Doomed Planet

UNESCO’s Delphic Oracles

As COP27 was coming to an end – culminating in a vague proposal to establish a weather loss-and-damage (L&D) fund inevitably trumpeted as “historic” and “game-changing” – a UNESCO event began in Greece at Delphi (above), what was the centre of the ancient world.  It was a more modest affair yet a most instructive one, revealing how insidious the rhetoric of climate change (CC) alarmism has become, infecting every division of the agency – and indeed the modern world — like an incurable cancer or virulent virus.

But before we go there, a post-mortem on my previous post: In Egypt, climate catastrophism as usual . As one reporter, possibly recovering from a bout of ecstatic relief or COVID-19, as was US Special Climate Envoy John Kerry and God knows how many other poor souls among the more than 30,000 attendees at Sharm El Sheikh, cautioned:

Sunday’s COP27 agreement still needs countries to thrash out details, such as where the money should come from and which countries or disasters qualify for compensation.
                                                         AFR explainer, Nov 20, 2022

Such critical matters have been kicked down the carbon-credit road all the way to COP 28, scheduled for Dubai in November, 2023. Conferences of the Parties (COPS) go on forever, of course, just like the weather and human folly. The outcome is hardly surprising. A recent estimate of “climate-linked losses” by “vulnerable” countries claimed they could exceed an annual $US500 billion by 2030. That’s more than three Qatari football precincts every year.  

Meanwhile, Vanuatu has asked the International Court of Justice to issue an opinion on its ‘right to be protected from adverse climate impacts’. Good luck with that exercise. It’s up there with the folk who want to sue God; or game a gullible developed world that has pleaded guilty to climate crimes it did not commit: whenever life’s lottery delivers a nasty surprise, meteorological or otherwise, just call the Loss & Damage Fund.

At first glance, Delphi seems an odd choice for the 50th anniversary celebration of the 1972 UNESCO World Heritage Convention: “The Next 50 – The future of World Heritage in challenging times enhancing resilience and sustainability”. After all, there currently are 1,154 cultural and natural sites, 43 transboundary and 167 States Parties areas to choose from on the World Heritage List (WHL). UNESCO could have chosen instead Argentina’s Quebrada de Humahuaca, Armenia’s Monasteries of Haghpat and Sanahin, Antigua’s Naval Dockyard and Related Archaeological Sites, Gabon’s Ecosystem and Relict Cultural Landscape of Lopé-Okanda, or closer to home,  The Great Spa Towns of Europe or Nice, Winter Resort Town of the Riviera.

Given the Zeitgeist, maybe it was a close race with The Cave of the Apocalypse on Patmos in the Dodecanese. St John the Theologian reputedly wrote his Gospel and the Apocalypse there around 95 AD. The Cave, hardly big enough to swing a cat let alone a catastrophe, would have been too small for a conference. However, the monastery built nearby in the late 10th century would have been ideal for what has become a quasi-religious movement.

As for Australia, there are 20 WHL properties here, five mandates to the World Heritage Committee and 80 State of Conservation reports. The Budj Bim Cultural Landscape (2019) is there, and of course the Great Barrier Reef (1981). Once classified as “endangered”, it is hard to get off the WHL, as the IPA’s Peter Ridd, former Professor and Head of Physics (2009-2016) at James Cook University, and Dr Jennifer Marohasy discovered after their extensive fact-finding work on the Reef.

UNESCO, then, chose Delphi over other locations in Greece and elsewhere. Having visited the site, drunk from the Castalian spring in the Papadia Ravine on Mt Parnassus, now dry due to climate change  or divine wrath; and also channelled what might have been the ghost of Pythia, the Temple of Apollo’s high priestess, or a trick of the mind, my conclusion: Delphi was not a random choice.

