The Early Days of a Better Nation

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Working in the spaceship yards

This evocative cover from the first edition of my novel The Sky Road illustrates hip, groovy SF site io9's list of favourite last lines from SF novels (and yes, that book's last line is one of my favourites, too). Somewhere in the deep background of the notion of a spaceship being built in the centuries-old scars of the oil-rig construction yard at Kishorn was knowing about a sliver of overlap between Scottish SF fandom and the space movement. That intersection still exists. A couple of weekends ago I was at a small but ambitious con in Glasgow, Satellite 2, marking the fortieth anniversary of the first Armstrong on the Moon. Space enthusiasts Duncan Lunan, Robert Law and Andy Nimmo were on various panels, along with more conventional experts and authors on the Apollo missions. If you wanted to know just how the Apollo Guidance Computer worked, and why its top contractor was the sparkplug division of General Motors, you could hear Frank O'Brien, who knows more about the AGC than just about anyone else. If you wanted to know how Apollo flew to the Moon, you could hear W. David Woods, who wrote the book on it.

For me, a highlight of a very engaging and informative weekend was a talk by Prof Colin McInnes, DSc FRAes FInstP FRSE FREng, titled 'Random Thoughts of a Techno-Utopist Running Dog'. The usual conception of sustainability, Prof McInnes argued, was a dangerous idea. Technological stagnation only means slower resource depletion. We need continuous technological progress to make new resources available. The idea that we should use less energy is outrageously inhumane and regressive. Most of humanity gets its energy from burning wood and dung. We need a vast increase in energy production. That means nuclear power, including new kinds of nuclear plant such as the Thorium Energy Amplifier. Nuclear waste is just inadequately burned nuclear fuel. We need to find ways of burning it all. Most reycling schemes are feel-good rather than do-good, condemning us to pre-industrial, manual rooting about in rubbish. We need plasma torches and mass spectrometers to really recover all the useful stuff in our waste. 'Humanity is the singularity. We are self-replicating smart matter.' To campaign against cheap flights to Prague while jetting across the world for eco-holidays in the Galapagos is naked class warfare. With synthetic genomics we can have carbon-neutral aviation even cheaper than today's travel.

He took his argument all the way to building a Dyson Sphere and beyond. Brilliant stuff. I wish he could deliver the same talk in every high school in the country. Come to think of it, how much would it cost to make a DVD of the talk and send it out, free, to every science teacher in Scotland? Most of them wouldn't show it, of course, but it might save a few minds from the Green slime.

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"Escape from Planet Malthus" would be good title for it

I love it. I want to tie down the entire Cabinet, and force them to listen to this man over and over and over again until they get it.

The Parliament. Then the US president and Congress. And keep going from there.

But I can't even get nitwits in blog comments to understand these concepts when I bring them up; how on earth are politicians, several rungs on the evolutionary scale below them, to be expected to absorb it?


Is there a way to get a performance of it on YouTube? Or as a podcast? I've been consulting youtube more and more. There's plenty of trivia and misleaders, but lots of good stuff as well.

Boy, I just finished editing a dissertation on energy and development policy for a grad student from up in the Himalayan valleys of India. After our conversations and a fair immersion in his text, I'd have to say he and a lot of his kin would consider the views expounded by Prof. McInnis as a ruthless and brutal attack on ways of life they cherish.

Chuckie K

Why would they do that?

The thing is, sustainability != technological stagnation. In 'Heat: How to Stop the Planet From Burning', George Monbiot showed, how a modern economy and society could survive with efficiencies, demand reduction and renewables - coupled with gas with carbon capture and storage (CCS) and then, perhaps, with a minimal use of nuclear, if required. Then there's the zerocarbonbritain report and the work of Mark Barrett at University College London, on using just renewables on their own. However the only real problem to achieving this on a long-term basis is capitalism.

Anyway, if we continue with business-as-usual then it'll be the, wading-in-blood-red-slime we'll have to worry about, as we potentially go from 7bn to 1bn. *
New Scientist was good on this recently.

