Welcome to Lack of Environment (established 10 August 2011).
Although scientifically trained (with degrees in Geology and Hydrogeology – see my About page), this blog arises from my having also got an MA in Environmental Politics and, as such, as the tagline indicates, is a blog on “the politics and psychology underlying the denial of all our environmental problems”… I hope you will take this on board; and enjoy the discussion.
“There is something fundamentally wrong in treating the Earth as if it were a business in liquidation” – Herman E. Daly (former World Bank economist). For more information on this quote, please see my It doesn’t have to be like this (21 May 2012).
The BBC have very helpfully posted the recent Panorama programme ‘Energy Bills: Power Failure’ on YouTube (as embedded below). Presented by Tom Heap (who regularly does spots on CountryFile), it is very fair-minded and includes contributions from a wide range of people. Therefore, even if you do not live in the UK, I would recommend watching the programme because: it is very good at describing the problems that we all face; and makes it crystal clear that we must find a solution (but does so in a way that somehow avoids being dogmatic).
Some questions I would like help in answering are as follows:
1. What is the instrumental music used in the opening night-time sequence in Blackpool?
2. Why do so many poor people use the most expensive (pay-as-you-go) way to heat their homes?
3. Can we give Angel Gurria (Secretary-General of OECD) a Nobel Prize for plain-speaking?
4. How can anyone avoid concluding that Ed Milliband is an opportunist and a con-man?
5. Why did the CEO of RWE nPower not admit profit margin on generation (as opposed to sales)?
6. Is the need for decarbonisation actually incompatible with power generation being privatised?
7. Why has carbon capture and storage not been made a priority in order to continue burning coal?
8. Is it realistic to think that (in a post-carbon era) energy will ever be cheaper than it is now?
9. When will the UK government admit that fracking is not actually low-carbon and (thus) not the answer?
10. Has Michael Fallon not read the BGS report that says only 10% of shale gas is probably recoverable?
I started the year with The Sceptics’ Creed – based on the statement of faith recited every week in many churches. In a similar vein, then, here is the birth of Climate Change Scepticism as (not) foretold in the Bible by the prophet Isaiah:
For to us a chill is born,
to us the Sun is dimming,
and climate disruption be on our shoulders.
And it will be called
Woefully counterfeit, a mighty hoax,
Everlasting garbage, the price of progress.
Of the greatness of scepticism and denial
there will be no end.
(Definitely not Isaiah 9:6)
On the TV news today, there was video footage of some 10 year olds in a British primary school being told by their headteacher that Mandela was probably “the greatest human being to have lived in your lifetime”. I think such a statement is something of ‘a hostage to fortune’ (especially when said to such young children).
I was not even born when Nelson Mandela was sent to jail, and was still a teenager when his imprisonment became one of the most contentious issues on the planet. However, as if it was not already so, what Mandela achieved after his release from prison was extraordinary.
One of my heroes of the time was (is) Desmond Tutu (then Archbishop of Capetown). His prayer today was profound – and very moving. Tutu was always inclined to close his eyes tightly while praying so, don’t allow that to detract from the beauty of his inspired words in this video: “thank you for what he [Mandela] has enabled us to know we can become…”
There will, without question, be an awful lot of poorly-chosen words and/or selective memory on display in coming days… For example: one BBC journalist has just described Mandela (on the TV news) as having been “an angry young man” when he was sent to jail (for what turned out to be 27 years). However, in point of fact, Mandela was then 45 years old. Therefore, as an antidote to all such stuff, I would recommend you read (what many politicians singing his praises today will not mention)…
Six Things Nelson Mandela Believed That Most People Won’t Talk About
P.S. Mandela probably is the greatest man to have lived in my lifetime!
‘The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches From The Front Line’ by Dr Michael Mann, Professor of Meteorology at Pennsylvania State University, was recently published in paperback. I decided to purchase a copy. Here is my review of the book, as published on amazon.com.
In the opening chapters of this book, Michael Mann repeatedly makes it clear that, as a physicist, his interest in palaeoclimatology was entirely natural. That is to say, he did not approach the evidence for climate change with any prejudicial notion of what he wanted to find, least of all to prove that ongoing climate change is predominantly human-caused.
Those who are suspicious of Michael Mann’s motives will no doubt respond:
“Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he!
However, all readers of this book will, sooner or later, have to decide where they stand on the question of the validity of ‘Occam’s Razor’. This is the logical supposition that, among competing hypotheses, the hypothesis with the fewest assumptions should be selected. With regard to climate science, I have to say, it works for me: Either this book is an unashamed piece of propaganda and, from the very start, is deeply disingenuous; or it is the honest account of a very humble physicist who, completely unwittingly, became the focus of the biggest industry-funded misinformation campaign of modern times.
Having read both this book and Andrew Montford’s ‘Hockey Stick Illusion’, I should like to propose that, even if you have not done so, you have the following choice: Do you put your trust in an authoritative argument from a genuine expert (Mann) or do you want to believe the conspiracy theory put forward by a non-expert (Montford)?
Put it another way, are you going to believe that climate scientists are over-stating a problem in order to perpetuate the funding of their research; or are you willing to accept that business leaders are down-playing a problem in order to perpetuate the viability of their business?
