Casaubon's Book

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One of the things I’ve been arguing for years is that most people in the developed world, given a perceived lack of alternatives and no narrative to explain change and sacrifice, will do almost anything to keep their present way of life. I point out that if they become cold enough most people would shovel live baby harp seals into their furnace to keep warm, while carefully justifying why this is reasonable and necessary and probably convincing themselves that baby harp seals like to be burned alive.

I have been thinking much about this metaphor lately, as the tone of the discussion of nuclear power has crescendoed along with events in Japan. Because I believe that our desire for comfort and security will override our ethical considerations unless we conceive a larger, coherent narrative that enables a different outcome, and because such a narrative has not emerged, despite my and others’ best attempts to write it, I see nuclear power, lots more deepwater offshore drilling in environmentally sensitive spots, natural gas drilling in my own neighborhood and drilling in ANWAR among other things as largely a done deal, with some caveats based on timing of events (more on this in a moment). I also see them as largely ineffective as a response to our energy and environmental crisis. The fact that they will not significantly alter or stave off our present situation has nothing to do with whether or not we will do these things, however.

Let me be clear – I would rather not see ANWAR touched. I believe that offshore drilling, if done at all, needs to be done with extreme ecological care – and I don’t anticipate that care will be taken in the race to the bottom that I do not want a natural gas well on my property or adjacent to it – and then thirty more as each individual well is rapidly played out and more wells must be drilled. I do not think that nuclear power plants are a good idea in a society enduring a gradual decline into a lower state of function – they require a very stable and energy intensive infrastructure to maintain safely, and we are not going to have that society. I do not think that radiation risks, especially to children are trivial – even if less dangerous than some other things. Moreover, I do not believe we can afford either the carbon or monetary upfront investment that nuclear plants require – the first decade and more of nuclear operations is spent paying off the heavy carbon and fossil fuel investments in them, and that time scale simply doesn’t work in a depletion and warming scenario – the net EROEI simply isn’t valuable enough. Moreover, as I wrote, most of our plans in a society with declining wealth, declining resources and a destabilizing climate, must work well in case of failure – they must take into account the regular and likely failures that accompany a less stable society. A half-built nuclear plant is not a useful thing. A full built nuclear plant that has to be taken offline because expensive repairs cannot be effected is not a useful thing, and is, indeed a dangerous one as Dmitry Orlov rightly points out.

On the other hand, I do not think that the present disaster in Japan will have a death toll that even approaches the death toll from our coal habit. I do not think that the dangers of nuclear power are as great as the dangers of our present, ecologically unstable ways of generating electricity. I do not think that local water contamination from hydrofracing is nearly as big a danger to me as water contamination from mountaintop removal coal mining is to people in West Virginia. The Macondo oil spill was a tragedy, but not enough of a tragedy to get Americans out of their cars. Much was written about how people were depressed, angered, hurt by it – but those are emotional reactions, and they come cheap. At the same time as the Macondo spill, American oil consumption was rising again. At the same time that legions of “environmentalists” will come out arguing about the evils of nuclear power, they will be cooled and comforted through the summer by coal plants.

Several years ago I was invited to protest a coal plant with a group of environmental activists. Speaking as someone who believes in civil action even when it is largely pointless, I agreed – it had been a depressingly long time since I’d been arrested for anything, and the occasional civil disobedience arrest is good for the soul, and coal is bad for it. Most of my fellow activists were students, and they invited me first to address the student group. I asked them how much electricity they use. They spoke proudly of their local diets, bikes and cloth bags. I observed that none of those things has much to do with electricity – on the other hand, electric devices, refrigeration and using a dryer have a lot to do with it. I invited them to measure their electric usage, and to ask themselves what they will give up to use 1/2, 1/3, 1/4. Since nearly 3/4 of this particular area’s electric usage comes from coal, that was what was required – that they drop their usage by 3/4. That everyone else do so – that the library that was open all night for their study convenience be closed at night, so to reduce energy usage. That they use their computers dramatically less, in order to reduce both their personal use, but also the huge servers that create most of the internet’s impact. Reduced use of refrigeration – how will they eat with a fridge the size of a dorm fridge – holding all their food, not just the private stash in their dorm, but their share of what exists in the communal cafeteria, and at home.

