The PTC provides a tax credit of 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour of renewable power generated and, if lawmakers fail to act, is set to expire in 2012. Originally signed into law by George H.W. Bush, the tax credit has helped to strengthen energy diversity, reduce reliance on fossil fuels and keep electricity costs low for homes and businesses across the country.
“For consumers of wind electricity, the economic benefits of the PTC are tremendous. The PTC has enabled the industry to slash wind energy costs – 90% since 1980 – a big reason why companies like ours are buying increasing amounts of renewable energy,” the companies wrote in their letter. “Extending the PTC lowers prices for all consumers, keeps America competitive in a global marketplace and creates homegrown American jobs.”
The signatories of the letter demonstrate how a broad cross-section of U.S. companies are increasingly relying on inexpensive and abundant American wind energy to power their businesses. The signers include: Akamai Technologies; Annie’s, Inc.; Aspen Skiing Company; Ben & Jerry’s; Clif Bar; Johnson & Johnson; Jones Lang LaSalle; Levi Strauss & Co; New Belgium Brewing; The North Face; Pitney Bowes; the Portland Trail Blazers; Seventh Generation; Sprint; Starbucks; Stonyfield Farm; Symantec; Timberland; and Yahoo!. Many of these firms are members of Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy (BICEP), a project of Ceres.
Sprint, a national top 50 green power purchaser, highlighted the PTC’s importance to meeting its renewable energy goals:
“Sprint has committed to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels and increase its use of renewable energy sources for electricity,” said Amy Hargroves, manager, corporate social responsibility at Sprint. “That’s why we have been actively working to meet our goal to secure 10 percent of our total electricity through renewable energy sources by 2017. We support the extension of the Production Tax Credit for wind because it has enabled companies like Sprint to make the shift to abundant, clean, and homegrown wind energy.”
Members of BICEP like New Belgium Brewing also expressed strong support for the PTC:
“New Belgium Brewing has made investing in renewable power a strategic priority because it’s the right thing to do for the environment, for our business, and for clean energy employment,” said Jenn Vervier, director, strategic development and sustainability at New Belgium Brewing. “Over the past several years, we’ve seen clean energy job growth in our home state of Colorado and a vision for building a more resilient power grid by integrating renewables. Extending the Production Tax Credit will help to ensure that those positive trends continue across the nation.”
“The Production Tax Credit helps every business that purchases renewable power: It’s just that simple,” said Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres, which coordinates BICEP. “Letting the PTC expire now would increase energy costs for homes and businesses at exactly the wrong time. For Congress, the message from business leaders is clear: Extend the PTC and help us build the economy.”
Navigant Consulting estimates that extending the PTC for four additional years would result in 95,000 wind-supported jobs and $16.3 billion in investment by 2016. However, failing to immediately extend the PTC would result in the loss of more than 37,000 American jobs and $10 billion in investment in 2013.
Bolstered by the PTC, wind energy accounted for 35% of new electrical generation capacity installed in the past five years, and now supplies 20% of electricity in states like Iowa and South Dakota. From 2004 through 2011, non-hydroelectric renewable energy more than doubled and now accounts for nearly 5% of electricity generation in the U.S.
BICEP is an advocacy coalition of businesses committed to working with policy makers to pass meaningful energy and climate legislation enabling a rapid transition to a low-carbon, 21st century economy – an economy that will create new jobs and stimulate economic growth while stabilizing our planet’s fragile climate. BICEP is a project of Ceres. www.ceres.org/bicep
Ceres is an advocate for sustainability leadership. Ceres mobilizes a powerful coalition of investors, companies and public interest groups to accelerate and expand the adoption of sustainable business practices and solutions to build a healthy global economy. Ceres also directs the Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR), a network of 100 institutional investors with collective assets totaling more than $10 trillion.
We’ve been watching this situation with a sort of grim determination.
The determination is to know the truth, the somber attitude because we know what the truth implies about the future of our civilization.
There is far more to be concerned about in those two images (above) than anything the Romans faced when the Visigoth‘s rebelled.
All those projections, about what’s going to happen in 2050? Those were based on theories about how we would act to stop Climate change. Well, we just broke the 2007 melt record, and we’re still melting.
The theories were too optimistic. There was always a worry about sounding an alarm, losing credibility. Well Climate Change is only a “theory” in the sense that “The Theory of Gravity” is a theory. Calling it a theory doesn’t invalidate it’s effects. If you let go of something, it still falls. Climate change is here, it’s real, and it’s happening right on top of you no matter what you call it.
The melting of the Arctic Sea Ice isn’t just about sea level rise. It means record heat, droughts, floods, it means rain when you don’t want it and none when you need it. It means winters without snow, and springs that happen too soon. That Sea Ice is part of the engine that drives the world’s weather, and losing it means our world must change along with it.
We know the cause, we know how to start fixing it, and we can easily do it. But we have to show enough sense, and enough care for each other to actually step up.
The time to step up is now. We best start steppin, or real soon there won’t be anywhere to go.
Arctic sea ice appears to have broken the 2007 record daily extent and is now the lowest in the satellite era. With two to three more weeks left in the melt season, sea ice continues to track below 2007 daily extents.
Please note that this is not an announcement of the sea ice minimum extent for 2012. NSIDC will release numbers for the 2012 daily minimum extent when it occurs. A full analysis of the melt season will be published in early October, once monthly data are available for September.
Arctic sea ice extent fell to 4.10 million square kilometers (1.58 million square miles) on August 26, 2012. This was 70,000 square kilometers (27,000 square miles) below the September 18, 2007 daily extent of 4.17 million square kilometers (1.61 million square miles).
Including this year, the six lowest ice extents in the satellite record have occurred in the last six years (2007 to 2012).
For years, Shell has been vying for one environmental jewel that has remained off-limits to the company’s drill rigs: the Polar Bear Seas off the northern coast of Alaska, including the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
The Obama Administration has just given Shell a tentative go-ahead to begin drilling this summer off the coastline of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge—the polar bear’s most important denning ground in Alaska. An oil spill is all but assured if the company moves forward with full-scale oil production. Even worse, the oil industry has no proven method for cleaning up oil in the Arctic‘s ice-filled waters. So the death toll of oil-soaked and poisoned polar bears, whales and seals would be unimaginable.
Looks like Shell Oil, you know, Royal Dutch Shell?, is finally going to get their way in the Arctic. Despite the fact that they don’t have a plan to handle a spill, don’t have effective technology to handle an accident, and our government lacks technology or money to handle a problem, we’ve given them a shot at creating another Deepwater Horizon for the Arctic. Oh, and to make a lot of money exporting petroleum.
In case you think this drilling will cut your gas bill, guess again. Our number 1 export last year was, wait for it, Gasoline! (“Gas, other fuels are top U.S. export – USATODAY.com” http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/energy/story/2011-12-31/united-state… ) We’re using less gas, so they’re selling it offshore to South America rather than cut prices. They won’t cut prices, they’ll keep them high and sell whatever we don’t use offshore and pocket the profits.
Which is why they want to drill in the Arctic so badly. Not to reduce our energy dependence on foreign oil. Just to make more money while soaking your wallet.
I do, indeed, have a problem with this. If you do too, have a look at the attached.
The following editorial appeared in the Miami Herald on Friday, Dec. 2:
The U.N. Climate Summit opened over the weekend in Durban, South Africa, amid still more evidence of dangerous changes in extreme weather patterns. The drought in Texas and across the southern United States, along with record flooding in parts of Africa and Asia, are signs of an ominous trend supported by recent reports based on scientific data:
-Thirteen of the world’s hottest years on record have all occurred in the last 15 years. As if to put an exclamation point on this alarming pattern, this year was also the hottest ever to coincide with the cooling effect of La Nina, the weather system in the Pacific that is supposed to reduce global temperatures.
-This year was the 10th hottest year since 1850, when accurate measurements began. This phenomenon brought higher temperatures all over the globe. In northern Russia, October temperatures were 7 degrees above average. Next-door Finland had the hottest summer in 200 years.
-Closer to home, sea ice in the Arctic shrank to its second lowest surface area after 2007, with measurements at record levels of thin ice. In the coming weeks, another scientific report is expected to declare that the risk posed by undeniably increasing levels in the ocean raises the prospect of destroying low-lying coastal areas of the Northern Hemisphere – including parts of Florida.
These findings were disclosed by credible, science-based groups, including the World Meteorological Organization and Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in separate but complementary reports that support what most climate experts have been saying for decades: The world is warming, and the warming is due to the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that can be attributed to human activity and exploding carbon levels.
