The notes have turned out to be 4 pages long, so I will attach them as a pdf below. As there was a great deal of discussion regarding final projects, which are mostly out of my area of intended expertise, I strongly encourage everyone to read the notes carefully. I am very happy to fix the errors you are bound to discover.
Here's a summary of what we talked about in our class last Wednesday:
A bit long, but probablworth repeating.
We began with a discussion stemming from Sam's earlier post about the Naomi Klein article.
Sam had indicated the importance of communicating climate change to the public, but Tri was skeptical that climate change could be communicated -- she argued that the issues were too complex for the public to understand.
This developed into a discussion about why people don't believe in climate change. Gerry noted that changes in the climate are taking place over decades/ generations. People don't think on these time scales. Christine suggested that its a question of belief -- people follow the opinions of those they look up to. Gerry pointed out that its much easier for people to believe that there is nothing wrong, because then they don't have to take any action. When it doesn't hit people in the face, said Chad, they're not going to worry about it. We need large events like intense hurricanes to get people worried. But when that happens, its too late.
Marco shifted the discussion to politics. Naomi Klein's article mentioned that the people who have recently stopped believing in climate change are mostly republicans. Does addressing climate change have to do with a hidden agenda by the left to introduce a "new socialism"?
Sam: Its kind of a psychological issue: when all the changes that need to be made conflict with your world view, you stick to your world view. One of the key issues has to do with humans' relationship to nature. We're at the point where pollution isn't limitless. The idea of "man's dominion over nature", stemming from the enlightenment, is meeting a limit: there needs to be a philosophical change.
Tri: But I can still say I have dominion over nature and still make a change!
Sam: Yes...the idea comes from the Bible. I see it more as an idea of stewardship, not dominion over nature.
Marco: What do you think about the idea that there was a non-homogenous abuse of resources. There are lifestyles where people don't use iphones, they are not constantly checking their email. Its still a relatively small proportion of humans who are using these things. All of this mess, according to what we know, is happening because of the burning of fossil fuels which drove major economies.
Sam and Tri agreed -- rich countries could not have gotten rich without the burning of fossil fuels. They have more responsibility.
Eric: But its also human nature to take advantage. I lived overseas..the islanders ripped up magrove forests to build docks -- one of the favorite pastimes was to sit in the car with the a/c blasting and the windows open. Even though the major powers may be more responsible, no one is guiltless and will overuse resources if they don't have to pay.
We turned to the visibility of the issue:
Gerry: It has to do with visibility: according to Paul Falkowski, if our cars went around pooping carbon we'd notice there was a problem.
Marco mentioned a presentation by an artist who linked air pollution meters to a laser display and a car that with a bubble around it that filled up with gas so you could see how much was produced -- these made the pollution visible.
Gerry: Our part of the world will not change as much as other areas. Even if we were right in there with nature, its very difficult to see.
Tri: This is why we should transfer more power to the executive branch. This should be a national defense issue.
Sam mentioned Romney's convention speech and his line about climate change:
"President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. MY promise...is to help you and your family."
Sam thought it was interesting that he was apparently implicitly acknowledging that Climate Change was happening.
Dan suggested that the message was that climate change is happening but a refusal to believe that we are the cause.
Gerry: There's always another argument about why we don't have to do anything. We have to get to the point where someone says change is happening and we have to do something about it.
In one book about climate change the author had to spend a whole chapter explaining why the evidence shows that climate change is real. This doesn't happen for physics. The only other instance is in the case of evolution, where there are also political implications.