Monday, November 23, 2009

Ruler's Law

So I started reading the book "The 5000 Year Leap", by W. Cleon Skousen, which is a review of the history of the making of America, and of the brilliant precepts discussed and set down by the Founders in order to facilitate and guarantee that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were the birthright of every American.

I am early in the book, so have not much to say about its overall impact on me. But I would like to share some interesting things from the first 20 or 30 pages. For instance, the Founders characterized governments on a spectrum that ranged from anarchy at one extreme, to tyranny at the other. Anarchy might be briefly described as "no law." Tyranny might be described as "ruler's law." Mr. Skousen then outlines about ten characteristics of "ruler's law." Two of them are:

1. Problems are always solved by issuing more edicts or laws, setting up more bureaus, harassing the people with more regulators, and charging the people for these "services" by continually adding to their burden of taxes.

2. Freedom is never looked upon as a viable solution to anything.

Does that bring to mind any of the recent activity in Washington?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Dogs and cats, living together!

I wrote these two paragraphs about six months ago when I was feeling exasperated.

I'm confused. Lots of radical environmentalists harbor a dark vision of Earth with six billion fewer people that it currently contains. Why so many fewer people? So that the enlightened humanity of the future can live "sustainably", and so that Nature/Mother Earth/Gaia can be rid of the evil virus that is humanity today. Here's where things get confusing. These same radical environmentalists preach endlessly about the danger that "global warming" or "climate change" presents to humanity. Unless we quit burning coal, and quit driving cars, and quit flying on airplanes, and quit cooling our homes in the summertime, and quit buying large screen televisions, the inevitable result will be disaster!, disease!, floods!, wars!, drought!, killer storms!, famine! People will die by the millions, perhaps billions. ISN'T THAT WHAT THEY WANT?

If I was a radical environmentalist with an apocalyptic vision, I'd be doing everything in my power to hurry global warming along. I'd be driving a Hummer and living in the biggest house I could (or couldn't) afford and eating thick, well-marbled steaks and leaving the thermostat on 68 all day every day (except in the winter when I'd turn it up to 80). Because you see, if global warming was to get really bad, really soon, then they wouldn't have to actually kill people in order to rid the earth of the human virus. Gaia would do the dirty work. But wait, that's just silly talk. All these people who care so much about the earth--they wouldn't kill people, would they?

It seems others have been thinking the same way, and for good reason. Check out this entry by Brendan O'Neill in the Planet Gore blog at National Review Online.

I ain't makin' this stuff up, people.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Great Barrier Reef Has A Bright Future

One of the latest scare scenarios being used by the climate alarmists to justify their desire for dramatic expansion of regulatory and redistributive policies, preferably on a global scale, is "ocean acidification." For a beautifully filmed explanation of why ocean acidification is such a problem you can watch this video produced by the National Resources Defense Council, narrated soothingly but seriously by Sigourney Weaver.

If you don't feel like spending twenty minutes watching the video I can give you the short explanation. The burning of fossil fuels is pumping vast amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. Because of the increased proportion of CO2 in the atmosphere, more CO2 is absorbed by sea water. The additional CO2 dissolved in water reacts with the water to form carbonic acid, which drops the pH of the sea water, making it more "acidic." The additional "acidity" of the sea water inhibits the growth of phytoplankton and the calcium carbonate that forms coral reefs. In addition, existing coral is bleached and dissolved at higher rates than normal. Since phytoplankton and the miniature life supported by coral reefs form the base of the food chain, ocean acidification puts the entire food chain at risk of mass extinction. The solutions are familiar and tired. We must drastically reduce our carbon footprints, we must live more sustainably, we must reduce economic growth, we must have fewer children, we must submit to a more enlightened, global governance, and we must transfer vast wealth to developing countries as payment for the sins committed against the earth.

