Cassandra has moved. Ugo Bardi publishes now on a new site called "The Seneca Effect."

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Happy August 15th (and a little rant from UB)

August 15th is a big holiday in Italy. Here is a translation of the post I published today on the Italian version of this blog.




An image of the "new normal" in Italy. In Florence, a downtown shop tries to fight the heat wave of this summer by installing an air conditioner, without worrying too much about spewing hot air right onto the hot and sweating tourists.


Happy Aug 15th, everybody! Here, in Florence, the worst seems to be over and the forecasts tell of rain today and tomorrow. This July has been the hottest ever recorded in Italy, but we suffered, on the whole, only limited damage. We had more than a month of brutal heat, but also some rain that eased the problem of the forest fires. Now, we can hope to arrive to September without big troubles, at least in terms of sheer heat. 

It is sure, anyway, that this Summer we got a taste of what the "new normal" is going to be. Apart from the horrible heat, we saw a number of spectacular disasters created by bad weather. I can tell you that I had never seen the roof of a house blown away by the wind. I had seen something like that only on TV, and mainly in the US, where the wooden homes always have that look as if they were coming from the tale of the three little pigs and the big bad wolf. But seeing the roofs of concrete buildings in Florence being ripped off and deposited in the courtyards, below, well, it has been a shock.

So much the shock caused by these events, that on TV someone mentioned the term "climate change". Fortunately, they immediately found an "expert" who appeared on screen and said that everything was fine and that it had been just a normal summer thunderstorm. 

Apart from the shy, and immediately removed, intrusion of the real world on the TV screen, Italy continues to operate in conditions that I would call "political Alzheimer." That is, conditions in which the patient continues to repeat the same things over and over, without reacting to external stimuli. So, we vaguely remember that, in the past, there was a good time in which the economy was growing and there follows that there is nothing else and nothing more than pursuing growth to fix all the problems.

This catatonic form of politics is not a fault of any specific political force. The faces we see on TV are a little like what people saw in one of those old "houses of mirrors" in amusement parks. Distorted mirrors would return your image as taller or shorter, fatter or thinner, crooked or straight; but it was always the same person. So, the politicians ruling Italy today are just slightly deformed reflections of the society that has produced them. It is us: we are aggressive, disoriented, angry, and without ideas. 

On this point, there is a very interesting post by John Michael Greer (the "archdruid") titled "the war against change."  Greer maintains that the traditional distinction between "progressives" and "conservatives" has been replaced by a situation in which the progressives became conservatives in the sense they oppose any and all change, whereas the conservatives still favor changes, provided that they will worsen things considerably.

This view can be perfectly applied to the Italian situation, with the so called "left" that shows a deep hate for renewable energy and for everything sustainable, whereas the right continues to push for drilling more and drilling deeper in order to get more energy from the sea of oil on which, notoriously, Italy floats. This idea of the right is being applied with great enthusiasm by the left, presently in power.   

But I would also say that Greer is somewhat optimistic, in the sense that the ongoing mental paralysis is affecting all political forces, both on the right and on the left. And it is not just a problem of the political parties: it is the entire Italian society that can't find anything better to do than to blame the bugaboo of the moment, be it Putin's Russia, Merkel's Germany, or whatever. And a good fraction of the public seems to find refuge in the most extreme forms of conspiracy theories, those which are unseemly for the dignity of the human condition, such as chemtrails and the upcoming new ice age. 

All right, sorry for this little rant from me. But, really, it is impressive to note how nothing moves in the debate, while we are facing gigantic changes in the ecosystem and in the economy. Do we have any hope to see something moving in the future? Hard to say. Surely, 2016 will be hotter than 2015, and 2017 will be even worse. But, on TV, there will always be some "expert" telling people that everything is normal. 


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Note: to be sure, this 2015 has seen one big change in terms of new ideas. The "Laudato Si" Papal encyclical. It is impressive how this set of  ideas comes from the Church of Rome, the bugaboo of the old and rigid "left," who once were priding themselves of the definition of "progressives." It reminds me of Tonybee, when he placed himself in the position of an ancient Roman and asked: "what good can ever come out of Bethlehem?" And yet....



Who

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)