Montag, 25. April 2005
THE (B)RAT IN THE BOX AT THE ULTIMATE LEVER?
Americans, city-zens, country-men,
let me extend, from some far away country, my most heartfelt sympathy to all of you.
Then obviously you have not read the awakening speech that Mr. Crichton delivered on Sept. 15, 2003 to the Commonwealth Club. However, his golden words still hang around, here on his own Homepage ("ENVIRONMENTALISM AS RELIGION") and in many other places (some reverent soul has even deposited a copy on a White House server: http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/inforeg/2003iq/122.pdf), giving you a chance to make up for your prior neglect.
"Our past record of environmental action is discouraging", he says, and that naturally leads me to the conclusion that you must be pretty bad off over there: drinking dirty water, breathing polluted air, and suffering from all imaginable kinds of environmental tribulations, as would be the logical consequence of your discouraging environmental action.
And your performance of managing national parks, Mr. Crichton states, is simply humiliating. Now why don't you just give up, get Big Government out and invite the loggers in? Don't you realize that your fifty-year effort at forest-fire suppression is one big well-intentioned disaster, from which your forests will never, I repeat: never! again recover? Why can't you folks see that if you just let the loggers do their job, you won't see forest fires any more? (My advices, these logger-lobbyings.)
Of course I cannot help you in your predicament, and anyway: why should I? Since you obviously don't want to listen to reason, environmental degradation is exactly what you deserve! Why don't you pay heed to the words of an outstanding scholar like Dr. Michael Crichton, and abandon your environmentalist surrogate-religion? Why do so many of you still believe in physicists, chemists, climatologists, geologists and in all those other junk scientists, those Chicken Littles loitering in the streets of Jericho for (7 minus x) days already and crying hysterically "the walls will come, down, the walls will come down"? Are you so blind as not to grasp what your eyes see, namely: the walls of mother nature are holding out just fine, against the furious onslaughts of our advancing eco-siege?
Seen in this light, it is completely beyond me how Michael could claim (and he best hope St. Michael didn't hear this one!) that those who do not believe in any religion are the best and most enlightened people. He cannot possibly have been referring to you urban atheists, you, who are so dense as to be easy prey for any pied eco-piper?
Oh ye culprits and victims of ecoligious conspiracy, how I deplore your fatal fate! Falsehood and lies hover around your heads like malaria-mosquitoes and penetrate into your heads, while the priesthood of envireligion is preaching the gospel of disinformation to all you dumb sheep! Already, your ecoligion has killed 10 – 30 million people, but still you crave to imbibe even more pesticide-free water! Put up with whole grain wafers, put an end to your demonstrating for this, that and the other, rejoice your hearts, go bring your SUVs out from the garage and take a few trips around the block! Oil shortage there is none – not now, not tomorrow, not never! (And for a little extra fun, ride to the lawless bottom of the seas and chomp off a good chunk of resources, without remorses, before the rest of the world starts charging entrance fees down there.)
It is clearly a sign of your morbus religiosus progressus, when you crouch devoutly at some reverend's feet to hear him proclaim your eco-credo, as is: "Our honeymoon with the planet earth is over. We must take our marriage with the earth seriously. We cannot divorce it, but it can divorce us!" (Rev. Sam Trumbore, quoting Grandon Harris - http://www.mogensgallardo.com/deepeco/english/sermon2.htm)
All your beliefs are unequivocally proven wrong by the fact that far less people were born in the world than what the alarmists had predicted in the 1960ies. Honestly (or, if you allow me to throw in just one word from my native German language, "ehrlich"): the population bomb has not exploded, and if you would have at least a spark of scientific integrity in your brains you would know that ecological awareness can only be obtained by following the legal principle of "falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus" (that wisdom I take, out of context, but quite applicable here too, from Mr. Crichton's Speech: "Why Speculate" - http://www.crichton-official.com/speeches/speeches_quote03.html,). Do not trust those who have erred once, or even more than once: they must of needs be erring again, because the whole structure of their thinking is clearly flawed. Scrutinize their papers as you would scrutinized the writings of eco-heretics like Björn Lomborg, and if you detect any signs of religious devotion to the ecological cause, you can bet those false prophets have got the facts wrong! Frisk the workplaces of them fake-scientists, and report whoever conceals any bio-food in their desks to the Committee on Scientific Dishonesty! (Or does such a useful institution exist only in some tiny Hamlet country?)
But above all: put your science-professors through an Eden-audit! Because what screws up the whole environment thing is the Eden-axiom. Do you know any environmentalist who does not believe that Greco-Roman myth about the Golden Age? Yeah, strange as it may be, the author Crichton very much underestimates the aftermaths of fiction-writing. You don't need the Genesis, to conjure up Eden. In fact, I very much suspect that most of you pagan paradise people are sucking your myths right from the pages of Hesiod or Ovid.