"ALLIGATORS basking off the English coast; a vast Brazilian desert; the mythical lost cities of Saigon, New Orleans, Venice and Mumbai; and 90 per cent of humanity vanished. Welcome to the world warmed by 4 °C.

Clearly this is a vision of the future that no one wants, but it might happen. Fearing that the best efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions may fail, or that planetary climate feedback mechanisms will accelerate warming, some scientists and economists are considering not only what this world of the future might be like, but how it could sustain a growing human population. They argue that surviving in the kinds of numbers that exist today, or even more, will be possible, but only if we use our uniquely human ingenuity to cooperate as a species to radically reorganise our world.

The good news is that the survival of humankind itself is not at stake: the species could continue if only a couple of hundred individuals remained. But maintaining the current global population of nearly 7 billion, or more, is going to require serious planning....."

What has that got to do with anything I (or Prof McInnes) said? If greenhouse gases are a problem (and I agree they are) we are going to have to make massive switches to carbon capture and non-fossil fuels. That doesn't require reduced energy use or reduced living standards and/or reduced population (although that is what the Greens really want) - it can be done with massive technological development, including a lot more than 'minimal' nuclear power. We can't power an advanced civilization on windmills, and we can't condemn half of humanity to burning wood and dung forever. In the long run, that is unsustainable.

Hi Ken,

Looks like Prof McInnes' talk was an updated version of his last Kelvin Lecture. I hope he publishes it somewhere. Here's a summary on the Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow's site...

"We can't power an advanced civilization on windmills"


"U.S. Department of Energy studies have concluded wind harvested in the Great Plains states of Texas, Kansas, and North Dakota could provide enough electricity to power the entire nation, and that offshore wind farms could do the same job. In addition, the wind resource over and around the Great Lakes, recoverable with currently available technology, could by itself provide 80% as much power as the U.S. and Canada currently generate from non-renewable resources, with Michigan's share alone equating to one third of current U.S. electricity demand."

Thing about wind power: it is scalable through simple mass-production techniques. It comes down to the cost of steel, copper, and concrete. And windmills ought to be very recyclable, like most heavy industrial equipment not contaminated with chemicals or radioisotopes.

It isn't very high-tech or exciting, but it works, and we know how to make them.

And an all-electric, all-renewable economy is going to be one in which the common person does a lot better than they will in a world riven by resource wars driven by climate change. I'm all for the extropian future. But we have to live long enough and have enough sustained peace that we actually get there.

"We can't power an advanced civilization on windmills"

I'd have to agree with Ken (or rather Prof McInnes) that windmills don't provide a sustainable option. His example in the talk was that there has previosly been periods of up to a week where weather fronts have resulted in no wind. Unfortunatly windmills are powered by the wind so if your relying on 80 % of power (as you stated) from that source you need a backup. Your going to need your other 20 % to also have a contingency to kick in to produce the 80 % you just lost with the wind.

I thought that Prof McInnes talk was very enlightening and also one of my highlights of Sat2. Unfortunalty one of the few I saw as I was on the convention committee. And finally thank you Ken for a very favourable report of Sat2 and I'm glad you enjoyed yourself.

"reduced energy use or reduced living standards and/or reduced population (although that is what the Greens really want)"

Some Greens, perhaps. But not all. I think that the "Death to Deep Greenery" rhetoric might be approaching its sell-by date. Even _within_ most environmental movements, the majority don't want reduced living standards. The awkward buggers whose votes some of them solicit are even more emphatic on this issue. Which is nice.

As for energy - as I type this, there is banging and crashing round the house as the solar hot water system goes in. This is likely to allow me to use _more_ energy (yippee!) not less, and it's controlled by a microprocessor which is cleverer than BABY. Low-tech?

Think about the Tesla, for instance, or the recent electro-GP on the Isle of Man.

Chris Williams

This comment has been removed by the author.

"What has that got to do with anything I (or Prof McInnes) said?"

Prof McInne's talk sounds interesting. I agree with you on recycling-as-therapy in a lot cases, and of course, it makes sense that if we are to use nuclear, then we should definitely use it efficiently with less waste. But my comments are more related to your equating a slower resource depletion situation (and sustainability) with a lack of development or progress and "technological stagnation".

