Saturday, April 08, 2006


And they accuse OTHER people of meddling with nature!

Despite bombs, boats and rubber bullets, dozens of sea lions are continuing to kill salmon near the Bonneville Dam. This month, biologists are trying one last time to scare off the problem sea lions, but if that doesn't work, they may try to kill them. Sea lions could kill as much as 10 percent of this spring's salmon run and biologists say if they cannot get the problem solved soon, the situation could get ugly. The sea lions are just doing what comes naturally - finding a way to keep their bellies full.

The problem is that the salmon are disappearing. An estimated 8,000 salmon will be lost this spring at Bonneville Dam. State wildlife officials are mounting an aggressive effort to scare the sea lions away from the dam. The effort is their last stab at solving the problem before they will have to consider killing the sea lions. "The difficult part about it is we're trying to save the endangered salmon as they are going up past the dam, but you've got the Marine Mammal Protection Act that protects these marine mammals," says Bob Stansell, a Biologist with the Army Corps of Engineers.

The biggest violator is sea lion C-404. He has managed to penetrate the fish ladder at Bonneville Dam. Biologists say there are nearly 1,000 other sea lions hunting salmon in the Columbia River and they could conceivably kill 10 percent of the fish that come through the dam. If the sea lions cannot be scared off, Oregon's Fish and Wildlife Commission has already applied for a permit to kill some of the problem sea lions, like C-404. Killing the sea lions would be a last resort, but the idea is certainly a controversial one. "Because they're so cute," says tourist Kristin Zubel. "They're not hurting anybody and there should be plenty of fish to go around." The efforts to harass the sea lions enough to scare them away from Bonneville Dam will last through May.



This article uses "postmodernist" language -- presumably in an attempt to "communicate" with the fruitcakes -- but in plain English what it says is that the alleged "science" underlying global warming theory must be judged on the facts, not on the authoritativeness or number of scientists who support it -- as scientists depend for their prestige on their devotion to the facts

The philosopher Alvin Gouldner entitled Chapter 13 of his classic study The Two Marxisms, "Nightmare Marxism," observing that every discourse contains within it alternatives that suborn its expressed intent -- its nightmare side. For Marxism, there were two nightmares: the first that Marx's theory was, despite its claim to scientific legitimacy, just another utopian project; the second that, despite his theoretical analysis, it would turn out that the bourgeoisie were right all along, and that private property was, indeed, the basis of civilization. Should these nightmares be right, Marxism would not be the path to an enlightened future, but to despotism -- as, in fact, it was in practice.

What, then, are the nightmares of the scientific discourse or, more precisely, the environmental science discourse? Surely a major one is that, despite the claim of the scientific discourse to primacy in creating a valid understanding of the world, the reality is that the postmodernist critique is right, and science is no more than another normative discourse, of no greater ontological value than any other.

Evaluating the potential for this nightmare science scenario is tricky, but a few observations are possible. To begin with, it is useful to recall perhaps the principal way science distinguishes itself from other discourses: the reliance on discovery of facts through observation, and validation of theory through test and falsification - in short, the scientific method. This procedure evolved in Western Europe in contrast to the medieval mechanism for establishing truth, which was reference to authority, in the form of the Church Fathers, Aristotle, or other accepted texts. The seismic shift in worldview that a change from authority to observation as source of truth induces is difficult to appreciate in hindsight, but there is little question that it was a seminal step in the rise of the West and the creation of modernity.

But it is precisely the strength of this core characteristic of the scientific discourse that creates the potential for nightmare science. The nightmare arises in this way. We have, as scientists, established the validity of science through adoption of a process that institutionalizes observation, and thus grants us privileged access to truth, at least within the domains of physical reality. In doing so, we have destroyed authority as the source of privileged knowledge -- and, concomitantly, assumed much of the power that used to reside in the old elite (e.g., the Church).

But now suppose that scientists become increasingly concerned with certain environmental phenomenon -- say, loss of biodiversity, or climate change. They thus not only report the results of the practice of the scientific method, but, in part doubting the ability of the public to recognize the potential severity of the issues as scientists see them, become active as scientists in crafting and demanding particular responses, such as the Kyoto Treaty. These responses, notably, extend significantly beyond the purely environmental domain, into policies involving economic development, technology deployment, quality of life in many countries, and the like.

