Monday, December 12, 2011

Mathis Hampel: Think Locally, Act Globally

A guest thread by Mathis Hampel, who notes that recent discussions here on the Zwiebel have prompted him to write a short argument against (global) climate control. Also he wants to encourage readers to imagine what climate would be had we never measured the atmosphere.

If we subscribe to a primacy of direct experience one acquires of the world over the many mediated ones, climate can be thought of as memorable “snapshots”: we remember what we have done and how we have felt at some point in our lives – here climate is not a physical entity but an experience alive in one's memory. Since one cannot remember the passage of time (but snapshots of space-time), memory of climate is primarily described in spatial terms and refers to dwelling in places and crossing (cultural) borders, “states of mind”, 'social' situations etc.. Hardly can time be sensibly divorced from space. In this vein, climate can never be objective. Objective climate can only exist in mediated form, for example, via the atmosphere's quantification which has turned the space-time of climate into a space/time of climate change. (Global) climate change in its geophysical reality so forces itself upon our imagination as a particular space-time configuration. Only via instrumental observations, climate models, etc. can climate be imagined as spaceless, changing through time and controllable. This scientific space/time offers the logic that our actions need to be controlled (globally, as it were). The repeated failure of Kyoto only shows that measures to control climate, hence human action and imagination are limited. In other words, climate change cannot be controlled because we think locally and act globally.


Werner Krauss said...

Mathis, I think these are very interesting observations. For sure, scientific climate is of a different quality than personal memories of climates we experienced (which are mediated, too, by the way - we remember through pictures, family narrations and so on).

But nonetheless, we act a lot in abstract spaces, for example on the Internet, in economy, and so on. We do this by acting locally and connecting to other locales in more or less orderly chains of transport.For example, every day ships from China come into the port of Hamburg: global trade, it works! And there are rules to it! It is even controlled, more or less. So why not have negotiations about carbon trade, about emission reduction, about technology transfer, about mutual support or whatsoever? Kyoto maybe failed not because those treaties are impossible; maybe it failed because it was a not very well thought-out treaty?

Mathis Hampel said...

Werner, what do you mean by "abstract spaces"?

Werner Krauss said...

virtual space - like on the internet; the globe - when we talk about globalization; the nation. Does this make sense?

Mathis Hampel said...

ok, it makes immediate sense, thus raises suspicions. as you know, it allows for the old binary of eg real/virtual, local/global, space/time. Many would argue against such a distinction (not least quantum physicists).

climate exists in all of these (basically non-hierarchical) spaces, in space-times rather than space/time. in glocal configurations rather than local/global ones.

Kyoto as we know it is based on / rather than - thinking. At the moment It would be pretty daring to argue for a new, better thought-out treaty. but ... there is a window of opportunity.

Martin Mahony said...

I agree that the distinction between local and global isn't terribly useful here; thinking in terms of space and place definitely helps. For Latour, knowledge of a phenomenon such as climate functions as a network which is necessarily 'local' at all points (like Mathis's 'glocal'). For such knowledge to achieve a status of scientific authenticity, it requires a rhetoric of placelessness; an unmediated access to a knowable and coherent 'space'. Doreen Massey writes that "the view of the coherence of space in turn enables the existence of only one history, one voice, one speaking position", and thus no politics (or at least diminished politics). In these terms, the Kyoto logjam seems somewhat inevitable. Perhaps some Hartwellian pragmatism can begin to open up the spaces of climate to new politics, histories, trajectories, and ways of knowing.