I used to enjoy attending climate conferences, but now I just go through the motions.

(Thanks. I’m here all week.)

There was a vile rumour circulating not so very long ago, August in fact, that the nuclear industry was not welcome in the Green Zone at Glasgow’s upcoming climate shindig, COP26. To sceptics this probably came as no surprise, as we are very well aware that the nuclear industry was in fact the first defeated foe of the same green activists who subsequently defeated coal and are presently well on the way to a Pyrrhic victory over gas. There is no world in which (sorry, Michael Shellenberger) these activists will ever, ever, be okay with the restoration of the first villain they cast down. Nevertheless I rather assumed that the story was an exaggeration, something and nothing, picked up by a sceptic blog or two and used as mere clickbait. After all, the activists don’t run the conference, hey?

…15 applications from nuclear-related bodies, including trade and research associations, are understood to have been rejected by Mr Sharma’s Cop26 Unit in the Cabinet Office. They included an application involving the World Nuclear Association, which represents the global nuclear industry, to put on an exhibition featuring a life-size model of a nuclear reactor.

The Telegraph

There was a lot of bluster in the response by Sharma’s minions: the list of exhibits had not been finalised, etc. It was on my list of things to do to check out the story and disprove it to myself once the dust had settled, and the list of exhibits had been finalised. Of course the nuclear industry would be welcome at COP26, because we are interested in actual solutions to an (alleged) excess of CO2 in the atmosphere, and as it goes nuclear is about the only reliable electricity source that has no or low CO2 emissions in operation. (Obviously hydroelectricity fits this bill too, but the easy dams have already been built). Nuclear is a potential solution worthy of the name, a solution which the climate alarmists and climate sceptics can at least agree on as a way to radically reduce emissions from electricity without the risk of the lights going out. It might be expensive. But still.

So what is happening in the Green Zone, sponsored by Unilever etc?

“From 1-12 November the COP26 Green Zone in Glasgow is open to the public to shine a light on the amazing and diverse world of climate action.

From all over the globe, youth activists, Indigenous Peoples, small and large businesses and grass roots communities will be bringing COP26 to life with cultural performances, exhibitions, talks, film screenings and technical demonstrations, all open to the public. Located in the iconic Glasgow Science Centre, on the south bank of the River Clyde, the Green Zone will welcome visitors from 9am – 6pm each day.

Over 200 events will take place in the Green Zone over the 12 days of the summit. Tickets will be available free of charge to the public.”

COP26

It’s already sounding like somewhere Jimmy Neutron is going to feel a little out of place even if he’s actually allowed in. But is he even allowed in? Excellent question, to be answered in due course. But let’s first have a look at some of the “events” that are planned so you can check for space in your diaries. I’ve only highlighted a few of the most important; the entire list is at the link below the Green Zone summary.

Monday 1st November:

Poets for the Planet and Imperial College London present Earthsong: science-inspired poetry against climate change

What is it? “Award-winning poets and spoken word artists from around the world have been matched with researchers from Imperial College London and beyond studying the causes, effects of, and solutions to climate change.”

1-2pm in Tower Base North, if you’re interested.

Citizens from the Global Assembly present their proposals

1-3.30pm in the Cinema Auditorium. Dang, that’s a diary clash! What to do?

What is it? “Join the people involved in the Global Citizens’ Assembly to find out more about how a snapshot of the world population is being brought together to learn and deliberate on the climate and ecological crisis.”

Musicians In Exile

3-4pm Tower Base North

What is it? “Musicians in Exile, Glasgow’s asylum seeking and refugee musicians, perform their homelands’ music, with new songs created for COP26 about climate change’s impact on refugees.”

There is more vital stuff on the Monday too, though I don’t have space here to mention it.

Tuesday 2nd November:

RSNO Junior Chorus

11-11.30 Atrium

What is it? “Join one of the UK’s leading children and youth choirs for a performance of songs inspired by climate change.”

The Farewell Glacier by Nick Drake

12.30-13.30 Tower Base North

What is it? “Join us for a journey into the mysteries, wonders and climate emergencies of the high Arctic.” [No. Not that Nick Drake, a different one. The one you’re thinking of is deceased.]

