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James Lovelock Suggests Suspending Democracy To Save the World 865

mosb1000 writes "Climate scientist James Lovelock claims it may be necessary to put democracy on hold to prevent a global climate catastrophe. He goes on to say that the best remedies may be adaptation techniques such as building sea defenses." Lovelock is famously the creator of the Gaia hypothesis.
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James Lovelock Suggests Suspending Democracy To Save the World

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  • by IICV ( 652597 ) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @07:20PM (#31679360)

    He does have historical precedent on his side - after all, Plato thought that the best form of government would be rule by philosopher-kings.

    In terms of practical historical precedent, not so much. This sort of thing tends to end badly. I think it's far better for us to thrash these issues out now, so that in the future everyone will be more aware of the standard array of denialist tactics. []

  • by Dice ( 109560 ) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @07:33PM (#31679578)

    Plato thought that the best form of government would be rule by philosopher-kings.

    I'm with Plato: the general population is too stupid for a democratic system. Unfortunately we have not yet reached Culture [] levels of technology so it's the best option we have at the moment.

  • Re:Democracy? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @07:34PM (#31679592)

    Ban the party system


    And I don't mean "how could it be possible", I mean "how, specifically, would you do it?"

  • by DarkOx ( 621550 ) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @07:38PM (#31679632) Journal

    If we have to give up essential freedom to stop climate change than I don't want stop it all. I'd rather just adapt to the new conditions whatever they may be.

  • (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ignavus ( 213578 ) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @07:52PM (#31679834)

    If we put democracy on hold, who is to say that it will be the fair-minded scientists that take over and rule the planet?

    It just might be the climate-deniers who take over.

    After all, in the absence of democracy, whoever has the most power to forcibly take control is the new leader this week. That is why dictatorships keep changing leaders until the most despicable available person gains control.

    It is survival of the meanest. (Think Saddam Hussein)

    And the future of the planet will take a distant second place to the new leader maintaining control at all costs.

    However, I would like to greet our new scientific overlords - for as long they manage to stick around ...

  • Re:Democracy? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ignavus ( 213578 ) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @07:54PM (#31679860)

    Abolish elections and select your legislatures by random sampling of the population.

    That completely undermines parties as well as saving the huge costs of elections and the corruption of election financing by big corporations.

  • Oh Great! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by srobert ( 4099 ) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @08:03PM (#31679950)

    Sure I agree that we may be circling the drain waiting for a democratically acceptable solution to the problem. But claiming that democracy should be suspended while intelligent people set about saving the rest of us is just the sort of thing that has the tea bag party threatening to revolt. Last weekend they kicked it off in Searchlight, NV, and one of their rants is that global warming is part of a plot to eliminate American sovereignty. Now after sensible people tried to assure them that this isn't so, this egghead pops up with all this elitist crap.

  • (Score:3, Interesting)

    by steelfood ( 895457 ) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @08:15PM (#31680136)

    A lot of blood lies on a lot of battle fields to defend democracy

    You can say that about any ideology. It doesn't really have any meaning other than to say that a lot of people died fighting for what they believe in. Democracy is merely another system of government that just so happens to be the most popular. But to say that it is better than other systems and more worthy of protection or consideration than other systems would be a stretch. After all, while it has its benefits, it also has drawbacks. How one determines what tradeoffs are acceptable is all about values.

  • by okooolo ( 1372815 ) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @08:44PM (#31680568)
    I think the history has proven that that the problem is the fact that our engineering capabilities have far exceeding our moral/ethical development. All the science in the world won't help us if we don't use it right. So, no the technology can't fix anything. But we can. As to voluntary means of checking growth that ship has sailed. Yes, Europe/North American population are decreasing partly due to life quality but they are but a fraction of global population. Everywhere else population growth is exploding. By the time we increase everybody's life quality it'll be way too late. If you look at the growth trends and the technological growth, Malthus's vision doesn't seem so outlandish.
  • Re:Which (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LordLucless ( 582312 ) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @08:52PM (#31680668)

    No, the real problem behind this isn't overpopulation. The majority of carbon emmissions are made by the vast minority of the population. You could wipe out most of India and China (~30% of the population) without making an impact in CO2 emissions.

  • (Score:5, Interesting)

    by aurispector ( 530273 ) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @09:04PM (#31680788)

    There seems to be a certain type of person who simply can not conceive that there are people who are not essentially humanitarian. These people simply assume that everyone has your best interest at heart. The criminal mind is entirely foreign to them. It's naive in the extreme, nevertheless we have a man intelligent enough to earn a PhD, yet dumb enough to think that power won't be abused despite evidence to the contrary in the news each and every day.

