Lapham’s Quarterly Fall 2019: CLIMATE, pt. 1

[CATEGORIES: Literature, Lapham’s Quarterly, Reading, Book Review]
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CLIMATE is here.

This should be good.  (It’s L.Q., of course.)  (It IS good, now that, months later, I’ve finished reading it.)

Every issue seems timely, if not prescient.  Climate continues to be very much in the news. L.Q.’s introductory email says: “Our Climate issue is part of Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than 250 news outlets to strengthen coverage of the climate story.” A planned prescience, with sentience aforethought.

You may have heard of Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish girl who spoke on climate change this past September 23rd at the United Nations.  LQ’s CLIMATE has her April 2019 speech to the Parliament of the U.K.  Timely.

As an aside, but pertinent here, I refer to this quote by Ann Bridge, included in my comments on the previous issue Happiness:

“Human life has run on on much the same lines for four thousand years–sowing and reaping, spinning and weaving, cooking and eating food; loving and marriage, birth and death, the pursuit of knowledge… …But since the beginning of the nineteenth century have come also the steam engine and the internal combustion engine, the telegraph, the telephone, and the wireless… …At the same time the invention of machinery and the flooding of the world with mass-produced goods have modified many aspects of human life…  …This is the great modern problem for the whole world.”  (L.Q. Happiness pp. 98-99)

The point is that we are consuming resources and expelling the residue, in the air, on the land, and in the seas, at a break-neck speed of which we may only become aware after it’s ‘too late’ to save ourselves or the planet.  There is logic to the argument that weather has waxed and waned over periods of tens and hundreds of thousands of years, but all those ages didn’t have the technology of modern MAN for acceleration.

Chamonix Valley, French Alps, during the Ice Age and the nineteenth century, by Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc, 1874. (p. 4-5)

This issue of L.Q. is littered (pun intended) with criticism of capitalist consumerism and how its unbridled expansion, according to some, is wreaking havoc on the Earth.  If I get this right, they say the release of carbon into the atmosphere, due to the massive burning of fossil fuels (manufacturing and energy plants, cars, etc.), blocks the natural balance of planetary heating and cooling, causing heat to be retained within the atmosphere, where it heats the land, sea, and polar ice caps.  Snow and ice melt, causing sea levels to rise.  The exposed arctic tundras that were previously covered with ice release even more carbon, exacerbating the problem.

But still it can be cold.  The Winds of Change graphic explains this a bit, with the weakening polar jet streams allowing the cold arctic weather to come further south. It’s all a big scientific mish-mash of facts, studies, and projections.  The IPCC is one organization analyzing this carefully. If they hadn’t shot themselves in the be-hind with their computer models and the infamous ‘hockey stick’ controversy some years ago, then they might get the ear of more of the ‘climate change deniers and skeptics’, those people who want to see facts. Regardless, more than a few say it is a settled science.

Many will say we are living with the facts now.  In the U.S., California is on fire, partly due to over-development and the inability to protect that from scorched earth, whether Nature- or Man-caused.  The Amazon forest is burning, purposely lit by agricultural developers. They say we won’t run out of oxygen (plant photosynthesis) due to this massive deforestation (whew, gasping for breath!), but here we are releasing even more carbon into the atmosphere when the forest could be sucking up the carbon and producing oxygen.  I found an article recently (11/29/19) on burning Borneo forests in order to plant for and produce palm oil, which apparently is used in everything: BurningBorneo.

I for one am not going to try to settle the science one way or the other.  I do think that a ‘convincing argument’ is the crux of getting anything done.  ACTION is needed, and so many of our so-called ‘representatives’ are unwilling to do anything unless there is unequivocal proof of the necessity.  Fortunately, the withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris Agreement is largely hype at this time, and not final, as noted in the Wikipedia link.

Education, information, being informed.  That’s what L.Q. is here for.  Read, decide for yourself, then DO something, pro or con.

Who is who this issue, that I’ve heard of?  Mark Twain, James Inhofe, John Calvin, Abraham Lincoln, Charles Darwin, Carl Sagan, William Shakespeare, Rachel Carson, H.G. Wells, Aldous Huxley, R. Buckminster Fuller, Joseph Stalin, Aristotle, Susan Fenimore Cooper (?), Henry Adams, Karl Marx, Ovid, Plato, Thomas Jefferson, and Leonardo Da Vinci, to name a few of the 75 or so present.  As usual, it is the writers I haven’t heard of who I find equally insightful.

Several info charts from the issue are available online: climate-surprises

Founder/editor Lewis Lapham  writes the Preamble this issue, Paying The Piper.  As I noted earlier, capitalist consumerism is blamed for the wanton consumption and destruction of resources and the effects thereof.  Mr. Lapham asserts:

“The warming of the planet currently spread across seven continents, four oceans, and twenty-four time zones is the product of a fossil-fueled capitalist economy that over the past two hundred years has stuffed the world with riches beyond the wit of man to marvel at or measure.

The capitalist dynamic is both cause of our prosperous good fortune and means of our probable destruction, the damage in large part the work of Adam Smith’s invisible hand, guided by the belief that money buys the future. Nature doesn’t take checks. Who then pays the piper—does capitalism survive climate change, or does a changed climate put an end to capitalism?” (p. 13)

Personally, I’m a believer in free market forces as a natural occurrence of being human. Likewise, the older I get, I think humans are sadly flawed in their application of such.  We are greedy, flighty, illogical, and apathetic to a fault.  I can speak from my own experience as well as observations of others.  I/we lack a lot of self-control. Regardless, consumption and consumerism get the blame, not the gimme, gimme, gimme human traits behind it.  How did we come to this, from survival needs to I want more, more, more, just because I want it? Hmm.

