Bibliography

Books and Journal Articles:

Bashir, Nadia Y., Lockwood, Penelope, Chasteen, Alison L., Nadolny, Daniel and Noyes, Indra, ‘The ironic impact of activists; Negative stereotypes reduce social change influence’, European Journal of Social Psychology 43 (2013), 614-626.

Bryan, Kim, ‘This Changes Everything: a chat with Naomi Klein’, The Practical Journal of Sustainable Living 95 (2015), 14-16.

Davis, Mike, Late Victorian Holocausts: El Nino Famines and the Making of the Third World, (London, 2001).

Dietrich, Christopher R.W, ‘Popeye, Operation’ in Spencer C, Tucker, The Encyclopaedia of the Vietnam War: A Political, Social, and Military History, (California, 2011).

Eloy, Geoff, Forging Democracy: The History of the Left in Europe 1850-2000, Oxford: OUP, (2002).

House, Tamzy J, Weather as a Force Multiplier: Owning the Weather 2025, US Air Force, (2012).

Jenkins, Willis, ‘After Lynn White: Religious Ethics and Environmental Problems’, Journal of Religious Ethics 37 (2009), 283-309.

Klein, Naomi, This Changes Everything; Capitalism vs. the Climate, (London, 2014).

Mitchell, Timothy, Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil, (New York, 2013).

Oreskes, Naomi, and Conway, Erik M., ‘The Denial of Global Warming’, in Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming (London, 2012), pp. 169-216.

Ridley, R.T, ‘To be Taken with a Pinch of Salt: The Destruction of Carthage’, Classical Philology, 81, (Apirl, 1986).

Schmidt, Charles W., ‘A Closer Look at Climate Change Skepticism’, Environmental Health Perspectives 118 (2010), A536-A540.

Stenhouse, Neil, ‘Should the Climate Movement Turn Down the Radicalism’, http://theenergycollective.com/neilstenhouse/2142426/should-climate-movement-turn-down-radicalism, [last accessed 13/03/15]

White, Lynn Jr., ‘The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis’, Science 155 (1967), 1203-1207.

Whitney, Elspeth, ‘White, Lynn (1907-1987)’, Bron Taylor (ed.), Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature’ (London, 2005), pp. 1735-1736.

Online Resources:

‘Beginnings’, http://climaterushontherun.blogspot.co.uk/2009/09/beginnings.html, [last accessed 13/03/15].

‘Do Young People Really Care About Climate Change’, http://www.youngscot.org/info/3008-do-young-people-really-care-about-climate-change [Last Accessed 8th March 2015].

‘HAARP – CBC News’, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZO5Adt4nhCk, [Last Accessed 17th March 2015].

‘Heathrow protests at growth plan’, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7823307.stm, [last accessed 13/03/15].

‘Naomi Klein: Obama’s Delay of Keystone XL Oil Pipeline Decision is Win for Environmentalists’, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJ8CoxnjjZg, [last accessed 7 March 2015].

‘Review: Carbon Democracy’ http://sites.uci.edu/technoethno/2014/05/22/review-carbon-democracy-political-power-in-the-age-of-oil-by-timothy-mitchell-2/, [Last Accessed 18th March 2015].

‘The Climate Rush goes to domestic departures’, 13/01/09, http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/blog/climate/climate-re ush-goes-domestic-departures-20090113, [last accessed 13/03/15].

‘There’s No Such Thing as a Natural Disaster’ http://timkovach.com/wp/2013/11/13/theres-no-such-thing-as-a-natural-disaster/, [Last Accessed 18th March 2015].

‘There’s No Such Thing as a Natural Disaster’, http://understandingkatrina.ssrc.org/Smith/, [Last Accessed 18th March 2015].

‘Waitrose dump Shell’, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7yDbkwtGeWU&t=62 [last accessed 12/03/15].

Climate Conversation, 5th June 2011, ‘Prof Kelly shows the middle way’, http://www.climateconversation.wordshine.co.nz/2011/06/prof-kelly-shows-the-middle-way/, [last accessed 18th March 2015].

Climate Rush, http://climaterush.co.uk [last accessed 13/03/15].

Cook, John, ‘Why we need to talk about the scientific consensus in climate change’, The Guardian, 20th Nov. 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2014/nov/20/why-we-need-to-talk-about-scientific-consensus-on-climate-change [last accessed 16 March 2015].

Cooper, Timothy, ‘Asking the Right Questions: Disaster and Resilience in Modern Cornwall’, History, Environment, Future, http://blogs.exeter.ac.uk/historyenvironmentfuture/2015/02/25/the-torrey-canyon-talk/ [Last Accessed 16th March 2015].

Day, Simon, The Guardian, ‘Climate Rush protest demands action on London’s air pollution’, http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2012/apr/20/climate-rush-london-air-pollution, [last accessed 13/03/15].

Global Weather Modification’, http://www.geoengineeringwatch.org/global-weather-modification-assault-causing-climate-chaos-and-environmental-catastrophe-2/, [Last Accessed 18th March 2015].

Grist, 10/2/15, http://grist.org/climate-energy/naomi-klein-on-how-to-build-a-more-kick-ass-climate-movement/, [last accessed 7 March 2015].

Grist, 9/2/15, http://grist.org/climate-energy/naomi-klein-on-why-low-oil-prices-could-be-a-great-thing/, [last accessed 6 March 2015].

HAARP’, http://www.globalresearch.ca/haarp-secret-weapon-used-for-weather-modification-electromagnetic-warfare/20407, [Last Accessed 17th March 2015].

Kelly, Michael, ‘Why my own Royal Society is wrong on climate change: A devastating critique of world’s leading scientific organisation by one of its Fellows’, The Daily Mail, 14th March 2015, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2995239/Why-Royal-Society-wrong-climate-change-devastating-critique-world-s-leading-scientific-organisation-one-Fellows.html [last accessed 17 March 2015].

Klein, Naomi, The Guardian, 6/3/15, ‘If enough of us decide that climate change is a crisis worthy of Marshall plan levels of response, then it will become one’, http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/mar/06/dont-look-away-now-the-climate-crisis-needs-you, [last accessed 7 March 2015].

Klein, Naomi, The Guardian, 8/3/15, ‘It is our great collective misfortune that the scientific community made its decisive diagnosis of the climate threat at the precise moment when an elite minority was enjoying more unfettered political, cultural, and intellectual power than at any point since the 1920s’, http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/mar/08/how-will-everything-change-under-climate-change, [last accessed 7 March 2015].

Mouhot, Jean-Francois, ‘Cancun Summit: why are we not taking action on global warming?’, History and Policy, (2010), http://www.historyandpolicy.org/opinion-articles/articles/cancun-summit-why-are-we-not-taking-action-on-global-warming [Last Accessed 7th March 2015].

Ottery, Christine, The Guardian, ‘Climate Rush activists storm Daily Express newsroom’, http://www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/2010/oct/11/climate-rush-daily-express, [last accessed 13/03/15].

The Guardian, 1/12/14 ‘Writers pick the best books of 2014: part 2’, http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/dec/01/-sp-writers-pick-best-books-2014-part-2, [last accessed 7 March 2015].

