Month 11, Day 30: Hope Is A Dodo.

The New York Times reminds us not to ask for more than we’re likely to get. A man’s retch should not exceed his gasp, or something.

As the Cancun conference gets underway, we are reminded by our country’s representatives not to get our hopes up, not to set the bar too high, not to ask for more than modest increments of improvement. Since multi-party negotiations have never yielded results that exceeded expectations, it is entirely sensible for us not to anticipate much. The problem we are facing, however, is not a sensible one. It seems inherently unjust, unreasonable, and unbelievable that all of us who have benefited from the complex consumer culture of the West should suddenly find ourselves complicit in the existential threat posed by global climate change. We don’t want to melt the icecaps; we just want to keep living the way we’ve been living. Alas, the greenhouse effect is unaffected by our desire for continued convenience; what the world needs from Cancun is not a sensible treaty but an unreasonable one.

Warren Senders

Month 11, Day 29: Vaporware

The Irish Times discusses the unlikeliness of anything happening at Cancun. While the notion of economic and climatic catastrophe as two sides of the same coin is not new (either to me or to this letter-writing project), it’s still very tricky to shoehorn them both in to a single short piece.

It is a measure of humans’ limitations as a species that the terrifying implications of climate change are barely registering on our societal alarm systems. While Frank MacDonald notes that people are preoccupied “more pressing issues” — presumably the unemployment and economic turmoil to be seen everywhere in the world, it is incorrect to assume our planetary economic woes are unrelated to climate problems. The economics of nation-states and global commerce rest on two demonstrably false assumptions: never-ending supplies of cheap energy, and the feasibility and desirability of continuous growth. Even were it actually unlimited, fossil fuel’s hardly cheap once we include ancillary expenses (cleanup, environmental destruction, geopolitical brinkmanship), and an ever-expanding economy is definitionally impossible on a finite planet. The price we can expect to pay for having a civilization built upon illusions will be disastrous economic upheavals in the short run and catastrophic climate change in the long.

Warren Senders

I Made It Into The LA Times


This is the culmination of a red-letter week: the WaPo, the LA Times, and my very own hatemail. Awesome.

Month 11, Day 28: A Race Between CO2 and Stupidity

The Observer (UK) runs a piece of shrill alarmism (that is to say, sober, accurate reporting on science). We need a lot more of this, and a lot less of the other. Note that I used British spellings on this one.

A rise of four degrees C within the next four or five decades is now all but assumed by climate scientists. But what we are likely to see at Cancun, despite the warnings of climatologists, is rhetorical posturing accompanying tiny incremental improvements in environmental policy. This disconnect between political exigency and the facts of the greenhouse effect spells tragedy for a huge percentage of the world’s population, who can expect to lose their homes, lands, hopes and lives as the seas rise and arable water supplies fail. If we are to avoid a climate catastrophe, our news media need to educate readers, listeners and viewers about the scientific reality of climate change. Otherwise, it is unlikely that the world’s wealthiest countries will manifest enlightened self-interest in time to redirect planetary resources towards the essential decarbonisation of our society and our atmosphere — and we will all be the losers thereby.

Warren Senders

Dinkar Kaikini

Performing Raga Komal Re Asavari, with Sheikh Dawood Khan on tabla:

I enjoy his singing so much. The raspy and expressive voice always carries me along on the surging flow of imagination.

Month 11, Day 27: Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Mate!

The Sydney Morning Herald runs an article by Connie Hedegaard, the European Commissioner for Climate Change, laying out the problems and prospects for any sort of agreement at Cancun. Grim.

Commissioner Hedegaard is correct in her analysis, however unfortunate its implications may be. Two of the world’s most significant greenhouse gas emitters are dragging their feet on a meaningful climate treaty. While China’s intransigence reasonably enough reflects its hopes of securing temporary economic advantages (a position it is well suited to exploit due to its recent expansion of investment in “green” energy resources), the United States’ paralysis is rooted in illogical political exigencies — the U.S. Republican party now considers it electorally fatal simply to acknowledge the existence of climate change, let alone consider doing something about it. The glorification of ignorance (and the dismissal of expertise) that began in earnest under Ronald Reagan has created a political party that is pathologically averse to facts and fact-based analysis. Schiller’s apothegm, “Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain,” is well and truly applied to many members of America’s political culture.

Warren Senders

Month 11, Day 26: It’s “Buy Nothing Day”

Watched Moore’s interview with Wendell Potter. Realized once again that we need him. Thought I’d send him a letter.

Dear Mr. Moore,

I just finished watching your televised meeting with Mr. Wendell Potter. It is extraordinary how much is packed into your short encounter. Congratulations. You have enacted Gandhi’s dictum, “the objective is to bring your enemy not to his knees, but to his senses,” through your work as a documentarian.

But I’m not just writing a fan letter, here. I want to urge you to train your cinematic sights on the massive smear campaign waged against climatologists and climate science; it’s not just filmmakers that giant corporate interests would distract, discredit and destroy.

Climate change is the ultimate health care issue, and climate scientists are as close as we can come to planetary physicians. James Hansen, Michael Mann and countless others have reported clear and consistent findings for decades. Just as a cardiologist tells a coronary patient: change your habits or die, these scientists’ conclusions are unequivocal and their implications identical. And the campaign against their integrity and their message is eerily similar to that against you.

Climate change is also the ultimate capitalism issue. By overspending planetary environmental resources by a huge factor, the consumerist engine has become a self-destroying economic system that will cause massive tragedy as it goes down. Now that they’re “people,” giant corporations should be expected to understand that the long-term survival of our civilization, species and planet is essential to their own. Are they going to sacrifice all the rest of us to preserve their margins and bonuses?

Looks like it.

Thank you again for what you’ve done already to influence our world. If we make progress in building a government and a society that embodies genuine generosity and truthfulness, it will be in large part because of your efforts.

Please make a film on climate. Your voice could make a difference in this debate, and we (all of us) need all the help we can get.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

I’m Famous!

So back on November 12, I wrote a letter to the Newark Star-Ledger, pointing out Chris Christie’s utter idiocy when it came to the science of climate change.

They printed it, or at least ran it in their online edition.

What should appear in my mailbox a few days later but the following postcard:

I looked at the address side first, thinking, “WTF? I don’t know anyone in Dunellen, New Jersey, let alone someone named J. Alexander.” Then I turned it over.

My first hatemail.

Or is it?

As with POEs (Parodies of Evangelism), any sufficiently effective parody of hate mail will be indistinguishable from the real thing. What do you think? Is “Right-Wing Jim” spoofing Tea-party talk, or is he serious? I can’t decide.


The Washington Post prints my letter. Apparently my clever disguise worked!

If anyone in the DC area sees it in the paper, please let me know. I’d love to get a clipping.

Month 11, Day 25: Curiouser and Curiouser

The Independent (UK) runs an article on the newly issued UN climate report. The comments are a huge pile of stupid.

When it comes to global climate change and the possibility of a genuinely robust treaty on carbon emissions, it is depressing to realize how hard we have to work to achieve — nothing. After months of international name-calling and internecine disputes, the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases seem locked in a Red Queen’s race in which any agreement will fall short of what is really needed. It’s easy to understand why; governments are set up to dampen the impulses of rapid change, since a society undergoing constant radical transformations would be difficult to live in. But climate change is different; what we hear from scientists is equivalent to a cardiologist’s unequivocal statement to a heart patient: change your habits immediately, or die. And from our climate negotiators? Denial and bargaining. Just as you can’t make a deal with coronary artery disease, there is no bargaining with the greenhouse effect.

Warren Senders