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Even climate change experts and activists might be in denial

Posted on 6 December 2014 by Guest Author

By Steffen Böhm, University of Essex and Aanka Batta, University of Essex

Another month, another important UN climate change conference. The latest is in Lima, the capital of Peru. Thousands of experts from the world of politics, business, academia and civil society – and Leonardo DiCaprio – have flown around the world to urge us all to curb our carbon emissions.

Recent meetings have failed to make significant progress. Yet, this year there are high hopes that the US-China climate deal and the New York UN Climate Summit will allow Lima to provide a stepping stone for a binding emissions agreement at next year’s meeting in Paris.

However, even if a deal can be reached – despite the urgent need for it – there is no guarantee that global greenhouse gas emissions will actually come down significantly and dangerous climate change can be averted. Psychoanalytic theory provides disturbing insights into why this may be so – and it is all to do with the split psychological make-up of those who work at the forefront of climate science, policy and activism.

Climate denial can be unconscious

For at least a century, psychoanalysis has taught us that we might be consciously thinking and saying one thing, but unconsciously doing another. In this context that means people are very consciously aware of the threats posed by climate change, even if they aren’t doing too much about it.

Not a week goes by without the media showing catastrophic images of environmental damage and social suffering seemingly caused by a changing climate. Research suggests that such threats lead us to adopt various unconscious coping and defence mechanisms.

Many people try to keep the catastrophe at bay or deny it is happening. Vested interests such as the Koch brothers in the US and other conservative forces have cleverly exploited this unconscious response by supporting a small group of scientists, politicians and think tanks to spread the message of climate scepticism and denial.

This stuff works. Climate denial is undoubtedly on the rise, particularly in those media-saturated markets of North America, Europe and Australia. The Kochs and others are clearly filling a psychological void. Research has also shown that “people want to protect themselves a little bit”, particularly in times of crisis and uncertainty. If climate change simply isn’t happening, there’s nothing to worry about.

Another popular coping and defence mechanism is to pretend that we can address this global and urgent problem by tinkering at the edges of “business as usual”. For example, politicians and business leaders widely believe that we can achieve a decarbonisation of the global economy while maintaining high economic growth. Social psychologist Matthew Adams says such a response is part of an unconscious coping mechanism that simply implies that we have pushed the problem onto a distant future.

As the geographer Erik Swyngedouw shows, climate change politics could in fact be seen as a “post-political” phenomenon where apocalyptic images of environmental destruction and human suffering are used to justify swift action without allowing any real political and economic choices. For example, while on one day the UK government is acknowledging that climate change is already having stark impacts on developing countries by pledging £720m to poor countries, another day of the political calendar is dominated by rhetoric that emphasises economic growth and even the expansion of the oil and gas industry in the UK.

Urgent action on climate change is thus to be implemented within a business-as-usual framework of high growth and high consumption, despite growing evidence that such growth doesn’t make us happier and that it is very likely to deliver increasing carbon emissions for years and decades to come.

In psychosocial theory these defence mechanisms are also referred to as “splitting”. Consciously we might be talking about the impending sustainability crisis, but unconsciously we find ways to actually maintain the status quo. This is also true for those climate experts who fly around the world, going from one global climate change summit to the next. The very carbon emissions associated with their work can be seen as part of a denial strategy.

In fact, one could argue that those who are very close to the reality of climate change are particularly prone to a need to split their identity. The knowledge they have, and the images they have seen, might unconsciously lead them to the above-mentioned counter-balancing and coping behaviours. Not a good omen for the latest round of climate talks in Peru.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Comments 1 to 24:

  1. From a recent world wide poll of over 6 million conducted by the United Nations (, climate change is placed last in a list of 16 items of concern to people (   Why is this so? Lack of effective communication? Lack of interest? Not affecting people's daily lives? No incentives to change habits? Don't believe the science?  

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  2. Interesting survey - it is hardly lack of communication, since in the countries where these issues are most effectively communicated (Western Europe, North American, Australia, New Zealand) action on climate change rises into the Top 10. For example, in Western Europe it is the 6th most important issue, ranking just a hundred votes or so below "Freedom from Discrimination and Persecution".

    You can also note that many issues ranking above action on climate change overlap with it heavily. You cannot address reliable energy, or access to clean water, or protection for rivers and forests, or affordable food, without bumping up against climate change in some form or other.

    In other words, this is a complex output that demands more than a superficial reading. 

