Lack of Environment

A blog on the politics and psychology underlying the denial of all our environmental problems

Archive for the ‘Go Beyond Oil’ Category

Greenpeace petition to help get Colin Russell out of jail

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Dear Greenpeace member,

Collin Russell (Photo via Greenpeace)

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.

Greenpeace has launched a global petition demanding freedom for Col and all his Arctic Sunrise crewmates. Can you please help by adding your name today?

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.

Written by Martin Lack

25 November 2013 at 12:40

Why we will probably fail to prevent catastrophe

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Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland, was interviewed by offbeat TV presenter Eddie Mair on The Andrew Marr Show yesterday on BBC1.

Salmond’s comments about energy policy highlight the intellectual incoherence and dishonesty to which our politicians are driven by growthmania.

Although Salmond should be commended for standing up to Donald Trump’s opposition to offshore wind farms, he still appears to be basing his aspiration for a future independent Scotland on future revenue from extracting crude oil and gas from beneath what would be its territorial waters.

Scotland may well already be near the top of the international list of countries with the greatest percentages of installed renewable energy generation, it may well be the home of European research and development into Tidal power, but, its would-be independent government still appears to be assuming it will be OK to generate revenue from oil production over the next 50 years equivalent to those of the last 50 years.

This does not sound like a good idea to me.  It is one very good reason not to vote for Scottish independence.

Scottish independence does not look like it will be compatible with preventing anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD).  Furthermore,  ACD is probably making its presence felt right now across the UK in the form of unusually cold weather.  Sure, it is not possible to attribute any single event to ACD but, all the same, ACD was predicted (from a basic understanding of atmospheric physics) to give rise to wider range of more extreme weather events of increased frequency and intensity.  This is exactly what we are now observing.  In fact, we have been observing it for about 50 years but, until quite recently, it had not been that obvious.  This is what James Hansen and his colleagues showed us last August:  The climate dice are now loaded – which means we get double-six a lot more often (and a few more double ones than we used to as well).

http://lackofenvironment.wordpress.com/2012/08/07/the-reason-we-keep-getting-double-six/

Shell abandons Arctic drilling this year – Greenpeace

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A view of the Kulluk aground southeast of Sitkalidak Island. The grounding was only the latest of the problems Shell has run into in seeking to drill north of Alaska. (NYT [Jan 1, 2013])
(Photo: Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg/U.S. Coast Guard).

This is great news but, what we really need is an International agreement (like that which protects the Antarctic from resource exploitation). If we need to despoil the Arctic to get fossil fuels, then we are very clearly far too dependent on them: The time has come to invest in and/or subsidise the pursuit of renewable (i.e. infinite) alternatives. Here is the appeal for help from Greenpeace.

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Hi Martin,

Last night, Shell announced it’s giving up on plans to drill for oil in the Arctic in this year.

It’s amazing news, because it means no drilling in the pristine waters of Alaska this year. And the pressure you put on Shell helped make this possible.

Right now I’m thrilled, this is a huge success for the Arctic.  But the fight isn’t over. We’ve got a real opportunity to stop industrial exploitation in the Arctic, forever.

Let’s urge President Obama to make the Arctic off limits to industrial exploitation, forever.

Last month, President Obama ordered a sweeping review of Shell’s plans to drill in the Arctic. Meanwhile, Shell was found to have 16 safety and environmental violations on their rig that ran aground in Alaska. Now it’s time for Obama to abandon the idea of Arctic drilling completely.

I’m sure you won’t want the good news to stop here, and that in the days ahead you’ll still be part of the movement to keep Shell out of the Arctic forever.

But for the moment it’s all about enjoying what we’ve accomplished together. Thank you so much for all the work you have done to protect the Arctic.

Sincerely,

John Sauven
Greenpeace Executive Director

P.S. This is great news, but there is much more to do. Our Arctic campaign and all the work we do to protect the environment depends entirely on your support. Can you make a donation now to help make a protected Arctic a reality? (Link to Greenpeace UK website here.)

