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Amused Muse

Inspiring dissent and debate and the love of dissonance

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Master's Degree holder, telecommuting from the hot tub, proud Darwinian Dawkobot, and pirate librarian belly-dancer bohemian secret agent scribe on a mission to rescue bloggers from the wholesome clutches of the pious backstabbing girl fridays of the world.



Tuesday, May 27, 2008

They Don't Get It

Conservative Christians have launched a campaign (in response to Evangelicals’ sudden interest in the effects of global warming) to gather a million signatures on a petition that opposes human beings taking any action against global climate change. The name of this self-serving, anti-science petition drive? “We Get It.”

Getting Their Message a Cross

Conservative religious leaders have launched a "We Get It!" campaign that just goes to prove that saying something doesn't make it so. The campaign aims to gather a million signatures on a petition opposing climate-change action, with the argument that tackling global warming will hurt the world's poor. "Our stewardship of creation must be based on Biblical principles and factual evidence," says the petition. "We face important environmental challenges, but must be cautious of claims that our planet is in peril from speculative dangers like man-made global warming."

So far the petition doesn’t have many takers, but the usual suspects have already signed, including Senator James Inhofe (who just visited Minnesota), and James Dobson. No surprise there.

I wonder if Ben Stein will sign on. Look for DaveScot, William Dembski, and the whole Intelligent Design gaggle to flock to it as well. Good for them.

How sad. But as I’ve said before, the Internet provides us, for the first time, with a virtual paper trail of creationist/pseudoscientific movements that will prove beneficial in the future in counteracting the influence of these groups. As we saw with “creation science” in the 1980s, these groups follow the same pattern.

On the other end of the woo scale, “Peak Oil” cultists are constructing “satellite communities” on the same old romantic “survivalist” silliness.

BUSKIRK, N.Y. - A few years ago, Kathleen Breault was just another suburban grandma, driving countless hours every week, stopping for lunch at McDonald's, buying clothes at the mall, watching TV in the evenings.
That was before Breault heard an author talk about the bleak future of the world's oil supply. Now, she's preparing for the world as we know it to disappear.


Breault cut her driving time in half. She switched to a diet of locally grown foods near her upstate New York home and lost 70 pounds. She sliced up her credit cards, banished her television and swore off plane travel. She began relying on a wood-burning stove."

I was panic-stricken," the 50-year-old recalled, her voice shaking. "Devastated. Depressed. Afraid. Vulnerable. Weak. Alone. Just terrible."


Convinced the planet's oil supply is dwindling and the world's economies are heading for a crash, some people around the country are moving onto homesteads, learning to live off their land, conserving fuel and, in some cases, stocking up on guns they expect to use to defend themselves and their supplies from desperate crowds of people who didn't prepare.

The exact number of people taking such steps is impossible to determine, but anecdotal evidence suggests that the movement has been gaining momentum in the last few years.

(See also “Imagine there No Oil: Scenes from a Liberal Apocalypse.” Subscription required.)

Now, I certainly approve of weaning oneself off of junk food and driving and malls, turning off the television, eating local food (and losing 70 pounds, congratulations!), and paying down (but not cutting up) one's credit cards. However, fear and panic is no way to respond to what is, yes, a serious crisis. Though I accept that we are at or near global “peak oil,” that only represents the top of a bell curve, projecting not (as Ben Stein would have it) of all the oil in the world, but the portion of the world’s oil that is easily accessible and exploitable by us. There is still plenty of oil in the world - and we’ll probably never reach it all. Nor should we.

I wonder what these naive, self-styled pioneers are going to do when they figure out that modern corn is (like most wheat, wild rice, etc.) a hybrid, unable to reseed itself beyond a few generations, if at all. They'll need factories to produce their seeds. (I also wonder where they're going to get a renewable supply of canning jar lids, since reusing them risks breeding botulism. And toilet paper? They'll use leaves? Well, read on.)

We cannot know what the sum total of the effects of global climate change will be. The earth is a complicated system and will not get uniformly “hotter.” (The earth is tilted on its axis, for one thing.) Heat in one area can produce cooling in another. One scenario that particularly alarms me is the possible shutting down of the Gulf Stream, which would likely produce advancing ice sheets. Oh, goodie. A frightening hypothetical, but not worth scaring people silly about.*

What we will see in the short term is greater spread of airborne and insect-carried diseases in developing nations, and the encroachment of antibiotic-resistant Tuberculosis into the developed countries. (TB is following in the wake of the HIV-AIDS devastation of Africa and India.) We will see ocean levels rise, and the disruption of seasonal ocean currents, which will affect local ecosystems and spawning patterns. We will see the die-off of certain trees that rely on regular cold winters to repel parasites, to be replaced by fir trees (and so much for natural toilet paper).

Frankly, I think people like Kathleen Breault are doing the right thing - except for buying guns and cutting themselves off. It sounds like people like her are scared mostly of other people - and no matter what you think of Al Gore, that's not a reaction he ever advocated.

*For the ultimate Ice Age, which allegedly happened in the Precambrian, check out “How the Earth was Made” (a bad title, and some hammy commercial break transitions, but fun and basically a good documentary).

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9 Comments:

Blogger Rev. Barking Nonsequitur said...