Visualising Climate: Young People’s Responses to the Climate Emergency

13.30-14.30 Science Show Theatre

What is it? “This session seeks to empower the generation who will be most impacted by the effects of climate change.”

The Need to Be Cold

15.30-17.00 Tower Base South

What is it? “A conversation and artistic intervention on the effects of global warming that threaten the livelihood of Indigenous peoples in the arctic region.”

Look, I’m going to have to stop pulling out the highlights after Day 2 because this thing goes on until November 12th and there is just isn’t space here to do it justice. Here are a few of the more important events over the 12 days:

  • Fear of the Green Planet (“Fear of the Green Planet is a multimedia and participatory music project by Co-Founder of May Project Gardens and Artist KMT Freedom Teacher; permeating the whole-systems thinking that permaculture inspires.”) [Note to the runners of this show (I can’t work out what their name(s) is/are): the title should have been “Fear of a Green Planet” if you were trying to reference the 1990 album “Fear of a Black Planet” by Public Enemy.]
  • Corey Baker Dance Presents: Renewable Moves (“Movement is fueled, and inspired, by renewable energy in this new dance experience from multi-award winning choreographer, filmmaker and director Corey Baker. Renewable Moves harnesses the urgency of the moves we must all collectively make towards renewable energy.”)
  • Climate justice, education and gender equality: targeting the connections
  • OwnIt: Empowering women to use their money for the climate Partner organisations: Friends of the Earth, Enrol Yourself, Ethex and Energise Africa
  • NATURE AIN’T A LUXURY – Why Young Black & Brown People feel alienated from Nature in the UK & the West Presented by Artist & Musician Louis VI
  • The Political Participation of Young Migrant Women in the Pursuit of Climate Justice
  • Unlocking Climate Solutions: From the Pacific Islands to the Arctic, why Indigenous knowledge must take centre stage.
  • The role of gender equality in decarbonising transport
  • Walk in Beauty: Future Dreaming through Indigenous Knowledges [sic] and Western Science
  • Not without us! – Pathways to a gender just transition
  • Earth observation-based innovation by and for Indigenous women for climate change adaptation
  • A conversion [sic] with Fridays for Future- Meet the Youth Activists from around the world
  • Migrant Justice = Climate Justice
  • Accelerating Electric Mobility with green jobs and gender parity
  • Red River Poetry: Listening to a Polluted River
  • Talking about Our Generation: putting younger generations in charge of the switch to sustainable energy & transportation
  • Disability, Resilience and Inclusion in our Cities – inclusive design and community-led urban solutions for disability-inclusive climate resilience
  • The nexus between Gender-based climate adaptation and localisation – Lessons from Indonesia
  • Climate, in the Visceral Sense. An Ongoing Story in Three Acts (“How does this moment feel? The last 18 months has taught us something: that over-intellectualizing crisis after crisis in our heads is very different to experiencing it for ourselves – to feel it hitting us in our hearts, in our real lives, in our collective consciousness.”)
  • Climate Change Catastrophe! A new show about climate change. Made by kids, for grown-ups.

Many of the COP26 Green Zone events exist at the nexus of one of gender / indigenous people / youth and the seemingly orthogonal matter of climate change. All of these are very important policy areas, and you will not find me disputing that. But a cynic might wonder whether these organisations are really worried about climate change at all, or if instead they would like to ride climate change’s coat-tails to greater success in whatever their real aims are. It gives me the strange sense that the person making the decisions about which applications to let through was desperate to ensure no valid questions about inclusivity could be raised about their choices: as if they had a lot of boxes they needed to tick, and actual relevance to our present “existential crisis” was a secondary consideration.

Okay, so you are probably getting the feeling that the events are a little bit too worthy for my taste. So far the Green Zone is more “WOMAD-on-Clyde” than “How do we prevent our imminent destruction?” What about the exhibits themselves? Are there any nuclear displays? Did the life-sized model of a nuclear reactor squeak in?