Climate skeptics will doubtless brush this aside as the work of forces that want to impose government controls on carbon emissions and every conceivable human activity that affects the air we breathe, but it’s harder to brush aside the conversion of one of the most prominent skeptics in academia, Richard Muller, a respected physicist at UC-Berkeley.
“Global warming is real,” he wrote in The Wall Street Journal last October. Mr. Muller said the findings of his own research team confirmed the accepted conventional wisdom that he and others once scorned as the product of “activist frenzy” within the scientific community.
All of this lends a new level of urgency to the meeting in Durban, where politics and ideology threaten to obstruct progress toward concerted action by the world community to halt, or even reverse, the global warming trend. Organizations like the Sierra Club and the Union of Concerned Scientists say the Obama administration has failed to live up to the president’s promise as a candidate to lead the way to decisive action on climate change.
Specifically, the administration has been dragging its feet on the issue of what to do with the Kyoto Treaty – which focuses on emission reductions – when it expires next year. Instead of holding off until 2020 before any new treaty can take effect, as the administration has proposed, it should work to achieve consensus to strengthen the treaty before any more damage is done.
The point is rapidly approaching, scientists say, when global warming becomes irreversible. Action should be taken today to save the world of a devastating tomorrow.
A video of Rep. Don Young every American should see
By Don Shelby | Published Tue, Nov 22 2011 10:55 am
On Nov. 18 the celebrated historian, Dr. Douglas Brinkley, testified before the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee. The committee was taking testimony on another congressional effort to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil exploration and drilling.
Brinkley was there to suggest that the ANWR be designated a national monument, preserved and protected. Brinkley knows about conservation. Among his award-winning publications and best-selling books is “Wilderness Warrior” about Theodore Roosevelt’s environmental policies. His most recent book, “The Quiet World,” traces the history of Alaska’s wilderness. He’s currently writing a new history on the conservation movement in America.
After Brinkley delivered his testimony, Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, walked into the hearing late. Please watch this short clip of what happened:
By way of full disclosure, Dr. Brinkley is a friend of mine, but had Dr. Brinkley been a stranger to me, I would still be mortified that a United States congressman would treat a guest of the House in such a fashion. I hope this piece of video is seen by as many Americans as possible. I shouldn’t like people in other countries to see it. We still have an image to uphold in the world. Young makes it look like the most powerful nation on earth is run by the inmates of the asylum.
You may also notice that Dr. Brinkley doesn’t suffer fools gladly. I talked to him about the confrontation. He told me: “I felt like I needed to hold my own against them. I feel good about it.”
He continued: “I’m a historian and I read a lot of testimony. It is important to me to have an accurate record. I thought I needed to set the record straight for CongressmanYoung. My name is not Dr. Rice, it is Dr. Brinkley.”
That is certainly part of it. It is likely, as well, that Brinkley had studied the history of Congressman Young before he arrived at the hearing. Brinkley told me he knew that Congressman Young, at another hearing, had waved a walrus penis bone at Mollie Beattie, the incoming chief of the Fish and Wildlife Service. Brinkley may have read the Rolling Stone article about Young that quotes the congressman as saying, “Environmentalists are a self-centered bunch of waffle-stomping, Harvard-graduating, intellectual idiots.” The quote continues, “[They] are not Americans, never have been Americans and never will be Americans.”
I don’t think Congressman Young would have dared say such a thing to Teddy Roosevelt’s face.
Brinkley should not have been surprised that Congressman Young showed up late and missed the bulk of the historian’s testimony. Young is often cited as the congressman missing more votes than any other member of the House. Brinkley would have known that Young was the co-sponsor, with discredited Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, of the bill to pay for the infamous “bridge to nowhere.”
Brinkley told me: “Everyone knows that Young is just a menacing blowhard. He has a history of being rude, he browbeats and he’s snotty toward anyone who cares about the environment.”
I asked Brinkley if he was surprised that Committee Chair Doc Hastings took Young’s side and continued lecturing the historian. “No,” said Brinkley. “They are tied together at the hip. They are both oil company factotums. They are a tag team.”
Had Young been in the room for Brinkley’s testimony, he would have heard an interesting history lesson. Brinkley told those present that President Dwight D. Eisenhower had set aside the ANWR, and protected it the same way Ike had protected Antarctica. Brinkley is proposing that President Obama set aside the ANWR as a national monument using the 1906 Antiquities Act.
Dr. Douglas Brinkley
“Eisenhower created it as a refuge,” Brinkley said.
So Brinkley suggests a new name and new status for ANWR. “I think it should be called the Dwight Eisenhower National Monument,” he said.
But what about the oil?
According to the United States Geological Survey, there is a good deal of oil beneath the coastal plains of the ANWR. But there is, in relative terms, very little when compared to world demand. Pump it dry and it would be emptied in less than a year.
Another Republican congressman, Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland, always votes against drilling the ANWR. It makes him unpopular in the caucus room. But the old biology teacher-turned congressman doesn’t object to drilling on environmental grounds. Bartlett told me that he votes against draining it now. He thinks it is smarter to save it for future generations who might need it, and use it more efficiently.
Bartlett doesn’t think it is wise to pump the ANWR dry just to consume it in highly inefficient cars and trucks. Bartlett drives a Prius, which is another thing that drives the caucus a little crazy.
Young chided Brinkley by saying that no one ever goes to the ANWR. Brinkley told me, “They used the same argument when considering whether to set aside the Grand Canyon. ‘Nobody ever goes there,’ they said.”
The Grand Canyon is back up for debate, by the same forces who wish to open the ANWR for oil drilling. Congress is considering bills to open up areas near the Grand Canyon for uranium mining. It was being rushed through until someone noticed that the company doing the mining was from Russia, and no one had checked whether there were any safeguards preventing Grand Canyon uranium from going into Iranian nukes.
“Our park lands, our treasured areas are under attack,” Brinkley told me. “We fought hard to protect these wild places and that makes the United States unique. China is destroying its landscape. We have a history of preserving ours.”
Brinkley believes Young and his ilk have another reasons for going into the ANWR, and it has nothing to do with oil. “I think they believe,” he said, “if they can open up the ANWR, molest it piece by piece, they will demoralize the whole environmental movement.”
Brinkley believes, as Young has made clear, there are members of Congress who see people who would protect wild places as the enemy of the country. “The Coastal Plain of the ANWR has an unbelievably rich marine environment,” Brinkley said. “It is where the caribou calve. It is where the polar bear den.”
To Congressman Don Young’s ears, such talk borders on treason.
Brinkley has a ready response. “Congressman Don Young is a low-grade Joseph McCarthy.”
Rep Young, the old fool, keeps getting reelected by the money machine in Alaska. I suspect that Alaska is the only place he could keep getting re-elected, since he’d be dumped by any electorate that actually cared who represented them.
Alaska has the fortunate distinction of remaining a frontier, which means that moneyed interests have huge legislative influence, and for most folks, if the law leaves them alone, they’re happy.
I suspect most Alaskans (I only know a few) are pretty blase about politics until it gets in their way, like most frontier cultures. It’s a position I understand, and used to support.
However, a penchant for ignoring politicians also means that sometimes they’re in the chicken coop and are making plans to steal the barn before you know they’re even there. And since they’ll do it “all legal and proper”, the sheriff is on their side, when he’d rather be on yours.
Dirtbag Don continues to go after a teeny puddle of oil that will have no long term effect on oil prices, because he’s blinded by the dollar signs in his eyes, not because he’s out for the good of Alaskans. He remains stuck on oil, when there are tremendous opportunities for Alaska business and citizens in the future technologies, not the expiring one he’s so desperate to pursue.
Unfortunately, he’ll probably still be around long after petroleum is viable, doing everything in his power to hold Alaska back while claiming he’s looking out for the state and it’s people.
He can’t see what is in front of him, understand what the future holds, a task he was sent to DC to perform. So he will doom his state to long term poverty by sticking to a dying industry. The oil dividends to Alaska’s citizens won’t last forever. And “Get Rich Quick” Don Young just wants to please the Oil Lobby in his state, instead of figuring out how to make the future of its people viable.
I found this in Forbes, to my personal surprise. Perhaps I’ve become too jaundiced from the insanity that now passes for “reality” inside Washington D.C.‘s Beltway these days. I no longer expected a prestigious magazine like Forbes to permit a truly balanced comment. I must thank William Pentland for posting this in such an elite publication, and thank Senator Whitehouse for taking a strong and informed stand, where so many have lacked the moral substance, or just the plain backbone to say what needed to be said. I hope he does not end up retreating or recanting, and I hope the people of Rhode Island see fit to re-elect someone who is so clearly a leader.
