Thursday, July 01, 2004

Copyrights...and wrongs

2 July: Update 1, Added second and last paragraphs, to and to first paragraph

Prospect's collection of articles from the first one hundred issues are available online, put there by some bad element no doubt (but hey, what's more Chinese than copyright theft? Next, I'll be standing on the corner of Chang'An and Wangfujing selling bootlegs for 8 yuan a go!)

They're running a competition to find Britain's top hundred public intellectuals. Maybe they presume too much. I'd put forward the FT, as the best forum for ideas among all the British papers. As well as having the leading figures on both sides of many debates published in the opinion pages, their Saturday magazine is the only publication in Britain that stands alongside the likes of the New Yorker or Atlantic Monthly in combining serious news and cultural analysis with accessible and clever writing.

Among the highlights in the Science and Technology section are an article by Bjorn Lomborg, which goes much further than The Skeptical Environmentalist in accusing the IPCC of promoting a hidden agenda:
...we have to realise what we are arguing about—do we want to deal with global warming in the most efficient way or do we want to use global warming as a means to realise a broader political ambition?
He goes further, and in this is the most explicitly anti-anti-globalisation, to coin a phrase, I've seen from him so far:
To put it another way, what matters most to our children is the success
of the WTO not the IPCC.
Opposing him in a later issue, also reproduced in the archive, is Adair Turner, who has a history destorying global capitalism - he's former head of McKinsey in London and later ran the Confederation of British Industry.

In Turner's view, Lomborg is both effective and justified in demolishing what he calls anti-modern environmentalism:
For some people, concern about the environment is rooted in a worldview of anti-modernist and anti-capitalist pessimism. It is this “anti-modernist” school that Lomborg demolishes. The anti-modernists tend to express environmental concerns in quasi-religious terms, rejecting a homo-centric world view: environmental improvements are not needed to make human life more pleasant, but because they are in some absolute sense right. It displays a deep suspicion of the market economy and of big business and is susceptible to conspiracy theory and scare stories, with selfish actions forever threatening health and the environment. But above all the anti-modernist school is characterised by a belief that the developed world model of ever-growing prosperity is unsustainable and in any case tawdry, and that fundamental reform of modern lifestyles is required to restore balance to the world. This belief makes its adherents highly suspicious of any assertion that mankind has achieved real improvements, not only in material conditions, but also in some aspects of environmental quality. (As Stephen Budiansky pointed out in last month’s Prospect, even scientists such as EO Wilson lean towards this view.)
Some obvious names should spring to the mind of regular readers.

He does pick up on some of my own concerns, especially on the book's chapter on global warming - where the forecasts of plentiful fossil fuel reserves and a fallback in global population aren't quite combatable with assumptions he makes for the global warming scenarios. I'm becoming more frustrated at trying to re-read passages that seem to be gibberish.