Monday, December 17, 2007


An email from Michael Martin-Smith [] below

"When the chips are down I think democracy is a less important goal than is the protection of the planet from the death of life, the end of life on it. [Carbon rationing] has got to be imposed on people whether they like it or not. "

That quote from Mayer Hillman reveals at last the true agenda of the extreme environmentalists; it is a replay of the classic dilemma posed by Fyodor Dostoyevsky in the "Grand Inquisitor" speech of Ivan Karamazov, in which, in essence, we are offered the Faustian pact of surrender of Freedom in exchange for Bread. (Lenin and Stalin took this up, of course). The history of the subsequent century and a half demonstrates beyond doubt that this deal is a fraud, in that the result is invariably the loss of BOTH freedom and bread to the Grand Inquisitor.

Mainly, we should note that even the worst excesses of Climate Change would not threaten the planet or even the continuance of Life thereon. Not even the Permian Extinction event achieved that!

A Humanity which has succeeded in escaping the clutches of a new generation of wannabe Stalins and Hitlers might, or might not, suffer, in part, from Climate Change to an as yet unknown extent, but would adapt and regroup in good time, as after the far more destructive Black Death in Mediaeval Europe. As for Hellman' s proposed or implied global police state - we all know that behind the self denying and sanctimonious ideology displayed on the surface, there lurks a homicidal army of Berias, Heydrichs and Pol Pots who would rise rapidly to prominence, aided by all the surveillance technology and data bases now being assembled. Our only hope of survival as a civilisation would be the small chink of incompetence which would sully the perfect carapace with which these folk would subjugate us.

Dr N. Khan is quite right; if we are to face an energy crisis, then let us bend our wits and hearts to what he has styled an "Energy Jihad", to overcome the problems in freedom, according to our Human Nature. In default, Mother Nature at her worst would offer a kinder fate than the fraudulent Grand Inquisitor, whose ministrations promise only tyranny and failure.

For those who say that an expansion into Space, eg for solar satellite construction, would be too costly - I say clearly that the costs, both spiritual in loss of Freedom and in hard cash (for the monstrous apparatus - even without inevitable graft and corruption - of the global Police State would be vast indeed!) would outweigh the trivial costs of extraterrestrial expansion and development.

Mayer Hillman's remarks are a sure proof that the Environmentalist zealots' "Cure" would be worse than the Complaint - and he is not yet even in power... We have been warned

[Hillman is a chronic "campaigner" -- and is much praised for it. There is a more extensive coverage of the interview from which the above quote came here]

Europeans, Greens put on brave face after Bali

Blaming Bush is a lot easier than blaming India and China

EUROPEAN countries and green groups put on a brave face to mask their anger and disappointment after the US thwarted their main goals for tackling dangerous climate change. The accord in Bali launched a two-year round of negotiations for the most ambitious treaty ever attempted for reining in greenhouse gases, the carbon pollution from fossil fuels damaging Earth's climate system. But under US pressure, the deal dodged the goal of halving these emissions by 2050 or of embracing a commitment by industrialised economies to slash their own emissions by 2020 to help set the horse-trading in motion. Both had been set down by the European Union (EU), supported by developing countries, as a prerequisite for negotiations that would be bold and put the whip to rich countries historically to blame for global warming.

French Ecology Minister Jean-Louis Borloo said that the key decision was that negotiations were now set in motion, and there remained two years to haggle over pledges before the process winds up in Denmark in 2009. The future "is Copenhagen, it's not Bali," he said. His deputy minister, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, acknowledged that the framework for negotiations "is quite weak but ... still moves forward." She noted that the US, for the first time, had signed up to text on "the comparability of efforts" of industrialised countries, a sign of its intentions of being a full-fledged member of the international climate club.

Green groups, though, accused the United States of gutting an agreement that would have ensured the negotiations got off to a flying start. "What you've got is a situation where the overwhelming majority of countries are progressive, they're pushing for a deal, and the (US) administration was out on a wrecking mission," said Hans Verolme of conservation group WWF. "Yes, we're launching negotiations and they have an end date," he said. "What they don't have is a clear reference to the best available science that should inform these negotiations and that is because the (US) administration was baulking, baulking, baulking."

He and other activists said, however, that the process launched in Bali would provide a seat at the next table for President George W. Bush's successor. "The Americans have actually climbed down on things that 12 months ago they fundamentally rejected," said Steve Sawyer, secretary general of the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), a Brussels lobby group for the wind industry.

Previously, the US had refused to re-engage in global climate talks, set an end date for a future treaty or be included in a process essentially driven by the format of the Kyoto Protocol, rejected by Bush, he said. "So, on a procedural level, the Americans are being coaxed back into the fold. But they still have bedrock opposition to legally-binding obligations of emissions reduction."