Enough of my babble, first the comments from Mr. Pentland, and then the Senator’s statement. Ooooorah! Senator!
In a speech delivered before the U.S. Congress a few days ago, Sheldon argued that America has a duty to respond to the risks posed by global warming. Sheldon concluded:
Right now I must come before the Chamber and remind this body that we are failing in that duty. The men and women in this Chamber are indeed catastrophically failing in that duty. We are earning the scorn and condemnation of history — not this week, perhaps, and not next week. The spin doctors can see to that. But ultimately and assuredly, the harsh judgment that it is history’s power to inflict on wrong will fall upon us . . .
It is magical thinking to imagine that somehow we will be spared the plain and foreseeable consequences of our failure of duty. There is no wizard’s hat and wand with which to wish this away. These laws of nature are known; the Earth’s message to us is clear; our failure is blameworthy; its consequences are profound; and the costs will be very high.
I have posted the entire transcript of Sheldon’s speech below.
Most of you will know that the name of this blog comes from the reference to Carl Sagan‘s observation about the Earth when viewed from space… since I recently found someone had uploaded the clip itself, it seemed to be a good thing to reference here.
Image via Wikipedia
If you watch this video, try to keep in mind what Carl was saying. We’re here, not somewhere else. We are tiny to the point of insignificance as far as the rest of the universe is concerned. And our pale blue dot is fragile.
Many times life has nearly been wiped from the surface of this tiny blue dot. One of the worst was the Permian Mass Extinction, which killed 95% of all species on the planet. If you haven’t heard of it, try watching this video from the BBC. This clip is the 5th of 5 parts of a show called “The Day the Earth Nearly Died”.
I’ve recently learned that the majority of humans don’t really react to things until something is in their faces, so I suspect the majority of people reading this will give it the “so what” treatment. So if you’re in that 95% majority then please do continue. For those of you who are being willy nilly dragged toward the brink of extinction by the other 95%, here’s some things to take a look at:
And then, sitting alone on my couch, I heard the internet gasp.
On the surface it looks like if you wanted to make it harder for blacks and Hispanics in Denver to vote, you could start by not sending “inactive voters” a ballot. I think the actual answer is a little different but not much more complicated. An inactive voter is defined as someone who didn’t vote in the 2010 elections or more recent municipal elections, and hasn’t taken care of re-upping. In other words, if you came out for Obama in 2008 and then went back to your life ignoring politics, the state regards you as “inactive” and the Secretary of State doesn’t want to send you a ballot to vote (for Obama again?) in 2012.
It’s doubly disappointing that people who are less engaged in politics are being encouraged to disengage further.
Clearly people stumble across this blog, it’s not like it’s sitting out in the middle of the “information superhighway” with barricades and flashing lights.
Image by Steve-h via Flickr
So I became curious. What do the people who eventually arrive here actually think on my primary subject, that being Global Warming / Climate Change / Global Climate Disruption / Climate Weirding.
Why so many names? Because, with the possible exception of Climate Weirding, all of these names have been politicized and I’m not sure people realize which parts are scientific fact, which are politician’s wishful thinking, and which parts are lies spread to confuse the issue.
I think anyone who has read any of my posts knows how I feel about the subject. But I want to know, in simple terms, what the people who arrive here think about it. So I’m going to release several simple questions, and see if I get answers.
Some of us say what we believe, and believe what we say. Some of us even fight for what we believe. There are also those who claim to believe something or other, but won’t fight for it. That’s the way of the world. So let’s imagine a world only slightly different, with only the names changed to protect the guilty…
Imagine if you will, an alternative universe, in which the GOP believes in climate change, and the Democrats are the naysayers? How would a climate crusading Republican Party approach this most consequential issue?
In their customary hard-nosed fashion, the GOP would no doubt have made more progress on climate change—replete with tough regulations and high-minded international treaties—than we have seen so far. GOP politicians and talking heads would be making hay from all the horrible weather, beating the drums about the grave danger to our “national security” and way of life posed by climate change. They would be warning of gloom and doom and calling for—to hell with cap-and-trade—new legislation with stricter timetables for cutting greenhouse emissions, higher carbon taxes and stiffer penalties for polluters. And they would dare the president to veto it!
Republican politicians would be talking about climate change in town hall meetings, with obligatory reference to the increasingly ferocious tornadoes and hurricanes. “Climate change” and “green jobs” would become synonymous—a mantra seared into GOP political lexicon as Republicans declare that their legislation simultaneously creates jobs, limits greenhouse gases and stimulates the economy. Yes, Republicans would be ready to steamroll Democrats on this one.
For GOP leaders, Irene would be an opportunity to stoke the passions of environmentalists. They would urge activists to hold rallies in Washington and across the country. The GOP media machine—led by Roger Ailes at Fox—would parade environmental leaders on television and talk radio pontificating about local struggles to shut down polluting coal-fired plants, the imperative to raise CAFE standards for autos, insulate buildings and retrofit solar panels—the whole kitchen sink. Rightwing talking heads would be in full swing, prodding activists to hunt down “Democrat” lawmakers at “town halls” to demand they stop protecting Big Oil’s profits at the expense of our country’s future.
For GOP lighting rods like Michelle Bachmann and Sara Palin, climate change would be manna from heaven—red meat for the party faithful. They would be browbeating Democrats for standing in the way of strong regulations and shilling for corporate polluters (yes, they’d say it despite both parties’ footsy-playing with industry—they don’t care about the hypocrisy). Palin and Bachmann would be mocking Democrats for aligning themselves with a fringe element that hates science and would endanger our national security and the planet. Of course, GOP candidates would already have made climate change a central issue in the presidential election, and aiming to place it high up on the 2012 party platform.
As expected, GOP strategists would have learned how to capitalize on disasters from their successful experiment in New Orleans, where they quickly moved in after Katrina and expanded charter schools. Thus, a salivating GOP would seize this moment to remind all Americans affected by Irene that climate change is real and urge them to demand immediate congressional action.
For maximum impact, rightwing pundits would cite the Pentagon’s finding that climate change constitutes “a grave national security threat” and the military’s plans to cope. On Fox News Sunday, Bill Kristol would advise that invoking the military in this debate “is strategically brilliant” because Democratic are vulnerable on anything to do with “our men and women in uniform.”
On the O’Reilly Factor, Ann Coulter would taunt President Obama for lacking “the kahunas” to take on corporate polluters. She would point to Obama’s cozy relationship with the likes of Exelon, and his silence on the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline. Sean Hannity would harangue the “liberal media” for ignoring the words “climate change” in their coverage of Hurricane Irene. Rightwing hothead and former UN ambassador John Bolton would announce on Fox his new campaign for a new international climate treaty. It would carry heavy sanctions—even military action—against countries that did not sign on.
Finally, GOP leaders would be all over the hypocrisy of Democratic governors for stoking hatred of government even as they, in this crisis moment, expect emergency relief from the federal government. On the campaign trail and in presidential debates, GOP candidates would use Irene to highlight the indispensable role of government not just in public safety, but in healthcare access, infrastructure investment, helping foreclosure victims and reining in predatory banks, and alleviating poverty—that silent but ongoing emergency for millions of women, men and children. They would forc efully explain to voters that paying taxes is not a subversive notion, but an act of patriotism.
Yes, sir, that’s exactly what the GOP would do if it were the party of climate change.
(Are you listening, Democrats?)
Fortunately, James Thindwa lives very much in the real world, where he is a Chicago-based labor and community activist. He also writes for In These Times and serves on its board of directors.
Our media shocked, MTV fragmented, tiny attention span culture has rendered us largely ineffective at making decisions. We don’t seem to be able to focus on anything longer than a sound-bite now. Perhaps we should all be taking ADHD drugs? (No, I don’t think so.)
That’s my tentative conclusion, and I’m attempting to stick to it.
Image via Wikipedia
The alternative would be to believe that we’ve all developed the attention and memory of the average goldfish.
Not long ago Bill McKibben wrote an Op-Ed that that summed up what we’re being asked to believe quite nicely. I’m quoting it below the fold, but the folks at Plomomedia were kind enough to set it to video, with pretty good visuals, so I’m putting it right here. I suspect that most of the American Public (The “We” in “We the People”) have forgotten this video, and the associated OpEd, so I’m gonna repost it periodically just as a reminder. The Texas Drought is still going on, but not everyone lives in Texas. Oklahoma got a little rain, so it may not completely blow away. Although after the haboob in Arizona it’s not exactly certain whether Oklahoma is all that safe.
