How Climate Change is Like War

The military historian Danny Orbach writes about the popular analogy of the Covid-19 crisis to war, and what kinds of lessons from military history policymakers can learn. He of course understands the big differences – he doesn’t talk about tactics or operations, but rather about common issues regarding public support and the price of war. It’s not my intention to talk about the virus in the post, but rather, of an even bigger long-term global crisis: catastrophic climate change. Danny’s insights form a good guideline to why climate action is so difficult.

Popular willpower in crisis

The core of Danny’s post is that the public’s willingness to bear personal costs is limited, and can change during the crisis, usually for the worse. He gives a number of examples from historic wars, and concludes (bold in original),

Thus, the main moral is as follows: if you’re a leader facing a crisis like a war or a pandemic, the public trust must always be on your mind. Remember that it is always limited, and tends to run out much faster than you imagine. Most of the American public, for example, was willing to sacrifice a lot to save South Vietnam and Southeast Asia from communism, but not to pay an unlimited economic and human cost as General Westmoreland demanded. The Viet Cong and North Vietnam did not manage to defeat the United States, only to stall for time and exhaust it until the public trust of the American public ran out.

When fighting a pandemic, like the corona crisis, it’s equally necessary to think about the consequences of each move not just for the fight against the plague but also for the public trust for facing it. The main factor here is time. The more time passes, and the economic damage grows, the more the public trust runs out at an ever increasing rate. For this reason, policymakers must understand that they have limited time, and they must take every step to shorten it: for example, massive and fast increase in testing (even at research labs, which the Ministry of Health harassed for weeks), shortening red tape in obtaining results, handing out masks even at an early stage, and fast contact tracing to replace the general lockdown with targeted lockdowns. In Israel, the Ministry of Health understood this too late, in my estimation because of the public pressure to end the lockdown after Passover. It’s also important to understand that every further tightening wastes the public trust even faster, especially if it looks petty and redundant (the 100-meter limit on out-of-home trips, harassment of beach surfers, cutting the quota of permitted workers per business from 30% of normal to 15%). Finally, so that the public trust will last longer, personal example of the leaders is also important. When the Israeli public saw [PM Bibi] Netanyahu, [President Rubi] Rivlin, [Immigration and Absorption Minister Yoav] Galant, [Health Minister] Litzman, and other policymakers flout their own guidelines, the public’s willingness to sacrifice for a length period of time naturally decreased.

The details are naturally tailored to the situation of Israel, whose infection rates are low by Western standards (but high by democratic Asian ones), but the broad outline isn’t. Capricious rules lead to widespread derision even among people who support the overall program, even in relatively high-trust societies like Germany.

The implications for climate change

If public trust is a limited resource, then climate action has to involve a plan for conserving it. It’s related to plans by political operatives to conserve political capital, but is not the same – political capital refers to the support of political elites, especially elected officials, whereas public trust is broader. Disempowering some local group costs political capital but may increase public trust if it gives the appearance of faster and more decisive action; authoritarian leaders habitually surround themselves with corrupt sycophants who they can publicly remove to popular acclaim.

So how can governments fight climate change while maintaining public support for such measures? Visible green infrastructure helps, which nearly everyone understands, but what people don’t understand so easily is that the program itself cannot have too high a cost. The sort of leftists who propose Green New Deal programs don’t think trillions of dollars in deficit spending is ever bad, but the general public differs; when unemployment is not too high, it’s important to limit the costs. Shortening lead time from when a project is announced to when it opens is important as well.

Good interim measures are helpful, too, but they have a limit. Paris is one of the most polluted cities in Europe, but it is not Delhi; reducing pollution there is helpful but evidently did not get unanimous support. So reducing pollution and car accidents buys some public trust, but not to infinite extent. Building more housing to reduce rents in expensive cities is the same – it helps alleviate the stereotype that dense cities are expensive, but this doesn’t equal universal public patience for programs that abolish mobility by car.

The good news is that the highest carbon tax regime in the world, Sweden, has also had one of the stronger economic growth rates in the first world. So the economic cost of what’s been done so far does not exist. It’s a matter of the cost of further action, which includes limiting flights and cars, directing development to dense transit-oriented cities, etc.

The issue of personal example

Danny brings up the personal example issue among top leaders. I would add that personal example among a broader segment of the population is even more important – the EU plans for a Green Deal call for fairly high (though not Swedish, let alone fully damage-mitigating) taxes on aviation fuel within the EU, a policy that would help with public trust because of perceptions that domestic carbon taxes do not levy the tax on the rich because they do not cover international flights.

