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Author Topic: The Problem with Democracy
spungo
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Icon 1 posted September 14, 2004 08:53      Profile for spungo     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Ok - I'm being entirely serious here.

Democracy is great and wonderful and all that - yes, agreed - but it has one huge fault: what if the will of the people is wholly misplaced? An idea has occured to me lately - namely, if we are indeed entering a phase of real climate change, are democratic governments going to yield long-term solutions? Can we rely on the general public to think about the future and not about their own wallets? The prospect of a runaway greenhouse effect, whilst often regarded as science fiction, might yet raise it's ugly head, and if this happens we are going to need a strategy that most doubtful people are going to reject out of hand given the chance. It seems logical to me that our only hope of reversing the damage would be to have benevolent totalitarianism - by leaders who are prepared to make the uncomfortable decisions.

The vast public dismissal of climate change isn't going to wilt overnight - they'll wait until there are fifty hurricanes a day tearing down their porches before they conclude that something's not quite right with the weather.

Anyway, that's just my thoughts... if it happens I expect we'll have a dictatorship anyway - but that just might be too late.

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littlefish
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Icon 1 posted September 14, 2004 09:22      Profile for littlefish   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Yeah, democracy sucks, but no-one has yet come up with a better solution for rule. A benevolent dictatorship seems the best way forward, but who could be that dictator. (FWIW Castro seems to be doing OK, but what when he dies?)

As for climate change, I don't really believe that humans have had much to do with that. The earth has been warming up since the last ice-age.

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spungo
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Icon 1 posted September 14, 2004 09:28      Profile for spungo     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by littlefish:
As for climate change, I don't really believe that humans have had much to do with that. The earth has been warming up since the last ice-age.

Yes, but what if it is happening? What are we going to do if it starts to get a lot worse?

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Xanthine

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Icon 1 posted September 14, 2004 09:41      Profile for Xanthine     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by littlefish:
As for climate change, I don't really believe that humans have had much to do with that. The earth has been warming up since the last ice-age.

Actually, we're accelerating the natural phenomenon (I've discussed this with geologists).
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Stibbons
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Icon 1 posted September 14, 2004 10:11      Profile for Stibbons   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Xanthine:
Actually, we're accelerating the natural phenomenon (I've discussed this with geologists).

True. Also true about the problem with a democratically elected government. No government is willing to initialize a risky, long term plan that will put them in a bad light with the average voter who doesn't have a clue about climate change except that there are more storms and it's something to do with smoke. Instead, they'll go with plans that take a maximum of around 4 years to implement, which do something that will make J Random Voter think "wow, that nice Mr PM, lets vote for him again".

The only option I see is to let nature take it's course - sure, things are going to get worse, but it's only until the next glacial [Wink] [Razz]

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quote:
Originally posted by spungo:
The vast public dismissal of climate change isn't going to wilt overnight - they'll wait until there are fifty hurricanes a day tearing down their porches before they conclude that something's not quite right with the weather.

But when there is fifty hurricanes a day, that will be the normal weather pattern and your average simpleton will remember the weather as having always being like that, and will carry on with there earth destroying ways.

quote:
Originally posted by Stibbons:
they'll go with plans that take a maximum of around 4 years to implement

This is another failing of democracy - a governments plans have to be executed within the term of the government. If party A is in power and trying to do something that takes longer than their current term if party B then comes to power, party B will say 'what party A was doing in government was wrong' and then party B will implement a policy change, putting a stop to whatever party A was initially trying to implement.
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Cap'n Vic

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Icon 1 posted September 14, 2004 10:46      Profile for Cap'n Vic     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Global warming isn't likely to be going anywhere soon. I think it is, as suggested a natural phenomenon that is being accelerated by human activity. I don't believe it is reversible even if the human race got on side and made global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It seems the damage is done and most (if any) species will not be able to evolve or adapt quickly enough to be able to survive on a warmer planet.



In the part of the world I live, we tend to be the 'canary in the cold mine', sort of an early warning system for the rest of the world because of the fragility of our ecosystem. Here we are seeing glaciers retreat, parts of the Arctic Ocean no longer freezing as well as animal and insect species not native to the North suddenly appearing here. We are also seeing mass poisoning of animals at the top of the food chain (Polar bears and seals etc) from heavy metals and other toxins being spewed into the jet stream from other parts of North America.



