Category Archives: Environment

Why bother about climate when Jesus is coming anyway?

The threat to the world posed by U.S. climate policy, as it is now established by the president, cuts even deeper than usually discussed. According to polls, almost half the U.S. population (40 percent) expects Jesus to return to the earth – in their lifetime – to bring all true believers to Paradise and destroy everything else. This mind-blowing conviction is held also by many members of Congress and other powerful individuals.

(Imagine half a billion Chinese seriously convinced that a Holy Dragon is coming down from the sky in a near future, salvaging all faithful communists and killing everybody else, before trashing the whole world. We would naturally consider them complete lunatics.)

If the believers in the Second Coming possess even a touch of rationality (which we thus hopefully may question) they cannot possibly care about global warming or any other conceivable catastrophe. They can live in the happy anticipation of their own near entrance into Paradise, safe in the thought that nothing can be done to rescue the infidels and the world anyway.

Why this creepy superstition, haunting almost half of U.S. voters, isn’t addressed more, or at all, is a matter of speculation. Does the establishment assume that people really don’t believe what they say they believe? It would be a risky assumption. These believers are obviously the people who constitutes the basis of G.O.P. voters, thus enabling the present state of affairs.

A more plausible speculation is that the establishment has no objections at all to religious stupidity. As a strategy in the class war it is just suitable that the masses are kept in faithful ignorance: “Suffer your meager fate on earth while the rich and powerful robs you blind, and you’ll be rewarded in heaven (‘you’ll get pie in the sky when you die’)”.

This strategy has been operative in holding back popular uprisings in Europe and elsewhere. In the U.S. it has even been successful in suppressing the development of peaceful worker’s movements.

When we look at the Middle Ages in retrospect it is more than obvious that religion and the church was a branch of the power exerted by the elite. People were convinced by the priests that God’s rules weren’t possible to change by humans. Thus, all kinds of insubordination were pointless.

That’s the root of the animosity between religion and socialism, and why the prelates hated popular movements working for enlightenment, equality and worker’s solidarity. Europeans solved this by shoving religion out of politics through worker’s struggle. U.S. has this act of maturity left to do. Let’s hope they do it before a final climate catastrophe hits us all.

Fake environmental protection, continued

Environmental problems is an important field for fake news, as noted in my previous post. For journalists and reporters in most media, environment is on top of the agenda, for good and for bad, as it turns out. The subject as such has the advantage of being a benevolent cause, at the same time a legitimate means to aggravate the audience, something media actors seem to value highly.

And many times media is on the right track, to their credit. The climate hazard is something they mostly get right, for instance. Now and then they also target air pollution around the world, a disaster that claims millions of premature deaths. But all too many times media take mythical, populist and science denying positions. And it’s striking how unidirectional mainstream media around the world are on these issues. A serious problem is that dissident media usually are even more on the mystical path regarding the environment.

If one asks a Swede what he or she does to protect the environment, the first thing a large majority will mention is “sopsortering”, which is to sort different fractions of domestic waste into separate trash cans and deliver to a special container park (which in rural districts may be located quite remote). Those fractions can be newspapers, other kinds of paper, plastic, metal cans, colored glass and colorless glass. (More special waste, like paint, solvents, electronic waste etcetera, must even in large cities be delivered by car to a central waste facility, which in those cases is motivated.)

The ideological superstition behind this giant quasi operation is that recirculation must result in new material of the same kind. Dirty and mixed plastic waste must thus be recycled into smelly, bad quality plastic bags, while premium petroleum very well may be burned in ovens, vehicles or anywhere. Same with short and worn cellulose fibers in recycled paper that must be used for production of very low grade paper, while premium, virginal fibers very well may be burned in stoves and even in large power stations.

Real experts on waste deem this recirculation as having no value for environmental protection whatsoever. Still it is considered by the population as their main effort to save the environment. It’s heartbreaking, and media is playing along, naturally, making no effort to enlighten people. Experts mention as a small example that it is twice as costly to make glass from recycled material than from virginal raw material (not including the considerable costs in time and transportation for recycling, that is paid by citizens). These costs can be directly translated into damage to the environment.

The most environmental-friendly way to handle waste consisting of paper, plastic, wood and other combustible materials is to burn it in a specially designed incineration plants with premium flue gas cleaning. Then the waste can be transformed to useful electricity and heat. (Glass is by the way perfect to improve slag formation during incineration.)

When passing a border between two municipalities in Sweden one usually reads a sign saying “Engine idling max. 2 min.”. It’s a local prescription, and there are 290 municipalities in the country, all of them obviously having decided the same thing. Of all possible prescriptions to put on thousands of signs one can think of innumerable ones significantly more relevant for environmental protection (“Driving max. 20 min.” would have been one.) But this is the kind of sham operations so common when it comes to environment. And no one reacts, least of all media.

