January 20th, 2019


QotD: Competences We Didn't Have that Led to Calamity

Some of us lived in a fairly robust democracy of opinion, but lacked any democracy of ideas, let alone of policy.  Our various educational systems failed to impart the minimum knowledge which a citizen would have needed to judge coal, nuclear power and other methods of keep on the lights.  This knowledge would have entailed some competence in the following procedures: carrying out simple mathematical conversions, marshalling facts, comparatively quantifying energies, emissions and efficiencies; performing risk-benefit analyses, deducing the specific material interests of each carbon ideologue, recognizing omissions, inaccuracies and outright lies, positing and testing relationships between facts, verifying and disproving all claims, including our own--and, most crucially, deciding what we needed to know, and how to seek that information.  Some apparent phenomena would still have resisted measurement and would have remained arguable.  But the less we measured, the more conveniently we could argue--while the threat continued to become a calamity. 
--William T. Vollman in No Immediate Danger; Volume One of Carbon Ideologies, 2018, p 11.