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Global remission?

Sins of Hot Air Emission, Omission, Commission and Promission (Part #12)

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Achieving remission from systemic disease: A global crisis, such as global warming, can be understood as a systemic disease. The planetary environment is faced with a challenge to its health. This raises the question whether it may be useful to consider how the planet might recover from such a disease following the treatment implicit in any Great Commission emerging from the United Nations Climate Change Conference.

A relevant term used to describe such recovery is "remission" as in the case of cancer and other potentially terminal diseases. Remission is then to be understood as a period of time when the incidence of global warming is responding to treatment or is under control. The expression used is "in remission". There are different types of remission:

  • Complete remission would mean that there are no longer any signs or symptoms of the disease. This could then mean that global warming had been contained, or that its problematic consequences are still present to some degree.
  • Partial remission is indicative of a condition when the signs and symptoms of global warming are reduced to some degree, with a noticeable decrease of sources engendering global warming. (A remedy for global warming might offer the opportunity for a "Mission Accomplished" banner, like that of George Bush on 1st May 2003 on the USS Abraham Lincoln -- with its partial success in Iraq indicated by an equivalent to the uncontrolled subsequent suicide bombings there)

A remission in the human body can last anywhere from several weeks to many years. Complete remission from global warming might then go on for years and over time be considered as a successful cure. However the remission may be temporary, with the recurrence of the process of global warming. Another remission may then be possible with further remedial treatment.

Of relevance to any global crisis like climate change, following remedial treatment, is the degree of extension of the life of civilization thereby achieved -- in the form in which it is currently known. Also of relevance is the quality of that life following such treatment. As with "loss of hair" typical of chemotherapy, loss of biodiversity may be an only too evident consequence of the remedial treatment of the globe required by global warming.

Remission from a planetary disease does not necessarily mean the life of civilization and the planet has been saved -- avoiding collapse and death (also termed "die-off" in the case of the planet). The planet may be successfully treated for global warming -- but environmental systems and civilizations may collapse from other causes, as noted by several authors (Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, 2005; Thomas Homer-Dixon, The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity, and the Renewal of Civilization, 2006; Karen A. Cerulo, Never Saw It Coming: cultural challenges to envisioning the worst, 2006).

Remission of sins: The "sins" of hot air emission, omission, commission and promission described above might be fruitfully understood, changing metaphor, as "diseases" characteristic of an information-based society or a knowledge-based society. They are the diseases that prevent appropriate engagement with the challenges of the planet and of global civilization. Fundamentally global civilization may be faced with a "memetic disease" -- whereas the Roman Empire, as analyzed by Homer-Dixon, was faced with an energy distribution "disease" (Memetic and Information Diseases in a Knowledge Society: speculations towards the development of cures and preventive measures, 2008; Emerging Memetic Singularity in the Global Knowledge Society, 2009).

At least in terms of the Christian perspective of relevance to faith-based governance, there is the possibility of "remission of sins". The question is whether and how this fundamental process is meaningful in respect of the sins described above. Is it appropriate to speak of a remission of sins with respect to humanity and a global civilization? How does humanity achieve "forgiveness" for planetary wrongdoing? What form does the necessary "repentance" need to take for that remission of sins to occur?

The difficulty in a global society, riven by a clash of faith-based civilizations, is that each faith subscribes to some equivalent of the Latin phrase central to Christian doctrine, Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus -- meaning "Outside the Church there is no salvation", nor any remission of sins. As understood here in relation to the global environment, this exclusive phrase is unfortunately also characteristic of any way of knowing -- including the belief systems characteristic of the many sciences and other disciplines variously held to be relevant or irrelevant to the challenge of global crisis.

Sins of remission? Curiously there is a degree of ambiguity relevant to the understanding of remission with respect to global challenges. The "penance" considered fundamental to any remission of sins is indicative of acknowledgement and payment of obligations -- echoed in the process of payment of remittances, namely the transfer of funds by a foreign worker to a country of origin. A quantitatively more problematic "sin" of remission is that associated with the remission of profits by multinational corporations from the developing countries in which they are active -- as noted in the past by Andre Gunder Frank (The Underdevelopment of Development, February 1991):

By my calculation, this loss of capital from South to North has been on the order of US $100 billion per year. The flow was over US $ 500 billion from 1983 through 1986. $ 200 billion were through debt service, over $ 100 billion through capital flight, $ 100 billion through the 40 percent decline in the South's terms of trade, and $ 100 billion through normal remission of profits and royalty payments. Since then, this South to North capital flow has been another $400 billion or so.

Arguably, for humanity to achieve remission from its currently diseased condition, there are obligations in relation to the natural environment to be acknowledged -- and dues to be paid, if not debts. The extreme public indebtedness of many countries might even be considered as indicative of what is due to the planet as a whole.

On the other hand there is a sense of remission of dues, namely when any such obligations are absolved -- as in the remission of sins. This is currently most evident in efforts to achieve the forgiveness of debt in the case of Third World debt. In theology an indulgence is the full or partial remission of temporal punishment due for sins which have already been forgiven. Is it appropriate to compare the carbon emissions trading approaches to climate change with the abusive sale of indulgences -- as "sins of remission"? (Global Market in Indulgences: extending the carbon trading model to other value-based challenges, 2007). Should the past failure to forgive the debt of developing countries, and the recent willingness to forgive the debt of banking institutions and major corporations, also be considered as "sins of remission"? In the light of such comparisons, it remains necessarily unclear how indulgent Gaia will prove to be as the effective lender of last resort.

Global remission: Again it would seem that humanity is faced by a major "remissions problem". Achieving any form of global remission therefore calls for a reframing of the cognitive challenge of engaging with globality (Metaphorical Geometry in Quest of Globality -- in response to global governance challenges, 2009; Existential Embodiment of Externalities: radical cognitive engagement, 2009).

Is there a mysterious potential convergence of Abrahamic and other perspectives in relation to the global environment -- currently obscured by what can best be described as "subunderstanding"? (Magoroh Maruyama, Polyocular Vision or Subunderstanding, Organization Studies, 2004). As a cognitive challenge, is the subtlety of their relationship mirrored in comprehension of quarks as the fundamental constituent of matter -- whose nature is only known through their composite manifestation in hadrons? Current pursuit of the God Particle, with the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, may not be the waste of resources it would otherwise appear to be -- leading instead to more fruitful engagement with nonduality and colliding values, as speculated


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