Abstraction, Inaction

Peter Guest has a very interesting essay up on the new (and interesting in its own right) site, Medium.com . We’ll have more to say on that as we explore the future direction of sustainability journalism. But Guest provides us, in any case, with an interesting example:

No, we do not entirely understand the local, regional and global dynamics of climate change. No, we can rarely, if ever, attribute individual weather events to climate change because, well, that isn’t how statistics works. Because the driving force of science is doubt, fighting the dogma of ‘skeptics’ — that word implies rational, rather than purely emotional or commercial objections to the science, and could be considered misleading — is nearly impossible. But while the debate rages on in high places, on the ground the truth is plain to see.

Climate change is not theory or a policy area to debate, nor is it just about absolutes measured in degrees Celsius, it is a grim dynamic equation of uncertainty and risk that is playing out right now.

It is people already on the frontiers — socially, economically or geographically — who are least able to absorb the risks or the impacts. People striving to escape the poverty and inequality of their circumstances are thrown back into insecurity and dependence. Populations move, and in the friction of their exodus drive conflicts.

Livelihoods collapse, people die, vital ecosystems are lost forever and, cynically, money is wasted. The decades of progress made by aid and development assistance — flawed though it may have been — are being undone. Those with cash may need to constantly subsidise those on the fringes just to keep them clinging to the edge of the abyss.


  1. Pingback: Another Week in the Planetary Crisis, April 14, 2013 – A Few Things Ill Considered

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