For instance, being high on the HDI index and within the 'sweetspot' of one planet's resource usage is not mutually exclusive...
In other words, formidable public goods (such as research) can exist within sustainable limits. Not that I want the Cuban political system, coming from a libertarian socialist perspective!

"We can't power an advanced civilization on windmills, and we can't condemn half of humanity to burning wood and dung forever. In the long run, that is unsustainable."

Hmmm. I think theres enough evidence that this technology is more than capable of sustaining a modern civilisation and certainly propelling the less-developed forward.

For instance look at the possibilities of high voltage dc lines HVDC* across continents. If it's less windy across Northern Europe then the Saharan Solar resources kick in, or the Icelandic Geothermals, wave energy etc. Backup surplus can come from pumped-storage in reservoirs or, as I said above, from gas with carbon capture and storage (CCS) and then, perhaps, with a minimal use of nuclear, if required.

And I agree, massive technological development is required, and obviously in the area of renewables. However I think we need to learn from the development and spread of the internet and not let patents and "walled gardens" block invention and the spread of same.

"That doesn't require reduced energy use or reduced living standards and/or reduced population (although that is what the Greens really want)"

Ken I'm a fan of your books, but I don't think the Greens ultimate goal is to limit our population in the manner of the Saurs from The Engines of Light!

As regards reducing living standards. I think something like Contraction and Convergence and an equitable distribution of carbon emissions would improve most people's standard of living and HDI.

I referenced Monbiot above, here's two articles which outlines how population is a factor, but should be well down the priority list.

"A steady growth rate of 3% means a doubling of economic activity every 23 years. By 2100, in other words, global consumption will increase by roughly 1600%. As the equations produced by Professor Roderick Smith of Imperial College have shown, this means that in the 21st Century we will have used 16 times as many economic resources as human beings have consumed since we came down from the trees(7).

So economic growth this century could be 32 times as big an environmental issue as population growth. And, if governments, banks and businesses have their way, it never stops. By 2115, the cumulative total rises to 3200%, by 2138 to 6400%. As resources are finite, this is of course impossible, but it is not hard to see that rising economic activity - not human numbers - is the immediate and overwhelming threat. ..."

While Monbiot points out above that the global population growth rate is currently 1.2%, and population accounts for 1/3rd of economic growth with the rest being supplied by rising consumption. Therefore consumption "bears twice as much responsibility for pressure on resources and ecosystems as population growth." Population growth, is self-limiting. Consumption is not. Consumption will rise until it causes ecological collapse, which is the problem we are seeking to avoid.

Sure, there's a minority of environmentalists overly pre-occupied with population but they are a decreasing minority. The real problem is with unsustainable consumption and people unnecessarily diminishing renewables potential, and at a most critical time in our development.

It was the same lecture as to the Royal Phil, perhaps slightly less restrained because he was in front of a technophile audience. I blogged on the original here

It is strange that, after thousands of years of human progress the idea that we should be cutting back on energy usage, standard of living & number of living people should be the official "consensus" view that, as Ken points out, is the only one the state would allow children to be taught.

Personally I would much rather have Colin's speech broadcast on the BBC than all the interviews with Attenborough solemnly assuring us that Norfolk is going to be underwater by 2026. Unfortunately I dont see it happening.

It is certainly the case that not all Greens are merely using global warming to enforce Luddism but the overwhelming majority are. It is simply impossible for anybody who genuinely fears that CO2 production is destroying the world to support windmills, which need 99% conventional back up, against nuclear which doesn't. Professor Lovelock & Bishop Montefiore prefer nuclear so that makes 2 who were sincere.

For most Luddites, whether flying under "environmentalist", "libertarian" or "socialist" flags while showing no interest in the principles of any of these philosophies "The good news is ...the species could continue if only a couple of hundred individuals remained" & the sooner the better. I think the human race can do rather better than follow those, in government & out, who see the disappearance of hundreds of times as many people as Hitler did, a good thing.