L.Q. p. 20

Let’s hear from a couple of nay-sayers first.  They are priceless:

Senator James Inhofe, from a 2015 speech in the U.S. Senate:

“The chart behind me is very interesting because it shows two things that everyone agrees with. The first is that we had the medieval warm period. This is a period of time starting about 1000 and going to about 1400. This is a major warming period that led into what they call the Little Ice Age, which was about 1500 to about 1900. …when they first started talk­ing about global warming, a scientist named Michael Mann developed what they call the hockey stick theory, and that had a hockey stick showing that for a long period of time we had temperatures that were level, and then all of a sudden they started going up like the blade of a hockey stick. The problem was they neglected to note that the two periods were, in reality, in his sketch of a hockey stick. So in his opinion then, as portrayed by the hockey stick, there was no medieval warm period or Little Ice Age.” (p. 37-38) [That nasty hockey stick again. –JH]

“If we look at archaeological dig­gings, history, the Scriptures, climate has always been changing. Despite a long list of unsub­stantiated global warming claims, climate ac­tivists and environmental groups will cling to any extreme weather-related headline to their case for global warming and to instill the fear of global warming in the American people.” (p. 38)

Steven Milloy, from his 2009 book Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan To Control Your Life And What You Can Do To Stop Them:

“Like many Americans, your sense of the green movement may be
that it simply advocates small lifestyle changes to benefit the envi-
ronment. But the green agenda, in fact, is much more ambitious; it
promotes countless new restrictions and regulations designed to
reorder society from top to bottom.

And so the greens bombard us with an endless list of “dos” and
“don’ts”: Take colder showers. Turn the heat down. Use less air con-
ditioning. Dry your clothes on a clothesline. Drive small, fuel efficient
vehicles or stop driving altogether. Avoid imported or non-locally
grown food. Bring your own bags to the supermarket. Buy energy effi-
cient lightbulbs. Lose weight. (Fat people allegedly use more gaso-
line.) Buy expensive “green” electricity. Shun bottled water and
drive-thru restaurants. Use cloth diapers. Clean your house with “nat-
ural” products. Use a non-motorized push lawnmower. Pay more for
“fair trade” coffee. Don’t use disposable cameras. Vacation closer to home.

All these admonitions have something in common—you living on
a smaller, more inconvenient, more uncomfortable, more expensive,
less enjoyable, and less hopeful scale. And the greens’ moral hector-
ing is just the beginning. Green ideologues are bursting with an impa-
tient zeal to begin dictating, through force of law, your mobility, diet,
home energy usage, the size of your house, how far you can travel, and
even—as we shall see—how many children you can have.” (P. 93)

Sadly, he has a point. While there is a rise in ‘free spirit’, choose your gender, be anything, there is a commensurate rise in thought-suppression. Don’t exercise free speech, even if it’s bad speech. One MUST accept new attitudes, you don’t have a choice. What does that have to do with being Green? If you don’t understand, you’re part of the problem.

I often get the impression that the effort to ‘level ALL playing fields’ is leading us to micro-managing every aspect, every thought, of every life.  Liberals are trying to get away from elitism? It brings to mind Woodrow Wilson’s chilling entreaty quoted in the L.Q. Ways Of Learning issue:

“By 1909 then Princeton Univ. president Woodrow Wilson was stating “We want one class of persons to have a liberal education,” “…and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class of necessity in every society, to forgo the privilege of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific manual tasks.””  (p. 15)  Hmm.  ‘A very much larger [less educated] class….’.  Even back then, in context, what kind of good intention was that?

I just heard the term ‘OK Boomer’, which is becoming an epithet against the baby boomer generation who are now being blamed as the root cause of all the climate and waste devastation. It happened on their watch. It’s their fault. They should have know better, should have seen it coming. Blame, blame, blame. As Ms. Thunberg and others say, the Boomers have ruined the future. Will the blame game, being scolded by a 16 yr-old, make it better? Will that result in a rush to change? I doubt it. You need to work toward willing acceptance, not push-back and resistance. Instead of wasting precious energy on blame, perhaps the younger generations, GenX, Millennials, GenZ, u-name-it, could direct their new-found brilliance to technological solutions.  Recognize that humans are fallible and illogical, and get on with it. Man is a part of Nature, not apart of Nature.  How did we evolve to this?  I don’t know, I just hope we haven’t stopped evolving. But I digress.

To be continued…

The standard notes:
1. Since L.Q.’s inception with the Winter 2008 issue its size is always 7″ x 10″ x 1/2-17/32″. It is white-covered, printed on high quality paper throughout, with richly printed reproductions of fine art from time immemorial, and 221 pages up to a page or two of addenda at the back.
2. Each issue contains extracts about the title topic from great authors and thinkers spanning all recorded history. It begins with an eloquent, to a fault, preamble/introduction by editor Lewis Lapham. The main body is called Voices In Time and contains 3 or 4 subcategories of the topic with about 25 extracts per section. Noteworthy sidebars, side quotes, and depictions of appropriate art from the ages are liberally distributed throughout. Several extended contemporary essays bring up the rear. There are several other small sections every issue (Among the Contributors, Conversations, Miscellany, ‘The Graphic’).
3. Per the L.Q. website:
“Lapham’s Quarterly embodies the belief that history is the root of all education, scientific and literary as well as political and economic. Each issue addresses a topic of current interest and concern—war, religion, money, medicine, nature, crime—by bringing up to the microphone of the present the advice and counsel of the past.”
4. I encourage all to subscribe to this fine publication. It is a rich supplement to anyone’s reading.

About JohnRH

Retired, avid winter skier, avid reader, traveler (avidly). :)
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