Greenpeace big splash in the Daily Telegraph

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Latest email from Greenpeace:

We’re making headlines. Our ad – which 1,269 amazing Greenpeace supporters helped pay for – has made a splash in the Telegraph, Britain’s most widely-read broadsheet. We’re also hoping to get the ad printed in the Times tomorrow.

Thank you to everyone who has taken part in this campaign. Together, we’ve exposed Shell’s long list of costly Arctic blunders to investors, politicians and the public at large – and we’re not done yet.

Want to keep the pressure up until we’ve won this thing for good?

Right now, Greenpeace is looking for a few creative, eco-conscious youngsters to design a flag for all the world to see. The winning design will be taken to the North Pole, where it will join a scroll featuring millions of names demanding the Arctic be protected forever. We will plant it at the bottom of the ocean at the top of the world, where it will remain: a statement from people who care about the health of our planet and a symbol of the conscience of humanity.

Why? Because the Arctic belongs to everyone, yet young people today will most likely live to see a time when there is no more Arctic sea ice in the summer – a fate unthinkable just a few decades ago. We know that Arctic drilling to burn more oil will accelerate climate change and is a folly driven by greed, and as a movement we’re doing everything we can to stop it. Today that means inviting the youth of the world to be heard. Click here to find out more information, then get a young person involved – or send this email on to someone you know.

Thanks for being part of this,

Ian and the Arctic team

Written by Martin Lack

24 January 2013 at 00:02

Please tell Obama to stop Shell drilling in the Arctic

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The latest email from Greenpeace/savethearctic.org,

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Dear  Martin,

Right now, one of Shell’s Arctic oil rigs with 139,000 gallons of diesel and 12,000 gallons of hydraulic oil on board, is being retrieved and assessed for damage after it ran aground within sight of Alaska’s fragile coastline.  The Kulluk got into serious trouble after hitting a typical winter storm off the island of Sitkalidak, near Kodiak.  The old rig was stranded just miles from an endangered sea otter and sea lions habitat, threatening the area with a potential oil spill.  After this latest fiasco Shell’s reputation is now in tatters.

This isn’t the first time Shell has put their crew and the Arctic at risk this year.  The grounding of the Kulluk is the latest in a series of embarrassing accidents that have plagued Shell’s attempts to find oil in the extreme Arctic.  The company intends to try again next year and the decision about whether or not it gets that opportunity will be made soon.  This is our chance to stop Shell from drilling in the Arctic next year and beyond.  Tell United States President Barack Obama to call ‘timeout’ on Arctic drilling and suspend Shell’s permits.

A Greenpeace team is in the area monitoring the situation.  The 30-year-old Kulluk was being towed back from the Arctic when it hit heavy weather that caused the towing line to break.  After a 48 hour rescue attempt the situation became too dangerous and the team was forced to let the rig drift free.  The US Coast Guard evacuated crew members by helicopter, and the rig ran aground just miles from the Kodiak Island National Wildlife Refuge.  After six days of struggling harsh weather conditions, the rig is now being finally towed away.

This is more proof of the recklessness and unchecked greed of corporations like Shell. We cannot let them put the most precious areas of our planet at risk in search of oil and profits.  Tell President Obama that we cannot trust Shell’s assurances on safety. He must protect the Arctic and its wildlife and suspend Arctic drilling permits immediately.

This is the latest mishap Shell has suffered after an extremely rocky drilling season. Their woes included another grounding – this time of their drillship the Noble Discoverer – a flash fire on board this ship, an oil spill containment dome that failed spectacularly and “was crushed like a beer can” during testing, and warnings from the US Coast Guard for inadequate pollution prevention and safety equipment.

With Big Oil in the Arctic, disaster is not a question of if, but when. Shell’s top officials have admitted that “there will be spills”.  It’s time for us to put a stop to this insanity before it’s too late, and right now with the media coverage of this accident we have a good chance of making our voices heard.  Ask President Obama to suspend Shell’s permits and protect the Arctic for all of us, and please forward this email to friends and family.

