Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Frozen to death as fuel bills soar: Hypothermia cases among the British elderly double in five years

Energy is cheap -- but not when throttled by Greenie laws and regulations

The number of pensioners dying from hypothermia has nearly doubled in five years, a period when a succession of cold winters has been coupled with drastic rises in energy bills.

The official figures emerged after several days of Arctic conditions which drove temperatures across the whole country as low as minus 10C (14F). They showed that 1,876 patients were treated in hospital for hypothermia in 2010/11, up from 950 in 2006/07.

The number of sufferers who died within 30 days of admission shot up from 135 to 260. Three-quarters of victims were pensioners, with cases soaring among the over-60s more than any other age group.

The increasing toll of hypothermia over the past five years coincides with a surge in energy costs, especially gas prices which have gone up by 40 per cent.

Soaring energy bills are pushing more and more pensioners into fuel poverty, forcing them to choose between heating and eating. One industry analyst, uSwitch, estimates that eight in ten households are already rationing their energy use and have called for a cut in VAT on power bills.

The row over energy prices is poised to be reignited later this month when the 'big six' energy companies reveal their latest profit figures.

Campaign groups said yesterday it was 'scandalous' that pensioners in modern Britain could be suffering from hypothermia.

Michelle Mitchell of Age UK urged the Government to take more action to protect those at risk of freezing to death. 'We like to think of ourselves as a civilised society which protects the most vulnerable,' she said. 'The fact that there are still older people who are suffering and dying of hypothermia is deeply shocking.'

A survey carried out by Age UK last month found that half of pensioners have turned their heating down to save money even when they are not warm enough. Many more are so cold they go to bed when they are not tired or move into one room to keep energy bills down.

Hypothermia occurs when body temperature drops below 35C (95F) from its normal 37C (98.6F). Symptoms can include violent shivering, confusion, delirium and unconsciousness.

The statistics from the NHS Information Centre show that three-quarters of hypothermia cases are among the over-60s, and the increase in admissions has been the highest among this age group.

In 2006/07, there were 633 hypothermia admissions among the over-60s, rising to 1,396 in 2010/11. This is a rise of 120 per cent. There have, however, been increases across all age groups. Among adults aged 15 to 59, cases have risen by 54 per cent to 276. There were 50 hypothermia cases among children aged 14 and under, a 22 per cent increase. The figures on deaths are not broken down by age, but show that almost 20 per cent of those admitted die within 30 days. A further 6 per cent die between 30 and 90 days from admission.

Meanwhile, taking inflation into account, the price of gas has increased by 40 per cent in the last five years to 3.4p per kilowatt hour. Electricity prices have risen by 21 per cent to 11.8p per kilowatt hour. This has led to a surge in the number of pensioners in 'fuel poverty', which means the costs of energy bills make up more than 10 per cent of the household budget.

Age UK says that more than three million older people in England – nearly 1.2million of whom live alone – are in fuel poverty. This total is a quarter of all pensioners and has trebled since 2003.

The elderly receive cold weather payments if the temperature falls below a certain level, but campaigners argue that the money is clearly not enough to stave off hypothermia in many cases.

The parent companies of Britain's big six energy firms are expected to announce total profits of £15billion in the next few weeks, although UK consumers only contribute a small part of these profits as far as at least four of these firms are concerned – RWE nPower, E.ON, Iberdrola (Scottish Power) and EDF (France).

Ofgem, the energy regulator, says the average profit per customer in Britain was £100 last month but could fall in the summer months to £70.

Neil Duncan Jordan of the National Pensioners Convention described the expected profits figure as 'scandalous'. He said: 'It is a graphic example of the failure to protect some of our most vulnerable individuals.'

Last night public health minister Anne Milton said: 'We have introduced a Cold Weather Plan to reduce the number of deaths. We have also set up a Warm Homes and Healthy People Fund of £30 million to pay for local authority projects to reduce effects of cold weather. 'Winterwatch is also providing professionals and the public with updates and practical advice from the Chief Medical Officer.'

The Department of Health said the main cause of excess winter deaths was not hypothermia but heart and respiratory disease.


Bottled Water Industry Responds to College Student Activists Seeking Ban

I think bottled water is absurd but it may save a lot of tooth decay etc if the alternative is fizzy drinks

With places like the Grand Canyon National Park banning sale of plastic water bottles, environmental activists on college campuses are seeking to do the same. But the bottled water industry isn’t taking this affront lightly. It has a message for activists turning their own arguments against them.

NPR reports that the International Bottled Water Association launched a video against the “misinformation” presented by the activists. Some of the messages include that bottled water has “less of a carbon footprint”, the lowest “water footprint” and less plastic compared to other packaged drinks.