I asked them how many of them were prepared to give these things up in order to end coal usage, to use that much less energy. About half of them raised their hands, divided between hesitant and enthusiastic – these were smart, educated and committed young people, and that’s a hard road to travel. Then we talked about how. I asked how could this be made easier – how could infrastructure changes make it more possible. They were full of ideas. I asked how many of them would have done so after 9/11, if they were asked to do so rather than go to war in the Middle East – they all raised their hands. I asked how many of them would be prepared to do this if everyone else were doing it. All the hands rose. I asked how many of them would be willing to do it if they understood it as a way of saving future generations, their own future children and grandchildren. Most of them did. What if they were told they were heroic, that their acts were ones of courage and heroism, rather than just being weird things done in the dark by themselves.

By the end of this conversation, everyone spoke of ways that this could happen, of acts that could permit their march on the coal plant to be legitimate, honest, a true call for the closing of it, but not the replacement of their energy source either with a fantasy of perfection (the dream of endless solar and wind that has no basis in physical reality) oor with the denial that leads inevitably to the opening of another coal plant, equally toxic.

Now I’m a fairly good speaker and you could easily argue that those students had no intention of acting, that they were enthused by the rhetoric of the moment, and went home and plugged in their cell phones and turned on their laptops and stopped caring. That may well be true – the problem with stirring up passions is that most people don’t stay stirred without a coherent narrative, without a story to tell themselves to answer the question “why am I doing this hard thing?”

I have, however, seen this take hold in many places before, and stay rooted. The Riot for Austerity which ran in 2006-2007, for example, had at its peak more than 1000 people who daily were excited about figuring out how to reduce their energy consumption to 1/10 of the American average even without infrastructure changes, without waiting for the monorail and the subsidized solar and everything else we are promised but can’t wait for. What we found doing this, among people in many countries, in city, suburb and countryside is this – that as long as it is part of a story, changing your life radically is wholly possible. You can endure anything – as long as it is part of a story of heroism and transformation.

This isn’t news, of course. Your grandparents did it to fight the Nazis in Russia, in Britain and the US. Your great-grandparents did it to change the world politically in unions and labor movements. Your great-great many times great grandparents may have climbed on tiny boats with their children and endured hunger, sickness, disease to do it, or gone to war on principle, or refused to go to war on principle, or endured martyrdom and personal suffering for their idea of right. It is a human habit to give things up, to make sacrifices, to endure, to act to accept and even embrace hardship – for a reason, because they understand it to be right.

Historian Timothy Breen has written about the history of these acts in America – about “rituals of non-consumption” that replace and provide equal satisfaction over the prior acts of consumption and usage. That is, we get together with our neighbors and try and figure out how to do without gas or sugar or meat, and that is *just as satisfying* as having the sugar or meat or gas. The Riot for Austerity found this as well. Perhaps it is time to bring back the Riot.

I do not for one moment believe the dirges being sung for nuclear power, any more than I believed the ones sung for offshore drilling last year. I do suspect that delays in nuclear power plant construction, in permitting for drilling rigs may hasten the exercise of decline, that new regulations and rules with reduce the EROEI and increase upfront costs that make it less likely that these things will come online. What events have done is not make these choices impossible, but upped the distance between our moment of panic “there are rolling blackouts…there is no gas at the pump” and any response “well, the next generation of power plants will come online in 4 years, if the funds come through, so can you wait until then for light and to run the laundry?”

Faced with that situation, we get to the harp seals. Or not – if there is an alternative way. Because it is a great deal more work to construct a narrative that is fundamentally a lie, that shoves that lie in your face daily with big brown eyes and flippers, than it is to find a truth you can live with. Our mountaintop removals stand in mute attestation to the fact that we can lie pretty damn well. Our human history stands up and points out that we do not always choose to lie, that those who tell the truth sometimes speak loud enough to be heard.

