It's crunch time.
Crunch time for the planet, its over six billion people, the carbon-spewing
rich and the soil-tilling poor; crunch time for rain forests, glaciers, polar
caps; crunch time for the fish in the sea and the critters on land; crunch
time even for little teddy bears left stuck in sun-burnt mud.
How things have
changed. Over 110 leaders told us so at the COP15
conference on climate change in Copenhagen. But listen closer and there
are significant differences in perspective. Listen closer still and other
aspects emerge, possibly dwarfing the current scenery. But first some background
An idea, if based
on observations of the real, is created by cognitive processes that are grounded
and contain formally described content. Its adherents communicate on a similar
level of complexity and are able to share the information because their semantics
are situated within a common framework.
Once that idea
propagates away from its source it becomes subject to the modification, re-interpretation,
and re-processing generated by others, that is those who did not assemble
it in the first place. At that point agendas from different directions, emotions
from differing contexts, and references from other sources begin to assert
their influence. Depending on the contextual distance between the source and
the newcomers that original idea morphs into something else - still relatable
to the origin but now reflecting the owners of such influences.
we witnessed the results of climate change theories having been transposed
into the thicket of political agendas. The 194-nation
summit produced suspicion from developing countries, aggressive demands
from climate change activists, and vague relief from rich nations that the
entire exercise had not collapsed altogether.
Let's put that
another way. Demographics of low complexity with dysfunctional political and
organisational structures prompted their representatives to safeguard the
existing flows of funds that have come their way over the past few decades
and are the props that allowed them to survive against the odds. Any initiative,
especially one that rests on an agitation of global proportions, is translated
into reasons for additional outside finance because that's how it has worked
defined by their newly-found common ground shunted together from feelings
of guilt about being rich, alienation from high-complexity life styles, and
obsession with victimhood on a grand scale, see the suggested effects of climate
change as the reason par excellence to justify their existence.
nations, their political leaders the end result of the democratic processes
that churned through the cumulative make-up of their constituencies, need
to play the role they had been elected for. They speak on behalf of high-complexity
societies which, through their sheer capacity across the spectrum of societal
strata, produced the original ideas underpinning the debate and are also the
source of the money that led to the dependency of donor recipients.
Just what kind
of money we are talking about can be gleaned from the following two graphs,
the first showing the Gross
Domestic Product (GDP) of the G7 nations (the US, Germany, UK, France,
Japan, Italy and Canada), and the other the official
development assistance (ODA) from the G7, over the years 2004 to 2008
(they have grown into the G8 of course, but those data were not comparable).
Two main points
can be made. One, over that time a total of USD 365,867.32 million has been
provided. It was made possible through economies that produced a combined
GDP of USD 134,640,400.00 million, based on the same industry and technology
that has been roundly condemned at the conference for "killing" the people
of developing countries.
Two, ODA figures
do not follow the GDP. Other influences determine how much aid is given, therefore
ODAs are subjected to considerations other than sheer wealth. What these are
depends on local and international factors, and the resources needed for a
response to climate change would certainly be one of them.
"100 billion dollars" were promised overall for poor nations, with the US
wanting to contribute 3.6 billion for the 2010-2012 period, Japan promised
a total of 11 billion dollars and the EU 10.6 billion. It can be assumed the
amounts refer to global warming initiatives and are in addition to what is
paid 'naturally' already.
With such figures
being thrown around is it too cynical to suggest that the main reason for
the angry behaviour of Third World delegates is the attempt to fight it out
for a maximum chunk of that money?
Also in the news
was the plight of island nations who are increasingly worried about rising
sea water levels. Damage there is being done right now so their concerns are
justified. Let's focus on three countries that were mentioned, the Maldives,
Fiji and Tuvalu.
Between the years
2002 and 2008 the Maldives received a total of USD 124,180,000 in development
assistance, Fiji received USD 252,540,000 and Tuvalu USD 64,160,000. Their
figures (as of 2006) are 349,100, 893,400 and 11,640.
Given the demands
made at COP15, clearly the aid available right now is not considered of importance
when it comes to planning for the survival of an entire people.