For those of you with the connections, please spread this around, use it as a conversation starter, maybe an icebreaker at dinner parties. It might really start a conversation, and I doubt if the evening will be boring.
Image via Wikipedia
Without further sarcasm, or ado for that matter, here’s the video:
And here’s Bill’s OpEd.
A link between climate change and Joplin tornadoes? Never!
Caution: It is vitally important not to make connections. When you see pictures of rubble like this week’s shots from Joplin, Mo., you should not wonder: Is this somehow related to the tornado outbreak three weeks ago in Tuscaloosa, Ala., or the enormous outbreak a couple of weeks before that (which, together, comprised the most active April for tornadoes in U.S. history). No, that doesn’t mean a thing.
It is far better to think of these as isolated, unpredictable, discrete events. It is not advisable to try to connect them in your mind with, say, the fires burning across Texas — fires that have burned more of America at this point this year than any wildfires have in previous years. Texas, and adjoining parts of Oklahoma and New Mexico, are drier than they’ve ever been — the drought is worse than that of the Dust Bowl. But do not wonder if they’re somehow connected.
If you did wonder, you see, you would also have to wonder about whether this year’s record snowfalls and rainfalls across the Midwest — resulting in record flooding along the Mississippi — could somehow be related. And then you might find your thoughts wandering to, oh, globalwarming, and to the fact that climatologists have been predicting for years that as we flood the atmosphere with carbon we will also start both drying and flooding the planet, since warm air holds more water vapor than cold air.
It’s far smarter to repeat to yourself the comforting mantra that no single weather event can ever be directly tied to climate change. There have been tornadoes before, and floods — that’s the important thing. Just be careful to make sure you don’t let yourself wonder why all these record-breaking events are happening in such proximity — that is, why there have been unprecedented megafloods in Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan in the past year. Why it’s just now that the Arctic has melted for the first time in thousands of years. No, better to focus on the immediate casualties, watch the videotape from the store cameras as the shelves are blown over. Look at the news anchorman standing in his waders in the rising river as the water approaches his chest.
Because if you asked yourself what it meant that the Amazon has just come through its second hundred-year drought in the past five years, or that the pine forests across the western part of this continent have been obliterated by a beetle in the past decade — well, you might have to ask other questions. Such as: Should President Obama really just have opened a huge swath of Wyoming to new coal mining? Should Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sign a permit this summer allowing a huge new pipeline to carry oil from the tar sands of Alberta? You might also have to ask yourself: Do we have a bigger problem than $4-a-gallon gasoline?
Better to join with the U.S. House of Representatives, which voted 240 to 184 this spring to defeat a resolution saying simply that “climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for public health and welfare.” Propose your own physics; ignore physics altogether. Just don’t start asking yourself whether there might be some relation among last year’s failed grain harvest from the Russian heat wave, and Queensland’s failed grain harvest from its record flood, and France’s and Germany’s current drought-related crop failures, and the death of the winter wheat crop in Texas, and the inability of Midwesternfarmers to get corn planted in their sodden fields. Surely the record food prices are just freak outliers, not signs of anything systemic.
It’s very important to stay calm. If you got upset about any of this, you might forget how important it is not to disrupt the record profits of our fossil fuel companies. If worst ever did come to worst, it’s reassuring to remember what the U.S. Chamber of Commerce told the Environmental Protection Agency in a recent filing: that there’s no need to worry because “populations can acclimatize to warmer climates via a range of behavioral, physiological, and technological adaptations.”
I’m pretty sure that’s what residents are telling themselves in Joplin today.
Bill McKibben is founder of the global climate campaign 350.org and a distinguished scholar at Middlebury College in Vermont.
OK, Bill’s done, now it’s my turn.
That last bit is pretty bold. The Chamber of Commerce thinks we shouldn’t do anything to head off Climate Change or begin to adapt to it. The part “acclimitize” and those adaptations:
Those would be the same sorts of acclimatization methods that the folks in Somalia are enjoying right now, doncha know.
You see, it’s called Climate Change, (although several of us prefer to call it “Global Weirding”) because it’s changing lots about how the climate behaves. Since there’s more energy in the system, there will be more energy to go around. Storms are one of the ways energy is distributed around the globe, so storms will likely be more frequent and probably a lot stronger than we’re used to. So it will snow more in the winter, or possibly get lots colder, maybe both. In the summer it will get hotter, storms are likely to be more violent, and depending on the ice at the poles, it may be that dry spells are longer, rains are harder, and snow pack will go away sooner.
Not to worry though, the boys down at the Chamber of Commerce have our backs. They think we shouldn’t do anything that might inconvenience their members, like Koch Industries, or maybe ExxonMobil, because fixing this stuff will eat into their profits. After all, you’re ready to give up more freedoms and more income for them aren’t you?
Peeling back the weasel words, the Chamber thinks that if the heat, flooding, drought, sea rise, or whatever is making your day difficult is too much for you, then you have acclimatization options:
Technological acclimatization could be:
Build yourself a bio-dome of some sort, you know, like Pauley Shore was in. That went well didn’t it?
If you’re in the south, plan on
Paying for tons of air-conditioning
Having your drinking water trucked in from the north
If you’re a farmer, don’t plan on growing anything that won’t already grow out in the Sonora. You won’t be able to count on irrigation any more
Maybe look at importing livestock from Africa, that sort will have a better chance of surviving the summers
If you’re up north you should expect to:
Make sure you have two or three months worth of food on hand before winter, since you might not be going anywhere once it starts snowing
Don’t run out of fuel, because no one will be able to reach you until the storms end
You may want to get training as a doctor
Behavioral acclimatization can include:
Moving away. Finding somewhere else to move to might get tricky though, you know, that “global” part
Your best strategy is probably to pick what you hate the most and move away from that
Plan on finding the place you hate the least to move to and settle for it
Psychological is much simpler I imagine:
Now remember, those aren’t the only options, but that’s what your options will tend to look like if you want to follow the Chamber’s lead. If not, there’s stuff you can already do…
Oh, I’m running on here! I had intended to add more here, but I think it has to go into a separate post, to meet my goal of attention conservation.
Just to follow-up on my previous post “Top Gear’s electric car shows pour petrol over the BBC’s standards | updated 15 Aug 2011″ http://bit.ly/px32qk
The production team chose to defend themselves against potentially damaging criticism. In the defense they manage to cite what they didn’t say, but clearly intended to portray. But since they didn’t actually say or claim these things, then they must be free of any wrongdoing.
And they are right, they didn’t state any of these things. They simply used their reputation and their huge audience base to persuade people that electric cars are impractical, whether it is from lack of a charging station, or poor battery technology. It’s not as if the show was attempting to portray electric car technology as being primitive, or any such thing as that…
German electric car Image via Wikipedia
After all, behaving as if the electric car had let them down, and left them stranded in a particularly seedy, possibly dangerous location, with no way of escaping wouldn’t be an attempt to influence perspectives, would it? I mean, they didn’t actually add criminals, street thugs, or gangs, to the background of the handicapped (disabled) parking spot they chose to place the car into did they? Noooo.. not at all. Perfect little angels, the lot of them.
The official defense is reminiscent of Bart Simpson of The Simpsons. ”Ha ha, I didn’t do it, no one saw me do it, there’s no way you can prove anything!” Or better: “I don’t know! I don’t know why I did it, I don’t know why I enjoyed it, and I don’t know why I’ll do it again!”
Here’s Mr. Simpson’s Wilman’s defense: (yes, I added some images)
I’d like to put a few facts straight regarding a story in today’s Times about our recent road test of two electric cars, the Nissan Leaf and the Peugeot Ion, which was shown on Sunday’s programme. The Times’ headline reads: ‘Clarkson didn’t give our electric cars a sporting chance, says Nissan.’
Further into the story it says that the film was embarrassing for Nissan, because it shows that electric cars cannot be trusted to get you to your destination. The writer, Ben Webster, the media editor, then goes on to suggest that actually ‘it is Top Gear, not the car, that cannot be trusted.’ Mr Webster’s logic for this centres on the fact that when the film started the cars were not fully charged, and were therefore destined to run out at some point along the way, thus giving a false impression of the ability of the vehicles.
In response, I’d like to say:
1) We never, at any point in the film, said that we were testing the range claims of the vehicles, nor did we say that the vehicles wouldn’t achieve their claimed range. We also never said at any time that we were hoping to get to our destination on one charge.