The Wall Street Journal, 27th January 2012, ‘No Need to Panic About Global Warming’, http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052970204301404577171531838421366%5B%5Blast accessed 17 March 2015].

van der Zee, Bibi, The Guardian, ‘Climate Rush – time to get on your high horse and cart’, http://www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/2009/sep/04/climate-rush-horse-cart, [last accessed 13/03/15].

Vidal, John, The Guardian, 27 December 2014, ‘Pope Francis’s edict on climate change will anger deniers and US churches’, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/dec/27/pope-francis-edict-climate-change-us-rightwing, [last accessed 15/02/15].

Wardrop, Murray, The Telegraph, 27/4/09, ‘Climate change protestors arrested after gluing themselves to statue in Houses of Parliament’, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/5232465/Climate-change-protesters-arrested-after-gluing-themselves-to-statue-in-Houses-of-Parliament.html, [last accessed 13/03/15].

Watts Up With That, 28th February 2012, ‘Cambridge professor Michael Kelly on “deniers” and climate change: “science has been consistently over-egged to produce alarm” ‘, http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/02/28/cambridge-professor-michael-kelly-on-deniers-and-climate-change-science-has-been-consistently-over-egged-to-produce-alarm [last accessed 17 March 2015].

ZENIT, 11 December 2014, ‘Pope’s Message to UN Convention on Climate Change’, http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-s-message-to-un-convention-on-climate-change, [accessed 15/02/15].

 

Film

Fiennes, Sophie, The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology (2012).

Conclusions

This blog has attempted to offer insight into current issues surrounding the climate debate. We have attempted to convey the serious issues presently facing the green agenda. In doing so, we have necessarily invoked the past and a historical argument. It seems obvious that the climate agenda cannot proceed without using history to its advantage. Not in the way Tamsin Ormond and her cronies do, but in the way that Naomi Klein and Timothy Mitchell do, by subtly injecting a historical narrative into an otherwise scientific argument.

We opened by suggesting that we intended to use historical analysis in order to widen the debate surrounding climate change. Using history as a medium for the climate change debate we can elicit different factors that may answer questions concerning change or previous inaction.

Our blog has aimed to contribute this to the ongoing debate on climate, and prove that history has something meaningful to add. Scientific disciplines do not have the monopoly on climate change, a universal problem, nor should they.

The historians we have featured in our blogs use analytical study in order to come to apt conclusions concerning past actions and how to correct our past errors. As Timothy Cooper highlights perfectly in his blog, it is not about getting the message of climate change out there. That has already been done and people know there’s a problem. However, as Cooper quotes, our society “need[s]” energy.

An interdisciplinary approach allows the arguments with most substance to come to the fore. Even those without any blatant connection to academic history, such as the journalists commenting on Climate Rush, are seemingly drawn to historical features rather than the climatic ones. The fact their reader comes away with a historical argument in mind proves this contribution.

Our historical analysis of past societies has highlighted that it is the social order and the order of politics that needs to change in order for any climate enquiry to have an effect upon the planet. This analysis cannot be held without history, a 21st century enquiry into climate is no longer a question of science but of all disciplines, especially, as we have hopefully illuminated, history.

History can save this, we're serious.
History can save this, we’re serious.

Tom Richards and Hattie Wheeler

Naomi Klein and “This Changes Everything”

Stephanie Merritt, who reviews books for The Guardian, has called This Changes Everything the ‘most important book I’ve read all year’.[1] In it, Naomi Klein demands that we collectively take more responsibility for climate change that is ongoing and threatens to destroy everything that we know, as the rather macabre title implies. She regrets how ‘each supercharged natural disaster produces new irony laden snapshots of a climate increasingly inhospitable to the very industries most responsible for it’s warming’.[2] For a historical perspective, however, what is interesting is that Klein seems consistently driven to refer to the past in order to construct her argument for the future.

For one, the title of the extract of her book recently published in The Guardian includes ‘Marshall Plan’ in its title. It is only by using the example of post second war levels of danger than Klein can communicate how powerful, climate change is. Why does the general public not respond unless they are given these harsh terms, and does this approach even work? Further, it does seem Klein uses the term without any historical context, but it nevertheless implicitly strengthens her argument. In an interview, Klein states change can ‘only happen through a convergence of existing movements’, and clearly she draws on History in order to do this.[3]

medium
‘This Changes Everything’ by Naomi Klein.

A key theme in the work is justice and equality, both socially and economically. Klein feels that the green movement is a great opportunity to get more people enthused about social change.[4] Where does Klein turn for her example of how this has prospered previously? To the New Deal of 1929, following the Wall Street Crash, and to post WW2 social programmes which both highlight her reliance on history.[5] Really, though, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. As a pupil in school I faintly remember being taught that in science you should always find evidence for your points. This is what Klein does masterfully. The reader is left in no doubt that social change is possible as a result of the green movement, and Klein’s brief overview of modern history is effective nonetheless.

Again and again, Klein uses historical examples. Refuting the often-repeated lazy claim that halting climate change is impossible because it requires a global union of all nations, she writes of how they did, using the UN, ‘from ozone depletion to nuclear proliferation’ (again, lazy but effective historical examples).[6] Klein hopes for people to contribute to the book, to point out its flaws.[7] Her historical analysis is weak, but she is not a historian. Her strengths are in the narrative of the book, and history sits nestled amongst this, effective if underdeveloped. There is room for hope in the book, acres of room, and Klein has an optimistic tone as she uses the past as a weapon in fighting and winning the battle against climate change ignorance and denialism.

In an interview Klein gave to Grist, her optimism shines: ‘we’re going to win this because this is an issue of values, human rights, right and wrong’.[8] And she is right to be confident, it would appear. In This Changes Everything she uses previous examples of how morality overcame the status quo to dominate mainstream belief. Slavery, racial discrimination, sexual discrimination and apartheid are the examples that she uses.[9] This is what the climate movement needs, she deliberates, an engagement with the masses, which can then demonstrate that climate change is happening and that it can be stopped, like slavery and the rest of her list. Klein is right in claiming that the green movement needs to receive ‘the crisis treatment’ that those received and that although politicians can declare one, ‘mass movements of regular people can declare one too’.[10] All that’s needed is the spark. The supports for Klein’s (altogether convincing) argument are of historical ideology, bulldozing history a place amongst the science of climate change.

One of Klein’s main criticisms of our current lifestyle is of the economic system, and, in a YouTube video she claims that unrestrained corporate greed caused both the financial and climate crises, and that as a result, those protesting either should unite.[11] She claims, in This Changes Everything, that ‘our economic and planetary system are now at war’ and that, given the laws of nature will not, our economic system must shift. [12] Philosopher Slavoj Žižek, in The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology, suggests that what governs us is capitalism, without any space for a green movement.[13] Devastatingly, this has already been proved, specifically with Exxon and Shell’s disappointing attitudes to the agreements made at Copenhagen UN Summit in 2009.[14]

But all we have to do is keep on denying how frightened we actually are, in a condition that Klein describes as ‘on-again-off-again ecological amnesia’, and deny that we are so swayed by ideology as Žižek might suggest.[15] The simple reason for this, clearly, is that it is easier to pretend climate does not affect you than to act, disturbingly the same argument that could be applied to slavery or sexism. It is not anyone’s fault, no, but we all contribute to the overall picture by causing irrevocable damage to the planet.

