Monday, April 30, 2007

Mars warming

This little news snippet hit the mainstream press over the weekend. The fact that Mars also is warming has been known for some time: what is interesting is that the seemingly obvious, scientific explanation for its warming (the sun) is even questioned. Of course to concede that sun activity is warming Mars is to validate those same effects here on Earth: which greatly diminishes the credibility of the AGW hypothesis. What is fascinating is the lengths proponents of anthropogenic global warming resort to in response to facts such as Mars is warming too. At this point, the facts don't count: we have our answer, our religion and our priests.

Lest we think this kind of wilful ignorance and blindness to the truth exists only in environmentalism, here is a more serious case of injustice and character assassination.
The link between the two unrelated instances is the resistance to truth embedded within certain ideologies.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Weather watch and the media

Two items from the Canadian media. The first is a well-written commentary by Peter Worthington that I suspect reflects the real feeling of the non-ideological electorate: i.e. those that actually decide any election. The second is a report on the severe ice conditions (the worst in 15 years) that have trapped sealing ships off Newfoundland. These follow on the wide range of media reports on Earth Day, all of which alluded to small crowds "braving the cold weather conditions".

Yes, I know: weather is not climate, but for that same voting, ideologically non-aligned, public majority, the weather is their climate certainty, their reality. And the reality in North America this Spring is, well, colder than "normal".

I'll say it now and I'll stand by it: no election will ever be fought and won on environmentalism: every party can appear green and fuzzy -- those that isolate themselves as more radical than that do so at their political peril. Hence, all parties say the right things and largely do nothing (sorry, banning light bulbs is nothing but a market intervention, an inconvenience, unnecessary and totally ineffective) because there is nothing government can actually do about large, non-issues -- and most pet environmental ecomyths are by definition, non-issues.

The electorate, if they vote, realize this and look to see which party either they trust most, dislike least or fear most -- the majority are not set in their ideological allegiance but are swayed by the little things in campaigns that leaders do or do not do to create public trust, fear, loathing etc.. Often, many fail to exercise their franchise as they see nothing to distinguish one option from another: certainly the environment will not be that dividing line.

The Wire

Television can both entertain and inform your world. Here is a wonderful discussion of one of my favourite shows (along with the Sopranos) and one of the few programs other than sports (go Raptors!) that I watch faithfully.

Clearly, I don't know much about being black, nor the choices facing inner-city black youth. Neither am I now nor have I ever been a member of the Mob. That doesn't mean I have to remain ignorant nor blind to their existence. Shows such as the Wire and the Sopranos offer outsiders a window on a world different from theirs. Similarly, film, novels and blogs offer people insights into cultures and societies different from theirs. The more we attempt to understand, the more we are able to realize that what differentiates us, does not have to divide us.

Anti-malarial bed nets: the $10 dollar insult

Its been a while since I posted on DDT and malaria on the assumption that now the ban on its use has been lifted, all would progress smoothly and the plague of malaria in Africa would soon be eliminated.  Sadly this is not yet so. 
Ecomyths have an amazing ability to survive long past their due date.  Despite all the science, despite all the official apologies and nice rhetoric, Africans are still be asked to accept second-rate charitable handouts because of the persistence of an ecomyth, that somehow spraying DDT to kill insects is "bad".
I am really tiring of so much green ideology killing people.

more meta context

Following my discussion of prevailing metacontexts, their assumptions and origins, this post presents a pithy summary of the prevailing ethos within academia and the media that establishes the politically correct metacontext of western society. The consequences of this metacontext are profound, particularly in terms of the larger perspective on the global future and the ongoing and/or imminent clash between Islam and Christianity.
The most neglected imperative for sustainability remains the social dimension of future development. Economically, all places on the planet can flourish and the global environment be sustained: we have the knowledge to do this. That we don't is a function of social aspects of culture, political will and ideology: that the social imperative for sustainability remains poorly and inadequately addressed is a direct result of the prevailing metacontext outlined by these two posts.
Implementation of sustainability entails real environmental intervention (and not just protests, concerts, celeb fests and post-modernist rhetoric) that requires:
  • leadership
  • clear principles
  • moral integrity, and
  • individual empowerment
none of which can be achieved unless the dominant mind set, the social metacontext, is changed.
Ecomyths are important only in that they are a beacon to the lack of awareness endemic to the intellectual framing of contemporary issues. They are the embodiment of the prevailing metacontext of stasist belief and control.