2) We never said what the length of the journey was, where we had started from, nor how long we had been driving at the start of the film. So again, no inference about the range can be gleaned from our film.
3) We were fully aware that Nissan could monitor the state of the battery charge and distance travelled via onboard software. The reporter from The Times seems to suggest this device caught us out, but we knew about it all the time, as Nissan will confirm. We weren’t bothered about it, because we had nothing to hide.
4) The content of our film was driven by the points we were trying to explore. As James stated in the introduction, you can now go to a dealer and buy a ‘proper’ electric car, as in one that claims to be more practical and useful than a tiny, short-range city runabout. That’s what the car company marketing says, and that’s what we focused on in our test: the pros and cons of living with one as an alternative to a petrol car.
(lwo Note: Let’s be fair here Bart. Your focus was upon showing a pro, and then the cons, and more cons, and more cons, with an extra portion of cons for good measure. Just as you planned.)
So yes, when we set off, we knew we would have to recharge at some point, because that was an experience we wanted to devote part of the film to. Now granted, James and Jeremy’s stopover – which included brass rubbings, adult scrabble and tattoos – was more knockabout than an average motorist would experience, but the consumer points coming out of the film were quite clear:
Being the pain I usually am, I’ve provided some “emphasis” for some of the text. George has stopped short of making some comments that he’s almost GOT to be thinking, so I’m going to provide a few of my own in the stream of the article. You’ll know it when you see it. lwo
Why is Top Gear apparently exempt from the BBC’s editorial guidelines and the duty not to fake the facts?
Jeremy (Lying sack of bantha poodoo) Clarkson sabotages a test drive of the Leaf electric car - Photograph: BBC
What distinguishes the BBC from the rest of this country’s media? There’s the lack of advertising, and the lack of a proprietor with specific business interests to defend.
(lwo Note: I now watch Top Gear on BBC America, which does indeed produce revenue for BBC Worldwide; perhaps I should now assume that BBC has no standards for the BBC America services?)
But perhaps the most important factor is its editorial guidelines, which are supposed to ensure that the corporation achieves “the highest standards of due accuracy and impartiality and strive[s] to avoid knowingly and materially misleading our audiences.”
Here’s a few of the things they say:
Top Gear Paradise? Image via Wikipedia
“Trust is the foundation of the BBC: we are independent, impartial and honest.”
“We will be rigorous in establishing the truth of the story and well informed when explaining it. Our specialist expertise will bring authority and analysis to the complex world in which we live.”
“We will be open in acknowledging mistakes when they are made and encourage a culture of willingness to learn from them.”
Woe betide the producer or presenter who breaches these guidelines. Unless, that is, they work for Top Gear. If so, they are permitted to drive a coach and horses – or a Hummer H3 - through them whenever they please.
Take, for example, Top Gear’s line on electric cars. Casting aside any pretence of impartiality or rigour, it has set out to show that electric cars are useless. If the facts don’t fit, it bends them until they do.
Image via Wikipedia
It’s currently being sued by electric car maker Tesla after claiming, among other allegations, that the Roadster’s true range is only 55 miles per charge (rather than 211), and that it unexpectedly ran out of charge. Tesla says ”the breakdowns were staged and the statements are untrue”. But the BBC keeps syndicating the episode to other networks. So much for “acknowledging mistakes when they are made”.
Now it’s been caught red-handed faking another trial, in this case of the Nissan LEAF.
Nissan LeafImage via Wikipedia
Last Sunday, an episode of Top Gear showed Jeremy (we’re only entertainment so our recommendations are as full of exrement as I am) Clarkson and James (time for me to drink my way across the UK) May setting off for Cleethorpes in Lincolnshire, 60 miles away. The car “unexpectedly” ran out of charge when they got to Lincoln, and had to be pushed. They concluded that “electric cars are not the future”.
But it’s clear from Clarkson’s Lists that he will whore out his reputation just to get a self serving edge with whomever he fancies at the moment. Here’s a recent and from what I can tell, fairly accurate review of Clarkson’s abilities found out on the “Ultimate Car” forum:
People enjoy Clarkson’s hard opinions and dry sense of humour. However, they seem to forget that he knows nothing about how cars handle, nor has after 20 years of driving supercars has any skills behind the wheel. A good example is when he put the current ZR1 against an Audi R8 and constantly said that the ZR1 was impossible to drive faster than the R8. Then in the hands of the stig it blitzed the R8.
I also remember him slagging off the Carrera GT calling it bland and uninteresting, reviewing it against the Enzo Ferrari.
AND Clarkson’s comments are about getting readers/viewers attention and to sell his column, mag, book, video, tv show.
This guy has driven every major badass ultimately exotic supercar on this planet and he puts a Mazda CX7 on his top 25? Nothing against the CX7, is a nice SUV or crossover, or whatever, I drove it myself when I was checking them out a few months ago while considering one for my wife, but come on… Jeremy Clarkson’s top 25?
In short, Jeremy Clarkson seems to emerge as the combined Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh of the automotive entertainment industry. He’s full of unsupportable theories and doesn’t hesitate to lie or dissemble to raise his ratings or further his agenda. So long as you don’t actually believe anything he or his show have to say then you’ve lost nothing. If you start believing in his fairy tales, you’ll soon be lost in their fabricated world. lwo
But it wasn’t unexpected: Nissan has a monitoring device in the car which transmits information on the state of the battery. This shows that, while the company delivered the car to Top Gear fully charged, the programme-makers ran the battery down before Clarkson and May set off, until only 40% of the charge was left. Moreover, they must have known this, as the electronic display tells the driver how many miles’ worth of electricity they have, and the sat-nav tells them if they don’t have enough charge to reach their destination. In this case it told them – before they set out on their 60-mile journey – that they had 30 miles’ worth of electricity. But, as Ben Webster of the Times reported earlier this week, “at no point were viewers told that the battery had been more than half empty at the start of the trip.”
It gets worse. As Webster points out, in order to stage a breakdown in Lincoln, “it appeared that the Leaf was driven in loops for more than 10 miles in Lincoln until the battery was flat.”
When Jeremy (lying used car salesman) Clarkson was challenged about this, he admitted that he knew the car had only a small charge before he set out. But, he said: “That’s how TV works”. Not on the BBC it isn’t, or not unless your programme is called Top Gear.
Top Gear’s response, by its executive producer Andy Wilman, is a masterpiece of distraction and obfuscation. He insists that the programme wasn’t testing the range claims of the vehicles, and nor did it state that the vehicles wouldn’t achieve their claimed range. But the point is that it creates the strong impression that the car ran out of juice unexpectedly, leaving the presenters stranded in Lincoln, a city with no public charging points.
Yes, this is an entertainment programme, yes it’s larking about, and sometimes it’s very funny. But none of this exempts it from the BBC’s guidelines and the duty not to fake the facts.
Jeremy Clarkson - Britain's new Sarah Palin? Image via Wikipedia
The issue is made all the more potent by the fact that Top Gear has a political agenda. It’s a mouthpiece for an extreme form of libertarianism and individualism. It derides attempts to protect the environment, and promotes the kind of driving that threatens other people’s peace and other people’s lives. It often creates the impression that the rules and restraints which seek to protect us from each other are there to be broken.
This is dangerous territory. Boy racers, in many parts of the countryside, are among the greatest hazards to local people’s lives. Where I live, in rural mid-Wales, the roads are treated as race tracks. Many of the young lads who use them compete to see who can clock up the fastest speeds on a given stretch. The consequences are terrible: a series of hideous crashes involving young men and women driving too fast, which kill other people or maim them for life. In the latest horror, just down the road from where I live, a young man bumped another car through a fence and into a reservoir. Four of the five passengers drowned.
Of course I’m not blaming only Top Gear for this, but it plays a major role in creating a comfort zone within which edgy driving is considered acceptable, even admirable. Top Gear’s political agenda also persists in stark contradiction to BBC rules on impartiality.
So how does it get away with it? It’s simple. It makes the BBC a fortune. Both the 15th and 16th series of Top Gear were among the top five TV programmes sold internationally by BBC Worldwide over the last financial year. Another section of the editorial guidelines tells us that “our audiences should be confident that our decisions are not influenced by outside interests, political or commercial pressures”. (lwo Note: Perhaps Clarkson, Wilman, and the production crew are leading the new UK arm of the American Tea Party Patriots? How um, patriotic for a UK citizen…) But in this case we can’t be. I suggest that it is purely because of commercial pressures that Top Gear is allowed to rig the evidence, fake its trials, pour petrol over the BBC’s standards and put a match to them. The money drives all before it.