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  3. Sou has a post on the survey here

    Climate action priorities of the populace

    AS she points out, it is an internet poll, therefore suspect, though the sample is huge.

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  4. I disagree with the article. You don't have to jump out of a ship to question the route it's taking.

    Virtually everything you do today emits carbon. Leo DiCaprio could not make a film, and people could not watch it  without emiting carbon. Skeptical Science could not be a website without carbon-based electricity to run the internet providers or people's computers. This does not mean denial. This means our society is based on a unsustainable system that requires polluting the atmosphere until -if unabated- it wrecks nature and agriculture.

    I'm all for iniciatives to emit less, both individual and collective ones. I plant trees and gave up gasoline in my car (I use sugar cane ethanol). I recycle as much as I can, and help other households do so as well with my personal time and effort. I try to use as little electricity as possible. And I know this is not nearly enough to curb emissions.

    If someone wants to campaign or lobby or research for a change in this system, he or she will have to travel, use electricty, eat food, wear clothes. This all has a carbon footprint today. I encourage this campaigner to be as effective and energy efficient as he can, but by all means, he should go on and do his work as well as he can, with my blessings.

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  5. Alexandre @4,

    Burning non-renewable buried hydrocarbons simply cannot be continued. Not only does the activity produce harmful consequences, not just excess CO2, it is simply a dead-end activity.

    The future of humanity requires no person to succeed in benefiting from burning the stuff, except temporary benefit obtained exclusively by the least fortunate to develop to sustainable ways of living. The richest should be required to live totally sustainably.

    The reality is that there already is not enough that is easily available for everyone to burn as much as they want. We already have had many vicious global battles as greedy pursuers fight over the ability to benefit more than others while they disguise and excuse their pursuits as 'fights for freedom' or whatever other deception might gather 'sufficient' popular support in the moment.

    There are already many developed ways to live decently without burning any non-renewable buried hydrocarbons. The problem is the perception that "it is impossible to live decently without burning the stuff". And the largest promoters of that delusion are the people who have the greatest potential to personally profit from prolonging the burning of the stuff. That said, it is clear that anyone enjoying an unsustainable and damaging lifestyle would 'get less personal enjoyment' from living more sustainably. The resistance to giving up any excess pleasure and enjoyment is the real problem.

    Future generations have no vote, marketing power, legal power, or investment and purchasing power today. That continues to keep people who are immersed in current day over-consumptive socioeconomic activity focused on things that are popular and profitable for themselves in their region in their time, to the detriment of others and the future.

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  6. I take issue with the statement:

    Climate denial is undoubtedly on the rise, particularly in those media-saturated markets of North America, Europe and Australia.

    The data does not bear that out - for example in this George Mason U Poll: In Jan 2012, the number of people who "Believe Global Warming is Happening" was 57%, that peaked at 70% in 2012, but has been stable at about 63% since 2013.

    Climate Change and the American Mind

    What we have seen is climate denial becoming entrenched, and becoming part of the group identity of a whole political class, which may be a minority, but a powerful and influential one. It is not as simple as just following where the science leads any more.

    My understanding is that the IPCC Report states that it is possible to maintain the 2C limit with economic growth, but with an impact obviously.

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  7. Professor Kevin Anderson stated in a speech in 2012 that we have not yet begun to counternace the changes we need to make.  This still holds true.

    Talk of putting in another airport etc rather than discussing shutting them down for example. Until the wider community starts to realise what's needed, all I can do is cut my CO2e emissions to as close to 2t per annum as I can, engage my peers and friends in debate about reduction and only vote for politiacns that have effective mitigation as part of their climate policy.

    I don't agree with 5's approach of trying to educate his congressmen, just let them kow they can't count on your vote because of their support for climate denial.  Same here in Australia, neither the ALP or the LNP have effective mitigation policies, so anyone concerned with climate change who thinks effective mitigation should be part of policy and votes for either is wasting their vote. Yet 90% or so of my fellow Australians vote for them, this shows me denial is at least 90%, regardless of what they may say in a poll.

    Same with 7. I think that was the point of the article, denial is increasing necasue emissions are incerasing, saying you're concered about climate change and then flying to Bali for holkdays is the crux of what the article was about.

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  8. Another way to think about the issue is to understand that those who are more aware and better understanding of what is going on actually understand that the current developed lifestyle of the highest per-capita consumers is illigitimate and unacceptable. They are aware that the pleasures of abundant carefree damaging consumption are unsustainable. Yet they want all the personal benefit they have gotten away with developing a taste for, and more.