Among the literal leaders, the situation is more delicate. The threat model of a national leader, who is a personal target for state-level actors and major terrorist groups, is not the same as that of the ordinary person, who to the terrorist is just a statistic. To the ordinary person, a train has lower terrorism risk than a plane, since a bomb can’t kill the people on an entire train. To the national leader, a train has higher risk, because attacks on the fixed infrastructure (such as bridges) are easier to the group that wants to kill a particular person. When François Hollande traveled France by TGV rather than by plane to lead by example, soldiers had to guard every bridge. In this situation, it is not hypocritical for leaders to fly even when a train is available.

All of this is much easier when national leadership is more distributed and there is no executive president who provides a juicy target to hostile actors. Switzerland’s plural executive does not have the massive security of an ordinary head of government, and its members do take the tram around Bern, which would be unthinkable for a French president.

But even that has a real limit. Populists make up stories of hypocrisy all the time. Emmanuel Macron does not supply any proper scandals, and may be the first leader in the history of France who is faithful to his wife, so rumormongers and fake news sites step in with fake quotes and stories. The point of personal example isn’t to get unanimous consent; repression is not an avoidable aspect of climate action, or for that matter of having a state to begin with. The point is to shrink the opposition to the most risible elements, who the general public won’t mind seeing ignored or repressed if need be.

Climate change as forever war

A more interesting case study of war, not in the original post, is the modern forever war. The US has been in Afghanistan since 2001, in a conflict that has no end in sight; France is likewise in a forever war in its former Sahelian colonies. There’s a lot of mockery about this, but the general public is broadly okay with this situation, because the cost to the public in the US and France is so low. (Afghans, Malians, and Nigeriens naturally do not get a vote.) Even the limited extent of sacrifice the French and American voting publics endured trying to hold on to Vietnam would not be acceptable over such a long time, let alone that of a total war like World War Two. Thus, a forever war cannot be a total war.

The rhetoric about climate change is that of a total war, but that means little – leaders routinely engage in apocalyptic rhetoric in limited wars, like Israel’s cold war with Iran (“the year is 1938 and Iran is Germany” per Netanyahu), the American war on Iraq in 2003 (“we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud” per Condoleeza Rice). Everything else about climate change points to a forever war. The time horizon is far, with discussions of reducing emissions sharply by 2030 and eliminating them by 2050.

So if it’s a forever war, public trust is especially limited. It makes it especially important to make climate action feel like not much of a sacrifice, but an opportunity to live in rich, dynamic transit cities while paying affordable rents. This is not going to be a universal positive feeling, but the point, again, is not to get universal support, just to conserve public trust enough to implement the requires programs successfully.

59 comments

  1. Benjamin Turon

    Good and interesting post. Yes, a long war against a counter insurgency or a “Cold War” with its civil defense drills and arms race is one comparison, but what about disaster response in terms of infrastructure, building codes, emergence drills, public education, etc? I’m thinking like earthquakes in Japan and floods in the Netherlands. Why the success so far of some East Asian nations seems to parallel disaster preparedness. Overall, battling Global Warming I think is going to have to be sold as building a better world that materially benefits people, the way previous industrial revolutions did, with electricity replacing fossil fuels, the way the petrol engine and diesel replace steam.

    • Benjamin Turon

      Your new electric car isn’t cleaner than your gas one, its also better and cheaper! Your energy efficient home safes you money. Look, you can get some exercise by walking to the corner store. Inst that fast train to New York nice?

      • Herbert

        The problem with “selling” people on a carfree lifestyle is that it is hard to imagine unless one knows it already. So in essence “just doing it” is often smart policy, especially when done on the local level where one can often bank on long periods between elections where the initial opposition is long forgotten once the new election rolls around.

        I know of little to no urbanist projects which lost popularity after they had already been implemented…

        • Lukas

          1970s high rise social housing,. especially if it’s not connected to anything by transit, is not so popular now, in general.

          • Alon Levy

            Yeah, but high-rises that are not social housing and are connected to mass transit are pretty popular in New York, Vancouver, Hong Kong, Toronto…

          • Herbert

            Most high rises are actually less dense than Kreuzberg style urbanism…

          • Car(e)-Free LA

            Dubai-style high rises perhaps, but Manhattan has twice the population density of Kreuzberg. That should be the model.

          • Herbert

            Manhattan also has absurd rents and the housing stock shows no sign of keeping up with demand…

          • Alon Levy

            Yeah, the Americans kind of gave up on urban growth a couple generations ago. (P.S. by Korean and Japanese standards, so have the Germans.)

          • Herbert

            In Germany municipally or state-level owned housing was part of the post-war consensus but sold off in the neoliberal era (ca. 1990-2020) in many places. Söder for example sold a lot of Bavaria owned housing way below market value when he was minister of finances. Dresden sold all municipal housing during a time of falling population of Dresden.

