Archive for September, 2018

UN ignores carbon removal

Last week, UN Secretary-General Gutierrez delivered a major speech on climate change that was utterly stunning for its vacuous failure to engage on key issues in climate science, by completely leaving out any mention of Carbon Dioxide Removal.

While the IPCC recognises that removing carbon from the air is essential to stabilise the climate, the Secretary-General apparently has not heard this new science, since he completely failed to mention it in his 3200 words of fatuous pieties, except in an oblique reference to net zero emissions. The impression created by this failure is that the United Nations has been corrupted by vested interests in renewable energy, leading it to accept the false moral hazard argument that carbon removal undermines emission reduction.

It appears Gutierrez is signalling that the UN has made the political decision to ignore any suggestion that carbon removal is the key security agenda for climate stability and restoration. This is a highly disturbing and dangerous situation, since carbon removal can achieve far more than emission reduction in preventing warming.

Gutierrez presents the political war on fossil fuels as the only climate strategy acceptable to the UN, along with rather forlorn efforts to raise a hundred billion dollars in alms for the poor. Sec Gutierrez says “The mountain in front of us is very high. But it is not insurmountable. We know how to scale it. Put simply, we need to put the brake on deadly greenhouse gas emissions and drive climate action. We need to rapidly shift away from our dependence on fossil fuels. We need to replace them with clean energy from water, wind and sun. We must halt deforestation, restore degraded forests and change the way we farm. We need to embrace the circular economy and resource efficiency. Our cities and transport sectors will need to be overhauled. How we heat, cool and light our buildings will need to be rethought so we waste less energy. And this is exactly where this conversation can become exciting.”

No, this is not where the conversation becomes exciting. These established strategies miss the central point that addressing climate change requires investment in the lowest cost scalable methods to abate CO2. The scientific message that the UN should be promoting is that preventing dangerous warming requires carbon removal. It is completely astounding that such a major element of climate politics can be so comprehensively ignored by the UN, even in a speech devoted to raising alarm about the dangers of inaction.

Gutierrez rubs salt in the wounds by hypocritically saying “we will have to muster the full force of human ingenuity,” while failing to mention the primary area requiring ingenuity, carbon removal, and then repeating the nonsense that “net-zero emissions by mid-century” is an adequate target, ignoring that embedded warming means negative net emissions are crucial.

Finally, we see the nostrum that “it is important to note that, because carbon dioxide is long-lasting in the atmosphere, the climate changes we are already seeing will persist for decades to come.” It might help if the Secretary-General recognised that a primary research focus should be to reduce this problem through carbon dioxide removal.

Sadly, this speech will be a major factor in setting the tone for investment priorities in climate response, making it far harder to get engagement on the critical needs. This speech is a political and scientific disgrace, setting the stage for global failure to stop the many dangers of climate change that Gutierrez lists. The diplomats and sycophants will admire the emperor’s new clothes, but the UN policy framework on climate change is bereft of strategic vision.