I think the fear mongering done by 'tree huggers' has a lot of merit. They talk about mass species extinctions, flooding of low lying/coastal areas as the polar caps melt, plagues etc. I think spungo is right; we are aware enough to know we are a part of the problem but no one wants to make the move to slow the global warming process. Why? Why do we deny the facts? Do we expect our kids to fix the mess we made, or will they repeat the mistakes made by the generations before them?



If we haven't all killed each other or been hit by another giant meteor it makes me wonder how 'the end' will come. Will it be some global apocalypse? Will society dissolve to the point that people band together in small groups to loot and pillage from each other? It scares me to think about it, even though whenever 'it' happens I will have long ago been worm food.

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GMx

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Icon 1 posted September 14, 2004 10:49      Profile for GMx     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by littlefish:
A benevolent dictatorship seems the best way forward, but who could be that dictator.

Nitrozac! [Big Grin]
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littlefish
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Icon 1 posted September 14, 2004 11:02      Profile for littlefish   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Actually, we're accelerating the natural phenomenon (I've discussed this with geologists).
Yeah well, maybe we are and maybe we aren't. As a scientist and a sceptic I'd like to see some more conclusive proof than average temperature rises since humans started taking measurements. The atmosphere is a very tricky thing to model, and so far we haven't even come close to simulating it for any length of time.

quote:
Yes, but what if it is happening? What are we going to do if it starts to get a lot worse?
We will adapt. Climate change has been happening since the last ice-age, as I said earlier, and most of the earths population seems to have managed OK with it. If we get more storms and hurricanes, then thats a bit of a bummer, but on the whole people manage to live around these things.

As far as I'm concerned the earth is too big a thing for me to change, and it will probably regulate itself. Of course, I could be wrong, and the earth could be destroyed in a few million years, but that could happen with or without human intervention anyway. As it is, I reckon civilisation will end before the world does, so we might as well enjoy what we have.

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spungo
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Icon 1 posted September 14, 2004 11:13      Profile for spungo     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
LF - what about a runaway greenhouse effect? A lot of folk think that's what happened on Venus.

It just sounds to me like you're employing faith - the truth is that no one actually knows what's going on, in which case no single scenario may be legitimately ruled out.

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Cap'n Vic

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Not to be facetious littlefish, but as a scientist you should know, as my link illustrates, humankind is but a flash in the pan. A skidmark on the highway of life. History shows we will not inhabit the earth forever, and we may actually make history to be the only ones to have had a hand in our own demise.

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Stibbons
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Icon 1 posted September 14, 2004 11:33      Profile for Stibbons   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by littlefish:
As far as I'm concerned the earth is too big a thing for me to change, and it will probably regulate itself. Of course, I could be wrong, and the earth could be destroyed in a few million years, but that could happen with or without human intervention anyway. As it is, I reckon civilisation will end before the world does, so we might as well enjoy what we have.

The world will probably still be around when civilisation ends but it could be in a very different state. We know from ice and "calcareous ooze" cores that climate change can happen very rapidly - a few thousand years, maybe less. This is easily within the lifespan of the human race.

The Earth is a very big thing but it is also very delicate - small changes can produce drastic effects. And yes, it will regulate itself, but not in a way that continues the same. Instead, it swings between extremes, due to various feedback mechanisms. In the case of global warming, it will trigger an period of glaciation, which in turn will trigger an interglacial, and this will continue to happen.

Whether humans are accelerating this cycle is debatable, but the evidence is leaning in its favour. And the rate at which we are churning out greenhouse gases is all the time increasing, which means we will affect global warming soon if we aren't already. We have to make changes now to safeguard the way the world is today for future generations (and even ourselves though to a more minor level)

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littlefish
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Icon 1 posted September 14, 2004 12:30      Profile for littlefish   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Well it seems that I have a very unfashionable view, doesn't it?

Spungo wrote:
quote:
LF - what about a runaway greenhouse effect? A lot of folk think that's what happened on Venus.

It just sounds to me like you're employing faith - the truth is that no one actually knows what's going on, in which case no single scenario may be legitimately ruled out.

You say that I am employing faith, but I'm more fatalistic. As you say, no one knows what will happen, but I might as well have faith in the fact that nothing drastic will happen, rather than something cataclysmic. If we do believe that we have messed up the environment that what should we do to correct it, and how ould we ensure that we didn't go too far and start global cooling?