Washington, D.C. – Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) co-chair Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva today released the following statement on the Senate “Gang of Six” budget proposal:
“This terrible plan could cut Medicare and Medicaid to unsustainably low levels and put seniors’ well-being at risk. Anyone who wants to pass it through Congress should remember that more than 70 House Democrats have already pledged their opposition, and more are signing on every day. The letter we sent to Leader Pelosi July 8 vowing to oppose any cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid as part of these budget negotiations has become a growing wave of House resolve to protect these programs. We’re keeping it open for more signatures, and our Gang of 70-plus has the ‘Gang of Six’ completely outnumbered. Newly minted Rep. Janice Hahn signed on as one of her first official acts as a Congresswoman – that’s how quickly it’s picking up momentum.
Republicans have already said they won’t vote for any package, period, because of their opposition to a functional economy. House Democrats hold the key to whatever plan can pass Congress. That’s why the Senate ‘Gang of Six’ proposal is dead on arrival. Instead of toying with ways to slash vital programs in just such a way as to make different budget numbers align on paper, Congress and the White House should follow the path of our People’s Budget: creating jobs, protecting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, ending corporate subsidies and millionaire tax giveaways, and ensuring our economy works for everyone rather than a greedy few.”
WAAAAAAAY back in 2004, after 4 scary years with Alfred E. Newman‘s blood brother at the helm of the United States of America a serious thinker about risk, errors, and security wrote this article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. I felt given our current time and place in the “War on Terror” it was worth reposting Mr. Schneier’s thoughts, from our lofty distance of near 7 years. Perhaps it is time to review what we have done in the name of fear and terror, take a few weeks of reflection on what we think the next 7 years should look like when we look back on them.
Want to learn how to create and sustain psychosis on a national scale? Look carefully at the public statements made by the Department of Homeland Security.
Here are a few random examples: “Weapons of mass destruction, including those containing chemical, biological or radiological agents or materials, cannot be discounted.” “At least one of these attacks could be executed by the end of the summer 2003.” “These credible sources suggest the possibility of attacks against the homeland around the holiday season and beyond.”
The DHS’s threat warnings have been vague, indeterminate, and unspecific. The threat index goes from yellow to orange and back again, although no one is entirely sure what either level means. We’ve been warned that the terrorists might use helicopters, scuba gear, even cheap prescription drugs from Canada. New York and Washington, D.C., were put on high alert one day, and the next day told that the alert was based on information years old. The careful wording of these alerts allows them not to require any sound, confirmed, accurate intelligence information, while at the same time guaranteeing hysterical media coverage. This headline-grabbing stuff might make for good movie plots, but it doesn’t make us safer.
This kind of behavior is all that’s needed to generate widespread fear and uncertainty. It keeps the public worried about terrorism, while at the same time reminding them that they’re helpless without the government to defend them.
It’s one thing to issue a hurricane warning, and advise people to board up their windows and remain in the basement. Hurricanes are short-term events, and it’s obvious when the danger is imminent and when it’s over. People respond to the warning, and there is a discrete period when their lives are markedly different. They feel there was a usefulness to the higher alert mode, even if nothing came of it.
It’s quite another to tell people to remain on alert, but not to alter their plans. According to scientists, California is expecting a huge earthquake sometime in the next 200 years. Even though the magnitude of the disaster will be enormous, people just can’t stay alert for 200 years. It goes against human nature. Residents of California have the same level of short-term fear and long-term apathy regarding the threat of earthquakes that the rest of the nation has developed regarding the DHS’s terrorist threat alert.
A terrorist alert that instills a vague feeling of dread or panic, without giving people anything to do in response, is ineffective. Even worse, it echoes the very tactics of the terrorists. There are two basic ways to terrorize people. The first is to do something spectacularly horrible, like flying airplanes into skyscrapers and killing thousands of people. The second is to keep people living in fear. Decades ago, that was one of the IRA’s major aims. Inadvertently, the DHS is achieving the same thing.
Image via Wikipedia
European countries that have been dealing with terrorism for decades, like the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Italy, and Spain, don’t have cute color-coded terror alert systems. Even Israel, which has seen more terrorism — and more suicide bombers — than anyone else, doesn’t issue vague warnings about every possible terrorist threat.
These countries understand that security doesn’t come from a scared populace, and that true counter-terrorism occurs behind the scenes and away from public eye. For earthquakes, the long term security solutions include things like building codes. For terrorism, they include intelligence, investigation, and emergency response preparedness.
The DHS’s incessant warnings against any and every possible method of terrorist attack has nothing to do with security, and everything to do with politics. In 2002, Republican strategist Karl Rove instructed Republican legislators to make terrorism the mainstay of their campaign. Study after study has shown that Americans worried about terrorism are more likely to vote Republican. Strength in the face of the terrorist threat is the basis of Bush’s reelection campaign.
Speaking about terrorist threat warnings, Secretary of Homeland SecurityTom Ridge said: “We don’t do politics in the Department of Homeland Security.” Despite these words, it’s increasingly clear that politics is at the heart of Bush’s counter-terrorism program.
Dr. Don Huber did not seek fame when he quietly penned a confidential letter to Secretary of AgricultureTom Vilsack in January of this year, warning Vilsack of preliminary evidence of a microscopic organism that appears in high concentrations in genetically modified Roundup Ready corn and soybeans and “appears to significantly impact the health of plants, animals and probably human beings.” Huber, a retired Purdue University professor of plant pathology and U.S. Army colonel, requested the USDA‘s help in researching the matter and suggested Vilsack wait until the research was concluded before deregulating Roundup Ready alfalfa. But about a month after it was sent, the letter was leaked, soon becoming an internet phenomenon.
Huber was unavailable to respond to media inquiries in the weeks following the leak, and thus unable to defend himself when several colleagues from Purdue publicly claiming to refute his accusations about Monsanto’s widely used herbicide Roundup (glyphosate) and Roundup Ready crops. When his letter was finally acknowledged by the mainstream media, it was with titles like “Scientists Question Claims in Biotech Letter,” noting that the letter’s popularity on the internet “has raised concern among scientists that the public will believe his unsupported claim is true.”
Now, Huber has finally spoken out, both in a second letter, sent to “a wide number of individuals worldwide” to explain and back up his claims from his first letter, and in interviews. While his first letter described research that was not yet complete or published, his second letter cited much more evidence about glyphosate and genetically engineered crops based on studies that have already been published in peer-reviewed journals.
The basis of both letters and much of the research is the herbicide glyphosate. First commercialized in 1974, glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the world and has been for some time. Glyphosate has long been considered a relatively benign product, because it was thought to break down quickly in the environment and harm little other than the weeds it was supposed to kill.
According to the National Pesticide Information Center, glyphosate prevents plants from making a certain enzyme. Without the enzyme, they are unable to make three essential amino acids, and thus, unable to survive. Once applied, glyphosate either binds to soil particles (and is thus immobilized so it can no longer harm plants) or microorganisms break it down into ammonium and carbon dioxide. Very little glyphosate runs off into waterways. For these reasons, glyphosate has been thought of as more or less harmless: you spray the weeds, they die, the glyphosate goes away, and nothing else in the environment is harmed.
But Huber says this is not true. First of all, he points out, evidence began to emerge in the 1980s that “what glyphosate does is, essentially, give a plant AIDS.” Just like AIDS, which cripples a human’s immune system, glyphosate makes plants unable to mount a defense against pathogens in the soil. Without its defense mechanisms functioning, the plants succumb to pathogens in the soil and die. Furthermore, glyphosate has an impact on microorganisms in the soil, helping some and hurting others. This is potentially problematic for farmers, as the last thing one would want is a buildup of pathogens in the soil where they grow crops.
The fate of glyphosate in the environment is also not as benign as once thought. It’s true that glyphosate either binds to soil or is broken down quickly by microbes. Glyphosate binds to any positively charged ion in the soil, with the consequence of making many nutrients (such as iron and manganese) less available to plants. Also, glyphosate stays in the soil bound to particles for a long time and can be released later by normal agricultural practices like phosphorus fertilization. “It’s not uncommon to find one to three pounds of glyphosate per acre in agricultural soils in the Midwest,” says Huber, noting that this represents one to three times the typical amount of glyphosate applied to a field in a year.
Huber says these facts about glyphosate are very well known scientifically but rarely cited. When asked why, he replied that it would be harder for a company to get glyphosate approved for widespread use if it were known that the product could increase the severity of diseases on normal crop plants as well as the weeds it was intended to kill. Here in the U.S., many academic journals are not even interested in publishing studies that suggest this about glyphosate; a large number of the studies Huber cites were published in the European Journal of Agronomy.
