A Few Things Ill Considered

Final retribution?

Today’s Dilbert suggests that today’s generation may not escape the wrath of those coming next for the sorry mess we are leaving behind:

Well played indeed!

Comments

  1. #1 John
    February 24, 2009

    Wrath? Yes, sounds like a lunatic preacher. :-)
    Perhaps we are leaving a planet in bad shape for the next generation. Having two children myself, I am concerned mostly about GM crops, pesticide use, enforced vaccinations, the corruption of our political system, the globalised world, and the reduction of our freedoms. Global warming, if true, and if caused by humans, seems like a very insignificant concern to me right now. If where I live becomes uninhabitable, I’ll do as humans have always done, I’ll adapt. I’m not sure if my children’s bodies will be able to adapt to the rest of the issues I’ve mentioned, however.

  2. #2 BAllanJ
    February 25, 2009

    Yes, John. Of course your concern could just be wrong. You’ll adapt to global warming? How? Moving to higher ground? Eating sand? Growing gills? Go ahead and be concerned about pesticide use, the others are a bit weird. Global warming is going to be the one of these that has the capability of causing large scale war… the others, not so much.

  3. #3 Matt Bennett
    February 25, 2009

    John,

    So just what is it about vaccinating children, so they they don’t suffer the debilitating or lethal effects of a host of terrible diseases, that you feel puts them at risk? And the “globalisation” that you list as so dangerous is an absolutely natural and unstoppable side-effect of a growing population – not some evil plan hatched by mad conspirators. Think of it as the colonisation of the south Pacific islands, writ large. Bigger groups take more land, absorb smaller cultures and interbreed with them until there is an inevitable homogeneity. We have, after all, only one planet and I’m sure any number of theorists 200 years ago could have told you that at some point in the future, we will probably only have one language, one currency and maybe (oh what a beautiful day) one skin colour….

    Nothing to be afraid of there. Climate change, on the other hand, is not “a very insignificant concern” and if you think it is, I’d suggest you read up a little more on the reputable scientific side of the story. Growing evidence suggests rapid climate change may have been the culprit behind the massive Permian extinction event 250 million years ago.

  4. #4 John
    February 26, 2009

    Matt, your version of globalisation is not what I’m talking about, but I won’t go into it here. By the way, the day we all have the same skin colour I don’t see as such a beautiful day – I’m all for diversity. For vaccinations you’re assuming I think they are all bad but I’m referring to the continued increase in the dosages being taken by children before they reach 2 – again I won’t go into that here, other than to say that it worries me far more than global warming. I’m afraid I see you and BallanJ as misinformed scaremongerers. I have followed the science of AGW and even by the IPCC’s own reports I think you are perhaps exaggerating. Pray tell, what would we have done during the Permian extinction if we’d been around? I have worked a long time for the UN and know the mentality of it and the IPCC. They mean well, of course, but they are also control freaks – they believe they have some right to impose their policies on the people of the globe, but in the end, they exist only to keep themselves in jobs. I know it makes a lot of people feel good about themselves if they beat themselves with a stick about reducing their carbon offsets – what is amazing is how many of the AGW proponents are the biggest consumers – in the UN they are constantly traveling to all 4 corners of the world. In fact, globalisation is a major producer of CO2, and the UN together with the Bretton Woods Organizations (WTO, IMF, World Bank) are the promoters of this globalised world we are living in, where every country is dependent on other countries for its production. The hypocrisy is astounding.

  5. #5 mikatollah
    February 26, 2009

    John, show a little loyalty to your employer… or resign and let someone who believes in the product do the job. Does your boss know you call him a “well meaning control freak” behind his back?

    I know you don’t post your full name here, but when they do your security check they will follow your internet activities by IP address. So tell us what you really think about the U.N.

    The hypocrisy is indeed “astounding”…

  6. #6 John
    February 26, 2009

    Mikatollah, the UN are not the CIA or NATO – they don’t do security checks on their employees! I didn’t say I didn’t believe in the goals of the UN. I still believe in the declared goals. How better to oppose phenomena like globalisation than if having a voice from within? (the UN does not exist to promote globalisation so there is no hypocrisy). I speak to my colleagues about issues like this openly. The UN is made up of many different sorts of people as you can immagine. The kind I object to are the “control freaks”, that unfortunately hold a lot of the power. The UN should exist to assist, not to impose and coerce. We recently had an open discussion on whether we believed in AGW and it was quite interesting. I gave my two cents. I wasn’t alone in my ideas, although generally there was very little understanding of the topic and a common mentality is “OMG we’re killing the earth”. It’s a pity they are not so worried about the disappearing honey bee, or pesticide over use – actually, they are not so worried because they are completely ignorant on these other matters.

