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As all that is solid melts to air and everything holy is profaned...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Climate Change and the Limits of Reason Part three

Climate Change and the Limits of Reason Part three

This first bit is just some 'notes to self' on culture and (false) consciousness.

Solidification. Or perhaps materialisation. That first cultures were pretty immaterial, a web of language and myth. Now we have materialised it – Marx's 'dead labour'? The materialisation of the spectacle. Commodities. But also echoes of Blake 'reason the bound or outer circumference of energy/ imagination'. Renewable energy criticised for being intermittent -relying on sun shining, winds blowing, tides flowing. Thus allowing gaps in the solidification of culture/consciousness.
Maybe also Hegel – difficult to understand, but his dialectic might mean more of an ebb and flow to reason. So the end point (end of history) not a solid state, but more a fluid one. “All that is solid melts to air”. (Carlyle original?) But is there a dynamic to history? Back to Scottish Enlightenment – stadial theory. Does this contain a religious (as in linear history from Zoroaster) myth?

Hell, this is going to be tricky. How am I going to organise all the material, all the possibilities? Before, I would spend a whole 12 hour day writing/ thinking/reading and end up with 500 words to add to the dissertation. Now, I spend a whole day as a carer and have maybe 2 hours to write while the reading /thinking is broken up into 15 minute chunks scattered randomly about. Maybe if Callum can go to the adult resource centre for a couple of days a week that will help.

But it is also the theory/practice problem. If I get more time, shouldn't that time be used to maximise the practice? For example to try and get the four mile section of derelict railway between CD and Dalbeattie turned into a cycle/foot path? Although given how difficult it was to get ¼ mile of old railway from CD to Threave turned into a foot path it could take ten years to do...

What is the point of the theory? For me, theory exists to inform practice. It is a stepping back from an immediate problem (problems) to analyse the bigger picture. From analysis comes understanding which allows identification of the critical areas. Once the critical areas have been identified, they can be targeted. If this is not done, time and energy can be wasted on attacking the wrong problems. The origin of this approach comes from training to be a project engineer supported by positive outcomes from applying the techniques.

But can this work for bigger problems? What if the method is itself part of the problem?

For example – first define the problem. If the problem is defined as 'human activity increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere', then the solution is 'change human activity so as to minimise the increase in greenhouse gases'. But there is a historic dimension to the 'human activity' which is adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. It is only over the past 200 years that certain forms of human activity have been adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere beyond the capacity of natural processes to remove them. It was a cultural/economic/technological shift – the industrial revolution- which set the process in motion. Therefore the industrial revolution must be understood.

The industrial revolution began in England in the second half of the eighteenth century. In particular, in Manchester, when steam power was applied to the cotton industry. [An arguable point, but one made by Engels/ Condition of the Working Class in England/1844 and which can be backed up by other sources]. The successful application of steam power to cotton spinning and weaving occurred circa 1790- so it overlapped with the French Revolution. The French Revolution simultaneously embodied and challenged the 'age of reason'/ the Enlightenment. Did the industrial revolution do likewise?

That is a complicated question, so I will have to follow it through later. It could be the key question, one tied into the notion of 'progress'. Rather than try to bash out a possible answer now, I will stop here for the present.


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