Nor do I believe for one moment the off-quoted claim that we are too spoiled, unlike our grandparents and ancestors to give things up. I think, rather, that no one has asked, no story has emerged – despite my attempts and the attempts of others to write one that takes into account events. Perhaps our collective attempt to disseminate such a story, a new way of life will evolve, as events do. Perhaps we can offer collectively, as we repeat, embellish (truthfully – the good news is that is not those of us on the ecological side of things who need to lie) and expand the narrative that says “You do not have to do that, you can choose these things instead…and come join those of us making more of less.” We need such a story more than we need nuclear power or coal power. We need it nearly as much as we need air.

Sharon

Comments

  1. #1 Sue in Pac NW
    March 21, 2011

    “You do not have to do that, you can choose these things instead…and come join those of us making more of less.” We need such a story more than we need nuclear power or coal power. We need it nearly as much as we need air.

    Well said.

    Sue

  2. #2 et
    March 21, 2011

    “local diets, bikes and cloth bags. I observed that none of those things has much to do with electricity” but only if you don’t think twice. All of these take less energy to produce – long distance food, cars, and cloth bags all save energy just not always locally.

    The biggest problem with nuclear power is waste storage. I think it is completely irresponsible to produce waste that needs to be stored for 100,000 years. There is no safe way to store it, and no way to make “stay away” signs that we are sure can be read in 10,000 let alone 90,000 years.

  3. #3 4D
    March 21, 2011

    We are the stories we tell each other.
    You posed the key question we all need to show/tell:

    “why am I doing this hard thing?”

    Understand the answer, live the practice and
    share, share, share…

    Strong post for intense times.

  4. #4 Betsy Robertson
    March 21, 2011

    “Perhaps it is time to bring back the Riot.” YES!
    The Riot made doing more with less into a game, something to share and compare with others; not competition, exactly, but a melding of experiences. I think that is the best way to approach this transition and I often refer people to the Riot website even though it is in hiibernation.

  5. #5 Claire
    March 21, 2011

    A second to bringing back the Riot, especially as the too-ancient web browser I had at the time made it impossible to participate.

  6. #6 Diane
    March 21, 2011

    Our state run bus system has had so many route cuts that it is almost useless for commuting, especially outside of standard office hours. Our town plans to eliminate curb-side pickup of recyclables (we have no trash pick-up) and hopes that we will bring it to the transfer station, which has also had its hours cut. Our collective solutions to energy use and pollution which took so many years to develop are being rapidly dismantled while an environmental fair at the high school last Saturday was packed. Which sounds great except that the parking lot was also packed with huge vehicles. So the outlines of a new story that will be at all useful are pretty murky.
    And now that I think about it, the fair had lots of booths about water use, water pollution, wildlife and gardening but nothing about transportation or energy use!

  7. #7 Joseph
    March 21, 2011

    The master “narrative” has been around for some time. It is the story of spiritual evolution, of how human beings can spiritually evolve light-years beyond our present level of functioning. The facts of the case are well established.

    What we human beings are suffering from and causing us to act in a life-negating manner is spiritual starvation: humanity has so lost touch with direct connection with the Universal Light that we are literally dying of de-generation. Losing the Light, we then seek substitute gratifications – wealth, power, children, sex, pleasure and the conquest of the biosphere – all of which are futile. This is THE lesson and the story we need to be telling ourselves right now.

    Oh, I know how this message gets ignored everytime, but like it or not, this is the only story that can make a difference because if we do this, everything else easily falls into place.

    There are those of us who are working to spread this Light. Where I live we opened up a temple to the Divine Feminine last saturday, and 130 people came to the ceremony of music, singing, dancing and Invocation. The women who organized the creation of this temple are an example of the weaving together of the sacred and the ecological.

    I myself have been advocating the rise of the feminine and the rise of esoteric spirituality for decades. Inherent in this spiritual movement is a total rejection of our entire way of life and a waking up to a whole new way of living. That is what humanity needs, to wake up spiritually.