    Their desire to have the amount of enjoyment they get always be increasing leads them to demand that the solution to this issue, and so many others, must be the development of a way for them to continue to get all the enjoyment they are fond of getting away with, and more. Any alternative has to be cheaper and more enjoyable for them.

    They fail to understand that the starting point for development which could constantly improve conditions for everyone on this amazing planet is for many among the most fotunate to actually accept a step down, a reduction of excess personal pleasure, comfort and convenience. The current developed enjoyment of most of the most fortunate that everyone else aspires to develop to is clearly undeserved, unsustainable and even currently impossible for everyone to develop to, let alone in the future when there is a dramatically diminished amount of easy to access non-renewable resources to fight over.

    The impossibility and unacceptability of what many people want is clearly evident, yet they struggle to admit it, because they like what they have developed a taste for. They like to benefit at the expense of others, particularly at the expense future generatons or slave workers in foreign lands who cannot effectively challenge them regarding their inconsiderate attitudes and actions.

    In other words many people like to get away with whatever they think they can get away with, and will even try to get away with not thinking about the unacceptability of what they are getting away with.

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  9. I keep, unapologetically, coming back to the fundamental problem: overpopulation.

    The sustainable planetary population - with a modern standard of living - is probably less than 2-3 Bn.

    Unless this is recognised an addressed we are bashing our heads against the brick wall - and climate change is only one aspect of the sustainability question.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Please cite recent reports and/or peer-reviewed papers that underpin you position.  

  10. Wol at 23:45 PM on 8 December, 2014

    If I remember right, James Lovelock put that figure in 500 million people.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Please validate the figure you cite and provide context. 

  11. JH (moderator),

    I actually read that in one of his books, and I would have to be home to look for that... but a quick search on Google gave me this:

    "He [Lovelock] also criticized growing demography, which causes pollution and over-exploitation of natural resources, stating that if the world population amounted to 500 million people none of the environmental problems that the world was then (and still is) facing would exist." (link)

    Although I find that figure plausible, I don't think he provides details of the reasoning that led to it, even in his book.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Thank you. As they say, "context is everything."

  12. I am wondering about this: Do folks in the 'middle of the bell curve' who are aware of climate change, but in a 'peripheral' manner, look at headlines like "nations pledge to cut emissions 30%", etc. and believe that this means that GHG concentration in the atmosphere will actually decline?  I am willing to bet that this is the case...that many people simply do not realize that, in a very best case scenario , the world reduces GHG emissions let's say 30% below today's levels by 2030 (taking into account that 'developing' nations will almost certainly not agree to ween off fossil fuels) that a significant amount of carbon will STILL be added on to the, by that time, 430 or so ppm CO2 level?....and that permafrost tipping points and carbon sink saturations could very well be 'exponentializing' the Keeling Curve by that point? In summary, my strong suspicion is that humans, for the most part, simply do not and will not 'grok' non-linear change and feedback loops until the on-the-ground destruction simply 'punches them in the face'.

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  13. I challenge any suggestion that 500 million people would be sustainable by highlighting how long humanity should be able to enjoy being a sustainable part of the robust diversity of life on this amazing planet.

    The accumulating impacts of pollution are one thing, but a more relevant issue is that the consumption of any non-renewable resources, particularly burning them up, is unsustainable for almost any amount of human population.

    The University of East Anglia recently released a report here forecasting that the Earth could be habitable for humans for 1.75 Billion more years.

    With that knowledge, common sense is all that is required to recognise that the consumption of non-renewable resources needs to be curtailed from human activity in order for humanity to sustain itself through that amount of time. Some may argue that figuring out how to live that way is someone elses problem, or that they will be willing to live that way if someone else makes it cheaper and more enjoyable for them to do so (and refusing to accept higher costs for not living that way). Those are clearly poor excuses for not wanting to participate in supporting the rapid development of what is required for the future of humanity.

    What is clearly required is the rapid curtailing of any benefit being obtained by already fortunate people from the burning of buried hydrocarbons. That would 'motivate' the development of sustainable ways of living. And there needs to be no different national rules for that requirement. Every very fortunate person should be required to behave far better, stop trying to benefit from the burning of the stuff, no matter what nation they are in. The only justified beneficiaries should be the poorest of the poor who would only benefit for the short time it takes the more fortunate to help them to transition to a sustainable decent life, with none of the 'helping more fortunate people' getting any benefit from the assistance being provided.

