Archive for the 'green/environment' Category

AWESOME HUMAN THEORY: those buildings aren’t sky-scrapers, they’re ‘progress trees’!

“I do think that people are a little kneejerk about the whole environment thing. Some people act like the Earth is broken just because it’s so hot. It’d be refreshing to hear one intelligent person, besides myself, suggest the seemingly obvious possibility that the Earth is just fine, thank you, but perhaps there’s something wrong with the Sun! I’m not a scientist but I’m pretty sure that that son-of-a-bitch is where all the heat is coming from.”

– Arj Barker

 

 

I attended the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and saw Arj Barker at the Melbourne Town Hall. The times they are (possibly) a-changin’, and his hour long routine included some very well-received send-ups of green ideology and global warming alarmism. I’ve followed the comedy scene for several years now and usually the jokes are about the ‘deniers’. The beauty of Arj’s routine was that it was very, very, funny but also the routine had a positive message; namely, humans are AWESOME!
No sooner had his espoused his ‘Awesome Human Theory’ than a facebook group had been set up using that name! Borrowing one of Arj’s lines, the facebook group introduces itself thus: “Awesome human theory proposes that humans are not bad for the environment. Rather the environment is simply not good enough to handle how awesome humans are”.
Arj Barker packed out the Town Hall most nights of the festival. I reckon the uber-earnestness and quasi-religious fervour of the alarmists is starting to piss people off (at long last). No-one likes to have a big finger waved in their face telling them they’re wrecking everything. You can either bow down to that crap or rise up against it – and satire/ridicule is a very effective weapon.
The more upset the reactionaries get, the more they wag that finger in our faces – thus proving the point.
I couldn’t find Arj’s routine on youtube but he uses a couple of the lines in this radio interview (goes for 90 seconds): http://www.wmgk.com/shows/john-debella/blogentry.aspx?BlogEntryID=10091870

Great to see some stand-up comedy that challenges the mainstream in a progressive way rather than pander to audience assumptions about things.

What I Did With The Electricity I Used During Earth Hour

So, it was Earth Hour last night. Naturally I wanted to discuss this on Twitter, as the subject was coming up all day. However I wanted to actually discuss it, not just sneer at people, which is pretty easy to do. And obviously I didn’t want to criticise from the angle that people like Mark Pesce did, who thinks that people in favour of “Human Achievement Hour” are “idiots” (This from someone who is a regular guest panellist on a show about new inventions!) The trouble with Earth Hour is not that it is a tokenistic sham. The trouble with Earth Hour is that it implies that reducing power consumption is the most urgent task facing humanity. If it weren’t a sham, it would be much more dangerous to human progress than it actually is.

So I got into discussions with a few people about the issue yesterday, taking up some of the themes that have come up on this blog. I said that I thought Earth Hour implied that slowing consumption and therefore the economy is what the West needs to do, and said that I thought rapid development and massive investment in new forms of energy were better ideas than guilt-trips about “overconsumption”.

The first discussion (read it from the bottom up) was with k_o_o about “overconsumption”, and if such a thing even exists. We didn’t really find a lot to agree about, but managed to at least try and remain constructive and not just shout slogans at each other, which is a good start for trying to work out if there’s anything we do agree on.

The second discussion, with webboy42 was about the definition of “waste” and how it can mean many things, from energy wasted as heat (which obviously should be minimised) or a way to hector people for being evil and wanting to fly cheaply. This reminded me of this Guardian “Comment is Free” article by Green MEP Caroline Lucas, where she uses some very dodgy figuring to claim that it’s only the rich that fly anyway – this sort of attitude is exactly the sort of thing that is an enemy of progress.

The third discussion was about power outages in South Africa. I responded to LaurenLee_‘s tweet saying “Earth Hour Haters” should realise that some people in South Africa have 3-hour power outages, by saying that that sounded like a reason for more development, not less. She challenged me to do some googling on the topic, which revealed that part of the problem is the ANC Government banned the public electricity company from building any new power stations for six years, apparently to try to encourage competitive private investment instead. Electricity is now unofficially rationed in South Africa, by means of the regular power outages, and while I can see the need to ration resources if they are genuinely scarce, the real solution is not to fetishise rationing, but to do all you can to make sure the resources are NOT scarce.

