Lord Deben has been at it again. His participation in a debate on the ethics of global warming policy at the von Hügel Institute, Cambridge, is the subject of another post at Bishop Hill
Attendees were unanimous that Deben was a disgrace, a subject of ridicule, talking about CO2 as “an alien gas”, an expression he had already used at Oxford, where as Leopard in the Basement observed:
“the audience had that special echoing sound of the captive school assembly, offering the occasional muted polite titter when the headmaster makes an overt joke with a pause for response”.
And about-to-retire reported that:
“at school GumGum was regarded as the school twit and he was picked on his entire school life”.
On the latest BishopHill article, John Marshall in comments says:
“You can certainly hear Deben talk. I once had the misfortune to share a restaurant with him and he outshouted everyone at his table with a load of crap”.
and Michael Hart wonders whether his Catholicism might not have some bearing.
Discussing an opponent’s religion is usually considered off-limits, but Deben himself brought the subject up in his Oxford talk in the most bizarre fashion.
Talking about minority views he said:
“… it’s no bad thing to assume that in general the corpus of scientific evidence is a better guide to action than particular detached theories held in isolation from the main body. I don’t want to make a religious parallel but I think that there is a very clear one”.
and then, talking about the views of non-experts, he added as an aside:
“I think the parallel is simply this. I’m sure that Cliff Richard is a very good singer. I don’t take his religious views any more than I take anyone else’s religious views. And yet, if you do the parallel with the climate change you put him on a platform with a bishop. On the basis that they’re both experts. I find that unacceptable there, and I don’t see why we should put up with it in the area we’re talking about today”.
John Selwyn Gummer’s father, the Reverend Selwyn Gummer, a canon in the Church of England, not content with handing on a silly surname to his son, inflicted his Christian name – Selwyn – on him too, and then sent him to Selwyn College, Cambridge.
Poor bugger. No wonder he poped.
There’s something about the person which attracts derision. I’m not against namecalling on principle. It can serve many purposes. For example, Deben’s complicated self-contradictory justification for calling us climate sceptics “deniers” is a handy way of obscuring the fact that he has no arguments to use against us.
But name-calling can also be a handy introduction to the logical fallacy of the excluded middle, as any fule kno.
As, for example, in this imaginary playground conversation:
– “Gumboil, you are an arselicking godbothering ballbreaking bore, with your trotters on the levers of power, your bum on the Chair of the Climate Change Committee, and your snout in the trough of tax subsidised renewables.”
– “My name’s not Gumboil, it’s John Selwyn Gummer”.
His Oxford talk employed every tired cliché in the Guardian troll’s handbook. Talking of the wisdom of listening to experts, he asked, in that irritating erratic whine of his, whether you’d consult an opthalmologist for a hip replacement.
Of course you wouldn’t. Any more than you’d defend climate science by calling as expert witnesses a depressive hippy and the ex-Vice-Chamberlain of the Household.
If you’re giving talk at one of the world’s great universities, defending your position as principal architect of the most expensive programme ever embarked upon by a British government, you’d want to call the best expert witnesses, wouldn’t you? Not Gumdrop. His witnesses are two fellow Welshpersons, The Right Honourable The Lord Tristan Garel-Jones, (described by his fan Gumboil as “a free market advocate, banker and businessman – no tree-hugging sentimentalist”) and “my friend” Jay Griffiths, novelist.
Baron Tristan’s contribution is an anecdotal version of the precautionary principle, or Pascal’s Insurance Policy, which Gumboil summarises thus:
He went up to Lord Lawson and he said; “Nigel, when I hear you speak, I think to myself: ‘You’ve got a point.’ And then I hear people who are concerned about climate change speak, and I think to myself: ‘They’ve got a point.’ And then I think to myself: ‘If you’re right Nigel, we’ve wasted a certain amount of money. And if you’re wrong, we’ve fucked up the planet’.”
(The “certain amount of money” in question is counted in hundreds of billions of pounds of course. But what’s that to Gumboil? The important thing is to get the words “Lawson” and “fucked” into the same anecdote).
Deben recycles the Garel-Jones anecdote as his punch-line, with a slight variation:
“So I end by returning to Tristan Garel-Jones and the stark choice with which he confronts us… what if we risk it, ignore the science and follow Lord Lawson, and the science turns out to be right, and he is proved wrong? What then? We will have at best beggared future generations, and much more probably, we will have buggered the only planet we have”.