Thank you,

Written by Martin Lack

8 January 2013 at 09:48

Greenpeace – we told you this would happen

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Latest email from Greenpeace:

Our greatest fears about Shell’s incompetence in the Arctic are starting to be realised.

The Kulluk – Shell’s creaking Arctic oil rig – was being towed back to harbour for maintenance when it was hit by a storm. The tow line broke and despite several attempts to reattach it the onboard crews failed and it eventually ran aground. Shell’s crew was rescued by the US Coast Guard.

The rig now sits abandoned perilously close to the rocky shoreline of Sitkalidak Island in Southern Alaska. This part of the coast is home to endangered species of sea lions, otters and over 250 bird species.

This proves – yet again – that the company is simply not prepared for the hazardous Arctic conditions where any spill could take years to clean up.

So far the more than 139,000 gallons of diesel fuel on board the Kulluk have not leaked into the fragile marine environment. The longer it remains near the cliffs the likelihood of a spill will increase.

But this is only the latest in Shell’s long list of Arctic failures. In the past year, it lost control of another one of its drill ships in a ‘stiff breeze’, crushed its safety equipment and had an on-board fire. The list goes on.

Shell cannot be trusted with the Arctic.

It’s essential that we get this news out to as many people as possible. Please forward this email to a friend who will join us in our bid to protect the Arctic.

Invite them to join us by signing here: http://www.savethearctic.org

We have a Greenpeace team on the way to Sitkalidak right now to monitor the situation closely and we’ll update you very soon.

Homeless Polar Bear in London

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This shocking news just in from Greenpeace International and http://www.savethearctic.org/

“This film is a powerful expression of how our fates are intertwined, because climate change is affecting all of us no matter where we live.” – Jude Law

Please support the campaign to save the Arctic by sharing this video with your friends and family via email, Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In or any other platform.

As an Arctic Defender, your name will join supporters like Jude Law and Radiohead lead singer Thom Yorke on the Arctic Scroll. Other supporters include Sir Paul McCartney, Penelope Cruz, Robert Redford, One Direction, Alexandra Burke, Jarvis Cocker and Sir Richard Branson and over 500,000 more.

Greenpeace is already over half way to its target of 1 million supporters at http://www.savethearctic.org/. Once they reach 1 million names, they will be off to the Arctic to plant a scroll with 1 million names on the bottom of the ocean, at the top of the world. Please help them get it there.

Many thanks,

Paula Bayer

Written by Martin Lack

9 July 2012 at 00:02

The psychological causes of denial

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Connecting the dots – the story concludes…
This is the third and final post re-visiting points made in the introduction to my MA dissertation on climate change scepticism in the UK (as summarised on my About page), which are (1) the philosophical roots of scepticism (monday); (2) the political misuse of scepticism (yesterday); and (3) the psychological causes of denial (below).

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The psychological causes of denial

When Leon Festinger published A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance in 1957, he introduced it by citing the illogicality of someone continuing to smoke cigarettes even though they know it is bad for them (i.e. something it took over 50 years to get tobacco company executives to publicly admit). He suggested that the discomfort this knowledge causes makes people try to rationalise or justify their behaviour. Furthermore, when faced with such discomfort (i.e. dissonance), he concluded that people will also actively avoid exposure to information likely to increase their discomfort; and seek solace in the company of those that reinforce their prejudice.

Today, the modern equivalent is continuing to burn fossil fuels even though we know that doing so is damaging the Earth’s climate. In particular, it is insane to take advantage of melting Arctic sea ice to extract previously-inaccessible crude oil, when we know that burning this additional fossil fuel (rather than finding an alternative source of energy) is going to aggravate an already growing problem. Listen to the arguments of Greenpeace International Director Kumi Nadoo (from 0:50) in this brief video:

Does this not make you feel uncomfortable?

