by Laughlin Artz
Editor, Context News
One of the words that is often spoken in the vocabulary of climate change is complex. The science is complex; the environmental factors are complex; the ways in which to measure climate status are complex, and so on.
It was certainly a popular word among the attendees at the two UNFCCC climate change conferences I attended in Bonn. The negotiations were complex; the politics were complex; the intricacies of the diplomatic process were complex; the economics were complex, etc.
The main questions I have been posing to climate change powers-that-be are:
• What is it actually going to take to end global warming?
• Why is it that there is no real discussion in the climate change community for what it will take to end it and to end it on time?
• Why isn’t there an aligned global commitment to end the crisis before the window of opportunity closes, and a corresponding strategy and action plan?
Almost to a person, a phrase used in response to those questions is, “It’s too complex.”
Wow, this complex must be one powerful force, to be able to block diplomatic progress, keep the world’s leading scientists, economists and activists in a state of "hopeful best efforts," and to thwart any real plan to end the crisis while there’s still time.
What exactly is complex? Not, what is it about this particular situation that’s complex, but what is this entity complex itself?
Difficult to understand for being intricate or involved; complicated: a complex problem
Synonyms: complex, complicated, intricate, involved, tangled
These adjectives mean having parts so interconnected as to hamper
comprehension or perception of the whole.
[Latin complexus, past participle of complectī, to entwine; see complect.] *
What’s key in exploring this what-is-it-that-is-complex—that is, complex as itself and not as yet another characterization taking us further from the heart of the matter—is to first see that whatever it is, it isn’t happening. There is no complex happening. There is no complex in the world. You can’t look into the world and actually see complex existing anywhere. You can however look into the world, see something as complex, characterize it as complex, describe it as complex, conceptualize it as complex, but complex as complex is not what’s there.
So what happens when something becomes “complexed,” when what’s there in reality transitions from “what’s actually happening” to complex? A fundamental change is that what is there, in this case a particular situation related to climate change, is no longer there as the situation itself, it’s now there as its reconstitution as the characterization complex. This is critical, since the impact of this transition is for the most part obscured. We don’t have an awareness of the phenomenon of the situation’s characterization into its new existence as it’s happening. The nature of the situation’s existence is now one of characterization and its characterizational nature is not apparent to us, leaving us dealing with the situation as being complex, as if complex is actually there in the situation.
What also happens is that you as someone out to do something that might actually impact the situation have been severely, if not completely, hampered. This is exactly what I have seen happening in the UNFCCC climate change negotiations, where delegates are dealing with characterizations rather than the situations themselves. You have been taken out of direct contact with the situation and have now been relegated to being a second-hand, once-removed observer. You are no longer on the field of play, where the game is actually happening; you are now in the realm of description and characterization. And you can never get on to the field of play from where you are now located. Complex is a shield that has been erected between you and the action, thwarting any direct impact on the situation.
So the real impediment to effective action—actions that if taken would impact the real “what’s happening”—is not that the situation is too complex, it is that access to the situation has been blocked by the fog of its characterization as complex, that mode of existence which is kept in place by the current vocabulary. You can’t impact what’s happening when you can’t get at it directly.
The more insidious aspect of this characterization complex is that it leaves everyone involved with a readily acceptable explanation for the lack of impact one is making. If the situation is too complex, then my ineffectiveness is wholly justified. This is fine if what we want to do is adequately explain and diagnose the situation (which if you look, you will see that in fact that is much of what is happening in world of climate change).
However, if we actually want to accomplish something, something concrete and in reality, such as ending the climate crisis, and ending it in time, it will take the real thinking and courage to expose the characterizations in the climate change vocabulary for what they are; and in that light of an acute awareness of what is actually happening, get to the business of taking actions informed by reality, and not by the “reality” shrouded in characterization.
The climate change situation is not “too complex.” Not really. It’s not really complex at all. It’s a combination of happenings and actions. Our ability to see those happenings and actions clearly (rather than through the cloud of characterization) is our only access to discovering the necessary actions that if taken, will impact the situation such that the result is a sustainable environment. Nothing complex or not complex about it.
*American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.