Air quality in cities has become a main issue lately. When media reports on that here, car traffic is always mentioned as a main cause. It’s more seldom revealed that small scale wood burning (in our cozy stoves) often is equally guilty of this problem. But that kind of burning has by the ignorant been designated as environmentally friendly and is gently saved from exposure. This is the way media works with its ideologically motivated deception.

The real large scale deception by media is of course on political issues, on which western corporate media mostly is patronizing, self-sufficient and bullying, and yet unable to understand why people have less and less trust in them. To undress media is an educational process that has gained momentum, and which will be an important part of a progressive enlightenment.

Fake news as an old media speciality

“Fake news” is on every editor’s mind these days, and one could say that it’s about time, because there’s very much more to it than hits the eye today. It runs back in human history, probably till the very beginning, that people have lived in a world where myth, saga and intuitive senses of evidence have ruled, parallel to rationality and empirical facts. We are told that the Enlightenment marks the turning point at which reason and logic became the real hallmarks of human development. Would that it were.

We will probably never get rid of irrational spirituality, sometimes perhaps for benign reasons, but sometimes for unnecessarily stupid ones. Earnest media have double identities on this question, by both taking their enlightening task seriously but also nurturing specific myths and prejudice that has become “official truths”. Media have in any way a crucial role in forming the prevailing narrative.

There are innumerable examples, so let’s start with the toughest one: nuclear energy. We have just passed the 6th anniversary of one of the most tragic peacetime catastrophes that has ever hit Japan, the tsunami of 2011, which in most media now is renamed “The Fukushima disaster”. It’s indeed a remarkable disaster in which not a single individual has been injured, let alone killed. The real disaster – the tsunami itself – is repressed, and the almost 20,000 human beings that it killed seems forgotten.

The consequences of the Fukushima reactor breakdown, such as evacuations and decontaminations activities, were largely exaggerated due to public pressure, intensified by media and ordered by sensitive politicians. An important fact for perspective: there are areas on earth where people have lived for thousands of years with ten times higher radiation levels than those in the evacuated areas in Japan (look up “Ramsar”, for instance) and with no adverse health effects.

Already 25 years earlier the world had endured a similar event, Chernobyl, without media and others learning anything. More than a hundred of the world’s foremost experts on the subject made a deep and thorough study under UN auspices. Its findings contradict almost everything that had grown into the official narrative. They concluded that the damage on society, including the premature deaths among the public, was mainly a consequence of misguided actions by authorities, including unnecessary evacuations (reference: UNSCEAR 2000).

(One of the few Russians we like – Svetlana Alexievich – received the Nobel Prize in Literature, mainly for her reportage books. One of these covered the Chernobyl events and consisted of interviews with numerous people involved in the accident. A short review: it’s hard to find one single claimed fact in the book that is even close to true.)

Opposition to nuclear energy has become a journalistic faith, not surprisingly. It’s the perfect issue for keeping audiences alarmed at a convenient level, at the same time presenting a low probability that someone gets to call the cards. It’s likewise with other environmental issues suitable for alarmism. Organic products of all kinds are highest fashion here, as elsewhere in “enlightened” countries. And indeed, it sounds a natural thing.

About once a year my newspaper admits space for some scholars from our University of Agriculture to explain that organic farming has very little or nothing to do with environmental protection or health improvement (but the more to price increases). On some parameters, it may be slightly better than traditional farming, but on others it is clearly inferior. Among the former one finds the low level of pesticide residues, which on the other hand is an illusory victory. The pesticide risk we face is namely wildly exaggerated. The total amount of such chemicals we get through food in an entire year pose the same cancer risk as one single cup of coffee.

There’s more to this issue, but already too long, it’s time for an intermission…

The really hazardous side of Trump

When I was younger one could occasionally pick up the innocent notion here that everyone should be eligible to vote for the President of the United States, since the US had such an impact on the whole world. Naiveties like that are mostly gone nowadays, but in one respect they ought to be revived. And that’s about environmental issues.

US is the worst per capita polluter in the world, by a long shot. One emission that is harmful for everyone on earth is carbon dioxide. Alongside nuclear war, climate catastrophe is the greatest threat to survival of the human species. We’re not talking of some people, or even millions of people being exterminated, it’s literarily the entire human species that is at stake.

Global warming is accelerating at a terrifying pace with its deleterious effects measured almost day by day. Our grandchildren will experience changes in global weather never seen by mankind, most of those highly unfavorable. And that’s just the beginning.

In these dire straits a man elected President of the United States declares that he will do the outmost to enhance this treat to the human species, thereby supported by a Congress filled with likeminded climate deniers. To the latter’s defense one should admit that many of them believe Jesus to come back to earth and rescue them personally in a near future, leaving the rest to destruction. For them it’s at least logical to flout the end of humanity. They have rescued themselves by living an impeccable Christian life (voting for every immoral war possible).