The most frustrating thing, however, is that we know we can stop procrastinating and act. Between 1938 and 1944, ‘use of public transport went up by 87% in the US and 95% in Canada’.[16] Klein again precisely and accurately attributes this to a lack of immediacy of the threat of climate change, in comparison to war. However, climate change is just as immediate, but so far removed from our blinkered, ideological vision of the world that all we are able to see is a perfect future, with science coming to the rescue.

It is time we removed our blinkers and act. ‘Climate change is a slide. Out mission is to harness the shocks and the slides to win the shifts that we want’.[17] These are Kleins words, they have grave consequences. The words that Klein keeps returning to are ‘what is wrong with us?’, and it an apt sentiment. Klein proves that we have the means and ability to halt the slide and resituate climate change as a mass social movement, but this does not seem likely. Naomi Klein’s frustration is infectious, to quote Žižek: ‘the first step to freedom is not just to change reality to fit your dreams, it’s to change the way you dream’, and her book expresses these frustrations well.[18] We must completely reassess how we view climate change, and draw a more realistic picture. A picture not dominated by what we see, but by what exists, and Klein’s historical narrative, coupled with Žižek’s analysis, brings this goal closer.

Tom Richards


[1] The Guardian, 1/12/14 ‘Writers pick the best books of 2014: part 2’, http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/dec/01/-sp-writers-pick-best-books-2014-part-2, [last accessed 7 March 2015]

[2] The Guardian, 6/3/15, ‘If enough of us decide that climate change is a crisis worthy of Marshall plan levels of response, then it will become one’, http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/mar/06/dont-look-away-now-the-climate-crisis-needs-you, [last accessed 7 March 2015]

[3] Kim Bryan, ‘This Changes Everything: a chat with Naomi Klein’, The Practical Journal of Sustainable Living 95 (2015), 14

[4] Bryan, ‘This Changes Everything’, 16

[5] ibid.

[6] The Guardian, 8/3/15, ‘It is our great collective misfortune that the scientific community made its decisive diagnosis of the climate threat at the precise moment when an elite minority was enjoying more unfettered political, cultural, and intellectual power than at any point since the 1920s’, http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/mar/08/how-will-everything-change-under-climate-change, [last accessed 7 March 2015]

[7] Bryan, ‘This Changes Everything’, 15

[8] Grist, 9/2/15, http://grist.org/climate-energy/naomi-klein-on-why-low-oil-prices-could-be-a-great-thing/, [last accessed 6 March 2015]

[9] The Guardian, 6/3/15

[10] ibid.

[11] 11/11/11, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJ8CoxnjjZg, [last accessed 7 March 2015]

[12] The Guardian, 8/3/15

[13] Sophie Fiennes, The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology (2012)

[14] Grist, 10/2/15, http://grist.org/climate-energy/naomi-klein-on-how-to-build-a-more-kick-ass-climate-movement/, [last accessed 7 March 2015]

[15] The Guardian, 6/3/15

[16] The Guardian, 8/3/15

[17] Grist, 10/12/15

[18] Sophie Fiennes, The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology (2012)

Power does not equal responsibility.

The irresponsible Prince Philip Professor of Technology.
The irresponsible Prince Philip Professor of Technology.

It is with great indignation that I this week read an article by Professor Michael Kelly, Professor of Technology at the University of Cambridge, in The Daily Mail slamming the Royal Society for its support of acting on climate change. Kelly, whose specialism is physics, not climate science, is wrong, as climate scientists have repeatedly formed a strong 97% consensus that climate change is happening and we have to act on it now, before our capability to do so is extinguished.[1]

Despite this, Kelly has offered his opinion before, in 2011 and 2012 in letters to the Taranaki Daily News, The Times, and another to The Wall Street Journal.[2] In such an influential position, Kelly should be more considerate of the destructive impact of his rhetoric. Kelly questions but does not explicitly deny climate change; by misquoting noted scientific figures; by focusing on the economics’ now rather than the social impact of not acting, and most of all by questioning the integrity of The Royal Society whose authority is taken as given.

Even if by some miracle, each scientist without exception came to a unanimous conclusion on climate change, what is to say that they would agree on the next action? All this would achieve is relocating the debate from whether climate change exists, to how to solve it. Kelly, wrongfully, claims the Society believes ‘there is no longer room for meaningful debate’, whereas the reality is altering that debate to solution, rather than existence.[3]

We all agree science should be objective, but what Kelly does is distort this for his position. Although Kelly does not see himself as a ‘denier’, he holds this viewpoint, regardless of his political unwillingness to adopt it.[4] Significant commentators Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway argue this creates confusion and therefore inaction amongst the public.[5] Even if Kelly is not blatantly adopting a denialist position, therefore, Oreskes and Conway argue, and I agree, that he is directly responsible for procrastination on climate change. A wealth of options is no good for action, and action is required.[6]

The urgency of climate change is paramount, and those in privileged positions should seriously reconsider confusing literature, like Kelly’s. Historically, you might be horrified to find such a position applied to the battle for civil or gay rights: climate change should be treated with the same gravitas. Kelly can try and elicit gaps in the integrity of climate change, but finally will be remembered by history as out of touch. It is paramount Kelly and his like change their view. Should they not, they risk ridicule by history.

Tom Richards


[1] John Cook, ‘Why we need to talk about the scientific consensus in climate change’, The Guardian, 20th Nov. 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2014/nov/20/why-we-need-to-talk-about-scientific-consensus-on-climate-change [last accessed 16 March 2015]

[2] Climate Conversation, 5th June 2011, ‘Prof Kelly shows the middle way’, http://www.climateconversation.wordshine.co.nz/2011/06/prof-kelly-shows-the-middle-way/, [last accessed 18th March 2015]

Watts Up With That, 28th February 2012, ‘Cambridge professor Michael Kelly on “deniers” and climate change: “science has been consistently over-egged to produce alarm” ‘, http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/02/28/cambridge-professor-michael-kelly-on-deniers-and-climate-change-science-has-been-consistently-over-egged-to-produce-alarm [last accessed 17 March 2015]

The Wall Street Journal, 27th January 2012, ‘No Need to Panic About Global Warming’, http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052970204301404577171531838421366[[last accessed 17 March 2015].

[3] Michael Kelly, ‘Why my own Royal Society is wrong on climate change: A devastating critique of world’s leading scientific organisation by one of its Fellows’, The Daily Mail, 14th March 2015, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2995239/Why-Royal-Society-wrong-climate-change-devastating-critique-world-s-leading-scientific-organisation-one-Fellows.html [last accessed 17 March 2015]

[4] Watts Up With That, 28th February 2012.