Taking the stance of promoting freedom of choice, the IBWA president Joe Doss says that it’s not an issue of whether bottled or tap is better but that both options should be available, NPR reports:

[...] the IBWA video suggests the cause is unworthy of students’ energy – instead, perhaps they could focus on genocide in Darfur.

It claims bottled water is a good alternative to sugary beverages and easier to recycle than other packaged drinks. The IBWA also argues bottled water is safer than tap water.

Still activists argue that the choice for bottled water would still be available: off campus.

According to NPR, through the “Think Outside the Bottle” campaign, more than 20 schools nationwide have instituted either a whole or partial ban on water bottle sales.


First, They Came For My Toilet Paper

Greenies hate civilization. Ergo, the Green War on our W.C.s.

Think about it: There is no greater symbol of civilization than the toilet and its various accoutrements. From Mohenjo-Daro to the Roman Empire, civilized life has gone hand in hand with running water and underground infrastructure to wash the refuse of humanity away from our homes and cities. Fire may be the most widespread symbol of Man’s rise from the Serengeti to Starbucks, but the most important is the plunger.

Thus, the Greenies desire to become the commodores of our commodes, from trying to tell us to use one square of toilet paper (which may be enough if all you eat is granola, but is wholly inadequate if your diet consists of, you know, human food), to the so-called “low flush” toilets that are designed to save water but end up wasting water because you have to flush the things a million times to properly exorcise your tank.

Now, those tiger-apologists at the World Wildlife Fund have targeted toilet paper itself. A new WWF report titled “Don’t Flush Tiger Forests: Toilet Paper, U.S. Supermarkets, and the Destruction of Indonesia’s Last Tiger Habitats” claims that, “Americans who use Paseo or Livi brands of toilet tissue are contributing to the destruction of the Indonesian rainforest and tiger habitat,” according to the Environment News Service.

“Consumers shouldn’t have to choose between tigers and toilet paper,” proclaims the WWF’s Linda Kramme. “We’re asking retailers, wholesalers and consumers not to buy Paseo or Livi products until APP stops clearing rainforests in Sumatra.”

Two things. First, tigers kill people. Regularly. Last year in one region in Bangladesh, 53 people were attacked by tigers, with 34 killed and 19 severely injured. In one week the tigers of this forest killed seven people. Shame on the WWF for defending these murderous beasts.

Now, the Greenies will undoubtedly say that the tiger—when it attacks a human—is just behaving naturally. Well, that pretty much sums up my relationship with toilet paper—just doing what comes naturally. Using technology to improve my health and well-being—that’s how humans roll, baby.

Second, the wealthy folk at the WWF have jobs. The poor peoples of the Third World would like jobs, too. I don’t have the stats in front of me, but I bet the logging industry in Indonesia which supplies the West with TP also supplies a lot of very poor people with a lot of much needed employment opportunities in that part of the world. But good Greenies care more about animals than people—the honest ones don’t even bother to deny it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, nature calls….


The Noble Savage myth

by David Deming

Bacon was the first person to unambiguously and explicitly advocate the practical application of scientific knowledge to human needs. "The true and lawful goal of the sciences," he explained, "is that human life be endowed with new discoveries and powers." Writing in the early seventeenth century, Francis Bacon predicted lasers, genetic engineering, airplanes, and submarines.

Competing with Bacon's vision of a society based on science is the older and more persistent fable of the Noble Savage. The Noble Savage is not a person, but an idea. It is cultural primitivism, the belief of people living in complex and evolved societies that the simple and primitive life is better. The Noble Savage is the myth that man can live in harmony with nature, that technology is destructive, and that we would all be happier in a more primitive state.

Before Jesus Christ lived, the Noble Savage was known to the Hebrews as the Garden of Eden. The Greek poet Hesiod (c. 700 BC) called it the Golden Age. In the lost Golden Age, people lived in harmony with nature. There was no disease, pain, work, or conflict. Everyone lived in perfect peace. Insects didn't bite you. There were no extremes of temperature, and you could wander naked through the fields. If you happened to be hungry, all you had to do to satisfy your craving was reach up and pick a sumptuous ripe fruit off a nearby tree.

In all the ages of the world, otherwise intelligent and learned persons have swooned to cultural primitivism. In the sixteenth century, French writer Michel de Montaigne described native Americans as so morally pure they had no words in their languages for lying, treachery, avarice, and envy. Montaigne portrayed the primitive life as so idyllic that American Indians did not have to work but could spend the whole day dancing.

When captain James Cook and other European explorers first encountered the native people of Polynesia in the late eighteenth century, they romanticized the primitive and ignorant state as a happier one, free of cares and anxieties. It was better, one European wrote, to be simple-minded and ignorant. "We must admit," he explained, "that the child is happier than the man, and that we are losers by the perfection of our nature, the increase of our knowledge, and the enlargement of our views."

