Monday, 6 July 2009

When I heard the learn'd scientist...and his take on climate change

When I heard the Learn’d Astronomer

When I heard the learn’d astronomer;
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;
When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them;
When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick;
Till rising and gliding out, I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

I came across this poem to-day and it articulates for me how I feel about all those happy/sad people in community climate change groups around the suburbs of Australia who go around quoting so many parts per million, preaching James Hansen and David Spratt, and muttering Rudd doesn't understand, he doesn't understand.

Now don't get me wrong. I am not a science denier - I am a science listener and I listen to all sorts not just the above mentioned gentlemen. Which is more than a lot of the community activists do. For instance, mention Freeman Dyson to them and eyes pop. Never heard of him - in spite of the fact that he is one of the great intellects of the last century and this. If you pop over here you can hear a Science Show interview with Robyn Williams last year - or read the transcript - with Dyson's interesting take on what needs to be done on climate change: re-foresting the planet. And when did you last here anyone taking to the streets to ask for that?

For me, while the activists are focussing on emission trading schemes and how Copenhagen will turn out, governments across the world are making major decisions which impact adversely NOW on water and food security and yet comparatively little is heard on these issues.

In Australia, this means that phrases such as "qualification of right" and "social water" are entering our language - at least the language of those outside capital cities and major population centres. Developers continue to pay huge money in political donations to political parties and our precious arable land is subsumed by concrete and polluting people. And that is in well-off Australia.

Let's not forget the billions of people who can't afford to buy water from the multi-national corporates like Suez and Veolia and their subsidiaries. Let's not forget the huge numbers of people who forego their own food security in subsistence level agriculture so the World Bank can fund the building of huge dams with dubious long-term benefits. And.....

When the activists eventually get an emission trading scheme to their liking or to the point where there is little use campaigning because the general public are relatively satisfied and stopped listening, there will still be attitudes and behaviour to change that we have not begun to do. Will the community climate change activists be there for the hard yards then? I'm not sure because I don't see their sort of numbers flooding (excuse me please - no pun intended) into water campaigns and food security organisations.

I would be more conducive to the arguments and antics of community climate change activists if their language altered to take into account the person in the street - who CAN understand the idea and practicalities of water scarcity and growing one's own food.

Clearly, I am not the only one who has picked up on the poor communications of the CC activists. Leslie Cannold has summed up the situation well in a recent article. Even to pointing out that the activists do not understand the realities of modern politics.

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