What is it with end-of-the-world alarmists like Deben and Emmott that makes them have to resort to potty talk?
The only other denialist, besides Lord Lawson, who is considered worthy of mention by name is also a fellow member of the House of Lords (Does Deben talk to anyone who doesn’t wear a coronet? He’s truly a character from a Gilbert & Sullivan comic opera) – the recently elevated Viscount Ridley.
Deben has not a word to say on Ridley’s opinions. He merely quotes a “most remarkable” article in the Guardian by “my friend Jay Griffiths” whose idea of a good time, (and a cure for severe depression) is quaffing hallucinogenic drugs with primitive tribes in the Amazon forest..
(Maybe that’s what’s behind all that hippy obsession about protecting the biodiversity of the rainforest. It’s fear that the Man will get hold of My Stash).
And all Jay Griffiths does in the Guardian is quote some anonymous criticisms of Ridley in an unidentified article in the New Scientist.
(The headline you’ll never see: “Climate Chief Wows Oxford Audience: Proves Denialist Viscount Wrong Quoting Guardian article by Drug-Crazed Hippy Author Quoting Anonymous New Scientist Experts”).
In Jay Griffiths’ first book, “Pip Pip: A Sideways Look at Time”, she argued that “linear time was obsessive, restrictive and essentially masculine – a tool of enslavement”. Her second book, “Wild”, took her to five continents over seven years, beginning with a journey to the Amazon to take a naturally occurring hallucinogenic drug called ayahuasca for her depression. The Guardian journalist who found her living in a shed in Epping quotes approvingly the “gloriously over-the-top ending”:
“Earth, self-created, born of self-will and stardust, made her self-willed way her own, the aboriginal I Am. Wilful and subversive planet that she is, grinning into the dark, roaring out her rebel yell, Earth is the rebel against the whole damn (solar) system … the ultimate wild comedian.”
There’s a long extract from “Wild” on her website.
(All defenders of a primitive way of life have websites). The first part, “Songlines” covers exactly the same ground as Bruce Chatwyn’s book of that title. A large part of the extract quoted cites other sources. Did she take the books of anthropologist Steven Feld, DVDs of filmmaker Alan Ereira, and CDs by songwriter Arnold Ap with her to West Papua, or did she borrow them from Epping public library? In which case, was her journey really necessary, or could she have cut down on “the vapour trails of planes [that] scar the sky in visible destructiveness”?
Her celebration of wilderness and primitive tribes is of course a critique of modern Western Society:
“In mass tourism, modernity has manufactured its own kind of nomadism in the movement of people from one place to another, identikit, place …Tourism celebrates monoculture, wanting exactly the same burgers and the same beers on the same beach… Tourism has an omnivorous immorality; always moving on to the next pristine beach, a new “unspoilt” tribe to be chewed up and spat out”.
Speak for yourself dear. I’ve never spat out a tribe, even a spoilt one. But then I’ve never been to West Papua.
“I went to the Amazon suffering from deep depression. I went to see shamans who use ayahuasca, a strong hallucinogenic drug which shamans use to treat a wide variety of things including depression. (Ayahuasca is one of the plants which they say can “teach” them the songs and uses of different plants.) I felt the healing power of both the songs and la medicina, as they call ayahuasca, and, together, the experience was an unforgettable en-chantment”.
Yes, they call it la medicina, and they get it from la pharmacìa, with una prescripcione.
The healing power of the songs is quite something, apparently:
“A shaman in trance often draws on a reefer of pure tobacco and whistles out the smoke, so you can almost see the shape of the melody in the smoke he breathes. They say that the songs themselves can heal, consoling the mind and creating harmony in the psyche and in the body”.
That’s what they used to tell me in my student days about the songs of the Doors and the Incredible String Band, though I never saw it myself. But then our reefers weren’t pure tobacco.
That’s enough of poking fun at a harmless hippy. She’s done risky things I haven’t after all, and she stands up for the West Papuans who are being massacred by the Indonesian army. And for that I salute her. Then she rather spoils her case against genocide with this:
“In contemporary Euro-American law, however, exterminating life on earth is legal. Genocide may be officially outlawed … but acts which destroy the very climate of the earth are not considered crimes at all”.
Genocide of the climate. Oh dear. Perhaps that’s why Gumshield calls her “my friend”.
Lord Deben is free to choose his friends, and his expert witnesses. But he really should take elocution lessons from a reputable proctologist.