David Aaronovitch defines a conspiracy theory as “the unnecessary assumption of conspiracy when other explanations are more probable“; (a.k.a. ‘Occam’s razor’ or ‘the simplest explanation is most likely to be true’). He reviews a large number of modern conspiracy theories (such as those surrounding the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, the assassination of President Kennedy, the accidental death of Princess Diana, and the terrorist attack of 9/11) and draws a number of conclusions together under the title ‘Bedtime Story’ (which hints at the nature of his overall thesis); namely that we invent conspiracy theories to make ourselves feel better and/or to absolve ourselves of responsibility for things that did not go the way we would have wanted.

Therefore, if cognitive dissonance is the cause, confirmation bias is the resultant effect: By being selective in what you read or who you listen to, you will receive only messages that you want to; ones that enable you to remain “comfortable“. You see only what you want to see; and believe only what you want to believe.

Unfortunately, in any large-scale disagreement, people on both sides of an argument will often accuse the other party of confirmation bias. However, if you continue to reject the vast majority of empirical (i.e. observational) data; in favour of an extreme minority of data capable of supporting an alternative hypothesis, I am afraid the most likely explanation is that you are suffering from cognitive dissonance. Insisting that you are right and everybody else is wrong; or that everybody else is deluded, incompetent or mendacious just is not credible (especially if you are unqualified to comment and/or being paid by an oil company to spread misinformation). See Denial… is not a river in Egypt! (20 June 2012).

Ben Goldacre has pointed out that “only 49% of the population can be better-than-average at driving a car…” Dr Tari Sharot has recently provided an interesting further twist on this statistical certainty by describing what she has called Optimism Bias. Here is Dr Sharot explaining her research at TED…

Sharot has uncovered evidence that humans tend to be unduly optimistic. She suggests that optimism is an evolutionary survival mechanism (because giving up on escaping a predator would be likely to result in being caught and eaten): Using an MRI scanner to monitor brain activity, Dr Sharot has accumulated a large body of evidence that indicates that:
We assimilate new information that proves we are being unduly pessimistic; but
We ignore any new information that proves we are being unduly optimistic.

If so, which one are you doing?

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Polite Reminder (to those still in denial about being in denial)
Record-breaking rainfall in the UK, unprecedented storms and temperatures in Washington DC, record-breaking droughts, floods, landslides, and bush-fires all around the world… Will the fake sceptics admit they are wrong when we see 1-in-100 year floods every 5 years? Or must we wait until they are an annual feature? Just how much longer must we wait for people to admit they are wrong; and that this is not normal? The world may not be about to end but, are the signs that it is past its best not clear enough to see? This is not random weather; this is what happens when we ignore what scientists have been saying for over 150 years.
Please Connect the Dots!

This is insane – but can we stop it?

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Just because we can do something does not always mean we should. Climate change is making it possible to extract hydrocarbons from previously impossible places. However, knowing that something will have long-term adverse consequences but choosing to do it anyway – Isn’t that a working definition of insanity…?

If it is, shouldn’t we invoke the “when you realise you’re in a hole you should always stop digging” principle?

This is a the text of an email I received from Greenpeace yesterday:

You can save the Arctic - write to Shell

You can save the Arctic - write to Shell


Today, a Finnish icebreaker is heading to Alaska to help Shell drill for oil. Everyone has a limit – for me it’s the Arctic. That’s why I’m here in Helsinki to stop it before it gets there. And that’s why I need your help. Take action now and stop Shell with me. [N.B. This is a time-sensitive campaign response - please visit Greenpeace website and enter your name and email address and they will email Shell on your behalf.]

The Arctic is one of the last untouched natural areas on the planet, home of polar bears, narwhals, and other unique wildlife.

Due to climate change, the Arctic sea ice is melting at an accelerating rate, opening up the Arctic to companies in search of more oil.

It is wrong in so many ways. What would happen when an oil spill happens, I’m afraid to even think of it.

And I’m not alone. In the last three months, nearly 400,000 people from all over the world have taken action against one of the most powerful and dangeous companies that has ever existed. But we need you too. By the end of this week we want 500,000 people shouting at Shell that it must end its campaign of Arctic destruction. Click here now. [N.B. This is a time-sensitive campaign response - please visit Greenpeace website and enter your name and email address and they will email Shell on your behalf.]

