No 1967 Posted by fw, May 28, 2017
“We stand at a brink. Relentless, unforgiving climate change combines with decay of intelligent, caring governance to create one of the greatest threats that humanity has ever faced. It’s time for the next revolution…. This is a dangerous time. If we don’t change course, it’s hard to see that conditions won’t continue to deteriorate. And the United States has to provide that leadership. And I think that it has to be spurred by young people. And you have to understand that situation. Sorry to leave you with such a frigging mess, but that’s the way I see it.” —Jim Hansen
This is the final part of a five-part series of edited transcripts of Dr. Hansen’s 50-minute address to students at Williams College. Here are links to the previous four parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.
Hansen ends his 50-minute talk on a rather grim note with 4-minute handwritten summary of his sobering address to students. He composed it on his train trip to Williamstown, MA.
Despite his bleak assessment of, in his words, a “frigging mess”, Dr. Hansen remains confident that, following in its great historical tradition, America’s young people will rise to the occasion and lead the world to meet the looming climate change crisis.
Naomi Oreskes is not so sure, and offers an opposing viewpoint on the destructive effect of America’s “ideological fixation” and “cultural practices”. Oreskes, Professor of History and Science Studies at the University of California, San Diego, wrote this chilling introduction to her futuristic, 52-page, 2014 hybrid fiction/non-fiction book, The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future, she writes:
The occasion is the tercentenary of the end of Western Culture (1540-2093); the dilemma being addressed is how we – the children of the Enlightenment – failed to act on robust information about climate change and knowledge of the damaging events that were about to unfold. Our historian concludes that a second Dark Age had fallen on Western civilization, in which denial and self-deception, rooted in an ideological fixation on ‘free’ markets, disabled the world’s powerful nations in the face of tragedy. Moreover, the scientists who best understand the problem were hamstrung by their own cultural practices, which demanded an excessively stringent standard for accepting claims of any kind – even those involving imminent threats. Here, our future historian, living in the Second People’s Republic of China, recounts the events of the Period of the Penumbra* (1988-2093) that led to the Great Collapse and Mass Migration (2073-2093).
Below is my transcript of Hansen’s closing thoughts, and his heartfelt apology to the students for a “fricking mess.” The segment begins at the 46:50- minute mark, ends at the 50:41-minute mark of the embedded 72-minute video.
Finally, one statement I wrote on the train coming up here, which summarizes my opinion.
Our Civil War, the bloodiest, deadliest war in history, till that time, succeeded in allowing the great experiment of the Enlightenment to proceed. The democratic Republican government of the people, by the people and for the people. World War 2 succeeded in beating back Nazism and its close cousins. Then the Marshall Plan, formation of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, put democracies on a course to demonstrate to the world the benefits of freedom with equal rights and equal protection for all. The pinnacle was achieved when we reached the moon and the Iron Curtain fell.
But decay had already set in. Our institutions grew heavy and lax. Special interests swarmed to the Washington swamp. We are becoming the land of the rich and the home of the bribe. Fear and retreat give rise to populism, a great threat to democracy and freedom, which would only accelerate decay.
We stand at a brink. Relentless, unforgiving climate change combines with decay of intelligent, caring governance to create one of the greatest threats that humanity has ever faced. It’s time for the next revolution. A revolution foreseen by our nation’s founders. A peaceful revolution. A revolution that must be led by young people because they have the most at stake.
The cancer in our political parties is too advanced. The revolution requires a new political party. It should be a centrist party founded on the principles of democratic, republican government. Perhaps in the United States it might be called American Revolutionary Party. But that’s up to young people. So, we leave you a burden. But also, I believe, a nation, the only nation with the potential to again lead the way on the path to increased global freedom, cooperation, and prosperity.
We must provide the example that spurs not hatred, but admiration and global progress. It’s time to resolve again that government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth.
[End of written statement]
This is a dangerous time. If we don’t change course, it’s hard to see that conditions won’t continue to deteriorate. And the United States has to provide that leadership. And I think that it has to be spurred by young people. And you have to understand that situation.
Sorry to leave you with such a frigging mess, but that’s the way I see it.
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