Under the perspective
of cognitive dynamics we see progression locks (a mind set has been generated
that now determines the direction of any further considerations) and the transference
of contexts from high-complexity systems to low-complexity ones (a developed
nation decides upon a certain volume of resources relatable to its framework
and the resources get translated into the priorities existent at the receiving
end). A similar scenario has been described in the article Aiding
the catastrophe: Africa and its disastrous consequences if nothing changes
in the overall culture.
of low-level islands would hardly be left to drown should the predictions
come true, but the only option would be to relocate them to other countries.
The possibility to move to areas of similar demographical composition does
not seem to have occurred to anyone, the focus being firmly on developed nations
such as Australia.
In a series of
reports broadcast on SBS television during the conference residents of Tuvalu
talked about their wish to move to Australia so that they can continue to
preserve their culture (however, it also has to be said that in those interviews
the prime minister of Tuvalu, Apisai Ielemia, spoke of the endeavours of his
citizens to train up so that they won't be a burden to their host country).
From their point of view no doubt desirable, but from the perspective of human
activity systems less so. Tuvalu culture, whatever its good points, proves
to be no match for a radically changing world. Australia's culture, far more
complex and therefore resourceful, does. Any addition to the latter's social
fabric would have to be relevant to the ongoing needs and demands of the challenges
It becomes particularly
poignant when one considers the history
of Tuvalu for example. Before its current state the islands belonged to
the British colony of the Gilbert and Ellis Islands. In 1974 ethnic tensions
made the Polynesians of the Ellice Islands separate from the Micronesians
of the Gilbert Islands. Ellice Islands were renamed Tuvalu the next year.
Should it come
to a relocation of so many people around the globe the potential for conflict
rises in accordance with the pressure at the time and their relatively inflexible
cultures. Not only would it be of concern to those on the move, their new
hosts face the very real danger of becoming unstable as a consequence.
What adds to
the problem is the current reluctance of the West to even contemplate what
the inherent characteristics of differing cultures actually mean. The system
of mind (even an artificial mind in the computer) can be defined by the number
of functional elements, their degree of connectivity, their potential variance
of internal states, and the quality of data going in and out. In the case
of the individual brain these would be the neurons, their synapses, the protein
formations inside the cells, and the information available to the senses.
At the level of society and/or culture it translates into the number of people,
how they connect with each other, their ability to think and the knowledge
they pass around. Superficial appearances such as skin colour, hair, or dress
don't come into it (although they may well be a byproduct of their culture).
nations rely on democratic processes to formulate their policies, what and
how the constituency thinks matters greatly. It may have been a nod to the
emotional and simplistic element in their midst that prompted the presentation
of that rather ridiculous video
in which a young girl has nightmares and looses her teddy bear while running
away from a cracking earth and a flood. Kevin Rudd could not resist using
a young girl of his own while urging for action (possibly another nod to female
voters - why not use a boy as the archetypical threatened innocence for a
change; if one must).
of ideas and their spin-offs makes them a target for separate interests, whether
niche or mainstream. Not many rock-throwing protesters would have come from
the ranks of biologists, meteorologists or paleo-climatologists, and it is
debatable whether they would understand the concept of a dew point let alone
the physics involved when debating the ultimate veracity of the climate change
model. Articles such as Greenhouse
Gas Hypothesis Violates Fundamentals of Physics or Falsification
Of The Atmospheric CO2 Greenhouse Effects Within The Frame Of Physics
requires a background knowledge not many of us have (myself included). At
the same time we - the masses! - find reiterations
of the looming dangers we are meant to respond to intelligently. Even with
the IPCC reports behind
us it is a daunting task.
From a cognitive
point of view (represented on this website) it is clear that references to
say, two degree targets of warming and 450 parts per million concentration
of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere constitute a distance between what most
can conceptualise and what an effective response would be that is far too
great to remain meaningful. Yet it is the meaningful dialogue and the resultant
decision making process that at least offers a stable future.
and blustering outrage won't cut it.
21 Dec 2009