[5] Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, ‘The Denial of Global Warming’, in Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming (London, 2012), p. 170

[6] Charles W. Schmidt, ‘A Closer Look at Climate Change Skepticism’, Environmental Health Perspectives 118 (2010), A539

Weather Modification

I have been looking into weather modification with specific detail on weather warfare and the controversy surrounding it. The term weather warfare means the use of weather modification to aid military attacks. The use of such technology is, according to scientists meant to only cause “local, non-permanent damage”[1], however there is continuing concern surrounding the use of such technology due to fears of further environmental damage or health risk put upon the living. The topic itself is very controversial and has created many debates, surrounding the ethics of such a technological fix. We can use analysis of past attempts at ‘weather warfare’ and come to a conclusion on whether it both a viable option for the military to use and safe one for the environment, judging its current state of disarray. Using historical analysis here will enable us to look back at past attempts of weather warfare and establish the importance of the historical angle to the debate.

This type of warfare has been used by nations as far back as the Roman period. After the destruction of Carthage in the Third Punic War, the Roman army supposedly decided to cover its ruins in salt “apparently as a symbol of its total destruction…and as a means of ensuring the soils infertility.”[2] Despite not being supported by any ancient sources[3], this is a form of weather warfare. The salt would essentially act as a deterrent for any nutrients to enter the soil and thus preventing crop growth. Nowadays we have more advanced technologies in the field of weather warfare, however, it is important to note that this kind of warfare does date back previous to discussion of climate change. Now that we know the possible damage this type of action can cause is it ethically right to even attempt to develop such technology? And if not, are we able to stop such development continuing? It seems unlikely, due to the society we live in. Without major political change, we have little hope of stopping operations like this from continuing.

‘Operation Popeye’ (also known as ‘Operation Intermediary or ‘Operation Compatriot’) was a classified weather modification program used in Southeast Asia during 1967-1972, during the Vietnam War. The U.S military were keen to extend the monsoon season over North Vietnam by “seeding clouds with silver iodide”[4]. Despite being classed by many military officials as a failure, ‘Operation Popeye’ was blamed, for the devastating floods that took place in North Vietnam during 1971. Immediate controversy was caused by such an act, with activists concerned about the cost of the operation and environmental workers anxious about the ethics of “employing environmental warfare”[5]. Has this past incident stopped any further development of such a technology? It seems not.. From the unsuccessful attempt in Vietnam that was fairly badly received by many of the public was it time to put the experiment to rest? Despite many believing that HAARP or ‘High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program’ is a conspiracy theory, it seems to be cutting edge ‘weather warfare’.

HAARP is a research program of the U.S military defence program designed to create new ways to use weather as a form of warfare.[6] The status of this program is currently highly classified which would indicate that the content of what they are producing is in need of hiding, due to pervious failures perhaps, or for fear of further debate from the public. The controversy surrounding the project is vast. At fist HAARP was described as simply a scientific experiment for the government, however, as experiments began many within the field began to fear that HAARP was in fact to be used as “universal hammer for geophysical warfare”[7]. HAARP would essentially create a shield to protect nations from acts of war from others. For fears of further damage to the environment and the creation of a weapon that could cause devastating effects, HAARP is met with both condemnation and concern.

According to current climate change blogs it is these attempts at modification that are a primary cause of climate change. Geo-engineering is an attempt to slow down climate change, however supposedly causes further damage to the atmosphere. According to a recent blog “Ozone layer damage is…another known consequence of geo-engineering the atmosphere”[8]. The blog eventually calls out for more awareness concerning weather modification stating that “time is not on our side…we have a chance to sop these lethal programs”[9]. The author of this blog is right. However, without coming across wildly pessimistic, it seems unlikely change will come soon. These attempts at weather modification began being put into place during the 1960’s, even in their infancy, stopping their development was near impossible. Using a historical perspective, there has been little change up until now. A political change is needed.

As mentioned in my previous post, Is the Green Movement Failing? This very present issue concerning weather modification and therefore the climate debate is a political one. Political leaders believe they need these developments in order to create new weapons or to counter act global warming. In order for these damaging programs to be stopped, it is no longer about awareness. It is about changing the social and political order once again. Looking back at Vietnam and the attempt made there by the U.S military shows these ideas have been developing over time. It is no longer about awareness but dramatic upheaval to the political system.

Hattie Wheeler

[1] Tamzy J, House, Weather as a Force Multiplier: Owning the Weather 2025, US Air Force, (2012).

[2] R.T, Ridley, ‘To be Taken with a Pinch of Salt: The Destruction of Carthage’, Classical Philology, 81, (Apirl 1986), p140.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Christopher R.W, Dietrich ‘Popeye, Operation’ in Spencer C, Tucker, The Encyclopaedia of the Vietnam War: A Political, Social, and Military History, (California, 2011), p921.

[5] Ibid.

[6]“HAARP’, http://www.globalresearch.ca/haarp-secret-weapon-used-for-weather-modification-electromagnetic-warfare/20407, [Last Accessed 17th March 2015]

[7] ‘HAARP – CBC News’, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZO5Adt4nhCk, [Last Accessed 17th March 2015]

[8] ‘Global Weather Modification’, http://www.geoengineeringwatch.org/global-weather-modification-assault-causing-climate-chaos-and-environmental-catastrophe-2/, [Last Accessed 18th March 2015]

[9] Ibid.

Is the ‘Green Movement’ failing? If so, why?

We are all exposed on a daily basis to attempts to get us to engage with a life of ‘green living’. Whether it is through signage to recycle our plastic bottles and tin cans, or posters reminding us to turn of the lights in order to preserve electricity. Today, we are constantly exposed to the idea of living to save the environment. However, is this attempt at a ‘Green movement’ actually working? Are people actually engaging with the concept of climate change? Jean-Francois Mouhot thinks not. Mouhot uses historical analysis in order to understand why there have been lulls within public domain concerning their interest in engaging with climate change. He suggests reasons as to why the ‘Green movement’ is simply not effective and why it has supposedly failed. In this post, we can use historical analysis, like Mohout, to better understand the ‘green movement’ and the whether the attempts to get people more involved with climate change is in fact working. Is it the ‘green movement’ that is failing or is it the political order and its failure to take into consideration social reproduction when attempting to make change?

2000px-Recycle001.svg
Recycle symbol.

In a short summary of his paper, Mouhot highlights some of the reasons he believes are important to the supposed failure of the ‘green movement’. He discusses the continuous “gloom and doom”[1] talk from the green leaders. He states that those attempting to push green living are making the discussion far too negative for others to want to get involved in. According to Mohout this negativity towards green living is acting as a deterrent to get people involved in global warming issues and therefore causing the scheme to ultimately fail.

We are able to use history in order to determine why there seems to be a sense of fashion and trend when it comes to climate change participation. The public first heard the term global warming in around 1989[2]. According to Mouhot there was a decline in the interest of climate change almost immediately, due to a shift in the economic climate. According to him, if a country is in economic struggle they are going to be less concerned with helping the environment. This initially makes sense. If one is concerned about the amount of money they have, it is unlikely they will take the time or spend any extra money on recycling facilities or donations to help the climate change cause. In the 1990’s bust, there was a significant decline in interest of climate change. [3]

What Mouhot fails to do in his article is to discuss the growing younger generation who will eventually have to deal with the global warming issues their ancestors have left them. Recent studies have shown that young people are actually very much interested in climate change and in fact actively want to make a difference. In an article for Young Scot, students were asked to state how they felt about climate change. The overall consensus was that most young people are concerned about climate change. Fifteen-year-old Stephanie stated, “Everyone can help stop it if there was more awareness maybe people will get involved”[4]. These students all expressed interest in climate change and felt that it was necessary for everyone to get involved and make a difference. Here, the statement Mouhot makes concerning the failure of the green movement seems fairly conflicting. If, according to him, the ‘green movement’ is in early stages of failure then why are so many young people keen to get involved with climate change?

