Cultural Hegemony or Biological Hegemony?

In Marxist philosophy, cultural hegemony “describes the domination of a culturally diverse society by the ruling class, who manipulate the culture of that society — the beliefs, explanations, perceptions, values, and mores — so that their ruling-class worldview becomes the worldview that is imposed and accepted as the cultural norm; as the universally valid dominant ideology that justifies the social, political, and economic status quo as natural, inevitable, perpetual and beneficial for everyone, rather than as artificial social constructs that benefit only the ruling class.”

The Italian anarchist, Antonio Gramsci viewed cultural hegemony as operating within a society in which a shifting alliance of social classes struggle for domination of social norms and ideas. Gramsci was to first to identify popular media as the means through which this struggle takes place. This results in an on-going dialectic between the ruling classes and the subordinate classes as to the dominant definition of reality.

In today’s world, we see international business interests attempting to defend and increase capitalist domination of the global economy, and thus, local economies, through international trade agreements supported by international trade organizations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Through economic manipulations, less developed countries are encouraged to shift their local economies from local production for local consumption to local production for global exports.

Also at the international level, the United Nations Division of Sustainable Development “provides leadership in promoting and coordinating implementation of the sustainable development agenda of the United Nations… and to promote integration and coherence of policies and the implementation of actions in the social, economic and environmental areas.” In plain language, this means the United Nations promotes economic growth to reduce poverty and increase the quality of life for people in less developed countries.

Meanwhile, people at the local level struggle to maintain cultural traditions, social norms and ideals against the negative effects of increased industrialization, environmental damage and cultural loss as due to the efforts of transnational corporations and international economic manipulation.

The definition and perception of climate variation takes place in this swirling miasma of competing agendas. Public relations firms are contracted by national and international agencies, including the United Nations, corporations and non-profits to spread their interpretation of climate variation and its implications for public policy and private initiative. As a result of media attention, climate variation has become a critical topic on which political careers depend, a moral issue for religious leaders and media pundits, a scientific conundrum based on popular misunderstanding of the scientific process and the nature of evidence and theory formation.

The current cultural hegemony of climate change holds that 97% of scientists believe that human CO2 production causes observed global warming, and that reduction of CO2 emissions will “stop” climate change, or at least diminish its effects on human civilization sufficiently to allow us to accommodate  coming changes. Those who question these conclusions are labeled “deniers” and “climate skeptics” and marginalized in the discourse, regardless of qualifications or affiliations. Popular media parrots the consensus view without analysis or question, adding hyperbole and unsupported conjecture to the confusing mixture of opinion.

The situation oozes of cultural totalitarianism, in which only one mode of thought is allowed, in which ad hoc thinkpol roam the information superhighway seeking deviant thinkers and writers of thoughtcrime to be pulled over and diverted to the off-ramp to the Ministry of Love for reprogramming.

The question remains: cui bono? Who stands to benefit from the popular perception that human action causes climate change and all the cultural carnage that will follow? Does the global agenda to “stop climate change” benefit the people who will be affected, or does it benefit an economic elite in supporting a global economy based on unlimited economic growth? Which vision of reality supports all life on the planet, including human life, and which is designed to benefit humans at the expense fo the rest of the biosphere.

How do we shift from cultural hegemony to biological hegemony? How do we escape from the totalitarian domination of a destructive world view?

Next up on Words Arranged: Secession from the Broadcast: The Internet and the Crisis of Social Control.

Exploring the Unseen

Now, to that other new thing up in the upper left corner…

“Exploring the Unseen.” How can we explore something we can’t see?

Glad you asked!

I’ve recently read several interesting articles that have placed my mental feet on this particular path:

Secession from the Broadcast: The Internet and the Crisis of Social Control, by Gene Youngblood 

The battle against global warming: an absurd, costly and pointless crusade,  from the Société de Calcul Mathématique SA, translated from the French original

Cultural Hegemony, by in Beautiful Trouble: A Toolbox for Revolution

I’ve been studying climate variation for 25 years now, as an archaeologist, a dendroclimatologist, and, most recently, as an interested amateur observer. Over the years, the debate over the source of observed increases in global average surface temperature and atmospheric CO2 concentration has resolved into a struggle between proponents of anthropogenic climate change (aka Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW)) and so-called “climate skeptics” or “deniers,” as they are characterized by the more vehement AGW proponents.

AGW followers loudly protest perceived funding of skeptics and deniers by fossil fuel interests threatened by demands to “leave fossil fuels in the ground,” shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources and shift to organic agriculture to reduce petroleum based fertilizers and equipment fueling. They accuse corporations such as Exxon/Mobil of employing public relations firms to support their cause and foster doubt about global warming by questioning the science, which, they vociferously proclaim, is settled. There are even public relations firms that have vowed to never represent climate deniers and skeptics, as AGW has more and more become a moral issue.

