Smoke and Mirrors

Let me start with a quotation:

I’m not a pessimist, even though I do think awful things are going to happen.

James Lovelock

The author of that quote is fellow Englishman, albeit a tad older than yours truly, Mr. James Lovelock. WikiPedia describes him, thus (in part):

James Ephraim Lovelock CHCBEFRS[2] (born 26 July 1919) is an independent scientist, environmentalist and futurist who lives in Devon, England. He is best known for proposing the Gaia hypothesis, which postulates that the Earth functions as a self-regulating system.[5]

Moving on.

These times in this fine country, The United States of America, are troubling as Rebecca Gordon set out so compellingly in yesterday’s post.

But what is so terrible about these times is the failure to put integrity at the heart of every pronouncement that comes from a Government. And it would be grossly unfair to pick on the present US Government as the only example of this failure.

Because just a few mouse clicks can inform millions of us as to the real issues. Such as the effect that Climate Change is having on our health, as this recent Grist article so aptly put it in the opening paragraphs:

Here are 4 ways climate change is messing with our brains — for the worse.

We might think of climate change as purely physical: wildfires blazing through forests, rising seas lapping at the doors of coastal homes.

But those brutal conditions also affect our mental health, changing how we think and act. Mental health professionals are paying attention to the link between climate change and emotional health — and health insurance companies are, too.

Or take the issue of the state of America’s water. Recently the subject of an important essay just presented by Naked Capitalism:

America’s Hidden Water Affordability Crisis

Yves here. Grist has been doing an admirable job of keeping on top of this important yet oddly still-under-the-radar story. In the US, the big driver of rising water costs is the need to invest in aging, neglected water works. But water is going to become an issue in many places for differing reasons. As we have been saying for years, the natural resource that is projected to come under pressure first is potable water. And please don’t push desalination as a magic bullet. That costs money (both the plants and new transportation infrastructure, uses energy, plus has the not-trivial problem of how to dispose of the salt residues.

By Ciara O’Rourke, a freelance writer and 2015-16 Ted Scripps Fellow in Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado Boulder. Originally published by Fusion and reproduced at Grist as part of the Climate Desk collaboration

When Elizabeth Mack wondered about a future in which Americans wouldn’t be able to pay for water, a couple of colleagues waved her off. “Don’t be ridiculous,” they said. But the idea niggled at Mack, an assistant professor at the Department of Geography, Environment, and Spatial Sciences at Michigan State University. And in January, in an article published in the science journal PLOS ONE, she asked a new question: Is there a burgeoning water affordability crisis in the United States?

Mack, along with research assistant Sarah Wrase, determined that if water rates increase at projected amounts over the next five years, the percentage of households that can’t pay their water bills could triple from 11.9 percent to more than a third. Nearly 14 million households nationwide already struggle to afford water services. An additional 27.18 million — or 8.5 percent of the country’s population — could soon face the same challenges.

Yes, integrity in politics is more, so much more, than a nice idea from this silly old Brit now living in Oregon. Here’s a post I published some four years ago that says it as clearly as it needs to be said.

ooOOoo

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 http://www.flashevap.com/bigthings.htm

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.

ooOOoo

Going to close with two more quotations from Mr. Lovelock.

The first:

You never know with politicians what they are really saying. And I don’t say that in a negative way-they have an appalling job.

And the second one to close today’s post:

If you start any large theory, such as quantum mechanics, plate tectonics, evolution, it takes about 40 years for mainstream science to come around. Gaia has been going for only 30 years or so.

20 thoughts on “Smoke and Mirrors

  1. I’d written my comments below in response to your last post Paul – about war, but it is also apt for your post today :-
    An informative and disturbing article. Why aren’t people discussing these things more openly? Why don’t the radio presenters with mass audiences raise these topics? Is it because listeners will tune out because they don’t want to know? ‘Wilful ignorance’?
    If the mass of people read a bit more and thought a bit more about what is happening on our planet rather than tuning in to the latest reality tv program, then surely they would make better voting choices. I am probably the other way and read too much ‘doom and gloom’ – not good for one’s mental health. On the other hand, knowing about the many impending calamities that we will all face in the not too distant future (financial collapse, Peak oil, accelerated climate change, ecological overshoot, loss of bees and biological diversity, Fukushima poisoning, mass movements of refugees etc etc) sure helps one to not “sweat the small stuff” and to appreciate the simple things in our present lives – especially our pets!😀
    I’m glad that I am in my 60’s. I do worry for my children, in their 20’s and their future offspring. I sometimes wonder if I should suggest to them that it might be better not to have children?
    http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/01/william-perry-nuclear-weapons-proliferation-214604

  2. I heard only last night Agent Orange has slashed all funding for satelites monitoring climate change.

    Excuse my language, but what the f*ck?

    This has to stop. This man has to be stopped.

    1. WTF indeed !! A lead injection to the forehead sounds like a good idea but then it’s Pence, and if he goes, then it’s Ryan. Ye Gods!!

  3. A while ago, I heard someone on the BBC (name now forgotten like so much I forget these days) describing American politics as a pendulum and that it always swings back from extremes. It was a good reminder of the strength of the US Constitution.

  4. Excellent post Paul.. just excellent.. And thank you to Mr James Lovelock..
    I dislike saying this Paul, but I feel when Mother Nature lashes us for Real…. EVERYone will have to stand up and take notice.. Storms are increasing in their violence.. And I feel our Earth Mother’s tears, that have flooded so many places around the world are not being taken seriously.. When she rattles us and shakes us to our core.. We will all have to take notice and think again perhaps how our world is run.. For Money will not put what we have done right.
    Sending thoughts your way my friend.. ( feeling brighter with the Sun out today ) And thank you Paul for keeping us one click away from the Truth..
    Its out there.. If only we all put ourselves out to find it. As we question those who spin the webs we are meant to get trapped within..
    Take care and Love to Jean.. ❤

    1. Sue, it’s coming up to 6:45 in the morning. An overnight mist envelopes the upper branches of the gorgeous trees behind our creek. I have just read aloud your response to Jeannie as we both sit here on the bed, three dogs asleep with us, also on the bed. Jean has just said, “Your love and good wishes always brighten my morning.”

      Big hugs from me! 😍

  5. No one leaves this planet alive. I think global warming is just bringing that existential eventuality into mass consciousness – again. In ancient times, most people were so poor and lived from meal to meal – this kept death in their sights. Modern times brings more of us into an ease of existence that perhaps allows us time to fantasize that we are somehow going to live forever. And perhaps that’s true on some level, but certainly not in a physical sense. I just paused to think and happened to read Sue’s comment. She and I are both avid gardeners, and anybody who spends any time that close to the earth knows Mother Nature has a will of her own and knows how best to take care of herself/the planet. So when humans prove a doomed experiment, why would we think we, too, would not go extinct? Love to you and yours, Paul, human and animal. Keeping death in our sights keeps us bowed to the grace that is this amazing life on earth. Aloha. ❤

    1. Your wonderful contribution is yet another incredible example of how we can all reach out to each other. And just how special that is.

      Bela, what precious words you have just published.

      Thank you!

  6. Great post. Global warming and climate change have impacted our planet and I don’t feel that Earth can recover. I think we are doomed mainly because greed and power are destroying us. With politicians that only think of how to promote their agenda to aid the wealthy, then that’s a problem that will continue to wreck havoc. The video was very nice, showing Earth from out space. I really liked the music. I just wish I knew how to find music that one can use with a video.

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