            The consensus has turned and all the coalition agreements I link below call for aggressive social housing programs, some even putting concrete numbers on them…

  2. adirondacker12800

    which includes limiting flights and cars

    It’s possible to do either without emitting carbon. It’s a pity the rest of the world doesn’t share you masochistic Puritan streak. They probably won’t give up their cars and airplanes. Or HVAC or food shipped long distances or plastic or…

    • Fredrik Staxäng

      I don’t think Alon proposes limiting carbon-neutral flights. I think the reasonable interpretation is that he proposes fewer carbon-emmting flights.

    • Herbert

      Carbon-neutral flying – if possible in practice (as opposed to theory) – will cost more than flying does today. Raising the price of most goods tends to limit their consumption…

      • Eric2

        Give it a couple decades, and I think per capita income will grow more than the cost of flying rises.

        • Herbert

          Maybe, but the cost of high speed rail travel will fall even more as mass production of trains gets of the ground and rail lines reach the time when they don’t have to earn back their construction costs any more…

          • Tonami Playman

            I don’t think cost of rolling is a huge component of high speed rail infrastructure to begin with and I don’t see any meaningful cost reductions with the mass production of rolling stock that took place with China’s demand for high speed rolling stock. Bombardier and Siemens have produced more rolling stock for Chinese HSR lines than they have ever produced for anywhere else, yet the cost did not go down significantly.

          • Herbert

            There have been economies of scale in aviation with the change from numerous companies with small production runs to the big two. When more and more trains run on 25 kV 50 Hz and ETCS instead of myriad bespoke systems, I can see a “five thousand trains” order. And if there are no economies of scale in such an order, maybe there needs to be a “disruptive” entrant to the rail rolling stock market…

          • Henry Miller

            Economies of scale require scale. Trains will never get what autos do. No train operator would buy a separate train or two for each family. If we bought train like autos, replace every 12 years, spend most of the time sitting we could get economies of scale such that they cost 30,000 each. That means multiple factories rolling one off the line every minute, each. The lessons each factory learns in the drive to be cheaper will add up over time.

            But realistically even an all transport is train world needs cars that last 15 (Japan?) Or 30 years (rest of the world). They need to run pretty much 16 hours every day. This demands high quality (more expensive), and it drives down potential for scale (again driving up cost). Making all the cars we do mean that the cost to design all the parts is spread across more. Trains will never get that to the same extent.

            That said, if you want to decrease costs place a standing order for a few trains every year of the same size (style changes are allowed, and we assume the latest fads will be added if it can fit). The consistent orders mean that the factory can plan for your order. All materials are ordered in advance, and arrive on time when workers are ready suppliers know the date in advance and work it in without overtime. And since everyone had a guaranteed order nobody worries about boom and bust cycle lay offs which is good for moral.

            The above is why Alon keeps talking about orders with door count and length in mind. Change either of them and structural engineers need to start over to create your custom car at great expense, then a bunch more custom jigs are made. In many cases the jig isn’t worth it and so things are manually measured at great expense.

            With seats are a little more flexible, but there are limits to how many different arrangements can fit in
            if you specify your needs we can probably find 3 different seating arrangements to choose from, but it isn’t worth a custom seat arrangement for you even if it would fit, just deal with what get.

            Someone should come up with a couple of good standards for trains and have congress standardize it. Force Bart, caltrain, amtrak, and all the other subways and commuter rail to choose either the high floor or the low car spec and modify stations to match because they are not allowed to order trains compatible with whatever they had before. There will be pain for 15 years and then the benefits.

          • Andrew in Ezo

            In Japan the de facto standard for commuter stock has become the 20m carriage with 3 or 4 doors per side, with longitudinal seating. Builders used to turn out myriad bespoke designs for each customer, but economic realities and interlining operation have pushed standardization, especially among the operators in the Tokyo Metropolitan Area. Railcar builders are now promoting these standard lineups abroad, examples such as Hitachi’s A train or J-Trec’s Sustina model.
            https://www.j-trec.co.jp/eng/sustina/030/010/index.html

          • Herbert

            The American rail market is irrelevant and the U.S. does pay a premium for not following global standards.

            That said, train designs like the Bombardier Talent 2, the Stadler KISS, the Siemens Velaro, the Siemens Desiro and others are seeing larger production runs. It will never be like motorcar production, but I think there’s good reason to say it can get to where airplane production is in terms of economies of scale.