The quintessential exposition of the Noble Savage myth is found in Jean-Jacques Rousseau's book Discourse on Inequality (1755). Rousseau argued that what appeared to be human progress was in fact decay. The best condition for human beings to live in was the "pure state of nature" in which savages existed. When men lived as hunters and gatherers, they were "free, healthy, honest and happy." The downfall of man occurred when people started to live in cities, acquire private property, and practice agriculture and metallurgy. The acquisition of private property resulted in inequality, aroused the vice of envy, and led to perpetual conflict and unceasing warfare. According to Rousseau, civilization itself was the scourge of humanity. Rousseau went so far as to make the astonishing claim that the source of all human misery was what he termed our "faculty of improvement," or the use of our minds to improve the human condition.

Rousseau sent a copy of his book to Voltaire. In a letter acknowledging receipt of the work, Voltaire made a pithy and devastating criticism. "I have received, monsieur, your new book against the human race. I thank you for one has ever employed so much intellect in the attempt to prove us beasts. A desire seizes us to walk on four paws when we read your work. Nevertheless, as it is more than sixty years since I lost the habit, I feel, unfortunately, that it is impossible for me to resume it."

Voltaire's insight was immediate and inerrant: opposition to technology is opposition to the human race itself. Man lives by technology. The human race has never existed in a state of harmony with nature. Since Rousseau wrote, more than two hundred and fifty years of archeological and ethnographic research have shown that the imaginative conceptions associated with the Noble Savage are completely wrong. Before the advent of civilization people endured disease, violence, hunger, and profound poverty.

When I was growing up in the 1960s, the common notion was that humans are the only animal that conducts warfare. But research over the past few decades has shown that this is false. In Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence, Richard Wrangham and Dale Peterson documented observations of chimpanzees in their natural habitat engaging in systematic planned violence. Humans and chimpanzees diverged from a common ancestor about four to six million years ago. The fact that chimpanzees make war suggests that our human ancestors also did. The roots of human violence thus lay deep in time.

Male chimps conduct raids with the intent of catching a lone male from another group. If the odds in their favor are greater than three-to-one, they will attack and kill or maim him. The attacks are vicious and merciless, "marked by a gratuitous cruelty." The preferred procedure is for two chimps to hold a victim on the ground while a third pummels and bites the prey until he is dead or mortally wounded. The aggressors enjoy the violence. After the attack has concluded they exhibit their exuberance by branch-waving, screaming, hooting, and drumming.

Eliminating male rivals bestows a reproductive advantage on the members of the attacking group. Chimpanzee behavior is calculated and organized, not incidental, and reveals a high degree of intelligence. Chimpanzees have been known to rape their own sisters. Other human relatives also share a disposition to violence. Rape is commonplace among orangutans, and about one-seventh of gorilla babies perish from infanticide.

Before the advent of human civilization, conflict between bands of hunter-gatherers was universal and intense. In his book Constant Battles, Harvard archeologist Steven A. Leblanc documented that "warfare in the past was pervasive and deadly." Cannibalism and infanticide were also common. Ethnographic studies of hunter-gatherer groups surviving in remote areas of the world during the twentieth century have found that about twenty-five percent of adult males perish in war. LeBlanc concluded "the common notion of humankind's blissful past, populated with noble savages living in a pristine and peaceful world, is held by those who do not understand our past and who have failed to see the course of human history for what it is."

Before the Industrial Revolution, disease and poverty were endemic, even in the most advanced societies. Infectious diseases, including typhus, smallpox, and malaria, were rampant. Intestinal worms and dysentery were common among all classes of people. In eighteenth century Europe, half of all children died before their tenth birthday. Life expectancy at birth was only about twenty-five years, virtually unchanged from the days of the Roman Empire. Filth and dirt were everywhere. In 1741, Samuel Johnson gave a speech in Parliament where he complained that the streets of London were "obstructed by mountains of filth."

Neither did pre-industrial civilizations live in a state of ecological harmony with their environment. Their exploitation of nature was often destructive. The Mediterranean islands colonized by the ancient Greeks were transformed into barren rock by overgrazing and deforestation. The Bay of Troy, described in Homer's Iliad, has been filled in by sediment eroded from hillsides destabilized by unsustainable agricultural practices.

Before Europeans arrive, American Indians managed the land aggressively by burning it. And they likely hunted several animals to extinction. The disappearance of the Pleistocene Megafauna in the Americas coincides with the expansion of human settlement about 10,000 years before present. The long list of animals hunted to extinction by American Indians include dire wolves, giant sloths, saber-toothed cats, giant beavers, mastodons, and mammoths.