  • by darjen ( 879890 ) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @09:22PM (#31680986)

    actually, capitalism and democracy are diametrically opposed. capitalism is utterly impossible when you have democratic governments taking over industries left and right, as has been the case over the past 300 years.

  • (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @09:52PM (#31681372)

    It's time to cut through all the green hype:

    1) IS THE EARTH GETTING WARMER?: Maybe. (It has been much hotter, and colder, in it's history. 'Change' IS the Earth's history.)
    3) WHAT CAN WE DO TO STOP IT?: What makes you think we can? or should? Perhaps we should spend our efforts *adapting* to change, instead of fighting it, Don Quixote-style.

    Some people seem to be very, very afraid of change. Global temperature change would likely be beneficial to as many areas of the planet as it would be detrimental. It usually seems to work that way. Mother nature has an amazing capacity to take care of things without our 'help'. Nature is much more powerful than we humans are. This seems to have been forgotten. We can't force nature to do anything. Silly humans.

    Here, for your pleasure, is the Great Truth about the Earth:
    We did not create the Earth, we cannot destroy the Earth, and if the Earth was truly in great peril (it isn't), there isn't a damn thing we could do to save it: WE CAN'T SAVE THE EARTH. So much for all those bumper stickers. (However, we can be good caretakers of it. We should all try to keep our house clean, of course.)

    So, stop trying to take away my freedoms and my money in an ill-fated, arrogant, and juvenile attempt to stop something that we can't stop, and probably should not even attempt (humans have a very poor track record of trying to fix nature; and, I'll add, we humans ARE just as much a part of nature as any whale, tree, frog, fish, or politician.)

    And, what about overpopulation? Is it serious enough that the environmentalists are willing to kill themselves en mass to 'Save the planet'? No? I didn't think so...
    BTW, aren't these fear-mongers telling us that global warming will kill untold numbers of people, but they bemoan overpopulation also? Is there a dichotomy here? Does this illuminate their two faces?

  • (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ArcherB ( 796902 ) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @11:09PM (#31682174) Journal

    What you think the words he uses to link the page represent a reasoned analysis and a sincere attempt to understand what he linked to? Ha! Not a chance. It's "Climategate" and the name alone proves it's all a fraud, that's all he needs to know, contrary facts need not apply.

    All I need to know is that the data that didn't help prove the preconceived conclusion was thrown out. I know that the data that was left was included in the IPCC report. I know that the IPCC report is used to create policy, policies by governments you are so willing to give up your rights to. Sorry, but I'm not giving up my rights so easily.

    ...contrary facts need not apply.

    That's the exact same thing the "Climategate" guys said when they saw data contrary to their models.

  • by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Wednesday March 31, 2010 @12:49AM (#31682970)

    Ban the party system


    And I don't mean "how could it be possible", I mean "how, specifically, would you do it?"

    The two party system is an emergent property of the electoral college and the single-member district plurality voting system (SMDP).

    See also "Duverger's law": []

    So in order to get rid of it, you'd got to institute either proportional representation or alternative vote (e.g. in Australia, you vote for your first, second, and third choices, and votes are tallied that way). The main obstacle to this is that the current system benefits the parties currently in power, so it is not in their short term interests to change things. Ironically, the communications latency and participation issues that drove the electoral colleges inclusion in the constitution are no longer relevant, but that hasn't reduced how entrenched it is.

    -- Terry

  • (Score:3, Interesting)

    by will_die ( 586523 ) on Wednesday March 31, 2010 @02:23AM (#31683578) Homepage
    On the Thames, in London, freezing only happened when they were working on bridges and such so the river had been partially dammed so it was slower then normal and far slower then it is today.
    The fast movement of the river today prevents freezing except in some places where the not much water movement.
  • (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Shihar ( 153932 ) on Wednesday March 31, 2010 @02:55AM (#31683812)

    Democracy is still a monopoly on power. It is a better way to do it than the alternatives that have been tried to date, but don't delude yourself. In a democracy, 51% of the population can vote to have the other 49% dragged from their homes and shot. Hell, the most cherished parts of the US constitution are the NON-democratic portions. The beloved bill of rights is a big old "fuck you" to democracy. It lays out the stuff that a democratically elected government can't do unless follows an arcana process that requires an overwhelming super majority.