Seemingly not. The only display clearly about nuclear energy I can find relates to fusion, not fission:

Fusion Energy (UKAEA, First Light Fusion, Tokamak Energy)

Well, that will certainly be interesting at least. Presumably they are there hoping to use the event as a chance to suck up some funding for this hopefully-maybe-one day energy. (I assume the attitude of green activists to nuclear fusion is as negative as it is to nuclear fission.) I suspect that even the inclusion of fusion was at the last minute, because its entry on the pdf listing the exhibits is the only one that does not have black typeface – it has been cut and pasted from elsewhere and the document author did not ctrl-A / font colour black as a natural precaution against greys slipping in.

The 11 corporate sponsors have their stalls of course (“innovative spaces and experiences”, I mean):

GlaxoSmithKline, Hitachi, Microsoft, National Grid, Natwest Group, Reckitt, Sainsburys, Scottish Power, SSE, Sky and Unilever.

And 10 companies will be displaying their latest electric / fuel cell vehicles:

DAF Trucks, Ford, Global System Mobile Association (GSMA), JCB, Mini, Oceanways, Polestar, Rolls-Royce, Switch Mobility and Wrightbus.

Including those 21, there will be about 60 exhibitors for the duration, plus 8 temporary exhibits on each of the 12 days for another almost 100. There is room among them for The Cultural Sanctuaries Foundation and Stop Climate Chaos Scotland – but nothing from the nuclear industry, unless its presence is hidden in one of the more cryptic organisation names: “Nexus Vision,” “C Team,” “Practical Action,” etc. (O no. I’ve just spotted that Lancet Countdown, those most miserable of misinterpreters of good data to make it spell doom, have a space for a day.)

Is the weighty peripheral baggage attached to COP26 evidence that climate change is not actually that serious? Imagine a giant space rock was detected hurtling towards Earth, and the countries of the world gathered to decide what to do. We could call the meeting ROC1 (there would not be a ROC26). Would there be an adjacent Green Zone presenting cultural perspectives, gender-based solutions, indigenous wisdom, interpretive dance, and discussions about how children might be put in charge of the operation to deflect/survive the oncoming cataclysm? I submit not. COP26 may therefore be accused of not taking climate change seriously as an existential threat.

Featured image: a Miocene crocodile’s coprolite by jsj1771. CC2.0.

46 Comments

  1. JIT. Perrhaps you should have titled your piece COP(ro)LIGHT.

    Can’t wait for the review of Corey Baker Dance Presents: Renewable Moves (“Movement is fueled, and inspired, by renewable energy in this new dance experience ”, especially if denier saboteurs cut the lights, or the dancers seize up mid way through. (That might happen if they are given booster vaccinations the day before [personal experience this weekend])

    Liked by 2 people

  2. It has very big coat-tails, appears to be room for whole hordes onboard these days. As noted on another thread recently, it’s primarily a cultural shindig. And you certainly example reams of ritual and theatre and performance. Nuclear is altogether much too close to an actual practical solution to gain significant blessing (the culture will not bless that which undermines its existence). I guess fusion is somewhat more allowable, because it seems to have been a decade away for 40 or 50 years, and likely this situation will remain for at least a couple more decades. Thanks for the reportage from the scene, very useful, albeit not a job I would like.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Here’s a British Council-funded COP26 video of Greta singing a song with a turtle that has a straw up its nose:

    That’s by Zoom Rockman, the preposterously young inventor of Skanky the Pigeon. He says…

    URL:www.10yearstosavetheworld.com/comics/zoom-rockman

    …that he made the video because he wanted to irritate powerful people into doing something about climate change.

    I don’t believe him. The video isn’t irritating. Wacky fun, is what it is. Sorry, Zoom.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. “….the COP26 Green Zone…

    From all over the globe, youth activists, Indigenous Peoples, small and large businesses and grass roots communities will be bringing COP26 to life ….”

    Presumably, they’ll all have walked, cycled & kayaked to the gab-fest that will demand everyone *else* foregoes the benefits & comforts of fossil-fuelled transport?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Quote: ” I guess fusion is somewhat more allowable, because it seems to have been a decade away for 40 or 50 years,”

    I thought it was more like 50 years away for 50 or 60 years.

    Quote: “and likely this situation will remain for at least a couple more decades.”

    And likely this situation will remain for at least the next 50 to 100 years.

