Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Authority issues

I am tempted to gloat. I should refain since the choir is probably hoping for a more substantial sermon.

Well, OK, one little dig and then I get serious...

It turns out, in spite of all this Bush league spinning, lying and muzzling of scientists that, legally speaking, there really is such a thing as global warming. That being so, the SCotUS found the present administration negligent of its duties to do something about green house gasses.

Yes, that supreme court, the one Dubya and his daddy packed with conservatives.

And now a few thoughts this development puts in mind...

So our bus crowded with an unlikely assortment of strange bedfellows who sooner or lately realized we must stop global warming all should be asking: Are we there yet?

Most of us probably think "told ya so" with a shrug and go back to our other concerns. For some of us I expect global warming is as big a problem as we will ever have...wars are hell but they are just detours in the path of history. Those with professional or personal priority for global warming's problems will take this victory as one more plodding step. Next we move on to identifying solutions and preparations, now that discussion of constructive measures won't be suppressed by the Republicans. The capitulation of the Republican's "f__k the environment" school of policy is not complete but how do you mark a turning point in the battle? Which is the belated step in the right direction to which a long time proponent of reducing our GHG emissions can point and say to any laggard denialist "See, even the dimwit-in-chief says we have to change our tune because we are hurting our world and our selves"? Bush jumped on the bandwagon a few days before the G8 summit, actually tried to commandeer the bandwagon, with policy "initiatives" a decade too late. The polite toleration of his posturing by other world leaders is better than Bush deserves.

But is that change of tune meaningful? Does the court's decision mark a corner turned by an entire nation? Do money and serious intention now materialize to support scouring universities and industry for the brains and means to start putting the brakes on carbon emissions? Will those dusty Rolodexes with names of climate scientists whirl again?

If in fact this decision truly does lift the roadblocks to environmental responsibility then that is the meaning of the decision and it is authoritative.

But it could be meaningless. For those of us who think a response to man made climate change is long over due, there won't be any questioning of the authority of the court. Those who have mountains of coal to burn may think otherwise. The flock tended by Rev. Senator Inhofe may think otherwise. Money we little polluters pay in the name of our own convenience is dribbling out of out check books as always and continues to flood into the coffers of oil and coal lobbies. That money needs to dematerialize. Global warming denial is a stupid activity until you consider its balance sheet.

What is "authority" in a personal sense? Is it an agency, of whatever human or institutional form, that promulgates the rules a person recognizes via the tug of their own conscience? Is it more than mere expertise, more than a reputation for knowing a little more than the next guy? I do not mean authority in the sense of "the authorities", i.e. those who have laws written to their purposes and the guns of policemen if need be, to back up their wishes under these laws. I mean what commands your will, what tells you "This is right, whether I like it or not, and I will not connive or work against its aims." Since some people have bought off their own conscience with their own wealth, no law, regardless of its logic of common good and necessity, has the authority with such parties to make them relinquish the agenda to profit personally despite horrible consequences to others. "Others", if removed in consanguinity, geography or time are remote enough to be absent from considerations where a good conscience would weigh their interests. In this sense, then, I doubt the parties who profit or most of US consumers and end-of-the-pipe polluters see much authority either in the SCotUS or even the poseur-in-chief. You can still sell papers by printing this kind of denialist crap.

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