Christian based service movement warning about threats to rights and freedoms irrespective of the label.
The Local World - Part VII by Geoffrey Dobbs
The Greenhouse Effect
The Greenhouse Effect, that is the warming of the Earth's surface through the blanketing influence of certain gases in the atmosphere which reduce the radiation into space at infra-red wavelengths from the surface and may re-radiate them downwards, is, and always has been, a natural phenomenon without which the planet could not be habitable. Of late, however, the term has been massively used to suggest that this phenomenon is something artificial, caused by human activities, notably the burning of coal, oil and wood with release of carbon dioxide into the air; and, moreover, that this 'threatens the planet.'
There can be no doubt that the Greenhouse Effect has in recent years become a prime instrument of the globalizers for mass-conditioning the public mind in favour of their World Power-Centralizing objective. That is not to say or imply that there is nothing in it, that it is all a hoax. It seems highly improbable that the sudden (in geological terms) extra gasification of some of the planet's stored hydrocarbons from the rocks into the atmosphere could have no influence on this natural climatic phenomenon. But that influence must be extremely complex in its effects, and despite constant arguments no one so far has been able to put the human contribution into its proper scale beside the vastly greater natural one.
In considering this matter I propose to start at the most important end; with what is being projected at children which, incidentally, gives a simple summary or outline of what is being projected at all of us. Indeed, when we are considering the collective psyche, knowledge or intelligence plays no part in it, and adulthood has little bearing on the mass-image received. For this purpose I find a coloured poster-diagram occupying a two-page spread in the Daily Telegraph's 'Young' Edition (20 Oct. 1990) particularly helpful, since it is an enlarged version taken from that in the Friends of the Earth Yearbook.
This poster, then, shows an arc of the Earth's surface and atmosphere covered in by overlapping panes representing the 'Greenhouse' outside which are purple clouds and a great Sun-symbol, pouring down yellow rays of 'Heat.' Also the big red words, GLOBAL WARMING, which, it says: Is the greatest environmental threat facing the planet, but we can prevent the worst effects if we act quickly and cut emissions of so-called 'greenhouse gases.
Save us from Save-the-Planetism !
I'm sorry, but the first part of this is propagandist bilge, along with all the "Save the Planet" sloganism! The Friends of the Earth know perfectly well that no global warming mankind could achieve would be any threat to the planet. The question they rightly wish to raise is whether it may be a threat to our present civilisation and to many human beings and other forms of life. The second part is, at least, dubious, since it begs this and a number of other large questions.
The poster shows big yellow arrows of 'heat' radiating from the Earth and returning back "trapped by 'greenhouse' gases." In the centre is the "Polar ice cap melting" and causing a vast "Flooding," and to either side of it are pictures of the human causes of this global warming. Starting on the left we have "Rubbish Dumps." "As rubbish rots" (it says) "it gives off methane gas." No hint that it need not do so. Then there is a whirl of traffic giving off carbon dioxide. Next are smoking power station chimneys giving off huge amounts of carbon dioxide from coal, oil or gas to make electricity. In the foreground are the inevitable cooling towers which emit steam, but are nearly always depicted in pictures of air pollution. On the other side of the great flood are a mass of "Aerosols, Fridges and Plastic Foam" giving off CFC Gas. Then we have more "carbon dioxide released by burning trees," with a picture of "Burning Rain Forests" and finally "Cattle 'Ranching" with the cows giving off methane (but why specially on ranches as compared with more intensive farming?).
What is noticeable about this is that it is all vaguely alarmist and antagonistic to something or other and completely isolated from any idea of the balance of nature or of anything positive which the children could do, such as growing things, planting and protecting trees, or making their own compost. They get from it no realisation that carbon dioxide and methane are an essential part of a vast circulation of which the human contribution makes but a small fraction. How big a fraction? - that is the real question. But since our children (and most of their parents) have been deprived by exclusive decimal teaching of the power of thinking habitually in fractions, which are ratios and essential to all biological thinking, we have become helplessly vulnerable to this kind of unbalanced propaganda. It is ironic that it should be put over in the name of 'ecology.' It could scarcely be more anti-ecological!
