Sunday, July 29, 2007

another nail in the coffin of nationalism

For all of those who hold exceptionalist positions and persist in the jingoism of nationalism: You're wrong!

The UK is far from a being a mdoel democracy, our health services are amongst the worst in Western Europe- and deteriorating- and our rail network is a joke. Still proud, are you?

Saturday, July 28, 2007

falling birth rates are no comfort

An article in the Economist contains many misrepresentations, misdirections and not a few absurdities. The article makes a good start with a description of how population growth curves are ubiquitous across the spectrum of living organisms, from swallows to bacteria to humans to sponges. This good start is ruined by the next sentence:

"Overcrowding and a shortage of resources constrain bug populations."

For accuracy, and the analogy of a bacterial population dwelling in a petri dish is wonderfully appropriate here, the word "constrain" should be replaced with "kill". A bacterial population, after consuming all of the reources in its agar ecosystem, promptly dies out almost completely. The remaining organisms enter a state of suspended animation in a desperate attempt to survive until some future input of nutrients allows them to revive and reproduce again and life in the agar is, essentially, ended. Compare this description of life within one semi-closed system with another: The human population of The Earth.

There follows an observation that a Malthusian apocalypse is an unlikely future. I must disagree. Do the terms, "climate change", "peak oil" and "nuclear proliferation" mean anything to the author? Apparently not.

Following this comes an observation that the neo-classical economic model has led prices of commodities to fall during the last century, indicating that raw materials have become more abdundant. At last we see a glimpse of rationality as the author observes that the commodities consumed are not the problem, but the emissions associated with their production are, however the following sentence is so counter-intuitive that it defies logic:

"Certainly, the impact that people have on the climate is a problem; but the solution lies in consuming less fossil fuel, not in manipulating population levels."

The two numbers referred to- the consumption of fossil fuels per head and population levela, are the two key factors in determining the survival of our civilisation. Too many people consuming too much and we all drown or burn or fight to death. On the other hand, a lot of people consuming minute quantities of resources and producing a small amount of pollution and you have a very frsutrated and bored bunch of people. My preference, and I think many people will agree with me here, is of a world where consumption is not limited but population is so that the quality of life of the population is maximised but pollution is limited to a level that allows the biosphere to flourish- further enriching our existence. Why have a population of 6.5 billion where 2 billion have no access to electricity and 1.1 billion currently have no access to safe drinking water? Why not have a stable population of 500 million people all with the quality of life currently enjoyed by the Western World? Falling birth rates could lead to immigration from more developed countries and population control in those countries would then lead to a global trend toward falling population. Population centres would shrink but quality of life would progress. Its a combination of the humanitarianism, rationality and responsibility.

Anyway- I got distratced there. The rest of the article is a big whinge and contains many snipes at phenomena that I consider to be good things, eg:

"The Russian army has had to tighten up conscription because there are not enough young men around."

I'm sorry, what? How can falling numbers if armed men possibly be a bad thing? The more conscription there is the unhappier the population will be and the more feeling will turn against such a barbaric practice (the Russian Conscripted Army is, essentially, a borstal outfit).

The remainder of the article is fairly level headed and contains endorsements of sexual equality in the workplace and maternity legislation to allow mothers to avoid suffering for the gap in their careers that results from childbirth.

Brendan O'Neill is a fuckwit

Brendan gets all upset that people are criticising the Chinese for being more focused upon economic development than sustainable development. Why is he bothered about the Chinese in specific? Good people everywhere are worried about economic development because its absurd to perpetuate a system based upon the flawed paradigm of infinite growth within a finite environment.

"We are seeing the return of "yellow peril" arguments, only these days they are dressed in the language of the "green peril" - that is, China is said to be destroying both its own natural environment and potentially ours, too."

Well, Brendan. The reason people say that they are destroying their natural environment, and potentially ours too, is because THEY ARE, YOU FUCKWIT ! ! ! !

I'm fairly sure that the Chinese are not alone in this so your alleged exposure of a torrid undercurrent of racism flowing through the environmental movement is all a bunch of arse-grapes. Its about as valid as your last attempt to brand environmentalists as racists.

Here's the point Brendan: Extrapolate the situation that you are currently orgasming over (some of us look at China's rapid economic growth of 10% a year and see something positive, even mesmerising - the birth pangs of a great industrial nation), and extrapolate to around 2020 when peak oil has begun to bite and the seas are rising steadily. What happens then when the China that has been built upon a foundation of oil and unabashed industrialism runs short of the liquid gold to oil its wheels? China sits upon some of the world's largest coal reserves and is already the world's greatest producer. What happens to our lovely planet when the population of the most populous country on the planet is allowed to develop without plan or limit for another 15 years? And then what happens when there's no more oil for them? Honestly, it'll make Mad Max look like a day at Butlins.