            At any rate, ETCS and the TSI make things easier. That’s what they’re for, after all

      • michaelrjames

        I keep telling you guys that the only realistic ‘solution’ to the aviation carbon issue is biofuels. Yes, they will always be more expensive than free stuff out of the ground, so this may be reflected in higher aviation costs but not nearly as much as people would have you believe. (And it must not involve displacing food crops which is why my solution involves currently unproductive ocean surface.)
        Anyway here is something interesting: a hybrid engineered chloroplast (a cyborg chloroplast?). However this is still a long way from real world implementation, and note that it represents a 20% improvement on natural photosynthesis. I think there is an overemphasis on the “inefficiency” of photosynthesis because it is not something that costs us anything (and as the authors point out, natural things have to spend a lot of that energy on growing and reproducing which is a rather critical feature if one wants to roll out a vast scheme across currently empty parts of the ocean to achieve the scale necessary for serious climate-reversing carbon capture & storage).

        The original article is Miller, T. E. et al. Science 368, 649–654 (2020). But here is an accessible summary in Nature (extract only):

        https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-01396-4
        Cyber-spinach turns sunlight into sugar
        Combination of biological membrane and artificial chemistry could power future synthetic organisms.
        Colin Barras, 07 May 2020.
        There’s a new way to eat carbon dioxide. Researchers have built an artificial version of a chloroplast, the photosynthetic structures inside plant cells. It uses sunlight and a laboratory-designed chemical pathway to turn CO2 into sugar.
        Artificial photosynthesis could be used to drive tiny, non-living, solar-powered factories that churn out therapeutic drugs. And because the new chemical pathway is more efficient than anything nature has evolved, the team hopes that a similar process could some day even help to remove CO2 from the atmosphere — although it is not clear whether it could be turned into a large-scale, economically feasible operation.

        • Henry Miller

          Displacing food production is one of the oil industries favorite talking points, it sounds like a real worry so it gets people worked up. There is more than enough food production to support 9 billion people and a lot of biofuel as well. There is a lot of poor farmers in third world countries who could grow a lot more than they do, if they would adopt modern soil building farming technology instead of the traditional soil destroying technology they use.

          But you keep falling for the fuel displacing food line and making the oil argument for them

          • michaelrjames

            Yes, there is sufficient food produced. The problem is distribution. And increasingly, climate-related changes in agricultural productivity.
            However, excluding the simple burning of waste fibre from farming, the vast majority of liquid biofuels are produced by large-scale and overwhelmingly corporate farming of corn and sugar-cane, which itself is fossil fuel intensive in both energy and fertilizer.
            The use of waste fibre will require considerable development of engineered enzymatic digestion of the long polymers into more amenable high-energy intermediates, ie. like the sugars one begins with in corn and cane. It’s not impossible but it is more likely that such fibres will continue to be burnt in situ, or perhaps in semi-local electricity generation.

            I don’t believe the inefficiency of these various processes will be sustainable long-term or even medium-term. The oceans, particularly a huge fraction of the central & southern Pacific, represents a massive unused resource. Contrary to what adirondacker says (and he’s trolling again because I have explained this several times before) the only thing limiting growth of marine phytoplankton (responsible for >50% of ocean productivity) is iron because of its poor solubility. The world’s fisheries depend on iron delivered by river outflow or upwelling from the ocean floor by thermal-flows (eg. the sub-Antarctic and north-Atlantic) or underwater volcanoes, or from terrestrial dust storms delivering its load to distant oceans. Other than the provision of these micronutrients (some silica might also be needed in some waters), it is driven by the free energy from the sun. All other biological requirements are abundant in seawater (or carbon & nitrogen from the air), notably phosphorous which is inexorably becoming a limitation for agriculture. There is a potential triple-win here: 1. carbon sequestration; 2. biofuels; 3. stimulation of fisheries ie. phytoplankton are the bottom of the food chain–in the Antarctic the phytoplankton are eaten by krill (≈400m tonnes pa) which are eaten by fish and whales etc.

          • Herbert

            Adding nutrients to a lake that’s more than two meters deep (carp ponds are technically all eutrophic but they’re shallow enough for it to not hurt the fish) will invariably lead to an explosive growth of algae which then die and sink to the bottom where all oxygen is consumed in no time leading to anaerobic processes which release stuff like hydrogen sulfide.

            We know ocean anoxia can happen – we’re observing it in the Baltic and virtually all our petroleum is a result of historic ocean anoxia.

            What guarantees that releasing large quantities of nutrients into the open ocean won’t have dire consequences for the health of the oceans?

          • michaelrjames

            What guarantees that releasing large quantities of nutrients into the open ocean won’t have dire consequences for the health of the oceans?