We can change things! Together we can stop Shell and other oil companies from destroying the Arctic. Not everyone can board a ship to demand that change. But today, you can email Shell and ask them to stop drilling for oil and ask 10 of your friends to do the same. Together, we can save the Arctic!

Rosa Gierens
Greenpeace Nordic activist from Finland.

Written by Martin Lack

2 May 2012 at 00:02

I’m nothing if not controversial

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This week saw the first anniversary of the Earthquake and Tsunami that devastated the east coast of Japan, which I still vividly remember watching – in total disbelief on live TV – as black water filled with burning debris inundated huge swathes of farmland: It was simultaneously mesmerising and sickening in equal measure.

Greenpeace and many other environmental groups made a bug fuss about the ensuing breakdown of the Fukushima nuclear power plant but, as with many other things in life, things are never as simple as we would like them to be. Therefore, despite the fact that I am a Greenpeace supporter (e.g. with regard to their ‘Go Beyond Oil’ campaign), I do not agree with their facile opposition to nuclear power. For the time being at least, I wish to remain ambivalent – and here is why:

Fukushima was actually incredibly well designed (to cope with reasonably foreseeable events); and the only reason its defences failed is that the coastline subsided in the 20 minutes between the quake and tsunami hitting it. After that, the failure of the back-up generators became inevitable if fuel supplies were not replenished.

Seismologists reckon that Tokyo will be the next place to be hit by a similarly massive Earthquake so, I agree that the Japanese should close down the nuclear power stations there immediately. However, there is only one problem remaining – Japan does not have many other options; but I am sure it could now invest heavily (global debt crisis permitting) in tidal and wind power…

However, adopting a global perspective, more people die each year putting on their underwear than die from nuclear accidents. Nuclear waste and proliferation risks are problems we cannot magic out of existence and, if we had not given up on Fast Breeder Reactors (FBR) 25 years ago, we would probably have them working by now. If this were the case then, we would now be able to re-process all the long-lived, highly-radioactive waste into a much smaller volume of less radioactive waste that will not remain dangerous for anything like as long. Furthermore, FBR could have solved all our nuclear waste and energy supply problems because conventional thermal nuclear reactors can only use less than 1% of all the Earth’s uranium (i.e. the other 99% can only be used as fuel in FBRs).

Despite all of the above, however, I think the best argument for NOT pursuing nuclear energy is in fact that it is high-tech; and is just another way of perpetuating the dependency of poor countries on Western technology. Therefore, as much as I hope that the use of renewables can be scaled-up to provide for all our future energy needs, in the long run, I think FBR will prove unavoidable. This is because, notwithstanding the decimation of the human population of the planet that may yet be caused by climate change, it seems likely that the global population could be 50% greater than it is today by the end of the century.

If this is indeed what is going to happen then, climate change will continue to erode our ability to grow sufficient food at the same time as we will have to try and feed ever greater numbers of people. This means that we will have to find ways of growing food on land not currently suited to agriculture (e.g. hydroponics), which will lead to the industrialisation of the countryside. In turn, this will mean that food production will have to compete for space with novel means of renewable energy generation that take up a lot of space (e.g. farming algae for biofuel, or solar power stations).

Countries like the UK are extremely lucky to have a very high ratio of coastline per unit land area; so it must be hoped we will make best use of it for tidal power generation schemes. However, many countries will not have the luxury of a choice. Many, therefore, may be forced to buy-in solar power generated on land that is genuinely unusable for anything else (such as the Sahara desert).

For all of these reasons, I agree with those who say that within a 50 to 100 year time horizon, the necessity for widespread deployment of FBR is almost a dead certainty.

So, I’m sorry to all who are anti-Nukes but, this is not an ideal world!

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Recommended reading: Blees, T (2008), Prescription for the Planet: The Painless Remedy for Our Energy & Environmental Crises.

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