Whatever you say about Hitler the Nazis never intended anything as destructive as Moonbat.

Now I am _convinced_ that the 'Death to the Greens!' rhetoric is past its sell-by date.

Would that be the 'Moonbat' who's up for considering nuclear power on its merits, or another one? Sure, many self-declared 'greens' are not members of the reality-based community. Nevertheless, the mantra that 'there will always be another energy source around the corner' seems to me to be just as much a quasi-religious a priori as 'there are too many of us and it is right that we should have less stuff'. Though the former is far more attractive.

In practical terms, I agree with McInnes 100% on the issue of "one, two, many thorium reactors", and indeed with with every sentence in Ken's account. But some of the reasons why I agree are 'green' ones. I'm worried about what's going to happen to my children if we try the experiment called "burning all the coal". We're all in the test tube.

Just as we can oppose the concrete manifestations of racism without signing up to every nonsense diktat that the state justifies in terms of equal opportunity, or oppose terrorism without agreeing with every element of state repression labelled 'anti-terrorism', so too the fact that all sorts of reactionary lifestyle tosh, and increasing amounts of government discourse, are justified as being for 'the environment' doesn't stop the laws of physics working, or us taking necessary steps to recognise this.

In any case, sackcloth neo-primitive greenery has sod-all traction. Me, I'd rather do the same amount for less. Some time ago, there was a phrase in circulation about an engineer being 'a man who can do for a shilling what any idiot can do for half a crown'. Seems like a nice way to live if you ask me, even if you substitute kWh for lsd.

[Solar heating latest - peak temp today 70C. More washing! Cleaner clothes! Deeper baths! More energy!]

Chris Williams

Probably a different one. The one I am thinking of may say he is undecided about nuclear but that means he wants it as restricted & expensive as possible while still subsidising windmillery. And that he will denounce anything done at anything approaching haste while retaining the option of claiming he isn't really a luddite.

This works in the same way as saying there isn't a constituency for going back to the caves instantly so we should reach a compromise situation where on the one hand we don't go that far instantly & on the other we prevent any sort of progress. The fact is that kowtowing to ridiculous eco-scare lies (warming, cooling, sea level rise, mass starvation, death of most species, all sea life, acid rain, running out of oil/uranium/most metals etc not one of which have been even approaching truthful) over the last 40+ years has prevented an enormous amount of human progess (except in China & more recently India where they don't have influence) & caused many 10s of millions of deaths. Even on current achievement let alone intent that surely makes the Greens more destructive than Hitler?

Beyond that I not only don't know of anybody who says "there will always be another power source round the corner", I can't see why anybody would need such, at least on this planet. We know of several ways to produce far more easy power than we use for at least billions of years so why another one.

Well, I think we can at least conclude that Neil and me are talking so far past one another that further communication would be a waste of time.

Chris Williams

Chris, I have nothing against wind and solar power. And what bothers me isn't the deep Greens but the virtual consensus that reducing mass working-class consumption is the way to 'save the planet'. We get this all the time, including from large parts of the left and far left. Eric (above) is a good example, in that he agree with Monbiot that 'resources are finite' (in the relevant sense, they aren't) and holds up Cuba as an example of sustainable living, despite his disagreements with the political system.

Eric, what I'd have to say on that is that only a highly repressive political system can make that way of life and standard of living sutainable. Siege socialism can be defended against its besiegers but it's not a way of life that has mass appeal including, I suspect, inside the citadel.

Economic growth creates resources, in the sense that various kinds and dispositions of matter that were not usable or used before become usable. Certain large mammals were not a resource until the invention of the Clovis point. Petroleum wasn't a resource until the invention of the kerosene lamp and then the internal combustion engine. Uranium wasn't a resource until the invention of the nuclear reactor. And, if you like, wind over land wasn't a resource until the invention of the windmill. No doubt, sunlight in space that doesn't shine on Earth won't be a resource until the invention of the material needed for the space elevator.