I therefore guess that for you, the Golden Age was rather not like Edward Hicks' Peaceable Kingdom (http://www.nga.gov/cgi-bin/pimage?59644+0+0), whose brush Mr. Crichton seems to have borrowed to depict what he imagines you fancy. (Which city did Hicks live in? Judging by the size of his Eden-complex, he must have been a New Yorker?). I would feel uneasy about precluding the possibility that your vision of the Golden Age might be of a nature not necessarily peaceful, but simply left alone, or, maybe, just slightly affected by mankind's ecological footprints. The Silver Age, then, would not be the state of disgrace, but the period in which we marked and marred nature with ecological wheel tracks. And you probably believe that now in our Iron Age we are ironing out with gigantic ecological wing strokes every crease that nature has ever embellished our planet with (and you may well be right at that). But maybe I've got the wrong idea about you and Mr. Crichton, who is living amongst you, knows you better.
Small wonder, either way, that the rise of your environmentalist ideology has pushed the pastoral ideal increasingly toward nature, striving to redefine the meaning of America in fully primitivist terms of the wild, that you Eco-ideologists have thrust your metaphoric raging Wolf into every rank and row of Americas civilized Garden to rogue out both the domesticated and the domesticators, that you wolves and wolverines howl "Wild Land, Wild Water, Wild Air". For these precious notions, I am deeply indebted to the seminal study "Overcoming Ideology" (http://www.cdfe.org/wiseuse.htm) of that relentless fighter for reason and truly objective science, Mr. Ron Arnold. Actually, the messages of Michael Crichton and Ron Arnold look pretty much identical to me. Environmentalism has to overcome ideology or religion: no big difference there. As you say in English: Two sides of a coin. Or would it be more appropriate, in this particular case, to employ the ancient expression "two birds of a feather"?
The reason why you city-snobs believe all the Neo-Malthusians' grim fairytales is your complete ignorance about nature. You are not riding the tractors, you are not the ones who haven taken up the plight to plow the land! And don't you boast and brag about how you construct the technical equipment for the farmer, or develop or produce artificial fertilizers, or how you sit in your laboratories, air-conditioned in summer and cozily heated in winter as they are, devising some genetic improvement for some food plant. If you had read your Michael Crichton thoroughly, you loggerheads would not assume even for one second that any of your laboratory-bottle-opening and library-book-leafing can provide you with any real understanding of nature!
When you open your mouth to pronounce the word "nature", you city folks don't even know what you are talking about. The farmer, yeah, he knows about nature, and I think it is very fair of Michael to exempt the farmer from his otherwise strictly scientific environmentalism. That is because the farmer knows what he is talking about, when he says "nature". He lives in nature, he practically is part of nature.
Come to farmer Brown, and unload your encumbrance of conundrums upon him. But if he is not talking about soil erosion, then there just isn't any such thing. You're telling me that this humble servant to mother nature isn't talking much about anything? Then he is Mr. Crichton's' man: you don't talk, you don't speculate! I, for one, am thoroughly sick of politicized so-called facts! Science is what we need, because science offers us the only way out of politics, says Mr. Crichton. You dare ask me: "And what does farmer Brown know about ozone-depletion"? Nothing! So you best not ask him about that part of nature.
Global warming, however, is one of those subjects for which farmer Brown is the prime expert. After all, it's him who has to get out into the freezing cold temperatures of those frosty mornings, which you silly featherheads in your toasty featherbeds euphemistically call "chilly". That's why he certainly wouldn't mind a little outdoor heating, produced by – unintended as it may be – mankind's geo-engineering. But you, who coldheartedly kill the kids in the cradle, just because you believe that some eagles go bald when they swallow the fish which devoured the mosquitoes which ingested a healthy dose of DDT, you fanny folks couldn't care less about whether farmer Browns buns are warm or cold!
All those problems like that about the hole in the sky, or the preposterous idea that our fantastic planet cannot take a couple of billion more of us faithful stewards of the land, exist only in the minds of city dwellers like you. Or in the minds of people like that late Garret Hardin and his consorts, and don't you tell me about how Mr. Hardin got his ideas from growing up on a farm: that doesn't clean his record, certainly not with me! My reasoning is strict and rigorous, I just look at the cold facts. And isn't it a fact, that whoever attends college becomes automatically civilized? Ask farmer Brown!
That's why in my opinion we should return to the wisdom of the Great Leader Mao Zedong: deport them ecolusionists out into the boondocks, put shovels in their hands, and do so in every country of the world: that will give them a global warming lesson they'll never forget, and put some rigor in their bones! And if those that escaped rigor mortis return to their scientific ivory towers, maybe they are able, and motivated, to finally tell us the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the goddamn truth about ozone depletion and all that other sh.! Unless, of course, by then they have so many bugs in their ears that they are not fine-tuned to the susurration of mother nature any more.
Because unless you have had some bugs crawling up your nose, your ideas about nature are nothing but pure fantasy. All your urban elitists jabbering about soil erosion, sealing of the ground, resource depletion – it's doomed to be dust, dust in the wind!