I also got sent this link about how candles are a far more inefficient, and carbon-heavy, way of creating light than lightbulbs are – it’s a very interesting read, I suggest you have a look.

So I spent a lot of time yesterday, including during Earth Hour itself, using electricity to spread the idea that we need to develop power sources as much as we can. I hope it had an effect.

Whaling hypocrisy to end? Details and links to sources on the IWC’s proposal to re-authorise whaling

Reports are hitting the media about draft amendments to international whaling rules that are meant to bring Japan, and other whaling nations, back under the rule of the International Whaling Commission. The amendments in effect will allow nations that are already killing whales to keep on doing so with the approval of the IWC, provided that they limit the numbers of whales they catch. The exact limits are yet to be decided, and of course will only apply if the draft amendments pass.

The legal structure is this:

The International Whaling Commission is established under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. There is a Schedule to the Convention – that Schedule is where the current rules about whaling are written down.

The draft amendments were written by the Support Group to the “Small Working Group” of the IWC. The “Small Working Group” meets from March 2-4 2010 in Florida, where the changes will be discussed. The exact changes that are proposed can be downloaded here (pdf file). The Small Working Group’s report will be discussed at the 2010 Annual Meeting of the IWC to be held in Morocco from May 27 – June 25 2010. The full Annual Meeting would need to approve any changes to the Schedule.

The proposed changes add a new chapter to the Schedule, Chapter VII. While the ban on commercial whaling in Chapter III of the Convention is not explicitly overturned, the proposed Chapter VII will allow whaling by countries that caught whales in 2009. The key is the proposal for paragraph 33:

In order to improve the conservation of whales, the number of whales taken for each of the years indicated above shall not exceed the catch limits shown in Table 4.

[Table 4 hasn’t had figures added yet – presumably these figures will be negotiated if and when the IWC meeting next week agrees to the general principles in the draft plan]

No Contracting Government will unilaterally authorize any whaling in excess of the limits shown in Table 4 or outside the provisions of chapter VII.

[Meaning that countries agree to no longer carry out “scientific whaling”, which is carried out under Article VIII of the Convention]

If the results of the established management procedures indicate that a catch limit should be lower than the number in Table 4, or if there is a significant event that negatively affects the status of any population, the Commission shall reduce the number of whales taken for each subsequent whaling season during the currency of this chapter, in accordance with the advice of the Scientific Committee.

Catches from the stocks included in Table 4 shall not be authorized by Contracting Governments that did not authorize whaling operations in those areas in 2009.

[So only countries that caught whales in 2009 will be able to catch whales under the new quotas]

Table 4 allows whaling to happen in the Southern Ocean. The Australian Government has rejected this already, and issued a counter-proposal which calls for whaling to end in the Southern Ocean in five years’ time.

It seems that the proposed changes to the Schedule are a temporary fix. The changes are planned to end in 2020 and the Report containing the changes says:

This would provide a period of stability during which the Commission will be able to undertake a review of other matters and further work on the reform of the organisation. These matters would include, inter alia, research under special permit [that is, “scientific” whaling], the commercial whaling moratorium and objections and reservations.

If this plan ends the ridiculous hypocrisy that is “scientific” whaling, so much the better. There is no reason that whales should be treated any differently to any other resource. Whales should be managed properly, so they aren’t recklessly driven extinct, but there’s no good moral reason to privilege the “rights” of whales over the right of humans to hunt them.

Sea Shepherd boat NOT sunk – ABC covers up its wrong reportDIT

EDIT: Since this report was written, there are new reports that the Sea Shepherd boat has in fact sunk. These reports are as yet uncomfirmed, and if they turn out to be true they still come two days after the ABC reported unconfirmed facts as if they were confirmed, and after Sea Shepherd attempted to salvage the still-afloat boat.

