Thursday, September 27, 2007

Better a good Czech than a bad one

Bloggers know that Lubos Motl has lip locked to the current President of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Klaus, who knows not very much about climate, but does know what he thinks about it. Everyone know about Vaclav Havel, former President of Czechia and someone who by example has acquired great moral authority. Havel writes today in the NY Times under the headline, Our Moral Footprint:

OVER the past few years the questions have been asked ever more forcefully whether global climate changes occur in natural cycles or not, to what degree we humans contribute to them, what threats stem from them and what can be done to prevent them. Scientific studies demonstrate that any changes in temperature and energy cycles on a planetary scale could mean danger for all people on all continents.

It is also obvious from published research that human activity is a cause of change; we just don’t know how big its contribution is. Is it necessary to know that to the last percentage point, though? By waiting for incontrovertible precision, aren’t we simply wasting time when we could be taking measures that are relatively painless compared to those we would have to adopt after further delays?

Havel's views on climate change are that of someone who worries about the future, but is not sure of the scope or the solutions to the challenges of global climate change
I’m skeptical that a problem as complex as climate change can be solved by any single branch of science. Technological measures and regulations are important, but equally important is support for education, ecological training and ethics — a consciousness of the commonality of all living beings and an emphasis on shared responsibility.
This is a complex and rich statement which everyone should read and think about. Of those who blog on climate, perhaps it is closest to Michael Tobis' point of view, the moral case Havel sets forth for action approaches that of the Stern Report.

Stealing Michaels Cheese: In the comments (and this is somewhat truncated) Michael Tobis summarizes his view on this:
So what do I think? I thank you for what amounts to a challenge to summarize it. This is what I have managed.

A long view and a better capacity to identify real expertise are skills that to a great extent we in the economically dominant societies once had, but have lost. That is sad but it offers a way out without new cultural innovation. We simply need to recover declining skills.

We need to work on restoring the collective intellectual capacity, and the respect for the future, that we recently had, that has been in precipitous decline over my lifetime. This is nowhere near the innovation that a widespread ecological ethic would be.

Restoring the network of trust from those who think to those who decide is no small order. The deciders (pardon the expression) need better skills in whom to trust, and the thinkers need to be more trustworthy.

Unfortunately, substantial amounts of decay and corruption have set in
on both sides. This is a tall order, but it seems to me at the core of our decline and the best hope of our recovery.

So I don't mean to disagree with Havel, but I don't want that represented as the core of what I am trying to advocate.

I think the crucial social component of avoiding calamity is about competence and trust, about those offering advice reliably deserving trust and about those needing advice reliably awarding trust to those that deserve it.

Thanks for the mention, though. I'm flattered to be mentioned in the same sentence as Vaclav Havel.

9 comments:

bigcitylib said...

OT but: Motl, your blog sucks monkeys. My browser crashes every time I attempt a visit. And no I will not switch to fire-fox just to visit one blog (yours). Get over yourself.

Lumo said...

Dear bigcitylib,

I apologize, I have determined according to your blog that you are an obnoxious bigot who is not welcome on my blog.

Be sure that my blog is otherwise compatible with all major browsers.

Best
LM

Anonymous said...

Hey, Firefox should be used so you can use the addons: AdBlock, Flashblock, Greasemonkey, Platypus, and NoScript.

Have you ever driven through Vermont, where all highway advertising is banned? That's what the Internet is like, with adequate blocking tools.

Not as good as a text browser, nor as fast, but --- awfully close to ad-free once you tell your machine what you don't want to ever see again.

Anonymous said...

Can all those gadgets filter out al the self congratulation and narcissistic rantings of the oh-so-full-of -himself Motl? I doubt it.

Anonymous said...

Back OT, everyone should read this op-ed piece. E-mail it to your friends and family.

Best,

D

Horatio Algeranon said...

Cirque du Soily

Dano said...

While far below are the Sycophants,
Who "oooh" and "aaah" and engage in rants,
And shadow box with Jimmy Hansen,
As around in circles they keep prancin'.

Ahhh. Now dat's what I'm talkin' 'bout.

Best,

D

Michael Tobis said...

Hmm. Thanks for the hat tip. I am as it happens thinking of doing a "Dueling Vaclavs" post myself.

Klaus' idea of a competing intergovernmental panel is so mindbogglingly wrongheaded that it is deserving of some contemplation in itself.

Havel's conclusion is interesting and I don't diagree with it, but it doesn't seem to me like something I would say.

More biophilia in the culture would be enormously helpful, but I think it is neither necessary nor sufficient, and I don't think I agree with those who claim it is crucial. This would be too big of a shift to arrive in time to save us.

So what do I think? I thank you for what amounts to a challenge to summarize it. This is what I have managed.

A long view and a better capacity to identify real expertise are skills that to a great extent we in the economically dominant societies once had, but have lost. That is sad but it offers a way out without new cultural innovation. We simply need to recover declining skills.

We need to work on restoring the collective intellectual capacity, adn the respect for the future, that we recently had, that has been in precipitous decline over my lifetime. This is nowhere near the innovation that a widespread ecological ethic would be.

Restoring the network of trust from those who think to those who decide is no small order. The deciders (pardon the expression) need better skills in whom to trust, and the thinkers need to be more trustworthy.

Unfortunately, substantial amounts of decay and corruption have set in
on both sides. This is a tall order, but it seems to me at the core of our decline and the best hope of our recovery.

So I don't mean to disagree with Havel, but I don't want that represented as the core of what I am trying to advocate.

I think the crucial social component of avoiding calamity is about competence and trust, about those offering advice reliably deserving trust and about those needing advice reliably awarding trust to those that deserve it.

Thanks for the mention, though. I'm flattered to be mentioned in the same sentence as Vaclav Havel.

Anonymous said...

Trust is exactly what some people in the Bush administration were out to destroy, and, unfortunately for the vast majority of us (everyone except those in a very small minority), to a large degree, I think they succeeded.

What some see as "incompetence" was actually not quite as stupid as it appeared.