    Yes, continue fusion research by all means, It’s interesting, but will never be the panacea that people imagine.
    Meanwhile, it is known how to make fission work. More research is needed, and more resources need to be spent on making it better, safer and more efficient, but we know it basically works in a practical sense, which can hardly be said for fusion at the moment.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Mike Ellwood said:

    “Yes, continue fusion research, by all means, It’s interesting, but will never be the panacea that people imagine.”

    Major advances in fusion research, both in the past and into the future, are deeply rooted in advances in material science. The discovery of, for instance, room temperature superconductors, as long as they didn’t contain too much unobtainium, would no doubt make fusion power viable. But such a discovery would so change our understanding of future technology as to be almost incomprehensible.

    Like

  7. such a discovery would so change our understanding of future technology as to be almost incomprehensible

    Predictions, predictions 🙂

    Actually those are the kind I like best – where we’re all going to look very stupid when the future finally comes. It’s happened to every previous generation, hasn’t it?

    Jit:

    Is the weighty peripheral baggage attached to COP26 evidence that climate change is not actually that serious?

    Thank you for a brilliant post – brilliant because you bring out the key non-sequitur, the key absurdity, so clearly here.

    In another possible, if clichéd, compliment I might have said “You read it so that I didn’t have to.” But that’s inaccurate, because I would never have thought that I had to. Nevertheless this post, these excerpts, under that erudite heading, made me keep on reading, despite myself. I have more idea of the extent of the lunacy. And the central non-sequitur. So thanks.

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  8. Richard,

    You are right that Jit’s article exposes the real issue very effectively and in great style. Ask not what you can do about an existential threat, but what an existential threat can do for you. As I put it in my dissertation on ‘Emotions, Decisions and Climate Change’:

    “The conventional wisdom is that climate change poses an existential threat that requires urgent and radical action that would be tantamount to the complete reinvention of how we live our lives. However, it is relevant to reflect upon how a society that has already decided that it wishes to redefine the game of life might need an existential threat to justify such a decision.”

    Liked by 1 person

  9. John: “Ask not what you can do about an existential threat, but what an existential threat can do for you.”

    This reminds me very much of the more wordy but similar expression as voiced by Mike Hulme originally in essays from 2007. At that time, he knew that there was a culture around the concept of climate-change, but argued that this was overall a good thing.

    “The function of climate change I suggest, is not as a lower-case environmental phenomenon to be solved…It really is not about stopping climate chaos. Instead, we need to see how we can use the idea of climate change – the matrix of ecological functions, power relationships, cultural discourses and materials flows that climate change reveals – to rethink how we take forward our political, social, economic and personal projects over the decades to come.
    Climate change also teaches us to rethink what we really want for ourselves…mythical ways of thinking about climate change reflect back to us truths about the human condition. . . .
    The idea of climate change should be seen as an intellectual resource around which our collective and personal identifies and projects can form and take shape. We need to ask not what we can do for climate change, but to ask what climate change can do for us…Because the idea of climate change is so plastic, it can be deployed across many of our human projects and can serve many of our psychological, ethical, and spiritual needs.
    …climate change has become an idea that now travels well beyond its origins in the natural sciences…climate change takes on new meanings and serves new purposes…climate change has become “the mother of all issues”, the key narrative within which all environmental politics – from global to local – is now framed…Rather than asking “how do we solve climate change?” we need to turn the question around and ask: “how does the idea of climate change alter the way we arrive at and achieve our personal aspirations…?”

    However, his position shifted as the culture advanced, and even by 2011 he argued that the dominant cultural narratives were setting inappropriate agendas. E.g.

    ‘In this new mood of climate- driven destiny the human hand, as the cause of climate change, has replaced the divine hand of God as being responsible for the collapse of civilizations, for visitations of extreme weather, and for determining the new twenty- first- century wealth of nations.[18] And to emphasize the message and the mood, the New Economics Foundation and its partners have wound up a climate clock that is now ticking, second by second, until December 1, 2016, when human fate will be handed over to the winds, ocean currents, and drifting ice floes of a destabilized global climate: “We have 100 months to save the planet; when the clock stops ticking we could be beyond the climate’s tipping point, the point of no return.”[19] Such eschatological rhetoric offers a post- 2016 world where human freedom and agency are extinguished by the iron grip of the forces of climate. Such a narrative offers scant chance for humans to escape a climate- shaped destiny.[20]

    And by mid-2019 he argued against the death cult, the concept of climate-emergency, demonization via deployment of the ‘denier’ label, and more, as covered by Paul Matthews of this parish: https://cliscep.com/2019/06/05/mike-hulme-speaks-out/

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I remember seeing somewhere the term coprophagia used to describe journalists’ habit of recirculating each others’ stories but I think COPrology is even better. It has the merit of wit.