            First, you are comparing a small drop (even if a biggish lake) to the deep open ocean. Second, toxic algal blooms can happen in the ocean though actually all the ones I’m aware of are offshore because they get those nutrients from the land runoff. Also our runoff contains excess nitrates and phosphates that cause the eutrification, not just a light dusting of iron. Third, how does it matter? The deep ocean is naturally low oxygen and lifeless except where something exception is occurring (black smoker volcano tubes etc) or currents bring more oxygenated water etc. But this ocean-seeding would be in the vast dead zones, by definition far from land and thus devoid of fisheries or most life (even migrating fish avoid these areas). It makes no sense to seed zones which already get nutrients from nearby land or currents, and where you could be endangering existing fisheries or living systems or human habitats. The idea is to stimulate phytoplankton with a teensy bit of iron dust, get a sustained burst of growth followed by either death and sinking of their calcium carbonate skeletons to the deeps where the carbon is entombed forever–even if it partially redissolves in the more acidic deepwater it will still be trapped there, or long enough that we smart humans will have figured out how to handle it by the time it recycles back (in a century to two or thousands of years); or the phytoplankton might be consumed by other animals the way krill do in the sub-Antarctic. Appropriate critters might even be introduced if the plan is to create a fishery or ecosystem. Or, harvested before the final stage to be feeder into a biofuel plant; this will probably be more efficient using those floating systems of kelp/seaweed–these are like underwater rainforests in their ability to sequester carbon.
            Or a mix of all three, or maybe more. It would be creating an ecosystem where there was nothing before. The ocean already sequesters about 50bn tonnes of carbon p.a., approximately 50% of global biological sequestration, and that is from only a tiny fraction of the ocean being active. It is one of the few things that can scale to the size required.

            The studies of natural phenomena is in zones that have natural sources of such nutrient delivery such as the sub-Antarctic, created by the huge runoff of very cold snowmelt/glacier melt that forms a gigantic underwater waterfall off the coast of Antarctica that then causes a counter-current from the depth that brings up sediment, and voila, one of the world’s most productive zones. It even played a role in creating our low-CO2 atmosphere:

            https://science.sciencemag.org/content/343/6177/1347
            Iron Fertilization of the Subantarctic Ocean During the Last Ice Age
            Alfredo Martínez-García et al.
            Science 21 Mar 2014:
            Vol. 343, Issue 6177, pp. 1347-1350
            DOI: 10.1126/science.1246848

            [documents a reduction of atmospheric CO2 from 290 to 190ppm (equivalent to removing approx. 150 billions tonnes CO2) thanks to natural iron fertilisation caused by dust blown off the southern continents during an arid phase of global climate.]

  3. Fredrik Staxäng

    One of my hobby-horses is that house prices/rents are revealed preferences. In many cities, an apartment in cetre cost more than a house in suburb. E.g this one https://www.hemnet.se/bostad/lagenhet-4rum-vasastan-stockholms-kommun-luntmakargatan-91,-2-tr-16837436 is almost three times this one https://www.hemnet.se/bostad/villa-5rum-margretelund-osterakers-kommun-tallsattravagen-145-16431341. City living is already very popular, it is too expensive because there is not enough city, and the solution is to build more of it.

    • Herbert

      Unfortunately the most popular types of “city” – 19th century housing with very dense buildings of less than 12 floors and little to no parking of any kind – is literally illegal to newly build in many places. Add to that the price of getting new stucco built and you got your work cut out for you…

  4. Eric2

    Any money collected by a carbon tax is money that doesn’t need to be collected by other taxes. Cutting those other taxes should create a natural constituency for a carbon tax.

    • Herbert

      I don’t think we should cut taxes on the 1% when we’re collecting more from everybody through carbon taxation…

  5. Korakys

    The problem with improving society is that increasing efficiency and reducing property values, the very things that improving society is ultimately trying to do, are also what people who already own the property or work in inefficient jobs don’t want. That’s why this shit takes forever to change.

    • Herbert

      Isn’t it weird that we’ve created a system where people fear work getting more efficient? Heck even the GDR which was supposed to be immune to shit like that had a horde of inefficiency-created jobs to keep everybody “employed”… Instead of just producing more stuff more cheaply with the excess labor force, thus increasing everybody’s material wealth…

      • df1982

        My understanding is that the GDR leadership was aware of an acute labour shortage in the country, even with full employment. Workplace inefficiencies were likely more the result of poor planning, incompetence and organisational inertia than a deliberate policy of make-work to keep people employed.

        • Basil Marte

          Indeed, they even imported guest workers from “friendly” Cuba. And unlike the West (with their Turkish guest workers), they were careful not to allow them to become permanent residents or citizens.