Perhaps we can elicit differing circumstances here. Mohout is discussing a portion of society that has not been exposed to the discussion of climate change throughout their lives. For these people it is a new theory that is essentially threatening the way of life they know. As he states, previous to 1989, many had not heard the term global warming. These people are the ones concerned about the economy over climate change. Here we can begin to ask the question concerning social reproduction, rather than a generational discussion. The young people interviewed here are not necessarily at the stage in their lives whereby they live to the repetitive social order many adults must lead in order to provide the crucial necessities to survive. If told that one should not drive their car in order to help the environment, the ‘green movement’ is therefore getting in the way of their socially ordered day. This person is therefore far less likely to take part in helping the environment due to the interruption of their daily routine. Is it this a product of failure from the ‘green movement’? I think not. The problem in fact lies in the political system itself.

While discussing the Torrey Canyon disaster of the 1960’s Timothy Cooper quotes a man discussing his views of the environmental event. “We now think, well, moving that amount of oil, is that really a good thing? It’s got to be done, because people need energy, people need heating, warmth, and so on… Everything’s got to be moved, it’s nice to consider the environment, or you’ve got to consider the environment, but people need heating, people need lighting.”[5] Twice, the notion of social reproduction is mentioned. Important questions have been asked here. He states that, despite the need to think about the environment, people are still going to want to get on with their day-to-day lives. Therefore when looking at the interviews from Young Scot the interviewees are stating eager interest in the climate change problem because they are not yet implemented into the social reproduction that adults tend to live within.

The real problem is not ‘being green’; it is changing the political and social order. Social reproduction blocks any change occurring. But how can we change the social pattern without changing the political order? I have little hope of those in charge currently attempting to alter the social order. No one will come up to me and simply ask me how would I like to change the political system. We are living in a Capitalist society that revolves around things being “moved”[6] everyday. In order to create change advocating a ‘green’ lifestyle is not the forward. Everyone knows there is a problem, but social reproduction gets in the way. And in order to change that, the political system must change. This is what historians such as Mohout fail to highlight in their work; he fails to look at the repetitive nature of society and the actual social order that needs to alter in order to make an effected change over the damaged already created. Using historical analysis enables us to look back at pervious social orders and shed light on how we can adapt today, in order to bring about change.

Hattie Wheeler

[1] Jean-Francois, Mouhot, ‘Cancun Summit: why are we not taking action on global warming?’, History and Policy, (2010), http://www.historyandpolicy.org/opinion-articles/articles/cancun-summit-why-are-we-not-taking-action-on-global-warming [Last Accessed 7th March 2015].

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] ‘Do Young People Really Care About Climate Change’, http://www.youngscot.org/info/3008-do-young-people-really-care-about-climate-change [Last Accessed 8th March 2015]

[5] Timothy, Cooper, ‘Asking the Right Questions: Disaster and Resilience in Modern Cornwall’, History, Environment, Future, http://blogs.exeter.ac.uk/historyenvironmentfuture/2015/02/25/the-torrey-canyon-talk/ [Last Accessed 16th March 2015]

[6] Ibid.

Are ‘Natural Disasters’ really ‘natural’ events?

Can we simply refer to natural disasters as ‘natural’? There are other factors that create a ‘natural disaster’. Social, political and economic issues are important to look into when looking at these events. It is often not the extreme or hazardous weather that creates the so-called disaster but the response given or not given by government officials. In this post I want to initiate a debate surrounding the term ‘natural disaster’ and whether the use of the term is correct after looking at what is truly causing these ‘natural’ tragedies. ‘Natural disasters’ do not simply involve one element, for example hazardous weather. They involve a host of many other factors that enable them to become the “complex, multifaceted” events Tim Kovach describes them as in his article.

By using historical analysis we can look at past events that have been named ‘natural disasters’ and examine these in close detail to decipher the social and political causes that initiate the ‘disaster’. Mike Davis has some interesting ideas based upon the Indian famine of 1876-77. He discusses the content within many Victorian mission reports concerning the famine. Through his discussion he points out that within nearly all commission reports it is decided that these millions of people were killed due to extreme weather. However, Davis goes on to suggest that this is not the case. If we look in detail at any supposed ‘natural disaster’ there is also political or social undertones to be looked into. Through using differing sources we can determine the different causes that create the term ‘natural disaster’ and whether through this examination the term is fit for to use in when describing these events.

Davis is keen to highlight the idea that the Indian Famine was perhaps caused by something other than the extreme’s of weather India encountered before 1876. He discusses the idea of “bad weather verses bad system”[1]. In order to discover whether the famine that occurred in India was in fact due to weather or system, Davis suggests that we use a “natural experiment”[2]. Through this ‘experiment’ we can decide whether we feel ‘natural’ is the most effective word to use when describing these events. Davis decides to look at the ‘El Nino’ event and its impact on North China.[3] According to Davis, the El Nino event in Northern China during 1743-44 was equally as destructive as the drought in India, however had far less death rates due to starvation and famine. Was this due to better policy? If the Indian famine was made worse due to a bad system then it seems futile to name it a ‘natural disaster’. An event created by human error is by no means natural.

This analysis of previous historical events can enable us to have better knowledge and understanding of these so called ‘natural’ events that have occurred through history. Davis’s enquiry deepens as he uses the work of Professor Pierre-Étienne Will to help determine why the drought of the 18th Century Chinese had a differing affect to that of the nineteenth century disaster. Will highlights the effect relief used by the Confucian administration of Fang Guancheng, the agricultural expert. According to Will, when local rations ran short, Guancheng “shifted millet and rice from the great store at… the Great Canal, then used the Canal to move vast quantities of rice from the south.” Through this system around two million peasants were maintained for eight months until the monsoon returned. We can see from this that due to a better system there was far less devastation caused in the China at this time than that of India. Is the Indian famine still a ‘natural disaster’ despite there being proof that a lack of human error could have prevented the devastation that followed?

We must understand whether the Indian famine of 1876-77 had more severe consequences due to a ‘bad system’ or more ruthless weather conditions. If Davis is stating that is was bad management that created the famine of 1876 then this could not be classed as a natural event, more human error. If we can question whether this incident was a ‘natural disaster’, we can pose the same question to events that have happened more recently.

Hurricane Katrina hit the U.S along the gulf coast of Florida to Texas in 2005. The disaster has become an area of controversy for many who deem human error to be the main cause of destruction. Neil Smith highlights the mistakes made by the government in both preparation and response to hurricane Katrina. There were “thousands of lives unnecessarily lost” according to Smith due to a lack of coherent responses from the government.[4] The varying vulnerabilities of the people living in New Orleans caused many to be left with little preparatory advice from government officials. We can see here, that through Davis’ historical analysis of the Indian famine, we can find similarities between past events and recent ones. Both events were made worse through human error and therefore cannot be classed as ‘natural’.

gt_sandy_aftermath_630x420_130118
Devastation after Hurricane Katrina.