    Thanks for this article and thanks especially for the last paragraph, as pithy a summary of the charade as any.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Irony: The anti-nuclear movement in the 70s and 80s prevented building more nuclear power plants. So to meet increasing electrical demand, coal power plants were built. Now they want to close those plants as well.

    Like

  12. According to UNFCCC’s Executive Secretary, Patricia Espinosa, there are ‘four keys to success for COP26’. This is the fourth:

    No voice or solution is left behind, through re-engaging with observers and Non-Party Stakeholders in a unity of purpose.

    Does anyone know the intended meaning behind that bafflegab? (Assuming there is one. It might be bafflegab in its purest sense.)

    Espinosa’s first three ‘keys to success’ make more sense linguistically but are still nonsensical. Essentially, ‘developed countries’ must pay more money to ‘developing countries’ and all countries must develop more ambitious targets.

    COP26’s president, Alok Sharma, has also made a list of four key things for COP26, in his case ‘four key goals’. All four cover the same ground as Espinosa’s first three ‘keys to success’ – all countries to be more ambitious, the ‘developed’ to pay more to the ‘developing’ – but none of his four keys echo or shed any light on Espinosa’s fourth key, which, in case you’ve forgotten is this:

    No voice or solution is left behind, through re-engaging with observers and Non-Party Stakeholders in a unity of purpose.

    Wot?

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  13. The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round.

    Like

  14. never fear David Attenborough is here – “If we don’t act now, it’ll be too late.” That’s the warning from Sir David Attenborough ahead of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.” BBC Unbiased news/agenda report

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  15. Looking further afield, the next final chance to save the world will be at COP27 in Egypt – those attendees who survived the squalor and rat-plagues of COP26 will be relieved to learn that it will take place at the luxury resort of Sharm el Sheikh on the Red Sea. Barring the odd jihadi or shark attack, things should be rather pleasant – save the planet in the morning, enjoy just the right amount of “global heating” in the afternoon, on the resort’s various beaches and aqua-parks:
    https://dailynewsegypt.com/2021/10/04/egypts-sharm-el-sheikh-to-host-un-climate-summit-cop27-in-2022/

    Liked by 1 person

  16. “billbedfordsays:
    25 OCT 21 AT 11:32 AM
    Mike Ellwood said:

    “Yes, continue fusion research, by all means, It’s interesting, but will never be the panacea that people imagine.”

    Major advances in fusion research, both in the past and into the future, are deeply rooted in advances in material science. The discovery of, for instance, room temperature superconductors, as long as they didn’t contain too much unobtainium, would no doubt make fusion power viable. But such a discovery would so change our understanding of future technology as to be almost incomprehensible.”

    Mike, responding to billbedford:

    The following article (albeit a few years old – April 2017) written by someone who worked in areas of plasma physics and neutron production related to fusion energy research and development, does cast a lot of doubt on the whole concept:

    https://thebulletin.org/2017/04/fusion-reactors-not-what-theyre-cracked-up-to-be/

    Check out his other article on the same website.

    I pass this on without any joy. There are many good people working on this concept. Maybe he is wrong and the problems are ultimately soluble. Meantime we have energy problems to solve in the short term, so let’s do that by improving what we know works, making it safer & more efficient.

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  17. Sharm el Sheikh eh? But will the reefs still be there, or will the zooxanthellae have fled for waters new leaving bleached bones? Where, oh where will they get all the fresh water from? 25,000 delegates will consume a large freshwater lakefull and there’s nary a one in the combined Eastern, Negev and Sinai Deserts. Desalination or water recycling is a possibility but it must be zero carbon.
    As to being rat-free Alex, I somehow doubt it, not if other resorts on the Egyptian Red Sea coast that I have stayed at are anything to go by. Big, bolshy bastards at that.