          • Alon Levy

            Vietnam, too… Vietnamese guest workers were not allowed to have children, leading to a Vietnamese baby boom after East Germany bit the dust and the workers suddenly got basic rights. To this day, Vietnamese are one of not many foreign ethnicities who within Berlin cluster in Eastern rather than Western neighborhoods.

          • Herbert

            Kohl gave the Vietnamese (nota bene: there are also Vietnamese “boat people” in the west who represent the opposite political camp. Regardless of how they got to Germany, Vietnamese and their descendants outcompete other Germans in educational attainment) a “financial aid to return”. Apparently some took it, booked a round trip flight and pocketed the difference…

            Tbh I’d have done the same…

  6. Herbert

    After the local elections of March there are now signed coalition or cooperation papers available in several cities, I will post them without further comment as what is in them will be rather self-explanatory to those who speak enough German to read them. I think it is rather remarkable how clear the difference between Red-Green (Munich) and CSU led Black-Red (Nuremberg) can be…
    https://spd-rathausmuenchen.de/workspace/media/static/druckfassung_koalitionsvertrag-5eb182453a5e4.pdf Munich
    https://www.spd-nuernberg.de/fileadmin/user_upload/_partei_neu/Themen/Kooperationsvereinbarung_2020-2026.pdf Nuremberg
    https://spd-erlangen.de/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Kooperationsvereinbarung-CSU-SPD.pdf Erlangen
    https://gruene-augsburg.de/userspace/BY/sv_augsburg/Bilder/Kommunalwahl-2020/Koalitionsvertrag_Endstand__1_.pdf Augsburg

    I can’t find those for Regensburg (ongoing debate about whether to build a tram) or Würzburg (has a tram and seemingly consensus to expand it). Neu-Ulm is rather small, but there are those who wish to extend the Ulm tramway into Neu-Ulm. I don’t know how the new city council stands on that issue…

  7. michaelrjames

    The longest declared war that the US has been fighting is The War on Drugs. Must be close to its 50th anniversary. On wonders what has been spent on this useless and destructive war. Not to mention the damage done to Mexico and Colombia and others as a consequence. Also not to mention the fact that there has been a fifth column within the US medico-pharma complex that wanted a piece of this action for itself by getting their patients addicted to legally prescribed opioids.

    Another war that Nixon started was The War on Cancer. Some people may not think much of it either, but that’s because the enemy consists of hundreds of variants each of which has to be defeated individually. In fact there has been great progress and some spectacular cures or preventative measures (eg. cervical cancer) and early diagnosis. It’s also about 50 years long but it won’t be a forever war, and mostly we can believe it is one that is worth winning (though at times, it does conflict with my concern for the planet; I mean we all have to die of something).

    Anyway, regards climate change and things green, I am going to use it as an excuse to bring to your notice something a bit off-topic though not irrelevant to an urbanist blog. Yesterday Jack Mundey died. Too late to make today’s papers but it’ll be in the Oz and UK papers tomorrow. Probably none of you know who he is but he had a significant influence on heritage protection, green urbanism and the early green movement including, apparently, the early German Greens. In fact this was also happening at the same time as Nixon was in the White House. Here is a brief note (written by the editor, Paddy Manning who has written a history of the Australian Greens):

    https://www.themonthly.com.au/today/paddy-manning/2020/11/2020/1589175817/thanksjackmundey
    #ThanksJackMundey
    The Green Bans proved jobs-vs-environment is a sham
    Heartfelt tributes are pouring in for legendary Australian communist, trade unionist and environmentalist Jack Mundey, who died on Sunday, aged 90. Twitter has seen statements from the ACTU and Australian Conservation Foundation, a string of Labor heavyweights including former Labor leader Bill Shorten, Greens leader Adam Bandt and many others. As leader of the NSW Builders Laborers Federation in the early 1970s, Mundey and his fellow “BLs” Bob Pringle and Joe Owens had a truly global impact. They launched the green bans movement, which stopped bulldozers from clearing remnant scrub on Sydney Harbour at Hunters Hill, then known as Kellys Bush, in 1971. It was the first time a union anywhere had stopped work on a project for environmental reasons – well outside normal pay and conditions – and the green bans unionists went on to save much of Sydney’s built heritage in The Rocks and Woolloomooloo, and places like Centennial Park, holding up developments worth billions in the name of environmental amenity or social justice. It also embraced causes from gay rights to public housing. Peace and anti-nuclear activist Petra Kelly came to Sydney in the late 1970s and, inspired by Mundey, went home and formed the German Greens, which in turn inspired the formation of Green parties around the world.

