Reflections on Integrity.

Going back to basics.

Many will know the origins of this blog; a chance comment by Jon Lavin back in England in early 2007 that dogs were integrous,  (a score of 210 as defined by Dr David Hawkins).

Way back in 2009, I wrote this:

“There is nothing to fear except the persistent refusal to find out the truth, the persistent refusal to analyse the causes of happenings.” Dorothy Thompson.

When I started Learning from Dogs I was initially rather vague but knew that the Blog should reflect the growing need for greater integrity and mindfulness in our planetary civilisation.  Here are some early musings,

Show that integrity delivers better results … integrity doesn’t require force … networking power of a group … demonstrate the power of intention … cut through the power of propaganda and media distortion …

Promulgate the idea that integrity is the glue that holds a just society together … urgent need as society under huge pressures …. want a decent world for my grandchildren … for all our grandchildren …. feels like the 11th hour….

But as the initial, rather hesitant, start to the Blog settled into a reliable, daily posting, and as the minuscule number of readers steadily grew to the present level of many hundreds each day, the clarity of the purpose of Learning from Dogs also improved.

Because, while it may sound a tad grandiose and pompous, if society doesn’t eschew the games, half-truths and selfish attitudes of the last, say, 30 years or more, then civilisation, as we know it, could be under threat.

Or, possibly, it’s more accurate to say that our civilisation is under threat and the time left to change our ways, to embrace those qualities of integrity, truth and consciousness for the very planet we all live on, is running out.

Time left to change our ways is running out.

So what’s rattled my cage, so to speak, that prompted today’s reflection?  I’ll tell you! (You knew I was going to anyway, didn’t you!)

I’m drafting these thoughts around noon Pacific Standard Time on Sunday, 17th.  At the same time, tens of thousands of ordinary good folk (40,000 plus at the latest estimate) are gathering by the Washington Monument ready to march past the White House demanding that President Obama block the Keystone XL pipeline and move forward toward climate action.

Do I trust the US Government to take this action?  On balance, no!  That hurts me terribly to write that. I really want to trust and believe what the President of my new home country says.

State of the Union speech 2013. AP photo.
State of the Union speech 2013. AP photo.

Here’s a snippet of what the President did say in his State of the Union speech on February 12th.

Now, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods, all are now more frequent and more intense.

We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science and act before it’s too late.

A frank admission that the climate is changing in dramatic ways; the overwhelming judgment of science – fantastic!

The evidence that burning carbon-based fuels (coal, oil, gas) is the primary cause of today’s high CO2 levels is overwhelming. As a recent BBC radio programme reveals (being featured tomorrow) huge climate changes going back millions of years are a natural part of Earth’s history.  However, as one of the scientists explains at the end of that radio programme, the present CO2 level, 395.55 ppm as of January, is now way above the safe, stable limit for the majority of life species on the planet.

But say you are reading this and are not yet convinced?

Let me borrow an old pilot’s saying from the world of aviation: If there’s any doubt, there’s no doubt!

That embracing, cautious attitude is part of the reason why commercial air transport is among the most safest forms of transport.  If you had the slightest doubt about the safety of a flight, you wouldn’t board the aircraft.

If you had the slightest doubt about the future for civilisation on this planet likewise you would do something!  Remember, that dry word civilisation means family, children, grandchildren, friends and loved ones.  The last thing you would do is to carry on as before!

Which is where my lack of trust of leaders comes from!

Back to that State of the Union speech.  Just 210 words after the spoken words “act before it’s too late”  (I counted them!) Pres. Obama says, “That’s why my administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits.

Here’s the relevant section:

I will direct my cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.

Now, four years ago, other countries dominated the clean-energy market and the jobs that came with it. And we’ve begun to change that. Last year, wind energy added nearly half of all new power capacity in America. So let’s generate even more. Solar energy gets cheaper by the year. Let’s drive down costs even further. As long as countries like China keep going all-in on clean energy, so must we.

Now, in the meantime, the natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence. We need to encourage that. That’s why my administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits.

We don’t require any more oil to be used.  We are already using a staggering amount of it. Let me refer you to an essay on Nature Bats Last called Math. The scary kind, not the fuzzy kind.  Prof. McPherson wrote:

I performed a little rudimentary math last week. A little because even a little pushes my limit for math, these days. And rudimentary for the same reason. The outcome was staggering: We’re using oil at the rate of 5,500 cubic feet per second (cfs).

5,500 cubic feet per second” Don’t know about you but I have some trouble in visualising that flow rate.  Try this from later in the essay:

Here’s another shot of perspective: We burn a cubic mile of crude oil every year. The Empire State Building, the world’s ninth-tallest building, towers above New York at 1,250 feet. The world’s tallest building, Taipei 101, is 1,667 feet from ground to tip.

Put those buildings together, end to end, and you have one side of a cube. Do it again, and you have the second side. Once more, but this time straight up, and you have one big cube. Filling that cube with oil takes nearly 200 billion gallons … which is about one-sixth the size of the cube of oil we’re burning every year.

Burning a cubic mile every year!  Yes, Mr. President, more oil permits is a wonderful way of taking action before it’s too late!

cubic mile
Image taken from

So let’s see what transpires?  Let’s see if integrity is given the highest political focus.  As in “adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.”  Because if there’s ever been a time when all of us, from every spectrum of society need honesty about what we are doing to the planet, it’s now!

As the tag on the home page of this blog says, “Dogs are integrous animals.  We have much to learn from them.

23 thoughts on “Reflections on Integrity.