UNESCO selected – some might say weaponised – Delphi not only because it was the most sacred place in ancient Greece and location of the omphalos  or “navel-stone”. It was also home of the Oracle, hence an ideal location to promote the UN’s “climate catastrophe” ideology. We will never know, but there may have been another reason: the first diviner to occupy the Delphic Oracle was Gaia, the mother of the gods, a connection that would appeal to those devoted to conservation, or who imagine they are rebelling against “extinction” and saving the planet.

As for Pythia, derived from Pytho, the name of Delphi in myth, it comes from the verb πύθειν (púthein) “to rot”, and refers to the stench from the decomposing body of the legendary Python. The original guardian of Gaia’s Oracle, it was slain by Apollo.  

Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Prime Minister of the Hellenic Republic stressed the site’s history in his opening address to World Heritage Convention (WHC) delegates.

 After all, it was to Delphi and its Oracle that people from all over the ancient world came to hear prophecies, to be told what fortune or tragedy lay in wait for them, and to receive wisdom on how to respond. And if I may add another thought: the Oracle was extremely resilient because she never gave very exact answers to the questions people asked her. — Kyriakos Mitsotakis, WHC address, November 18, 2022

He was right. Given the ritual, it’s hardly surprising. The Pythia was a peasant woman over 50 years old. After purifying herself in the Castalian spring and chewing a laurel leaf, she sat on a tripod placed over a nearby chasm. Intoxicated by exhalations that apparently came out of it, she uttered incoherent sounds, which were interpreted in hexameter verse by the Ὅσιοι [Osioi], ‘the holy ones’, who sat around it.

Anyway, she seems comparable to today’s computer modellers of the planet’s future climate, at least in her ability to attract disciples and pilgrims, and in her prophecies: invariably obscure or ambiguous.

Even the great benefactor of Delphi, Croesus, was “cruelly misled” by the Oracle. On the eve of his war with Persia, he was advised: “If you attack Persia, a great power will be destroyed”. It indeed came to pass, but the great power was him.

What was essential to Delphic divination – and also atmospheric prognostication today — was “the frenzy of the Pythoness and the sounds she uttered in this state of possession”, probably resembling the shrill cries of a young or old CC activist in full-fright.

As for extreme weather events (EWEs), there’s always one close by when you need it.

Fast forward two and a half millennia to this summer. We all saw clearly here – very close to Delphi again – a warning of the future that could be in store if we don’t all listen and learn. It came from a fire that started in a village very close to here, just 15km from this site. It was ignited in a summer that was Europe’s hottest on record. Fanned by high winds, it became a violent blaze that tore through the largest and continuously cultivated olive grove in Greece. Fortunately, it was contained in a 3,000 square metre area, leaving the biggest part of it unscathed.

I cannot think of a clear example of how the preservation of our cultural monuments and natural heritage is part of one and the same effort. It was exactly this ground-breaking insight that the WHC enshrined in 1972 when it was created in Paris. Since then it has proven to be the bedrock on which all kinds of heritage preservation has been built. It shaped a common understanding of what protection means and has been the foundation of new institutions, procedures and so on, a banner under which all conservation expertise could rally. Kyriakos Mitsotakis, WHC address, November 18, 2022

Delphi was, he continued, the ideal place to reflect on the “mapping of dangers”, local, regional and global. The conference would focus on two threats that “would have a decisive impact in the near future – the climate crisis and over-tourism.” The Greek government was “fighting the consequences of climate change: extreme temperatures, heavy rainfall, rising sea-levels, worse and more severe EWEs and wild fires. There had been landslides and rock falls at Delphi, yet no mention was made of Greece being a seismically active region.

Making a “green transition” was a “non-negotiable priority” for the government. Moving to a “future powered by renewable energy (RE) was a wise choice, not just from a climate perspective … Greece is ranked eighth in the EU in RE utilisation. We managed to power the country for five hours a month ago with wind turbines.”

“Delphi is an ark guiding us towards a more sustainable future”, concluded the Prime Minister. If so, pray that its oracular CC navigators are superior to the Pythia, and that they can steer a sensible course without resorting to laurel leaves or another addictive narcotic: utopian fantasy.

