On John Stuart Mill, Free Speech, and Climate Change

The tension between the advantages of free speech rights and the consequences of promoting ignorance regarding climate change was discussed in the author’s Ontario classroom. No conclusion was reached, but interesting questions were raised.

She argued that “In a society where speech is truly free, we’d all take more care to be fully prepared to counter unreasonable arguments. … But then students suggested climate change is a hoax, and I faltered. ”

Consensus vs BS

Mike Hulme is right that we have to move beyond science and into policy. But his implication that we can do that without knowing what the science actually tells us is flatly ridiculous. Spinning the facts is a skill which is incentivized in modern society. This must be reversed. But until it is, science has to fight its way through the fog of disinformation. [more]

The Fallacies of Risk

We, humans, are not very good at estimating and weighing risks. Looking at the definition of risk, this is not so strange. To make things even more complicated, the debate on risk often takes place at the border of science and politics, of logical reasoning and subjective judgment. Whatever we do to try and find objective parameters and criteria to assess and weigh risks, decisions what we do and what we do not find acceptable depend to some extent on value judgments. There are no 100% objective criteria to make these types of decisions. Many fallacies come up in this minefield for logic. [more]

In Praise of Idleness

I think that there is far too much work done in the world, that immense harm is caused by the belief that work is virtuous, and that what needs to be preached in modern industrial countries is quite different from what always has been preached. Modern methods of production have given us the possibility of ease and security for all; we have chosen, instead, to have overwork for some and starvation for others. Hitherto we have continued to be as energetic as we were before there were machines; in this we have been foolish, but there is no reason to go on being foolish forever. [more]

Was Typhoon Haiyan caused by climate change? It’s the wrong question and it doesn’t matter.

It is inevitable. After every extreme weather event the question: “Was it caused by climate change?” is never far behind. Not only that, but often the question is asked with the implication that there is a desire for a simple yes or no answer. But reality is more complex than this and requires a more detailed answer. [more]

Pipelines cause climate change, let’s talk about it

Stephen Harper’s government does not want Canadians to talk about climate change when considering the environmental impact of new pipelines to move bitumen from Alberta to foreign markets. Buried in the provisions of the Omnibus Bill C-38, the Conservative government has placed clauses that restrict citizens’ rights to make submissions on climate change when testifying at environmental impact hearings, but they can do little to shut us up elsewhere. So let’s talk about it.

The Post-Labor Economy

Jaron Lanier says “Between smothering bureaucracy and cruel neglect, there stands only one possibility: a functional middle class.” But how do we maintain it in a world where labor has little value?

It’s going to be enormously hard to even get people to understand the spectrum of possibilities.

The people who need to buy into some new more inspiring vision are mostly stuck in their day to day problems, and just want strategies to see them through the week, not the century.

We must ask people for a lot of thought and a lot of effort and some, probably modest, material sacrifices. We cannot succeed without a positive vision of the future, something that no political party anywhere is offering in any credible way at this time.