Tim Kovach writes a fascinating article discussing this very topic. He states that the term ‘natural disaster’ is rather benign and bluntly makes the statement, “There is no such thing as a ‘natural’ disaster”[5]. Kovach goes on to discuss the nature of the ‘disaster’ and how due to their complexity there is no such thing as a ‘natural’ one. Davis helps prove that a disaster can be prevented, even if the initial problem is created by a ‘natural’ event. Kovach describes disasters as “complex, multifaceted, frequent and overwhelming”[6] and therefore could not be described as simply ‘natural’. His article offers a very persuasive argument, condemning the use of this widely known term due to its inaccuracy and inability to include all of what these tragic events truly entail.

Hattie Wheeler

[1] Mike, Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts: El Nino Famines and the Making of the Third World, (London, 2001), p280.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid, p286.

[4] ‘There’s No Such Thing as a Natural Disaster’, http://understandingkatrina.ssrc.org/Smith/, [Last Accessed 18th March 2015]

[5]‘There’s No Such Thing as a Natural Disaster’ http://timkovach.com/wp/2013/11/13/theres-no-such-thing-as-a-natural-disaster/, [Last Accessed 18th March 2015]

[6] Ibid.

Does dressing as Edwardians help the climate change movement?

‘Climate Rush’, an organisation spearheaded by the journalist Tamsin Ormond, have used the suffragette movement to make a parallel between the struggles these women experienced and the struggles that we now relate to climate change, even adopting the slogan ’deeds not words’.[1] Suffragette’s struggle was a success; voting was extended to a selected portion of the female population in 1918. However, since this point perhaps the political mood has shifted. An academic study suggests that the direct action of both Climate Rush and the Suffragette movement were known for (attaching yourself to public property, storming buildings) is not effective at engaging the public in social change, and in fact achieves the opposite. Activists supposedly become ‘associated with hostile militancy and unconventionality or eccentricity’.[2] Might then the suffragette movement provide useful historical muscle, yes, but not the enforcement of social change that it so desires? And is it not bizarre that this movement designed to combat climate change invokes the past with such comic regularity?

tamsin-omond_1009422c
Tamsin Omond, centre, the spearhead of Climate Rush.

On the Climate Rush website, the slogan appears: ‘well behaved women seldom make history’.[3] This is a clear statement of intent from a group that clearly favour direct action against those they feel responsible for the planet’s worsening state. But why they feel the need to dress up as Edwardians to do so is beyond me. On a blog written by Ormond, she claims that ‘hopes for the future very much depend on our attitudes and actions now’.[4] There is a sense of unbridled energy and urgency in these words, and this is perhaps why she seems impassioned to attack those in power. They have been described as a ‘suffragette-inspired women-led eco-activist group’.[5] This draws history, somewhat struggling, and somewhat obstinately, into the twenty first century.

Bibi van der Zee uses one good example of this, of a group of protestors super gluing themselves to a statue outside the houses of Parliament in 2009, to the same statue in fact that suffragette protestors had chained themselves too almost 100 years earlier.[6] By wearing the red sashes of the suffragette movement the three women and one man involved are clearly branding themselves as a kind of modern-day suffragette. Van der Zee claims that Climate Rush ‘like to make a splash, and if it’s funny, headline-grabbing, and provocative, all the better’.[7]

History, then, may well merely be a bizarre instrument in which the organisation has found it easy to grab attention, in this instance to protest against the construction of more coal fired power stations.[8] Grabbing attention is clearly a key part of the media strategy of Climate Rush, as such a group needs the swell of public opinion behind them in order to support their (often illegal) actions. In this case, their actions appear to be too radical for an attendant, who was interviewed by The Telegraph, and appeared more concerned with the ‘minor glue damage’ left by the group than by their protest.[9] Admittedly this is a limited sample but the media choose to focus on historicising the protest rather than their causes, demonstrating its inefficiency. it is fascinating that the media subscribe to this mode of protest, by reporting on the suffragette connections substantially following the Climate Rush events. The group are not taken seriously, all that garners attention is their costumes, which surely cannot be their aim.

How successful is such a group, then? There is support from at least one major organisation, Greenpeace. On their website, referring to Climate Rush’s demonstration against Heathrow’s third runway, again in 2009, they reference their ‘impeccable timing’ and suggest that they were supported by members of groups ‘from the WI to the Labour Party’.[10] However, the support of either one of these organisations is not surprising and is not, therefore, a significant demonstration of support.

Even if the Labour Party does not directly support Climate Rush, it is hardly surprising that its left-leaning membership base would support it. The same rings true with Greenpeace, who also advocate direct action protest. The WI’s support is again expected, as the Suffragette connection allows these members to make an easy connection between their past and the present.

Perhaps this is the point however. Perhaps Climate Rush is not even trying to engage the entire population, and that the people it is trying to engage are the people that it is, the average left-leaning voter and those who believe in women’s rights and in the importance of enforcing ecology. It is not surprising that the target audience of Climate Rush support its development, but it is encouraging for the continuation of this cult of Edwardian radicalism. However, this was a picnic in an airport, not storming offices, and this unobtrusive event obviously encourages support from a ‘mainstream’ organisation such as Greenpeace.[11]

An event that was much more threatening was storming of the offices of the Daily Express, protesting against their reporting of climate change, and demanding a meeting with the editor, which was duly achieved.[12] Christine Ottery, writing in the Guardian references the groups ‘trademark’ suffragette sashes. The identity of Climate Rush is entangled with the Suffragette movement, but their fancy dress invokes anything but serious debate. Ottery uses language that implies violence, writing about ‘jumping over sofas’ and ‘running through open security doors while staff were looking the other way’.[13] This sounds like chaotic, laughable violence, which combined with their costumes seriously threatens the credibility of the organisation.

However, Neil Stenhouse, a PhD candidate at George Mason University in the USA, has argued that if your events that garner the most attention look like this, it is almost impossible to ‘mobilize broader support’.[14] The group, however, were able to get a meeting with the editor of the Express, Ian Parrott, who promptly explained that he was only trying to sell newspapers. Climate Rush, however, may well have made an impact in their ability to demonstrate that opposition does exist to this questionable moral stance. Perhaps if they focused more on the issues at hand rather than grabbing headlines more meaningful progress might have been made.

Others who have come into the stern gaze of Ormond include Boris Johnson. They claimed that his current policy is ‘embarrassing’ and of him ‘lacking any political will to address the poor quality of London’s air’.[15] They were joined on this protest by Caroline Russell, who has since being elected as the Green Party’s first MP.[16] Whereas there was difficulty in persuading those in the newsroom to sympathise with the organisation’s ideas, there were much better received in a public, peaceful environment.

