Archive for the ‘Ecology’ Category

Wheel-spinning and time-wasting bureaucracy

August 31, 2010

The InterAcademy Council is conducting an independent review of the processes and procedures of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Based on this review, the IAC will issue a report with recommended measures and actions to strengthen IPCC’s processes and procedures so as to be better able to respond to future challenges and ensure the ongoing quality of its reports.

The very first question from the audience asks if the chairperson would be willing to step down at the end of a term. The speaker had just emphasized that the scientists who participate are NOT paid for their involvement. How is it productive to have a frequent change of chairpersons? Isn’t it important to maintain some continuity of project leadership. How can such a question be the very first one to arise from the audience? The meeting sounds like a bunch of academic scientists who are pushing words around simply for the sake of pushing words around rather than proposing any concrete measures or steps to improve climate conditions. They are spending more time talking about the dynamics of their own organization than they are about the dynamics of climate. This seems like bureaucracy existing purely for the sake of bureaucracy. This meeting’s wheel-spinning seems paradigmatic of the wheel-spinning in many government activities. At least in their favor in can be noted that they do not have filibuster.

It is nice to see a video clip of 40 minutes length. I am so used to youtube’s 10 minutes or less. The closing moments revealed an audience of only a dozen people but I guess the real audience is the on-line viewers. Several “errors” in previous reports were mentioned (e.g. re: glaciers) but no explanation was given of the nature of the errors. The final panel speaker mentioned anthropogenic man-made factors in climate change in addition to solar and volcanic factors. But then, even if some organization of scientists identifies actions which should be taken will every nation (e.g. China) willingly implement such changes?

I heard that Siberia has experienced such record high temperatures that they are more inclined to admit that some radical change in world climate is underway. But many interest groups seem to have a vested interest in doubt and denial that there is a problem or that the problem is approaching cataclysmic magnitude.


Changing World Economy

July 29, 2010

Bryan is posing a question to fellow finance dorks: Why do so many people still insist on saying “what goes up must come down” in reference to the markets? As in, why do people still insist on the idea that the markets are subject to Newtonian physics, when the markets have proven to be a social science?


I personally feel that unending prosperity and growth is not feasible. Too much of the world’s growth over thousands of years depended upon such things as non-renewable mineral and fossil fuel resources, upon conquest and exploitation of less developed civilizations which are now vanishing with modernization. Slave labor and genocide also played a role in expansion and prosperity. Entrepreneurs are more enticed by high risk high yield of very unstable financial instruments which are now more closely controlled and scrutinized. War and reconstruction have played a deceptive role in periods of prosperity and dominance. The tendency towards internationalization of currencies creates situations where the Euro must balance the frugality of nations like Germany with the prodigal nature of nations like Spain and Greece. The US model of private enterprise which seeks to reduce the influence of big government is being overshadowed by the growing success of nations like China where central government control and long term planning dictate the economy.

I have listened to old villagers in China who remember Mao’s revolution of the 1940s speak their stump speeches of “the empty belly now full.” The young generation of China has no memory of such years of hardship. Their great shift is from an agrarian village life with simple needs to an urban manufacturing and service economy where they demand cars over bicycles and increased power consumption. India and China each reach the 1 billion population mark. Gorbachev allowed the Soviet Union and the cold war arms race to dissolve because he finally saw that the underlying agricultural business model of the kalhoz collective commune was no longer competitive. No empire has lasted more than 1000 year if even that. Around the 11th century Ibn Haldune of North Africa realized vast cyclic changes in history and economy which were then forgotten for centuries. Our ecosystem is perhaps irreparably damaged and global warming is irreversible. This means that the wealth of the ocean flora and fauna will not be something that future generations can count on. Conservative political philosophy means literally conservation of wealth, power and status quo. Even the sudden emergence of open source as something superior to proprietary software is a stunning change in business models from older conservative competitive to progressive socialist liberal. Ideological strife between religious right and humanist left among Christians, and between secular vs conservative Muslims with the terrorist element present not just in Islam but in North Korea and among Kurdish nationalists are all dynamics of great instability, whereas business-as-usual conservative speculative models depend upon predictability.

Ecologists estimate that the Earth could support a maximum of 1 billion with a stable ecosystem. But Earth is now approaching 7 billion with an estimated 20 billion by 2030. Unless humanity unites in a world global government that is more secular and humanist in nature then the future and our survival does not seem promising. Unexpected plagues like HIV (and the Bubonic plague of the 13th century) are always possible. And in an ecosystem suddenly stressed by oil spills, nuclear waste, warming, genetic engineering and biological weapons, the chances of a catastrophe are heightened.

Bible Sees It Coming But Christians Do Not

July 2, 2010

Alex: For those who question the usefulness of regulation in mitigating (never mind preventing) disaster, consider the awfulness of not having at least 99.9985% pure seawater coming out of Dutch Skimmer vessels in the Gulf.