    • Herbert

      The desire to end the war on drugs is getting more and more currency in more and more countries. Certainly “coca eradication” (i.e. literal war on a plant) is not coming back any time soon….

    • Terry

      The official mainstream “wars” on this or that have thus been “wars” on the unsuspecting public: to keep them misinformed and misguided.

      Let’s take the ‘war on cancer’ as an example.

      If the public were to scrutinize what the medical industry and its government pawns are telling them about the ‘war on cancer’ instead of blindly believing what they’re saying, they’d find that the cancer industry and the cancer charities have been dismissing, ignoring, and obfuscating the true causes of cancer while mostly putting the blame for cancer on the individual, denying or dismissing the serious harms from orthodox cancer treatments and chemical toxicants, and resorting to deceptive cancer statistics to “educate” (think: mislead) the public that their way of treatment is actually successful (read this well referenced scholarly article’s afterword on the war on cancer: do a search engine query for “A Mammogram Letter The British Medical Journal Censored” by Rolf Hefti, a published author of the Orthomolecular Medicine News organization, and scroll down to the afterword that addresses the fraudulent ‘war on cancer’).

      The “war” on anything is almost always one big fraud, whether it is actual military war, the war on drugs, the war on poverty, or the war on cancer, because huge corporate interests are the leading motive for these “wars” instead of their officially advocated missions.

      The orthodox cancer establishment has been saying a cure for cancer “is just around the corner” and “we’re winning the war on cancer” for decades. It’s all hype and lies (read Dr. Guy Faguet’s ‘War on cancer,” Dr. Sam Epstein’s work, or Clifton Leaf’s book, or Siefried’s work on this bogus ‘war’).

      Since the war on cancer began orthodox medicine hasn’t progressed in their basic highly profitable therapies: it still uses primarily and almost exclusively highly toxic, deadly things like radiation, chemo, surgery, and drugs that have killed millions of people instead of the disease.

      As long as the official “war on cancer” is a HUGE BUSINESS based on expensive TREATMENTS (INTERVENTIONS) of a disease instead of its PREVENTION, logically, they will never find a cure for cancer. The upcoming moonshot-war on cancer inventions, too, will include industry-profitable gene therapies of cancer treatment that are right in line with the erroneous working model of mechanistic reductionism of allopathic medicine. The lucrative game of the medical business is to endlessly “look for” a cure but not “find” a cure. Practically all resources in the phony ‘war on cancer’ are poured into treating cancer but almost none in the prevention of the disease. It’s proof positive that big money and a total lack of ethics rule the official medical establishment.

      It’s just like with any bogus official “war” (‘war on drugs’, ‘war on terrorism’, etc) — it’s not about winning these wars but to primarily prolong them because behind any of these fraudulent “war” rackets of the criminal establishment is a Big Business, such as the massive cancer industry. The very profitable TREATMENT focus of conventional medicine, instead of a PREVENTION focus which these official medical quacks (or rather crooks) can hardly make any money off, is a major reason why today 1 of 2 men and 1 in 3 women can expect a cancer diagnosis at some point in their lifetimes yet that rate was multiple times lower 5 decades ago when the phony ‘war on cancer’ began (1 in about 16). That fact alone proves we are NOT winning the war on cancer.

      At the same time, this same orthodox cancer cartel has been suppressing and squashing a number of very effective and beneficial alternative cancer approaches. You probably guessed why: effective, safe, inexpensive cancer therapies are cutting into the astronomical profits of the medical mafia’s lucrative treatments. That longstanding decadent activity is part of the fraud of the war on cancer.

      What the medical establishment “informs” the public about is about as truthful as what the political establishment keeps telling them. Not to forget, the corporate media (the mainstream fake news media) is a willing tool to spread these distortions, lies, and the scam of the war on cancer.

      Does anyone really think it’s a coincidence that double Nobel laureate Linus Pauling called the ‘war on cancer’ a fraud? If anyone looks closer they’ll come to the same conclusion. But…politics and self-serving interests of the conventional medical cartel, and their allied corporate media, keep the real truth far away from the public at large. Or people’s own denial or indifference of the real truth.

      • Herbert

        If there were those wonder drugs you describe, why aren’t they used in countries which openly flout medical patent laws producing cheap generic medicine?

  8. Pingback: Métaphores réchauffées – Thias の blog
  9. Paul

    Given the scenario of declining public opinion, it seems like the best options are either to win quickly (not possible with most wars or with climate change) or to do something that will show results in the medium term and hope those are enough to keep up public opinion. Covid-19 is a hard problem, because flattening the curve is progress, but also hard to measure because it’s unknown how bad the disaster would have been without the lockdown. Climate change may be a little easier. On one hand, it’s nearly impossible for one country to take any action big enough to see measurable results on global climate, but some actions have pretty significant side benefits. If, say, India were to stop burning coal, the benefits for urban air quality would be huge and that might be enough to buy public support for further environmental measures.