Hi Ken. I know almost nothing about the technicalities of environmental matters, but would like to butt in here. You correctly criticise the mantra, "Resources are finite." That slogan sounds suspiciously like "Rationing of resources" that we hear all the time in healthcare discussions. To both I have a standard one-word answer: "Why?" In healthcare discussions I usually get no coherent answer, so I reply that the proposed rationing is a ploy for profit-maximizing insurer creeps, stingy governments which spend fortunes on defence and their salaries and, or both working in collusion.
I suspect that the leftists you allude to are spoiled brats seeking to guarantee their standard of living--with several trendy 'sacrifices'--while either not giving a damn about the working class or being so far removed from reality that this class (and poor areas of the world) never enter their privileged minds.

Unfortunately, George, the views I refer to aren't confined to spoiled brats, and even if they were it wouldn't refute them. There are a lot of people who genuinely believe that they are acting in the interests of the poorest people of the world by attacking the living standards of the working class in the advanced countries.

I think there probably are close limits to health care because it largely depends on one to one services (one nurse per bedpan, each brain surgeon can only do 1 operation at a time). Robotics can probably improve that ratio but not infinitely, though aging research may reduce demand. By comparison technology is much more scalable & radioactives, solar power satellite capacity & fusion as close to infinite as we could ever need.

Hi Ken, I did not know that and did not get your point. What is their reasoning? Do they think the working class has it too good right here and now in the advanced countries?
Neil, I disagree. You don't assure not going over future limits by now firing nurses, limiting the number of hours surgeons can operate (well below maximum), by cutting down on ER services, by decreasing intensive care facilities, and finally by letting this and other measures muck things up so much that it's easy to get the public to agree to healthcare privatization, e.g. by formally letting insurers buy up the very hospitals their monetary demands forced into deficit. All this happened in Holland several weeks ago. And just wheredo those "limits" come from? Why not raise taxes if there are intrinsic limnits? No, the limits are set, in my experience in Holland, by politicos and insurers acting in collusion for their mutual financial benefit.
Well, this is getting us off-topic, which was environmentalism, not healthcare.

Apropos growth and income/resources distribution, here's a story that has warmed my heart for years. In 1845 or so, the Austrian philosopher-mathematician Bernhard Bolzano was fired on grounds of anti-State lectures and of anti-religious sermons (he was a prof. in the philosophy of religion but was technically oriented). They were Socialist and Utilitarian. He got a small pension and moved in with friends outside of expensive Prague. When a reporter asked him if he was disappointed and felt shortchanged, he replied, "Not at all, for if income were to be justly distributed nobody would have more than I have."

George, an example - not from a leftist source, just mainstream Malthusian thinking.

Thanks Ken, I read the article and saved it. I know nothing about this subject and can only hope that your optimism about resources is justified. For if it is, then the Malthusian argument is undermined.
I butted in here because my interest in healthcare has made me rightly suspicious of talk involving, e.g., "Rationing of scarce resources." That is as rhetorically flexible a phrase as I have ever heard, and is all too often accepted as an axiom that pushes further discussion in a direction desired by persons of dubious morality.

Can someone clarify a few points for me?

Firstly finite resources. I take the point Ken has made regards resources we have now weren't resources until certain innovations were made. So lets not be pessimistic about what progress might yet be made but is it not fair to say we can't actually rely on resources not yet discovered in that sense? Are we not largely dependant on non renewable resources like oil and coal etc? Should we not be working towards using as much seemingly within our grasp renewable sources of energy as much as possible as certain of our resources are clearly finite at least while we are stuck on this small planet? That could well one day include a space elevator and massive solar panels or what not but at risk of underestimating scientific and engineering progress doesn't seem like something to imminent.

Also mass consumption of the working classes etc. Attacking the living standards of ordinary people in advanced countries, who is doing that? I don't understand why anyone would, fair enough attack the capatalist model that gives us shoes made in sweat shops using child labour, but most sane people I aware of that attack that sort of thing are taking aim considerably higher up the fod chain. That said as an ordinary working class fellow I'd happily accept a drop in living standards regards consumer choice if it was backed up with improvements across the board through out the world to the average person currently get a really rough deal and also coincided with a massive drop in inequality with the richest few. That said if we can increase resources all round and I get to keep my PS3 I'll be happier still. :)

Also global warming, am I being brainwashed by the media are the icebergs melting or not?