  8. #8 Briel
    March 21, 2011

    I second (third? forth?) the riot revival. By the time I came across it I was living in a communal building with utilities that were paid off-site and had no record of my usage. I’m now in my own little shack and would love to gleefully compare usage numbers. Especially after a huge forthcoming weatherization project.

  9. #9 Robin
    March 21, 2011

    I never heard of this Riot, but in the mid-2000 when it sounds like it was in full swing, I was getting addicted to giving away and having less because my husband and I got tired of our moves being so onerous. We realized that it was the opposite of sacrifice; by sharing resources, we had more room in closets, cabinets, the house…by cutting out most shopping trips, we had more time for activities we found more fun and economical…by switching from car to bike commuting, I got thinner and healthier and didn’t have to go-to-the-gym…by not putting A/C in our new residence, in Florida (yes!), our bodies adjusted to the lack of cold blasts of air (sure, we use fans when it gets into the 90s)…by eating a vegan diet we got even healthier, fitter and more discriminating taste-wise. The changes we made, after we stopped “being conventional,” were not only easier than expected, but felt/feel liberating and not at all sacrifices.

  10. #10 melissa
    March 21, 2011

    I am running my dryer and using my laptop and listening to my fridge hum right now. I am as guilty as the rest, but many of my friends and community members believe that I am an ecologically sensitive and sustainable person.

    I do try, I am a lot like those kids you talked about. It’s a real challenge to be the weird one though. I live in a medium sized town in the midwest. Most people are more worried about the economy than the environment. I’m not even sure how to re-write my own narrative to be more sustainable, health issues, parental business, and societal pressure all make it hard.

    I would be beyond the point of no return on the weirdness scale if I gave up my fridge. My husband and I have talked about it, you know, we might even do it. But the reality is, we would spend a lot of time adjusting to living like that, and we would spend even more time debriefing everyone who came into our house, or was told about it, or had heard a rumor. It’s hard to find the time and energy for that. I’m not saying we won’t, just that we need to be prepared for it.

    It seems to me that the challenge is to stretch our boundaries, to make the socially unacceptable become normal, both for ourselves and our communities.

  11. #11 Jackson
    March 21, 2011

    One major flaw with your premise that reducing electricity use by 3/4 will lead to no coal energy use, is that coal energy will still be used. Energy reduction doesn’t do anything to reduce coal energy as the primary source. In order to do this the cost of alternative energy sources most first drop to the point where they are at least in parity with coal. Once this happens then we can start weaning ourselves off coal as a primary energy source.

  12. #12 Jackson
    March 21, 2011

    One major flaw with your premise that reducing electricity use by 3/4 will lead to no coal energy use, is that coal energy will still be used. Energy reduction doesn’t do anything to reduce coal energy as the primary source. In order to do this the cost of alternative energy sources most first drop to the point where they are at least in parity with coal. Once this happens then we can start weaning ourselves off coal as a primary energy source.

  13. #13 Sharon Astyk
    March 22, 2011

    Joseph, I don’t deny that multiple kinds of spiritual and religious englightenment have a enormous role to play – being part of a religious story is one of the best ways to move people. That said, I wouldn’t frame it as you do – or imply that there is a single spiritual answer, personally.

    Jackson, you are right to an extent – you do need to prioritize the alternative sources. That said, since coal is by far the most toxic thing we use to generate electricity, if you didn’t use coal, most regions would be able to rely on hydro, natural gas and renewables, which are better. You do, however, have to have a conscious attempt to stop the coal, that’s absolutely right.

    Sharon

  14. #14 Michieux
    March 22, 2011

    As long as we rely on an economy of consumption, and ever increasing consumption at that, and an ever increasing number of consumers to consume the things produced, can anything really change? And as long as folks ignore the elephant (of overpopulation) in the room, I doubt anything will change until it absolutely has to. When the proverbial hits the fan, the adjective “grim” just won’t cut it.