The good cap'n wrote:
quote:
humankind is but a flash in the pan. A skidmark on the highway of life. History shows we will not inhabit the earth forever, and we may actually make history to be the only ones to have had a hand in our own demise.
I understand totally that humans are jonny-come-latelies on this planet. I don't know what I wrote that led you to believe otherwise. I did say that the earths population was doing fine, and I meant the animals and plants in that.

As for history showing that we are the only ones having a hand in our own destruction, we are the only species intelligent to have history, so that seems obvious to me. Other species have become extinct for various reasons, and some of them must have had some sort of effect on the environment such that they effictively destroyed themselves. In brewing, for example, yeast will respire until the alcohol they produce as waste poisons them. I'm sure that some organism must have destroyed its own food source through over grazing or something similar.

stibbons wrote:
quote:
The world will probably still be around when civilisation ends but it could be in a very different state.
Civilisations have already risen and fallen- the egyptians, mayans etc. As it is I don't think that a thousand years is something that I can comprehend. The earth has been cycling through ice ages and hot phases for millenia before people came along. Why do we need to feel that it is us causing it just because there are correlations?
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spungo
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Icon 1 posted September 14, 2004 12:37      Profile for spungo     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by littlefish:
Why do we need to feel that it is us causing it just because there are correlations?

How could we not have an influence? The atmosphere is a very thin entity. We've been pumping shit into it for ages, whilst chopping down all the vegetation that might have lessened our overall harm. If global warming isn't happening now, it certainly will do soon - and if you think that the Earth can absorb such a volume of junk, then where's your evidence?

As a scientist you should know that you cannot take anything for granted - not even the Earth, and not even our potential to rectify the situation.

quote:

As you say, no one knows what will happen, but I might as well have faith in the fact that nothing drastic will happen, rather than something cataclysmic.

What??? How can you possibly say that?

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Stibbons
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Icon 1 posted September 14, 2004 12:39      Profile for Stibbons   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by littlefish:
Civilisations have already risen and fallen- the egyptians, mayans etc. As it is I don't think that a thousand years is something that I can comprehend. The earth has been cycling through ice ages and hot phases for millenia before people came along. Why do we need to feel that it is us causing it just because there are correlations?

Because it's happening faster and to a greater extent than it ever has before. Although I admit it could be a complete coincidence, the fact that we are producing much more CO2, a proven greenhouse gas, than ever before at the same time the world is going through an incredibly rapid climate change does suggest that they are linked.

[EDIT: Beat me to it spungo [Smile] ]

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littlefish
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Icon 1 posted September 14, 2004 12:44      Profile for littlefish   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
How could we not have an influence? The atmosphere is a very thin entity. We've been pumping shit into it for ages
Shit such as what? Carbon dioxide? Methane? Water vapour? All of these are major greenhouse gases, but all are naturally occuring and are removed by natural processes. Admittedly there are some dodgy things we pump in (such as CFC's), but the earth is pretty much a closed system, and we are just redistributing the molecules.
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Stibbons
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Icon 1 posted September 14, 2004 12:48      Profile for Stibbons   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
We're adding more than can be "naturally" removed in a time span we are capable of concidering. The Earth's atmosphere and climate will be repaired automagically over time - that's what glacials and interglacials do!
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spungo
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Icon 1 posted September 14, 2004 12:57      Profile for spungo     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by littlefish:
quote:
How could we not have an influence? The atmosphere is a very thin entity. We've been pumping shit into it for ages
Shit such as what? Carbon dioxide? Methane? Water vapour? All of these are major greenhouse gases, but all are naturally occuring and are removed by natural processes.
Says who? How is that going to happen if there's no more rain forest? You're using faith again - there is absolutely no evidence that the correct level of conversion is occuring right now.

There is a subtle balance that has been existence for aeons - that of respiration versus photosynthesis. If we artificially alter that balance, as we have been doing for yonks, who's to say what the outcome will be?

I'm sorry, LF - but you cannot sit there and tell me that the Earth will heal itself - no one on the planet can be so sure. Science is about evidence - until there is incontravertible evidence that we haven't over-stretched it's capacity for absorbtion, we have absolutely no idea how the atmosphere will behave.