Speaking as someone who like technology and does medieval re-enacting so knows what life was like in the past, I still can't quite see the link between gee whiz technoutopianism or whatever you want to call it, and this thing called real life. Yes, fusion is obviously technologically possible, but its going to take another 20 years. Yes thorium reactors are possible, but how long is it going to take to get them up and running? Sure, plasma torches and mass spec to recover and separate every individual atom - but there's no guarantee they are workable or will be along in time to save our behinds from a skelping. Not to mention the system in which we are currently trapped guarantees that the distribution of any riches from such new technology will be uneven.

OK Topper. Part of the problem is that we are considering 2 timeframes. How we stop the lights going out in 2015 & how much power & what standard of living we can have, with the technology now available over the next thousand+ years. On the former I am increasingly pessimistic for purely political reasons. On the latter we are discussing resources already discovered - we know how much uranium & thorium there is in the Earth's crust (more than there is tin) & know how to use it. We also know how much solar energy there is in orbit (enough to melt the planet which is far more than we could ever need) & know how to make solar power satellites. I wouldn't quite agree with Guthrie about fusion being possible in the short term but think it will work indue course. The first 2 are certainly not beyond our grasp now.

As for who is "Attacking the living standards of ordinary people in advanced countries, who is doing that" may I point out that we currently see electricity prices at about 4 times, & rising, what they would be if we were relying on nuclear. This not only impinges on standard of living but it is estimeated that 24,000 pensioners in Britain die each winter at least partly because of fuel poverty. Any political action which prevents modern technology is, by definition, depressing the living standards of everybody. There is barely a politician in this country & certainly none on the "left" who is not supporting at least some degree of Luddism. Had Britain had a 1.5% higher growth rate since 1970 (roughly the date of the eco-movement achieving significant power) we would all, including the poor, be twice as well off now.

As an example of this mindset may I mention that in discussion on one of Ken's previous threads Guthrie was very critical of my support of faster economic growth saying specificly that British government should seek to prevent economic growth at least until the standard of living of the average Chinese has caught up with ours, which will clearly be some time.

On the question of global warming - Ken appears to disagree but yes I believe you are being brainwashed. Icebergs have been melting for billions of years just as snow has been turning into icebergs. However the globe has cooled since 1998, ice is currently expanding in the north (it never stopped doing so in Antarctica) & current global temperatures are below that of the 1300s & the Toman period & significantly lower than the Climate Optimum from 9,300BC to 5,000BC. None of this gets reported by the Luddite & scaremongering BBC.

The following article in New Scientist disputes that claim somewhat,

so scaremongering BBC aside I need convincing still that global warming is a myth.

Actually what your link admits is "According to the dataset of the UK Met Office Hadley Centre (see figure), 1998 was the warmest year by far since records began, but since 2003 there has been slight cooling" & then goes on to a desperate & uncovincing attempt to say that this cooling might not count. Incidentally it makes use of Hansen/NASA's figures on the Arctic. Hansen was recently caught coneivably accidentally faking Antarctic figures & was also forced to acknowledge that, at least in the USA where records are more available, 1998 was not the warmest since records began - 1934 was.

Inconvenient facts not reported by the BBC or indede New scientist which has also been loyally alarmist.

Neil, what's your opinion about the amount of ice coverage in the north-west passage? Would the arrival of regular transit through it by non-icebreaking vessels convince you that something might be up?

Chris Williams

Regular (ie not continuous) passage (ie not a complete lack of ice but just some point at which it is sometimes possible to work round the edges) would cwertainly be 1 interesting datum. It might merely point to satellite mapping of ice being better than it was in the 1950s & thus avoidance of ice easier so I would prefer some more direct measurement like actual meausrements of temperature by satellites or baloons.

This does, however, seem to show some movement of goalposts on your part compared to the Blessed Al's assurance that "in a few years the poles will be free of ice."