I come at these conclusion from a libertarian, dynamist, frre-market perspective. I take great solice in the fact that thinkers from a contrasting ideology reach the same conclusions. Here, from a discussion with Frank Furedi:
  • The thrust of mine and others’ questioning of environmentalism comes from a view which used to be considered the hallmark of left-wing thinking – namely, we must understand that the problems that face the world are not biological or natural or problems of religion; they are social problems. In contrast to other sections of society, one thing that defined left-wing thinking was to appreciate that, whether it is poverty or unemployment or whatever, these are social rather than natural problems. I think the critique of green politics continues within that tradition, a tradition that began with the nineteenth-century critique of Malthus and which continues through the arguments on spiked about environmentalism today.’

climate scam

Paraphrasing the famous line from the movie Casablanca, this article nicely summarizes the "shock" realization that the much-hyped carbon offset and tax schemes promoted under the mantra of global warming are, in fact, scams: smoke and mirror schemes that exchange figures, make some people wealthy and meanwhile do absolutely nothing to affect what may or may not be happening to the real world.

Somehow fitting that an imaginary problem, sustained by virtual models has spawned a non-existent solution that imposes another statist tax on the ever gullible public. Wow, isn't environmentalism something that makes you just swell with pride?

Also from Samizdata:
Nothing is more obstinate than a fashionable consensus
- Margaret Thatcher

Monday, April 23, 2007

Unspoken assumptions

I like this article by Perry de Havilland because it makes two important points: the presence of a meta-context buried within an argument, and the unspoken assumptions that sustain that metcontext. In this case, the meta-context is that the gap between rich and poor is bad and that wealth is something that should be divided by government controls, rather than something that individuals create.

The article is a succinct and accurate precis: amongst the comments it garnered was this gem:
  • For decades, the assertions and assumptions of collectivist theories regarding economics, social organization, politics, and culture have been drummed into the minds of students from early childhood to post-graduate doctoral candidates.Any deviation from those tenets, any question, any attempt to argue for an alternative viewpoint was, and is, dealt with ruthlessly, especially in the higher academic setting. Biting sarcasm, and scornful dismissal by instructors and peers, soon make it very clear to those foolish enough to put forward any but the "approved" case that this course is fraught with peril. "Diversity", in any intellectual sense, is unwelcome, and repressed by means both subtle and blatant.

All ecomyths have inherent meta-context that sustains them. Understanding comes from addressing the assumptions that sustain both the defining narrative and the dogma used to promote the ecomyth. The links from this site all feature regular articles that assist in this endeavour.

Persist. It is often an individual exercise because, as the post above clarifies, independent thought within higher education does not really mean independent of the prevailing metacontext and its sustaining assumptions. By default, that also means outside of the mainstream media and refereed journals: both of which are captive framers of that same metacontext.

So blogs and blogging, the home of independent thought, independent minds and alternative ideas. What constructs inform your world? What ideas assist you in defining the highest image of yourself? What principles serve as your compass?

Remember, all change stems from the individual and from the willingness of individuals to be leaders.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

recycling old ecomyths

Recycling is a favourite topic amongst environmentalists. Here we can see the principle of recycling can even be applied to old, discredited ecomyths: you just need an issue malleable enough to encompass everything.

The myth of over-population persists despite the clear and undisputed evidence that once a certain level of prosperity is attained, population levels actually decline (as is happening now in many western European countries). But it is useful as it highlights three key characteristics common to ecomyths:

  • they are continuously recycled
  • they persist despite data that contradict and disprove them, and
  • they appeal to a sense of fear in society, demonizing a exterior entity (them) and assigning blame for society's perceived ills on "them".
Not only are ecomyths fallacies, they are inherently contrary to sustainability.

People are not deer that can be culled when a local population exceeds the carrying capacity of its defined habitat. Technology allows us to continuously increase the planet's carrying capacity, defined habitats are arbitrary and subject to social change, and wealth allows us to reduce population levels naturally.