In short, the elite that has been created by practice of the scientific method uses the concomitant power not just to express the results of particular research initiatives, but to create, support, and implement policy responses affecting many non-scientific communities and intellectual domains in myriad ways. In doing so, they are not exercising expertise in these non-scientific domains, but rather transforming their privilege in the scientific domains into authority in non-scientific domains.

Science is, in other words, segueing back into a structure where once again authority, not observation, is the basis of the exercise of power and establishment of truth by the elite. But the authority in this new model is not derived from sacred texts; rather it is derived from legitimate practice of scientific method in the scientific domain, extended into non-scientific domains. Note that this does not imply that scientists cannot, or should not, as individuals participate in public debate; only that if they do so cloaked in the privilege that the scientific discourse gives them they raise from the dead the specter of authority as truth.

Why is this nightmare science? Precisely because it raises an internal contradiction with which science cannot cope. In an age defined by the scientific worldview, which is the source of the primacy of the scientific discourse, science cannot demand privilege outside its domain based not on method, but on authority, for in doing so it undermines the zeitgeist that gives it validity. When demanding the Kyoto Treaty as scientists, it is themselves, not their opponents, that they attack.



Scientists have established a link between agrarian productivity in Africa and weather patterns in the Atlantic: they claim that climate change could cut the food supply by 20-50%. This might make sense if climate were the only factor in production but it is not-as shown by dry, rich Australia and wet, fertile, shattered Zimbabwe.

It is no surprise that weather and harvests are connected but, especially in the case of African agriculture, it is unreasonable to assume that climate is the dominant, let alone the only, factor. Yet this is what these scientists seem to believe. Let us be clear: there is no need to doubt the evidence about current correlations between climate and harvests. It is wrong, however, to suggest that the climate alone determines whether Africa's agriculture will thrive or fail. That will be is a matter of economics, management and economic freedom. Although more than 70% of Africans work on the land, they produce only 16,5% of the continent's gross domestic product (GDP) or 29% in sub-Saharan Africa.

To put agriculture and its dependence on climate into perspective, let us look at history. In the late 19th and early 20th century there was a country that was heavily dependent on agriculture. It was the main export and the agricultural share of GDP reached more than 30%. Consequently, this country was vulnerable to any event that affected agriculture: droughts were dreaded and a decline in world market prices for wool, for example, led to a severe economic depression in the 1890s. That country is Australia. Today agriculture contributes less than 4% to the country's economy and employs only a tiny share of the workforce. In absolute terms, however, its agriculture produces more than ever - yet it is one of the driest places on Earth.

There is no imminent disaster in Australia from potential climate change. With irrigation, improved seeds, machinery and pesticides, it has made their agriculture not only less weather-dependent but also much more productive. This increased productivity enabled many Australians to follow pursuits other than growing wheat or herding cattle and sheep. These people were then working in manufacturing or services and it was in this way that Australia became a "weatherproof economy" with a GDP per capita of more than US$30 000 a year. Were Australia to suffer more droughts in the future, it could still import its food from neighbouring New Zealand, which has a much wetter climate.

There is much to be learned from Australia's agricultural history. It started off in a position not too dissimilar to that of many African countries today but now it produces far more with far less and is no longer dependent on agriculture. Furthermore, Australia is now far richer than Africa and thus much better prepared to adapt to possible climate changes.

What actually drove Australia's transformation from a mainly agricultural country to a weatherproof economy? It would be easy to point to the technological advances such as irrigation systems, tractors or pesticides. But behind these there is a more fundamental factor at work. When Australia was settled by the British, it received the institutions that had developed in Britain over many centuries, the most important of which was the rule of law. This made it possible to define, defend and transfer property rights-the basis of a wealth-creating market economy. It is these institutions that allowed many other wealth-enhancing factors such as better health, education and research and development to thrive.

The World Bank recently tried to measure the wealth created in economies around the globe. The absolute differences between rich and poor countries were not too high when it came to the available cropland per head. What really made the difference was the so-called intangible capital: human skills and know-how as well as good governance. It is in this field that it was most obvious which countries were poor and which were rich. Australia, for example, had built up an intangible capital of almost US$300 000 per capita whereas many African countries did not even reach 10% of this figure. Most strikingly, the World Bank experts estimated that the rule of law explained almost 60% of the formation of intangible capital.

