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Niall Ferguson: Civilization, und Goethes Faust

Friday, July 31st, 2015

Der britische Historiker Niall Ferguson, bekannt unter anderem durch sein Buch The Pity of War, in dem er die Ursachen des Ersten Weltkrieges untersucht, und weitere Bücher, hat in einem brilliant geschriebenen Buch einen Abrisss der geschichtlichen Entwicklung der westlichen Zivilisation gegeben und versucht, die Ursachen ihres Erfolges zu verstehen (Civilization. The Six Killer Apps of Western Power, 2011). Auf Seite 305 (der Penguin Ausgabe von 2012) zählt er diese killler applications auf. Sie sind: Wettbewerb, wissenschaftiche Revolution, Herrschaft des Gesetzes und der representativen Regierung, moderne Medizin, die Verbrauchergesellschaft, und die Arbeitsethik. In einer Fussnote auf Seite 324 (sozusagen als Abschluss des Buches) erwähnt er als ‘foundational texts of Western civilization’ (als grundlegende Texte der westlichen Zivilisation) die folgenden Werke: King James Bible, Isaac Newtons Principia, John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government, Adam Smith’s Moral Sentiments and Wealth of Nations, Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France, und Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species (und als Anhang William Shakespeare’s plays und ausgewählte Reden von Abraham Lincoln und Winston Churchill).

Diese Auswahl scheint mir etwas einseitig anglozentrisch zu sein. Wie wäre es hiermit?:

Luthers Bibel (durch Gutenbergs Erfindung des Massendruckes der direkte Anlass zur schnellen Verbreitung des Wissens und aller späteren wissenschaftlichen Fortschritte), Johannes Kepler Astronomia Nova und Harmonices Mundi, Goethe Faust I und II, Immanuel Kant Über den ewigen Frieden, Johann Sebastian Bach Matthäus Passion, Beethoven Neunte Symphonie, Gregor Mendel Vererbungsgesetze, Max Weber Die Protestantische Ethik und der Geist des Kapitalismus, Ludwig Boltzmann Entropie, Max Planck Quantum, Albert Einstein Allgemeine Relativität. Und ferner (keine ‘Grundlagen’ der westlichen Zivilisation aber vielleicht mehr zukunftsweisend als zum Beispiel Konsumerismus und Wettbewerb): Die Upaschinaden und Arthur Schopenhauer Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung.

Auf Seiten 65-66 zählt er die wichtigsten 29 “breakthroughs” zwischen 1530 und 1789 auf. Überraschend, Keplers Gesetze der planetarischen Bewegungen fehlen, ohne Zweifel eines der wichtigsten Entdeckungen der Renaissance und von vielen als von entscheidender Bedeutung für die wissenschaftliche Revolution im 17. Jahrhundert angesehen, eine wesentliche Vorraussetzung von Newtons Gravitationslehre. Die Entwicklung des binären Systems durch Leibniz sollte ebenfalls hier stehen.

Der bekannte schweizer Ökonom H.C. Binswanger hat in einem Buch ausführlich beschrieben, wie Goethe in seinem Faust die Entwicklung der modenen Welt dargestellt hat. Faust, der Repräsentant der modernen Welt, ist ein tatkräftiger Unternehmer, sein Erfolg möglich gemacht durch die Erfindung des Papiergeldes (das die Goldwährung erstetzt), die Äquivalenz zwischen Währung und produzierten Güter, und die Eigentumsgesetze). Historisch genau beschrieben ist im Faust die folgende Sequenz: 1. Papiergeld  (Bank of England), Dampfmaschine (James Watt) und damit Anfang der industriellen Revolution, Römisches Eigentumsgesetz des “Dominion”, d.h. das Recht zu benutzen und zu konsumieren: Code Napoleon). Goethe weist auch auf die potentiellen Gefahren hin: eine wirkliche Gefahr besteht darin, dass bei wirtschaftlicher Entwicklung die Konsequenzen für die Umwelt nicht in Rechnung gestellt werden. In anderen Worten, Faust ist der moderne Mann mit all seinen Stärken und Schwächen. In keinem der von Ferguson angeführten “foundation” – Texten wurde auf die potentiellen Gefahren durch die Zerstörung der Umwelt hingewiesen; Goethes Faust ist also zumindest in diesem Punkt viel zukunftsweisender.

