhere. But since then, protests have been seemingly co-opted by the power structure. When there were massive international protests in 2002, Bush responded interestingly, by saying that he welcomed the protests, and commented what a great country we have that people can do that, get out and speak their mind, and this is exactly what he was bringing to Iraq. Free speech is essential to democracy, etc.

    Meanwhile, once the protest is over, the protesters themselves seem to go home satisfied that they have effected something, that they are happy that they have done their duty, until the next one.

    Meanwhile whatever changes in policy come from corporations faced with protest, the changes are symbolic and negligible, usually motivated by keeping up a public image, and the PR department will often make a press release and so on and so forth.

    So I argue that a statement like: “I think that peaceful actions that attempt to draw society’s attention to the issue are not inappropriate,” is a bit behind the times and a bit ignorant of the nature of things.

    And as far as Utopia goes, Thomas More wrote an entertaining book on it in the early 16th century.

  2. irkone says:

    I’m certain Hansen is well aware of the nature of things, including his censorship by consecutive administrations to muzzle warnings of tipping points and carbon emissions. Other quotes of Hansen’s, such as “We must begin now to move towards the era beyond fossil fuels”, and “Industrial civilization is the prime driver of global climate change” are too far ahead of the times for the majority of people in the first world to consider.

    If there is a beef with Hansen’s statement that it is appropriate to hang banners, stencil slogans on popular walkways or buildings, or distribute CDs to citizens at large which contain valuable, real information unedited by corporate press, then what alternative do you propose that is less ineffective?

  3. Eddie says:

    I am not convinced that these ideas are any longer truly subversive. Just take a look at the NYTimes section:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/20/science/earth/20bears.html?_r=1&partner=rss&emc=rss

    Appropriate to hang banners etc. For what end? The information is out there, it may be gotten for those who care to find it. Spreading the word about an issue is great, but what are we talking about? Political action within a system that is already well versed in co-opting it, and is the issue only ecology or shouldn’t hope foe a drastic policy change/paradigm shift/revolution be more hopeful when the rallying cries of ecologists are combined with the poor, the minority, the exploited and the over-policed? What form of government can meet these concerns, for surely ecology is not the only one.

  4. irkone says:

    An article on polar bears and melting ice is far more indirect and therefore newsworthy in our corporatocracy than the admission that we must move beyond the era of fossil fuels/cars/supermarkets. This information is out there, but FOX is in every living room! Why search for anything else if what appears in the mainstream news is “Fair and Balanced”? That is how life is. That is how it has always been. One works their whole life to retire in comfort. That is the American Dream. Allegiance has been pledged, Under God, with Liberty and Justice for All. The exploited? The poor? Get a job! Work harder! Terrorists!

    The rallying cries of ecologists, the exploited, the poor, etc. are, as Gil Scott Heron has professed, “not televised.” Therefore, the only way to propel grassroots movements is through spreading the word at grassroots levels – especially if one is operating within a system well versed at co-opting paradigm shifts. The bottom-up process in the creation of a critical mass necessary for any paradigm shift starts with spreading the word. That word, which ecologists, geologists, activists, etc. have been trying so desperately to publicize for decades, is that our current trajectory of industrial society is unsustainable, and unless that mental evolution occurs extremely soon, we will cause changes in the climate that are irreversible on a human timescale, affecting not only us, but every generation to follow. Then, they will comment, “Our parents are to blame,” and they will be exactly right.

  5. Eddie says:

    I think, that when the Times runs a story like that, or any of the other three on climate change in Thursday’s paper, that they are motivating their audience to realize that we must move beyond fossil fuels etc. The paper would not have much readership if they only ran demands of their readers. It is true that editorial control was used in not publishing certain stories on global warming in the past, but by and large, those days seem to be over. I would even argue that many of the stories that regularly appear in the blogosphere are not nearly as hard-hitting as some of the stuff that appears in the times.

    Fox news is in every home with cable, sure, but so is Democracy Now and anyone with a radio can listen to WNYC 820, or WABC 770, or The Daily Show for that matter. Fox has no monopoly.

    There has been a strong history of the Left in this country from union organizers to Socialist parties to Communist parties, and of course there has been suppression of information, and the murder of innocents for oppressive cause, but there have always been those who fought against the establishment, Vietnam, civil rights, etc.

    Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets…The extinction of polar bears sounds like a rallying cry to me, and one people may be more willing to listen to and I think the times does a fine job.

  6. irkone says:

    FOX may not have a monopoly as of yet, but its owner, Rupert Murdoch, has been increasing his stranglehold on the mainstream medias, is among the five who own the major cable networks, publishing and film companies, internet service providers, and predicts that there will be three large broadcast networks by 2015 (compared to the fifty or so established networks in 1980), and that his company will be one of them. Also, these people who sit on the boards of FOX, and GE (NBC) and Viacom (MTV, VH1), also sit on the boards of major universities and GM, Chrysler, etc. The President of Chrysler to an audience of reporters recently on the role of the auto industry: “Who’d buy the advertising for you to be standing here taking pictures? The auto industry is the majority buyer of advertising in America, the capillaries of the economy worldwide.”

    The Times is far ahead of other mainstream news outlets reporting what scientists and others have feared for decades. Even Thomas L. Friedman remarked in an article March 8th,
    “Let’s today step out of the normal boundaries of analysis of our economic crisis and ask a radical question: What if the crisis of 2008 represents something much more fundamental than a deep recession? What if it’s telling us that the whole growth model we created over the last 50 years is simply unsustainable economically and ecologically and that 2008 was when we hit the wall — when Mother Nature and the market both said: ‘No more.'”
    This, however, is realized at a time when the economy has already collapsed, tipping points have already been tipped, in brief, too little too late. Revolution, direct action, whatever form the shift takes, it will not help anyone in the long run – or even in the short term – unless they understand the gravity of the situation, the potential flux of hundreds of millions to billions of “eco-migrants” poleward, crossing national boundaries to areas scientist James Lovelock has deemed “safe havens.” This is the introduction to the conversation we should all be having now. Especially since the temperate Northeast and Canada are considered one of the areas most suitable to endure the coming converging storms.

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