But instead of being humble, you eco-addicts want to tell me about toxic waste and don't even have a degree in Karakorum-glacier-river-crossing! Go tell the mountain, but not me! And thou ecophiles who pretend to know about finiteness of resources and who sermonize against an imaginary waste of energy, but have never even dedicated a research semester to a bug-bite-binge in Borneo – in thee I shall believe? You must be kidding! No wonder you are so worried about the state of disgrace: Your irrationality is a disgrace to mankind! And if you had ever had a great big hug from a grizzly bear, you sure wouldn't yearn for biodiversity any longer!
For me, the music is in the words of Edward W. Younkins, Professor of Accountancy and Business Administration at a Jesuit university in West Virginia. Learn from him, that your doctrine of nature's intrinsic value is absolutely flawed (http://www.quebecoislibre.org/04/041015-17.htm). None of the stuff around us has any value, unless you come along and give it some! Oil is not a resource because it makes a nice fire, it's a resource because the application of human valuation to that natural substance makes it a resource! And therefore, it is a man-made resource. You are the value-giver, you are the resource-producer, you are, I guess, the Lord? The resourcist doctrine of just-in-time ingenuity – that is the type of belief I like, and it is supported by at least 200 years of historical experience already! And how many more years to come?
It worries me, though, that Younkins' article obviously had to be published in Canada. Isn't America the country of the Free any more, where you may confidently pronounce godly truths? Has alarmist persecution of cornucopian heathens already taken on such dimensions over there, that the humble servants of science are being expatriated? However, on the other hand, joy fills my heart when I read that even at Jesuit universities they are teaching some sound science these days, instead of that old creation cr..!
But I'm deviating and losing track of Mr. Crichton's words and keep mixing his essayistic science campaign with the trash pile of my own ludicrous fantasies. Asking the farmer though, that one was his idea: don't think I am so rude as not to give credit where credit is due! Nay, even a piece of suburban driftwood like me does have at least some residual spark of honor in his bones! Not that the farmer can help much with scientific thinking of course, which Dr. Crichton says we need, and, as Dr. Crichton says, we need lots of that science, and only science, not, if I may add, ecopinions, peasant science or the like. But that is probably a different line of thought, compared to the "be-in-touch-with-nature" hymn. Hark, reflect on those words, put aside your bedside-bible "Betrayal of Science and Reason", abstain from your nightly meditations on "How Anti-Environmental Rhetoric Threatens Our Future" and hearken to how the howling farmer communicates with the moon!
Nevertheless, it still bugs me that there does appear to be a certain inconsistency in Mr. Crichton's argument which I cannot resolve. Eventually I'll probably have to give up reasoning about the farmer and his science and simply say: Michael, you arch angelical doomslayer, in you I trust! But I have not quite progressed into those stages of advanced religiousness yet.
Then again: why does it have to be a farmer, anyway? Just because those good wardens of the earth are part of the standard repertoire of cornucopian lore and resourcist rhetorics? Why not take an oil driller instead, who has seen the plentiful oil ooze from out of the ground? Did you ever see a drop of crude oil? I haven't! And consequently, I don't go around telling tales about peak oil. Campbell? For me, that's a soup, and if you are talking about Colin Campbell - well, he's just a geologist, desperate to sell his long-refuted depletionist ideology in Clausthal (Peak Oil, Presentation at the Technical University of Clausthal - http://www.geologie.tu-clausthal.de/Campbell/lecture.html) – of all places! Do you know, where Clausthal is? I bet my bottom dollar that you don't. But you do understand, I hope, that whoever peddles his outlandish brain crops at strange foreign places like that must be absolutely desperate to find some followers, and searching for devotees abroad has always been a hallmark of religion – just remember Peter & Paul and all the other apostles and missionaries!
Clausthal, by the way, is located in the Harz Mountains, Germany's "Montana" during the Middle Ages. Long since they ran out of silver, copper, lead and what else there was. So they probably think that mineral resources will get depleted everywhere. Hehehe, are they wrong! Resourcists like me know better. There are still a lot of mountains that we haven't turned over yet! And as for petroleum, everybody knows that hordes of benign bacteria are belching up from the deep throat of mother earth all the petroleum and natural gas we need. In fact, let me tell you a secret that even the most entrenched abundance ecologists haven't so far dared to unveil: those petrol-producing bacteria are working so fast that they would liquefy the whole crust of our planet if we didn't burn the stuff quickly enough. So you go use as much energy as you possibly can, lest your home town will be converted into Asphalt Lake City! And should you despair at the grandeur of that task, take consolation from my assurance that we Europeans and those Chinese have already come to your succor!
Similarly, on the question of global warming, I place confidence in an eminent scholar, a lighthouse of unbending scientific rigor and contrarian vigor like Mr. Fred Singer, who tells me it's a good idea to preheat the atmosphere, because the next ice age is just around the corner (Ten Things To Know About the Climate and Weather - http://www.objectivescience.com/articles/tenthingsclimate.htm)?