    There is nothing particularly wonderful or just about democracies. The real value a functioning democracy provides is that it gives the assholes in power the boot every few years, hopefully before they gather up too much power for themselves, and does so in a non-violent way. The selection process in a democracy ensure that at least a majority is more or less happy with the results. It isn't just, good, or anything of that nature. It is just convenient. Someone needs a monopoly on force, there are commons that need to be regulated, and some stuff that just works better when a guy can point a gun to your head and tell you to just do something. Highways are not built on hugs and democratic snuggles. They are built on a government's ability to point a gun at your head and tell you that you are going to pay for it or get cozy with the inside of a jail cell, and then do that a few million times to different people until they have enough money to build the communal asset.

    As far as corporations go, they are great when they work. Personally, I love that I can pick between competing pizza places. There is nothing authoritarian in that. It is the ultimate expression of free will. In a democracy, if 51% are for something, they can put a gun to your head and make you do it. In the corporate world, if I think that Davis Square Pizza kicks the shit out of Sound Bites Pizza... I just go eat at Davis Square Pizza. The majority might prefer Sound Bites, but they can go fuck themselves because I prefer Davis Square Pizza. That is a vastly superior system over voting for a winner and then forcing everyone to agree with the results.

    That isn't to say that corporations are all fine and dandy. They can gather up monopoly power, manipulate governments, and do all the nasty things that humans with accumulate power tend to do. When they work though, they are great, and the ability to freely choose between competing entities beats the living piss out of a 51% moral majority dictating to the other 49% what they are going to do. Personally, I am for free choice when it works, and only after that fails, do we resort to the injustice of democracy.

  • (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Tom ( 822 ) on Wednesday March 31, 2010 @04:06AM (#31684216) Homepage Journal

    According to Plato's "Republic", democracy is only sustainable if the masses are, in fact, educated.

    When quoting ancient greek philosophers, one should not forget the environment they were living in, and the things that they - unless you can show them explicitly disvowing them - would have taken for granted.

    Among other things, that means that in a political context, only male citizens "count". No women, no slaves, no members of the unpriviledged class.

    I've long held that democracy actually only works in that context, when the voters are people with enough education and leisure time to care about the issues they're voting on.

    And it may - I don't say it is, but it may - be the case that we will always have a wide spread in education, and always have a large mass of people who know so little about matters at hand that letting them vote does nothing but harm. At least as long as complexity of life increases, this will always be the case. Keep in mind that todays "uneducated masses" have more education than all but the intellectuals of ancient times. For one, they can usually read, write and do basic math. That alone would've made you an educated man throughout most of human history.

  • (Score:4, Interesting)

    by testadicazzo ( 567430 ) on Wednesday March 31, 2010 @05:08AM (#31684652) Homepage

    some of us realize that individuals effectively have no say in democracy

    You're quite wrong about that, and I can only imagine that you were the victim of a strong anti-democracy indoctrination campaign. Let's take what should be an uncontroversial example: civil rights. Civil rights came about because of the actions of many individuals. It wasn't a gift from a corporation. It wasn't a gift from the government or the ruling classes. It happened because people stood up for themselves and what they believed in, and through democratic processes exerted their will over the ruling classes, getting change for the better.

    Where your education has failed you, is you don't seem to understand what democracy is. Democracy is not 40% or less of the population going to a voting booth once every X years to select which beholden, corrupt bastard is going to be making decisions for the next X years. Democracy is people being active, educating themselves, getting active (and getting out in the streets if necessary) to make sure that the people making decisions are actually listening. Democracy requires you to get off your ass and do something from time to time. Democracy requires you to take responsibility for what your country is doing in your name. And a healthy democracy requires educating yourself to the methods by which the corporate media manipulate you, and what their motivation is (I suggest an excellent study "Manufacting Consent" as a starting point for this.).

    Turning American into a healthy democracy means learning how the system is corrupted and failing, and working to correct that. By and large, that means better sources of information (and the internet helps here), taking corporate money out of the electoral system, and instituting more democratic mechanisms, for example allowing more public referendums. Shorter terms, etc etc.

    Of course, the alternative is to take an anti-politics stance, and allow your fate to be decided by large corporations, which are essentially private tyrannies, beholden to no one, working toward a single goal: profit, and the environment, human rights, worker safety, freedom from slavery, or whatever else only has a value if it can be used to generate a profit.

  • (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Wednesday March 31, 2010 @09:37AM (#31686670) Homepage Journal

    Put Jesus in charge, doesn't matter; He either abdicates or ends up spending all day smiting us

    I see you don't know much about the man. He would be less likely to smite anyone than Ghandi woud be.

  • (Score:3, Interesting)

    by phlinn ( 819946 ) on Wednesday March 31, 2010 @11:57AM (#31688756)
    "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." -- C.S. Lewis []

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