Speaking out

I am watching on Twitter the tidal wave of movement against the NRA. It's not even the NRA - it's America's gun culture in general. Many of the people speaking out are not even 18 yet, but they are amounting to such pressure that it really does feel like something will change in the US after this one.

Piece by piece the people who are speaking up on Twitter are dismantling the claims made by NRA and people the likes of Trump.

It's, on one hand, sad watching them having to do it. They are not the ones who created this gun culture, but for some reason they are the ones having to stand up to old, mostly white rich men and argue. Argue, argue, argue.

On the other hand, I am proud of them. Proud and hopeful for the future ahead.


Kind of like I said to the programme manager Russell in our meeting last week: seeing Russell and Tim (our new quantity surveying tutor from Ireland) land jobs in our department has made me very hopeful for the future of our department. I am finally seeing two people who I think are committed to doing a good job. Between them, I hope they will lift the management/tutoring quality to a level where we can make sure that no student goes through the bullsh*t our class did last year. Seeing that brightness ahead, it doesn't alleviate the stink of problems that wafted through the department last year, but at least there probably won't be replay-of-2017 happening in the future.


I also made a point of speaking out myself last week.

When a couple of my classmates made uninformed statements about climate change the week before ("The Paris agreement is a joke! A joke! Even scientists don't agree that it's happening! It's a natural thing Earth does, it cools and warms. It's all just a way to put more taxes on the everyday people." etc), I went home and thought about it. After a couple of days of thinking, I e-mailed our teacher and asked if I could make a presentation about sustainable design and development in the next class. He said yes, sure.

So this week I made the presentation. I'm not going to cover all of it on the blog here, but in broad terms it was a 15-minute talk about the definition of sustainability and what sustainability really means in terms of global development.

Because in our own curriculum sustainability is defined as "the ability to complete building works using a minimum of the earth’s resources, and having minimal negative effect on the environment", but I don't really agree with that definition. Someone could build a sprawling mansion and use the least amount of materials possible for that mansion (minimise waste, recycle anything that can be etc) but does that make it sustainable? No.

Instead, I talked about planetary boundaries and the decades-old definition of sustainability from United Nations Brundtland Report (1987): "Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

Then one by one disputed arguments that are often made "when people talk about climate change" though, really, it was just arguments that my own classmates made a week before that I really wanted turned over.

1. When there’s a discussion about climate change, one of the things that often gets mentioned is that “earth has always had these cycles, it’s a natural thing it does. It cools and it warms and cools again.” 

Yes, but what they fail to say is that human society as we know it today has never been through any of those cycles. Humans have never experienced temperature like where the Earth is headed at the moment. If we went to over 2 degrees warming, Earth hasn’t been in that kind of temperature for 4-5 million years. At over 3 degrees it's not even known if the Earth can sustain a freshwater system, let alone a food system, so the planet will most certainly survive that - but humans, possibly, won't.

Since ice age retreated about 12,000 years ago the Earth has been in an exceptionally (!) stable climate averaging only about +/- 1 degree in that whole time. Society as we know it today has ONLY developed in those last 12,000 years. The oldest societies the likes of Mesopotamia, Egypt etc only go back to about 6,000 years whilst modern humans have been around for about 100,000 years. Ever wondered why societies didn't start developing until the ice age ended and the land became more habitable?

Up until that point humans were hunter-gatherers. In little pockets of tribes scattered over the landscape, they scavenged for food and, basically, spent most of the time just tending to their immediate needs: gathering berries, hunting animals, maintaining shelters. It's not until the ice age ended and the world went into the era we now call the Holocene, that agriculture started, trading started, modern societies started.

2. Another thing that often gets mentioned is that earth has had massive releases of carbon (kind of like we’re doing now with fossil fuels) before and it’s had nothing to do with humans. About 250 millions years ago there was a massive release of carbon in the atmosphere and, “look, the earth survived.”

Yes, the planet did survive that massive carbon release, but it biology that era is also known as “The Great Dying”. 90% of the marine and terrestrial species, from snails and small crustaceans to early forms of lizards and amphibians, died. 

Besides, by some estimates the rate at which carbon was released 250 million years ago - ie "The Great Dying" - was even smaller than what we are doing today with fossil fuels. And then there's the fact that whilst it's interesting to find out why exactly that massive carbon release happened, the earth was different then: different continental composition, different atmosphere, there wasn't even a stratosphere to speak of. The mechanism by which the environment was functioning was vastly different to how it is today, and so trying to compare the two is a bit like comparing apples and pears - they're not the same thing.

1 comment:

  1. Nii hea meel lugeda, et sa NRA teemalisi arenguid jÀlgid. Muutus on Ôhus, lÔpuks ometi!

    Sattusin ajakirjanduses lĂŒhikesele, aga paljuĂŒtlevale lĂ”igule: "“Columbine was about 19 years ago,” Hogg ( Parkland High School shooting survivor) said, referring to the shooting at a Colorado high school in which 13 people were killed. “Now that you’ve had an entire generation of kids growing up around mass shootings, and the fact that they’re starting to be able to vote, explains how we’re going to have this change. Kids are not going to accept this.”