    I believe that can help clarify why there is so much resistance to climate science and so many other developing better understandings of the unsustainable and damaging nature of popular and profitable activities. Many people do not like the thought of it. It requires an admission that they are not fully deserving of the 'good life they are enjoying'. And some of them prefer to believe that all would be great if there were fewer people. What they fail to realize is that the best benefit for the future of humanity would be for the 'reduced population to be exclusively the lowest consuming and impacting humans.

    My preference would be for the highest consumption-impact people to willingly change their ways rather than being forced to behave better. However, it is clear that some people are very reluctant to participate responsibly toward the rapid development of a suatainable better future. And there is little point in asking them 'what they are willing to do'. They are clearly willing to try to get away with the most unacceptable behaviour they are able to.

    Hopefully the number of real considerate leaders has increased since the last time global representatives tried to collectively effectively develop toward a sustainable better future for all. What is required is clearly understood by all the global representatives. Who stands in the way is also easy to see.

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  14. One Planet, it isn't that simple.

    You say, "...common sense is all that is required to recognise that the consumption of non-renewable resources needs to be curtailed from human activity...".

    Sure, that makes sense... except that consumption of those non-renewable resources may eventually be replaced by renewable options that wouldn't have been possible without the advancements made using the non-renewables. If we had curtailed use of coal we wouldn't have had the abundant cheap electricity which allowed a mass computing environment... which led to the development of solar and wind power cheap enough to now begin replacing the coal.

    Ditto, "Every very fortunate person should be required to behave far better, stop trying to benefit from the burning of the stuff...". Again, that seems 'fair'... except that those fortunate people, by virtue of their better resources, education, stability, et cetera have the ability to develop new technologies which then in turn greatly benefit the less fortunate people. Look at what solar PV, previously a toy only affordable by the rich, is now doing in remote areas of India, Africa, Australia, and other places that never had electricity before. 

    Personally, I don't see the 'conflict' over global warming policy as between 'populations of countries with high standards of living vs those with low standards of living' at all. At this point, it should be clear that moving away from fossil fuels will be hugely beneficial to both of those groups. The only people who will really be hurt by such a transition are those who make profits from selling fossil fuels. Pitting 'wealthy' vs 'poor' populations just plays into the hands of those selling the lie that prosperity depends on fossil fuel use. That used to be the case, but for much of the world (and soon all of it) there are now better options.

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  15. One Planet Only Forever @14, our species is just 200 thousand years old.  Mammal species on average become extinct within 1 to 2 million years of evolving, and those with more rapidly changing conditions of life (which certainly includes humans) tend to have shorter durations than average.  It is, therefore, absurd to cite the expected time until the Earth's oceans boil due to the increasing heat of the Sun as the expected life span of our species, or the benchmark for sustainability.  In under half that time, life on Earth went from bacteria and archaea, to eukaryotic life and then multicellular organism on up to modern species.  In a fifth of that time, all fossil fuels formed.  If humans and nearly all modern life went extinct tomorrow, there is no reason to think the process could not largely repeat itself well before the Sun draws the veil on life on Earth.

    A far more sensible horizon for sustainability is a thousand years.  If a civilization can live for a thousand years with no substantial change in its resource base and environmental conditions, it can do so effectively for ever.  Arguably the same could be said if we reduced that horizon to 200 years.

    With that in mind, almost the sole precondition for a sustainable civilization is abundant, cheap, sustainable energy.  That possibility may be just decades away.  The recent entry of Lockheed into the area of fusion gives some (guarded) reason to hope.   More certain are the prospects of wind energy dropping to a third of current costs within less than a decade.

    With sufficient sustainable energy, water needs can be provided through desalinization so that sustainability of water supply is not hard limit.  (Indeed, absent revolutions in energy storage technology, water desalinization is a ideal marriage with intermittent sustainable energy, being able to soak up excess power when generated, and cease operation when energy generation is low.)  Land use for habitation is not a problem.  The current 7 billion only occupy 3% of the world's surface in urban areas, so a doubling or even trippling of population is compatible healthy ecosystems in that regard.