  7. #7 mikatollah
    February 26, 2009

    John, I appreciate the work that you and others like you do at the United Nations. Unfortunately your organization has become a whipping boy for the political right in this country. At first glance your post appeared to be more piling on from the inside, and if I was mistaken about your motivation I apologize.

  8. #8 coby
    February 26, 2009

    “If where I live becomes uninhabitable, I’ll do as humans have always done, I’ll adapt.”

    This is a shockingly naive and cavalier comment, especially for anyone aware of the issues the UN is supposed to help with. While I have no doubt that richer people will be able to travel or buy their way out of most of the anticipated consequences of global warming, recent history and current events clearly show that the majority of people faced with unlivable conditions at home suffer tremendously. Even rich societies have shown themselves to be very poor at preventing and responding to the kind of events the climate change is already contributing to such as extreme weather, droughts and wildfires. And these are just the first order consequences, humanity is in for a shock when it finally collectively realizes the value and necessity of the ecosystem services. You don’t like GM? What alternative will we have when natural organisms fail to flourish in an altered climate?

    Like living in a house with a failing furnace, putting on a coat might seem like all it takes at first but what will you do when the pipes freeze? I say we’re better off solving the underlying problems.

  9. #9 Adam
    February 26, 2009

    John, I think you’ll find that many people concerned about global warming ARE also concerned about the topics you mentioned, even if some are a little vague (e.g. globalization and loss of our freedoms). However, a blog can only cover so much, and this is specifically related to GW.

    That being said, I find it a little odd that you’re concerned about declining bee populations and overuse of pesticides (presumably for environmental reasons, but please correct me if I’m wrong), but not concerned about “OMG we’re killing the earth”, as you put it.

  10. #10 mikatollah
    February 26, 2009

    John does not want to discuss his objections to vaccinations on this list, but it is interesting that he brought it up.

    I’ve noticed that AGW deniers appear to be more susceptible to non-scientific ideas like Intelligent Design and far more susceptible to conspiracy theories such as the plot at the U.N. to take over the world and force deadly vaccines on our children. These are anecdotal observations and I haven’t looked at any polling data, but I don’t find people who follow the science saying things like this.

    George Washington built the Continental Army out of colonial farm boys, many who had never traveled more than 20 miles from home. His fear of small pox was so great that new recruits were quarantined until they were inoculated or could produce scars to prove previous small pox infection. These inoculations were scary and painful. Live virus was scrapped off the lesions of recent victims and applied directly to an open wound. Almost everyone got sick in the process and it had a four percent mortality rate. But that compared favorably to the 50 percent mortality rate experienced by units exposed to the disease before inoculation.

    Vaccinations have been a fact of military life ever since. I remember vividly my induction as an 18 year old recruit, standing naked in a long line with med-techs on both sides of me poking me with needles and vaccine guns. I don’t recall how many shots I received that day, but I didn’t raise my arms voluntarily for a day or two.

  11. #11 John
    February 26, 2009

    Coby, if you believe GM crops will be a solution in a future world of global warming, then think again – I don’t really think you know enough about them if you think that. The human race has always adapted, by the way. It’s now more difficult to adapt because of the way civilisations have adapted in recent centuries. Cities like New Orleans, or nations like Bangladesh, are always going to be living on the edge because of where they are located. Suppose global warming occurred naturally as has occurred before – what then? We seem to believe that we can now control our planet’s cycles. People are no longer able to adapt because they have become so heavily dependent on the state for their livelihoods. I blame the US, globalisation and most governments in the world today for that. So what did the Vikings do when Greenland got colder again? I think they decided to leave. There is such a thing as climate change mitigation. I believe that is a good concept, because the climate will change, and so we’d better adapt to it. Fortunately, in the last 100 years, despite a 0.7C increase on average of global temperatures, nothing really serious has happened. Nevertheless I contest your statement that it’s easier for richer people to adapt. The people of the developing countries have less to lose by migrating – in fact in many areas that was how they lived until they were colonised.

    Mikatollah – I don’t want to talk about vaccinations here because it’s a huge topic. However, don’t get me wrong. I’m not against the polio vaccine. I am against the flu vaccine, and it concerns me that governments are now recommending we all take it each winter, when in fact it is statistically unproven that it reduces your chances of getting the flu, but does give you an unhealthy dose of thermiserol (mercury). This is only possible because of the influence the Pharma industry has over authorities like the FDA. In between Polio and Flu vaccines you have a whole range of others, many mandatory, than in my opinion are given to us because Pharma have lobbied.