To really underscore his fateful ambitions the President appoints a certain Scott Pruitt to be the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, a man who according to his own website is “a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.” This was already prepared for when a man named Myrion Ebell, a really dedicated climate denier, in September 2016 was appointed a member of the transition team, responsible for the EPA.

This is certainly a world that it takes a Jonathan Swift to describe and ridicule in a novel. Kafka would not be credible enough.

Homo Sapiens – a species too clever for its own good, but too stupid to do anything about it

Two prominent scholars, one physicist and one biologist, were asked the compulsory question: do you think there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe? The physicist said yes: given the unimaginable number of galaxies and solar systems, there must be organisms with cognitive capacities somewhere, from pure statistical reasons.

Faithful to his experience regarding the conditions of life the biologist was more reluctant to conventional wisdom on the matter. He assumed that life can be suspected to follow the laws of evolution everywhere it exists. And evolution doesn’t further higher organisms; the simple ones are the most sustainable. Looked at it that way humankind on earth may exist in a unique and extremely short period in astronomical terms, sufficiently unique that it not necessarily occurs elsewhere right now.

I apologize for this depressing opening, but I’m about to try a rough thesis:

Homo Sapiens is a species too clever for its own good, but too stupid to do anything about it.

We could begin with the most obvious risk of total extermination, nuclear weapons. Sharp human brains have figured out how to exploit the energy inherent in the bonds between elementary particles in the nucleus of atoms. Savvy technicians used this knowledge to construct a bomb with monstrously explosive power. Then these devices were handed over to politicians and generals, usually not famous for their intellectual brilliance.

Maybe the balance of terror and the threat of total destruction have hindered the Third World War (and the definitely final one) so far, but it has been a close call several times. And the attempts to diminish the risks haven’t been overly impressive.

On the contrary, the United States enhanced the danger unilaterally by abandoning the ABM treaty in 2001. Russia was then still a harmless wreck, posing no threat. And anti-ballistic missiles are offensive, first strike weapons, in that they block an enemy from retaliating to a nuclear attack. The stupid part of the human nature accepted this unprovoked increase in the risk of total extermination without much debate. Today the US has installed ABMs in Poland and Czech Republic, obviously aimed at Russia. We can’t do much more than keep our fingers crossed.

A less stochastic menace to human survival than nuclear weapons is climate change. We can now be sure that this threat can’t be eliminated, only somewhat mitigated if we put all our efforts into doing so. But do we?

Let’s look at my country, Sweden, considered to be progressive in a number of ways. If you ask an average Swede what s/he first of all does to save the environment the answer most probably is: “I separate my household waste into different fractions, which I deliver at specific waste stations”. Anyone who knows fundamentals about waste realizes that such efforts don’t save any environment, rather the opposite. It just saves the conscience of a misinformed population.

The next thing a house-owning Swede may do is to drill a couple of hundred meters into the ground to capture somewhat warmer water, install an expensive heat pump and thus reduce the amount of electricity needed for heating his house (what he probably not reflects upon is that earth’s heat mainly comes from nuclear reactions). His reduced electricity bill may please him, but considering what he has to pay for investment, maintenance and repair, the bottom line is not overwhelming. And the effect on global warming is thus insignificant.

These everyday environmentalists are usually friends of wind and solar power but opposed to nuclear power. The most enthusiastic among them buy “wind power” from their power company, install solar cell panels on their roofs and vote for the Green Party. The effects of their conviction is not just to promote symbolic actions, but in fact counter-productive for reducing global warming.

Take solar energy. Happy headlines announced that electricity output from solar cells in Sweden had doubled two years in a row. What the news didn’t reveal was that the total output now amounts to 0.04 percent of the country’s energy demand (that is: equals zero with an error margin). To spend large amounts on meaningless investments affects indirectly also the environment.

And then the dedicated and hoodwinked Swede goes out to buy a car which has some kind of “environment certificate”, satisfied that he has contributed to save the world.

The only energy source capable of really reducing carbon emissions on a global scale is nuclear energy. Countries like China, India and Russia take this seriously and install new nuclear facilities. Russia is an important producer of plants, and even developing countries show great interest in nuclear energy. Is this where the future is built, while pampered and deluded western ideologues are reading the map upside down?

What the climate issue – and thus human survival – really needs is for us to adopt an entirely new lifestyle, which most likely requires a completely different economic system. There will be no room for brainless consumerism generated by perverted profit-hunting. Instead we have to see genuine solidarity among entire populations.

In short: the intelligent side of our human nature has to take command over the emotional (stupid) side.