Even the conception of primitive societies as egalitarian is flawed. In Sick Societies, anthropologist Robert Edgerton documented that all human societies make distinctions based on "sex, age, and ability." Groups also tend to treat people differently based on distinctions of "wealth, power, or kinship." It should not be surprising, for example, to find that the chief of a tribe will advance his own interests "at the expense of lower-status people."

All of this would be of academic interest only, were it not the case that the modern environmental movement and many of our public policies are based implicitly on the myth of the Noble Savage. The fountainhead of modern environmentalism is Rachel Carson's Silent Spring. The first sentence in Silent Spring invoked the Noble Savage by claiming "there was once a town in the heart of America where all life seemed to live in harmony with its surroundings." But the town Carson described did not exist, and her polemic, Silent Spring, introduced us to environmental alarmism based on junk science. As the years passed, Rachel Carson was elevated to sainthood and the template laid for endless spasms of hysterical fear-mongering, from the population bomb, to nuclear winter, the Alar scare, and global warming.

Human beings have not, can not, and never will live in harmony with nature. Our prosperity and health depend on technology driven by energy. We exercise our intelligence to command nature, and were admonished by Francis Bacon to exercise our dominion with "sound reason and true religion." When we are told that our primary energy source, oil, is "making us sick," or that we are "addicted" to oil, these are only the latest examples of otherwise rational persons descending into gibberish after swooning to the lure of the Noble Savage. This ignorant exultation of the primitive can only lead us back to the Stone Age.


Australia: Conservatives hit carbon tax again

The opposition has accused the government of crying false tears over the struggling aluminium sector by pointing out that economic modelling by the Treasury forecasts a price on carbon will erode the industry by more than 60 per cent by 2050.

With the fate of 600 aluminium workers at the Alcoa plant in Victoria at the centre of the debate over the economy and manufacturing, the Prime Minster, Julia Gillard, met workers and union representatives yesterday to assure them her government was following the situation closely.

Amid a now frequent stream of job loss announcements, Alcoa has said it is reviewing the future of the plant, citing the high dollar and low international metal prices as factors. It is not blaming the carbon tax, which begins on July 1 and for which the aluminium industry will be generously compensated.

In Parliament yesterday, the opposition attempted to link the present decline in manufacturing to the impending carbon impost, saying it would make a bad situation worse.

The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, noted that Treasury's modelling showed aluminium production in Australia risked falling by 61.7 per cent by 2050.

Ms Gillard accused the opposition of misrepresenting the modelling and criticised Mr Abbott for exploiting potential job losses as part of his campaign against the carbon price.

The Victorian Labor Opposition Leader, Daniel Andrews, conceded there was not much the federal government could do to help Alcoa. Its problems were largely the realm of the state Liberal government and included such assistance as power price subsidy, payroll tax deductions and co-investing in a new plant to increase efficiency.

The fight came as the latest Newspoll showed the Coalition ahead as preferred economic leaders. This was despite the government feeling the economy is its greatest strength and Ms Gillard's declaration the economy would be at the core of political debate for this year.

Last week, the Coalition floundered when trying to explain when it would return the budget to surplus if elected. The national secretary of the Australian Workers Union, Paul Howes, hit back at critics who argued taxpayers should not subsidise struggling industries. He said they would recover once the dollar dropped to parity or below.


One-sided climate lessons in Australian schools

LIBERAL senator Cory Bernardi has questioned why a national scientific program for children appears to be teaching only one side of the climate change debate.

During a Senate estimates hearing today, the South Australian senator quizzed the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) about the content of its Carbon Kids program.

Senator Bernardi said the program contained a note for teachers which said climate change was a complicated topic many found "daunting and confusing" and could be controversial, leading to many different opinions. "Yet the information that is produced and distributed to schoolchildren appears only to present a single opinion about what is driving climate change," he said.

"How can you explain that given that the explanatory note for teachers says it leads to many different opinions?"

He said the material contained a number of statements which lead to a single conclusion, that carbon dioxide was virtually solely responsible for driving climate change and presented a range of "apocalyptic scenarios".

The CSIRO's deputy chief executive for operations Mike Whelan said he had not personally seen the material, but envisaged that the program would be consistent with comments made to teachers. He told the senate committee the program had only become his responsibility three weeks ago, but he would examine the material.



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1 comment:

slktac said...

The "noble savage" idea is held by several of my relatives. I note, however, that this ideal is immediately abandoned if the cost is too high for following it. One relative intended to have a home birth, but complications arose requiring a c-section. Did this "purist who despises vaccines and antibiotics" just let nature take it's course. NO-she went to the hospital, had a c-section at taxpayer expense and threatened to sue the hosptial for forcing antibiotics on her. Hypocrits, all. Not one of these "purists" actually means a thing they say if it means their life or death.