But do you even know what real science is? Let me tell you: the only true science, the queen, nay, the empress of 'em all is – ECONOMICS (and don't you dimwits think this word has anything to do with ecology, just because it echoes the prefix!). Economics of the kind that the late Mr. Simon has been trying so hard to get into people's brains: that is brilliance, logic, applied logic, in short: it's flawless reasoning! Since many of you probably don't even have a clue as to who I am talking about, I will give you his full name: Simon Magus, from what I recall, or something like that. At any rate he is the guy who told us that resources were non-finite, that they were just as infinite as the imaginary mathematical points on a one-inch-line. Go quench your thirst on a thimbleful of Coke, and learn about how the mathematical thimble-contents are plain infinite!
Julian Simon has passed away, but there is an array of other brilliant scholars marching in his footsteps. If you are dubious or doubtful, take spiritual guidance from Jerry Taylor, natural resources director at the Cato Institute (a stronghold of objective science, though not quite like the real thing at http://www.objectivescience.com/) that "Resources are not fixed and finite because they are not natural. They are a product of human ingenuity resulting from the creation of technology and science.” (http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa449.pdf) (Or take it from Thomas DeGregori, “Resources Are Not; They Become: An Institutional Theory,” Journal of Economic Issues 21, no. 3 (September 1987): 1243, 1247, whom Mr. Taylor has quoted.)
This is the type of science I like: crystal-clear logic, shortcutting the corners of lengthy arguments into nourishing knowledge! And not into junk science from the television generation, which expects nature to act the way they want it to be! Consider: would investors dig up the stuff, if they did not know for sure that it was infinite? Would they be content collecting peanuts now, if their great-great-great-....grandchildren could make hay when the resources expire a couple of thousand years from now? You bet they would not! They would buy the wells, seal them shut and sit tight, unto the days of prosperous harvesting. They are the ones who best know how much is in the ground, so you can confidently determine the future resource supplies by simply looking at the long-term price trends. When those have declined over a long period of time, they clearly indicate non-finiteness of resources, no matter what your refrigerated instincts tell you, or what some misguided geologists have concocted in their brains. It's the price-trends, stupid! Investors are not believers, they are not religious at all: they are knowers. Not "The Market as God", but: "The market is God"!
What do you make of a scientist who says:
"I can’t help wondering what the Islander who chopped down the last palm tree said as he or she did it. Was he saying, ‘What about our jobs? Do we care more for trees than for our jobs, of us loggers?’ Or maybe he was saying, ‘What about my private property rights? Get the big government of the chiefs off my back.’ Or maybe he was saying, ‘You’re predicting environmental disaster, but your environmental models are untested, we need more research before we can take action.’ Or perhaps he was saying, ‘Don’t worry, technology will solve all our problems'."? (Jared Diamond in his lecture "Why Societies Collapse" (http://www.abc.net.au/cgi-bin/common/printfriendly.pl?http://www.abc.net.au/rn/talks/bbing/stories/s707591.htm).
Let me tell you right straight in your face: that man doesn't know a thing! If he knew anything, he would not wonder, no "maybes", no "perhapses". He'd be able to tell us outright the true story, like: In the year 1517, the Easter Islands' foremost loggerheads decided to turn their territory from a dangerous jungle into a happy garden. It took them a while to get rid of all that old growth stuff, which was shading their plantations, but by 1683 a happy crowd was dancing around the last tree, singing: "It's a real spree, we've cut the ultimate tree, now we are dead-leaves free …" and a long long line of other verses followed. See how Mr. Crichton is absolutely right about your uninformed would-be-ecologists?
Make no mistakes, tree-huggers: mankind is not, as you eco-acolytes probably believe, a bunch of (b)rats in a box, happily sucking away at the slickery oil-greased ultimate lever of those resources-chests that some supreme behaviorist has equipped his cosmic test kit with. "Data about oil reserves are akin to data about what is presently in your kitchen cupboard", Jerry Taylor from Cato Institute assures us (http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa449.pdf). That is why, whenever I want to determine whether or not the supermarket will have oranges tomorrow, I simply calculate the price trends from what I bought in the past. This way I know they will always have oranges, fish, olive oil, or whatever. And if you boneheads now object that crude oil doesn't grow on trees, you are apparently disinclined to make any efforts at understanding even the basis of Kitchen Cupboard Catonomics!
But then what does all this have to do with Dr. Crichton? Is he an abundance ecologist or is he not an abundant ecologist? Nay, he is not! In fact, he is a staunch environmentalist who would never think of undermining, or of backstabbing, the good cause. He makes it perfectly clear that we should behave responsibly and consider the consequences of our action for others and for the future. He is aware of the fact that our world does have genuine problems, and, therefore, he is not like some other users, who have wised up and greencloaked their daggers, their chainsaws and all the rest of their mother-nature-torture-tools!