    The other genuine concern is food.  We already eat in excess of sustainable quantities of wild food, and (probably) use more than sustainable land area for agriculture.  With sufficient cheap energy, however, low quality food can be produced in whatever quantity we need via hydroponics.  The question of whether the Earth can support a sustainable population of 3.4 billion or 34 billion (ie, double the expected peak population) therefore becomes a question of what dietary quantities and qualities are we prepared to live with.

    More importantly, as the 17 billion is essentially locked already, the real question is can we find a way to transition to sustainability with a population of 17 billion in 2050.  If we cannot, discussion of sustainable populations is moot in any event as the Earth's population and technological capability will crash.  If we can, and I think we can, then the sustainable population will be a lot closer to that 17 billion than to 7 billion or else we would not be able to make the transition.

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  16. CBDunkerson,
    I would counter your claim about the 'developments' achieved so far by suggesting that few of them are a result of the motivation of the socioeconomic system to try to maximise personal benefit from activity that has become better understood to be unsustainable or damaging. That motivation has clearly been the fundamental drive of development in the past and the present. It is also the main driver against accepting the developing better understanding of climate science.

    Many wonderful developments, like the electricity and lighting for the poor you refer to, have been the result of deliberate defiance of the motivation of the socioeconomic system by a few caring and considerate people. I see the efforts of caring charitable people who act contrary to the motivations of the socioeconomic system as admirable but challenged by the increased creation of troubles by those who prefer to be guided by and excuse the motivation of the socioeconomic system.

    And I never said this was a fight between rich and poor nations. I said the most fortunate should not be trying to obtain even more personal benefit from the unsustainable and damaging burning of buried non-renewable hydrocarbons. I went further and said the already more fortunate should not be allowed to further their benefit from the activities. Since necessity is truly the Mother of Invention, the ones who are fortunate, even if only by the luck of being born into the nation they were born in, should be expected to strive to be inventive and creative to more rapidly develop better sustainable ways of living. They should not be motivated to excuse the unsustainable and harmful way they obtain more comfort and convenience or wealth and power.

    In the end we agree that the future needs to be without the burning of fossil fuels. But unless there is a fundamental change to the socioeconomic system 'both rich and poor' will not benefit from the change.

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  17. Tom Curtis,
    I may be more optimistic about the future of humanity. I genuinely believe that humanity can thrive in constantly improving ways of living as a sustainable part of the robust diversity of life on this amazing planet for the 1.75 billion years it is estimated to be habitable.

    Your reference to a civilization is a limited view I must admit I do not see as relevant to the discussion of the global action required for the benefit of the future of humanity. And even the future for humanity is a limited perspective on the issue. The totality of life on this amazing planet is what matters. I would say there is room for many evolving civilizations to find niches as sustainable parts of the robust diversity of life. And any civilization that tries to survive without being a sustainable part of the robust diversity of life is indeed destined to fail if far less than 1000 years, hopefully before ruing things for everyone else, a common result of the motivations of the current socioeconomic system, trying to benefit in ways that are better understood to be damaging and unsustainable.

    As for the sustainability of a global civilization that consumes non-renewable resources surviving 200 years being considered 'sustainable' I would say that is getting into the semantics of the term. Admittedly sustainable can be the term something that continues or is sustained for one year. It is sustainable for the short term. The future for humanity is not short term. In fact, I believe once humanity figures out how to live sustainably on this planet it will have the ability to sustainably expand far beyond this planet.

    As for sustainable energy, we have always had the means to reduce our global energy demands and meet most of the demand with far less damaging and far more sustainable energy supply than the burning of fossil fuels, but that was never motivated to be developed by people acting in the socioeconomic system. The people acting in the system with its motivation to get benefit as quickly as possible any damaging and unsustainable way that can be gotten away with developed to the almost untenable position we are at today, and the wish is clearly to continue that way if it can be gotten away with.

    Another factor that comes up is something I referred to in my previous comment. People will only be willing to change to behave better if it is cheaper and more enjoyable for them than getting away with less acceptable behaviour.

    As for fresh water and food, there has always been more than enough, if there were no excessive and wasteful consumers. As you say it depends on what those consumers are willing to accept. And those consumers are motivated to be over-consumptive and less sustainable by the socioeconomic system.

    As for total global population the following report here indicates the peak expected global population could be less than 12 billion, not the 17 billion you refer to. The article refers to a book being written by Wolfgang Lutz and his colleagues at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Vienna, Austria, that suggest the peak global poppulation is likely to be less than 10 billion.