The only problem? It's junk science. If you'd like to read a convincing refutation I would recommend you go here:

and here:

Once again, if you don't feel like doing the hard work of reading the two articles (and the second one is actually pretty technical), let me lay a few things out (parsed primarily from the second article). Firstly, increased CO2 in the oceans increases the efficiency of photosynthesis in the oceans, as it does on land, which results in increased growth of plant life in the ocean, including phytoplankton. Increased phytoplankton means increased food for zooplankton, which is food for a huge range of sea creatures, including whales. Secondly, if all the fossil fuel reserves in the world were burned, with the associated increase in CO2, the pH of the oceans would not change enough to even approach the neutral pH of pure water, so all mention of "acid" oceans is ridiculous. Thirdly, when oceans dissolve additional CO2 as a result of higher atmospheric concentrations of CO2, there are not one, but two observable effects. One is the aforementioned decrease in pH, the other is increased concentration of carbonate available for combination with calcium--the exact opposite of what the "ocean acidification" scare mongers want you to think. So more CO2 equals more phytoplankton and more calcium carbonate--if anything, the base of the food chain is enhanced, not hurt, by increased CO2. There are numerous scientific examples attesting to this effect in the second of the two links above.

Why, oh why, would they lie?, or at the very least, distort reality to scare us? Well, besides keeping the precious grant money flowing, I think the narrative goes something like this. Nature is precious, and man (but for those enlightened few, and for those who still live primitively) is an abomination who has lost his way amongst the greed and self-interest of western civilization. So western man must be regulated and punished, through all the mechanisms mentioned above. And in this way, the enlightened few will bring justice to the world. But lets examine a bit of the historical record and see who has been more successful at easing suffering and dispensing justice.

The effort by the ecology movement to ban the pesticide DDT, which was/is the most successful anti-malaria weapon ever discovered, culminated in a set of EPA hearings in 1972. At the conclusion of those hearings, which involved seven months of testimony, EPA Administrative law Judge Edmund Sweeney stated that "DDT is not a carcinogenic hazard to man. ... The uses of DDT under regulations involved here do not have a deleterious effect on freshwater fish, estuarine organisms, wild birds, or other wildlife. ... The evidence in this proceeding supports the conclusion that there is a present need for the essential uses of DDT." Two months later, EPA head (and Environmental Defense Fund member/fundraiser) William Ruckelshaus, who admitted that he had not attended a single day of testimony during the seven months of hearings, nor even read the transcripts, overturned Judge Sweeney's decision. He declared that DDT was "a potential human carcinogen" and banned it for virtually all uses in the United States. Pressure groups have been attacking its use in other parts of the world ever since. The end result has been billions of preventable cases, and millions of preventable deaths, mainly of children and pregnant women. Those most afflicted of course, are the poverty-stricken populations of developing countries, who the caring, anti-capitalist, anti-industrial greens are supposedly looking out for.

On the other side of the coin, consider the case of Norman Borlaug. Mr. Borlaug is the man, who, in the late 60's and early 70's, defused Paul Ehrlich's "population bomb" by exporting his high-yield agricultural techniques to the world's poorest countries. In his book, "The Population Bomb", Mr. Ehrlich declared that widespread starvation was inevitable for the 1970s, and that it was a fantasy that India would ever feed itself. Six years after Norman Borlaug arrived in India with a staff of assistants and truckloads of high-yield seeds, India had transformed from a country largely dependent on subsistence cultivation of rice to being self-sufficient in the production of all cereals. In 1999, the Atlantic Monthly estimated that the worldwide efforts of Norman Borlaug had resulted in the saving of one billion human lives.

What was Mr. Borlaug's reception by the ecology movement for his monumental achievement? He was criticized, of course. High yield agriculture requires the use of some pesticides, and of fertilizer, and we have already seen that the movement prefers millions of human deaths over the use of a pesticide. Indeed, some went so far as to suggest that the use of tractors and other modern farming techniques were "inappropriate" for Africans. Aside from the obvious racism and contempt for human life contained in the previous statement, environmental criticism of Norman Borlaug was wrong for other reasons. First, high-yield agriculture has prevented the mass deforestation of the world. The world produced three times as much food in 2006 as it did in 1950, and this from the same number of cultivated acres. If yields were the same as they were half a century ago, the only way the world would be able to produce enough food to feed its growing population would be to drastically increase the number of acres under cultivation. Second, in almost every situation where high-yield agriculture has been introduced, population growth has slowed as the need for muscle power becomes less important to the success of a family than education and brain power.

So there you have it. Greens celebrate the banning of a pesticide and kill millions of people who are least able to protect themselves, and they criticize the work of a hero who saves hundreds of millions of those same people along with hundreds of millions of trees because he uses pesticides. So pardon me if I view this latest scare tactic with a large measure of scepticism. We've seen it before, and we've seen how it turns out.