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  18. Alan (on 26 Oct):

    The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round.

    Fair comment, as things stand at the moment. But I ended the post you may be alluding to (my first for five months, in August):

    All we need is some courage, from both politicians and journalists. It’s hardly too much to ask.

    It is going to take courage.

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  19. Richard please don’t be so sensitive. My “wheels on the bus comment” was not directed at you or JIT at all, but at the general malaise that affects everything associated with a COPfest. Most commentators in their soul predict failure, then consider recrimination (oil companies and Australians take cover), and we’ll get back on the treadmill for Sharm el Sheikh. The bus wheels will turn yet again.

    My comment sprung fully formed into my mind immediately after reading Ron Clutz’s mention of Kumbaya. I was not getting at anyone.

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  20. Alan: Even if you weren’t alluding to my post of August, I made the connection. (I only said that you may be alluding to it. Even if you had been I wouldn’t mind one bit. I wasn’t being sensitive at all in that sense.)

    No, I raised the connection because I remain interested, indeed fascinated, by whether it’s right to be optimistic. I saw some fightback in August. Rishi Sunak’s budget this week wasn’t as green a bonanza as some wished – see Caroline Lucas’s tweet and Ben Pile’s droll response I pointed to on another thread – but that probably seems very weak beer compared to all the genuflecting to the gods of environmentalism from Boris and various other world leaders. I’m sure COP27 will indeed happen after this ‘failure’. Xi and Putin staying away is to be admired though.

    My point was about the need for courage, that is human agency, in the UK and West generally to stop the flow.

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  21. The internal debate within the government and within the Tory Party is highlighted by Laura Kuenssberg here:

    It is not, however, the case that every minister you speak to about the summit responds with wild enthusiasm (although if it’s a success stand by for lots of retrospective wriggling to be part of claiming the credit.).

    Some of Mr Johnson’s MPs describe the whole thing as “incoherent and elitist”, with the government’s own green policy at home threatening to “knacker us at the election”.

    Another Tory source suggests there’s a big risk of a “greenlash” from voters when the reality of environmental measures hit, although other government insiders claim Downing Street hopes that a successful COP could go some way to improve the Conservatives standing with younger voters.

    Given public awareness overall of the summit that might seem like wishful thinking – remember our pollster who suggested the event had barely been noticed so far?

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  22. If the Government hopes to gain credit with younger voters, then it’s crazy. The Tories can NEVER win on this issue – they will always be outflanked on it. Plus, those they hope to woo tend to hate them instinctively, and give them credit for nothing – whatever they do, in the eyes of those people, it will never be enough.

    No, the Tories would do far better to concentrate on their core vote. As things stand, they risk alienating it, while gaining no credit elsewhere. Sounds like a recipe for a smashing defeat at the next general election. Some of the smarter Tories are all too painfully aware of that. However, the smarter ones are not in charge.

    The bizarre thing is that Boris trusted his instincts to ignore the media and Westminster consensus on Brexit, and those instincts served him well. This time he’s completely out of touch and his instincts are letting him down badly. Unless of course they’re not his instincts, but Carrie’s.

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  23. Mark:

    If the Government hopes to gain credit with younger voters, then it’s crazy. The Tories can NEVER win on this issue…

    I was *really* helped by what Jonathan Haidt says about how very intolerant and unteachable woke young people (like Greta) – who are by no means a majority, even within their age group – have gained massive power not only over their peers but also their elders through the radical change in relational dynamics caused by Twitter and Facebook from around 2012:

    That takes you direct to the segment I’m thinking of, with Jordan Peterson asking some probing questions, as usual.

    By contrast, earlier Haidt had praised one group of somewhat older people that he meets with regularly as showing humility, the ability to admit they may be wrong. They show the grace and forgiveness that modern society he thinks has largely forgotten. The link to that section is here. I was as surprised as you may be by who he was thinking of!

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Sounds like a recipe for a smashing defeat at the next general election.

    Not if the plebs have only a choice of green tories or greener leftish parties. Without a populist figurehead to rally opposition around they are certain to win again.