Was die Bibel anbetrifft, nicht die King James Bibel sondern Luthers Bibel ins Deutsche übersetzt stand am Anfang der protestantischen Revolution und dem schnellen Anstieg der westlichen Macht, ihre Wirkung möglich gemacht durch Gutenbergs Erfindung des schnellen Massendruckes, von Ferguson als die wichtigste westliche Entwicklung vor der industriellen Revolution nur kurz früh in seinem Buch erwähnt. Was bei Ferguson ebenfalls fehlt ist die stärkere Betonung der typisch westlichen Musik die durch Bach, Mozart, Beethoven Wagner und viele andere zu einem Höhepunkt geführt wurde, und ein wesentliches Element des modernen westlichen Menschen ist.

Und was die Literatur anbetrifft, die von Ferguson erwähnten ‘plays’ von Shakespeare sind sicherlich schön und gross, doch welche Schlüsse auf die moderne Welt lassen sie zu? Grimmelshausen Der abenteuerliche Simplizissimus und Brecht Der Gute Mensch von Szechuan und Leben des Galilei scheinen mir in der Hinsicht relevanter zu sein.

Insgesamt, die erstaunlichen von Ferguson beschriebenen ‘Fortschritte’ (wenn man sie so nennen soll) der westlichen Welt in den letzten 300 Jahren sind vielleicht nicht mehr als ein Schluckauf in einer Geschichte, die kurz vor der Katastrophe steht, wenn wir die Fehlentwicklungen nicht in den Griff bekommen. Und können wir hoffen, dass die “foundations”, die von Ferguson gefundenen Grundlagen dieser Entwicklungen, ausreichen, eine bessere Zukunft zu sichern? Man muss wie Ferguson schon ein Bewunderer von Präsident Reagan, Margaret Thatcher und Churchill sein, um das zu glauben, und viele sind das nicht.

Ich schliesse mit einem Zitat von Noam Chomsky aus meinem vorhergehenden Post:

“Die menschliche Spezies gibt es schon vielleicht seit 100.000 Jahren und sie steht jetzt vor einem einzigartigen Moment in ihrer Geschichte. Diese Spezies ist jetzt an einem Punkt, an dem sich sehr bald entscheiden wird, in den kommenden Generationen, ob das Experiment des sogenannten intelligenten Lebens weitergehen wird oder wir fest entschlossen sind, es zu zerstören. Überwiegend erkennen Wissenschaftler, dass fossile Energieträger im Boden bleiben müssen, damit unsere Enkel eine Zukunft haben. Aber die institutionellen Strukturen unserer Gesellschaft versuchen, jeden Tropfen aus der Erde zu pressen. Die Folgen, die Auswirkungen der vorhergesagten Effekte des Klimawandels für die Menschheit in nicht sehr ferner Zukunft sind katastrophal und wir rasen auf diesen Abgrund zu.”

 

H. C. Binswanger. The Challenge of Faust. Science 281, 31 July 1998.

H. C. Binswanger. Money and Magic: a Critique of the Modern Economy in Light of Goethe’s Faust, University of Chicago Press 1994 (transl. from German).

Niall Ferguson. Civilization. The Six Killer Apps of Western Power. Penguin 2012.

Noam Chomsky über den Klimawandel und die Zukunft des intelligenten Lebens auf der Erde

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015

 

 

Noam Chomsky, der berühmte Wissenschaftler und Politik-Kommentator, in einem Interview mit dem ‘Freitag’ im MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).