  1. Paul, I get what you mean, but if requiring energy consumption (such as oil) not to be increased further,this will also mean an overall change in consumption habits which in the short term may need some curbs in certain consumption behavior. The implication is US will have to tolerate a slower rate of economic growth. The dilemma is if economic growth rate is not quick enough, a lot of Americans will stay unemployed for a longer period of time. How to get the best of both worlds is a challenge! In order to reach there, technology will have to catch up fast to produce stuff that are fuel-efficient in usage. This is a long march! But as you said, how much time is left to prevent damage from getting irreversible? There are certainly no easy answers!


    1. There is no best of both worlds. We are running out of oil, the present lubricant for our material world. We have to run out of using oil pretty damn soon otherwise we run out of a liveable planet.


  2. Thanks for this Paul. I missed the State of the Union speech but is sounds like a repeat of his victory speech last year and his inauguration speech last month. The rhetoric about the validity of climate science may be getting stronger but, sadly, so is his apparent belief that we can have it both ways.

    President Obama is not stupid; so I do not think he is being deliberately intellectually incoherent or dishonest. The trouble is that he is being told by his advisors that we can indeed have it both ways: He is being told that we can burn all the Earth’s fossil fuels with impunity because technology will enable us to remove all this excess CO2 from our atmosphere before it can do too much damage. Here, then, is the source of the intellectual incoherence and dishonesty.

    Here in the UK, Greenpeace have a campaign underway to get the government to amend the new draft Energy Bill. A former Conservative environment minister has tabled an amendment demanding that it include a definite timetable for ending fossil fuel use (as per Climate Change Act 2008 and G8 Summit in 2009). Therefore, in support of this campaign, I have just sent my MP an email in which I summarised the post on my blog yesterday. This email was essentially a list of 20 reasons why the UK’s draft new Energy Bill should be amended. I concluded it thus:

    I really do hope you will not dismiss this as environmental “alarmism” because it is all based on mainstream, peer-reviewed, science (just ask your advisors!). So, for non-scientists to continue to insist (for purely ideological reasons) that they know best, despite all this accumulating evidence, is completely insane. Choosing to believe that most scientists could be wrong will not change the fact that they are probably right. Denial is not a river in Egypt.


    1. So let me follow this, Martin… Apparently you consider that if someone appears to be incoherent, or if someone is dishonest, that person is… stupid? Crooks are stupid? May I please draw your attention to the last cover of “The Economist”?

      A related observation: Obama’s State of the Union was found to have the lowest literate level among ALL presidents of the USA, but one (from “The Guardian”). I am also used to see him use my words, and do the opposite 8 years and going…

      This being said, there is a point where the rhetoric crosses some psychological Rubicons… Obama may be on the verge.


      1. Not at all. All sparrows are birds but not all birds are sparrows. Obama is not stupid; he is being misled. He thinks we can do both because people are telling him we can. Unfortunately, we cannot. End of story.


      2. Martin’s exact quote, above: “President Obama is not stupid; so I do not think he is being deliberately intellectually incoherent or dishonest.”

        Gee, what a wonderful argument:”My client Al Capone is obviously not stupid, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, so he cannot be deliberately dishonest!”

        So I stand corrected, and will pursue my reasoning with sparrows, and birds in general, to try to elevate the debate.

        OK, jokes aside, I am tired to meet high level USA citizens (the types who earn millions), telling me Obama is smart because he was a Constitutional Law professor and he is president. THUS, they insist, whatever he says is smart, and examining it is a waste of time.

        THAT later attitude actually undermines what Obama is trying to do, which is to navigate between public opinion, and plutocracy. Obama cannot be a general without an army. If he goes out there all alone, shouting, he may well get shot, and he knows it. If there are NOT enough protesters, there will be an XL pipeline.


  3. Two observations:

    1. judge a person by their actions rather than their words. Politicians are good with words, they cost nothing to utter, action on the other hand shows the true nature of the politician.

    2, in the USA money talks. Who has the money determines the outcome. All those protests will end in failure if the money is moving for a pipeline.


    1. Hey Alex. The same money controls our politics in the UK. It is this money that drives some Conservative politicians to ignore what their own scientific advisors say is necessary. There is much talk of rising energy prices if the UK becomes dependent of foreign gas; but very little talk of rising temperatures and sea levels if we exploit all the shale gas we have just discovered beneath our feet. So let me know If you want a template for a letter to send to your MP; and I will email it to you.


      1. Fortunately the money influence on UK politicians is muted compared to what is going on in UK. With enough money anyone can buy Obama and nobody would know about it.


    2. Alex is quite right. Except on one point: there are protest that frighten even plutocrats. BTW, that all and any USA politicians are for sale is totally obvious: all the top demoncrats (sorry for the typo not) are Romney rich (that is filthy rich)… And some all the job they ever got were as government employees…But for Obama, whose fortune is barely above ten millions (so far).


      1. Patrice, thanks for the comments; much appreciated and good to see you back in this place. Drop me an email with the corrected text and I will amend it for as it stands it’s not entirely clear – not to my eyes anyway. Paul


  4. Ten million tons of oil are burned every day. That’s only about 40% of the fossil fuel total. The subsidies for burning fossils are gigantic, and dwarf those for any other energy source. And yes, it’s about dishonesty. Several types of them, including the worst kind, intellectual dishonesty, a civilization defeating passion. How is the intellectual dishonesty diagnosed? When important arguments are avoided, on spurious grounds, and the later are left unexamined, for avowed emotional, or meta reasons.


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