It is striking, though, how extensively Mr. Crichton dwells on that Eden-business, and how little he has to say about peak oil. Are there really so many paradise birds amongst you eco-zealots, that the http://www.primitivism.com/ website has constant server breakdowns? Mr. Crichton's stand on resource depletion is outlined in an Interview with Jasper Gerard (http://www.heartland.org/pdf/16254.pdf): Can we really be sure our children will have enough resources? “No, we can’t be assured. But the other side of that coin is can we be sure that money we spend looking ahead to 2100 won’t be wasted? Every decision has a cost somewhere else. People say our grandchildren will loathe us, but they will also loathe us if we waste trillions of dollars tackling a problem that is non-existent.”
In other words: tackle the problems that your eyes can see, and if others come up, there will always be enough time to solve them. Nice kind of belief, that one. Reminds me of Ron Arnold's glad tidings: "Environmentalism by its very nature promotes feelings of guilt for existing, which naturally degenerate into pessimism, self-loathing and depression. Wise use by its very nature promotes feelings of competence to live in the world, generating curiosity, learning, and optimism toward improving the earth for the massive use of future generations." Just too bad that future generations won't be able to give Mr. Arnold their opinion about that one!
I also noticed that Mr. Crichton is pitting environmentalist fears (overpopulation) against economist fears (not enough working force to feed the aged). I cannot really tell, but find it hard to imagine, that very many environmentalists (social ecologists apart) would think that the resources can carry even the present population much longer. And I presume they would not be worried about lacking human capital, but instead about not having enough natural capital to feed both young and old in the future.
Economists, on the other hand, can safely forget about natural constraints, or externalities, as they call them. As far as they are concerned, the good life will go on forever – provided there is sufficient manpower to provide enough of the Ultimate Resource: knowledge!
So I wonder why Mr. Crichton confounds those two positions and makes it sound like the same people who were afraid of the population bomb yesterday are worried about human capital shortage tomorrow?
But let's return to you eco-nuts who, being totally rigid and completely uninterested in opposing points of view, are just as dangerous fundamentalists as some other fundamentalists you might think of. Because of your obstinacy and your imperviousness to dissenting ideas you are absolutely unable to come to terms with those who want to make wise use of the environment.
Let me tell you, from Mr. Crichton ("Why Speculate" – see above): compromise is much easier from relatively central positions than it is from extreme and hostile, conflicting positions like Greenpeace Spikers vs. the Logging Industry. Take it from those nature-loving American Indians, whose mystical union with the earth you so much adore: that compromise is a must, when you are facing the brutal realities of this world.
The Indians were always willing to strike a good bargain with the settlers, giving them half of their land, and half of the remaining half, when more settlers came along. And, since there is so much ground around in the States anyway, they then gave half of the half of the half that was still in their possession etc. Remember: resources are non-finite (not a quote from Mr. Crichton though, nor can he be held liable for my fantasies about the Indians). Now why can't you stubborn fundamentalists just compromise with the logging industry, and let them have just half of the old growth forests for starters? When they are finished with that, just let them work out another advantageous arrangement for you, and so on. Should the waves of the sea level, expanded by global warming, ever wash the ground floor of your homes, you will have to move anyway, so you best start adopting a little more flexibility now. Once again: follow the path of American Indians! Did they disappear from the face of earth? No! They are still living. Some of them. Somewhere. Somehow.
As far as ozone depletion goes, Mr. Crichton does not say that this, too, was one of your eco-fictions. He's probably worried that if he mentions "halons" you will feel entitled to draw a halo from those for yourselves. And besides: even if you maybe did get something right here, it doesn't mean all your other BS is right, in fact, I very much suspect that most of you are not right! Right?
Much as I admire Mr. Crichton's sagacity, and hate to criticize him, it worries me that you urban elitist sophists might twist some of the golden words from his mouth in order to promote your soul salvation business.
"We need to be humble, deeply humble, in the face of what we are trying to accomplish" he says. I can already imagine your chorus-answer to that one: "We are humble, we know that mankind is not good at managing ecosystems. Therefore, we think it should not meddle with them too much. 'Don't impair what you can't repair' is our humble slogan!" But believe me, mankind is not what Mr. Crichton has in mind, when he calls for humility. You are the ones who ought to be lowly, and right he is! We modestly take whatever we need from nature, and let sound science count what's left. And when the final counts are made, subservient science may humbly submit to our attention the unanswerable conclusion that everything is gone.
"The television generation expects nature to act the way they want it to be. They think all life experiences can be tivo-ed. The notion that the natural world obeys its own rules and doesn't give a damn about your expectations comes as a massive shock. Well-to-do, educated people in an urban environment experience the ability to fashion their daily lives as they wish. They buy clothes that suit their taste, and decorate their apartments as they wish. Within limits, they can contrive a daily urban world that pleases them. ..... The natural world is not so malleable. On the contrary, it will demand that you adapt to it-and if you don't, you die." This passage really made me wonder whether Mr. Crichton's aides got the text sheets mixed up for him, or whether some ecoteur smuggled one of your "We-shall-all-die" propaganda pamphlets between his papers.