We have seen that Australia no longer fears changes in the climate. Yet this is not because it has a comparatively small agricultural sector but because it had a legal and economic system that made it more and more independent of the weather and ultimately of its agriculture. This means that climate change need not be disastrous for Africa. But to deal with it when it occurs, Africans need the institutions of the free society on which their agriculture and their economies can grow. Just like Australians did, with the rule of law, property rights and free markets, Africans too could build weatherproof economies.

MoneyWeb, 5 April 2006


Forget France. In the future, wine buffs may be praising the merits of a fine Canadian pinot noir, the subtleties of English chardonnay, or even the complexity of a world-class Pennsylvania cabernet sauvignon. The cause: climate change.

Some scientists believe that rising temperatures and longer growing seasons are already affecting wine, making vintages sweeter and stronger, and changing where grapes can be grown around the world. Previously unheralded German wines have gotten surprisingly better in the last two decades. The alcohol in California wine has risen - which can be both a good and bad thing - along with the temperatures.

There have even been instances where English bubbly has thumped its French counterparts in blind taste tests conducted by the magazine Which?, the English equivalent of Consumer Reports.

Not everyone swallows the warming theory. Many in the wine industry believe other factors - such as improvements in agriculture and wine-making - have followed consumer demand and given birth to the current generation of potent, full-bodied "trophy" wines.

The influential wine critic Robert M. Parker turns up his nose at the idea of global warming leading to sweeter and more alcoholic wines. Parker said that the warming influence was "inconclusive" and that the trend toward more alcoholic wine was a result of vintners worldwide picking grapes later in the season as they aim for more robust flavors.

Researchers studying the world's wine industry are scheduled to meet later this month in Barcelona, Spain, at the first global meeting on the impact of climate change. Climatologist Gregory Jones of Southern Oregon University maintains that global warming is at least in part responsible for recent wine trends. He said that the climate influenced anywhere from 10 to 60 percent of a wine's profile, from sweetness to alcoholic content. "With growing grapes, climate is the No. 1 factor," said Jones, who thinks that it would be impossible to ascribe all of the changes that have occurred to new technology and better growing techniques. Jones, a speaker at the Barcelona summit, said that California's Napa Valley was a clear example of a wine region influenced by the warming trend. Wine there has increased in strength since the 1970s, when the average alcohol content was 12.5 percent. By 2001, the average had reached 14.8 percent, according to a 2004 study published in the trade publication Wine Business Monthly. Jones suspects that the increase is due to the region's higher average growing-season temperatures, which Jones found to have jumped by nearly two degrees in northern California since 1948.

The increased strength of their wine has led many Napa Valley growers to explore methods to remove the alcohol, from watering it down to reverse osmosis. "Fifty years ago, removing alcohol was not an issue," Jones said, "because the climate of that time ripened fruit in a more balanced way." Longer periods of sunlight and warm weather allow grapes to stay on the vine longer and produce more sugar, leading to wines with more vivid flavors and the sometimes harsh effect of higher alcohol content, Jones said.

Jones cited numerous examples of how climate change is reshaping the world of wine. In southern England, temperatures are approaching those of warmer climes, and the total acreage of vineyards has exploded, with some buyers coming from France's far more expensive Champagne region. In the classic French wine-growing region of Burgundy, vintners traditionally added sugar to their wines to bring up the alcohol. But in the last 10 to 15 years, that has been the exception, he said.

Increased temperatures could also force some regions to grow new varieties and change growing practices, Jones said. "If you are in a cool-climate region like the Rhine, and the climate warms, you have to consider warmer varieties of grapes," he said. "But if you are in a climate that is already warm, there aren't any other varieties that can be grown."

Researchers in Australia say that quality growing regions for cabernet sauvignon will continue to creep southward over the next 50 years and that growers will have to adapt.

Although he is critical of the climate-change hypothesis, Parker said extremely hot and dry summers like that of 2003 are changing winery practices. European vintners are reconsidering tradition-bound rules against irrigation, a topic likely to be discussed at the Barcelona summit. "The old practice of not irrigating is going to have to stop if there are more years like 2003 and these vineyards are drying up," Parker said.

Knight Ridder Newspapers, 5 April 2006


Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

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