Robert Tulip


Blessed Are The Meek – An Evolutionary Perspective

The statement by Jesus Christ in the Beatitudes that the meek will inherit the earth is counterintuitive and controversial. We usually think the strong, the powerful and the assertive will inherit the lion’s share. The meek are seen as weak and ineffectual. The Bible tells us that this vision of the meek inheriting the earth will be despised and rejected.
However, we can also read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 as Jesus presenting an accurate long term vision of power, seeing the power of love and integrity as the key to the kingdom of God, not as an afterlife but as a necessary vision of sustainable living on earth.
Implementing the prayer of Christ that the will of God may be done on earth as in heaven means transforming the current fallen state of depraved corruption into an enlightened community of grace and love, confronting flawed worldly assumptions with a higher wisdom. The divine blessing on the meek challenges our instinctive beliefs with a vision of salvation that we can interpret in terms of natural evolution.
What does it mean to inherit the earth? Natural evolution is all about scientific understanding of who will inherit the earth. The biological question is which genes will prove most stable, durable and fecund over the long term.
Think about the long term – not just decades and centuries, but millions of years. Who will still inherit the earth in a million years?
For humans to survive that long, we need to engage with the earth with humility. In evolutionary terms, those who inherit the earth are those who adapt to selective pressures. Will humans have overcome our current madness? Will we go extinct? Will the earth be inherited by bacteria, algae and insects? Do humans have the brains to transform our destructive culture to create a path of sustained flourishing and abundance for all?
The Bible presents a stark challenge to this prospect of evolutionary transformation, with the apocalyptic vision of global catastrophe. The bleak prophecy of the future is that the power of evil delusion is so great that civilization collapses and human population falls to a tiny number. War, famine, plague and death stalk the planet as the four horsemen of the apocalypse.
The only hope of salvation the Bible presents from this destructive outlook is through Christ, who provides a vision of how to connect our lost culture to the enduring eternal truths of God.
Such prophecies can be read as more than supernatural fantasy, in presenting symbolic parables for the current planetary risks posed by climate change, and how we can respond to these risks. Human arrogance imagines we can ignore the power of nature. The last great catastrophe was 65 million years ago with the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs. Only the meek survived, while the powerful creatures that required a large quantity of energy could not endure the crisis. We are now causing the sixth planetary extinction, illustrating that on the current trajectory, humans could well follow the example of the dinosaurs and go extinct.
Our world is highly fragile, even though at first glance things might look robust. We need to think and plan carefully if we are to understand the forces at work determining our planetary fate. Against this planetary agenda, we can read the ideas of Jesus in terms of the power of meekness as a way to respond to the power of evil.
Jesus says in the story of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25 that in the global clash between good and evil, victory will go to those who feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the sick, visit prisoners and welcome strangers. These works of mercy provide a definition of meekness as the moral understanding that what we do to the least of the world we do to Jesus Christ. This old parable of the saved and the damned is not a story of supernatural magic but a deep prophetic analysis of our evolutionary situation today.
How can being meek be an adaptive evolutionary trait? In evolution, we can look at traits in the animal kingdom to see how they might apply in human culture. The opposite of being meek is dominating and controlling. In nature, any organism that has a dominant role is an apex predator. Everything else must meekly submit to its fate, relying on its natural abundance to prosper in the ecological system. Generally only a small number of apex carnivores are sustained by a large number of herbivores, who in turn rely on abundant plant food which depends on the microbes forming healthy soil and stable climate, and similarly for the food chain in the ocean. The predator can only flourish when the whole food chain is healthy and productive.
The evolutionary principle of survival of the fittest does not at all refer to the strongest physically, but favours creatures which are best adapted to their niche. Natural selection favours the genes that are stable, durable and fecund. In terms of cultural evolution, this natural law has a long term power, including through our ability to see love and compassion as adaptive traits.
Evolution points to a human path of cooperation rather than competition as the main condition for success in our global civilization. Human adaptation requires that we harness intelligence as our primary selective advantage, overcoming the dangers of a world run by dumb instinct. This triumph of intelligence over instinct is a key to understanding what Jesus meant by saying the meek will inherit the earth.
For cultural values, who are the meek? Those with the humility to adapt to the world as they find it. Those with the detachment to avoid being ensnared by ideological delusion. Those who do not try to force false beliefs onto others in order to control the world through the power of money and weapons and ideology.
What does this say about the story of Jesus? The long term vision in the Bible presents a story of human fall from grace, and then Jesus showing the way to transform our culture to achieve redemption. Jesus is portrayed as coming at the bottom of the cycle of grace and depravity, representing the spirit of truth in a world ruled by lies.
The resurrection shows the vision of grace and love gaining victory over the instinctive impulses of control represented by the cross. The inheritance of the meek is about the victory of a messianic faith as a basis of planetary salvation, as distinct from the traditional Christian focus on the power of the church.
We tend to imagine that victory goes to the strongest, not to the meek. The Bible reverses this assumption by setting spiritual vision above the power of instinct. Jesus tells us the least of the world will be first in the kingdom of God, with the metaphor that the stone the builder refused will be the keystone of the bridge. The meek are like the stone that the builders ignore, the ones who do not conform to the superficial patterns of worldly success, but who seek integrity and honesty, aiming to achieve results through respect and dialogue, not through domination.
Jesus’s vision of how we can inherit the earth is summed up in his statement in Matthew 25 that what we do to the least of the world we do to him. His statement that we are saved by works of mercy for the hungry, thirsty, imprisoned, sick, naked and strangers tells us the values of the world are the opposite of the values of God. The values of God are the practices that are sustainable, that will deliver long term stability and prosperity to human societies, clashing with the instinctive desires for power and control.
Transition to the values of Jesus Christ involves a paradigm shift for our global culture. The story of climate change shows we are on a trajectory towards destruction. Even looking at the Paris Accord, there is no globally agreed vision of how to avoid dangerous warming that could turn our planet into a hothouse. It is possible to turn that trajectory around, but the shift has to understand evolutionary process. Evolution in a stable system builds incrementally on precedent, and in culture that means defining a theory of change that can transform our current world into a sustainable global culture.
The Biblical value of meekness is confronting for the dominant values of the world. Nations and companies cannot deliver stability and prosperity by meekly giving in to every pressure they face. Nor can these goals be achieved by arrogantly ignoring the real pressures at work.
Competition is central to human life, and is recognised in the parable of the talents, also in Matthew 25, with its vision that the works of mercy of the Kingdom of God can only be paid for through the abundance created by everyone using their skills to the full, including by taking risks rather than the safe course. We should not meekly bury our talents in the ground or hide our light under a bushel, but work in the world to develop a vision of transformation.
The model of the meek inheriting the earth is speaking about a long-term transformation of human values. Saying the meek shall inherit the earth is not calling for a revolution to a communist or anarchistic society, but rather an evolutionary vision of a gradual transition to an ethical vision of the values of the kingdom of God, understood in a practical and scientific way as central to our ongoing life on earth, as we transform our communities to make earth as in heaven, seeing the vision of Christ in the Bible as our moral guide.

Robert Tulip

Talk given at Kippax Konnex Retreat, 15 September 2018


Commentary on Carl Jung’s Answer to Job

The Canberra Jung Society has uploaded the draft essay I used for my talk on Jung’s book Answer To Job on 6 July, as well as recordings of the talk and of the question and answer session.

The link above is to the Society’s home page. Direct link to the talk is here. I will revise this paper for publication in the Canberra Jung Society Journal.

Here is the diagram mentioned in the essay, providing an astronomical framework for mythology.
Orbital Drivers of Mythology and Cultural Evolution


The Place of Ethics in Heidegger’s Ontology

My Master of Arts Honours thesis in philosophy, completed in 1991 at Macquarie University, with degree awarded in 1992, is at this link.

I have edited the PDF document into a single file, correcting some typographical errors and formatting problems that happened when I typed it nearly three decades ago. I decided after I completed the degree that philosophy is a topic that requires life experience to conduct properly, so I did not want at that time to become an academic philosopher, and instead have worked since then in international development. Since leaving paid employment last year, I have had time to focus on my original interests, including reviewing my thesis. There is nothing in it that I would want to change. There are many ideas in it, looking at how ethics can be grounded in a coherent philosophical perspective, that have shaped my attitudes and beliefs, but that seem to be quite difficult to discuss against prevailing views. I would warmly welcome any questions or comments.
The Place of Ethics in Heidegger’s Ontology: Robert Tulip Masters of Arts Honours Thesis 1991