Archive for the ‘The Road to Hell’ Category
As it says on my About page, “The driver of an accelerating car about to hit a brick wall might well say ‘so far so good’ – but that does not mean that the wall is not there!” — John Dryzek (2005: 70).
This is the almost-ubiquitous advice of stockbrokers but, sadly, it is almost universally ignored.
I have never died before. Does this mean I can presume upon my immortality?
I would therefore like to take this opportunity to make a few suggestions to all those who think concern for the environment is a false alarm, a new religion, or an excuse to curtail your freedom or tax you more heavily:
1. Grow up.
2. Go back to school.
3. Open your eyes and look out the window.
4. Stop cherry-picking data that reinforces your prejudice.
5. Stop ignoring all the data that contradicts your misperception of reality.
6. Read this Wikipedia article on the New World Order – it might just open up your mind.
7. Read this Skeptical Science article on the History of Climate Science – it might just resolve your confusion.
I am sorry but, being positive is very hard work; especially when you find out that your government is being incredibly hypocritical. This happened to me last week, when I finally caught up with what the UK Coalition government did to our planning policy guidelines six months ago. First, however, here is a quick re-cap of the relevant issues:
With regard to carbon capture and storage (CCS or “clean coal”) and extracting methane from strata that do not release it naturally (by hydraulic fracturing or “fracking”), I have been on a bit of a personal odyssey in the last 6 months. With a background in geology and hydrogeology – and an MA in Environmental Politics – I would like to think I have a better-than-average appreciation of the issues. Therefore, although I think I have reached a destination, I still feel deeply troubled by both CCS and fracking.
I think humanity has proven itself to be so stupid – and so willing to allow worship of the god of economics to subvert sensible acknowledgement of the reality of science – that we will now have to rely upon making CCS work. This is because, if we don’t make it work, modern civilisation is probably history. Fracking on the other hand, remains – as David Roberts called it – an insane piece of collective hypnosis. Fracking is definitely not the answer. Fossil fuels are like heroin; they are a self-destructive habit we need to get off ASAP.
In the UK, we are now being told we are less than 3 years from blackouts (because sensible EU regulations will force the closure of our worst-polluting coal-fired power stations). That being the case, the solution should not be to do more of the same. The answer should be to move away from fossil fuels. The UK government is now preparing to spend billions of pounds supporting a new generation of fossil fuel based power generation infrastructure – power stations and distribution networks. However, the priority of our politicians should not be to preserve the profitability of fossil fuel business set up in the 19th Century; it should be to preserve the habitability of planet Earth into the 21st Century.
OK, so what of planning policy, etc.? Well, on the eve of the Conservative Party conference this week, here is the email I sent my MP last Friday:
Presuming you are attending, I hope you enjoy it. However, I am hoping you will read this brief email before Monday.
In light of the way in which our“greenest government ever” has removed Feed-in Tariff incentives for people to invest in Solar PV; overturned the presumption against opencast coal mining in planning policy; is forcing opencast developments on communities and county councils that had rejected them; and is ignoring its own scientific advisors to pursue decades of unabated gas-fired power generation… I am inclined to feel that my friendship (as opposed to membership) of the Conservative Party may be under threat.
If this is what happens while in a Coalition with the LibDems, goodness knows what will happen if we ever get a Conservative majority! Don’t get me wrong though; I am not about to vote LibDem or Labour. I cannot do so because I am not a Liberal; and Labour is still not living in the real world: Consequently, Ed Milliband’s speech to his own conference was memorable for only one thing – hypocrisy. Neither am I a fan of protest groups such as UKIP (because they are climate change deniers)… So I am basically very tempted to waste my vote on the ultimate protest group – the Green Party – at least I will have a clear conscience if I do that. However, the Conservative Party has 32 months in which it could yet decide to embrace reality and stop pretending that economics can invalidate science: I think economists are very unwise to pick a fight with either history or science. However… I hope you will watch this 1 minute and 47 second video…
With regard to the claims made in this email, the Coalition Government…
– Has failed to level the playing field with regard to early pioneers who decided to invest in domestic solar PV installations and has removed the incentives for large-scale Solar Farms. It has therefore made life very difficult for firms to predict where the market is heading. Wikipedia has a good summary here.
– Has removed the presumption against opencast coal mining in the National Planning Policy Framework, which now allows economic need to trump any concern over the environmental sustainability of burning coal.
– Is overturning decisions made my County Councils like Northumberland (Halton Lea Gate site) and is forcing opencast coal mining on communities that don’t want them.
– Has ignored the views of its own scientific advisors and is about to commit the UK to at least another 20 years of burning natural gas, which will be obtained predominantly from fracking (in order to limit our dependence on imported gas) using new power stations with no CCS technology (even if and when it becomes available).
Although I have some sympathy with local residents who don’t want opencast coal mining in their neighbourhood, restoration techniques are now much better than they used to be. Therefore, the reason these developments should be opposed is not because of their temporary effects on local communities (as unpleasant as they may be). These developments should be opposed because they are perpetuating the environmentally unsustainable use of the Earth’s resources; and increasing the financial burden that will fall on future generations trying to preserve a reasonably-hospitable environment here on planet Earth.
Therefore, although I am (or have been) a Conservative voter, I find this position hard to justify because David Cameron and George Osborne have proven themselves to be entirely in the pocket of big business and – even when confronted with the folly and/or illegality of what they are doing – they refuse to change course.