I don't know if you saw last year that ITN sent a camera crew to follow a canoeist who intended to paddle to the North Pole to show it was free of ice. He found ice in the way. Does that convince you that something is down?

Everytime a denialist bandies about the oh-so-convenient date of 1998, I reach for my revolver. I suppose I should be grateful that we've advanced to cherry-picking initial conditions from "It's cold this winter, so there!" But alas, I've always been an ungrateful wretch.

As we see, the uncomfortable bedfellows phenomenon obviously afflicts more than just bright green environmentalists. We wish some of our so-called allies would hush up, too, rather than provoking sweeping dismissal of all environmentalist arguments based on a subgroup's ill-informed repeatedly-debunked pseudoscience.

Obviously I have no idea what Neil Craig is on about regarding my previous posts on this blog, since I have better things to do with my time than recall my discussions with him.

However I do vaguely recall some argy-bargy regarding global warming in other venues, and Neil Craigs complete lack of grasp of the science, indeed he can be lumped in with the denialists on the topic of global warming.
If anyone thinks I am being unfair, please, engage him in discussion and find out for yourself.

Mds' "Everytime a denialist bandies about the oh-so-convenient date of 1998, I reach for my revolver."

I take it you do know to whom that remark us usually, though incorrectly, attributed. In the circumstances the use of the term "denialist" - a particularly stupid insult intended to suggest a parallel with Nazism - shows you being both pro & anti Nazi in the same sentence on a subject in which either positionn is irrelevant.

The term "denialist" could, with equal accuracy, be applied to anybody who "denies" that Britain was covered by a new ice age before 2,000, as predicted by "environmentalists".

Guthrie I thank you for your confirmation that you have no idea what you have been talking about. That you asre a "leftist" committed to the impoverishment of ordinary people is a matter of record.

I think both posts are examples of people claiming a political alignment without having the remotest idea what its actual meaning is. "Left" is a useful banner under which to shelter while supporting activities which are further from traditional progressive leftism than Adolf Hitler or Lady Catherine de Burgh ever were. It shows the intellectual bankruptcy of what now passes for socialism that there is a place for them.

Neil, of me: " show some movement of goalposts on your part "

? I wasn't aware that I'd positioned any goalposts in the first place. Please can you let me know who the 'your' above refers to? Then I'll know who to dissociate myself from.

Chris Williams

"Left" is a useful banner under which to shelter while supporting activities which are further from traditional progressive leftism than Adolf Hitler or Lady Catherine de Burgh ever were. It shows the intellectual bankruptcy of what now passes for socialism that there is a place for them.

Apropos of nothing, what's the precise wording of that bit from The Stone Canal where Wilde's father comments about a split of a split from the FI accusing him of being a sectarian?

Guess I am just a common type because I only saw the Life of Brian version.

You seem to be labouring under the misapprehension that I am claiming to be a socialist myself.

But as you say this is apropos of nothing except the extent to which "catastrophic global warming" has been adopted, cuckoo like (in both senses), as a rallying point for the "left" despite the fact that Marx wouldn't have given it house room. Also the extent that to which such people will go to fight heresy without, as with all religions, actually sensibly discussing it.

From Marx, who saw technological progress as necessary to estabnlish a proletarian society, to Stalin who put economic progress above everything as late as Wilson's "white heat of technology" the socialist movement claimed tombe & often tried to be tried to be a progressive force. With the adoption of the "new left" & then the abject failure of centrally planned state socialism, rather than rethink how to achieve progress what remains of the movement instead turned a most medieval conservatism.

Neil carefully ignores the interesting, new shiny bright technology that goes into solar power plants, nuclear fusion, long distance DC transmission lines; the science of ecology and related disciplines which enables us to find out what damage we are doing to the planet; and even the technology in use in windfarms- in my latest copy of "Materials World", journal of the IOMMM, there are a couple of pages of text on davances in surface coating by thermally sprayed ceramics, the use of nanocomposites, etc.