Because this kind of argument is exactly what your eco-churches thrive on: the fear, that we are going to die, because we don't adapt to nature. That is the tune of their fund-raising prayer mill, the scare-crow that will pick your wallet. Mr. Crichton of course doesn't mean it like you enviros do. What he wants to say (if I am granted permission to supply a humble interpretation of his words with the innocent intention to further a widespread understanding of the message behind them) is not: kill the wolves, cut down the trees, pollute the rivers. Rather, he seems to be thinking that if you don't air-condition your homes in summer, you can die from the heat. And if you walk to the store, instead of going with your SUV, you may get run over by a SUV etc. While all this is not what environmentalists would call "adaptation to nature", it sure is what we have to do (plus a lot of other life-supporting activities of course) if we don't want to fall into the sustainability salvation trap and economic disgrace. I for my part want to make it absolutely clear, that I do not believe in this "if-you-don't-conserve-you'll-die" religion.
That's also why I simply fail to understand Mr. Crichton's assertion that nature is harsh and unforgiving, and obeys it's own rules rather than ours. I think he goofed up on that one, and that is not really his true opinion. Rather, the bulk of his speech seems to imply that we can just do whatever we feel like doing, and in the end everything will be fine anyway. Some have their religion, others their fairytale world, I guess. But in order to really appreciate the quality of Mr. Crichton's argument one probably should assume that he is a latter day disciple of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz's theory of pre-established harmony, or of some gaga Gaia assumption, that the whole planet is made for and everything will turn out just fine for mankind. The Maya folks must have been forerunners of that kind of belief, but they ran out of environment and so they never got around to prove the truth of their philosophical belief on a world-wide scale.
To make sure that you don't perish like the Maya, let me conclude this sermon with an ultimate appeal for your salvation. American tree-huggers, if you do not mend your ways, if you shun the path of betterment, in short: if you stubbornly refuse to convert environmentalism into a rigidly flexible science, then you're doomed – believe me!
It is an old propaganda trick (or, with those who are sincere, a mistake) to reduce social issues to a level of abstraction were everything can be equated with everything else. For a fine and famous (in this case satirical) example check the essay "The Market as God" (http://nicklewis.smartcampaigns.com/node/162) by the theologian Harvey Cox. Environmentalism lends itself to such comparisons for several reasons.
First, it is a social movement. All social movements necessarily have certain common denominators. They are (mostly) organized. They have leaders and followers, "schools" and "schisms", they believe they are doing the right thing and (mostly) that their ideals are good for mankind. And they cannot give a scientific proof for the correctness of all their assumptions.
Environmentalism has, second, many facets (some of which, like animal rights, I myself am rather wary about). It is true, however, that sustainability is a, or maybe the, central goal of environmentalism. It is also true, alas, that this objective is as impossible to reach as a life without sins. Nevertheless both targets are worthwhile striving for, getting as close as we can. And besides, there is a major difference between the two. Sustainability is a worldly goal, not a spiritual one.
Third, the rationality of environmentalism is not identical with either everyday (i. e. economic) or scientific rationality. You cannot calculate in euros or dollars the interest which our offspring would be gaining if our generation would conserve resources and preserve biodiversity. And you cannot put a price tag on their loss, if we don't. But that certainly does not mean that for instance the assumption of finite resources is irrational. And that we should not try to leave some of them for the use of future generations. The fact that we do not know how much petroleum exactly is still in the ground does not justify by any reasonable standards of communication equating conservationists with religious devotees.
It was not one of Mr. Crichton's brightest remarks, when he tried to smear environmentalists by saying "environmentalism is in fact a perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths" and when he tried to substantiate that by claiming (inter alia) that "there's a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge". Pollution is a real problem, not a myth, and it would be much more of a problem, had not environmentalists fought against it and had not politics introduced laws to curb pollution. If Mr. Crichton were practicing medicine (which he has studied) he certainly would not like people to besmirch his efforts to heal his patients as "healing rituals of the medicine man". It is equally inappropriate to liken the fight against pollution to any religious tenets or activities.
Another problematic aspect (in close context with his allegation of religiousness against the environmentalists) of Mr. Crichton's speech is his (and probably all of the cornucopians, wise users etc.) underlying presumption that the burden of proof rests with the environmentalists. His unspoken hypothesis (and, by the way, it is not very scientific not to reveal your axioms) is that we may tamper with the environment in any way we feel to be useful for us – as long as nothing happens. And, if things go wrong, he is confident that we will come up with a solution. To me, this type of resourcist belief looks much more similar to religion than the conservationists' position.
If they were constructing a nuclear power plant next to his home, Mr. Crichton, just like you and me, would certainly demand that the operating company prove its absolute safety. He, just as we, would feel that his own life and the life of his family was at stake. Why, then, should industry (and, not to forget ourselves: consumers) not have to prove that global warming will not occur, or will not be harmful, before they are allowed to emit more CO2 into the air? Is there any scientific basis for the presumption that environmental science has to give a definite proof of the deleterious effects of this activity, before we do something about it? We want to protect our lives from the risks of nuclear power plants. Do we say, about global warming, "It's only a problem for mankind, not for me"? Mr. Crichton discusses none of these questions, still he considers himself to be an honorable highbrow crusading for scientific environmentalism. Some people really do hold strange beliefs, I must say.