Not the ideological dogma environmnetalists want you to read or hear, but the factual eveidence of human existence, particularly in the past 100 years.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

the carbon cycle and dogma

Here is a significant new paper and accompanying PowerPoint by a Norwegian scientist, Tom Segalstad. The gist of his paper is that the empirical measurement of carbon dioxide levels and, in particular, the rate at which carbon dioxide dissipates, are counter-indicative to the theory of anthropogenic global warming. In effect, Segalstad contends the data on carbon dioxide levels are sufficient to reject the AGW thesis. He concludes:
...dogma is, according to dictionaries, considered an arrogant and authoritative declaration of opinion based on a priori principles, not on induction, and often as a sacrament or commandment for religious belief. Review of the basis for the "Greenhouse Effect Global Warming" doom makes its components appear neither supported by reality nor the scientific method of natural sciences, making it rather a preconceived idea or tenet sharing most features of a dogma.
It is in paper's such as this that the ultimate demise of the AGW thesis will occur: the political value of the environmentalist dogma rests on the certitude of the science that it invokes. Once the wider science community cuts into the heart of the central premises, two things will occur:
  1. we will greatly improve our understanding of climate and the dynamics of climate change, and
  2. the AGW fear will fade and be replaced by a more responsible, reasoned and nuanced strategy for continued adaptation to climatic change on a regionally contextualized basis.
Oh, and yes, in all likelihood a new yet to be discovered, threat to the world's existence will be unveiled by the same suspects who foisted acid rain, over-population, pesticides, obesity and AGW onto the public.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Sachs as intellectual poverty

Leave it to Daniel Ben-Ami to expose the intellectual poverty in Jeffrey Sachs perspective on world problems. Sachs encapsulates the dominant paradigm and its basic precepts well, and is one of the leading intellectual figures espousing its central constructs. Ben-Ami questions the ideology inherent to this perspective, positing opposing and equally valid constructs that lead to a dramatically different set of priorities, expectations and policies.

Often, problems are described (framed) in a manner that makes the preferred solution to their resolution appear elementary and obvious. Such is the perspective Sachs characterizes. By defining problems as stemming from over-population and global disparities, Sachs is merely updating the Malthusian limits to growth arguments of such writers as Paul Erhlich and Lester Brown. Malthus was proven wrong by technological progress and the empirical data. Erhlich was proven wrong by Julian Simon, technological progress and the empirical data. Lester Brown was proven wrong by Bjorn Lomborg, technological progress...and the empirical data.

There is a pattern here. Every generation has its mainstream pessimist whose popularity stems from a willingness of governing authorities to legitimise their claims because:
  • they invoke fear, which in turn justifies
  • more governance and regulation, which does not have to achieve anything because
  • the central framing is to define the problem in pessimistic language with low levels of expectation.
And, in every circumstance the cornucopian optimism of such analysts as Simon and Lomborg, has been proven correct by time, the empirical data and by continued technological advancement.

Now this really frustrates those with an opposing ideological perspective, so much so that they usually seek to dismiss dynamist perspectives with the use of invective (e.g. use of the term cornucopian) and the use of authority (e.g. one of my students was recently told to put away his copy of Lomborg lest it give a false impression at a recruitment event).

How do you define over-population? Is it too many people or too great a density? Or too many for the resource base? Is Hong Kong over-populated? Or Singapore? Or is over-population not really about the population level nor its density but the wealth of the society and its ability to sustain that level of population?

I live in Canada, one of the world's wealthiest nations. Last time I looked, 95% of Canadians lived within 100 kms of the border with the US, meaning roughly 90% of the country is effectively empty -- well not empty, but certainly able to accommodate a much bigger population than at present.