Auszüge:

“Noam Chomsky: Die USA sind ein Schurkenstaat, Europa ist extrem rassistisch”

“Hoffentlich gibt es endlich einen Volksaufstand gegen die vernichtende, zerstörerische Wirtschafts- und Sozialpolitik, die von den Bürokraten und den Banken kommt.”

“Die menschliche Spezies gibt es schon vielleicht seit 100.000 Jahren und sie steht jetzt vor einem einzigartigen Moment in ihrer Geschichte. Diese Spezies ist jetzt an einem Punkt, an dem sich sehr bald entscheiden wird, in den kommenden Generationen, ob das Experiment des sogenannten intelligenten Lebens weitergehen wird oder wir fest entschlossen sind, es zu zerstören. Überwiegend erkennen Wissenschaftler, dass fossile Energieträger im Boden bleiben müssen, damit unsere Enkel eine Zukunft haben. Aber die institutionellen Strukturen unserer Gesellschaft versuchen, jeden Tropfen aus der Erde zu pressen. Die Folgen, die Auswirkungen der vorhergesagten Effekte des Klimawandels für die Menschheit in nicht sehr ferner Zukunft sind katastrophal und wir rasen auf diesen Abgrund zu.”

 

Vollständiger Artikel hier:

http://de.euronews.com/2015/04/17/noam-chomsky-die-usa-sind-ein-schurkenstaat-europa-ist-extrem-rassistisch/

Solar activity and new “little” ice age, and another interpretation

Monday, July 20th, 2015

The Lomonosov State University Moscow has published a press release that presents evidence for the possibility of a small “little” ice age developing in about fifteen to twenty years. The evidence is that the sun undergoes cycles in activity indicated by the number of observed sun spots (50 per year during the previous little ice age lasting from 1645 to  1700, and 40 – 50 000 during the warmer period after it), and that we are approaching a point when activity should decrease.

 

“In 17th century, though, there was a prolonged reduction in solar activity called the Maunder minimum, which lasted roughly from 1645 to 1700. During this period, there were only about 50 sunspots instead of the usual 40-50 thousand sunspots. Analysis of solar radiation showed that its maxima and minima almost coincide with the maxima and minima in the number of spots.”

“If the similar reduction will be observed during the upcoming Maunder minimum this can lead to the similar cooling of the Earth atmosphere. According to Dr Helen Popova, if the existing theories about the impact of solar activity on the climate are true, then this minimum will lead to a significant cooling, similar to the one occurred during the Maunder minimum.

However, only the time will show soon enough (within the next 5-15 years) if this will happen.”

 

Full article here:

http://astronomynow.com/2015/07/17/diminishing-solar-activity-may-bring-new-ice-age-by-2030/

 

I have asked Professor Michael Box, a renowned climate physicist from the University of NSW, Sydney, to comment on this post and he has given me permission to add his comments here.

Klaus,
Yes, it is causing quite a stir, isn’t it? Let me see how much light I can shed.

The analysis techniques used to underpin the prediction of very low sunspot numbers (principal component analysis) is well known and ‘valid’ as to what it does. Using it to project into the future is somewhat less valid, as other factors which have not shown up in the past data may be waiting in the wings. I guess I would rate the chances of very low sunspot numbers in the 2030s as less than 50-50, but certainly not at, or close to, zero.
So that brings us to the more important issue of the impacts. The Little Ice Age (so-called) is certainly ‘real’, although many questions remain.
When did it begin? I’ve seen dates of anywhere from 1300 to 1450 – both well before the start of the Maunder Minimum in 1645.
When did it end? Again I’ve seen dates as late as 1850 (well after the end of the MM in 1715), which might well imply that the only reason it did end is the onset of global warming!
Was it global, or regional? There is plenty of evidence from Europe and some from North America. I’ve seen a suggestion of some evidence from New Zealand. However there do seem to be many questions around the uniformity of the cooling.
So that brings us to the really key question of the causes/drivers. Solar activity is certainly one possibility, although as I’ve indicated the MM certainly couldn’t have started it. It may have made things just a little bit cooler – say 0.2 C – but it wasn’t the cause! Other suggestions have been a slowing of the Gulf Stream (it has slowed significantly in the past. ~11,000 years ago); volcanic activity (a couple of major eruptions followed by some feedbacks); and ‘orbital forcing’. We know that changes in the Earth’s orbit are the drivers of the glacial-interglacial cycle (something one of the authors of the paper in question is clearly ignorant of!), and these drivers don’t stop and start, but are on-going. We probably are heading ever so slowly for the next glacial.
Like most scientists who have made ‘meaningful’ comments, my view is that, if it does happen, it will reduce global warming by ~0.1 C – or delay it by ~10 years. And that delay would only be temporary, and temperature would zoom ahead in the years that followed.

