March 14, 2010

Global Warming Doesn't Matter; plus, In Rotation: the Bookshelf

More thoughts rattling around my head crystallized by Slajov Zizek. This argument based on one Zizek credits to Jean-Pierre Dupuy.
Global warming is fact. It is clearly demonstrable that the earth's temperature is rising. What is controversial are the causes and ramifications of said global warming. Given the complexity of the global ecosystem (we have difficulty even predicting tomorrow's weather here in the Ohio Valley), these questions will never be definitively answered, except in the context of history. In other words, we will never have a clear and convincing forecast of the future. We will only fully understand the outcome of global warming, environmental catastrophe, after the catastrophe has happened.

It's time to forget global warming and start talking about environmental catastrophe. Our only solution to avoiding catastrophe is to assume the catastrophe as fact. That doesn't mean discussing possibilities; that means acknowledging that catastrophe will happen, and accepting it as part of our reality. Only if we accept catastrophe as fact (it will happen!) can we then move to solve the problem, and therefore avoid the catastrophe. Only if we fully believe in the catastrophe can we enact the measures that hindsight would tell us could solve the problem. We would be, in essence, creating a closed temporal circuit, with the ability to act on a future that we know is going to happen.

We can't know the future, of course. Our solutions will be imperfect, but we will have solutions.

The interesting thing about this idea is that we have proof that it works: this is exactly how the US intelligence agencies have approached terrorism since 9/11. Any time a representative of the US administration was asked to speculate about future terrorist acts, they were very forward about saying that "it's not a question of if, but when, the next terrorist strike will happen". This is not the normal "cover your ass" public statement; this is a way to approach a problem . . . and it has been very effective. Not perfect, but effective.

There are still questions that need to be discussed, such as the likely nature of the environmental catastrophe, the best solutions, and the costs of those solutions versus their benefits. This is exactly the nature of the discussions we have about global terrorism. We need to forget global warming and start talking about environmental catastrophe. The important thing we have to acknowledge is this: environmental catastrophe, like global terrorism, is fact.

* * * * *

Time for another In Rotation, but I've been listening to pretty much the same old things lately. So how about some books?
  • Slavoj Zizek: First As Tragedy, Then As Farce
  • Robert Creeley: Collected Poems
  • Bruno Schulz: Street of Crocodiles
  • Lester Bangs: Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung
  • Thorstein Veblen: The Theory of the Leisure Class
  • Rainer Maria Rilke: Duino Elegies
  • Astra Taylor, ed.: Examined Life
  • Witold Gombrowicz: Ferdydurke
That's it for now. Out!


josh said...

Good stuff, Bill. I'm not convinced that catastrophe is something we want to avoid. The Zizek/Dupuy position seems to assume that it is. Is that a proper reading of it?

Bill Zink said...

Yeah, that is the proper reading of the idea.

Zizek is interesting because he holds on to a lot of leftist values while radically questioning the foundations that buttress the current structures of these values. He (along with Badiou) are Marxists who continually attack other Marxists and Social/Liberal Democrats. These two guys interest me a lot these days.

Look close, and you can see that faith is an overwhelming subtext in this discussion. I'm guessing Zizek has some interesting things to say about faith, just as Badiou does. I'll probably run across it eventually (Zizek is ridiculously prolific).

josh said...

Where's a good place to start with Badiou? I've read bits and pieces but never finished a complete work. I've got a copy of "Handbook of Inaesthetics," that I cracked open a year ago but haven't picked up since.

Bill Zink said...

My favorite is "Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil". I made it most of the way through "Being and Event", but it read like modernist poetry to me, since I have no background in set theory. Man, if I could go back to school to pick up some stuff like that . . .

josh said...

A would imagine a decent undergrad textbook on set theory would be all you need. I got all the set theory I know from the internet and a logic textbook written in 1968, "Logic by Way of Set Theory" by Ehlers.