Technical presentations began in earnest on the second day of the conference with Constantine Cartalis, a professor of environmental physics. He warned delegates that “compound climate events” were emerging as an important issue. They added a new dimension that had to be taken on board.

As for climate change, you will not be surprised to learn it’s “the greatest single threat to world heritage, threatening at least a third of all sites, with marine sites affected disproportionally.” And so on and so forth. (from 5hr.50min)

As we drove down from Delphi and across the fertile plain of Kris to catch the Zeus from Galaxidi, I asked the guide about two curious inscriptions we saw on a pillar in what remains of the Temple of Apollo.

They were, he said, probably ancient graffiti, carved there by a pilgrim unhappy with his or her session with the Oracle. Intrigued, I asked whether he made any sense of them.

“They were written in Attic Greek,” he replied. “I’m not an expert, but I think they said:

“Make a climate pledge and mischief is nigh.”

8 thoughts on “UNESCO’s Delphic Oracles

  • Daffy says:

    I think I’m noticing the world drifting back into paganism, if not its full blown primitive form: nature animism. It’s like having a party with the single object of destroying the venue; like the world is an AirBNB location.

  • Biggles says:

    The world’s elite, those people who congregate annually at Davos and elsewhere, despise the common herd.

    They say stopping global warming is essential for saving Gaia. Humans cause global warming; even more humans will increase the threat ‘exponentially’. Answer? Stop global warming by reducing the world’s population.

    People such as Bill Gates see mass inoculation against the next ‘health catastrophe’, (Monkey Pox, perhaps?), as an opportunity for population control. (How many deaths were caused by Covid vaccinations?) Crude methods such as poisoning water-supplies in third world countries, as proposed by Steven Schneider et al in the seventies, are passé. Perverted medical science, directed by the WHO, is far more to be feared.

  • STD says:

    Let’s get the weight and BMI of the all the attendees and find out which of these parasites are only paying lip service to the socialist ideal of reduced economic activity and consumption- that should give us a pretty good idea as to whether in reality, pigs do actually fly and whether or not for the time being, Marxists are in fact prone to defying the economic truths and pull according to the laws of gravity .
    Let’s shout it from the rooftops that Global warming and Climate change are in fact part of a cat walk of deception ,who’s rationale is to destroy peace of mind-reasoned thought and rationality.
    It’s all oink – from presumably a sty of Saddlebacks.

  • STD says:

    The big picture. Is all this Gaia worship just simply part of the Left’s politics of envy?
    Transform and evolve = progressive.

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    Ah, Delphi. A fine place for ‘atmospheric prognostication’ as you so pertinently put it.
    There is no genuine science in any of it. Just cultish hot air on a windless Grecian day.
    The stink of the decaying python abounds around this climate cult.
    Thanks for your piece bringing back pleasanter memories of a visit to Delphi. Delphi, thankfully, will outlast this cult as it had done with others. The mythic Oracle knows much about time and its destructions.
    Seen it all before, she is saying, from that huge cleft in the rock around which Delphi arose..
    She was born there, in the Neolithic, when clefts symbolised the birth of the gods in human form.
    That’s my take on Delphi, a site of endless regeneration. Roman Emperors trod Delphi’ sacred way.
    Put not your trust in Oracles is my response to the UN’s choice of this site.