 

Interesting to compare this critical account with a story published in news.com.au (a Murdoch site), in which the ‘coming ice’ age is more or less presented as a fact (“Earth heading for ‘mini ice age’ within 15 years’) and rounded up with drawing attention to the present cold front affecting SE Australia:

“Tropical-style thunderstorms, accompanied by heavy snowfalls, roared through the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, and towns as far as Orange on Saturday night.”

Full story here:

http://www.news.com.au/technology/environment/earth-heading-for-mini-ice-age-within-15-years/story-e6frflp0-1227439329592

Marching into the Past: Cutting down on Renewable Energies and the Freedom of the Press

Sunday, July 12th, 2015

From the Sun Herald ( a Fairfax weekend newspaper) 12.July 2015:

“Tony Abbott has been warned he is putting international investment at risk after ordering the $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation not to finance new wind power projects.”

Both the Prime Minister and the Treasurer have repeatedly claimed that wind farms are noisy and ugly. No such comments about a new open cut coal mine in fertile agricultural lands in NSW, just approved by the Federal government.

According to the ABC on 13.7.15, “small scale solar power” projects are also banned.

 

“Prime Minister Tony Abbott has been accused of unprecedented political interference in the ABC by demanding the broadcaster move panel program Q&A into its news division before he lifts a boycott of the program.

In a letter sent to ABC chairman Jim Spigelman on Friday, Mr Abbott said he would be happy to lift a ban on his frontbenchers appearing on Q&A if the ABC transferred the program from its television department to news and current affairs.”

Abbott had previously banned his ministers from appearing on the TV show, and the Minsiter for Communications Malcolm Turnbull, as well as the Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joice, who had agreed to appear on the show, complied.

Urgent action necessary: Contrasting futures for ocean and society from different anthropogenic CO2 emissions scenarios

Wednesday, July 8th, 2015

Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Director of the Global Change Institute and Professor of Marine Science at The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Deputy Director of James Cook University’s Centre for Excellence in Coral Reef Studies, and an ARC Laureate Fellow in 2013, is one of the authors of a paper just published in Science vol. 349, 3 July 2015, no. 6243, DOI: 10.1126/science.aac4722: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/349/6243/aac4722. in which the effects of climate change on the oceans are discussed under two scenarios, one if we continue as now, the other if we reduce temperature rise to 2 degrees.

Professor Hoegh-Guldberg has also published an article in Conversation accessible to the wider public, in which he emphasises the need for urgent action if we want to avoid disaster: “……..the ocean system could not be more important: it regulates the global temperature and atmosphere, feeds 3 billion people, and largely determines our weather. The ocean also has lots of “inertia” – which means that getting the ocean to change takes a lot of energy, but once it begins to change, slowing it down becomes more or less impossible…..” . Full article here:

https://theconversation.com/new-report-the-chance-to-rescue-the-worlds-oceans-from-climate-change-is-drifting-away-43257

 

4th book review of Klaus Rohde ed.: The Balance of Nature and Human Impact. Cambridge University Press 2013

Thursday, June 18th, 2015

The fourth review of the book edited by me has just been published in Quarterly Review of Biology, University of Chicago Press 90, pp. 211-212, June 2015. Reviewer is Professor Andrew Goudie, Professor of Geography, Oxford University, well known for his work on desert geomorphology, dust storms, weathering, and climatic change in the tropics, and his books on human impacts on the environment. For copyright reasons I include only two excerpts:

“There is more than ample evidence that humans are having an increasing impact on the environment through changes in land use and land cover, climate change, and globalization of organisms. A big question, which this book aims to answer is ‘what will be the ecological responses to such changes’? Will certain tipping points be passed for certain organisms and ecosystems?

