Friday, August 13, 2010

More doom and gloom

Asian floods affecting more people than the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, plus the 2005 Kashmir and 2010 Haiti earthquakes combined says UN.

Russian heat wave unparalleled in 1,000 years and could kill tens of thousands of people. What is the global cost of Russia's heat wave? When you take into account the highest cost of wheat caused by Russia's cancellation of all wheat exports for the rest of the year, it runs into billions.

But before we begin pitying Russians too much, this piece of lunacy is one of the most depressing things I've heard this week.

The largest iceberg seen in almost fifty years recently calved off Greenland. Arctic melt this year is likely to be second or third worst on record, though will very much depend on prevailing weather conditions over the next few weeks. You can follow it here. But a soot cloud from burning Russian peatland could prove to be a wild card.

Fire and rain: how can we tell when extreme weather is linked to climate change?

Commodity speculation: the price of bread depends on the whims of Wall St, not just the productivity of farms. But remember that "for each 1 degree Celsius rise in temperature we can expect a reduction in grain yields of 10 percent".

Big coal will continue to ensure US climate inertia, and without US momentum, the rest of the world will only reach small-scale and thoroughly inadequate agreements.

But at least we are cutting our throat more slowly in the Amazon.

Finally, perhaps the worst news of all comes from the Onion: Ecological disaster as millions of barrels of oil safely reach port.


Mike W said...

when does it become time to shame, humiliate, punish, sabotage, even kill those who are commited to killing our world for the sake of financial gain?

byron smith said...

That would be God's job and in his time. Meanwhile, we watch and pray, love and serve, suffer and die in hope.

Mike W said...

Sure. But you are up for a limited role for human justice aren't you?
Maybe the killing part is only for God, but the honour, punishment, maybe even sabottage part? We live in a broken system that honours people perpetuating the brokenness, why should we give respect to bankers? Miners, people who work for BP?
And if one system of organising things irreversibly sabotages many other ways of life, why is it on the nose to sabotage that way of organising things?
And punishment, is there room for a provisional judgement, perhaps on whole countries, even continents?

Thanks for these posts Byron, they are revealing and helpful. I guess I feel like we are standing in front of concentration camps, watching the smoke come out of the chimmenies, having tea parties discussing how bad it is.

Mike W said...

or to put it another way, should we refuse communion to the CEOs of oil companies?

Mike W said...

or shareholders?

byron smith said...

Ah, now these are indeed good questions. Though you have raised two points that ought to be addressed separately. First, what place might the pursuit of provisional human justice by political authorities in punishing the ecological evildoers and second, how can the church be a sign and foretaste of the kingdom through judging for ourselves via church discipline?

Both quite complex questions, but sorely needing answers.

At a very (very) minor level of contribution to answering them, I suspect that distinguishing between the guilt of CEOs and of shareholders is quite legitimate. I'm all for shareholders bearing more legal burden than they currently do (though still less legal burden than a CEO or the board). And I suspect that the same ought to apply within church discipline. However, a fuller account of church discipline would be necessary before we begin excommunicating all our pension holders or anyone who is failing to overthrow the various obstructionist national governments.

But I take your point. And recognise my inability to answer it. What are your hunches?

Mike W said...

Firstly, my hunch is that I am one of the people deserving of shame, humiliation, even punishment. I'm as tangled up in overconsumption as the next westerner, and it is hardly fair to point the finger at oil executives who provide the cheap energy I demand.
The detached agency of my consumption means I'm pretty ignorant of the effects it has. But if I did some searching it wouldn't be too hard to figure out. I don't know that ignorance is a very good defence, but there are also those who aren't ignorant of the devastating effects of say, their businesses and continue to operate that way anyway. Why shouldn't we call each other to repentance on this, and why isn't refusal of communion part of that call to repentance?
As for shareholders, they are responsible for what a company does. It is their company. If they have shirked that responsibility, left themselves in the dark etc, well they are still responsible. Perhaps we need to find new models for caring for our elderly so that they don't have to be tied to actions that are wrong.

The failing to overthrow obstructionist governments thing is interesting. How do we feel about the confessing church in germany? Or of the churches in the Soviet Union that capitulated and cooperated? Or of the churches that supported apartheid?
If the climate thing is really causing so much suffering, so many deaths in Russia, so much distress even for members of their own country, why do we feel so squeamish about holding leaders to account?
There was very little uproar in Australian churches about Saddam Hussein being executed, mostly because of the incident of gassing the kurds. Is there a substantial difference in ordering a disaster and ordering things so that a (far worse) disaster will occur?

byron smith said...

Sorry for late reply. I'm with you on most of this, though at the final line, I'm not. There is indeed a difference between deliberately ordering the deaths of thousands and fashioning policies aimed at prosperity that actually lead to the deaths of thousands. The latter is far from blameless (especially when the connections are becoming better established every year), but there is still a moral difference between direct and indirect consequences.

That isn't yet an argument for or against overthrowing obstructionist governments.

byron smith said...

Guardian: Russian seed bank update.

byron smith said...

Correction: it is a field genebank, not a seedbank. If it were a seedbank, it would be easy to move and there would be little or no issue.

byron smith said...

BBC: The rate at which we are cutting our throat has jumped sixfold.

byron smith said...

Amazon: Continuing to slow down our suicide and a further update from Mongabay in early August