  • Geoff Sherrington says:

    Michael Kile,
    Thank you for this essay.
    There has been much public comment in recent years about “The Elites” and their influence on our standards of living.
    The concept of UN World Heritage that you mention provides quite contrasting examples of pros and cons of elitism. There are many people globally, propably a majority, who favour a body like the United Nations being involved with the best parts of all countries that have special places as monuments to the past creativity and effort of Mankind. If you are a UN bureaucrat, what nicer job could there be than to travel the globe with OPM to see the best of what civilisation has discovered? That can produce only good, with no harm? If you are a typical citizen, would you argue against steps to protect and preserve the best? It is a no-brainer.
    But then, there are downsides that are little advertised. I guess that my attitudes are tainted by involvement with World Heritage since the early 1970s, after my employer company discovered the Ranger uranium deposits way our bush 250 km east of Darwin, in 1969, in what became named Kakadu. I joined in 1973, after consulting to them before then. So, I was there from the beginning, including watching the scintillometer sing to the core of the first discovery of uranium at the giant Jabiluka deposit, now mothballed.
    The conflict had started by 1972. Then events plodded along with predictable wins to the money-is-no-object UN. Kakadu was first added to the World Heritage List in 1981, with further areas added in 1987, 1992 and 2011.
    We corporate people opposed the 1987 addition, because it overlaid many exploration licences and mineral leases that had already been granted to us. We took the Federal Environment Minister to court. There were early indications that a World Heritage lising would see these titles rendered worthless. It went all the way to the Full bench of the High Court, who finally said that matter was too complex for them to decide and allowed a loss for us of our investement. There was no compensation for our past expenditure or future potential. We were talking about mines able to produce tens of billions of dollars of new wealth at a time, so it was a big deal. It was hard to accept that the UN, conniving with the Federal Labor people under Hawke-Keating, had nullified the mineral future of a huge new, emerging mineral province of global importance. Such provinces are rarely found, globally only a handful in each generation. The potential wealth was far from trivial.
    The World Heritage concept is usually advertised by its warm and cuddly aspects. The negatives are little mentioned. There is essentially no discussion about the pros and cons of nation states ceding effective sovereignty and some control to the UN. Normally, acts of war are needed to lose soveriegnty.
    Apart from the loss to Australia of new wealth at Kakadu, what has been gained?
    Read the article on Kakadu that is linked in Michael’s article under “World Heritage List.” The most awful line I could find (among many) is true. “Large areas of Kakadu are virtually inaccessible to people other than the Indigenous traditional owners, and the Indigenous and non-Indigenous national park managers”.
    Why on Earth are we paying money to a UN body that has interfered with our future, that has shut down a maginficent geological resource, that prides itself by noting how it is keeping people out of a part of Australia just short of 20,000 square kilometres in area? (There are 10 European countries smaller than that area).
    It is worth asking who benefits, by how much and whether there is positive cost:benefit. The persistent story applies, “Follow the Money”. Geoff S

  • Alice Thermopolis says:

    Elizabeth Beare: “The stink of the decaying python abounds around this climate cult.”
    Agreed. Fascinating how Apollo, god of form and rationality, kills the Python, guardian of the Oracle and irrationality. Ancient Greece was a struggle between the Apollonian and Dionysian, one that arguably continues to this day.
    In Plato’s Phaedrus, Socrates says “our greatest blessings come to us by way of madness, provided the madness is given us by divine gift.” Haven’t checked the dates, but it must have been before he denied the existence of the gods and was sentenced to death in 399BC by the Athenians for doing so, and for corrupting young minds (as indeed the UN has done and is doing).
    See Plato’s Apology of Socrates: “a defence against the charges of “corrupting the youth” and “not believing in the gods in whom the city believes, but in other daimonia that are novel” to Athens (24b).

  • Alice Thermopolis says:

    Geoff S: “Why on Earth are we paying money to a UN body that has interfered with our future, that has shut down a magnificent geological resource?”
    What a saga. Thank you.
    Why, indeed? The triumph of “sacred knowledge” over national interest again?

    As a friend commented: “and all this for what Harry Butler called at the time “clapped-out cattle country” (He lost his job at the ABC where he was earlier their favourite naturalist.) The few good bits that appeal to modern tourists were found by the mining and exploration companies.”

    Despite the increasing anti-mining/development mood here, and support for the Voice, indigenous activism and Daffy’s “nature animism” (comment above), someone surely should revisit the Kakadu period and write a book about it. Perhaps you, Geoff S.

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