Friday, April 20, 2001

Whatever works isn’t necessarily correct. Even if some of George W. Bush’s ideas, such as his notion to solve our reliance on Middle East oil by drilling for it in our pristine Alaskan waters, they are wrong. Even if we get the oil we want and are able to bring down the cost of our energy, it doesn’t mean we did the correct thing. Just because something works doesn’t mean it was the right way to solve a situation. Risk assessment always asks the wrong question: it asks how much damage is safe instead of asking how little damage is possible. Furthermore, risk assessment conveniently never asks, "Is the proposed activity needed?" It never asks, "Is the proposed activity ethical?" It never asks, "What will be the cumulative impact of this activity combined with all the other damaging activities to which humans and non-humans are exposed at this location?" And risk assessment never, ever asks if you are using the correct model of reality to base your decisions on.

Tuesday, April 17, 2001

The Great Reversal
Bush's about-face on his campaign promise to curb the greenhouse gases produced by coal-burning power companies, and his remark that now he has decided that science has not proven a direct link between the rise of global temperatures and carbon dioxide reveal the great depth of his ignorance about environmental matters. This reversal on one of the most important issues of our day highlights why appointing George W. Bush to president of the United States is a tragedy of judgment by a large segment (but not a majority) of the American public.
One does not truly realize the importance of Global Warming and the pernicious contribution of carbon dioxide from power companies one minute, then shake it off. (Nor incidentally, can one reverse the gravity of the consequences from our planet heating up by merely going back on a campaign promise.) The economic costs of curbing carbon dioxide from our power companies that Bush used as an excuse to reverse his pledge have not changed since he first made his campaign promise.
Deciding to make the cost of energy production and the slow-down in our economy the deciding factors in his policy over the environmental repercussions of Global Warming demonstrate that we do not have a leader. A leader is one who is able to shoulder the responsibility that comes with implementing a difficult and wise far-reaching policy in the face those howling for their short-term gain. What we have for a president in the United States at present is an instrument of the corporations, ready to pander to the incorrect notion that what is good for corporations (in this case, coal-burning power companies) is good for us.
What we have created, and accelerated by appointing Bush, is an impossible climate for making the hard decisions needed to be made to curb what is now known by the majority of scientists to be one of the gravest problems we have ever faced. Environmental problems such as Global Warming, in which action will have to be taken long before science has proven anything, are not just one among the myriad of difficulties facing George W. Bush--they are critical to our survival.
Even if you believe that Bush's reversal on curbing carbon dioxide in industry is the correct way to bring down energy costs, there must be in the back of your mind the nagging realization that if there ever is a real environmental problem, we will be too hopeless brainwashed by corporations clinging to life to deal with it. Already, a vast number of Americans are incapable of distinguishing between the survival of industries and their own best interests. Especially under this administration here in the US, the needs and wants of our corporations (drilling, power, automobile, forest etc.) will always be considered at least (Bush said we must find a balance the two) on par with our environment.
But only a moment's pause and a modicum of scientific knowledge will tell you that this is ludicrous: It is like saying we must find a balance between astronomy and astrology when implementing our space program. Bush's Great Reversal has not solved anything except to relieve the pressures on a polluting industry for a short while, and it has further stretched the resilience of our environment to sustain our way of life.
Ignorance in the 21st Century
Recently you published a letter from a woman who was appalled at New York State’s policy on the use of pesticides in controlling the West Nile Virus disease. She “could not believe such ignorance (she believes NY will only spray if there is a definite risk of human illness) exists in the 21st century…While there exists the possibility that even one person could get sick from this disease…”
In the first place there is no New York State policy on spraying pesticides for the West Nile Virus (WNV) disease. This has been left to the counties and Monroe County has wisely chosen not to spray unless there is indication that people are acquiring the disease. Rather than over-reacting to the WNV, as some county’s have spraying dangerous pesticides from the air that has much more profound negative effect on our own health and the environments, Monroe County should be appalled. Here we are educating the public on what steps they can take to prevent the disease and sampling our population for signs of infection.
If the rest of New York State could be encouraged to act as prudently as Monroe County has and adopt our policy, then we have a chance of not turning a small health problem into a very large, long-term one. The consistent notices that our public officials give the public and the reporting by our media constantly mentioning what they can do to prevent this disease is entirely instructive to the rest our counties and the Northeastern states. The real problem of the WNV is twofold: 1. There should be a comprehensive policy, not many, over the Northeast to combat this disease, because even one county or state overreacting will affect us all. 2. The public should learn about environmental issues so as to know whether or not their public officials are acting wisely or not.