    • michaelrjames

      Covid-19 is a hard problem, because flattening the curve is progress, but also hard to measure because it’s unknown how bad the disaster would have been without the lockdown. Climate change may be a little easier.

      Not quite right. Disease is often to the fore in people’s minds and with globalisation we now see in graphic detail on nightly tv news, or 24/7 via Twitter, what happens to less fortunate peoples around the globe. It’s why there has been quite good reaction to government mandated lockdowns. It may be fraying in the US but that relates more to the worst prepared ‘healthcare’ system in the rich world and the worst, most precarious employment situation in the rich world etc. No accident that the two worst countries are the top two of the Anglosphere both of whom have clowns as leaders, and both countries have neglected their public healthcare over decades. Interesting too that soon to join them at the top of the league table are Putin’s Russia and another of Trump’s BFFs, Bolsonaro’s Brazil.

      Oh, and the US could well be about to teach the rest of us “how bad the disaster would have been without the lockdown”. Whether the US itself learns is another matter.

      Climate change is much more difficult because it happens over such a long timescale that it is easy to procrastinate. Especially those with power and riches to lose, namely the fossil fuel industries and their politician proxies. Australia has long had a majority (>70% for at least a decade) in favour of action on climate change, so the question over the recent worst bushfires in recorded history is whether it is enough to push the deniers into action. The fires have also had a global impact on consciousness of the issue but it will take more to shift the pendulum in places like the US.

      Of course covid-19 is itself a symptom of climate change. These nasty viral diseases that cross over from bats (SARS, MERS, Hendra, Nipah, most historic influenzas and colds) are due to disturbance of their ecosystems and encroachment of humans and our domesticated animals into zones not previously shared.

      • Herbert

        Virtually all diseases that wreak serious havoc on humans originate in animals. Not to put too fine a point to it, but we’re paying an insanely high price for domesticating animals…

        At any rate, the Covid 19 crisis “rhymes” with the bad harvests of the 1840s. And we all know what happened to the unsustainable political systems of Europe in 1848…

    • Alon Levy

      Yes, in India the effects would be very noticeable, and the same is true of China, Egypt, and East Africa. But in the first world I don’t think pollution levels are high enough – even in Paris, the idea of taxing fuel to reduce pollution levels is controversial enough (though not in the city and not much in the suburbs). So all those intermediate things – air quality, car accidents, urban affordability – are useful in reducing the public trust cost but I don’t think they eliminate it.

      • Herbert

        Do term lengths play a role?

        A two year term (like congress in the U.S.) isn’t long enough to reap the benefits of e.g. Tearing down a freeway on stilts. A six year term at the other extreme (like some municipal councils and mayors in Germany) is long enough that even the most fervent opponents of something done early in a term won’t remember their opposition if it turned out for the better in the end…

        • Alon Levy

          Probably not? New York mayors have de facto eight-year terms, since reelection rates are high and neither de Blasio 2017 nor (I believe) Bloomberg 2005 was seriously contested. And Hidalgo is notably making big changes while running for reelection in a seriously contested campaign that she is nonetheless going to win almost certainly.

          • Herbert

            Paris has a rather narrow urban boundary, within which her policies are pretty popular. Outside that in the suburbs people might hate her but can’t vote her out of office. That’s why annexing suburbs is a double-edged sword…

          • Alon Levy

            Yeah, the suburbs seem split on this. But for what it’s worth, there wasn’t much Gilets Jaunes sentiment in the banlieues. What’s more, something good about annexations is that they encourage more housing construction – construction in expensive cities is usually driven top-down, by the state or by a regional government (inc. in France), whereas individual municipalities tend to be run by NIMBYs.

          • Herbert

            I mean the Banlieus are largely more immigrant than France as a whole whereas the Gilets Jaunes are less immigrant thatn France as a whole, right?

          • Alon Levy

            Yeah, that’s a big part of it. Ile-de-France is probably around 30% nonwhite, whereas the Gilets Jaunes were around 100% white.

      • Herbert

        Barcelona style superblocs were initially very controversial, but after the first few had been implemented for a while they became incredibly popular. In fact the red-green coalition paper from Munich I cite above says they wish to implement them “adapted to local laws” in Munich…

        I think in general “other people driving less” is always popular, even in the abstract. It’s the “I can’t drive wherever whenever I want for free” that creates the resistance. Tho after the measures are implemented people often realize they did not, in fact, need to drive that much…

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