Elliot Diringer, director of international strategies at the US environmental group, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, said the Bali deal was "the best possible under the circumstances." "Two years ago, governments could barely reach agreement on staging a dialogue. Here, there is agreement on a global accord in 2009." But, he cautioned, "we shouldn't fool ourselves about how extraordinarily hard it's going to be to meet that goal." He said the Bush administration could easily block or slow progress in negotiations throughout 2008, "and without US concessions, developing countries won't follow suit." [Bush or no Bush, India and China say they won't won't cut their emissions. Nor should they]


Inventing hurricanes

Is one of our most respected federal agencies guilty of inflating the number of named tropical storms in recent years? So writes Eric Berger in a recent Houston Chronicle article that got hyped around the world, thanks to Matt Drudge.

First, some unfaint praise: Throughout the years, the National Hurricane Center has probably saved more lives than just about any other federal entity. Yes, NHC has had a lot of technological help -- satellites, radar, hurricane-hunter aircraft -- but it's easy to imagine what could happen without it. Just go to Galveston, Texas, where in 1900, locals were hit by a Category 4 hurricane that remains the single most costly disaster in U.S. history in terms of human life. The storm killed between 6,000 and 10,000 people. By the time it was apparent that the city was about to be drowned, there was no exit. Or consider last summer's Hurricane Dean, probably the first Category 5 storm in human history to hit a populated shore without killing a single person at landfall. A similar storm, Janet, hit the same spot in the Yucatan in 1955 and killed over 600. Thank NHC and Mexican economic development for the difference.

NHC does one heck of a lot of good, but it is inflating the number of tropical storms. Today, there is a downward trend in the average maximum winds measured in tropical storms and hurricanes. This either means that the average storm is becoming weaker (for which there is no good scientific reason), or there are a larger number of wimpy storms being named.

Each named storm commands 24/7 coverage on the Weather Channel, and even the weakest hurricane will usually lead the news on Fox. Interestingly, Neil Frank, who ran NHC from 1974 through 1987, and is now chief meteorologist for WHOU-TV in Houston, agrees about hurricane-inflation, stating that "They seem to be naming storms a lot more than they used to."

Back in Frank's day, a tropical storm merited a name only if its maximum sustained winds appeared to be 39 mph or higher, if it had a significantly low barometric pressure, as well as a symmetrical cloud field consistent with what are known generically as tropical cyclones. "Tropical cyclone" is the scientifically correct name for both tropical storms and hurricanes, their stronger, 75-mph+ counterparts.

Nowadays, as was rather obvious with July's tropical storm Chantal, it appears that winds alone are largely sufficient to name a storm. Satellite imagery showed nothing that looked like a tropical cyclone. Five other weak tropical storms this year also wouldn't have met Frank's barometric criteria.

Cynics might argue that NHC has a conflict of interest. After all, it releases months-in-advance estimates of the number of tropical storms and hurricanes forecast to appear each year. This year's forecast indicated above-average numbers. Take away the six questionable ones and the year comes in as below average.

But that is cynical. There's another good reason for naming relatively weak systems: even some of the wimpiest of tropical cyclones can cause massive flooding when they hit land.

The notion that tropical storms that never approached hurricane strength could produce unprecedented local flooding first hit home in 1979, when tropical storm Claudette -- an unimpressive cyclone by any measure -- suddenly dropped up to 42 inches of rain in 24 hours on Alvin, Texas, which remains the record daily total for the entire U.S.

Then tropical storm Alberto stalled over Georgia during the Fourth of July holiday in 1994, setting record crests on many southeastern rivers, killing 33 and leaving some residents of Macon, Georgia, without fresh water for 19 days. In 2001, tropical storm Allison hit the same region Claudette flooded in 1979, killing 22 in Texas, and becoming the costliest tropical storm in history, with $5.8 billion in damages in 2001 dollars.

None of these storms showed particularly impressive satellite signatures, and forecasters were shocked by the onshore flooding that ultimately ensued.

That's one very good reason why NHC may be naming more weak storms now than they were. Even if some 39-mph weakling hits your beach, it's now well known that double-digit rains are likely and inundation is possible. The problem is that naming and hyping everything, when only a few are bad actors, ultimately creates a public disregard (call it "hurricane fatigue"?) for dire warnings.

So let's hang the jury and give the folks at NHC a break. They clearly are naming storms that would have been ignored decades ago, erring on the side of caution, because of the now-realized flooding potential of some very weak systems. But, in doing so, they're also inflating the currency of the tropical cyclone, as people get tired of the seemingly continuous hype



Comment from Canada

Is it just my imagination, or is there something about global warming that makes liberals - both the small-l and big-L variety - especially unbearable? The Kyoto global-warming protocol, which Canada signed in 1998, required us to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to a level 6% below that of 1990, and do so in time for the treaty's 2012 deadline. Instead, by 2004, our emissions rose to 27% above 1990 levels, and continued to rise ever since. Since the Liberals were in power until 2006, one would think they would have the decency to keep their mouths shut about this file. Instead - with Kyoto an international flop and negotiations to create a successor agreement going nowhere in Bali - they are seeking to cast blame either on Stephen Harper's Conservative government or each other.