  15. #15 et
    March 22, 2011

    A report that discusses the health risks associated with electricity production, expressed in terms of number of deaths per TWh.
    http://manhaz.cyf.gov.pl/manhaz/strona_konferencja_EAE-2001/15%20-%20Polenp~1.pdf

  16. #16 rork
    March 22, 2011

    As usual it’s all about our personal behavior change, where the nice people do the right thing, not because of economic pressures, but just by their own goodness. I’d rather talk about how we are going to get legislation passed that will effect change by striking people in the wallet. Doubling the price of burning fossil fuel beats the kind acts a few do-gooders is my working hypothesis. Tax the shit out of those baby seals.
    I’m not saying that talking up the be-good part is of no use, but let’s be clear on whether we think the ultimate goal involves political change, and what it is we want there. Otherwise we make it seem like we believe personal goodness is all that is required, and I just don’t believe that.

  17. #17 Greenpa
    March 22, 2011

    Yep. There’s a crux here.

    I have a slightly sideways take on it, however (which will astonish you, I’m sure.) :-)

    To start with:

    “”Perhaps it is time to bring back the Riot.” YES!”

    Au contraire, and sorry, but – NO. (no offense, Betsy.)

    The entire effect of the Riot is; we in the choir get to polish our halos a bit, and bashfully compare them with each other.

    There is NO chance the message will reach the folks in the back pews- who outnumber the choir greatly; and even less than no chance the message will reach the folks out in the street. For one thing, as soon as they hear the words “riot”, and “austerity” – they have stopped listening at that point, and will avoid exposure to anything from that source again. Bad marketing- and yes; if you need to sell something, you’d bloody well better know your marketing rules. Do you want to be self satisfied? Or effective? (now, there’s no question in my mind that the Riot was/is 100% well intended. but…)

    The people we desperately need to reach are the hundreds of thousands of disaffected, unengaged, unemployed urban youth. They have no dog in this fight. Or any fight, they believe- if you can get them to speak from the heart, they believe they have no future. And of course, they may be right. So far as they can see, there is no benefit to them in conservation; on the contrary, they may feel inspired to consume more, faster, before they die of societal abandonment and a deep feeling of uselessness. And serve the world right, they feel.

    Our blogs, words, books- do not, and cannot reach them. (And yes, one can make the case that there are other groups we need to reach also; I focus here on this group as being the largest and most remote. Messages which can reach these might reach others.)

    This is a topic which surfaces periodically. My answer for years has been the same. What we need is art. Specifically Great Art; the real thing; not the 6th grader’s beautiful drawing we put up on the refrigerator, or FaceBook, or YouTube.

    An example; largely unknown and unacknowledged these days; the Broadway play “South Pacific” was one of the first major forces to confront racism; head on, and hard. One bitter song; “You’ve got to be carefully taught- to hate all the people your relatives hate” – struck deeply; and embedded within the brilliance of the play, could not be ignored or forgotten. It laid foundations on which many civil rights actions could be built. One force of many; one heavy push on that iceberg.

    Music; movies- have impacts far beyond any we can engender. The great problem of course is that truly great art is horrendously elusive. It requires that great artists be free to hold their work true; incredibly difficult when complex funding is necessary. “The Day After Tomorrow” – is a good example of a missed opportunity; a little too silly in parts; too much bad science; too many production decisions based on bad judgment.)

    Some of us know artists with this kind of potential. We need to bend their ears; inspire them; support them; not just for 10 minutes, but for years to come.

    Maybe we need to create Visiting Troubadour positions? You have room for one at your place, Sharon? If you can support one this year; send them to me the next; we’ll house them and feed them for the next year- and then?

    They are the most powerful communicators we can have.

  18. #18 Crunchy Chicken
    March 22, 2011

    Ahh, I miss the Riot. And I think a renaming would make it more approachable, but it’s the concept that really does it in for most people. Not the marketing.

    In any case, maybe Lady Greenpa can sing us a song or two…

  19. #19 Greenpa
    March 22, 2011

    Hey, Crunch; in an alternative existence, I did make a little recording in the past months; and- I got a marriage proposal, as response to me beyootiful voice. :-) Of course, the girl told Spice, not me. As a baritone-tenor these days, I don’t think the Lady will fly, though…

  20. #20 Crunchy Chicken
    March 22, 2011

    Lady – I think it’s the thong outfit that we should be more concerned about rather than your vocal range.