This got me to thinking, a dangerous proposition, I know, but inevitable. If the anti-AGW crowd employs cadres of dedicated Edward Bernays acolytes to sow seeds of doubt about AGW, how is it that the dominant perception is that of human caused global warming and the necessity for humans to do something NOW! to stop it? Where did that idea come from and how has it become ubiquitous in global western culture?

In steps the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC is viewed by many as a science organization involved in studying climate change. It’s not. The IPCC is a policy organization that analyzes climate science (and other non-science) research to recommend national and international policies on how to deal with human caused climate change. AGW is the base assumption in their mission statement.

The IPCC is a daughter organization of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization, which are all a part of and beholding to the United Nations Development Programme. And you’ll no be surprised to learn that the United Nations has its own Department of Public Information, which contracts with numerous prestigious public relations firms to spread its message of “Sustainable (sic) Development.”

The Department of Public Information “fosters dialogue with global constituencies such as academia, civil society, the entertainment industry, educators and students to encourage support for the ideals and activities of the United Nations.”

There you have it. An international organization with billions of dollars of funding to dangle before academia, Hollywood, and the public and private education system to build support for “Sustainable (sic) Development.”

Development (aka growth) of “less developed” countries is now hobbled by environmental pressure to stop economic growth and the negative effects of unlimited growth in a finite world. AGW is used as a big economic guilt stick to beat about the heads of “more developed” countries, by accusing them (us) of being the proximate cause of climate change with an obligation to fund development in “less developed” countries so they can better survive the effects of climate change to come.

Have you ever pulled a loose thread on your sock, only to have it unravel into a loose pile of threads on the floor? That’s what it’s like to attempt to follow the connections woven into the AGW propaganda machine, connections that remain unseen, looking like a whole sock, until one starts to take them apart.

The concept of human caused climate change looks more and more like cultural hegemony, “the domination of a culturally diverse society by the ruling class, who manipulate the culture of that society — the beliefs, explanations, perceptions, values, and mores — so that their ruling-class worldview becomes the worldview that is imposed and accepted as the cultural norm; as the universally valid dominant ideology that justifies the social, political, and economic status quo as natural, inevitable, perpetual and beneficial for everyone, rather than as artificial social constructs that benefit only the ruling class.”

What then do we do now? How do we explore the unseen and bring it into the seen? How do we escape from cultural hegemony?

I’ll toy with these ideas, and many others, in future editions of Words Arranged.

Economic Equality Aboard the Titanic

We see it in the headlines every day, especially with the run-up to Rio+20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. 
We are told we “need” 3% economic growth worldwide per year to provide jobs for our growing population, seven billion now and still increasing rapidly. 
We are told we need to develop economies in emerging and “underdeveloped” countries, so they can meet the demands of “climate change” brought about by fossil fuel burning in developed countries. We are told continually that poorer nations must be allowed, even encouraged and facilitated, to grow to the level of other nations so that all seven billion + of us can have access to all the goods and services that everyone has in every other country.
We are told overall that all this growth and development must be “sustainable,” which, according to the United Nations, means “growth that meets present needs without compromising those of future generations.” 
An Experiment
When I was in high school, I did a science project that involved running white mice through a maze while on dextroamphetamine (the mice, not me. This was the early 60s. It was relevant then.) Since I lived in a small town in Nebraska, I had to raise my own white mice to have enough subjects for the tests.
This biological experiment quickly turned into an economic experiment, as I soon learned the lessons of exponential population growth in a closed environment. I was very quickly overrun by white mice. I couldn’t give them away fast enough to disperse the growing population of my experimental subjects. I eventually had to turn the bulk of them out into a cold and unforgiving world, where they lived out the remainder of their brief and exciting lives as prey for local predators.
The lesson stuck with me through my college years and beyond. Unlimited growth in a world of finite resources is impossible.
The Problem
The underlying problem is that international development agencies such as the United Nations are run by economists rather than biologists. 
Economists are master illusionists who rely on a set of fictions, fantasies and forecasts that emanate from a core magical mantra of Perpetual Growth that goes untested year after year.” Paul M. Ferrill, Myth of Perpetual Growth is Killing America.
Economists think that the only species on the planet affected by human growth is Homo sapiens itself, when, in reality, all species are negatively affected by habitat destruction and pollution caused by a growing overabundance of a single species, that same Homo sapiens.
Ed Abbey once told us that unlimited growth is the philosophy of the cancer cell. This was never more true than today. Rather than oncologists, our world is run by cancer proponents, who want every human being on Earth to have cancer, thus committing humans to long term pain, misery and death in a world depauperate of resources, quiet and desperate of all other species.
The United Nations was conceived of as an international body of governmental representatives convening to address problems and solutions common to all humanity. Conceived and implemented as a social organization, dealing primarily with fascism, imperialism, war, international health and economic equality, the UN has always been an exclusively human centered organization. Missing in the charter and focus of the organization was any realization that humans are but one of many species on this planet, and, as such, Homo sapiens has no inherent prior claim to exclusive exploitation of natural resources at the expense of all other life.
This overemphasis on human economic equality, in the form of “sustainable” economic growth, is like arguing on board the Titanic that all passengers should get an equal refund for an incomplete voyage. There are simply too many people, consuming too many resources on this planet already. Insisting that all seven billion of us, and counting, should have equal access to all resources and equal opportunity for economic growth is an insane philosophy that could only have come from economists who have lost their grip on reality.
The Solution 
We cannot buy our way out of this mess by shuffling the deck chairs of wealth from First Class to Steerage. We must reduce the passenger load, repair the ship and steer a new course into a rational future based on biological and geophysical realities of life on this the only planet we have, to sustain the only source of Life we know.
It’s time to think or thwim.

