Re: [OPE] Alexander Cockburn on carbon catastrophism

From: Anders Ekeland (
Date: Mon Feb 11 2008 - 17:17:07 EST

Hi Jurriaan!

Regarding "catastrophes" on the left, there is a lot to say, but later.

Could you give me/us a link to where Cockburn discusses the natural 
science base for the claim that the warming we experience is *not* man made.

Because the man-made character of the global warming seems to me to 
be a rather established fact, and all the talk about sun-spots etc. 
has been refuted AFAICS. Especially since there for a very long time 
exists a rather straight forward theory of how global warming comes 
about I am interested in what Cockburn has to say - I hope he is not 
just repeating Lomborg.


At 20:15 11.02.2008, you wrote:
>Well I wouldn't put it like Alex Cockburn, because I am not him, but 
>I agree with the bit about catastrophism. My experience is that if 
>you get obsessed with catastrophes, you will get them and more. 
>There's been times I have been enormously worried about things and I 
>got every bit that I worried about confirmed and realized.
>That is what this is about, really, what do we focus attention on, 
>and why? Sometimes these days when I survey what preoccupies people 
>I think either the world is going nuts or I am going nuts, or both, 
>and basically I end up thinking that, whereas I like to have an open 
>mind, I don't want to let my brains fall out, and I would rather not 
>pay attention to certain things.
>I was introduced to environmental issues as a problem of society at 
>about age 11, both at school and at home in the Netherlands. My 
>father had got himself a white Austin, and the incinerator tower of 
>the hospital down the road would rain down soot which ate itself 
>into the paintwork of the car, which was clearly visible as it was a 
>white car. That set me thinking, young as I was. Lateron I 
>campaigned against nuclear power stations in New Zealand, the 
>campaign was successful and I remember thinking, it's amazing, you 
>can actually succeed in a political campaign. In 1978 I joined the 
>first Green political party I know of in the world, it was the New 
>Zealand Values Party. But around that time, the "zero-growth 
>society" was practically reached in NZ, and the real concern people 
>had was about jobs. The Party fell apart, and I went further to the 
>Left, I discovered people like Andre Gorz, Harry Rothman and Barry 
>Commoner etc. at varsity where you could plug into recent thinking. 
>The party leader resigned, and became a banker.
>Looking back now, I would estimate that the total scale of 
>ecological problems in the world has increased by a factor of at 
>least 200% or 300%. That's deeply depressing if you probe into it, 
>but it also made me think a lot more about why that is. After all, 
>there were an enormous amount of people putting a lot of energy into 
>increasing public awareness and devising alternative policies all 
>the time. But nevertheless... Being rather clueless in those days, 
>Marx gave me a lot of clues real quick, especially about "material 
>interests" and the politics of social classes. Of course, Marx could 
>hardly imagine the way the world is now, but his feel for the 
>essential tendencies of world history was pretty damn good.
>But anyway the nightmarish thing is if you feel that you start 
>reproducing the problems you diagnosed in the world, with a spirit 
>of free inquiry, in your own personal life. In that case I reckon 
>I've really lost the plot, like, I should be taking better care of 
>my own setup. But beyond that it seems to me that I'm not the only 
>one who experiences this problem, and intuitively I think this is 
>precisely where I ought to seek the solution, thinking critically 
>through it and verifying things for myself. As Marx recognised early 
>on in his life, if you are capable of framing a problem, a solution 
>is usually available, if you are attentive to the way the problems 
>are actually framed (they could be framed in a distorted, convoluted 
>or upside down way). But for the purpose of recognizing a solution, 
>catastrophism is a distraction, and there I agree definitely with Cockburn.
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