Climate Rush hold true to their values. At times it feels the Suffragette movement is invoked without due cause. They are abrasive and reading about their antics is ridiculous, at times even hilarious. Whilst able to meet the expectations of its members and using history to increase their profile, statistics show that the radical tactics they sometimes employ are not effective in engaging with and encouraging social action.[17] The most popular forms of protest are the most peaceful, but it is vital to acknowledge that this is perhaps not the audience with which Climate Rush are most concerned. But they should be, if they are serious. All they appear to be serious about is faux marriages between Waitrose and Shell, which does nothing for their standing.[18] Gimmicks will not educate deniers of climate change. So no, Climate Rush are not helpful to climate change, they are a detriment to the seriousness with which it must be taken.

DSC00060-549x308
Waitrose and Shell ‘getting married’, one of the group’s more far-fetched publicity stunts.

Tom Richards

[1] http://climaterush.co.uk

[2] Nadia Y. Bashir, Penelope Lockwood, Alison L. Chasteen, Daniel Nadolny and Indra Noyes, ‘The ironic impact of activists; Negative stereotypes reduce social change influence’, European Journal of Social Psychology 43 (2013), 625

[3] http://climaterush.co.uk

[4] http://climaterushontherun.blogspot.co.uk/2009/09/beginnings.html

[5] http://www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/2010/oct/11/climate-rush-daily-express

[6] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/5232465/Climate-change-protesters-arrested-after-gluing-themselves-to-statue-in-Houses-of-Parliament.html; http://www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/2009/sep/04/climate-rush-horse-cart

[7] http://www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/2009/sep/04/climate-rush-horse-cart

[8] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/5232465/Climate-change-protesters-arrested-after-gluing-themselves-to-statue-in-Houses-of-Parliament.html

[9] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/5232465/Climate-change-protesters-arrested-after-gluing-themselves-to-statue-in-Houses-of-Parliament.html

[10] http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/blog/climate/climate-rush-goes-domestic-departures-20090113

[11] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7823307.stm

[12] http://www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/2010/oct/11/climate-rush-daily-express

[13] ibid.

[14] Neil Stenhouse, ‘Should the Climate Movement Turn Down the Radicalism’, http://theenergycollective.com/neilstenhouse/2142426/should-climate-movement-turn-down-radicalism

[15] http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2012/apr/20/climate-rush-london-air-pollution

[16] ibid.

[17] [17] Nadia Y. Bashir, Penelope Lockwood, Alison L. Chasteen, Daniel Nadolny and Indra Noyes, ‘The ironic impact of activists; Negative stereotypes reduce social change influence’, European Journal of Social Psychology 43 (2013), 614

[18] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7yDbkwtGeWU&t=62

Lynn Townsend White Jr., Ecology and Christianity: Is modern Christianity under threat?

An interesting question might be posed to Pope Francis, who of late seems intent on changing the attitude held by those who follow the Vatican on climate change. On the 11th December 2014, ZENIT published the Pope’s Message to the UN Convention on Climate Change, in which His Holiness stated that responsibility for the upheaval of the planet’s resource management is ‘a grave ethical and moral responsibility’.[1] It may well be so, and what I do not doubt is the Pope’s honesty in these words, for he must truly believe in the validity of climate change, for doing otherwise as a leader of a group of 1.2 billion people would be naïve. Especially when, as John Vidal writes in the Guardian (27th December 2014) that Pope Francis’ position is likely to ‘attract resistance from Vatican conservatives and in right-wing church circles’, especially those in the USA.[2]

It is clear the pontiff is determined to this ‘green’ system, but Lynn White Jr., a significant medieval historian, suggests our negative attitudes to the planet are ‘rooted in’ Judeo-Christian teleology.[3] White’s 1967 thesis, ‘The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis’, attracted significant resistance at the time and has continued to do so since, not because it was universally accepted but because it was it was debated, according to Willis Jenkins.

Lynn Townsend White Jr.
Lynn Townsend White Jr.

Despite the perception of White being generally sceptical, his thesis continues to be omnipresent in any reference to the origins of our ecological crisis even if only, as is frequently the case, it is debunked. However, the fact that this is the case tells us a huge amount about White’s perception and the stress under which Christianity has felt itself, and the recent desire for reform. Having sustained such an attack from White I think that neo-Christianity has reformed itself with validity, but a further statement of intent is, I feel, needed.

White’s 1967 argument boils down to the teleology that surrounds Judaism and Christianity; that being that the planet was created for man and therefore that everything has an explicit subservient role to mankind. He argues that having lived in this axiom for the last 1700 years it is unsurprising that man has established a monopoly over the world’s resources[4].

He explains away non-Western countries exploiting natural resources by attributing this to Western influence, by Imperialism and the imperialist tendencies that lead many in the West to draw a superior perception of themselves in comparison to those in the East. It is an apathetic conclusion that White draws, arguing that nothing ever ‘had any purpose save to serve man’s purposes’, as in a world created out of nothing by an intangible deity, we have taken it upon ourselves to self-promote rapidly and extensively. [5]

White’s words do ring true with common discussion of climate change and it is of course true that the Lord gives Adam dominion over the Garden of Eden in Genesis, and if one takes Biblical notions seriously (How many 21st Christians do this, though?) then it is an extricable conclusion that man might assume this gives him dominance over nature. However, such is the unwritten anthropocentric belief in nature’s subservience,  all of which, White would argue, stems from Judeo-Christian teleology, we as humanity do appear to follow these Biblical notions regardless.

Further, Elspeth Whitney has reminded us that White is not the first scholar to make a link between Christianity and the birth of Western technology, making reference to Max Weber and Robert Forbes. Where White goes further, she argues, is in constructing a stronger argument regarding European monks in the middle ages intent on exercising their God given stewardship over nature.[6]

Should this be the case, which is not universally or even majorly accepted, there is not necessarily an assumption that Christianity in 2015 has anything to answer for as a result. Jeremy Cohen, contrary to White’s argument, even suggests that medieval monks were far more concerned with the legitimacy of god’s covenant and human sexuality than they were by dominion over nature.[7] Human power over nature then, does have roots biblically, but as does placing women under house arrest during menstruation. The fact that these things are the case does not mean that in the 21st century we, here and now, should look at Christianity as the antagonist in the struggle against climate change. Doing so is looking at the problem with an exceptionally narrow perspective.

However, what the Pope is currently doing is not narrow. He is drawing on historiographical context from White and demonstrating that the modern Catholic Church is reforming. Should any accusation of guilt be levied at them the Pope can point to the work the Church is already doing. There are grassroots Christian movements working for the environment worldwide, from Japan to Belize, from Honduras to Uganda.[8] These reformative views are not isolated in the Catholic gaze. The Russian Orthodox Church, on its website (http://www.mospat.ru) acknowledges that it is ‘deeply concerned’ about ecological problems and that these problems are caused anthropologically (that is, by humans), not by nature. This is a significant step in modern thinking and it is encouraging that the church shares the accepted scientific consensus.

The associated Christian churches have developed a redemptive attitude to the environment, exemplified in Pope Francis. He has consistently shown support for environmental causes, helping to rehabilitate the Church. Those who are drawn in by the controversial thesis of Lynn White Jr. must now realise that even were this anything approaching accurate, the modern Church is a far cry from this. Moving on from Lynn White is a challenge, as the argument he proposes remains frequented by contemporary scholars of ecology and religion.