The problems of the world are not due to over-population, nor over-consumption (the other common green canard). Rather they stem from a failure to develop sufficient social will to enable different cultures and societies to live sustainably. Buying into Sachs prescription for stasis does nothing to focus our attention on real issues.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Environmentalism as enslavement

Some snippets from today's blogoshpere that reflect a common theme:
  • Our culture has been so dominated by scientism that there is a tendency to equate scientific conclusions with objective reality.
  • The religious nature of the global warming cult... both quotes from an excellent article on the global warming jihad by Butler Shaffer
  • climatology a complete, developed, mature science? Is it the kind of science that is capable of making accurate, reliable predictions? Is the field of climatology, in its current state, capable of producing "settled science" on any broad conclusion?...from a provocative article that poses the basic question about the state of climatology
  • ...what motivates the majority of the global warming community. What may have started as the observance of science and environmentalism has now progressed to the level of a cultish religion...from an excellent discussion by Paul Ibbetson.
  • If Rachel Carson were still alive, April 12 would have been her 100th birthday. All over the Western World well-meaning, but misguided, souls marked that day with choruses of praise for the woman who almost singly-handed created the modern environmental movement...from a post by Dennis Avery.
The theme? That environmentalism has become a religion that uses science to bolster its ideological premises and dogma, presented to us by a procession of gurus whose zeal exceeds their understanding and that its political polemics have become so integral to our society that its tenets are assumed to be axiomatic.

This blog exists to question this intellectual hegemony. It functions by mining the blogosphere for those little patches of light, of intellectual insight, free-thought and common sense that will allow someone seeking to think for themselves the supporting information they need to bolster their intuition and courage to resist the conformity demanded by today's contemporary environmentalism.

Free will is a gift to all humans that should be encouraged and fostered. Our educational and political institutions should be in the business of empowering the individual. Environmental awareness should and could be part of that empowerment.

Sadly, as practiced today, ideological environmentalism does not focus on individual empowerment. Rather it has become a cult religion complete with high priests, conforming rituals and controlling dogma: contemporary environmentalism does not empower the individual -- it regulates, controls and subjugates them to the directives of an elite, a special cadre of state, disciplinary and/or bureaucratic managers of thought, behaviour and life. In short, it seeks to enslave the individual within a prescribed, precautionary, regulated and safe environment without the inherent "dangers" of free-will. Much like the ideal world inhabited by the clones in the movie The Island.

Certainly not my idea of a brave new world.

China, scholarship and bias

This post raises many profound issues regarding the status of information and the ways in which available knowledge is constrained by the ideology by which it is created. The topic is China and what we do and don't know about what is happening in China based on the way in which China is studied by those outside the country. The subject could equally well be North Korea, Zimbabwe, Russia, the Middle East or any geographic space or subject matter where there is some degree of state control over access to information: basically the entire planet and just about any topic, especially anything environmental.

The commentary highlights that all knowledge is contingent on the ideology by which it is created, obtained and/or utilised. No information is value-free, nor is it objective. Rather, all information is informed by the circumstances of its origin and needs to be viewed in context, understood within the protocol by which it was studied and balanced by alternatives. Sadly, in the case of China, alternative narratives are difficult to obtain. Moreover, as we have seen with all ecomyths, alternative narratives often struggle for credibility precisely because they represent a challenge to the presumed authority of the orthodox and sanctioned, approved knowledge. There well may be a prevailing academic "consensus" on China. What this post suggests is that we get what we ask for. A consensus may sound good and seem authoritative, but it need not be accurate nor comprehensive.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

CO2 and temperature:which is cause and which is effect?

One of the joys of tracking an issue across the blogosphere is that you become acquainted with other commentators and engaged minds through their frequent and excellent contribution to posts. One such thinker is Lubos Motl, who's posts I have read on several sites concerning both climate change and the theory of anthropogenic global warming (AGW). Lubos runs his own blog which he calls The Reference Frame.

Here is a recent post from Lubos on correlation, causation and the actual relationship between carbon dioxide and temperature in the historical record. And here is a similar discussion by Tim Patterson that reaches this conclusion:

  • ...the geologic record clearly shows us that there really is little correlation between CO2 levels and temperature. Although CO2 can have a minor influence on global temperature the effect is minimal and short lived as this cycle sits on top of the much larger water cycle, which is what truly controls global temperatures. The water cycle is in turn primarily influenced by natural celestial cycles and trends.