If Huber’s claims are true, then it follows that there must be problems with disease in crops where glyphosate is used. Huber’s second letter verifies this, saying, “we are experiencing a large number of problems in production agriculture in the U.S. that appear to be intensified and sometimes directly related to genetically engineered (GMO) crops, and/or the products they were engineered to tolerate — especially those related to glyphosate (the active chemical in Roundup® herbicide and generic versions of this herbicide).”
He continues, saying, “We have witnessed a deterioration in the plant health of corn, soybean, wheat and other crops recently with unexplained epidemics of sudden death syndrome of soybean (SDS), Goss’ wilt of corn, and take-all of small grain crops the last two years. At the same time, there has been an increasing frequency of previously unexplained animal (cattle, pig, horse, poultry) infertility and [miscarriages]. These situations are threatening the economic viability of both crop and animal producers.”
Some of the crops Huber named, corn and soy, are genetically engineered to survive being sprayed with glyphosate. Others, like wheat and barley, are not. In those cases, a farmer would apply glyphosate to kill weeds about a week before planting his or her crop, but would not spray the crop itself. In the case of corn, as Huber points out, most corn varieties in the U.S. are bred using conventional breeding techniques to resist the disease Goss’ wilt. However, recent preliminary research showed that when GE corn is sprayed with glyphosate, the corn becomes susceptible to Goss’ wilt. Huber says in his letter that “This disease was commonly observed in many Midwestern U.S. fields planted to [Roundup Ready] corn in 2009 and 2010, while adjacent non-GMO corn had very light to no infections.” In 2010, Goss’ wilt was a “major contributor” to an estimated one billion bushels of corn lost in the U.S. “in spite of generally good harvest conditions,” says Huber.
The subject of Huber’s initial letter is a newly identified organism that appears to be the cause of infertility and miscarriages in animals. Scientists have a process to verify whether an organism is the cause of a disease: they isolate the organism, culture it, and reintroduce it to the animal to verify that it reproduces the symptoms of the disease, and then re-isolate the organism from the animal’s tissue. This has already been completed for the organism in question. The organism appears in high concentrations in Roundup Ready crops. However, more research is needed to understand what this organism is and what its relationship is to glyphosate and/or Roundup Ready crops.
In order to secure the additional research needed, Huber wrote to Secretary Vilsack. Huber says he wrote his initial letter to Secretary Vilsack with the expectation that it would be forwarded to the appropriate agency within the USDA for follow-up, which it was. When the USDA contacted Huber for more information, he provided it, but he does not know how they have followed up on that information. The letter was “a private letter appealing for [the USDA's] personnel and funding,” says Huber. Given recent problems with plant disease and livestock infertility and miscarriages, he says that “many producers can’t wait an additional three to 10 years for someone to find the funds and neutral environment” to complete the research on this organism.
If the link between the newly discovered organism and livestock infertility and miscarriages proves true, it will be a major story. But there is already a major story here: the lack of independent research on GMOs, the reluctance of U.S. journals to publish studies critical of glyphosate and GMOs, and the near total silence from the media on Huber’s leaked letter.
The Professor’s request does not seem to have been answered, or if they are working on this, it’s about time they let us know what their results look like. Current indications are that we will seen net decrease in food production around the world, worse than it is at the moment. Inflicting what amounts to AIDS onto our food sources is close to suicidal.
Professor Huber acted as a concerned, informed citizen, as well as a respected member of academia. His request was for additional focus and assistance on a subject that is vital to every human being on the planet. Food.
Empirical evidence has been collected, it should be validated.
Any results the USDA has to date should be published.
Open discussion should be had in the scientific journals to ensure that all sides of this issue are represented.
Policy makers should become aware of the possible consequences and formulate reponse plans.
A reasonable question of risk to health and welfare of the people has been raised, and should be addressed by our representatives. The FUD generated against “…those interested in treating the issue as an objective problem in risk assessment and management are labeled ‘alarmists’, a particularly infantile smear considering what is at stake.” Vested interests are involved, our representatives need to represent us, not their campaign financiers.
I am quoting this one in it’s entirety. This author has broken through the barrier of the media spin, stepped past the tornadic resistance, and calmly explained the plague of the 21st century. I’m quoting the entire article because I fear it won’t remain online for long, that Rupert, or someone of that ilk, or one of their many ‘true believer’ minions will reach out and attempt to blot out this small spark of truth before it is noticed.
On August 4 1961, a young woman gave birth to a healthy baby boy in a hospital at 1611 Bingham Street, Honolulu. That child is now the 44th President of the United States. There is absolutely no doubt, none whatsoever, about the fact that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii on that day in 1961.
Notwithstanding that simple fact, recent surveys reveal that only one in three Republicans accept that President Obama was born in Hawaii, with the remainder either believing that he was born outside the United States (some 45-51 per cent, depending on the particular poll) or professing uncertainty.
Yes, roughly half of Republicans ignore incontrovertible evidence – from a Hawaiian birth certificate to birth announcements in the papers to the fact that a pregnant woman went into hospital and left it cradling a baby. Those Republicans choose to believe the nonsensical instead; namely, that president Obama was born in Kenya or Indonesia or the North Pole or some other distinctly un-American place.Why?What motivates people who, based on Republican demographics, likely earn a living in business or dentistry or some other well-paying job requiring at least a modicum of literacy, to take leave of their senses and to subscribe to patent absurdities instead?
On May 19 2010, the US National Academy of Sciences, America’s highest scientific body, summarised the current state of climate science particularly clearly: “Some scientific conclusions or theories have been so thoroughly examined and tested, and supported by so many independent observations and results, that their likelihood of subsequently being found to be wrong is vanishingly small. Such conclusions and theories are then regarded as settled facts. This is the case for the conclusions that the Earth system is warming and that much of this warming is very likely due to human activities.”
The late Stephen Jay Gould referred to a fact as something that it would be “perverse to withhold provisional assent.” Notwithstanding the Academy’s clear statement about the existence of global warming and its human-made causes, recent surveys reveal that the majority of US Republicans do not accept this scientific fact.
Indeed, tragically and paradoxically, among Republicans acceptance of the science decreases with their level of education as well as with their self-reported knowledge: Whereas Democrats who believe they understand global warming better also are more likely to believe that it poses a threat in their lifetimes, among Republicans increased belief in understanding global warming is associated with decreased perception of its severity. The more they think they know, the more ignorant they reveal themselves to be.
What motivates people to reject trivially simple facts – such as the President’s place of birth – as well as more complex facts – such as insights from geophysics and atmospheric science?
The peer-reviewed psychological literature provides some insight into this question. Numerous studies converge onto the conclusion that there is a strong correlation between a person’s endorsement of unregulated free markets as the solution to society’s needs on the one hand, and rejection of climate science on the other. The more “fundamentalist” a person is disposed towards the free market, the more likely they are to be in denial of global warming.
But what do markets have to do with geophysics or the thermal properties of CO2?
The answer is that global warming poses a potential threat to laissez-faire business. If emissions must be cut, then markets must be regulated or at least “nudged” towards alternative sources of energy—and any possibility of regulation is considered a threat to the very essence of their worldview by those for whom the free market is humanity’s crowning achievement.
It is this deep psychological threat that in part explains the hyper-emotionality of the anti-science discourse: the frenetic alarmism about a “world government”, the rhetoric of “warmist” or “extremist” levelled at scientists who rely on the peer reviewed literature, the ready invocation of the spectre of “socialism”—they all point to the perception of threat so fundamental that even crazed beliefs can constitute an alluring antidote.
Paradoxically, there is actually good reason to think of socialism in the context of the denial of climate science. It has been a long-standing source of puzzlement among outside observers how the Soviet Union and its satellites could bumble along for so long without reforming their sclerotic economies. Didn’t they notice that the shelves were empty? That Western workers enjoyed a far more comfortable life-style than their Soviet brethren?
No, the Soviet ideologues didn’t notice and they wouldn’t have seen anything even if someone had forced them to look.
Because ideology trumps facts.
And it doesn’t matter what the ideology is, whether socialism, any brand of fundamentalist religion, or free-market extremism. The psychological literature shows quite consistently that a threat to one’s worldview is more than likely met by a dismissal of facts, however strong the evidence. Indeed, the stronger the evidence, the greater the threat—and hence the greater the denial.
In its own bizarre way, then, the rising noise level of climate denial provides further evidence that global warming resulting from human CO2 emissions is indeed a fact, however inconvenient it may be.