The book is composed of 27 chapters and has 30 authors from a range of countries, with a particularly strong contingent from Australia. It covers various taxonomic groups, including plants, nematodes, mammals and birds, and a range of marine, freshwater and terrestrial environments. It is very strong with respect to debates about equilibrium and non-equilibrium states at a variety of scales from populations to communities and to ecosystems of varying spatial extent. ”

“………… individual chapters have great merit and the overall message is a very important one. Parts I, II and III are valuable because of the light they throw on equilibrium concepts, while Part V includes useful case studies…….”

 

Earlier reviews here:

http://blog.une.edu.au/klausrohde/2013/11/10/review-of-klaus-rohde-ed-the-balance-of-nature-and-human-impact-cambridge-university-press-2013/

http://blog.une.edu.au/klausrohde/2013/12/17/2nd-book-review-of-klaus-rohde-ed-the-balance-of-nature-and-human-impact-cambridge-university-press-2013/

http://blog.une.edu.au/klausrohde/2015/04/23/third-book-review-of-klaus-rohde-ed-the-balance-of-nature-and-human-impact-cambridge-university-press-2013/

 

 

The Chief Business Adviser to the Prime Minister on Climate Change, and Continuing Rise in Global Carbon Dioxide Levels

Saturday, May 9th, 2015

According to the Sydney Morning Herald 9.5.2015, ”

“Climate change is a hoax led by the United Nations so that it can end democracy and impose authoritarian rule, according to Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s chief business adviser.

Maurice Newman, the chairman of the Prime Minister’s business advisory council, has written in The Australian that scientific modelling showing the link between humans and climate change is wrong and the real agenda is a world takeover for the UN.

This is not about facts or logic. It’s about a new world order under the control of the UN “

Full article here:

http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/climate-change-a-unled-ruse-says-tony-abbotts-business-adviser-maurice-newman-20150508-ggwuzt.html

Perhaps Maurice Newman can explain the following:

The Global Monitoring Division of NOAA/Earth System Research Laboratory has published data which show that for the first time since measurements began, the global monthly mean carbon dioxide level has exceeded 400 parts per million in March 2015, a rise of more than 120 parts per million during the industrial age.

 

 

co2_trend_gl

 

(Graph from Ed Dlugokencky and Pieter Tans, NOAA/ESRL (www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/)

For methods, interpretation and links to other relevant sites see:

http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/global.html

 

 

 

An Ethical Basis for Nature Conservation: Arthur Schopenhauer

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

In the last chapter of  the book edited by me “The Balance of Nature and Human Impact, Cambridge University Press 2013″, we, i.e.  Klaus Rohde, Hugh Ford, Nigel R.Andrew and Harold Heatwole”  deal with “How to Conserve Biodiversity in a Nonequilibrium World”. The first section of the chapter discusses economic, esthetic and ethical arguments for conserving biodiversity. We conclude that in the modern world people are most impressed by economic arguments, whereas the ethics of the problem is very rarely considered. Are there ethical reasons for conserving biodiversity? We point out that there indeed are, convincingly demonstrated by the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. His philosophy is particularly suitable, because it appeals not only to philosophically educated Westerners, but also to all those who have a Buddhist or Hinduistic background, i.e. a very large proportion of mankind. Schopenhauer was the first Western philosopher who taught that ethical (moral) behaviour must be based on compassion with humans and animals. 