    Richard, I watched the whole 2 hours of that podcast from your original link. I didn’t agree with everything that was said, but much of it made sense (I still find the idea of group level selection sets my teeth on edge). It was worth being reminded that rationality goes out of the window the moment there is disagreement. This of course bears on the climate change “debate” which ceased to be about finding the right answer a long time ago.

    Liked by 2 people

  25. Jit: Sorry to be surprised that anyone already watched the whole 2 hours! Like you I didn’t agree entirely with any of the three debaters (and listeners, notably, to each other). I did like Peterson trying to get away from abstract beliefs, as a base for enough harmony to discover truth again jointly in western society, to an ideal we are striving to imitate. And I liked lots about Matt Ridley’s friend Steven Pinker, not least the Jewish jokes. But also his correction about the ‘good old days’ of the New York Times, avid supporter of both Hitler and Stalin! No final answers but plenty to chew on, especially about what I take to be a rather unique generation gap triggered so recently by the Likes and Retweets of Twitter and Facebook.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. “I was *really* helped by what Jonathan Haidt says about how very intolerant and unteachable woke young people (like Greta) – who are by no means a majority, even within their age group – have gained massive power not only over their peers but also their elders through the radical change in relational dynamics caused by Twitter and Facebook from around 2012:”

    Social media algorithms are an enabler, but what they help enable has occurred endlessly in history. Intolerant new cultures necessarily always have to arise from a small minority, and their psychological pressures frequently sway or even exert command over majorities. Plus children often play a major role because they are both primed to take onboard cultural templates, plus are often wielded by adults who are adherents, as their presumed innocence (which is often read by society as as a proxy for ‘truth’) and the social protections around them, make it harder to resist them. In small communities people usually remember the role of the Salem children. Scaled up you have the Hitler youth pressuring their own parents and not beyond betraying them. And the Red Guard in China far worse, easily eclipsing current situations. In practice they were a mix of children and young adults, ‘students’, but generally starting at about age 12. Greta is a modern Nogqawuse, a teenage girl who declared that a South African tribal civilisation must destroy their entire means of physical support (cattle, grain stocks, enclosures, etc) in order to be ‘renewed’ and fix the problems afflicting them at the time. A majority eventually complied, which caused mass starvation, a wave of migration out of the area, and effectively the end of the civilisation; the ragged remainder succumbed to colonisation. This is classic millenarian culture; and Greta similarly advocates the destruction of our whole physical means of support without proposing any realistic alternative to keep the lights on and keep people alive (she also decries nuclear). https://judithcurry.com/2019/07/29/child-prophets-and-proselytizers-of-climate-catastrophe/.

    JIT: Your teeth should be a little more comfortable to know that Group-Selection (in the context of Multi-Level selection), is mathematically equivalent to Kin Selection (which presumably you are happy with), where it is kin relations causing the correlated interaction. However, GS also covers situations where something other than kin (partially or wholly) causes the correlated interaction. Cultural entities are essentially group identification and reinforcement engines. In practice, throughout our evolutionary history they have been a *net* huge benefit (why we are so subject to them). However, I doubt if anyone knows whether this is still the case in the modern science / technology enabled era. For sure they have always had serious downsides despite the net benefit, and some cultures can be wholly negative.

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  27. Pinker (about 1:01:30) “I just want to caution against… that things were that much better in the past. One of my favourite quotes is that ‘the best explanation for the Good Old Days is a bad memory’.” Yep.

    “Every new media opens up a kind of Wild West of apocrypha, a carnival of nonsense. This happened with the printing press, and with the mass production of newspapers and pamphlets, and radio; there’s a mass of plagiarism. Newspapers in the nineteenth century reported the discoveries of sea-monsters and miracles, revivals of the dead, and all kinds of nonsense. And it took a while for it to settle into norms that would allow… people got fed up with the nonsense… they did gravitate to the more reliable sources, but it took a while for those norms and fact-checking mechanisms to be implemented.” Yep. Said the same in this parish myself.

    Like

  28. Andy,

    There was also a discussion between Jordan Peterson and Micheal Shellenberger about the relationship between environmentalism and mental health and particularly depression.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Thanks Bill. I’ll check it out. I’ve trawled some Shellenberger stuff and even quoted him on ‘green religion’, but I’ve never come across this.