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Stereo

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Icon 1 posted September 14, 2004 13:14      Profile for Stereo     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by littlefish:
quote:
How could we not have an influence? The atmosphere is a very thin entity. We've been pumping shit into it for ages
Shit such as what? Carbon dioxide? Methane? Water vapour? All of these are major greenhouse gases, but all are naturally occuring and are removed by natural processes. Admittedly there are some dodgy things we pump in (such as CFC's), but the earth is pretty much a closed system, and we are just redistributing the molecules.
Hmmm... What about CFCs? Plus fumes from burning some kind of plastics are incredibly poisoneous, and persistant. There's also been a lot of very nasty polycyclic compounds released from burning non-natural chemicals (do you know what kind of stuff is released from smoking cigarettes?).

And there's damage done to water and soil that kills/alters the local ecology, wich in turn affects the atmosphere. And vice-versa, by the way.

Climate change or not, it's getting late for humanity to change its habits if it want to survive the next millenium. Or will it, to paraphrase Yves Duteil, destroy the whole universe to drape itself in its shroud?*

*For those interested (and who can read French), here's the great little song it's taken from: Les petits hommes verts

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littlefish
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Icon 1 posted September 14, 2004 13:16      Profile for littlefish   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
You are right spungo, there is no evidence. On either side. I'm not telling you that the earth will heal itself. I have no evidence for that.

However, I'm not accepting that the earth is going to overheat and destroy itself due to the actions of people. And you have no evidence for that.

I think this argument has gone as far as it can now. Let's just insult each others mums now eh? [Wink]

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Cap'n Vic

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Your mum is so ugly her mum had to be drunk just to breast feed her.

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Icon 1 posted September 14, 2004 13:40      Profile for The Famous Druid     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by littlefish:
quote:
How could we not have an influence? The atmosphere is a very thin entity. We've been pumping shit into it for ages
Shit such as what? Carbon dioxide? Methane? Water vapour? All of these are major greenhouse gases, but all are naturally occuring and are removed by natural processes.

Natural processes which we are working very hard to stop, by cutting down huge tracts of our remaining forests

Admittedly there are some dodgy things we pump in (such as CFC's), but the earth is pretty much a closed system, and we are just redistributing the molecules.

Redistributing molecules from deep underground into our atmosphere.

The earth was once much warmer than it is now, dinosaurs lived in antarctica, and oceans covered much of what's land today. As more and more carbon got removed from the atmosphere and locked up in coal and oil deposits, the climate cooled. We're now digging up that carbon and returning it to whence it came, and it's only logical to assume we're setting the climate back to that state as well. You may call this 'just redistributing molecules', but for the millions who will die it's a bit more serious than that.

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littlefish
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Icon 1 posted September 14, 2004 13:43      Profile for littlefish   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Yeah well, the dinosaurs living in antartica never drove SUV's and look what happened to them. [Razz]
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quote:
Originally posted by littlefish:
Yeah well, the dinosaurs living in antartica never drove SUV's and look what happened to them. [Razz]

Oh, I dunno, this monster looks like it's designed to be driven by a brontosaurus. [crazy]

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Icon 2 posted September 14, 2004 15:37      Profile for Serenak     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Get with the program geeks! global worming is real! We can argue the real causes till there ain't any of us left but: IMHO a large part of GW is probably a natural part of the global cycle, however we ain't exactly helping the situation are we?

No. Before you start I am not some tree hugging hippy but at 40+ (and able to remember Marillion with Fish, and Genesis with Gabriel) I have two children (nearly 4 years and 1 week old) I want to know where we are heading...

I am in the UK and tonight our Prime Minister has expressed his "concern" that we are entering a period when climate change could "alter human society radically and irrevoceably"

GW don't mean nicer summers and warmer winters - it means massive desertification, storms like IVAN as the norm, sea level rise and if we are lucky (after I'm dead) citrus fruit being grown in what is left of Scotland...

BTW: New study have harvested core samples from below arctic ice from deep sea ridge. Hope is to give some "objective" overview of climate change over last 55Million years and thus some guage of whether what we are doing is "really" significant or just adding to a natural trend...

Sensible replies welcome... Flames will be ignored or met with a torrent of UK slang abuse (I speak two languages fluently... UK english and profane... - deliberate lower case e BTW)

Serenak

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