Yet another shady point of his standpoint is the fact that he does not distinguish between an environmental movement and environmental science. If he vaunts his study of anthropology having taught him that people cannot live without religious beliefs, it should also have informed him of the difference between a popular movement and science (and, as the third element concerned, politics). But obviously he ditched those lectures.
As for the mass activities, you cannot have a vigorous social movement, that can take it on with what you might with equally good reason call the "religion of money-making", without some deep emotional foundation. Where else, if not in a deep-rooted belief of doing right, do you pick up the strength of the heart, to live on a tree for years (not exactly my favorite idea, but still I have to concede that they are, in a certain way, sitting on the tree for me), because you feel obliged to put an end to the logging of old growth forests, and oppose the combined economic interest of logging companies, workers and property owners? From where will you draw the determination and prowess to criticize the golden-calf-cargo-cult, and, when necessary, to overthrew the tables of the usurers, if not from a fervor which you also find in religion? Environmentalism without emotion would be the political equivalent to a flat tire. Why do people risk their jobs, to "blow the whistle" on their employer, or government, when they find that those are doing harm to the public, or are concealing a dangerous truth? Those environmentalists are deeply committed to the public good. They are not always doing the right thing, and certainly an uneconomic environmentalism will not get very far. We are entitled to criticize overshoot, but nothing justifies someone trying to ridicule environmentalism as such by calling it a religion.
Overshoot is deplorable, but cannot always be avoided (given the complexity of natural systems and the uncertainty of our knowledge about them, which Mr. Crichton rightly emphasizes). The same kind of overshoot can be found in the present anti-terrorism activities. Are they a waste of money, an unnecessary restriction of freedom, based on exaggerated fears? Everything that Mr. Crichton has held against environmentalism in his remarks to the Commonwealth Club can, mutatis mutandis, easily be transposed into the theme of internal security. Only that, while terrorists can kill a bunch, a breakdown of natural support systems might kill our whole civilization. Does not that consideration maybe justify a lot more premonition and "speculation" about the possible results of our large-scale meddling with nature?
As for the scientific side of environmentalism, I do believe (actually, I am a stubborn agnostic, but in this case, since I'm not a scientist myself, I cannot do other than believe) that scientists have been trying to do a good job in the past – as best as they could, given the state of the art and the availability of funds - and will continue to do so, and do not need the exhortations of Mr. Crichton to unsnarl their souls from any political or ecoligious chains. If he wants to support their work by calling for extra funding, you bet they will wholeheartedly rally behind him!
But where is Mr. Crichton heading for, or getting at, in the arena of practical politics, when he (in "Why Speculate") tells people that reliable scientific studies (double-blind medical studies, in this case, but he makes it clear that this applies to all scientific studies of any worth) cost "millions of dollars" and that he wants the same things studied by different teams (which, I am sure, is already happening anyway)? Is he calling for tax hikes to give the government more money to fund more projects? No, that is not his point, or at least he avoids to speak of the consequences for the taxpayer. He doesn't' t simply say: let's spend 20 billion on global warming research instead of 1 billion. All I hear is: it's incredibly complex, it's extremely costly, nobody knows what the future holds, predictions have all been wrong in the past. It's easy to claim (or pretend?) that you demand extra funding for science – and then maybe wash your hands, when the political hit men step in and kill the necessary tax increases, foreseeably using his very arguments: it's extremely complex, nothing has happened yet, so why waste money when you cannot possibly know what the future holds anyway?
Science will never offer us a way out of politics. While the process of scientific investigation and the presentation of the results must be free from political considerations, the subject-matter of research will invariably be influenced by the political decisions as to where the funding goes. However, what we make of the results, which problem we decide to be pressing for immediate political action, which scientists (in case of diverging scientific evidence or assessment) the law-makers should trust – or not -: all that is inevitably political. And if Mr. Crichton is genuinely concerned about politics interfering with the scientific process proper (or with the presentation of it's results), he is probably welcome to make a donation and address a speech to the Union of Concerned Scientists (http://www.ucsusa.org/global_environment/rsi/page.cfm?pageID=1641) (or, if he feels they are putting forward propaganda for the Democrats, prove their allegations wrong on one of the many right wing websites).
Industry does not need politics to slurp up the environment into its process of creative destruction. But politics is needed to make them (and us consumers) clean up afterwards (and eventually make all of us pick up the all-included bill). To implement environmental protection, or cleaning, especially if they are costly, we do need politics (much as we may not like it), and the politicians inescapably need scientific counsel. If you advise scientists to get out of politics, or politicians to dispense with scientific advice, you might just as well call a halt to any environmental politics. Which is, of course, what most of those who mirror Mr. Crichton's speech on their websites understand very well, and what they want to achieve. They would like to see ecology reduced to a purely observational activity, at best: let the scientists count what's left, after we have been through! And then, when the final counts are made, we will be rewarded with the incontestable cognition, sanctified by scientific proof, that nothing is left. Which is, of course, not what the environmentalists would like to happen.