Sunday, April 15, 2001

Year of the Ocean: The United Nations has declared 1998 the year of the ocean. It’s been easy for us to dump our cities’s sewage into the ocean for centuries because it seems to disappear in the ocean. You look out over the ocean and after you’ve dumped a mountain of trash, chemical waste, industrial runoff, you don’t see it. Until scientists and renown experts like Jacques Costeau took a close look at our oceans, it seems as though all the garbage and sewage we put into the seas had no effect. Well, we didn’t see it, smell it, monsters didn’t seem to be crawling out of the waters because of it, our boats weren’t hitting it, so for a long, long, time it seemed as though we could dump anything we wanted into the oceans. And, take anything out. Coral, fish, anything we want we could take from what seemed the infiniteness of the seas. Well, our children will have centuries (we hope) in which they can try to figure out how their ancestors could have possibly thought they could put anything they wanted into, and anything they wanted out of our oceans, and not--eventually--have an effect. Our excuses about how important it was for our economy to trash three-quarters of our planets surface will fall on deaf ears to a people who will have to eke out an existence in precarious world.
Back to the moon: NASA shot up a rocket/robot to look for water on the Moon. If there, water might fuel rockets, and provide nourishment for settlers. Think of it. Going to the Moon. We trashed Earth, but the moon seems to have been trashed already by meteors and comets. I find it much when some environmentalists go berserk about our going to the Moon and disturbing its pristine Nature, because from evidence so far, there isn’t any. There isn’t a flora or fauna to disturb, and no atmosphere to generate one. I’m for a complete change in the way we treat Earth. We need to learn about sustainability, biodiversity, and protect all the plant and animal species on this planet. But, the Moon is a rock quarry without air or war. Going to the moon and living there would be a good opportunity to begin changing our messy, selfish ways, changing how we treat a biosphere. But, the moon is biologically dead, and forcing ourselves to stay away because we might disturb the powdery sand is taking environmentalism to absurdity. We went to the Arctic and Anartica and disturbed greatly and tragically in a land we thought didn’t have much life--and were very wrong. But, this concern doesn’t seem to be warranted on the Moon. Maybe we should send anyone who can’t control themselves to the moon.
Why we aren’t environmentalists: Steven Pinker’s book, How The Mind Works, has noted that what we see and hear is a very processed world. We don’t see every glint of light on a lump of coal or hear every hiss and moan of a sound. We have a brain that evolved filtering out what was useful for our survival and that which wasn’t. And because socializing was far more important to our survival, because we hunted and lived in groups, than caring for Nature, it’s hard for us to see that which we fought and struggled against for millions of years is now in trouble. Evolutionary psychology is going to shed some light on why we are so blind to our affect on Nature. When we buy a virgin piece of land (from the hands of man) it’s hard for us to leave it alone and not make a garden, build something, or make a lawn. If it sounds as if I’m making an excuse for why we are such lousy environmentalists all, I’m not. We should understand our own Nature, our biological makeup, our psychological makeup, and be aware of it when we make decisions about how we treat Nature.
Kiwi’s extinction: The symbol for New Zealand, the Northern brown kiwi population, is about to go extinct. Its numbers are around 30,000, but mortality for chicks are around five percent, and until it’s about 20 percent, they’re doomed. So, what’s our response? Oh well, Nature is tough, right? Evolution is the survival of the fittest and if these little birds can’t make it, well it’s natural, right? It’s not our fault that stoats and ferrets are decimating the kiwi, right? We know that after the numbers of a species drop below a certain level, they’re probably not going to make it because their isn’t enough biological diversity for their genes to escape most diseases and to sustain predation. But, as I say, it’s not our problem. So, what if a small bird just can’t keep up with things. That’s the way of the world, right? If a species can’t cope, it dies. When conditions change some make it, some don’t. So, if a species can’t cope with cities, clearing of land, pollution of air, water, and land, and man-made nature trails, bike trails, and golf courses, well it’s just like the dinosaurs, who couldn’t take it when the planet cooled down for awhile, right? There’s no difference, right?, between the balance of Nature and the balance of man? So, it’s sad that the kiwi has to die, but that’s natural and just the way things are. Well, we could save them, by stepping in and maybe controlling the predator population during a critical time in the chick’s development, but that would be cheating, being unnatural. And, besides man and his ways are just another natural phenomenon, right?