First, there is Stephane Dion, who served as environment minister from 2004 to 2006. He is in Bali this week, spreading the same climate-change gospel he refused to implement when he was actually in a position to do so. He calls Mr. Harper's approach "a recipe for failure." Perhaps. But we would prefer Mr. Harper's "recipe" to the equally failed approach Mr. Dion's Liberals advocated while in power - which consisted in large part of shipping off hundreds of millions of dollars to Vladimir Putin's Russia to purchase carbon credits.

Under both the Liberals and the Conservatives, Canada has badly missed its Kyoto targets. At least under Mr. Harper, we don't have to prop up Russia's quasi-dictatorship for the privilege.

Then there is Jean Chretien, who this week blamed his own successor, Paul Martin, for Canada's failure to meet Kyoto's targets, declaring that Mr. Martin's 26 months as leader were "lost years" in the battle against climate change. Astonishingly, Mr. Chretien claimed that Canada was on track to meet its Kyoto targets when he left office - which would farcically suggest that his plan would somehow have permitted Canada to slash its greenhouse gas emissions by a third in the eight years between the time he left office and the Kyoto deadline of 2012.

As for Mr. Martin, he is the one who told a December, 2005 climate-change conference: "To the reticent nations, including the United States, I say there is such a thing as global conscience and now is the time to listen to it . Now is the time for ... action." The jibe was calculated to score points among the anti-American crowd. But the gesture backfired when analysts reported that the Americans have actually done a better job at controlling greenhouse-gas emissions that we have - despite their not signing Kyoto.

It is not complicated to figure out why nations such as Canada are missing their Kyoto targets: Doing so would be painful economically, and thereby get compliant governments thrown out of power. That's why the Liberals did nothing while in power, but talk green now that they are in opposition: Talk is cheap. Mr. Harper, to his credit, at least has the decency to give Canadians plain talk about his position on global warming. After years of baldly hypocritical Liberal rhetoric on the issue, his candour is refreshing.


Let's ditch this 'nostalgia for mud'

While subsistence life is hopelessly romanticised in the West, it is the city that has become a symbol of hope for millions of Ghanaians

`My mother still sleeps in a mud house, drinks from polluted streams and walks for long distances carrying heavy loads of cocoa. This is not because it is idyllic to do so, and neither is it because it is part of her culture; it is because she has no choice!' DeRoy Kwesi Andrew doesn't mince his words when describing his mother's life in the rural village of Achimfo in western Ghana. For Andrew, the life of a subsistence farmer is one `filled with toil' and he despairs that his mother has nothing to show for it after 70 years of backbreaking work.

Conversely, in the West we have become accustomed to a romanticised view of subsistence life. You can see it on posters and in magazine ads showing smiling Fairtrade farmers. On television, there are the cultural investigations of Bruce Parry in the BBC2 TV show Tribe, and celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's promotion of `sustainable' living at River Cottage in rural Dorset. For holidays abroad, `tasteless' 5-star resorts are apparently `out', while ecotourism is `in'. Western holidaymakers are actually chosing to stay in mud hut hotels emulating the poor excuse for housing that Andrew's mother longs to escape. For those who feel pangs of eco-guilt when thinking of the industrialised world's destructive impact on the natural environment, there are now various carbon offsetting schemes - including ones that ensure Third World subsistence farmers don't upgrade their primitive tools to more modern alternatives lest they pollute the environment. Or you can petition your council to bring back primitive modes of transport, as the group in France that proposed the school bus should be replaced with the horse and cart did (1).

In all these ways the West has succumbed to what the French call nostalgie de la boue - `nostalgia for mud' - a wish to return to our humble beginnings. While idealising rural life and the `quiet simplicity' of living off the land may seem harmless enough taken on its own, it has imparted a warped vision of what we think the poor want for themselves. And with this vision informing a political climate where Western governments, multilateral organisations like the World Bank and NGOs are more likely to influence policy than the sovereign governments of the developing countries themselves (2), the perpetuation of such myths begins to take on a much more sinister edge.

Environmental crusaders like green journalist George Monbiot see only joy in poverty. As he puts it: `In southern Ethiopia, for example, the poorest half of the poorest nation on earth, the streets and fields crackle with laughter. In homes constructed from packing cases and palm leaves, people engage more freely, smile more often, express more affection than we do, behind our double glazing, surrounded by remote controls.' (3) And yet his (not so unique) expression of nostalgie de la boue makes no mention of the actual aspirations of the `happy' peasants he is so envious of.

