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3.0 out of 5 stars define the word skeptic?, 14 Dec 2007
This review is from: Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming (Hardcover)
My guard is always on when i see the word 'skeptic' with a k rather than sceptic. Traditionaly it means one who questions deeply accepted notions- fair enough. Within America though this usually denotes a group that is closely allied with Atheism, an absolute faith in Darwinism and a sense of righteous persecution amongst a sea of religious/spiritual irrationality (which neccesarily involves a certain amount of condesending attitude towards the masses) . Given that the envoironmental movement does have certain 'religious' connotations to it we should not be surprised to see them attacking it. Bjorn is one of the milder 'skeptics' who has an involvment in envoironmental issues but he is still essentially 'of the creed'.

Bjorn's topic isn't peak oil, or excessive patterns of consumption in the developed world soon to be added to by China, massive deforestation, extinction of species or a growing epidemic of mental illness in the west or political/religious conflict reaching boiling point or..you get the point. These problems are part of a converging crisis that cannot be broken down into oil/climate change or even the envoironment; ultimately its to do with us and a pressing need to make changes in order to adapt. Of course Bjorn has dealt with these in other works and has, to his mind, comfortably contained the looming catastrophic threats.

Bjorn is a confirmed economic liberalist & humanist and there are times when I have wondered whether this and other books haven't been written to bolster the ailing faith of economists in 'growth' as the solution to all woes despite massive evidence to the contrary. For all his meticulous research and confident predictions we simply don't know what tipping points in the ecosystem may be waiting for us and no amount of statistics or extrapolating can counter this problem. I was also looking for more reassurance about Lovelock's positive feedback scenarios being exagerated but got none. Personally I suppose I tend towards the 'eco-freak' spectrum in a belief that unrestricted growth is a relic of the industrial revolution (past its sell-by date) and that our obsessive clinging to an outworn ideology will get us into progressively more trouble over this century. Even if there were no envoironmental issue at all the yearly expenditure in therapy bills and the statistics on mental health in the USA should be cause enough for a drastic re-alignment in the way we live. I've not found anything in Bjorn's work to disuade me of this view but then perhaps thats to be expected.

The 'free economy' of growth has usually been advanced during periods of shock. The 'shock' of envoironmental catastrophy is undoubtably being hyped to push some very dubious economic & security agendas by people who know how to use the 'shock doctrine' as its being christened by Naomi Klein. But it is also being used by others (sometimes a little over zealously) as an opportunity to stimlate change in a less materialistic direction away from the 'growth' economy. Depending on which side of the line you sit you will see the other side as using 'foul play'.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 30 Dec 2007 10:00:52 GMT
I think that you'll find that the "k" is simply the American usage. Whereas many in the US may initially associate scepticism with one side of the ongoing debate between Darwinism and "intelligent design", that does not mean that sceptism is not also about a sense of honest enquiry and the scientific method - I recommend Taverne to you. I think that Lomborg uses it in that way: he suggests that too many environmentalists are insufficiently critical of what they are told.

Lomborg, I think, would suggest that not only is he not writing "to bolster the ailing faith of economists in 'growth' as the solution to all woes despite massive evidence to the contrary", but rather, in "The Skeptical Environmentalist" more so even that in "Cool it!" he argues very strongly that none of the massive evidence actually stacks up. If "dark green" environmentalists believe that enonomic develpment is a bad thing, and many clearly do, then they should be prepared to argue that case logically and not assume that it is the only reasonable response to their litany of dubious scare stories. To do so, however, will leave very many people in the world materially worse off.

I am fascinated by your assertion that economic growth has occurred during periods of "shock". I have no read Klein, but if shock means what it does in normal English then I would suggest quite the contrary. The Enlightenment, the late nineteenth century, the post war years were surely not periods of "shock".

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Jul 2008 00:50:53 BDT
moonjuice says:
The Enlightenment, the late nineteenth century, the post war years were surely not periods of "shock".

oh but they were! especially the post war years. What I mean is that periods of shock and disorientation have been used as opportunities to push the free market agenda forwards whilst people were not paying attention. This has been more marked in the media age of the later 20th century. Klein describes some very interesting policies that were slipped through the back door during 9/11 that have given more power and freedom to multi-nationals than ever before.

Some environmentalists are certainly not critical enough of what they are told but the same can be said for the anti-climate change movement. Its hardly a very suprising fact that this happens on both 'camps'.

Lomborg says the evidence doesn't stack up for potential catastrophe . These guys say lomborg's data doesn't add up www.mylinkspage.com/lomborg.html#CRI and they provide quite a detailed and logical case why not. Some environmentalists use a 'litany of scare stories' others present perfectly logical arguments for argument against growth. The New economics foundation (www.neweconomics.org) might be a little radical for some but it is very far from any kind of 'dark green' craziness and presents a meticulous detailed case for why economic growth is not working on many levels.

Besides.... building my own house out of modern rendered straw-bale and ramned earth materials, having my own futuristic/retro compost toilet and playing with my kids on the vegetable plot and learning how to make stuff out of metal makes me happier than spending an afternoon in Tescos or Ikea. I'm less 'materially well off' now than in the past and i'm not less happy for it. That's where the key relationship between the environment and mental health rests to my mind. ic
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