William: The Book of Revelation says that 1/3 of the air, sea and land will be destroyed and 10 vials of plague will be unleashed (or is it seven)… but anyway, all these events seem quite Biblical… and yet people who are supposedly of deep faith pray fervently that our status quo world will go on forever.. that prosperity will be unending and that such is God’s will??!!

Why do you suppose it is that The Book of Revelation says “woe unto her who is with child in that day” and “in that day people will pray for death but death will not come?”

Alex: There are seven seals. I’m not sure how many vials of plague there are supposed to be.

I’m betting on destruction by supervolcano myself. I think it’s just a bit too arrogant to assume we’re capable of doing to ourselves what the earth (with minor twitches) has been doing to species on the brink for millions of years.

William: I get mixed up but 7 or 10 but the bottom line is obvious… that’s why I didnt even bother to Google. Also, the KJV CORRECTLY translates “kai xronos ouketi estai” as “AND TIME SHALL BE NO MORE [shall cease]” rather than NIV “and there shall be no more delay. Straight out of Stephen Hawking. The heavens are rolled up like a scroll (only mentioned one other time in Isaiah) and time itself stops….. TIME-SPACE. Interesting, huh? Oh yeah and MILLIONS OF YEARS… so who cares… that is like forever (duh!)…. our sun will end as a giant dwarf in 8 billion years BUT in only 1/2 million the sun will be so large that life on earth is impossible… BUT WHO CARES because that is so far away… we are a nation who only looks as far as the next quarterly reports…

We only need geniuses like McCain to chant his mantra “our system is perfectly sound ” (er.. self-correcting?)

Alex: A red giant evolves as the hydrogen burns out, and then to a dwarf star William. You’re still looking at a billion years (not 1/2 million) before the atmosphere starts to be burned off. The oceans boil away at 3.5 billion. Much more fun to think about the Sagittarius and Andromeda galaxies smashing into the Milky Way before then.

Or maybe CERN will just produce a stable strangelet. Not with a bang, so to speak.

William: Let me try to dumb it down. Christian nations are destroying the ecosystem and yet are totally in denial that their own scriptures (the last book of the New Testament entitled “Book of Revelation”) predicts exactly what is now happening. All those Bible-believing Christians can’t believe that it is not their God’s will that they live forever in unending prosperity.

Alex: Yes, I suppose there is a sort of disconnect between christian faith and christian practice. Has that ever not been the case? I suppose they had a different idea about how their world would end (poli-centric and not techno-centric), but there have certainly been successful luddite christian cults that contrast with that example (which, perhaps like the Shakers, simply abstained themselves out of existence).

William: If changing topics gives you a wedgie, perhaps you should join a monastery? I don’t think I am very far off topic. A Scandinavian think-tank of scientists spent several years studying global warming and came to the conclusion that it is irreversible and therefore any money spent on trying to reverse it would be a waste (and we would get more bang for the buck putting money into HIV cure/prevention or clean drinking water for certain African nations or some other practical achievable goal.) Those scientists appeared on PBS and shows like Charlie Rose but I don’t think they made it to places like Fox or CNN.

Have you ever heard the expression “we won the battle but we lost the war?”

Excuse me for trespassing on Fantasy Island… please by all means, reverse all those fixable problems and continue on with your “Brave New World.”

My point was PRECISELY that you and many others are in a denial in your own fantasy island, and you think your are on the eve of some wonderful golden age, which YOU see as Brave New World but which is really financial, ecological and social ruin and possibly extinction…

IMHO we are all screwed and things will only grow worse and worse… each of our two “party” system talks like the country would be a better place if the opposing party were ELIMINATED and yet we abhor the one party society that is Communist China… isn’t that a RIOT!?

I agree with what Noam Chomsky suggests, namely, that the Neanderthal existed for 400,000 years with a “government” we call anarchy. Homo sapiens have only been around for 200,000 and I doubt we will be around for another 200,000. In a strange way the Neanderthal were MORE successful since they lived in harmony with nature and had no problems with health insurance…

I feel that when we all go extinct, the universe will be a better place…

I just find it amusing that Americans vote a twit-brain Bonesman like Bush in for two terms, who is basically a war criminal who should stand trial before the Hague, and who tries to usurp more power to the Executive branch than was ever intended by the founding fathers, who prays on camera with pursed lips and squinting eyes like a victim of hemorrhoids, who trots out all his sob stories about how he was an alcoholic but a walk on the beach with Rev. Billy Graham opened his eyes, how the whole nation is worried about things like abortion and same sex marriage when the environment and economy is collapsing.. and we try to fix things with FAITH BASED organizations when clearly Jefferson intended to erect a wall between Church and State… and to top everything off, the frosting on the cake, their precious Bible PREDICTS all this ruination… but they are in denial, and they want to support Israel so that Israel can rebuild the third temple, so that prophecies can be fulfilled so that Jesus can come again…

I have not touched a drop of alcohol or a flake of tobacco in over 2 years and hope I never do… not that there is anything wonderful about becoming much older than I am. I would be delighted and relieved if a doctor told me I had six months to live. Its just the principle of the thing.

