Friday, May 29, 2015

The senility of elites: coal mining must continue, no matter what the human costs

The coal mine of Bihar, India. Photo by Nitin Kirloskar

This post was inspired by a recent article about coal mining in India by David Rose in the Guardian about coal mining. In India, people are dying in the streets because of excessive heat caused by global warming, but Rose reports that "...across a broad range of Delhi politicians and policymakers there is near unanimity. There is, they say, simply no possibility that at this stage in its development India will agree to any form of emissions cap, let alone a cut." In other words, coal mining must continue in the name of economic growth, no matter what the human costs. 

I think it is hard to see a more evident example of the senility of the world's elites. It is, unfortunately, not something that pertains only to India. Elites all over the world seem to be nearly totally blind to the desperate situation in which we all are. 

On this matter, I have a post written on my "Chimeras" blog that describes how the blindness of the elites is not just typical of our times, but was the same at the time of the Roman Empire. It is a discussion of how one of the members of the Roman elite, Rutilius Namatianus, completely misunderstood the situation of the last years of the Empire. It is our plea of human being that we don't understand collapse, not even when we live it.

   The return home of Rutilius Namatianus 

The 5th century saw the last gasps of the Western Roman Empire. Of those troubled times, we have only a few documents and images. Above, we can see one of the few surviving portraits of someone who lived in those times; Emperor Honorius, ruler of what was left of the Western Roman Empire from 395 to 423. His expression seems to be one of surprise, as if startled at seeing the disasters taking place during his reign.

At some moment during the first decades of the 5th century C.E., probably in 416, Rutilius Namatianus, a Roman patrician, left Rome - by then a shadow of its former glory -  to take refuge in his possessions in Southern France. He left to us a report of his travel titled "De Reditu suo", meaning "of his return" that we can still read today, almost complete.

Fifteen centuries after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, we have in this document a precious source of information about a world that was ceasing to exist and that left so little to us. It is a report that can only make us wonder at how could it be that Namatianus got everything so badly wrong about what was happening to him and to the Roman Empire.


  1. I recently watched the video by Al Gore in Davos and it is pretty clear that the carbon industry has invested heavily in carbon assets and in the politics to get these carbons bunred on the cheap.
    The EU is beeing denied access to russian gas, Iran has to be overthrown for the gas and so on.
    There is a long term military-carbon complex program running and it is difficult to get it stopped.
    Yes, they will agree to some caps in Paris. These will be "planned" till 2050. There will be no "real step" taken there and no one to be accounted for if it accidentially fails. And that is also because we need the cheapest energy available to get the economy working again (in the model of perpetual growth)
    It will be very hard to convince these folks of divestment. Maybe they will start to act when the arctic is ice free. Then they can no longer hide the facts to the people. And that unfortunately will be very soon...


  2. Since you've titled your comment "Senility of elites" I'll put this up as verification of their not only being testy, but having some bile and venom. This from one of the prominent elites:

  3. Just a footnote - this time about coal and electricity S Africa.
    How long this confusion can go on is of interest.
    I think the Researcher making the comment might be too hopeful.


  4. Elites do not care if people die in the streets from heat. Calling them senile gives them an excuse. They suffer from malattia del cuore. Sometimes ignorance is a choice, senility is not.

    1. I'm with you on this one Dog. In my book careless avoidance of duty is not senility it is a reckless disregard for people you are responsible to lead. Senility is when you are not able to meet responsibilities due to physical or mental disabilities; negligence is when you do not meet responsibilities because you choose not to try. Here is where many elites are now- malicious negligence or benign indifference not senility. History shows those who have the status and benefits of being the “elite” are called to account for results, if they cannot perform well they will be replaced by those who will. Sic transit gloria mundi!



Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome, faculty member of the University of Florence, and the author of "Extracted" (Chelsea Green 2014), "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017), and Before the Collapse (Springer 2019)