I Am Not a Leftist, Right-Wing, Environmentalist Denier!

The discussion over climate change, global warming, anthropogenic or natural, is polarized along several lines that create needless misunderstanding, obfuscation and dissent.

On the one hand, vocal proponents of anthropogenic global warming/climate change often accuse those who do not accept this view without question as being “deniers,” driven by an overwhelming right-wing, oil company-funded propaganda campaign.

On the other hand, those who question the reality of anthropogenic global warming/climate change often accuse the proponents as being leftist environmentalists seeking to redistribute wealth and destroy civilization by promoting wind generators and solar panels.

Of course, both of these extreme positions are misleading. There are principled, independent scientists and activists who are not Right-wing, who are not funded by oil companies and who question the claims of human causation of climate variation. And there are principled proponents of human caused climate change who are dedicated environmentalists who are not Leftists and who do not seek redistribution of wealth and who are genuinely concerned about the effects of human development on the natural world.

More troubling is the right-wing, property rights, fossil fuel/nuclear power propensity of many self-avowed climate change “skeptics.” A recent article, The Cost of Running the World on Renewable Power, by Mark Z. Jacobson and Mark A. Delucchi, suggests that a shift to renewable energy sources is overwhelmingly expensive, unattainable and unnecessary. This is far more of an ostrich-in-a-hole viewpoint than the “denier” accusation. It’s abundantly clear that fossil fuels are finite and will become uneconomic to produce long before they “run out.” It is also abundantly clear that we have no solution for the problem of  dispersing nuclear waste materials that will remain radioactive and toxic for centuries, even if there were unlimited sources of nuclear fuel. At some point, we will change to a renewable energy economy. Why wait for the crisis? Change now and avoid the rush!

I am one of those caught in the middle. I have been an active environmentalist for over forty years, working to limit, as much as possible, pollution, habitat and biodiversity loss and unlimited economic growth. I am also skeptical of claims for human caused climate variation. I’ve studied climate science, as an archaeologist, since 1991, and the case for human produced CO2 climate change causation is not supported by the evidence. Yes, humans do affect local weather and climates, but these effects do not result in global climate variation. There are many natural factors in climate variation that far overwhelm the contributions from human technology and behavior.

My problem is I am tarred with both the “denier” and “Leftist” brushes, even though I am neither. When I write about natural factors active in climate variation, I am called a denier and accused of accepting money from oil companies. When I write about the necessity of limiting pollution and habitat and biodiversity loss, I am accused of being a warmist and part of the United Nations Agenda 21 sustainable development conspiracy.

I can’t win. I hesitate to identify myself in either camp, as I am marginalized and ignored by proponents and opponents alike. Between Scylla and Charybdis, I swirl in the whirlpool of universal obloquy.

The truth is I’m a scientist, albeit a semi-retired, unfunded, independent and non-academic scientist. I read the literature on both sides of the climate change debate and draw my own conclusions as the the  relevancy of the evidence and methodology with respect to the conclusions of the publications’ authors. I have gone back and forth in my conclusions, at first convinced by the data that humans are indeed causing significant climate change, then, over the years, reversing that position to conclude that, while human activities do influence climate variation, they are but one of many influences, human and natural, both positive and negative forcings and feedbacks, that result in a highly complex, chaotic and largely unpredictable global climate system.

It seems that the tide may be turning, slowly on its own cosmic timetable. But I am fearful that the withdrawal of public attention from climate change will take with it support for traditional environmental defense and activism, as I have cautioned for many years. Throughout all the global warming hyperbole, pollution and habitat loss have continued unchecked, to have far greater and much more immediate effects in our lives today, not in some computer modeled, hypothetical future.

The natural world doesn’t know Left or Right, Deniers or Warmists.

“Not bird, nor plane, nor even frog,
It’s just little old me…  Underdog.”