Jenkins claims that Christianity should focus less on the aesthetic quality of ecological worldviews and more on what it can do to deliver a new worldview to Christians worldwide.[9] The Pope is the most visible, ostentatious ambassador for the Catholic Church, and his attitude holds deep implications for the followers. In the present and future this attitude is important. In the past, Christianity has been chastised for causing an ecological crisis, but his accusations appear largely unfounded. Christianity in fact seems in rude health in order to deal with the historical implications of climate change and move into a present sphere that can confront climate change directly. The challenge is proving to the public that what the Church did in the past (according to Lynn White) has no implication on its present. The challenge cannot be ignored, but Christianity seems to have adapted itself admirably to building a positive image for followers worldwide.

Tom Richards

[1] ZENIT, 11 December 2014, ‘Pope’s Message to UN Convention on Climate Change’, http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-s-message-to-un-convention-on-climate-change, [accessed 15/02/15)

[2] The Guardian, 27 December 2014, ‘Pope Francis’s edict on climate change will anger deniers and US churches’, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/dec/27/pope-francis-edict-climate-change-us-rightwing, [accessed 15/02/15)

[3] Lynn White Jr., ‘The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis’, Science 155 (1967), 1205

[4] White, ‘Historical Roots’, 1205

[5] White, ‘Historical Roots’, 1205

[6] Elspeth Whitney, ‘White, Lynn (1907-1987)’, Bron Taylor (ed.), Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature’ (London, 2005), p. 1735

[7] Whitney, ‘White, Lynn’, p. 1736

[8] Willis Jenkins, ‘After Lynn White: Religious Ethics and Environmental Problems’, Journal of Religious Ethics 37 (2009), 296

[9] Jenkins, ‘After Lynn White’, p. 292

Book Review of Timothy Mitchell’s ‘Carbon Democracy’ (First Chapter)

I have recently read and studied Timothy Mitchell’s book, Carbon Democracy, focusing specifically on his first chapter, in which he discusses the link between the use of oil and it’s affects upon the world and its social order. Despite being a political scientist, Mitchell uses historical analysis in order to highlight the effects the development of energy sources has had on societies and their governments. Mitchell argues that our dependency as a society on fossil fuels has laid the way for living on “very high levels of energy consumption”. Not only did this reliance change the way in which the West functioned, it also, as Mitchell states, changed the way other non-Western countries conducted themselves.

Mitchell is fairly coherent in his outlining statement discussing the changes in the use of energy sources. He is able to use historical understanding to show the changes made over time that ultimately offer us a substantial account of twenty first century energy use and how it has come to change the way mass politics operate. After his introduction he highlights how time has caused for a change in energy sources. Technology began to develop and thus the supply of energy followed in pursuit. According to Mitchell, humans have always exploited coal, however only to a certain extent. Mitchell discusses in a chronological order the development of the use of coal. For a reader this is incredible helpful as it helps outline the major changes that caused this so called, carbon democracy. Mitchell goes on the highlight the changes in human relations in reaction to a coal dependent state.

Human settlement ultimately altered, according to Mitchell. Due to the development of coal, it was unnecessary for communities to live near their energy source and therefore they began to congregate together without, “immediate access to agricultural” [1]. Immediately, as the reader, we are able to see the impact coal had on society, without having extensive knowledge of the coal industry. Mitchell, with ease, allows us to understand the early stages of coal development before powering through into his overarching point, and confusing the reader.

These early stages of coal development are largely three fold, ending in a composition of both steam power and coal power. From this point, Mitchell begins to link his overall theme of the creation of democracy to these changes he has highlighted. When reading this next paragraph, Mitchell’s theory of a carbon democracy immediately began to make sense to me. The pace of energy creation and consumption altered and thus changed the way our society functioned, and in turn causing great political change. He discusses how time was to now be used differently. It was not the case now that your energy rate was determined on the speed of photosynthesis or the life span of your cattle. Fossil fuels were now “forms of energy in which great quantities of space and time… have been compressed into a concentrated form.”[2] We can now understand far more clearly the impact coal has had on societies and the changes it has forced upon them. Mitchell is yet to discuss democracy, however I felt content with his analysis so far, in order to allow the reader the opportunity to understand the background of coal development.

In order to offer a wider scope for his argument, Mitchell’s now begins discussing his theory of democracy and its link with oil to the ‘Great Divergence’. As a reader I found this useful in order to place his argument within a wider historical context. With Europe essentially winning the industrial race during the great divergence it was from here that faster energy sources really took flight. With Chinese coal reserves proving difficult for them to navigate, it was Europe who led the industrial revolution into its beginning years in the nineteenth century. This seems to set the scene for the reader, in order for them to understand the historical impact of coal and the flourishing of industry. As this blog is keen to highlight the importance of historical analysis in the climate change debate, Mitchell’s book, and this chapter in particular, is a great way to gain some historical context for climate change and in particular how the use of coal and oil has affected the way civilisation operates.

As the chapter progresses, Mitchell takes us further through the historical changes coal had upon our society. We are now becoming more and more aware of the differences that were created through the change from agricultural energy to fossil fuels. After the role of the landowner was introduced it became apparent that many were feeling like they were not included in the production of energy. This in turn led to mass political movements in pursuit of creating a new form of politics[3] and with this, new forms of political consciousness. Here, Mitchell’s argument states that due to the many strikes from coal miners a new form of democracy was created. This was due to the fact that we needed coal miners in order to gain our energy supply, so any striking on their part would be met with a instant need for them to return to their posts. From this, according to Mitchell, came a new democracy.

Mitchell is also very keen to highlight the very switch from coal based energy sources to oil. He highlights the three main elements that enabled America to convert to a largely oil based system. Like coal, oil enabled some members of society assemble themselves into new social forces. He goes on to state however, that over time, the movement of oil compared with coal had a major affect on political systems across the world. Unlike coal, oil was much easier to be transported, using underground networks that often resemble a grid format, much like to transportation of electricity. This in turn enabled energy networks to be less vulnerable to social and political claims to those whose labour kept the networks running. Due to this change in fossil fuel networks, the ability to make democratic claims was changed forever.

The first chapter of Timothy Mitchell’s book offers a brief yet detailed overview of the development of coal and oil use within societies. In a previous review, Mitchell is congratulated on his chronological layout of his entire book.[4] This is to be said also for his opening chapter. Mitchell allows for anyone, even with little background of coal, oil and the industry that surrounds it, to be able to understand his theory and the evidence he has to back it. For me, Mitchell’s work offers an extremely thought out view of the oil industry and the effect it has had. Previous to reading his work, I had little knowledge of the coal and oil industry and would never have thought to place the two industries with the creation of democracy. However, Mitchell is very persuasive in his argument, offering sound evidence of the very obvious changes that took place after agricultural energy sources were effectively exhausted.

Hattie Wheeler

[1] Timothy, Mitchell, Carbon Democracy (London, 2011) , p15.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Geoff, Eloy, Forging Democracy: The History of the Left in Europe 1850-2000, Oxford: OUP, (2002).

[4] http://sites.uci.edu/technoethno/2014/05/22/review-carbon-democracy-political-power-in-the-age-of-oil-by-timothy-mitchell-2/ [Last accessed 15th February 2015]