"Biblical principles and factual evidence,"

Now there's an oxymoron if I ever heard one.

May 27, 2008 1:14 PM  
Blogger Cujo359 said...

It's kinda sad how these same themes play out over and over again, isn't it? I'm not sure how much the Internet is going to help here, since there were books before this, as well as magazines and newspapers. The Y2K phenomenon was just a replay of survivalism, and there seem to have been lots of people who didn't get that.

We've certainly had oil crises before.

Some of the ideas behind "peak oil" are sobering, but there are plenty of alternatives to just hiding up in the woods. If we had an even moderately enlightened society, we'd already be seeing some of them in action.

May 27, 2008 1:41 PM  
Blogger Kristine said...

Now there's an oxymoron if I ever heard one.

Yes, talk about hiding in the woods!

Some of the ideas behind "peak oil" are sobering, but there are plenty of alternatives to just hiding up in the woods.

Well, “peak oil” just means that the world will see oil production cost more and more from now on, until it hypothetically becomes unproductive to drill any more. I’m all for alternative energies, but I just don’t see wind, geothermal, and solar replacing petroleum completely, or not at least any time soon. Petrol is still too damned cheap and easy to burn.

What I do think we’ll see are more wars waged “to give people democracy [i.e., “kill their leaders and convert them all to Christianity”]” in oil-rich nations before we really start exploring alternatives.

The Y2K phenomenon was just a replay of survivalism, and there seem to have been lots of people who didn't get that.

When I worked at City Hall during the run-up to 2000, there was this local guy who kept spamming our e-mails: “Do something about Y2K! The prison doors are going to unlock, spilling out the murderers and thieves! Chaos in the streets! Our women, children, raped! Blah! Blah!” I wonder if he’ll ever credit my gov’t office with stopping the Y2K bug. ;-)

May 27, 2008 2:49 PM  
Blogger Cujo359 said...

I’m all for alternative energies, but I just don’t see wind, geothermal, and solar replacing petroleum completely, or not at least any time soon.

True, but as we've been reminded recently, war isn't necessarily a quick route to plentiful oil supplies, either. It takes years to build up the infrastructure to mine, transport, and refine oil, even assuming no one's trying to destroy it at the same time. "He who can destroy a thing controls that thing", or whatever.

When the cost of something like oil changes a lot, there will be many adjustments made in an economy. Many will tend to conserve that oil. Over the short term, they seem to be the more realistic solutions.

Alternative energy ought to be the preferred long-term solution, I think. I sure haven't heard any better ones.

May 27, 2008 4:29 PM  
Blogger Alan Fox said...

France has a surplus in electricity generation, and exports 15% of its output to UK and Spain. My electricity bill claims 10% is from renewables (hydro, wind etc.) and 86% is nuclear. It ought to be able to handle this technology safely, now.

May 28, 2008 6:18 AM  
Anonymous EyeNoU said...

Factual evidence? Speculative danger?
This from people that believe you will spend eternity in a lake of fire if you don't accept Jesus? Why don't they require "factual evidence" for that "speculative danger"?

May 28, 2008 7:52 AM  
Blogger Kristine said...

What do you think about the prospect of the U.S. relying more on nuclear power, Alan? Do you think we overreacted to Three Mile Island? (I asked John A. Davison this once when he was still speaking nicely to me, but he didn't really give me an answer except to tell me to (surprise!) read his PED.)

May 29, 2008 9:12 AM  
Blogger Alan Fox said...

Safety is the key. Choosing a safe design, construction with appropriate materials, proper supervision of all stages of construction, adequately trained and regularly audited personnel, an independent and effective supervisory body, a containment around the reactor that would cope with a worst case scenario, and a sensible policy for waste management should ensure a long productive life for a nuclear plant.

Three Mile Island accident was a result of a combination of lack of warning devices and human error. Not to underplay the seriousness of the incident, such incidents need not be inevitable. The worst ever nuclear accident at Chernobyl was due to poor design, construction and operator error, and much worse because the reactor was not enclosed in a containment. It would be unthinkable today to consider building a reactor without an adequate containment building.

John has a habit of being very certain about things on little apparent evidence. I think it is better for everyone that he keeps to his own blog.

Glad you enjoyed Paris. Hope you make it to the south one day, it's an entirely different place.

May 29, 2008 12:12 PM  
Blogger jeffox said...

I agree with Alan above, with the caveat that I've actually worked in the nuclear power field, albeit in military service. I was a qualified nuclear electrician on a nuclear-powered submarine back in the early 80s.

Design is easily the most important safety factor. After that, safe operation ranks fairly high on the list. Those things are already done well, at least in the USA. The only real problem with nuclear energy is the waste, or rather the lack of a waste disposal area. That's been a tough political knot to untie ever since nuclear power was developed.

By the way; yes, I have been asked before; and no, I don't glow in the dark. :)

Anyways, my 2c there.

Oh, and the right honorable Rev. Barky caught: "Biblical principles and factual evidence,"

I saw that, too. Makes me laugh when I think about city walls falling down because somebody played the sax. :) If I were defending a city against forces like that, I would fight harder just to not have to put up with that kind of music later on. . . .

May 30, 2008 12:12 AM  

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