    Guys, I consider myself an environmentalist, believe it or not. Just because I don’t believe that CO2 is significant, does not mean that I’m not concerned about our planet. Otherwise I wouldn’t be harping on about honey bees, GM crops, pesticide over use, and so on. I consider myself a libertarian. I am completely suspicious of government. These people who brought us the Iraq war, the never ending situation in Afghanistan, and carried out other atrocities such as Operation Gladio, need to be kept in check. They have hijacked the environmentalist movement for political gain. That doesn’t mean that CO2 isn’t responsible of course, but it does mean to me that Kyoto is smoke and mirrors. They colluded with banks over decades to bring repeated financial crisis every few years, and then they come in and offer us the solutions in their G8 meetings. Those same people who cause our problems, offer the solution. The people of the UN are not out to take over the world. However, they are being used and are equally susceptible to lobbying as governments and authorities like the FDA. Just look at WHO and their vaccination programme. Could it be just an excuse to regulate healthcare in favour of big Pharma, and to sell millions of shots of vaccines? Their statistics on HIV/AIDS in Africa are also very suspect due to dubious criteria they use to diagnose it in the absence of proper HIV testing kits (sorry – can’t remember the name of the flawed technique they use). There is a tendancy to justify one’s existence by over-stating the problem in the UN, unfortunately. I see it with my own agency repeatedly – many of my co-workers disagree with this policy.

    Adam, the “OMG we’re killing the earth” comment is referring to the mentality demonstrated by those who actually know nothing about the environment other than what has been spoonfed to them. They mean well but are entirely ignorant of the details. I’m not including the people here in that grouping because you’ve clearly studied the issue and have come to different conclusions than I have; alas that is not true for the majority.

    Cheers.

  12. #12 mikatollah
    February 26, 2009

    John, your distrust of government colors your world view and makes it impossible for you to see any advantage in critical policy decisions like AGW abatement or flu shots for children. Not that your are alone in this mindset. Many folks internalize this mistrust of government to a point where they won’t trust scientists, teachers or anyone else who doesn’t agree with them. You seem to see a conspiracy at the FDC. That is why I’m careful to distinguish this denial behavior from skeptics. Skepticism is healthy and forms the basis of science; denial lives somewhere in the dark recesses of the mind and poisons rational thought (I’m talking to you Trevor).

    A case in point here is flu shots for children. You make a good point about thermiserol, then take the argument one bridge too far by arguing that it’s all a big government conspiracy and we shouldn’t give flu shots to our kids. This is dangerous thinking, just like it’s dangerous to deny AGW abatement. Government and industry are well aware of the dangers of mercury, and it has been removed from childhood vaccines. Flu shots will also not contain mercury in the coming years. But for right now, the best course of action is to get our kids immunized.

    Now how can I be so sure of myself? I’m not a medical doctor. I’ve never studied the immune system and my children (who are MDs) are always complaining about me practicing without a license. I have to trust the people who have studied the issues and are in the best position to make the case. I don’t go into it blindly and I read everything I can on the issues, but in the end it comes down to, do you trust the science. Not the scientists, but the science.

    The political right in this country is hostile to the science because the current science doesn’t fit their world view. So it is up to the rest of us to take these decisions away from them and do what is in the best interest of society. Whether that means cleaning up the smokestacks or making sure our kids get immunized, it’s up to us.

  13. #13 BAllanJ
    February 26, 2009

    John said:
    “So what did the Vikings do when Greenland got colder again? I think they decided to leave.”

    Actually, few could afford passage out of Greenland. Most decided to die. Thanks for making my point.

  14. #14 Adam
    February 26, 2009

    John,

    I didn’t mean to come across as aggressive in my reply to you, you’re not like Trevor who gets my britches in a twist, so I apologize if I did. You’re coming from a well intentioned place, so perhaps you can be convinced, unlike some trolls who come on here just to cause trouble. I, personally, share many of your other concerns to varying extents, and I don’t want to trivialize them, but we have been focusing mainly on GW here, so that’s what I want to respond to.

    GMO crops:
    Trevor’s long diatribes not withstanding, crop production is damaged in the long-run from global warming (for various reasons, I recommend the IPCC 4th assessment for a thorough examination of this). I don’t think Coby is identifing GMO crops as a solution to GW, but as a necessity to deal with the consequences of it. GMO crops that are designed to live in higher temperatures, more resistant to drought, wind damage, etc. are going to be vital in order to keep the population supplied with enough food.

    Kyoto:
    Reasonable people can disagree over policy, and while I agree that any international agreement shouldn’t ignore developing nations, I do feel that it is the 1st world/industrialized/Western/whatever nations’ responsibility to take the lead.
    http://scienceblogs.com/illconsidered/2009/02/china_and_india_just_what_shou.php

    CO2:
    You’re making contradicting statements about CO2 not being important. You acknowledge the temperature increases, so I’m curious as to what you think such a rapid increase is due to if not CO2 and other greenhouse gases.