The great principle seems to be to avoid anything positive or genuinely 'green' in case it reduces the impact of the fear-propaganda. Don't tell the children that rubbish can be composted and properly aerated so that it forms a valuable plant food and soil improver; shove in the cooling towers because the steam looks more alarming than chimney smoke; don't on any account mention that forest fires are a part of the natural ecology of many forests, and that not only cattle but a lot of people (especially vegetarians!) excrete 'greenhouse' gases. Indeed, we all do every time we breathe out the carbon dioxide from our lungs, as does every living thing when it respires.
Above all, it seems, the children must not be given any idea of the vast forces and activities on the other side of the balance: the immense fact of photosynthesis, that carbon dioxide is the aerial food of the plants on which we all live; that its efficiency increases both with warmth and with the amount in the air; even that in real greenhouses which are near power plants they pipe it in to increase the growth of the crop.
One-sided centralist Propaganda
My main objection to this one-sided, negative and adversarial presentation of environmental policy to the public and especially to children is that it is essentially symbolic and selectively centralist both in intention and in effect. Children are being taught to look to and to trust, unknown, remote, allegedly powerful and super-clever agencies to save the environment, just as they are being conditioned to rely upon similarly remotely controlled agencies to feed, clothe, house and doctor them. Their function is to swallow the prescribed opinions and to agitate for the prescribed objectives which are usually remote and unverifiable. Also to collect funds for them.
Thus we shall have another mob of young know-alls with implanted opinions who will impatiently reject anyone who happens to have practical knowledge of any matter under consideration. This is, indeed, in line with the 'progressive element' in education who believe that the young should be taught to form opinions without being troubled with facts.
It may, of course, be argued that because the situation is far too complex and controversial to present intelligibly to children, or to the general public, it is justifiable to select the salient points and present them simply. This would be true if the points selected did constitute a balanced, if simplified, presentation, but they do not; and if, in fact, the situation is too complex and speculative not only for children, but for the many scientists and other specialists who are working on it and discussing it, then it should not be presented at all to children or the public as a series of ascertained facts.
* * * * * *
While the global effect of human activities is at present largely unknown and speculative, many of their local effects are both visible and damaging, and it is these that call for urgent efforts for discontinuance and for restoration where possible. People are far more willing to take action where the results can be seen than where it all depends on a blind faith in propaganda, and both the damage and its consequences are matters of print and images, and physically remote from themselves. To be sure, massive and instant returns can be obtained but they are temporary, unless the conditioning is remorseless, continued to the point of boredom and apathy.
At the same time, there can be no doubt that a multitude of similar local effects, as determined by the uniformity of our money-culture, must add up to some aggregate effects on the very complex systems of the planet. There is an obvious analogy between the 'health' of the planet and that of a human being, but there is also a vital difference where it breaks down, namely one of scale. Though complex enough we are a very small part of the planet; the planet is not a small part of us but much too big for us to grasp quickly in its immensity and complexity, and we have only just started attempting this. We have some primitive ideas now, but it will take a few generations at least to get anywhere with any certainty.
'Global Thinking in Time'
Despite much talk about 'global thinking' and 'holism,' when it comes to the information they give to the general public, much of the Green outpouring is limited to the speculative large-scale effects of human activities as if they existed in a vacuum, instead of being against an unimaginably vast background of natural events, wholly (thank God) beyond the reach of human interference.
We are a part not only of the planet Earth, but, if we are going to be holistic, of the vastly greater Solar System, which in turn is something like a hundred-billionth of the Galaxy, itself a part of the local Group of Galaxies (including two satellites, the Magellanic Clouds) and they are all part of the Universe. Admittedly, the space-and-time-scale on which all beyond the Solar System operate is totally beyond any relating to ours. We can regard them only as a fixed background, largely beyond our knowledge or understanding, however many new 'universes' the astrophysicists churn out for us every other decade. But the Sun, and to a much smaller extent the Moon, and to a very minor extent the other planets, especially the Gas Giants, are by no means so.
We live in the Sun's Atmosphere
If we like to think of the Earth as our Mother, then, by the same sort of analogy, the Sun is our Father, for without his constant fertilization the Earth would be a lifeless body. Indeed, we live within the Sun's atmosphere which is constantly radiating into space, constituting what is now called the Solar Wind, and passing far beyond the Earth to the limits of the solar system. But it is the energy generated deep within the Sun by the nuclear conversion of hydrogen into helium which lights and heats our planet and is an essential part of the biosphere which grows upon its surface. And any variations in this mighty flow of energy reaching us are of incomparably greater effect than anything mankind can do to the Earth.
