2 Mar 2009

More from the Modern Movement

Had this from Sarah Boyes of the Modern Movement...please feel to comment, and I have just published my draft thoughts on fishing at my Euro blog!

Hallo again,

As for Modern Movement, you can see our statement - calling for cheaper, better, faster transport on our website - www.modernmovement.org.uk.

On the idea of climate change, though, there seems a lot more going on than at first blush. The climate has always been changing, but 'climate change' as a phenomenon is quite a recent. I think there's a variety of reasons for that, and not all of them have to do with what scientists have been predicting recently; but are bound up with deeper trends in society.

The idea of 'not being dictated to by science' is a rallying cry against people who would invoke scientific authority and expertise to veto public and political debate. The idea of building a future based on a fearful reaction to what's often presented as inevitable global catastrophe or a terrible present is something I have a problem with. If other people and publications have a problem with that then good - because I think it's a problem.

I'm quite happy to rely on scientific expertise and for scientists to write reports telling the rest of us what's going on. But firstly, it's not as if 'science' develops along lines abstracted from what's going on in the rest of society, or that funding of scientific research isn't tied to often political and institutional agendas. That's not a conspiracy theory about science, but pointing out it's ultimately based in society. Neither is it 'denying climate change'. But secondly, there's a world of difference between knowing what's going on, and then deciding how to deal with it, coming up with solutions that are both progressive and suit what people want and can take us forward.

It's not that I think 'Greens' are an homogeneous group bent on stopping everybody from flying. But the idea that we can't both deal with what's going with the climate and also keep on traveling and moving around even more than we do is ridiculous. If that is enough to make me a 'free market libertarian' then I suppose I'll have to swallow the moniker and get on with it. Though neither am I the one calling myself a 'socialist' - or anything else for that matter. It's much more important - I think - to look at what people want to do and stand up for something positive, good, fun, exciting and progressive. I'm not apologising for being idealistic, though. Or wanting to fly abroad as much as I want to for little cost.


RedGreenInBlue said...

I don't understand the context. I'm guessing this is a reply to something you wrote to Modern Movement, but what did you say? I can't find it in your blog.

As for MM themselves, how many tropes can one squeeze into one reply? We've got:
* the climate has always been changing (yes we know; it's the rate of change and the fact we're heading out of the historical or even prehistorical range that concerns us)
* scientists/greens trying to veto public debate (as if either groups has enough influence. Just look at government/business over the last couple of decades)
* technology will save the day (OK, so where's the abundant, cheap, clean power source that will replace oil as the fuel for aviation?)
* greens as fearful/negative about the future (well, firstly we're in the shit mainly because of the Pollyanna attitude of people like MM; secondly, if you don't understand the problem you can't find the solutions; thirdly, the solutions don't have to be undesirable, as initiatives from Cuba's organic revolution to the Transition Towns movement demonstrate.)

Overall, the problem I have with MM is this idea that if we can't fly where and when we want, as fast and cheaply as we want, that somehow we will be less happy as a society. If so, then surely we can show that happiness is correlated with access to the motorway network, and has increased since the Preston Bypass was built. I won't hold my breath waiting for the evidence...

Derek Wall said...

The context was an earlier post on Heathrow....I think the post from the Modern Movement is a fairly measured piece of writing....so provides the basis of some good critical discussion which your comment certainly advances!

I am not obviously a fan of the Modern Movement but I welcome a chance to hear what they are saying and discuss it.


Green Gordon said...

Heaven forefend the scientists who may actually have some factual knowledge of what's going on with the world's climate be allowed to ruin the debate.

p.s. my word verification was pronsock

Charlie said...

There are other issues with the science (and response to it) that I, as another committee member of MM, would raise in objection to the current political situation.

On the one hand there's the increasingly recognised disparity between climatic predictions from the scientific community and what are commonly used as sources by green groups, as illustrated by the Met Office's recent warnings against global warming 'panics'. The truth is, that though the greenhouse gas emissions theory would hold true on our present situation, and though it would conveniently explain the increase in global temperatures in tandem with increases in industrial production and global emissions, we're still talking very much about a an untested link, here. There's still no way of guaging an accurate 'ratio' between emissions and rises in temperature.

As such, it is quite simply impossible to draw specific predictions based upon an accurate timescale as to what effects of global warming we will see in the forseeable future. There's no way - and banging on about global annihilation is, quite frankly, irresponsible. So there's that on the one hand.

On the other, we have a situation where, noticeably (and the greens pay particular attention to this issue) it is the world's poor who are expected to suffer disproportionately as a result of climate change. From listening to the emotive rhetoric around this issue one could be forgiven for presuming that the global poor all happened to coincidentally live on floodplanes, eke out an agricultural existence in the fields, totally dependent upon their generally stable climates. This confuses cause and effect. On a scientific level there is no real reason why Britain, as an island nation, should suffer less than any coastal African nation from rising sea-levels. Yet she would suffer less, due to her ability to cope with these adverse conditions through having a developed economy with superior infrastructure. It's the very development which is cited by greens as the source of global warming which can simultaneously enable these countries not only to shed their populations of indefinite agricultural misery (until some clever boffin in the West comes up with a wonderful 'carbon-free' method of producing energy and generously wants to share) but also to give them the resources to cope better with these problems as they arise. Further than this, when faced with a choice between the conscious self-suppression of market expansion until an undefined later date, or the development of their economies to compete on a world stage, these countries have made their choice and there's no real way of stopping them without compromising their national autonomy (not that this isn't tried regardless). Calling for "cutbacks", for example, in aviation, in the situation we are currently in, is not only backwards in terms of focus (the expansion of industry is a far more pressing matter for those concerned about carbon dioxide emissions) but it's also not realistically engaging with the situation on the ground.

Sarah Boyes said...

Hi Derek - thanks for this post.

One thing I thought it might be worth pointing out in relation to MM, is that our main argument concerns mobility and freedom of movement. Our defence of Heathrow expansion and demand for better infrastructure is secondary to that aim; and shouldn't be construed as a thorough-going defence of 'the market' or 'business', or an endorsement of free market libertarianism.

Rebeca said...

Alternative investment manager and advisor, Climate Change Capital, (CCC) has been appointed to manage a climate change fund for Dublin-domiciled UCITS platform, Russell OpenWorld.
The Global Climate Change Fund will be managed by Climate Change Capital's Global Equities' team of Paul Udall and Ronnie Lim.

Derek Wall said...

so its about putting bankers in charge!