I have given a concise outline of Schopenhauer’s philosophy of ethics and justice earlier:

https://krohde.wordpress.com/article/arthur-schopenhauer-ethics-and-theory-xk923bc3gp4-106/

Here I mention a few important points in excerpts taken from my earlier essay:

Schopenhauer’s ethics and theory of justice follow from his epistemology, according to which the world as it appears to us, as we perceive it, is to a large degree shaped by our mental apparatus. Following Immanuel Kant, he assumes that time, space and causality are not characteristics of the thing-in-itself (“Ding an sich”) but categories of our mind. All distinctions between individuals disappear once these categories are taken away. In other words, all beings are in essence One.

Schopenhauer’s ethics has had a deep influence on many philosophers and writers after him. Albert Einstein, for example, mentions Schopenhauer as an important influence on his views. Schopenhauer was the first who arrived at conclusions similar to those in Eastern philosophy, in particular Hinduism and Buddhism. And he was the first in Western philosophy who based ethics on compassion with man and animals.

………  Schopenhauer develops a theory of ownership, of natural justice and law in general. Injustice is the original and positive, justice the derived and negative concept. “The only purpose of law is determent from encroaching on others’ rights”. Schopenhauer considers Kant’s thesis that humans should always be considered to be the end (“Zweck”) and never as means, as vague and problematic, because “a murderer sentenced to death must with full justification be used as means”, as a determent and for the re-establishment of public security. However, this applies only to justice in time (“zeitliche Gerechtigkeit”), eternal justice which applies to the entire world (that is, lies in its essence) and does not depend on human constructions (“Einrichtungen”), cannot be retaliatory, because it lies not in time unlike justice in time which is based on retaliation. “Punishment must here (in eternal justice) be connected with the crime in such a way that both are one.” If one wants to know what humans as a whole and in general are worth from a moral perspective, one only has to look at their fate as a whole and in general. This is indigence (“Mangel”), misery, agony and death. Eternal justice at work…..”. However, the “crude individual” has a different view, since he knows only the temporally and spatially separate appearances: he sees tormentors and murderers on the one side and sufferers and victims on the other, who are really only One. Nevertheless, in the depth of his consciousness he sometimes has the “somewhat dark hunch” that “all this is not entirely foreign to him”. Horror (“Grausen”) is founded on this sometimes appearing hunch. All evil in the world derives from the Will which is the real essence of each single person. Hence (Schopenhauer quotes Calderon’s “Life as Dream”, in which the Christian dogma of original sin is expressed: “Since the greatest guilt of man is that he was born”). – Esoterically depicted in the Vedas and especially in the Upanishads, the myth of transmigration expresses the cognition of eternal justice in an easily understandable form for the people. You must not kill an animal, because at a time in eternity you will be born as such an animal and suffer the same death”. This is the meaning of “tat twam asi” (This is you), which is the foundation of Hindu teaching. – In the same sense Christian ethics forbids retaliation of evil with evil and submits to eternal justice (“Revenge is mine, I shall retaliate, says the Lord”).

Our discussion to this point permits a description of the ethical significance of action. According to Schopenhauer, genuine virtue can come only from the insight which recognizes in a foreign being the same being as one’s own. “In principle (“an sich”) all deeds…. are just empty images, and only the attitude (ethos, “Gesinnung”) that leads to them, lends them moral significance.” The principle of justice (based on the negation of evil) commands that one must not hurt others.” Genuine goodness goes much further and leads to love of mankind  (“Menschenliebe”): one distinguishes much less than usually between oneself and others, one sacrifices one’s property and even oneself to one’s neighbour (“Nächster”) and one does not torture an animal. Love is based on the recognition of foreign suffering and pure love is therefore by its nature compassion. All this is in direct contradiction to Kant’s view that any truly good and virtuous deed is based on abstract reflection, on the concept of duty and the categorical imperative.

