Energy and emissions

An extract from Chapter 7 of the book Transcending Politics:

7. Energy and emissions

What’s the point of extending our potential lifespans (as discussed in the previous chapter), if the planet upon which we are living suffers an ecological collapse? Who cares about extra medicines that could undo the damage of cellular aging, if we’re unable to undo the damage we’re collectively inflicting on our environment, via greenhouse gas emissions and other chemical distortions? Why bother about reducing the build-up of trauma within our biological bodies, if the trauma in our atmosphere, our oceans, and our countryside grows inexorably?

The structure of the argument in this chapter mirrors that of its predecessor. That chapter started by lamenting society’s apparent inability to reduce the escalating costs of healthcare. This chapter starts by lamenting our apparent collective inability to reduce the escalating risks of runaway global warming. In both cases, the answer to the lament should be straightforward. A techno-optimist would say, don’t worry: better technology will take care of things. In both cases, my response is: It’s more complicated than that. Better technology will only work its magic if society actively steers technological development in the right direction. And that will probably be a lot harder than it sounds.

Note: to avoid undue complications, I’ll exclude from the following discussion several other potential environmental disasters that loom in our future, such as fresh water depletion, soil erosion, and the distortion of the phosphorus and nitrogen biogeochemical cycles. I’ll restrict my focus to global warming. The themes that emerge from analysing global warming will illustrate the wider point, which is the need for new politics to emerge as an active partner to new technology. It’s only the combination of new technology and new politics that will provide the means for us to avoid these environmental disasters.

The potential of green technology

From one point of view, it’s absurd that there’s any risk of greenhouse gas emissions pushing the planet into any danger territory. Instead of making such heavy use of carbon-based fuels, such as oil, gas, and coal, we should be transitioning rapidly to greener, cleaner energy sources. After all, it is frequently remarked that the earth receives from the sun enough energy in a single hour to meet all human needs for energy for a whole year…

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Tools for better politics?

Which solutions most deserve mention, in a list of “tools for better politics”?

Tools for better politics

As I’m reflecting on comments from reviewers of the draft chapters of the forthcoming book Transcending Politics, I’ve reached the view that I should add a new section, towards the end of the book, entitled “Tools well worth watching”.

This will fit well into Chapter 14, “Afterword”, which already contains a similarly-themed section “Communities well worth joining”.

If you have any suggestions or comments, either leave them in the Google Doc for Chapter 14, or as replies to this blogpost.

Ideally the list will include tools applicable to one or more of the systems described below (this is an extract from Chapter 1).

  • Transparency systems, so that the activity of public organisations and decisions are visible, and can be judged more easily and accurately
  • Fact-checking systems to determine more quickly and clearly, via an online lookup, if some information is misleading, deceptive, biased, or in any other way suspect or substandard
  • Thinking training systems to help everyone understand and routinely practice the skills of critical thinking, hypothesis formulation and testing, and independent evaluation of sources
  • Accountability systems to hold people and organisations to account whenever they pass on damaging misinformation – similar to how codes of conduct already operate in the fields of advertising and investment communications
  • Bridging systems to encourage people with strong disagreements to nevertheless explore and appreciate each other’s points of view, so that shared values can be identified and a constructive dialog established
  • Educational systems to keep politicians of all sorts informed, succinctly yet reliably, in timely fashion, about the trends that could require changes in regulations
  • Simulation systems to help politicians of all sorts creatively explore possible new policy frameworks – and to gain a better idea in advance of likely positive and negative consequence of these new ideas
  • Monitoring systems to report objectively on whether regulatory policies are having their desired effect
  • Concentration systems to boost the ability of individual politicians to concentrate on key decisions, and to reach decisions free from adverse tiredness, distraction, bias, or prejudice
  • Encouragement systems to encourage greater positive participation in the political and regulatory processes by people who have a lot to contribute, but who are currently feeling pressure to participate instead in different fields of activity.

One source of ideas, by the way, is the H+Pedia article on “Politics 2.0”.

 

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