    Rich vs. Poor adaptability:
    I think your statement that those in poverty can adapt as well as wealthy populations is a blatantly incorrect. Wealthy populations can afford to construct the protections against significant weather events (levies, safe storehouses for food, rescue equipment, etc.) that those in poor areas cannot. Compare Katrina to the 2005 Tsunami. While Katrina was horribly horribly botched (and I don’t mean to trivialize it, it was awful), the effects of the Tsunami were relatively worse, in large part because of the poverty of the regions that were hit by it.

  15. #15 coby
    February 26, 2009

    John: “Coby, if you believe GM crops will be a solution in a future world of global warming, then think again”

    No, I don’t, I actually share your distrust of them, though not for health concerns, but because of why they are engineered (to work well with fertilizer and pesticide) and how patents and licenses are misused. But I confess I am not well versed in the issue so my opinions are not well settled. What I would expect though is that stress on the agricultural industries and pressure from food shortages will result in corporations like Monsanto gaining even more control. I don’t believe that is a good thing.

    John: “Suppose global warming occurred naturally as has occurred before – what then? We seem to believe that we can now control our planet’s cycles.”

    Natural changes in climate tend to occur on much shorter timescales and are therefore much easier to deal with. Even so, history is full of examples of civilizations failing because of them. We are better situated today to deal with natural changes, but what is happening today is not a part of any cycle. The rapiditly of current climate change can not be survived by many ecosystems and we depend on the earth’s biology for much more than people realize.

    I personally do not believe we can control the global climate, nor do I know anyone who has said they think so, but we can certainly disrupt it, as current observations clearly show.

    John: “So what did the Vikings do when Greenland got colder again? I think they decided to leave.”

    Actually, plenty of them starved to death. And the ones who did leave certainly did not have to apply for refugee status in some country maybe willing to take them in. There is no more “new world” out there today and the change people would be fleeing is not local, so this analogy is fraught with problems.

    John: “Fortunately, in the last 100 years, despite a 0.7C increase on average of global temperatures, nothing really serious has happened.”

    This is an arguable point, but regardless, no one predicted serious consequences from a .7oC warming.

  16. #16 John
    February 26, 2009

    About Iceland. What really matters is that the climate allowed them to settle there, and then it worsened and they had to either leave, or stay and starve (or adapt like the Inuit). (It’s not true that they all stayed and perished, but really that is beside the point – they were forced into a situation where they had to adapt). The fact is that their local climate changed quite dramatically in a fairly short period of time. Or is this disputed? So what caused this change? I cannot get my head around the fact that the climate changed in the past fairly quickly, with clear consequences, and yet today’s change is attributed to CO2. Now I will keep my beliefs open on CO2 causing climate change, and if over a period of time the models begin to demonstrate a better understanding and accuracy in prediction I will reconsider my position!

    Mikatollah – you are right that my distrust of government affects my world view. My distrust of government isn’t a personal invention – it’s all based on sourced events. I’m not alone in this world view. Take Ron Paul as an example who I’m sure you’ve heard of. Also read William Blum on terrorism and US/Western imperialism. Listen to Pilger on the Bretton Woods Organizations. So forgive me if I am very sceptical about Bush, Obama, Blair and Brown and who is behind them and which agenda they are following. It could be, of course, that while 3 out of 4 of these leaders have seen climate change as an opportunity to have yet more control over the population and raise yet more taxes, and so I completely disagree with their motives, it doesn’t mean the AGW concept is wrong. It does mean to me, however, that the IPCC has been sabatoged from the outset to provide one unbalanced version of events. Here, my experience of the UN is also important in determining my view. I know how the UN behaves. While attempting to fulfil its mandate, it exaggerates and it distorts. It’s always in search of scarce funding. When there are UN professionals that wish to say something that contradicts this message, there is a rush of “No no no, you can’t say that, let’s say it this way instead, or let’s not say it at all”. At the highest levels, the UN agencies are not these free-thinking university campus environments that people perhaps believe them to be. At the lower levels there are some fantastic people, but their voices are not important. I see the IPCC in this light and worse. When I see these repeated declarations of “things are much worse than we expected”, they sound just like my own organization, whose policy is driven by very few people, and whose agenda is not clear to me.

    Adaptation: As you know, over much longer time periods in the future, through natural cycles, countries like Holland may end up being under water, or in other periods, under ice. So we know we will have to adapt. We are much too focussed on our current way of life. We’ve become very comfortable. We live where we do and we prefer to engineer solutions to allow us to continue living there. Fine, until a threshold is reached and we must move on. Supposing we stop burning fossil fuels and yet temperatures continue to increase? What then? Will we still refuse to adapt because in today’s world it’s impossible?

    Not sure if I’ve answered all of your points but it will have to do for now. :-)