In Schopenhauer’s time (the first half of the 19th century), destruction of the environment had not become the important issue it is today. Hence, he does not deal with conserving the environment as such. However, his conclusion that moral behaviour of humans must be based on compassion with fellow humans and animals should be interpreted as meaning that animals must be protected and therefore also their habitats and the environment in general. In other words, we must not preserve organisms and the environment as a whole because they are of economic benefit to us, we must conserve them because we have an ethical responsibility towards nature, i.e., not only to the next generations of humans, but also to other living beings.

 

 

 

 

 

Third book review of Klaus Rohde ed., The Balance of Nature and Human Impact, Cambridge University Press 2013.

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

The third review of the book edited by me has just been published in Biological Conservation 182, 281-283 (February 2015)
Reviewer is Brian Drayton, TERC Cambridge, MA, USA, who gave me permission to use excerpts from his review.

For earlier reviews see here:
http://blog.une.edu.au/klausrohde/2013/11/10/review-of-klaus-rohde-ed-the-balance-of-nature-and-human-impact-cambridge-university-press-2013/

http://blog.une.edu.au/klausrohde/2013/12/17/2nd-book-review-of-klaus-rohde-ed-the-balance-of-nature-and-human-impact-cambridge-university-press-2013/

This latest review covers two books:

Green Equilibrium: The Vital Balance of Humans and Nature, Christopher Wills. Oxford University Press (2013). xxviii+280 pp.,
and The Balance of Nature and Human Impact, Klaus Rohde (Ed.) Cambridge University Press (2013). xvi+413 pp.

Excerpts dealing with the book edited by me follow:

“These two books make good companions, and it is instructive to read them side by side. In doing so, the reader can reflect upon a central challenge to conservation science, and to the societies within which it carries out its business.”

……………..

“Klaus Rohde’s fascinating edited volume The Balance of Nature and Human Impact offers a snapshot of current research, exploring
evidence for or against equilibrium processes from an array of systems, interspersed with reviews of literature on selected topics. A brief gallop through the table of contents can only suggest its wealth of provocative entries.
Part I: ‘‘Nonequilibrium and equilibrium in populations and metapopulations’’ examines reef fishes ……..
ectoparasites on terrestrial hosts …….. and marine parasites. Part II: “Nonequilibrium and equilibrium in communities’’ examines plankton communities ……, community stability in relation to fire ……., marine and freshwater ectoparasite communities ….. and small mammal ectoparasites …. , and bird populations and communities. Part III addresses ‘‘Nonequilibrium and equilibrium on geographical scales’’ in the context of island flora and fauna …… and arctic vascular plant diversity and spatial variation ……… Part IV: ‘‘Latitudinal gradients’’ focuses on diversity gradients…..reviews the literature providing evidence for and against equilibrium and nonequilibrium explanations,” and ‘‘effective evolutionary time.’’
Part V: ‘‘Effects due to invasive species, habitat loss and climate change’’ is by far the largest section. …….. the section marks a transition, as all the rest of the book looks at ‘‘biocomplex’’ (coupled humannonhuman)systems—where the nonhuman component may include insects … coral reefs ….. , emerging infectious diseases ……., human impacts on biodiversity …… , amphibians …….. , and reptiles ……. Part VI: ‘‘Autecological studies’’ comprises two articles: ‘‘Autecology and the balance of nature—ecological laws and human-induced invasions’’ …… and ‘‘The intricacy of structural and ecological adaptations: micromorphology and ecology of some Aspidogastrea’’.
Part VII: ‘‘An overall view’’ sets much of the foregoing into a larger theoretical and practical context, coming back to the
challenges faced by conservation biology in a world in at least one kind of chronic disequilibrium: anthropogenic climate change. Rohde discusses interspecific competition as a regulator of communities, and the status of evolutionarily stable strategies. Finally, Rohde and co-authors discuss ‘‘How to conserve biodiversity in a nonequilibrium world.’’ Here we come to the crux of the matter. As Wallington et al. (2005) argue, much conservation strategy betrays an underlying ‘‘balance’’ orientation, which often takes the form of creating reserves and assuming that they will ‘‘do the job’’……….; or of reintroducing species or otherwise restoring a system, and then assuming that short-term success will last (also not a safe assumption……………. Rohde et al. argue cogently that in the world we now inhabit, equilibrium assumptions will result in deep design weaknesses in many conservation strategies, and the kind of reflective research represented by this volume as a whole must result in substantial innovation.”