If you are undecided, the following facts may help you:
(1) There is no significant precedent for research scientists over-stating environmental problems – nor any evidence (that has not been examined and found to be groundless) that climate scientists are doing this or have done this at any time in the last twenty years.
(2) There is a very significant precedent for business leaders (in the tobacco industry) down-playing environmental problems – and a great deal of evidence that this is exactly what fossil fuel executives have been doing for at least the last 20 to 50 years.
In the opening chapters of this book I was particularly impressed by the following argument (attributed to Stephen Schneider): We do not buy home insurance because we think our house may burn down. We buy it because that very unlikely event will be catastrophic… Applied to the issue of anthropogenic climate disruption, humanity’s continuing failure to take out insurance against an increasing probable catastrophic outcome does indeed seem “crazy”… Unless of course, you prefer to believe the ideologically prejudiced opinions of other genuine non-experts like Senator James Inhoffe, who would have us all believe that anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) is a false alarm.
If, after reading this book, you still think ACD is a false alarm, I suggest you cancel your fire insurance – you’re wasting your money – it’s never going to happen.
Latest email from Greenpeace
Amazing news! Four minutes after I heard Colin’s appeal hearing had started, news came that he had been granted bail. I didn’t even have time to make myself a cup of tea.
The support team in St Petersburg are paying the bail money as soon as possible. Hopefully he’ll be out before the weekend.
Thanks to the 100,000-plus people who petitioned for Colin’s release, and sent messages of support to him and his wife Christine. She wanted to send this message in reply to you all:
“Thank you thank you thank you. As I am reading your beautiful words of love and support for Colin, [our daughter] Madeleine and myself I have tears running profusely. My heart is filled with your love. Colin will be so humbled by your messages of support when I see him and hug him he will feel and know your love and support. Love to you all and thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
If you would like to leave a message for Colin, or any of the Arctic 30, you can do so via this website.
Despite today’s good news, this is not over yet. The Arctic 30 still stand accused of a crime they did not commit.
Twenty-eight activists took peaceful action on behalf of us all, and two journalists shone a spotlight on destructive Arctic oil drilling. The charge of hooliganism is both an insult and an outrage. Nobody will truly be celebrating until they’re home and the charges have been dropped.
I am a big fan of the ‘Great Continental Railway Journeys’ TV series presented by former Conservative MP, Michael Portillo. Therefore, having missed a couple of programmes, I have been catching-up on BBC iPlayer. Apart from 20th Century history, a common thread runing through all the programmes is art. In the most recent programme (Prague to Munich) Portillo explains how Expressionism was invented by the so-called Der Blaue Reiter group in Munich. However, it was via the previous programme (i.e. where Portillo travelled from Copenhagen to Oslo) that I learned that the full title of the Edvard Munch’s most famous painting is: The Scream of Nature.
As Wikipedia helpfully informs readers, Munch recorded the inspiration for the painting in his diary entry for 22 January 1892:
One evening I was walking along a path, the city was on one side and the fjord below. I felt tired and ill. I stopped and looked out over the fjord—the sun was setting, and the clouds turning blood red. I sensed a scream passing through nature; it seemed to me that I heard the scream. I painted this picture, painted the clouds as actual blood. The color shrieked. This became The Scream.
Dear Greenpeace member,
I’ve never written to you before, but I really hope you can help me today.
My dear husband Colin Russell is one of the Arctic Sunrise crew members arrested at gunpoint for protesting Arctic oil drilling. Just this week his bail application was denied in a Russian court – even though every other crew member had their bail applications approved and all but one other have been released.
This could mean at least three more months alone in a prison cell during the icy winter in St Petersburg. This is difficult for me to take in. Col stays positive and strong in difficult circumstances. But with this latest news, I just know he’s being tested beyond his limits.
Col was so happy when we spoke on the phone over two months ago. I remember how upbeat he was, just so happy to be back on a ship he’s grown to love during 14 years of working as a radio operator for Greenpeace. We made plans to visit friends and family in Melbourne, maybe spend a week together on the coast over Christmas. But now, who knows when I’ll see him next?
I’ve hardly been able to speak to Col much since he went to prison. We had a short phone call, but that was over a month ago. Now it’s been 67 days of worry and anxiety for me and our 24-year-old daughter Maddie. All of this because Colin and 29 others were brave enough to tell oil companies like Shell and Gazprom to stop drilling in the Arctic.
The Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop spoke to Russian authorities about Col several weeks ago. But there’s more that she and our government can do to rescue these heroes and bring them home. Tony Abbott, Australia’s prime minister, must call President Putin to ensure Colin is also granted bail.
It would really mean the world to Maddie and I to have your name on this petition. Please click here to join us.
I can’t write down in words how frustrating it is not being able to speak to him right now. I just want to tell him that Maddie and I – together with millions of Greenpeace supporters in every corner of the world – are thinking of him today.
That old saying, that alone we are only one voice and together we are powerful, has a whole new meaning for me now.
Thank you for helping us out. It means so much to us having you on our side.
Chrissie Russell, on behalf of Greenpeace.
P.S. It’s been over two months since the Russian coast guard illegally boarded the Arctic Sunrise ship and arrested my husband and 29 others at gunpoint — all for peacefully protesting against the terrible threat of an Arctic oil spill. Please make sure your name is on this petition today. Thank you.