END EDIT

Yesterday, the Australian ABC reported that the Sea Shepherd boat Adi Gil was “sunk” by a Japanese whaling vessel.

Today, it emerges that the Adi Gil has not in fact been sunk, but seems likely to be salvaged. Did they ABC note on its report that the facts had changed, that they had got the story wrong by accepting Sea Shepherd’s word at face value, and apologise?

Hell no! They just changed the headline on their report!

Here’s a screenshot I took yesterday afternoon of the ABC report showing the headline reporting, as fact, that the Sea Shepherd boat had been sunk. The headline reads “Whalers sink Sea Shepherd boat”.

And here’s a link to the same ABC News report as it currently stands. As you can see, the headline now reads “Whalers hit Sea Shepherd boat”. Here’s a screenshot of the story as it stands at 1215 AEST. No acknowlegement that they got it wrong or that the story has been changed.

This confirms the bias of the ABC towards the Sea Shepherd and the unwillingness of their reporter and/or editorial team to give the Australian public the full facts of this story

BREAKING: Video of collision between Sea Shepherd’s Adi Gil and Japanese whaling boat

The Australian ABC has reported, as fact, allegations by the anti-whaling organisation Sea Shepherd that a Japanese whaling boat, the Shonan Maru 2, today deliberately sunk the Sea Shepherd vessel the Adi Gil.

The headline of the story reads “Whalers sink Sea Shepherd boat”, and a caption of a file picture of the Adi Gil in the story reads “The Ady Gil was at a standstill in Australian waters when the Japanese whaling ship rammed into it”.

The article contains five quotes or assertions attributed to Sea Shepherd, including this statement from Sea Shepherd spokesman Chris Aultman:

“The vessel was dead in the water. It was completely and absolutely a wilful act,” he said.

and one statement from the Japanese Fisheries Agency. The article contains not a single word of the statement made by the Institute of Cetacean Research (pdf file), a pro-whaling organisation, which claims that the Adi Gil attacked the Japanese whaling vessel the Nisshin Maru for two hours today:

In a manner similar to their 23 December attack on the Shonan Maru No. 2, at about 0300JST [Japanese Standard Time, 2 hours behind Australian Eastern Daylight Savings Time and 9 hours ahead of Universal Time] the Ady Gil came to collision distance directly in front of the Nisshin Maru bow repeatedly deploying and towing a rope from its stern with the intent to entangle the Japanese vessel’s rudder and propeller. Further, the activists onboard the Ady Gil recurrently shoot a green laser device aiming at the Nisshin Maru crew and fired butyric acid-containing ball-like projectiles with a launching device. One of these projectiles landed in the Nisshin Maru’s deck.

Links to the Institute of Cetacean Research’s videos and media releases about alleged attacks on it by Sea Shepherd vessels can be seen here.

A far more balanced report is on the SBS News website, although it still appears to report the sinking of the Adi Gil as fact without independent verification.

A statement on the Sea Shepherd website claims that the Japanese boat’s attack on them was unprovoked and captured on film. As of the time of writing no video substantiating this claim was present on the Sea Shepherd site’s main video page, or on the video page documenting their current operations against Japanese whaling vessels in 2009-10. Such video will be posted here or linked to if it is later posted on the Sea Shepherd site.

UPDATE: This video, provided by Sea Shepherd and shot from the Sea Shepherd ship Bob Barker, shows the collision:

— END UPDATE

The next two videos were released by the Institute of Cetacean Research. The first video shows the Adi Gil trailing a rope:

The second video shows a collision between a whaling ship and the Adi Gil:

EDIT – You can read the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea here. The rules have come up in comments on this video. – END EDIT

The Sea Shepherd statement says the alleged sinking took place at 64 degrees 3 minutes South and 143 degrees 9 Minutes East – click here for a Google Map.

This video, also released by the Institute for Cetacean Research, shows the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin colliding with a Japanese whaling vessel in February 2009:

It’s clear that the ABC has failed to report both sides of this story and is acting in this case as Sea Shepherd’s propaganda arm, rather than seeking out the statements presented in this post and giving people the information they need to start making their own conclusions.