    There are many ways to think about this issue. I admit my thoughts are not that common. They always end up at the need for the socioeconomic system to be fundamentally changed so that humanity can actually most fully achieve what it can. Humanities best achievement requires each global generation to strive to develop the gift of a better future for all rather than pursuing the best possible present for themselves, especially when the ways that best present is pusued ruin things for the future.

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  18. One Planet wrote: "Many wonderful developments, like the electricity and lighting for the poor you refer to, have been the result of deliberate defiance of the motivation of the socioeconomic system by a few caring and considerate people."

    Frankly, I don't see how you can believe that. Thomas Edison invented the electric light bulb (and direct current), not for personal gain, but instead solely because he wanted to help the poor? Solar and wind power developers have no interest whatsoever in making money?

    No. The competitive greed driven 'socioeconomic system' which you villify is responsible for vast improvements in the standard of living of the human race as a whole. Would it be wonderful if we all worked for the mutual benefit of our fellow humans? Sure... but that's fantasy land. Analysis of the world based on fairy-tale foundations will always yield incorrect results.

    Also: "I went further and said the already more fortunate should not be allowed to further their benefit from the activities."

    I disagree. Apply this philosophy to any point in the past and the limits you place on the 'more fortunate' would do grievous harm to the 'less fortunate'. No coal powered rail-roads... no increase in mobility of poor populations. No great increase in fossil fuel burning to fuel the computer revolution... no advancement in computer driven technologies that benefit the poor. Many advancements which have benefited the rich have always also benefited the poor. The same seems inevitably true of the present and the future.

    Finally: "But unless there is a fundamental change to the socioeconomic system 'both rich and poor' will not benefit from the change."

    Again, I disagree. The limits on self-serving competition have been weakened in many parts of the world in recent decades and need to be rebuilt, but the general practice has been vastly beneficial to the human race. The 'socioeconomic system' requires tweaks to reign in the very very rich and give more opportunity to the majority, but nothing more.


    In some sense we seem to be debating percentages. You accuse something like most of the wealthiest 10% (?) of the global population of destructive self-interest... while I would instead limit it to a subset of the wealthiest 0.001%. The problem certainly exists, but I consider it concentrated to a few bad actors while you instead argue that it is systemic with only a few 'caring charitable people' keeping the whole thing from collapsing.

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  19. @Tom Curtis #16:

    The human race is on the cusp of creating Aticificial Intelligence (AI). Once that occurs, a new paradigm will exist. What this portends for the future of homo sapiens is a topic that is being hotly debated as we speak. For example, see:

    Stephen Hawking warns artificial intelligence could end mankind by Rory Cellan-Jones, BBC News, Dec 2, 2014


    Google’s Eric Schmidt: Don’t Fear the Artificially Intelligent Future by Izzie Lapowsky, Wired, Dec 9, 2014

    Your thoughts about this matter would be greatly appreciated.

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  20. CBDunkerson,

    From my perspective.

    When you say "Would it be wonderful if we all worked for the mutual benefit of our fellow humans? Sure... but that's fantasy land." you are affirming my assertion regarding the unacceptable attitudes and actions that are promoted by the socioeconomic system I assert needs to change.

    And when I refer to electricity for the poor I am referring to the technology you point to that is helping in Africa. That techjnology is not there through pursuits of profit. It was develeoped and deployed there through volunteer efforts and charitable actions contrary to the motivations of the global trade market. Smae goes for much of the clean water technology being developed and deployed to help the poorest of the poor.

    I also challenge your correlation of any benefit for the poor from mass-consumption industrialization. It can just as easily be claimed, and potentially more likely be justified, that 'labour laws and government intervention and progressive taxation to get the benefit of much of that activity delivered for the benefit of the poorest was required because allowing the wealthiest to benefit as much as they could get away with did not work well for anyone but the richest'. I admit some of the richest took their obligation to aid the poorest very seriously, but not all the richest were required to and those who cared least had the competetive advantage, and still do.

    I always have and always will say the ability of inconsiderate and intolerant people to succeed is the problem, and is never a potential solution. Many more fortunate people do care to help others. The problem is the more fortunate ones who have no such interest. Your attempts to group all rich vs. all poor is 'your perspective' not mine.