    Like

  30. FWIW, google will show a lot of hits if you search for “vegan diets and mental illness”. Of course, vegans will argue that on the contrary, plant based diets are uniquely helpful for mental health.

    However, it is incontrovertible that nutritional deficiencies can be bad for mental health ( as well as health in general)

    e.g. lack of vitamin B3 leading to pellagra

    https://www.aocd.org/page/Pellagra#:~:text=Pellagra%20is%20a%20systemic%20disease,occur%20before%20the%20other%20D's.

    lack of iodine leading to mental deficiency

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3074887/#:~:text=An%20insufficient%20supply%20of%20thyroid,strategy%20for%20prevention%20of%20IDD.

    Green activists tend to be anti-meat, pro-vegetarian, and increasingly pro-vegan (in addition to which, veganism is the latest fad which all the media is pushing).

    Eat what you like, but monitor your nutrient levels.

    Like

  31. OT: Did you know that Steven Pinker was at school with Marcy Kahan, who wrote some excellent radio plays about a fictionalized Noel Coward doubling as a detective-cum-spy?

    Pirated 128kbps MP3s are available here:

    https://archive.org/details/noel-coward-quintet

    (I love archive.org but how does it continue to get away with such obvious piracy?)

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Mike,

    Maybe we should get the government to fortify organic soya milk?

    Like

  33. Andy:

    Social media algorithms are an enabler, but what they help enable has occurred endlessly in history.

    I don’t see it as endless. Indeed, I’m very interested in how it ends.

    Here’s the Peterson warning I’d urge you to apply:

    “It enables you to have one answer to everything, which is rarely helpful.”

    We both enjoyed the same quip by Pinker. But he was using it to say Haidt’s pessimism could well be wrong.

    You seemed to be going in an opposite direction.

    Greta is not a modern Nogqawuse; the whole “Messiah” thing is a PR con, as can be seen in Glasgow today.

    If one has eyes to see.

    History is still being made; the end has not been written.

    Like

  34. Richard,

    No single concept or word answers everything. I don’t know of anyone who claims such, including myself. Oh except for some religions, of course, which claim that the word of their God or Spirit is indeed the answer to everything.

    ‘Greta is not a modern Nogqawuse; the whole “Messiah” thing is a PR con, as can be seen in Glasgow today.’

    All Messiahs are cons in a sense, that’s their entire point. But their main effects are via subconscious cons. Given that the UN and governments around the world and the mainstream media et al have largely applauded her so far, I’d say her status as a millenarian prophet has worked pretty well for her over the last three years. Hopefully, some of the shine will now be coming off as she loses the benefit of child status.

    ‘If one has eyes to see.’

    Perhaps you can see CO2 also 😉

    “History is still being made; the end has not been written.”

    Golly, you don’t say. Did anyone mention this wasn’t the case?

    Like

  35. All Messiahs are cons in a sense, that’s their entire point.

    For me there’s one exception. But he wouldn’t let them call him Messiah. That’s a puzzle worth looking into but for me it speaks of a God of humility. The trait Haidt pays tribute to in some of his followers in the 21st century, that he knows personally.

    Can we differ on that rather big point and still have fruitful dialogue?

    I think so, if we hold to the same humility.

    After Pinker uses the aphorism ‘the best explanation for the Good Old Days is a bad memory’ and gives trenchant details of the Bad Old Days of the New York Times Haidt simply says “Thank you for that, I didn’t know that.”

    He clearly still has differences with Pinker and with Peterson at the end. But his attitude means the dialogue enriches both him and the viewer – at least that’s the way it seemed for me.

    Like

  36. Richard: “He clearly still has differences with Pinker and with Peterson at the end. But his attitude means the dialogue enriches both him and the viewer.”

    Certainly. The advantage of a civilised discussion between three learned persons all with differing viewpoints; the sum is greater than the parts, both for them and for the audience.

    Liked by 1 person

  37. The facsimile Greta and her turtle may easily be the most insipid way yet to raise the consciousness level of people to at least that of cognitive dissonance regarding the imminent doom. Maybe even a few will actually come to the rational and informed position that the climate consensus is full of crap.

    Like

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