I'm sure there are a few back to teh stone age people out there, but I think you'll find most people who claim to be at least somewhat green have no problem with technology, just with how its used.

Interestingly Neil also leaps to the defence ad Godwin.
His tenuous relation to reality is demonstrated by comments such as:

"The term "denialist" could, with equal accuracy, be applied to anybody who "denies" that Britain was covered by a new ice age before 2,000, as predicted by "environmentalists"."

bearing in mind that nobody has been suggesting that Britain was covered by an ice age before 2000. When pressed for more information and that pesky thing called evidence, he will retreat further, whilst throwing up a cloud of ink, possibly including links to denialist websites.

You seem to be labouring under the misapprehension that I am claiming to be a socialist myself.

Oh, phew, that's a relief. Given your apparent expertise in winnowing genuine progessive leftist ideas from the chaff, I feared that you were pulling a Cockburn. But it turns out that uncritically funneling the talking points of right-wing reactionary oligarchs isn't a contradiction after all.

Anyway, this is obviously yet another installment of "Someone is wrong on the Internet," generating more heat than light, and unless we can harness the waste heat with some sort of argumentation Dyson Sphere, we're unlikely to get anywhere. Especially now that there's a thread to make fun of young earth creationists.

A huge bullshit collector? Cool. We could put it in GEO and run the heavy industry off it. No need to enclose the whole solar system just yet, so Jupiter is safe. For now.

Chris Williams

If Guthrie, who said he wasn't going to reply but has clearly convinced himself he can manage something after all, has actually checked what I have written on my blog he will have seen that I have indeed discussed long distance DC transmission & numerous other shiny toys. I have mentioned orbital solar plants in this thread. The problem with fusion is that it doesn't currently work. This appears to be an advantage for the Luddites since they can advocate it to their heart's content knowing it is meaningless.

I find that there are several thousand pages of the Enclyclopedia britannica Guthrie has astonshingly failed to paste on this comment thread proving, if he actually means what he says, that he disapproves of them all. Of course Guthrie doesn't honestly mean a single word he says (par for the course for Luddites) as proven by his claim not to remember his commitment to poverty & the prevention of growth.

Guthrie's claim that nobody claimed there would be an ice age by now is, of course, simply the very highest standard of honesty to which he aspires - ie a lie:

1974 - “As for the present cooling trend a number of leading climatologists have concluded that it is very bad news indeed” – Fortune magazine, who won a Science Writing Award from the American Institute of Physics for its analysis of the danger

1974 - “…the facts of the present climate change are such that the most optimistic experts would assign near certainty to major crop failure…mass deaths by starvation, and probably anarchy and violence” – New York Times

among others.

The other 2 posts do not even aspire to Guthrie's standards of total dishonesty but, having proven themselves wholly incapable of maintaining Luddism against the facts, descend purely to rudeness.

Ahhh, the old "Climate scientists claimed it was cooling in the 70's and we were all going to die" canard.

No, in fact the reality, outside some frenzied reporters was this:

I am also unsure about whether Fortune magazine and the Bew York times count as environmentalists.

I am at least glad that Neil has acknowledged the shining new technology involved in renewable energy; but astounded that he continues to believe that all greens are anti-technology, despite the majority of them being pro-renewables.

MDS- the most fun to be had with YEC's comes from actually interacting with them, but I don't recall seeing any here. Have you tried your local newspaper?

The attempt to airbrush the global ice age scare out of existence is typically Orwellian. It is a matter ofv record that james hansen, warming guru, was, in earlier days, involved in the cooling claim.

Guthrie I never said that "all" greens are anti-technology. I did say that many are & that your own personal call for the government to prevent any growth in the British economy till the Chinese have reached our standard of living was fairly typical. The level of honesty in your pretence not to rmember having said that on this site is also typical of the eco-fascist movement.

Did we ever turn up video or even a transcript of this? I'd actually love to assign something from this perspective to a class I teach...

I believe he's only given it twice - at the Royal Phil & Satellite 2 & not filmed either time. I think it would be worth him doing again & putting on YouTube. This is my blog review again but it is pretty cursory.



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