Here's my solution: Cap their carbon emissions; fund the fuck out of their generation sector as every pound spent in China on efficiency and clean technology gets you a lot more work done than a pound spent in the comparatively well developed Western system; share technology; end the covert arms race and put the money into society instead of corporations. Its a far more humanitarian approach for the ismple reason that sustainable development is . . . . well . . . . . sustainable? In 15 years a well developed distribution network for solar panels, wind generators and biomass plants will be available to keep agriculture functioning comfortably. Electric vehicles will be coming off production lines, carbon emissions may not have fallen but they will have been prevented from growing severely. Most importantly of all, China will not be tempted to collapse back onto unrestricted exploitation of its enormous coal reserves to shoulder the burden. Any coal generation can be via clean technology and this might indeed stimulate the substantial investment in the field needed to make the technology practical.

Why does no one in power get this? Duh?

more tax abuse from the corporations

This CiF post brings up the issue of big businesses dodging taxes that is somewhat popular these days (I can't begin to imagine why). George Monbiot did a good job on it a few days back but I forgot to draw attention to his piece. I was probably drunk.

Its all still an extension of the social injustices imposed upon my generation by my parents'.

Blut und Boden

The title of this post refers to a comment on this CiF story by a poster called Chewtoy. Its depressing how many people commenting make a point of noting how unsurprising it is that such abhorrent legislation as id discussed is actually making its way through the Knesset.


Thursday, July 26, 2007

books to read

Half Gone by Jeremy Leggett.


This is scrawled on Tim's guitar in the video for People of The Sun. It fucking rocks!


why I feel that my parent's generation treats mine as 2nd class citizens

Francis Beckett knocked out this on CiF. Its really just an extension of this story.

Polly had more to say about the housing apocalypse. She includes a fact which is utterly damning of our society:

"A whole Doncaster street was bought with one City bonus."

the ecotopian idyll

Nice. It justs goes to show that you can live the dream. I'm not sure how comfortable the place would be in the middle of a storm though. It also sounds like a lot of work growing and maintaining. I'm a very lethargic character and whilst being surrounded by a flourishing and diverse flora and fauna appeals greatly I would rather occupy a lower maintenance environment. Just my personal opinion, you understand, but my talents lie apart from weeding and pruning. Maybe that's the whole point. If such a lifestyle became mainstream you would have the option of career choices - you could tend to your community's permaculture or you could contibrute with direct financial contributions whilst being part of the community but being excused from most of the communal duties. Kind of like 'buying' your way out of having to weed the fields. You would still be entitled to the produce and materials from your community.

This all sounds delightfully quaint until I realised that I am a lazy bugger and will do absolutely anything, including lying brazenly to my wife's face, to avoid having to do the washing up.

Incidentally, in direct contrast to public opinion and common sense (big fucking surprise), the government appears to be hell-bent on making it impossible to even attempt to live in such an idyllic setting. £2000 per acre of land! I could happily make do with half an acre, given the opportunity to construct and reside within my own bender. As I observed above, it would be a trial to make it through your 1st winter but I'm certain that I could make it comfy enough to survive. Compare the cost of that to the £85000 price tag of a grotty 1 bedroom flat that is the alternative!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

ignorance and power

The General has some choice words on the societal effects of ignorance amongst the population. His little essay reminds of these words:

"Ignorance is like cholera, it cannot be controlled by the individual alone: It requires the organised efforts of society."
Sir Muir Gray

Monday, July 23, 2007

floods of tears

Here is the brutal truth: however good our flood defences, transport planning, emergency relief and so forth, it is all inadequate if we don't face up to the primary question: not "Why hasn't the government been better prepared?" but "Isn't our failure to respond to climate change by changing our economy and lifestyles simply idiotic?".

Hear, hear!

I only wish the rest of the piece were as strongly worded. In fact, after bewailing the British resposne to "the (climate-change-caused) bad summer by getting into (climate-change-causing) jets and flying to the Mediterranean - where, by the way, global warming is causing innumerable heatwave deaths?" she then goes on to brand us all hypocrites before stating unabashedly that "I hold my hand up too. Our long-planned week's holiday to a Greek resort will go ahead if the airports are open."