    The only way for all others, especially the poorest of the poor to have sustainably better circumstances far into the future is socioeconomic system changes to discoiurage the belief that inconsiderate and intolerant people should be able to succeed if they can drum up enough temporary unsustainable popular support or figure out a way to be profitable temporarily. There really is little defense for the current system. The global economy has grown many times faster than the global population yet there are still very many incredibly poor people. And the system has developed unacceptable unsustainable activities and entrenched resistance to the required changes to decent sustainable developments.

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  21. Here's a timely article speaking directly to some of the issues raised by commenters on his thread.

    How Millionaires Buy Up Farmland And Hoard All Our Water by Karen Piper, Alertnet, Nov 26, 2014

    The subtitle of Piper's article is:

    When FOX News stands up for "family farmers," they are really fighting for Murdoch's rich friends.

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  22. One Planet, I wish you the best of luck in your quest to make fundamental changes to human nature. I think you are basically beating your head against a wall, but I'd be more than thrilled if you somehow achieved the impossible.

    John Hartz, I've never really gotten the 'artificial intelligence' thing. Why would we even want to make an artificial intelligence? If there is one thing we don't have in short supply (just ask the 'overpopulation' people) it is natural intelligences. There are billions of natural human intelligences out there... many of them barely being used (especially if they watch Fox News). So why would we want to make even more artificial ones?

    At this point people usually start talking about computing power and repetitive tasks and yadda yadda... but none of that is intelligence. Rather, that is processing speed and automation... which indeed could be vastly improved if guided directly by an intelligence rather than indirectly by a programmer or system user. So, why not give existing natural intelligences direct access to computer processing and automation? Same result, but no artificial intelligence required. Technology to transfer data to and from the human brain already exists, and will almost certainly be perfected long before true artificial intelligence. By the time we can create a true AI it shouldn't be any danger to us because much of the human race should be able to operate on a level playing field. Adding direct human decision making to existing computer automation yields the same results as full AI. Take automated vehicles for instance. Right now the state of the art can handle stop signs, pedestrians, traffic lights, and the vast majority of other situations which a car might encounter... but every so often they run into something they aren't programmed for (e.g. another car coming the wrong way down a one way street). Why would we need to wait for true AI to resolve that? Send the situation to an operator (in the car or remotely), they decide what to do (e.g. back out to let the police car going the wrong way pass) and then the automation software carries out that decision. Yes, it might take a human a second or two to make a decision like that while a computer could do so much faster, but we're talking about the difference between automating 99.99% vs 100% of most tasks. Both would fundamentally transform everything we do and create a world where 7 billion intelligences would be vastly more than we would ever need to make the requisite remaining decisions. The question then becoming... what will all those people do?

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  23. CBDunkerson,

    My pursuit is not impossible. It is only challenging because the current socioeconomic system grossly promotes the temptation to be inconsiderate and intolerant. That pairing of support can be seen as the core vote support target group of all political groups wanting to get away with unacceptable actions and attiitudes, from the vicious dictatorial and military controlled styles of leadership in developing nations to the vicious pursuers of financial gain any way they can get away with in developed 'democratic' nations.

    Altruism is also a fundamental human nature. It is naturally evident in young children (see a report here). And the beauty is that once an adult 'indoctrinated in a selfish consumerism society' realized that they actually have the choice regarding how they behave and they choose to be more altruistic and helpful to others, no amount of deceptive misleading marketing will change their mind again.

    I am only sharing the attitude I have learned from others. There are many people striving to develop a sustainable civil society and socioeconomic system. And this is nothing new. It was what Charles Dicken's was pushing for in his time.

    Admittedly mass-marketed comsumerism with its power of temptation increases the number of people who initially grow up to be selfish pursuers of their personal interest. But they can grow out of that attitude if they care to.

    Eventually those who don't care won't matter. As the problems their actions and attitudes create become unacceptably obvious they lose popular support.

    Hopefully this current spurt of successful bad behaviour won't be able to create too much damage before the 'unjustified success' is ended. And hopefully humanity learns how to keep future generations from ever again allowing the incosiderate and intolerant to succeed. That would be the way to ensure a constantly improved development of sustainable better future for all.

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  24. Mostly on target. But attachment to this position can become a black & white approach. After all, can't I save the world with some green app for cool shopping?! Rilly now, we gotta differentiate who should go to a climate conference and who's a waster. And, defensively I say, sail transport — even with auxiliary engines possible for a while longer — may be technically a "splitting" but is also essential for preparing for the fuckin' -(snip)- future. See

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    Moderator Response:

    [RH] Watch the tone, please.

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