As discussed by Lubos, advocates of AGW variously dismiss these facts, offer extended and often convoluted alternative explanations for them and/or even deny that they are relevant observed data. Moreover, many of the more zealous pro-AGW blogs suggest that bringing these facts to your attention is the real act of denial -- somehow AGW has reached a status of axiomatic truth, so inviolate that any questioning has to be an act of scientific treason, denial or worse...the paid opinion of big oil.

It occurs to me that placing these facts before you is neither heresy nor denial, but a simple exposition of observed data with the obvious corollary: how can anyone view these facts and still seek to infer a cause and effect relationship without also positing the possibility that an alternative explanation may be self-evident. At what point do you cease to explain away the data that don't fit your hypothesis and just abandon it in favour of a different, more robust explanation?

As this post illustrates, the point of abandonment may occur when advocacy is over-extended and alienates those objective scientists who seek to support the AGW hypothesis but not at the expense of their intellectual integrity.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Capitalism is not consumerism

Underlying most advocacy of ecomyths is an ideology that is inherently anti-consumption, anti-capitalist and anti-globalization. For many, today's environment is just a backdoor to ideological indoctrination, social engineering and the promotion of stasis. How this permeates into the media and the public mainstream is well illustrated by this pithy comment posted by McQ. It is writing like this that shows the true value of a blog to educate, inform and, thus, empower its readers.

For those who are more visual in their learning, here is an excellent link from the Globalisation Institute to the movie Globalisation is Good.

Churchill famously stated:
  • The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.
  • Some see private enterprise as a predatory target to be shot, others as a cow to be milked, but few are those who see it as a sturdy horse pulling the wagon.

Monday, April 09, 2007

More evidence of environment as religion

The cult of environmental doomsday-ism allows otherwise un-spiritual people to express their otherwise suppressed ascetic desires in a socially acceptable way. For many soft-core green disciples, the fight against environmental catastrophe is more an aspiration than an imperative.

These astute observations come from
this excellent discussion of environmental ideology and the extremes to which its advocacy will extend in self-righteous piety.

In short, the principal argument of any ecomyth appears to be ignore the principle and justify the result. And, in particular, the message has an element of puritanical zeal embedded within it. The planet needs to suffer to cleanse itself of wrong doing. Only those parts that have successfully lifted themselves out of suffering mind you. I'm still not clear how this conceptualization of environmentalism is supposed to alleviate the suffering of those still in poverty -- just exactly does worldwide poverty make anyone's life better? Worse still, ecomyth advocates want to employ anything that is warm and fuzzy to help them promote their ideology: even if the warm and fuzzy animal has to die to make their point. Truly bizarre.

Global warming? Do the math

In the ongoing struggle to capture the public's imagination with an easily comprehended, and thus powerful, metaphor for climate change, the latest contribution is this article by Lorne Gunter. I suspect most people who have been Gored by the AGW hype thus far will be surprised at the relatively small scale of human carbon dioxide illustrated by Gunter's metaphor of water bottles.

As with all ecomyths, numbers have to be viewed in context. When they are, common sense then prevails and people ask the simplest of questions. And when you ask the simple questions of AGW, you come up a few drops shy of disaster, pending doom or any sense of urgency: precisely why AGW advocates tend to portray their scenarios of despair without any normalizing context.

This weekend was Easter weekend. In Southern Ontario we had snow. Tough to sell global warming when it snows (and snows heavily) on the Easter Bunny.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Hero's tale is 'too positive' for the BBC

Myths are popular beliefs or stories that have become associated with a person, institution, or occurrence, especially one considered to illustrate a cultural ideal and they are emblematic of our ideology. The media play a large role in the promotion and awareness of myths within society.

As this story highlights, the propagation of myths also is highly dependent on their conformity with the dominant ideology prevalent within the media. In this case, character traits long associated with Britain -- heroism and bravery -- are now deemed unacceptable within the ideological dogma of the nation's state broadcaster, who's predisposition has less to do with national pride and loyalty and much more to do with moral critique, political correctness and post-modernist intellectualism.

A free society needs a strong, independent media. But it does not follow as a corollary that journalists are the best arbitrators of "correct" morality for society. The media should document facts and offer opinions, even advocacy, but it should not censor and bias information as a state regulator of ideology: government needs no help in this regard.