UPDATE: The Ambit Gambit blog also criticises the media coverage of the story, while anti-whaler Andrew Bartlett blogs about the history of Australian public and government attitudes towards whaling.

END UPDATE

A screenshot of the ABC story, taken at 1747 hrs, Australian Eastern Standard Time on January 6 2010 can be seen here.

Technology, development and c..c..c..climate change.

Monbiot2.1

Time to Take Sides

Ha!  George Monbiot got one thing (almost) delightfully right in his recent article: The rapacious will not give up without a fight

“Humanity is no longer split between conservatives and liberals, reactionaries and progressives, though both sides are informed by the older politics. Today the battle lines are drawn between expanders and restrainers; those who believe that there should be no impediments and those who believe that we must live within limits.”

I  had to insert ‘almost’ in my introductory sentence above, because the split  is still between reactionaries and progressives.   The ‘expanders’  are the progressives, and the ‘restrainers’  are the reactionaries, doomed to run behind, shouting and gesticulating.

In his article,  Monbiot is clear that economic growth must be curtailed.  In order to Save the Planet, humanity must “redefine itself”  and reject the idea that there will “always be another frontier” because “perpetual growth cannot be accomodated on a finite planet”.

Well,  we still have at least a billion years  before changes in our Sun begin to make the planet uninhabitable.   (And by that time we’ll have spread into other parts of the universe anyway.)   Given that it’s only a few hundred years since all of humanity was dependent on a carbohydrate energy economy (ie  we depended entirely on human manual labour, augmented by animals, such as horses) , and in too many parts of the world that is still the case, it seems very odd to say that we are about to reach some sort of limit.  The reality is that we’ve only just begun.

Industrialization,  and the economic growth made possible by that,  is essential  to human liberation .  For most of human history, life has been brutish, nasty and short. Even at the best of times,  the vast majority  could only just manage to subsist  by spending almost every waking hour engaged in some from of back-breaking toil.   The industrial revolution changed all that and provided opportunities and possibilities which were not even dreamed of in the past.  And we’re still only at the beginning.  A huge part of the planet has yet to industrialise.  Those of us who are already on the way, want to continue.

Continue reading ‘Technology, development and c..c..c..climate change.’

Next stop… the Moon!

Water has been discovered on the Moon. Ho hum. No mention in the mainstream media, as far as I’m aware. No headlines. No general thrill or excitement at the potential in such a discovery.

I just found out about it via spiked on-line in an article by Sean Collins. Sean says this is “one of the most important discoveries of our lifetimes” and ponders as to why there’s not great excitement about it. His article can be read in full here.

The NASA press release, dated 13 November, can be read here.

What gets me is how we’re supposed to be living in this social system that is supposedly so dynamic and encourages individual and group enterprise, yet something as huge as this is barely mentioned.

It’s not hard to see how, under a different set of social relations, with science and innovation socially owned and geared to social need, exploration for its own sake and fun, and no longer privately owned and geared to private profit, something like the discovery of water on the moon would be front-page news with people rushing in with ideas on how to make the most of it.

Reflecting the historical reality that we’re living in a system that has passed its used-by date, the ‘popular culture’ is generally negative and pessimistic, obsessed with celebrity gossip, Hollywood blockbusters about how ‘the end is nigh’ (unless we live more subserviently to Nature). On television, I’ve noticed a tendency to detective series that have at least a few autopsies performed each episode – is this symbolic of a ruling class foreseeing its own dissected corpse?

(Of course, the popular culture is not all like that, but there’s a definite trend).

A most important point in the article relates to the disjuncture between the “elites” lack of response/excitement in public commentary on one hand and the great interest, via the Internet, on the part of the general public, on the other.

Sean says: “I was surprised to learn that, according to Yahoo!, ‘water on the moon’ was the sixth most searched item in UK news in 2009… This would indicate that the public is more interested than the intellectuals in the punditocracy, who haven’t lifted a finger to type a word on the topic”.