Environmental Red Herring: One of the stupidest arguments, popular now, in environmentalism today is that over man and Nature. When it comes to a point, as it often is characterized, where we must choose between the life and liberty of an animal, or plant, or an ecosphere, and the interests of man, we (even Bat Man spurted this nonsense) rise up and hail that man’s rights and needs come first. When it comes to animal testing, or clearing a land for development, or pumping pollution into the air, land, and sea for our factories, we pound our chests and, seized with moral righteousness, that it is man’s concerns, man’s interests, man who must come first. The reason why this kind of arguments are so stupid is that they never had to be characterized in a man-vs-Nature in the first place. When we use these kind of arguments, that it’s either our interests or an animals or Nature in general, we deceive ourselves. We are using a bogus rationalization to blind ourselves, to grind pass our old moral bugaboos about taking what we want, when we want it. The truth is, we cannot pit ourselves against Nature or our own interests because they are the same. To say it is either put men out of work or not put pollution into the air in order to keep our economy viable is merely a way of saying, “The most important thing to me at this time is for me to be comfortable about the way I am accustomed to living by not upsetting a system of economics that keeps the way I want to see the world going.” Trouble is, Nature doesn’t care about economics, or how many people are employed. Trouble is, regardless of what we think about the rights of man and Nature, Nature will find its own balance regardless. We will either survive or perish as Nature finds this balance amidst our indifference. To say that when it comes to a choice between man’s interests and Natures, we think that because we can frame reality in this way, that reality is framed this way. It is not. What we are doing with this argument is blinding ourselves to our own intolerance about how we want reality to be, not how it is. When you move to another level up, that is, pull away and from a point above Earth where you can look down on the proceedings below, you can begin to see what we are doing with these intellectual Red Herrings. From this perspective you can see that we are the cause of a biological extinction on the level (at least) with that ended the dinosaurs era, and that we can’t stop ourselves. We can’t stop ourselves because we still are acting like weak, medium-sized mammals pit against a cold, cruel adversary, that dominated our struggle for existence for millions of years. And, even though we have proved by our industry and our societies that we are above this struggle, that we can get beyond the everyday struggle for existence, we don’t. We even frame our economies and the way we treat Nature as if we are fighting for our very survival, as if we are putting out a fire in a spaceship with a hammer that threatens to destroy the ship. Saying that it’s either our survival or the interests of the environmentalists is like saying, if I don’t put out this fire, even though I’m going to punch a hole through the spaceship, we’ll die.
Overpopulation: The world’s total population will reach six billion by mid-1999. It is said that the richest countries have stabilized their growth, but does this have much meaning? What if, and I dare anyone to prove it, we have long ago passed the point of sustainability? What if our numbers have already so taxed the biodiversity of this planet that severe changes in our ability to survive on the planet have already begun? Much of what I read about overpopulation in the mass media is about numbers, a shell game of people and statistics, and one gets the feeling that we are on top of the problem. We are not getting a handle on the problem of overpopulation because without a firm knowledge of what changes we have made in our environment, the effect of our industry, the spread of our cities, about how much land in anyone area that can be destroyed for housing and parking lots, without a grasp of all the accumulated effects of all the stuff we are dumping into our rivers and oceans, how can we possibly know what number of people is what is healthy for this planet. At what number is OK, and what number isn’t? We kick around numbers and concepts like stabilization as if we know what we are talking about, or as if we are nearing a solution to the overpopulation problem. But, we are blinding ourselves with these numbers, because without a clear understanding of environmentalism from Earth’s point of view, that is biodiversity (Earth’s entire system of life), we have no real idea what we are doing. We are so focused on other things, like sovereignty, and rights of people to bear children, and our economics, that we forget there is a system, set in motion for three billion years, which will find its balance regardless of what we think, of what we care about, of where our heads are at. We may already be so far from Earth’s ability to sustain life for most life now, that we may have long walked off the edge of a cliff and are falling without knowing it.