I'm sorry? Did I misunderstand you there, Jackie? You think that climate change is bad and a real problem but you aren't doing anything about it? In fact, you are wilfully making it worse! The conceit and arrogance of this little gobshite truly becomes clear in the penultimate sentence: "I need to be cajoled, led, provoked and taxed into changing my ways, as do we all."

Only if you're a lackadaisical fuckwit with the moral compass of Pol-Pot, you do. Fucking whinging, liberal toerags waiting for someone to come along and legislate them out of trouble. I fucking hate people like this.


On a less ranty and more holier-than-thou note I would like to announce that I am going to the South of France in August by train. Yes, not by plane or ferry but by good old choo-choo. Admittedly I am going wakeboarding on my friend's fat boat for a week but I still reckon that's half the CO2 of the flight.

Smugness is me.

The Threat to Reason by Dan Hind

I want this book. The author was on Radio 4's Start The Week program and was a very interesting chap.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

an example of how not to set housing policy

Brown is a cock-weasel.

He seems to think the housing associations can build houses out of thin air and dreams.

Hint to Gordon: Stop spending £1 billion a year on an illegal war and put the money into something beneficial to society.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

beauty in a physical form

Some may disagree but I think this is one of the most profoundly beautiful artifacts I have laid eyes on.

Linkage to more pics


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

eating meat fucks the environment royally

So says New Scientist. There are some fascinating (read- "fucking alarming") stats in there.

If only I had the willpower to give up meat.

Tried it.


plutocracy . . . yada yada yada . . . cock-weasel . . . . . British public transport is shit . . . etc . . .etc

These two themes seem to be prevalent throughout the press these days with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation's latest report and the ongoing debacle of Metronet. The third string to this bow is, of course, the government's climate policy which is as full of holes spewing carbon and pollution as , well, as a cheap, Chinese-made plastic collander.

So why, dear listener (I'm listening to the radio and it appeals to me to address you so), why is it that we tolerate being treated as serfs? I must take a bus to work today at a cost of £1.45 per trip. An interesting observation is that that £2.90 would allow me to travel an impressive 25 miles (ok, so that's shit fuel economy but I drive a 1.6 Nissan Bluebird- you try and get a decent car for under £500). I can assure you that the trip to town is barely 2.5 miles, so why the extreme expense?

Today's Independent cover story suggests an answer, this story inside has more.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Sian Berry calls for Brown to give TfL its money back

Accountability, Green Party stylee. Fuck, yeah!

With a bit of tweaking to the contracts PFI might yet turn out to be a good idea but its implementation and the lack of knowledge of those who were given the task of negotiating the first deals has left us with a massive white elephant.

In other recent news, a representative of Brown's government- one Caroline Flint MP (voted strongly against transparent government; voted very strongly for introducing ID cards; voted very strongly for student top-up fees; voted very strongly for the Iraq war; voted very strongly for Labour's anti-terrorism legislation; voted very strongly against investigating the Iraq war; voted very strongly for replacing Trident)- told all the poor people in the country to fuck off and stop whinging about how crap life is in a plutocracy.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Vietnam mark II - anyone remember My Lai?

Well, this is 50 times worse.

I want one!

This is totally gnarly:

Does anyone want to give me £3K so's I can buy one?

Or, if you're feeling particularly generous, how about £10K for one of these beautiful things:

That's a production car, kids! Fucking beautiful!

There's a couple more fascinating developments in automotive technology in this article.


Ok, so actually its not a production car but I still want one when they go on sale.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

a little climate change philosophy

This caught my eye and I was reminded of Paul Robert's observation in his book, The End of Oil, that its all very well rich nations accepting responsibility for most of the greenhouse gases produced but the biggest threat comes from developing countries and a pound spent on efficiency measures and limiting emissions in a developing country buys you a fuck load more than a pound spent in the UK on the same. This is because here we have already gone down the road of efficiency improvements to get where we are today. But that coal fired plant in China or the diesel locomotives carrying people through Indonesia could be improved and upgraded for relatively little, whereas a redevelopment of the UK network to super-efficient TGV-style trains will cost hundreds of billions. I think Mr Ban should have pointed this out.

this is just fucking amazing

Watch this video. I love the fluorescent colour scheme- you can tell its filmed int he early 90s. There's lots more information about WIGs here.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

its raining again . . .

There's nothing I can really put here. Maybe some statistics will make me feel even more miserable . . .


June 2007

Mean temperatures generally around 1 deg C above average across the UK, although maximum temperatures across parts of eastern Scotland were over 1 deg C below average. The majority of the UK having well above average rainfall, with rainfall anomalies widely over 300% across Yorkshire, with some areas having their wettest June on record. Sunshine generally below average across the UK, and exceptionally below average across parts of eastern Scotland and NE England, with some areas having their dullest June on record.