But, you know what… if PROHIBITION came up for a vote, I would vote NO… not because I see alcohol as good (it is terribly destructive) but PROHIBITION CREATED far more problems than it solved (ever heard of the Mafia and bootleggers)… and prior to Rowe vs Wade abortion WAS criminalized which only meant that wealthy women went to countries where it is legal while poor women died in back alley abortions…. WE CANNOT LEGISLATE MORALITY…. Switzerland is actually SMARTER than we are… If you are a heroin addict in Bern, you register with the government and report each day and they give you TWO injections of pure heroin (junkies in NYC have to take six, cause it is watered down crap)… BUT now the government is your PUSHER and you have to do what your pusher says SO you have to go to social workers and get a job,… and you know what, IT WORKS…

And right this minute, Kurds are trekking over snow-covered mountains with back pack full of booze to sell to the mullahs in Iran.. and somewhere some mega-media preacher is in some motel paying some prostitute to do something terrifyingly unnatural with tupperware…
So… step right up, and repeat after me, and take JC as your personal savior… and you too will be BORN AGAIN and as Charles Stanley says, you will have THE ETERNAL SECURITY OF SALVATION….

Barton played GOOD COP with BP

June 18, 2010

And GODDAMIT he is a REPUBLICAN. Not all conservatives are wild-eyed, unreasonable fanatics.

I don’t think that Barton did or said anything so terrible. I kind of see him as playing “good cop” in a “good cop/bad cop” game. Barton emphasized several times that he is only speaking for himself and not for any party, Senate or Congress. Barton is ENTITLED to his subjective opinion and should have the freedom of speech to express his personal opinion. He is only trying to be polite and extremely politically correct. I suspect Barton is correct about current tactics being a kind of shake-down that flies in the face of 200 years of traditional due-process. I am quite certain that Barton WOULD go to prison were he to do the same thing privately in his office. The conservatives have moaned and groaned for years that they need off-shore drilling and to hell with the environment. The 1977 sci-fi movie “Demon Seed” demonstrates common sense when the supercomputer Proteus REFUSES on moral grounds to tell humans where to drill for oil under the ocean. My wife retorts that BP cut corners. But in these difficult times EVERY COMPANY cuts corners and bends rules just to survive. Sure the US was wrong under Clinton to deregulate and allow things like derivatives, but it was the ENTIRE WORLD that went after it because of greed and short-sightedness. No company looks any farther ahead than the next quarterly report. No one positions themselves for the next 50 or hundred years. Humans make errors, so if you DEMAND deep sea drilling, then sooner or later you are going to have this kind of tragedy. It worked to crucify Jesus so most people seem to think… in that it worked their personal salvation. But I dont see any salvation forthcoming from the crucifixion of BP. I am not saying they should not pay. I am just saying that one can be polite, civil and diplomatic as they strap them to the lethal injection table.

Supreme Court Justice Stevens wrote a scathing dissent saying that the holding displayed “an unstated lack of confidence in the impartiality and capacity of the state judges who would make the critical decisions if the vote count were to proceed.” He continued, “[t]he endorsement of that position by the majority of this Court can only lend credence to the most cynical appraisal of the work of judges throughout the land. It is confidence in the men and women who administer the judicial system that is the true backbone of the rule of law. Time will one day heal the wound to that confidence that will be inflicted by today’s decision. One thing, however, is certain. Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year’s Presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law.”

Now suppose the Executive branch of our government (the President) had threatened to strip Stevens of his office unless he recanted his scathing dissent? How would this be any different than the censure of Barton for exercising his free speech and expressing his subjective opinion?

Population and Ecology

June 12, 2010

I read that it took until around 1830 for the world population to reach 1 billion (there are estimates that in Socrates’ day it was 6 million.) By 1930 it had DOUBLED to 2 billion. By the 1960s it had TRIPLED to 6 billion. Yet ecologists speculate that our planet can only support 1 billion without permanent damage to the ecology (which is a moot point since one Scandinavian think-tank of scientists concluded that global warming is now irreversible and we would get more bang for the $ by spending on clean drinking water for afflicted nations, or programs for HIV). Just “thinking out loud.” I don’t know what the answer is. They say China would have a much greater demographic problem now had they not instituted the unpopular 1-child policy. But as more people migrate from rural to urban settings, they are no longer satisfied with weekly bathing but desire daily baths (and a host of other things which put an increased strain on energy and environment.)