The scribes and admen of the Green movement have no excuse for failing to put their 'opinioneering in its right context, for James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis have done it for them, imaginatively and at some length. The Green propagandists know everything that I could write about the great sequence of climatic changes through which the Earth has passed in its long history from before the Archean to the present day. They know that the Sun 's radiation has never been constant.
It is reckoned to have increased by about a third in the course of geological time; but more relevant to current guesses about the Greenhouse Effect are those minor variations which have occurred within the 10,000 years or so of human history, since the last Ice Age. We still do not know whether we are living in another interglacial period, but if so the Greenhouse Effect would tend to counteract the advent of the next natural glacial epoch.
About 8,300 BC the sea level was reckoned to be some 40m (135 ft.) lower than it is at present, but the warming, with the consequent rise in the sea which has followed, was by no means regular. During the Pre-Boreal, Boreal and Atlantic periods warming seems to have been rapid, but then came a setback, around 3300 to 2000 BC, sometimes called the first Little Ice Age. In the Sub-Atlantic period in which we now live (from 400 BC to the present) there is plenty of evidence, both written and vegetational, of successive changes of climate. As recently as around 1650-1730 AD there was another Little Ice Age (memorable for the famous occasion in the winter of 1715/16 when an ox was roasted on the frozen Thames).
This gave us some clue to its cause, since by that time records were being made of the frequency of sunspots, and during that period there were almost none. Evidently the Sun may have these quiet phases with a slight reduction in radiation, as well as a not too regular cycle of about 11.4 years in the occurrence of sunspots and immense flares with quiet periods between. Such solar eruptions are accompanied by huge magnetic storms the effect of which on Earth's atmosphere and weather is still not understood. More recently X-ray studies of the Sun have revealed that dark patches known as coronal holes without such flares may give the most powerful emissions of solar particles.
A study (Nature, 6 Dec. 1990) by astrophysicists of 78 stars similar to the Sun in age, mass and size has confirmed that minor variations in brightness are commonplace among them, even perceptible at distances of light-years on the human time-scale. The assumption that the Sun's radiation is constant is completely untenable.
Then we also have to consider variations in the amount of the Sun's radiation received by the Earth, since its elliptical orbit round the Sun varies somewhat under the gravitational influence of the other planets, notably the great Gas Giants, Jupiter and Saturn, so that the Earth may be slightly nearer to or farther from the Sun at corresponding times on different orbits. In addition there are variations in the Earth's nutation, the wobbling of its axis as it spins, to take into account.
So, when we try to assess the global effects of human activities which are so visible locally, we start with a background of 'astronomical' influences the combination of which cannot be accurately ascertained or predicted on our time-scale. But why, when we suffer several warmer winters with abnormally high winds is this associated with 'global warming' without mention of the current exceptionally violent solar activity?
At this point I have to confess to a small specialist interest, namely a sideline in research on tree-rings as a means of dating trees and timber, but which also can be used to give information on tree diseases and on climatic changes. This gave me a special interest in the literature on solar cycles, which turned out to be innumerable, and mostly a bit dubious except for the 11-year cycle, and even that has varied from 7 to 17 years in the last few centuries. What were noticeable, however, from the trees record, were minor and local variations in climate lasting about two decades, sometimes reciprocal with those on the other side of the earth at the same latitude, e.g. a warm spell in Northern Europe might correspond with a cooler spell on the Pacific coast of Oregon and vice versa.
This is but the fringe of the matter. The study of the complexity of weather and of climatic changes in relation to currents in the sea and the air is in its infancy. The influence of the Gulf Stream on North-Western Europe is well known, and we have heard more recently about the periodic El Nino current off the Pacific coast of South America, which is said to reduce rainfall in South-East Asia and Australasia.
Anything I can pick up from contemporary literature on all these matters is liable to be out of date before it could be published. But I am concerned only with what is broadcast to the general public in the name of Greenism or Environmentalism and to contrast it with the information which is readily available to anyone who will take the trouble to look a little beyond the popular surface, and to put together, however roughly, the whole picture.
