Cornucopians vs. Malthusians
Back in 1980, Paul Ehrlich and Julian Simon made their famous bet, recounted by John Tierney at its culmination 10 years later:
In 1980 an ecologist and an economist chose a refreshingly unacademic way to resolve their differences. They bet $1,000. Specifically, the bet was over the future price of five metals, but at stake was much more — a view of the planet’s ultimate limits, a vision of humanity’s destiny. It was a bet between the Cassandra and the Dr. Pangloss of our era.
They lead two intellectual schools — sometimes called the Malthusians and the Cornucopians, sometimes simply the doomsters and the boomsters — that use the latest in computer-generated graphs and foundation-generated funds to debate whether the world is getting better or going to the dogs. The argument has generally been as fruitless as it is old, since the two sides never seem to be looking at the same part of the world at the same time. Dr. Pangloss sees farm silos brimming with record harvests; Cassandra sees topsoil eroding and pesticide seeping into ground water. Dr. Pangloss sees people living longer; Cassandra sees rain forests being decimated. But in 1980 these opponents managed to agree on one way to chart and test the global future. They promised to abide by the results exactly 10 years later — in October 1990 — and to pay up out of their own pockets.
What was the result? Simon won handily.
But recent goings on with commodity prices have some people asking whether Simon’s timing was just lucky and perhaps Ehrlich views will ultimately triumph. In August, The Economist reported that had the famous bet extended to 2011, Ehrich would have won, as shown in the graph below. (Roger Pielke Jr.)
Lawrence Solomon: Harper’s next stand
The PM spoke out for the seal hunt. Now he must support the Alberta oil sands
Prime Minister Harper, it’s time to stand up for Alberta and for Canada. You and your government are allowing Canada’s oil sands to be tarred as an evil at home and abroad when they should, in fact, be seen as one of our greatest assets.
Two years ago, when Newfoundland and Canada were being vilified over another emotive issue — our seal hunt — you took our case to Europe during European Union trade talks. “Canada will, both domestically and in front of international tribunals, vigorously defend our sealing industry,” you said in Prague. You could have done no less — you are the chief emissary for and defender of the Canadian brand.
Now Canada needs another principled defence in another vastly overblown environmental issue that threatens us with boycotts and slanders us in the EU and United States. This time much more is at stake financially: Oil sands oil exports are on track to be worth some $200-billion per year by the end of this decade, making it our biggest export commodity by far. And this time the case to be made is a relative slam dunk. Not one condemnation that paints the oil sands as uniquely wicked stands up to scrutiny. (Financial Post)
Keystone XL: The wrong question
The Keystone XL pipeline from Canada’s tar sands would have pros and cons, but foes would do better to shift their focus to the larger environmental issues.
The question of whether to build an oil pipeline from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, to refineries in Texas is turning out to be one of the most important political decisions of the year for the Obama administration. It’s an agonizing choice because the costs and benefits of building it are so closely balanced; opponents have overstated the environmental risks, and proponents seem oblivious to the consequences of continuing to feed our nation’s oil addiction.
The Keystone XL pipeline would run 1,700 miles and cost $7 billion, generating thousands of construction jobs. It would increase oil imports from a stable, friendly neighbor while decreasing U.S. reliance on more volatile (and sometimes hostile) OPEC regimes. What’s more, pipelines are the safest way to transport oil. (LA Times)
American burying beetle becomes player in Keystone pipeline drama
Environmentalists oppose plan for £150m ‘green’ power station
ENVIRONMENTALISTS are objecting to plans for a £150m “green power” station that would use household waste to power more than 25,000 homes in Hull.
Hull-based engineering company C Spencer is seeking planning permission for the plant, a potential alternative to the failed incinerator at Saltend, at a meeting at Hull Council next week.
Friends of the Earth are objecting, claiming the station is a “slight improvement but not nearly enough” on plans for the incinerator, a long-running and controversial project which was finally ditched in January.
The plant will take 365,000 tonnes of commercial, industrial and municipal waste, as well as organic material, and will use processes including advanced gasification and anaerobic digestion, producing enough electricity for 25,000 homes as well as 900,000 therms of gas energy. In contrast the incinerator was originally due to burn up to 240,000 tonnes of household waste a year. (Yorkshire Post)
Accidental Nature: The benefits of human waste
I’m now well into filming for this year’s Autumnwatch series and already we’ve come across plenty of stories that apply very well to Accidental Nature.
The first films involved tracking the migration of young Osprey chicks from their nest site in the Dyfi Estuary in Wales, to their overwintering grounds in West Africa. The chicks have been fitted with satellite tags so we can monitor the route they take.