Do the fields of Andrew's home village `crackle with laughter' non-stop? From his description of how his mother's mud hut was recently washed away in heavy flooding, it seems highly unlikely. `She told me she felt helpless as she sat by the roadside all night watching her home being gradually washed away by the approaching water.' What of insurance? There is none. Emergency services? Andrew tells me `the only small clinic with one community health nurse has become like an international hospital'. So what of the rebuilding effort? He explains that everyone simply had to get on with it and rebuild the mud huts from scratch `as if they were living in medieval times'. No expert construction workers here!

In fact, Andrew was arrested by forest guards while attempting to fell a tree for timber, within his family plot, all because he hadn't first sought a special license - something which he blames on the `green nonsense' that is being foisted upon the Ghanaian authorities by Western interventionist busybodies. After all, as he exasperatingly says, `what [is] a subsistence farmer...expected to do if he can't even subsist off his own land?'. What greens miss as they try and draw our attention to the destructive power of modern living (even if it is just about cutting down a tree to build a house), is that it is actually nature that is the fiercest and most unforgiving force, and which subsistence life offers little protection from.

The exposure to nature is only one of the many cruelties of subsistence life. With no hope of gathering any savings, and thus no investments, the farmer is left with only the most basic tools available for the job. This results in what Andrew says are `low yields, low productivity and paltry incomes'; in short, stagnation - just enough to survive on, but never enough to improve one's lot. And what do our Western romanticists have to say about this? Andrew spits vitriol at the NGOs who `idolise the use of the donkey, stick, cutlass and hoe for ploughing, planting, weeding and harvesting as the "most appropriate" farm implements that will "sustain" the sanctity of the environment'. You only need take a brief look at the Oxfam Unwrapped online shop to see their idea of `appropriate technology' for farmers - a set of replacement farm tools here, some seeds there - ne'er a tractor in sight. None of this assistance is able to transform the lives of farmers so they are able to escape subsistence, but merely propagates the myth that mere survival is the sum of their ambitions.

Nevertheless, for those whom Andrew calls the `energetic youth' there is an alternative to the drudgery of the countryside: the city. `I am better off in all facets of life compared to my peers left behind in the village' says Andrew, having moved to Ghana's capital Accra as a teenager. He is now married with a baby, with a solid roof over his head (which he is ambitiously expanding so his mother can one day move in) and earning the equivalent of three pounds a day as a basic teacher while studying part-time at a local university. `I enjoy many of the benefits of modernity', he explains. `Quality education for my son, hi-tech hospitals, good roads, potable water, telecommunication, good housing, modern electronic gadgets.and so forth'; all of which are a scarcity for those making a living off the land.

This is not to say that the urban areas of developing countries are paved in gold - far from it. The shanty towns to which many migrants move can be wretched places filled with poverty, but they offer something the countryside contains very little of - hope. As Andrew puts it, `Neither [my house] nor my dreams of travelling to Europe would ever have happened if I had stayed in my home village, uneducated and working as a subsistence farmer'.

However prevalent the anti-modern sentiment in the West, it is one struggling fruitlessly against an aspiration-fuelled wave of global urbanisation with its sights set firmly at modernity. Already, as 2008 approaches, half the world's population are living in towns and cities; by 2050 it is likely to be three-quarters (4), with 95 per cent of this growth occurring in Africa and Asia. While it would be na‹ve to suggest that urbanisation automatically leads to modernity and wealth, as long as the West drags its heels, with its quixotic interventions idealising subsistence life, progress will remain slow. Andrew expresses the frustration felt by many Ghanaians when he says, `our people and government have become merely the passive, obedient pupils to be preached to. That is not what we need! Gives us the chance for material and economic prosperity on our own terms and we shall deal decisively with these things ourselves.'

We've been here before of course, and here's just one tiny example: in George Orwell's 1937 study of working class life in a northern British mining town, The Road to Wigan Pier, he dispelled the bourgeois myth that the working classes didn't like to wash. In fact, he found it was a question of opportunity rather than inclination; the working classes had little access or free time for bathing, while doing more gruelling work than their middle-class counterparts (5). Similarly, for millions of Ghanaians eking out a grim existence with hoe and cutlass, they live lives they would never have chosen for themselves. Unfortunately, as in Orwell's time, many privileged observers mistake this lack of opportunity for inclination and have manufactured their own myth, projecting their own frustrations with modern living onto the poor and coming to the dangerous conclusion that this `way of life' should be protected.

Living off the land with little hope of any improvement for either yourselves or your children is an existence that should be locked away in the annals of history, along with slavery and feudalism. So let's dispel the fairy tale of the idyllic life of subsistence farming once and for all. For those Westerners who can't, Andrew has a simple tip: `Let's swap lives'.



For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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