Symbolic Posturing versus Real Work
It seems clear that a lot of people are pushing the Global Warming propaganda, whether it is true or not, because they think people will be scared into action, which will be good for the environment; and one of my points is that it will not. More likely, it will divert real, local work into symbolic posturing or apathy. Already there are signs that the propaganda has been overdone and people who are getting bored with it are 'going off' the environment altogether. Meanwhile, however, the discussion about 'global warming' in what are known as 'scientific circles' is now taking on an emotional quality, and those guilty of stressing the natural variations in warming are liable to be accused of perpetrating "noisy junk science" (Article by John Gribbin in New Scientist 15 Dec. 1990). This is reminiscent of the epithets applied to ecologically inclined scientists by the 'orthodoxy' of an earlier day. So it seems that 'orthodoxy' has now turned turtle!
The omission of the vast background against which human activities have to be assessed is reminiscent of the cheating graphs some advertisers used to inflict on the public, in which the whole base was cut off, so that a variation within, say, 1% occupied most of the graph and looked enormous. Although the Gaia hypothesis and its author, James Lovelock, are much quoted among the Greens, in general they seem to prefer to turn it into a mystical, Mother-Earth feminism (which he was careful to avoid) rather than to apply its essential concept of homeostatic feed-back to the present situation.
What would be the normal reaction of Gaia to a biosphere which suddenly (in Gaian terms) releases a lot of carbon into the atmosphere, mainly in the North Temperate zone, very largely to enable one particular dominant species and its ecosystem to survive there? Surely some warming must be expected, reducing the amount of fossil fuels etc. required to keep the creatures warm and increasing the growth-rate of photosynthetic plants which will take up some of the carbon. All the same, it is very complicated. Less snow surviving on Northern land means less sunlight reflected, more warming; but more warming may mean more warm moist air blowing North; more snow, more cooling. Climatologists assure us that whatever warming there may be, and whatever part human activity may play in it, it is likely to be about three times as great at the higher latitudes than as at the equator.
Rate is What Matters
What is wrong with that? The more detailed consequences of such climatic changes may be mixed, beneficial in some places, the reverse in others. By and large, rainfall should increase, but there may also be a shift in the drought areas. Whether people have time to adapt to these changes without catastrophe depends upon their rate. That is a very good reason for avoiding the explosive acceleration of wasteful or destructive energy-squandering which is needed, not by our natural requirements as a species, but by our wholly artificial mass- fantasy about money, employment and One-World centralism. The only hope of returning to normality is on a local scale, wherever people are living.
The human race is a very new and brash arrival on this ancient and ever-changing planet, and if it is to survive it must learn to adapt itself in time to much greater changes than the degree or so of warming with which we are threatened, should it occur. That might be described as a very mild test even for a greenhorn species! Our trouble is not in any inability to adapt physically, but mentally, since our behaviour is now governed, not by constant contact with the reality of our environment, but by centrally generated time-grabbing debt-marks on paper. Should this diversion from reality persist, and the world be handed over, in the name of Unity and Ecological Survival through Central Planning, to the High Priests of this Illusion, major catastrophes are certain to continue; but what is in danger is neither the planet, nor even the human race, but our present debt-based world 'civilisation.'
All real action is local; central or global 'action' is not action but mental interference with and distortion of action. 'Global' thinking is nothing of the sort unless it puts human activities into their vast background.
To sum up, then, on the Greenhouse Effect:
There can be no doubt that human activities do, and always have, affected the Earth's surface - land, sea and atmosphere, the biosphere and the climate and weather; but just how they rank among the innumerable greater influences on the planet, we do not know. Our forefathers of the neolithic, bronze and mediaeval ages probably did far more even than we in the clearing and burning of forests and the eliminating of other species, but they did it far more slowly, at a rate to which they and the ecosystem on which they depended could adapt. It is flexibility, the rate of adaptation to changing circumstances, which matters for survival; and most of the human race is now enclosed in a debt- culture more rigid than a cage of iron because it is in their minds. It is vital that we should escape from it if we wish to survive.
BOOKS BY GEOFFREY DOBBS:
"Responsible Government in a Free Society"
"The Just Tax"
"The Church and the Trinity: Australian Heritage Series."
"The Shape of Priests to Come"
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