……………

“Both books under review make the case ……. that the unexamined assumption of ‘‘balance’’ has contributed to many of our current ecological crises, and inhibits proper responses to them. In some cases, a naive reading of ‘‘balance’’ contributes to the assumption that in time, any disturbance caused by human activities will be remedied by Nature as it comes back into balance. In other cases, the ‘‘balance of nature’’ is reified without sufficient understanding of ecological systems and their dynamics, so that intended remedies result in further, different disturbance or even system transformation. Our challenge …….. is to convey a much richer, but perhaps just as satisfying, understanding of the way things work, and the implications of that understanding for what conservation must become. As Donald Worster (1994) wrote in his seminal treatment: ‘‘It is a pattern of behavior based on the idea that preserving a diversity of change ought to stand high in our system of values, that promoting the coexistence of many beings and many kinds of change is a rational thing to do. . . .Such a strategy of trying to conserve a diversity of changes may seem paradoxical, but it is founded on a crucial and reasonable insight. We may have to live with change, may even be the products of change, but we do not always know—indeed, we cannot always know—which changes are vital and which are deadly.’’

Don’t support science but obscurantism!

Saturday, April 18th, 2015

If you don’t know the meaning of obscurantism, here it is (from the source of all wisdom, Wikipedia): “Obscurantism (/ɵbˈskjʊərəntɪsm/) is the practice of deliberately preventing the facts or the full details of some matter from becoming known.”

This is what the Australian government is doing, in this case represented by the Minister of Education Christopher Pyne. See here:

http://www.smh.com.au/environment/call-for-pynes-resignation-over-4-million-funding-to-climate-contrarian-20150417-1mnp51.html

It cut many millions of Dollars in funding from the budget of CSIRO, the foremost research organisation in Australia which has done much work on the science of climate change, and many other science projects, but is quite happy to invest four million in a centre to be located at the Business School of the University of Western Australia and devoted to misleading the public (officially “The new centre will focus on applying an economic lens to proposals to achieve good for Australia, the region and the world,” said a statement from UWA).

An extract from the article:
“The government would cover roughly a third of the cost for an Australian iteration of Dr Lomborg’s Copenhagen Consensus Centre at the University of Western Australia (UWA), confirmed Mr Pyne’s office following an investigation by The Guardian Australia.

The news comes on the heels of the Danish economist’s move to the UWA’s school of business and his appointed as Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s advisors on foreign aid.

Labor and environmental activists heavily criticised the appointment, questioning why someone who played down the effects of global warming should be advising on policy concerning developing countries in the Pacific that were exceptionally vulnerable to climate change.”

Dr.Lomborg is not an environmental, but a political scientist and is highly sceptical of the importance of climate change. He has lectured on statistics and the new centre at UWA is in the business and not the science school. He does not deny that climate change is real and human-induced, but thinks it is “not the end of the world”. Climate scientists do not claim that climate change is necessarily “the end of the world”, but Dr.Lomborg’s views differ sharply from those of the vast majority of climate scientists who take the risks much more seriously and want to do something about it. The establishment of the Consensus Centre and the appointment of Dr.Lomborg can only mean that the Liberal-National Government will continue its politics based on the denial of the seriousness of the threat posed by climate change, and shown by the reduction in the clean energy target, the abolishment of the carbon tax, etc.

More about the Copenhagen Consensus Center, the Danish equivalent of the Australan version and run by Dr.Lomborg, and the donors supporting it here:
http://desmogblog.com/2014/06/25/millions-behind-bjorn-lomborg-copenhagen-consensus-center