There are three chicks and the first named Einion made a very direct journey straight across the English Channel, down through France and across the Bay of Biscay. This fast and determined start must have left him very hungry. So, as he hit Spain he spent a short while in one particular coastal cove, presumably fishing.
Shale gas panel offers olive branch to industry
Jennifer A. Dlouhy
When a government task force said natural gas drilling wasn’t inherently dangerous to water supplies — but still urged tougher standards for the practice — most environmentalists said the industry had gotten a free pass.
Industry leaders, however, complained that the group had overlooked existing regulations and voluntary improvements — including best practices espoused by the American Petroleum Institute — that are already designed to make drilling safer.
Today, members of the panel defended their approach and offered an olive branch to gas producers.
“We’re not recommending that for the existing standard-setting groups, there be something new on top of that,” said Daniel Yergin, the head of IHS-CERA, and a member of the Energy Department’s shale gas advisory board at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing. “We’re trying to create an ongoing process for discussion among the players and participants in this,” whether they are regulators, drillers or local residents. (fuelfix)
Hydraulic fracturing wrongly bears brunt of public concerns on shale gas development, expert says
WASHINGTON — Hydraulic fracturing has wrongly been the focus of public concerns over growing natural gas development in the nation, members of a special Energy Department panel told a Senate Committee on Tuesday.
Though natural gas exploration can pose air and water pollution threats, the process of fracturing shale rock to free trapped natural gas thousands of feet below the ground should not be the primary concern, the panel’s experts told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
“Hydraulic fracturing has sort of become a bumper sticker for everything we have to watch out for,” said Mark D. Zoback, a Stanford University professor of geophysics who has been studying hydraulic fracturing for 30 years.
“The constant reference to hydraulic fracturing misrepresents” where the most significant environmental impacts could be, Zoback said.
Those potential impacts include well blowouts, leakage from faulty well casings and leakage and spills from areas containing flowback fluids used in hydraulic fracturing, he said. (NewsOK)
Here’s some sad news for you guys – unless you only eat weeds and wildlife all your food has been modified and has been since the advent of farming.
In fact a lot has been modified very deliberately since Man learned to use fire for cooking (we alter the molecular structure of food to make it [more] digestible, palatable and/or nutritious).
Are “foreign” genes a particular hazard in foodstuffs? Of course not, some of our basic grains (wheats) contain 2 or 3 complete sets of 7 paired chromosomes – these are the staples of our diets that are made up of 2 or 3 complete genomes and have done for millennia, all without turning consumers into grasses.
Biotech enhanced foods are no more unusual or novel than strains developed by say chemical- or radiation-forced mutagenesis, a development not noted on packaging and information of no practical bearing on consumers.
Neither has biotechnology information any bearing on consumers except for scammers and fear mongers trying to extract premiums for inferior products by creating fear of competitor product. Amusingly none of the label promoters seem keen on such precise information being made prominent about their own products. How many worried young moms would buy that natural stone-ground wholewheat flour if the exact content of foreign materials (bug bits, rodent hairs, weed seeds, dust, grinding wheel residue and so on) was printed on the packaging? (Yes, there really is a percentage tolerance for “foreigns” in grains and flours and man, you should see what gets crushed for your fine wines 😉 )
Apart from organic and “natural food” fantasists (the same group stupid enough to consume raw [unpasteurized] milk) we have the misanthropes desperate to limit human population by suppressing more productive agriculture but they do not openly fly their people-hating colors during their sabotage efforts.
No one trying to foment hysteria over enhanced agriculture is acting in the best interests of humanity or the environment and the only reason to push labeling is to try to pretend biotech is somehow different or dangerous.
Group seeks labels on genetically altered food
David Henderson: The Special Contribution Of Vaclav Klaus To Climate Policy
Tuesday, 04 October 2011 14:57 David Henderson
Vaclav Klaus, the President of the Czech Republic, recently passed his 70th birthday. To mark the occasion a Festschrift volume has been put together, with a wide range of contributors. I understand that the main topics in the book are: capitalism and the free market; European integration; the euro; climate change issues; and the Czech transformation after 1989.
The English version of the volume has been sent for publication. Meanwhile I have been given clearance to circulate my own contribution, which is herewith attached. It is entitled ‘Climate Change Issues: The Special Contribution of Vaclav Klaus’. (GWPF)
Good For Canada And Us
Energy: Environmentalists are making a last stand against the Keystone XL pipeline with a scare campaign about groundwater. Time to review the facts and let the project proceed.
The Obama administration gets a lot wrong, but it does seem to be getting more clear-headed about oil.