Emley Moor, Bingley and Fylingdales all recording over 400% of their average June rainfall. E & NE England climate district area having its wettest June, beating the previous highest of June 1997 by around 30 mm (areal series back to 1914).

Yeah! That did the job! Lets see some more!

So far the Westcountry has had twice its annual rainfall! That's a year's worth in the 1st 6 months. Thanks, George & Tony!

Friday, July 06, 2007

the European rail revolution - unless you live in the UK, that is

This is one of my favourite subjects to rant about. Check the map and, apart from Portugal- a country of 10 million with less than half the population density of the UK- see if you can spot any country in Western Europe without a red, high-speed line in it (The poxy piece between Waterloo and the channel tunnel doesn't count, IMO).

Yeah, I know. You can't.

Thanks, Maggie, John "Y-fronts" Major and Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Great British Public is greatly ignorant. And Stupid.

Yeah, another reason why I'm really not proud to be a UK citizen. Thanks to Murdoch and the other media magnates there remains a pall of inconclusivity over the science of climate change.


Oxford Research Group piss all over the nuclear fire

Their' latest report deals descriebs how new nuclear generation capacity will not aid the fight against climate change and will create new terrorist threats by propagating the spread of fissile material throughout the world. Not only that but it increases the chance of a nuclear war.

Pretty conclusive, methinks.

Welcome home Alan Johnston!

He's free!

COngratulations to the Hamas Executive Force for not using overly heavy-handed tactics that might have endangered his life and a big "Fuck You!" to the Dogmush Clan, who captured and held him for so long in pursuit of their fundamentalist Islamist goals.


George Monbiot, Speaker of Profundities

George has done what I have been yearning to do for years but haven't had the time or the depth of understanding: He has demonstrated that our energy policy is neither sustainable, secure nor ethical. Millions of people will die because of this government's actions unless they address the issues he raises.

Think about that next time you go to vote.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Goering and propaganda

The General considers Goering's opinion of the simplicty of taking a nation to war.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

European's nuclear revamp on the rocks already

The Finnish experience must be somewhat disheartening to all you nuke-lovers.

another piece of the Neo-Malthusian jigsaw emerges

Soil erosion. I'd heard of it before and knew it was a problem but this article puts it into perspective. Building on one of my favourite themes of Environmental Economics, there are more interesting numbers to be found in the opening paragraph of this article; where the net worth, in ecotoxicological terms, of a hectare of Thai mangrove is contrasted with its value- or rather, its cost- as a shrimp farm.

I just came up with the "Neo-Malthusian" tag. Its, like, a cockweasels favourite ad-hominem attack on us eco-warriors but turned back on them. "Yes", we cry, "we're embracing Malthus predictions of imminent catastrophe but backing them with oodles of profoundly irrefutable scientific evidence".

The difference is, Malthus' scenario failed to take into account the technological developments that kept mankind growing until now. But now exponential population growth is taking over the linear progression of technology and we're back where he thought we were 300 years ago and there are good human beings out there working to explain why.

There's a fascinating critique of Malthus, by an anthropologist called Eric Ross, reviewed here. It sounds totally wicked and I fancy laying my filthy paws on a copy for enlightenment purposes. I must state here, however, that I am shocked by their connection of neo-Malthusianism, racism and eugenics. I don't advocate militant birth control and family planning because I want to improve the human gene stock or because I want to eliminate a particular strand of humanity. I am convinced that every single healthy human child has the potential to cure cancer or to kill a million innocents- its very much a matter of upbringing which decides which of these extremes they move toward. I just think there are too many fucking humans on the planet and we're not looking after the ones that are alive now. I think people should stop having kids until there are no more hungry or neglected children (hmmm- Annual births (eg. for Asia = 97560105) divided by total number of orphan children under 16 (again, for Asia = 253656272) equals 2.6 years (all figures torn from Wikipedia).

Two point six fucking years! That's a goddamn long time to stop a continent giving birth. But all then orphans in the continent would have families.

Frankly I wasn't even aware of the use of the term "Neo-Malthusian" in the review until I finished reading it; I'd started writing this post before I'd finished more than a couple of paragraphs and I'm now regretting embracing the term in my title. But I haven't removed my reference to it as I believe this post shows a progression of thought and understanding of the subject. The Znet article contains many indisputably alarming facts. Rather than being scared of being branded something I'm not I'd rather stand behind my convictions and clarify why they might sound inhuman but actually profess more concern for the future of humanity than they initially be obvious.