Even the greens, who can be relied upon to oppose any further lunar missions and developments (lest we wicked humans damage the ‘balance’ in the moon’s environment by changing it signficantly) have been very quiet about it.

Really crazy …. or someone having a joke???

The video below was shown at the opening session of the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen.    Could it be a parody??????

Greens really think they’re Left – we’ve a long way to go

Ben Raue, a fairly senior New South Wales Greens member, has a post on his blog discussing the Higgins and Bradfield by-elections and the Greens results there. It’s a fairly standard sort of post, spinning the results as good for the Greens and not so good for the Liberals, but the interesting thing is that Raue labels the Greens as the “left-wing” party in those seats.

The Greens achieved a strong result in a right-wing heartland seat while running an explicitly left-wing campaign.

Raue is of course not being merely dishonest, even though calling Clive Hamilton, (the Greens’ candidate in Higgins), a left-winger is utterly laughable. Rather, left-wing politics has degenerated to such a degree that people who are suspicious of modern industrial civilisation and want to slow it down are considered Left, merely because they dislike capitalism.

This article in The Spectator attacks that idea, pointing out that many Green ideas come from the right-wing position of Thomas Malthus, whose arguments Marx and Engels rejected.

However the Greens are the only even semi-major political force talking about things like the rights of unions, freedom from internet censorship (even despite Hamilton’s appalling position) and the right to gay marriage, it’s easy for them to be seen as left-wing, and to attract support from many who could be won over to a real left-wing position. Such a left-wing position would include confidence in modernism and humanity, a belief that humans are more important than the Earth for it’s own sake, and a belief that people shouldn’t just demand a “fair day’s pay” but should take over society and run it themselves. Clearly there’s a lot of agitation to be done to spread these ideas.

Save Solar Systems public meeting – photos and recorded speeches

Some Strange Timers went to a public meeting last night about Victorian solar energy company Solar Systems, which may go into receivership after failing to attract investment for a planned solar electricity plant in Mildura, Victoria.

The meeting featured several speakers including the Greens candidate for tomorrow’s by-election in the seat of Higgins, Clive Hamilton, who distinguished himself by calling me a “prick” after he demanded (and I refused) that I stop taking photos of him, a public figure at a public meeting. This photo shows Hamilton just before he confronted me.

Clive Hamilton at Save Solar Systems public meeting, Fitzroy Town Hall, Napier St, Fitzroy Melbourne, Victoria, Australia 091203-19

Continue reading ‘Save Solar Systems public meeting — photos and recorded speeches’

Why Clive Hamilton isn’t a leftist – article in The Australian @australian

I’ve got an article published today in The Australian attacking Clive Hamilton, the Green candidate for the by-election in the seat of Higgins that is happening tomorrow.

My article says that left-wingers should reject Hamilton’s politics as they are further to the right than the Liberal Party is:

It’s a sign of the decline of Left politics that a reactionary, pro-censorship sexual moraliser who hates the idea of working people enjoying a higher material standard of living could ever be considered left-wing.

If you find this article interesting, you might also want to have a look at this article published about Hamilton in forth magazine, a new Irish current affairs website. It talks about Hamilton’s pseudo-left politics:

Until now, the voice of Australian opposition to global-warming moralism and scaremongering by the likes of Hamilton has only come to the political right, such as the rather nasty populist Andrew Bolt, writing in Melbourne’s Herald-Sun. (10) It is crucial that more leftists move into the global warming debate and defend the vision of a left that supports the modern world, including industrial development. If we don’t, the argument for a modern world will be left to the capitalists.

Review of Green Capitalism by Jason Walsh at @goforthmag

Jason Walsh has a review of a new book called Green Capitalism: Manufacturing Scarcity in an Age of Abundance at forth magazine. According to the review, the book says that business today tries to increase its profits not through greater production, but by creating artificial scarcity that enables prices to rise.

