♪ Baroque-n-Chords ♪ (telemann) wrote in talk_politics,
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Titanic's sinking as a modern parable for climate change

Titanic: The Final Word with James Cameron

The 100th anniversary of the Titanic's sinking is nearly upon us. James Cameron, one of the world's leading experts on the subject, recently went back to the site of the sinking, and with new information and research gathered since his movie was released in 1997, correct any errors for the 2012 theatrical re-release. One of the more intriguing segments on the panel, was a "what could you have done differently that could have saved more lives?" [ Video will not embed, but will open in a new browser window.]

Spoiler (click to open)]

The only thing I thought of instantly was, well I know a lot of the life boats were nearly half empty; and one has a few as 15 people in it (they could hold 65), but since the ocean was completely calm (one contributing factor to the disaster in fact), the boats could have easily held even more people. Maybe 100. But that wouldn't have saved everyone.

Director James Cameron came up with at least two to three alternative solutions: some good and some not so good. Cameron boasted "You could have saved everyone, including their dogs." But the most viable and easiest to do that the panel of experts agreed upon, threw me. That kind of thinking-out-of the box was amazing to see unfold. The panel wasn't doing this in a vindictive way either. Considering the nature of the emergency, everyone agreed that the crew and officers did the best they could under the circumstances. But they were all in a state of shock. The architect of the ship, Thomas Andrews was last seen staring at a painting in a first class smoking room, not wearing a life preserver. The Captain of the ship was described in testimony to have been in a daze during Titanic's last hours. Essentially he knew on some level: we stop the ship, launch life boats, and let most of the passengers die. That was that. He couldn't think outside of the box.

It was the builders and officers unbridled pride that nothing could go wrong that stunned them when in fact, it went very wrong. James Cameron sees this as the take-away for us now.

SPIEGEL: What does that still mean for you today, and for us?

Cameron: The catastrophe showed those people who they were, whether they rose up to the tragedy, or whether they ran away or tried to camouflage themselves with women's clothes. Being separated from the event by a century, we have it easier. But everyone can ask themselves: Who am I? How would I react? The Titanic is a huge story because of this sort of thing.

SPIEGEL: But there have been plenty of catastrophes throughout history with far more casualties.

Cameron: It's not about numbers. It's about the hubris of the shipowners, for example; it's about society at that time. It was a very optimistic time: Technology was advancing; people built aircrafts; they enjoyed electric light; everything looked like there would be a great future. And the Titanic stood for that. And then, suddenly, the unthinkable happened, as if all of this went down with the Titanic. This was a huge blow. And, today, there are unthinkable topics as well, such as a nuclear war. And the Titanic shows that the unthinkable can happen.

SPIEGEL: Other disasters show that as well. So why does the Titanic have such a strong impact?

Cameron: Because she is and will remain a metaphor. There was the first class, second class, third class and the crew. So you have the rich and mighty, the middle class, the lower class and, let's say, the government. And the government is influenced by the wealthy -- in this case, Bruce Ismay (the chairman and director of the White Star Line of steamships, the owner of the Titanic, who also died on its maiden voyage). And they are driving this ship way too fast, quite deliberately playing with the lives and the future of the other people. And when they see the iceberg, it's too late. That's how it is with climate change. I am in Guam right now, and I want to dive to the Marianas Trench, the deepest place on Earth. I spoke with the president of Micronesia a few days ago, and he told me how his country is literally shrinking. The atolls here are very low.1

I certainly remember the shock of the WTC attacks here in Brooklyn ( I could see the smoke and smell it, never mind the glaring hole in the skyline that appeared literally overnight.) How could the buildings have collapsed when they were designed to absorb an airplane collision. Quite a few commentators at the time mentioned the similarities to the reactions of the Titanic's sinking. As a species we are either very optimistic or in great denial. Our collective brushes with death, but surviving them makes us believe nothing can go wrong. Just like the passengers on Titanic.

The United States hasn't done anything significant on climate change, and the recent world meeting in Denmark didn't offer much in the way of a concrete path of solutions. Can we think out of the box? Can we do anything to prevent the collision? Our future looms.

1. Der Spiegel:"'The 'Titanic' Shows That the Unthinkable Can Happen"

Other resources:

About the Titanic sinking:

Bob Ballard: Save the Titanic Mr. Ballard was the man who discovered the Titanic wreck (as well as the two Navy nuclear subs U.S.S. Thresher and U.S.S. Scorpion.) Mr. Ballard wants an international treaty to set the Titanic wreck off limits to underwater scavengers who sell artifacts on the black market, and prevent damage to the wreck.)

Why We're Still Learning the Lessons of Titanic - Popular Mechanics article on how bad decisions can overwhelm the best technology. Thanks to sandwichwarrior for bringing this to my attention.

Top ten list of things everyone can do to help reduce global warming.

Real Climate, RealClimate is a commentary site on climate science by working climate scientists for the interested public and journalists.

CO2 Science. The Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change was created to disseminate factual reports and sound commentary on new developments in the world-wide scientific quest to determine the climatic and biological consequences of the ongoing rise in the air's CO2 content. It meets this objective through weekly online publication of its CO2 Science magazine, which contains editorials on topics of current concern and mini-reviews of recently published peer-reviewed scientific journal articles, books, and other educational materials.

The Planet Under Pressure International Conference. Based on the latest scientific evidence, the London Planet Under Pressure conference will provide a comprehensive update of our knowledge of the Earth system and the pressure our planet is now under.
Tags: climate change, environment, media
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