EU Commission Agrees Specific CO2 Value For Oil Sands – Source
BRUSSELS–The European Union executive body has agreed to propose that oil extracted from sands should be treated as a dirtier fuel when compared with conventional oil, in a move set to add to an ongoing spat with Canada, a major producer of oil extracted from sands in Alberta. (Dow Jones)
Britain May Veto Green Plans To Ban Tar Sands, Shale Gas
Tuesday, 04 October 2011 20:29 Fiona Harvey, The Guardian
Fuel from oil sands projects would face effective ban under EU proposals, but UK government likely to veto green plan
Wood is the greenest building material, USDA says
A report from the U.S. Forest Service on Thursday found that using wood in building products yielded fewer greenhouse gases than other common building materials, such as concrete and steel. According to the report, which analyzed dozens of peer-reviewed scientific studies, 2.1 tons of greenhouse gases were saved for each ton of carbon in wood products versus non-wood materials.
“This study confirms what many environmental scientists have been saying for years,” U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement. “Wood should be a major component of American building and energy design. The use of wood provides substantial environmental benefits, provides incentives for private landowners to maintain forest land, and provides a critical source of jobs in rural America.” (LA Times)
Note the misinformation like “terminator technology” – hybrid seeds are generally infertile or revert to base stock after one generation – either way high-productivity hybrids are not suitable for seed saving, something which has absolutely nothing to do with biotechnology. Yes, some work was done to prevent illegal use of proprietary technology (like copy protection on music, videos and/or software that people shouldn’t but do steal – the same kind of thing that built the profits used for philanthropy by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation 😉 ).
Either way “Big Agro” is the only way 9 billion people are going to be adequately fed on planet Earth, something farmer’s markets and superstitions like “organics” simply can not achieve. Retro nostalgia and primitive agriculture just won’t do the job. You could harvest between the ears of every greenie on the planet but you just won’t find enough crap to grow food for the current 7 billion population without using synthetic fertilizers and higher productivity crop plants. Get over it.
Battle Escalates Against Genetically Modified Crops
By Kanya D’Almeida
WASHINGTON, Oct 1, 2011 (IPS) – Home to a fast-growing network of farmers’ markets, cooperatives and organic farms, but also the breeding ground for mammoth for-profit corporations that now hold patents to over 50 percent of the world’s seeds, the United States is weathering a battle between Big Agro and a ripening movement for food justice and security.
Conflicting ideologies about agriculture have become ground zero for this war over the production, distribution and consumption of the world’s food.
One camp – led by agro giants like Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta – define successful agriculture and hunger alleviation as the use of advanced technologies to stimulate yields of mono-crops.
The other side argues that industrial agriculture pollutes, destroys and disrupts nature by dismissing the importance of relationships necessary for any ecosystem to thrive.
At the heart of this struggle is the debate about genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which were given the green light in 1990 when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stated, “(We) are not aware of any information showing that GMO foods differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way.” (IPS)
Posted in Activists, Agriculture, Biotech, Chemophobia, Development, Enviros, Misanthropy, Pesticide, Pollution, Propaganda, Regulation, Research, Rubber room, Silly scares
Scientists eye ‘windows of opportunity’ for adapting food crops to climate change
Increased aid from biotechnology needed in the next 2 decades to tap the genetic potential of seed banks
COPENHAGEN, DENMARK (3 OCTOBER 2011)—Responding to appeals from African leaders for new tools to deal with the effects of climate change on food production, the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) has released a series of studies focused on “climate proofing” crops critical to food security in the developing world.
The studies constitute various chapters in a new book titled Crop Adaptation to Climate Change from John Wiley & Sons, which was developed by an international team of the world’s leading climate and agricultural researchers to provide adaptation strategies for more than a dozen crops—such as potatoes, beans, bananas and cassava—on which billions of people depend worldwide.
The studies describe how climate change could threaten food production and how specific adaptation strategies could neutralize or at least significantly lessen the impact. They argue that investments are urgently needed to identify important genetic traits, including drought tolerance and pest resistance, which will be critical for helping farmers adapt to new growing conditions. (EurekAlert)
George Osborne Vows UK Won’t Go It Alone On Carbon Targets
Monday, 03 October 2011 13:36 James Murray, The Guardian
Chancellor hints he could water down UK’s ambitious carbon targets
George Osborne has vowed that the UK will not lead the rest of Europe in its efforts to cut carbon emissions, raising the prospect that the country’s carbon targets could be watered down if the EU does not agree to more ambitious emission reduction goals.
In a potentially explosive intervention, Osborne insisted the government will only cut emissions in line with its neighbours in order to ensure British businesses are not put at a disadvantage. (GWPF)
Danish government aims to cut emissions by 40 percent by 2020