Of particular interest to Strange Times partisans is this quote from the review:

Heartfield’s argument will not be welcome either on the left or in green circles, which is a great pity. Today’s left has, for the most part, enthusiastically embraced the green agenda, seeing it as a useful vehicle for framing a critique of capitalist social relations. Unfortunately, much of the green critique of capitalism is misplaced, focussing on individuals’ consumption and favouring retrograde measures in production that cause real world rises is commodity prices, from inefficient organic farming at one end of the scale to carbon trading, which not only encourages lower productivity but also functions as a barrier to new entrants to industry, at the other.

The left’s opportunistic attachment to the green ideal is a world away from the productivist visions of the likes of Marx. In fact, it amounts to a renunciation of the left’s key goal. The left’s goal has traditionally been not the amelioration of poverty through management but the liberation of all humanity through massively increased efficiency. This vital point is now completely obscured and ill understood by the vast majority of people who call themselves left wing today. Confusing social liberalism and today’s social democracy with socialism is now so commonplace that the word socialism itself is all but meaningless.

Green Capitalism can be purchased through forth’s Amazon store if you click here. Comments are of course welcome here, but I’d also suggest visiting the original review and commenting there too.

just too bizarre….

Please explain….. I just do not understand why a large section of the ruling class is so actively into the promotion of green hysteria.  One could almost begin to suspect some sort of weird science fiction scenario involving alien mind-control, or something….

Just have a look at this ad. produced for children by the British government (at a cost of $10.7 million dollars!)

Note:  I got the video from You Tube, where the person who  posted it has added a plug throughout for the film “Not Evil, Just Wrong” …… this may make you heave a sigh of relief, and think it’s a spoof … but it’s not.

Brendan O’Neil has an article about it in today’s Australian, by the way:  Panic Little Ones,  it’s the Carbon Monster.

Oh Give me Land, Lots of Land …..

guineamapbig2

Bigger version of map here

I was struck by an announcement from the World Bank about a book called Awakening Africa’s Sleeping Giant: Prospects for Commercial Agriculture in the Guinea Savannah Zone and Beyond that they have co-authored with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization

They are basically saying that if Sub-Saharan Africa can do in the vast Guinea Savannah zone what Brazil has done in the Cerrado and Thailand in its Northeast Region, it can vastly increase agricultural production.

Shown in yellow on the map, it is comparable in size to the EU, or half of Australia, Canada or the 48  States. Currently only about 10 per cent is used to grow crops. (source)

Agriculture has to expand dramatically if they are to become a net exporter of agricultural products while managing with a population  that is expected to increase from 800 million to 1.5 billion before stabilizing later this century.

To me that looks like the need for a fivefold increase in output.  There would have to be at least a two-fold increase in per capita food consumption if the people of the region are to chow down much like everyone else.  Then they have to reverse their current position as a net importer.

Political and economic conditions will dictate the pace of this and other development in the continent. We can expect the greens and “NGOs” to run interference.

There is no free pdf version of the book. This is typical of the World Bank and UN agencies.

Greens taking a few hits

The green ascendancy can be a depressing thing but there have been a number of recent developments that have cheered me up.

d-smile

First, of course, is the growing recognition that the greens are a fire hazard. This is an issue that we have already discussed extensively .

Noel Pearson’s response to the Queensland government’s plans to “protect” aboriginal land in Cape York will help to discredit green politics and hopefully give them a bloody nose. (See here.)

The challenge by “Lawyers for Forests” to the government approval of Gunn’s Bell Bay Pulp Mill project failed in the courts.

Australia’s first GM canola crop has been a roaring success and the farmers love it.

I’m not following climate stuff much now but I suspect that Plimer’s new book will make a splash. It will certainly make it easier for politicians and others to raise their doubts. There was also a great story in The Australian about how the Antarctic is definitely NOT warming.

Jennifer Marohasy made an interesting point about how there are now whole scientific disciplines that have developed around the belief that Nature is a “fragile life-support system”. So it is not just a matter of few greeniess with PhDs. It is worse than that. Oh dear. I’m not feeling quite so cheered up now.