  21. #21 Greenpa
    March 22, 2011

    For any of you who are unaware, La Crunch and I have a history…

    http://littlebloginthebigwoods.blogspot.com/2008/01/crusty-chicken-uncovered.html

    that may also be a healthy diversion from incessant doom- :-)

  22. #22 SC (Salty Current)
    March 23, 2011

    Joseph, I don’t deny that multiple kinds of spiritual and religious englightenment [sic] have a enormous role to play – being part of a religious story is one of the best ways to move people.

    *gag*

  23. #23 Douglas Watts
    March 23, 2011

    So many strawmen, so little time. I thought this was a ‘science’ blog.

  24. #24 Sharon Astyk
    March 23, 2011

    You are so right SC – after all, history shows that rational dialogue and scientific evidence is absolutely the very best way to move people. Religion and faith – never got anyone to do anything. Thanks for opening my eyes!

    Sharon

  25. #25 Ewan R
    March 23, 2011

    Religion and faith – never got anyone to do anything.

    Hey, if it can get you to fly a plane into a building, burn cities to the ground sparing not even an ox, cause ~50% of the population to view themselves as chattel, drive you to weekly donate to an organization that protects pedophiles, and murder folk in the name of being pro-life then perhaps channeled in just the right way it can also be used to stop people consuming as much. (not to mention being a major force in denying that there’s a problem in the first place)

    Right?

  26. #26 Mark N.
    March 23, 2011

    “…cause ~50% of the population to view themselves as chattel…”

    Ahem…do you mean presently? If so, where is this place?

  27. #27 Sharon Astyk
    March 24, 2011

    Well, to be blunt, Ewan, yes. Because the same system also got early Christian to hold all property in common, got Jews to abstain from sex 12 days each month and to avoid eating certain foods in a society without a huge excess of calories. Religion can and does do a lot of shitty things. It also does very successful things. What so far has absolutely no history of moving large numbers of people to make radical change, particularly self-sacrifice unfortunately, is scientific rationalism. It would be great if it could, but there’s no evidence for that.

    Sharon

  28. #28 Ewan R
    March 24, 2011

    Ahem…do you mean presently? If so, where is this place?

    Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, the Jewish community in my home town.

    What so far has absolutely no history of moving large numbers of people to make radical change, particularly self-sacrifice unfortunately, is scientific rationalism.

    Hm, I’d argue that the enlightenment did just that – unfortunately the forces of religion took the reigns back in rather short order setting things like sufferage back significantly. Although frankly I agree that religious motivation does have the potential to drive people to do precisely that which they wouldn’t otherwise do (I was being snarkily supportive of your position – just because I find it distasteful doesn’t make it untrue – also being true don’t mean I have to like it!) although I do wonder about how one would go about utilizing the power given that it can bend and weave wherever it will – it remains an empirical truth that resources are limiting – Religious belief is one of the few forces that can blithley ignore empirical truths – particularly when a vast number of religious folk in the highest consuming country are pretty darn sure that given the fact (to use the word to mean precisely the opposite) that the world is likely to come to an end pretty soon anyway – given that belief why bother conserving a thing? (non-rhetorical question)

  29. #29 SC (Salty Current)
    March 24, 2011

    (Let’s see if Sb lets me comment here today….)

    You are so right SC – after all, history shows that rational dialogue and scientific evidence is absolutely the very best way to move people. Religion and faith – never got anyone to do anything.

    Yeah. I’m guessing I know a bit more about what history shows with regard to social movements than you do, strawmanner and false dichotomizer.