Samizdata quote of the day

This quote is from the late Ronald Reagan. In his own quite way Reagan cut to the heart of so many contemporary policy issues and the gap between those who have opinions and those who understand. As Kierkegaard said: People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they never use.

The moral here is that because the bandwagon is popular and noisy, it doesn't mean it is headed in the right direction. Truth is not a popularity contest.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Morality and Politics

Its easy being on the left politically because everything you espouse is automatically considered to be the moral policy option, even when it is not. Its easy because either Marx wrote about it, or meant to write about it or at least would have written about it had it been around when he was writing: the ideology is automatically moral because its founding dogma is infallible. And anyways, who is going to read all of Marx to show otherwise?

It is the pervasiveness of this attitude of moral superiority and entitlement that irritates those of us who do not subscribe to its tenets. Dale Franks has recently tried to explain his objections and the interplay he sees between politics and morality. This is his second post. It follows this original post that stirred up a hornet's nest of reaction. It appears the average leftist commentator can dish the criticism but can not take any when it is levelled at them.

Ironic really: those who speak most often about the rights of the ordinary citizen, are in fact those most at work in curtailing individual freedom.

Ponder the maunder

Here is a site that is highly illustrative on many levels. It was prepared as an extra credit assignment by a high school student, Kristen Byrnes, of Portland, Maine. It is her take on the climate change controversy and presents her distillation of the available information.

On one level it is a wonderful example of an individual learning for themselves. It is dynamism in practice. Kristen used the internet to access the information she needed, waded through blog sites and posts, read extensively and synthesized what she found into her own opinion.

What has been fascinating, has been the reaction in the climate blogosphere to this high school student self-educating herself on this topic. Mostly because she has come up with the "wrong" answer for AGW advocates, the reaction on most blog sites has been to query what she has read, to point out where she must not have understood properly and/or to otherwise admonish her for her gall in thinking for herself. Clearly, she must be guilty of one of these errors to have got things so "wrong". (Kind of a junior Lomborg reaction).

The exchanges I have seen where Kristen has responded to comments reveal that she is indeed well in command of the subject matter. Yes she has read whatever paper she was referred to and, no she doesn't agree, or she understands it to being saying something different. All in all, Kristen shows herself to be well-informed, reasonable and comfortable with the opinions she has reached.

Two things baffle her: (1) why the two "sides" in the climate change controversy can not be more civil, balanced and less antagonistic towards each other, and (2) why anyone should be so threatened as to be defensive about a high school project.

In short, why can't the adults be more adult about this whole thing?

The only thing we have to fear is the culture of fear itself

There are only two basic emotions: love and fear. Whenever we face a situation, we can chose to respond or to react: to draw on our emotional reservoir of love or our sense of fear. The result is a myriad of responses and reactive behaviours, but all are foundationed in one or other of our primary emotions: love or fear.

Frank Furedi has written extensively on the contemporary "culture of fear". In this essay, Furedi offers a quick overview of the culture of fear and its principal causes. Paraphrasing, he suggests:
Fear is often said to be the defining cultural mood in contemporary society.Today's free-floating fear is sustained by a culture that is anxious about change and uncertainty, and which continually anticipates the worst possible outcome. This fear does not just happen; it is socially constructed and then manipulated by those who seek to benefit from its widespread acceptance. Moreover, popular culture has been the key element in promoting the discourse of fear, with risk communication, rather than personal experience, generating most fear these days.
These themes were brilliantly explored by Virginia Postrel in her book The Future and its Enemies. The propagation of ecomyths reflects an attempt by those with stasist ideology to co-opt the use of science and to instil in society a condition of fear for the future of the environment with the expectation that any future change is necessarily one to be feared. Their purpose is twofold: (1) to justify increased regulation of individual freedoms, and (2) to promote the imposition of their ideology as the default belief system for society.

In this context, ecomyths are a significant component of a larger ideological narrative. Is ours a culture best characterized by fear? Is a culture exemplified by fear, one that empowers the individual to be the best they can be? Is fear the best image we have of ourselves?

The point of a defining ideology should be that it defines our ideal. And isn't an ideal society one where love and not fear predominates?