Friday, April 13, 2001

· Staying alive used to be a juggling act, as it is for most animals now. We’ve created the illusion in ourselves that we are disconnected from this three billion-year-old process. It isn’t true, we’ve just pushed back the payback date.
· Suffer for sex: Many, if not most, animals suffer greatly for sex. The challenge perhaps in animals is to endure the consequences of sex for the bid for immortality. Sex may have as its very definition an element of sacrifice of the individual to the perpetuation of the species. The suffering coming from the insatiable drive.
Whatever works isn’t necessarily correct. Even if some of George W. Bush’s ideas, such as his notion to solve our reliance on Middle East oil by drilling for it in our pristine Alaskan waters, they are wrong. Even if we get the oil we want and are able to bring down the cost of our energy, it doesn’t mean we did the correct thing. Just because something works doesn’t mean it was the right way to solve a situation. Risk assessment always asks the wrong question: it asks how much damage is safe instead of asking how little damage is possible. Furthermore, risk assessment conveniently never asks, "Is the proposed activity needed?" It never asks, "Is the proposed activity ethical?" It never asks, "What will be the cumulative impact of this activity combined with all the other damaging activities to which humans and non-humans are exposed at this location?" And risk assessment never, ever asks if you are using the correct model of reality to base your decisions on.
· The Great Reversal: Bush’s about face on his campaign promise to curb the greenhouse gases produced by coal-burning power companies, and his remark that now he has decided that science has not proven a direct link between the rise of global temperatures and carbon dioxide reveal the great depth of his ignorance about environmental matters. This reversal on one of the most important issues of our day highlights why appointing George W. Bush to president of the United States is going to be such a tragedy of judgment by a large (but not a majority) of the American public. One does not realize (not to mention promise a nation) the importance of Global Warming and pernicious contribution of carbon dioxide from power companies one minute, then shake it off when those pleading their case against the high cost (one that was known when Bush first made his campaign promise) that this measure would entail. Nor incidentally, can one reverse the gravity of the consequences from our planet heating up by merely going back on a campaign promise. Deciding to make the cost of energy production and the slow down in our economy the deciding factors in his policy over the environmental repercussions of Global Warming demonstrate that we do not have a leader. A leader is one who is able shoulder the responsibility that comes with implementing a difficult and wise far-reaching policy in the face those howling for their short-term gain. What we have for a president in the United States at present is an instrument of the corporations, ready to pander to the incorrect notion that what is good for corporations (in this case, coal-burning power companies) is good for us. What we have accomplished, and accelerated by appointing Bush, is create an impossible climate for making the hard decisions needed to be made to curb what is now known by the majority of scientists to be one of the gravest problems we have ever faced. Environmental problems such as Global Warming, in which action will have to be taken long before science has proven anything, is not just one among the myriad of difficulties facings George W. Bush—they are critical to our survival. Even if you believe that Bush’s reversal on curbing carbon dioxide in industry is the correct way to bring down energy costs, there must be in the back of your mind the nagging realization that if there ever is a real environmental problem, we will be so hopeless entangled with our corporation’s clinging to life to deal with it. Already, a vast number of Americans are incapable of distinguishing between the survival of industries and themselves. Especially under this administration here in the US, the needs and wants of our corporations (drilling, power, automobile, forest etc.) will always be considered at least (Bush said we must find a balance the two) on par with our environment. But, only a moment’s pause and a modicum of scientific knowledge will tell you that this is ludicrous: It is like saying we must find a balance between astronomy and astrology when implementing our space program. Bush’s Great Reversal has not solved anything except to relieve the pressures on a polluting industry for a short while, and it has further stretched the resilience of our environment to sustain our way of life.
Nothing evolves in isolation: Even humans, despite what industrialists and developers bent on destruction of habitat and pollution might think, are connected to the rest of life in an arms race that have shaped us all. Evolution never stands still and it doesn’t stop merely because we’ve tired of hearing about it.
Environmental Blackout
While our media—radio, TV, and print--was busy yesterday giving us the news, they forgot to mention a big one. I found it on the Internet; in fact it was the rage. But, although I tried in vain to find this important story locally, I guess our media editors here in Rochester thought that there we so many other important stories that this one could wait for a slow news day. We needed to know every single aspect of the China/spa plane fiasco, I guess, including whether or not our service people held hostage (and this word got lots of air time) would get a parade.
So, amidst the ubiquitous puns and humans interest stories there did not emerge the fact that our new administration is asking Congress to remove for the Endangered Species Act a provision that allows environmental groups and others to sue the Interior Department to get rare plants and animals listed as endangered. Too bad because the China story is going to go away and the continual dismantling of our environmental rights is not. We are experiencing one of the greatest failings of our media as the Bush administration dismantles our environmental provisions and creating a environmental blackout.
We assume that our media presents us with the news we need to know each day. But, our media does not do that. Our media are money-making ventures and give us what we want—high profile stories that catch our eye because they believe that if they did not do this their competition would get your dollars. Too bad because the Endangered Species act was one of the most effective tools for both halting the mindless and irresponsible growth of our way of life and educating the public about the importance of biodiversity. While the Bush administration attempts to force upon Nature the misguided belief that corporate survival is more important than our own, we gently sleep—blissfully unaware of steps down the road to destruction of what little we have accomplished in protection our environment.
· Bison: Ancestors came to North America from Asia during the Ice Ages. Buffalo Bill single-handedly killed over 4,200 Buffalo in two years. This alone should have given him a close circle in Dante’s Hell. In three years, buffalo hunters in Texas and Kansas killed over three million Buffalo. There is a deep belief among the Indians that whatever happens to the buffalo happens to them. This view is a healthy environmental view. Lumbering lawnmowers. Visitors, who stop their cars and mill about with the buffalo, do not understand the nature of the buffalo, which is very dangerous. Islands of reservations. Indians and the buffalo were pushed onto the worst land and now it is the best.