Strip environmentalism of its political dimension, and you have disposed of environmentalism for good, and its remains will not be polluting your economic precincts any more. Since Mr. Crichton wants to keep the environment out of politics and politics out of the environment, he is heading – knowingly or not – more or less towards an abolishment of environmental politics. Somehow or other, nobody can escape polarization when it comes to political decision making – or when expressing opinions and trying to influence people. No matter, what Mr. Crichton himself thinks about where his position in the eco-political debate is: what finally counts is into which of the two 'magnetic fields' of environmental politics his ideas, and his way of presenting them, get him sucked into. That can very easily be determined by looking at the type of websites, and the organizations behind them, which reverberate his speech and acclaim his ideas: tell me who your friends are ... . And my above content analysis of his remarks demonstrates, I hope, why wise users use Mr. Crichton's speech to further their own agenda.
Mr. Crichton is also complaining that more and more environmental groups are putting out is lies. "Cancer coming from power lines" is an example he gives in his article "Lets's Stop Scaring Ourselves" (http://archive.parade.com/2004/1205/1205_stop_scaring.htm). But even if there should really be groups and/or individuals around that spread environmental scares they know to be wrong, he is observing the splinter in the eyes of the conservationists and never notices the giant plank in the eyes of his resourcist brethren in spirit.
I hold it to be true that
WE ARE SITTING INSIDE OF A SAILBOAT
AND KEEP HACKING AWAY AT THE HULL:
And I positively know that some folks amongst us are drilling. In order to divert our attention from our hull-hacking activities, they drill any meaningful core right of our words, sentences and communication structure.
"No thing is a resource by nature's decree. All resources are man-made" they want to make you believe, and some (http://www.quebecoislibre.org/04/041015-17.htm "THE FLAWED DOCTRINE OF NATURE'S INTRINSIC VALUE" by Prof. Edward W. Younkins or http://220.127.116.11/vnews.php?nid=186&printable=Y "Prosperity Without Pollution" by John Semmens) even tell you so with these exact words. Others, like Jerry Taylor, are a little more intelligent and paraphrase this sentence and only insinuate the result by quoting "scientists" with statements like: "Resources ... are not natural. They are a product of human ingenuity ...” and "Resources are a function of human knowledge and our stock of knowledge" (From: "Sustainable Development. A Dubious Solution in Search of a Problem" – http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa449.pdf). Claiming that resources are man-made is simply a lie. They are man-used, or, as resources, found fit for that purpose by mankind. But mineral resources are not man-made.
When it comes to substitute one resource for another, mankind is inventive indeed. But another story that you'll never here from a loud-mouthed resourcist is that no law of nature proclaims substitutes will always be better than what was formerly used. They will rave about well-known facts like plastics having substituted metal, copper being replaced by glass fiber etc. Do you know what the Germans, when flour was in short supply during WW I, (partly) substituted for it to bake bread? Sawdust! Or what they used as "tobacco" in WW II? Tree-leaves! And what did people, in the olden days, "eat" on the sailboats, when they ran out of victuals? Leather!
Resourcists are recklessly fooling us about what resources are, that mineral resources are finite, and about what "substitution" might very well come to mean one day. But Mr. Crichton picks out (comparatively) small lies (if lies they are) to condemn environmentalism, while he never addresses the big hoax of resourcism.
For all the abovementioned reasons, I deem it to be true that Michael Crichton is not wielding his verbal weapons as a savior of unadulterated ecology, but rather as a highly silver-tongued member of the anti-environmental stealth bomber squad.
Could it be that in some not-so-distant future the term "Disaster Lobby" will come to denote a group of people distinctly different from the ones which Mr. Melvin J. Grayson and Thomas R. Shepard, Jr. targeted in their 1973 book "The Disaster Lobby: Prophets of Ecological Doom and Other Absurdities"?
A personal remark on logging: I hold no grudge against the loggers as such. I am using "logging" here more as a symbol than anything else, and I do know very little about the US-American situation and controversy. Over here, where practically no old growth forests are left anyway, logging is not a question of major concern, and it is not one for me personally. But it is an easily visualized symbol, and if I were living in the States, I certainly would not want the remaining (more or less) "natural" forests to be logged away either. And of course the conservation of the tropical rain forest is a highly important issue for everybody in the whole world.
Nachtrag vom 31.12.05: vgl. dazu auch Eintragung von heute "EINE NATUR GIBT ES NICHT. EINE UMWELT(PROBLEMATIK) AUCH NICHT. "
Textstand vom 14.09.2007
Gesamtübersicht der Blog-Einträge auf meiner Webseite http://www.beltwild.de/drusenreich_eins.htm
Sonntag, 24. April 2005
Mein ganz persönlicher bescheidener Beitrag zur Ressourcenschonung:
My very own and very modest contribution to resource conservation:
Blogging statt Logging!
Blogging instead of Logging!