In short, I think they are in denial about the nature, scale and urgency of the need for us to decarbonise our energy generation systems as fast as possible and, as a consequence, I think power cuts will be only the beginning…
…is for good men to do nothing
(Pretty much the same thing happens when bad men do nothing as well)
Here’s a couple of tunes from great Antipodean bands of the 1980s for the senior management of Barclays to enjoy in their early retirement…
Dragon – Speak no Evil
Crowded House – Mansion in the Slums
So then, our politicians must now try and sort out this mess… Oh dear, why do I have this sickening feeling nothing is about to change…
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?
“There is none so blind as those who will not see” (Jeremiah 5:21)
People of the world, for God’s sake, please open your eyes!
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 telling for over 150 years.
Please Connect the Dots!
It’s the weekend so, to celebrate, here is a special offer: Two posts for the price of one (i.e. nothing).
A Shakespearean Tragedy in the making
Last night I stumbled upon the second and final part of the BBC’s Simon Schama’s Shakespeare. Here is the trailer for it:
I think very highly of Schama; and this programme did not disappoint. This second episode (I will have to get the DVD) covered the latter years of Elizabeth the First and the early years of James the First – a time during which Shakespeare was extremely daring in the plays he presented (in many cases premiered) to the Monarch – such as Henry V and Richard II (to Elizabeth) and Hamlet, Macbeth and King Lear (to James). Of all of these, Hamlet was the most astonishing because the only difference between James the First and the fictional Hamlet is that James did not exact revenge upon his uncle for killing his father.
However, the reason I mention all this is that, towards the end of the programme, Schama, with the help of an array of fine actors delivering Shakespearean monologues to camera, comes to Macbeth. To my shame, Macbeth is the only Shakespearean play I know well (having studied it for O Level when I was 16). However, although it was fascinating to see how Macbeth was a product of its time (as were all the other plays); the viewer was also invited to re-interpret the plays in a modern context. It is therefore very tempting, for me at least, to identify with the plight of Macbeth; who seems to be stuck on the set of the movie Groundhog Day. To me this is where humanity has got stuck. We (or at least a sizeable proportion of us) know that what we are doing is wrong, but we seem powerless to change the course of history; and must watch the tragedy unfold…
…Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
(Macbeth – Act 5, Scene 5, lines 19-28)
A Greek Tragedy we made earlier
Last Monday, I missed but, thanks to Paul Handover, have now watched the BBC Panorama programme about Greece, entitled Life and Debt: A Greek Tragedy. This is essential viewing for all those (like me) inclined to blame the Greeks for the mess they are in. Someone has posted the 30-minute programme on You tube (embeddd here) but, if pushed for time, a synopsis is appended below…
The programme is presented by veteran BBC News anchor, John Humphrys, whose Son has lived in Greece for 20 years and who has himself now got a house in the Peloponnese. In the course of the programme, Humphrys tours Greece interviewing people about how the crisis is affecting them; and how they feel it should be solved. However, before all of that, Humphrys explains the recent history: Nazi occupation, monarchy, civil war, military rule and democracy… It is easy to forget but, by its own standards at least, Greece was quite prosperous before it joined the Euro Zone in 2000. As Humphrys puts it, “Greece cooked the books in order to get in and the EU turned a blind eye… and lent them the money anyway” (paraphrased). Since then, exports have gone down and imports have gone up; the proportion of Greeks involved in fishing or farming has gone from 17% to just 3%; unemployment has risen to 20%; and the proportion of people living in relative poverty is heading towards 40%. In short, the EU has done to Greece what the Common Agricultural Policy has done to Africa – it has made it dependent upon the EU rather than helped it to become self-sustaining.
See my If the CAP does not fit we should not wear it (27 January 2012).
However, possibly the most revealing interview Humphrys conducts is that with a Greek hero of WW2 (who risked his life in an act of defiance to pull down the swastika on the Acropolis). To many in Greece, like this cultural icon, it seems the EU is nothing more than a cover-story for German Imperialism. Having failed to dominate Europe by military force, Germany is seeking to dominate it by stealth. Does this indeed explain why Germany seems remarkably content to bail-out so many European countries (on its own terms of course)? As the economy of every other nation fails one-by-one, will Germany end up ruling over a United States of Europe? If so, although plenty of shots will have been fired (plastic bullets and tear gas only of course), Germany will achieve what Hitler could not; and will do so without declaring war on anyone or anything. The only casualty will be effective and efficient government; and any illusion of representative democracy.
The Heartland Institute recently ran an insane and short-lived advertising campaign. This is my tribute:
For more background please see:
In The Road to Hell (1989), Chris Rea questioned where our growth-obsessed country – with its often over-congested and gridlocked road network was headed. If he were writing this song today, I feel confident he would incorporate into it questions regarding the unsustainable way in which humanity is currently using the Earth’s non-renewable resources – including minerals and energy – and the inequitous distribution of access to all resources (renewable and non-renewable alike); particularly clean fresh water (undervalued and wasted in developed countries – and highly-prized if not yet fought over in the rest of the World).
We have had globalised Capitalism for a few decades now and, one thing seems certain, the “trickle down effect” so beloved of messrs Reagan and Thatcher was a cruel myth; just as was the “arbeit macht frei”-style Utopia espoused by Marx, Lenin and Stalin and Co.. Furthermore, while engaging in a bit of anti-Marxist rhetoric, let’s clear up one thing: Karl Marx may have denounced Capitalism for being money fetishism but:
Marxism = Growthmania minus Capitalism. End of story.
I will leave the rest to Chris. Enjoy.