Does this mean that free-market economies are incompatible with action on climate change?
Mainstream free-market economies embarked on a path towards reducing emissions long ago, and some of the most vigorous proponents of decarbonisation of their economies are European leaders from the conservative side of politics, such as Britain’s David Cameron or Germany’s Angela Merkel. Likewise, mainstream free-market outlets such as The Economist – hardly a left-wing rag! – have little patience for climate denial but instead focus on moving forward and creating new business opportunities in the clean-energy sector.
None of this was lost on the previous leader of the opposition, Malcolm Turnbull, who by all accounts remains firmly entrenched in modernity.
Stephan Lewandowsky is a Winthrop Professor and Australian Professorial Fellow at the University of Western Australia.His research addresses the distinction between skepticism, cynicism, and denial. Find him and his colleagues here.
About a month ago Peter put up a two part series on the record heat waves. Interestingly we get a clip of Senator James “I’m owned by the oil companies” Inhofe standing in a heat wave talking about how it’s been cooling for the last 9 years. We get lots of insight from the usual suspects, telling us that things are cooling off. Check out the two part series, it should be informative for many.
@brainpicker on Twitter provided this excellent link at the Open Culture site openculture.com that calls for some intellectual honesty. I’m reposting via Posterous to get the post up in as many places as I can as quickly as possible.
If the video doesn’t show below, please go to the original site (link above) to watch! This is very definitely worthy of extra thought.
March 23rd, 2010
In the weeks before the US Congress passed major healthcare reform, select members of the political right (from “the base” on up to the leadership) repeated the claim that the Obama administration was turning America into a fascist/totalitarian/Maoist/Nazi state. The language was inflammatory and reckless, and it deeply trivialized the past. Now, it’s time for a little reality check. This is what fascism & totalitarianism actually look like. It looks like prison camps, torture, starvation, the bleakest of bleak conditions, and mass death, running into the millions. And take note: there’s not much healthcare going to the uninsured in this world (nor a strident political opposition, I can assure you). This wartime documentary, Death Mills (above), comes from the great director Billy Wilder (Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard). It was intended to educate Germans about the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime. But, apparently it still has educational value for Congressmen, pundits and tea partiers today. Unless, of course, these folks were just being cynical all along.
For those who opposed the healthcare plan intelligently and civilly, don’t take offense. This is not about healthcare per se. It’s about intellectual honesty … or at least setting the historical record straight.
Edit 2010 03 15:
It’s always difficult to show where my thoughts begin and end on these Posterous blog updates… perhaps I should stop using it and find a better blog distribution tool. For clarification, I found this post by Vurdlak over on the moillusions.com site and thought it depicted the Orwellian nature of our world reasonably well… after reviewing, the post again, I see it’s unclear that the words below were from another person. So I’ve added this comment just for context.
For those of you who are intensely aware of this, my apologies for wasting your time and attention. For those who are unfamiliar with the idea that someone is making decisions about what you see, and what you know, please think hard about the implications of this posting. Especially when it comes to things like School Textbooks.
“we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex… Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.” — President Dwight D. Eisenhower
There’s only one real answer (legislative parsing aside) to the Supreme Court’s attack on democracy by its ruling that big business can spend its billions to support or oppose candidates.
You’re looking at it right here. Trust me, we have the power– it’s called corporate fear of losing money, time and privacy.
I’m a blogger and writer. There are thousands like me. Together we have the power to keep corporate America from destroying our democracy. We can unleash the righteous anger of the population in a way that will make the “Tea Parties” look like a Sunday school picnic!
Here’s how– Let us bloggers, writers and activists – of all political positions — promise corporate America that the first corporations to make use of this Supreme Court ruling will pay a price so steep that no one else will ever want to try it again.
Here’s what I propose:
Let all bloggers who agree that democracy is at risk because of this decision unite here today to preemptively declare that any corporation that takes advantage of the Court ruling will:
Have its directors, named and outed– inclusive of office addresses of the person posted widely and repeatedly with calls to picket them 24/7
It’s executives named and outed– inclusive of office addresses of the person posted widely and repeatedly with calls to picket them 24/7
It’s major stock holders named and outed– inclusive of office addresses of the person posted widely and repeatedly with calls to picket them 24/7
That there will be agitation for the corporate headquarters to picketed
That the PR firm, add agency and creative people who work on any such add campaign (and media firm, TV and/or radio station’s executives that sell them the time) be outed — inclusive of office addresses of the person posted widely and repeatedly with calls to picket them 24/7
…And that all this will be done by all bloggers to the best of their investigative abilities… and we promise to do this regardless of the content of the add and even if in some individual instance we agree with the candidate (or cause) being helped.
Yes, this is a threat and a promise, actually a sacred vow to sustain our democracy.
Let the first corporation to try stripping the rest of us actual individual citizens of our free speech — by overwhelming us with their money at the behest of the election-stealing Court — become a cautionary tale that will not soon be forgotten.
Do you agree?
Will you promise to make this happen?
Then say so! Sign this statement, post it on your blog and pass it on
Good news! The Age of Stupid is now available for you to download and watch from the comfort of your computer screen. Choose Pay-per-view to watch the film in your browser window, Download to download the film to your computer, or choose Torrent to rip us off.
Denial is a defense mechanism where a person is faced with a fact that is too painful to accept and rejects it instead, insisting that it is not true despite what may be overwhelming evidence. A related psychological concept is that of cognitive dissonance, originally coined by social psychologist Leon Festinger. Cognitive dissonance describes the negative tension that results from having two conflicting thoughts at the same time, or from engaging in behavior that conflicts with one’s beliefs.
“The theory of cognitive dissonance states that contradicting cognitions serve as a driving force that compels the mind to acquire or invent new thoughts or beliefs, or to modify existing beliefs, so as to reduce the amount of dissonance (conflict) between cognitions. Experiments have attempted to quantify this hypothetical drive. Some of these have examined how beliefs often change to match behavior when beliefs and behavior are in conflict.”
Jared Diamond, in “Collapse” quotes the behaviour of people living below a dam that may break:
““Consider a narrow river valley below a high dam, such that if the dam burst, the resulting flood of water would drown people for a considerable distance downstream. When attitude pollsters ask people downstream of the dam how concerned they are about the dam’s bursting, it’s not surprising that fear of a dam burst is lowest far downstream, and increases among residents increasingly close to the dam. Surprisingly, though, after you get to just a few miles below the dam, where fear of the dam’s breaking is found to be the highest, the concern then falls off to zero as you approach closer to the dam! That is, the people living immediately under the dam, the ones most certain to be drowned in a dam burst, profess unconcern. That’s because of psychological denial: the only way of preserving one’s sanity while looking up every day at the dam is to deny the possibility that it could burst. If something that you perceive arouses in you a painful emotion, you may subconsciously suppress or deny your perception in order to avoid the unbearable pain, even though the practical results of ignoring your perception may prove ultimately disastrous. The emotions most often responsible are terror, anxiety, and grief.”
Reaching social limits to growth is potentially a world-sized dam break. It’s no wonder initial reactions to hearing how the world we know might change are met with skepticism. (Note: interestingly, and something I intend to explore on a subsequent post, is the concept of denial is related to the study of addiction.)
COGNITIVE LOAD THEORY
“or Fruit Salad?”
Cognitive load theory suggests humans have a maximum capacity of working memory. At around 7 ‘chunks’ of information, our working memory maxes out and we can’t accept anything else without losing some of the previous ‘chunks’. Try remembering the following numbers 1-9-1-4-7-6-7-5-9-5-9. Its quite hard to do. But if they are rearranged in chunks 1-914-767-5959, it becomes much more manageable. Numerous studies have measured this phenomenon – a notable study by Shiv and Fedhorkhin(1) asked a group of people to memorize a two digit number, walk down a corridor and at the end choose a dessert – either chocolate cake or fruit salad. A different sample of people were then asked to memorize a 7 digit number and walk down the corridor (while internally reciting this 7 digit number) and also choose a dessert. When required to memorize the 7 digit number, almost twice as many people chose the chocolate cake as in the sample only memorizing the 2 digit number – the implication being – ‘my short term memory is full – I cant access my rational, long term decision-making hardware – just give me the damn cake’.
Of course, in a society with cell phones, taxi-cabs, internet, coffee, soccer practice, Grays Anatomy, corporate ladders and a plethora of other chocolate cake-like stimuli, meaningful contemplation and education about energy depletion and our planet’s environment usually represents the fruit salad. Many people are just too cognitively taxed to take on much more.