    Anyway, religion and “spirituality” are dishonest, shortsighted ways to “move” people to take action (not to mention determining the best action to take). At best, they’re simply unnecessary. I asked a representative of a religious organization involved in environmental work a few months ago whether if he came to believe his god didn’t exist he would care the same about the environment; he didn’t have an answer, and I strongly suspect that at root he was involved for the same reasons atheists are. (And you demonstrate this in practice, since religion hasn’t had an “enormous role to play” on this blog that I’ve seen.) At worst, of course, religious beliefs are anti-environmental and interfere with concerted action, and once the epistemic abdication has occurred there’s no way to say which are “right” and which “wrong,” so that’s a pretty blunt and unpredictable approach. (In addition to the fact that we need the best local, cooperative science right now in addressing environmental problems and this abdication interferes with that. Make no mistake, rational dialogue and scientific evidence have to be at the core of what people are doing, and, as you yourself suggest, these are not compatible with “faith.” When you opt for the latter for reasons of presumed political expediency, you’re hurting the former, and patronizing people in the process.

    Thanks for opening my eyes!

    You’re quite welcome.

  30. #30 SC (Salty Current)
    March 24, 2011

    What so far has absolutely no history of moving large numbers of people to make radical change, particularly self-sacrifice unfortunately, is scientific rationalism. It would be great if it could, but there’s no evidence for that.

    That is, quite simply, absurd.

    (And when Ewan R and I are even remotely in agreement on anything, you have a problem.)

  31. #31 Sharon Astyk
    March 25, 2011

    Wow, that application of irrelevant anecdotal evidence, name-calling and assertions of your own superior knowledge really impressed me, SC. You certainly know your logical fallacies and apply them beautifully!

    Ewan, the Enlightenment certainly de-emphasized the importance of religion as a motivating factor, in some cases rejected religious arguments, but in others reinforced them in the form of more liberal religious analysis. I also think that “the enlightenment” was not one single thing, moving people towards one clear end in the same way that say, most religious movements are – it was a series of fits and starts, historically speaking, often enlisting religion in its various causes.

    The funny thing about this conversation is that I loathe the word “spiritual” and most of its underlying concepts more than any atheist I know ;-).

    Sharon

  32. #32 SC (Salty Current)
    March 25, 2011

    Wow, that application of irrelevant anecdotal evidence, name-calling and assertions of your own superior knowledge really impressed me, SC. You certainly know your logical fallacies and apply them beautifully!

    I do know my logical fallacies, and if you did you would recognize that they weren’t present in my post and at least make an attempt to grasp and respond to the content.

    I’ll leave with this comment: You might want to rethink the wisdom of falsehoods as a basis for radical social movements.

    Ewan, the Enlightenment certainly de-emphasized the importance of religion as a motivating factor, in some cases rejected religious arguments, but in others reinforced them in the form of more liberal religious analysis.

    Yoyu’re not responding to Ewan’s point, which was that people can be (and have been) motivated to create social change by rational dialogue and scientific evidence. And your claim doesn’t even make much sense – changing religion isn’t the same thing as reinforcing it.

    I also think that “the enlightenment” was not one single thing, moving people towards one clear end in the same way that say, most religious movements are -

    There is no single clear end of religious thought or movements with respect to the environment. Far from it. There’s that pesky wisdom issue again.

    The funny thing about this conversation is that I loathe the word “spiritual” and most of its underlying concepts more than any atheist I know ;-).

    What the significance of this is supposed to be, or why you find it funny, I have no idea, but it’s an odd thing to mention after you used the term unironically more than once in your response to Joseph.

  33. #33 Aaron
    April 2, 2011

    I burn Anthracite as my primary home heat. It is clean burning, costs about $400 a year to heat my home and is mined 5 miles from my house. It is definitely better than oil for me. I know you are against bituminous coal for electric generation but what about anthracite for home heating?

  34. #34 Jen
    April 9, 2011

    Your baby seal analogy is frightening. And probably true. It reminds me of a chilling short story by the wonderful Neil Gaiman, “Babycakes.” Have you read it? There is an illustrated version online:

    http://ljconstantine.com/babycakes/

  35. #35 Eamon
    May 9, 2011

    the first decade and more of nuclear operations is spent paying off the heavy carbon and fossil fuel investments in them

    Is there a scientific reference for this?

  36. #36 Eamon
    May 12, 2011

    Anyone there?

  37. #37 Eamon
    May 15, 2011

    So, given that there’s been no response to my query @35, am I take it that you have no scientific reference for your nuclear carbon statement?

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