Bill, still haggling over price?

Martha de Mey

Prepared for Bill Kurtis

Special Reports: Global Warming


Are you going to host an hour with the refutations of the global warming theory?

It is very difficult for a person blessed with common sense to deal rationally with the latest horror story. There are so many areas of concern that seem to bear no relation to each other, that it is exhausting to meet them all individually with a stout heart and actual facts. The crises fluidly slip and slide from topic to topic and ordinary people simply can't catch their breaths; they get bilious and hibernate. [I would love to know the synergistics between ozone in the stratosphere and the CO2 envelope.] Of course, the dissimilar disasters are presented with fervor and immediacy, attractive venues for investigative reports like yours. Why do you take the bait? Recognize the wavelet that barely covers your feet and concentrate on tidal waves.

Today, it is guns and global warming. Yesterday, it was the ozone holes, acid rain and oil spills. In 1983 it was air bags. We now know that every 60 seconds someone is saved by the presence of a handgun and every 43 minutes someone is harmed, that acid rain has been falling forever [it is a process by which solid rock is dissolved into nutrients for plants, without which they would die], that since they were made mandatory in 1983, air bags have killed more children (99) than guns in school (82), but is there any investigator around to castigate the perpetrators of the national hysteria or have they been allowed to pass on to yet another crisis du jour? Better yet, has anyone showed the connection between them?

Let me give you three Environmental Disasters That Never Were from my own experience. California came to life 150 years ago; what humans did here can usefully be contained within that limit.

  1. I live on a large stream that in the last half of the 19th century was clear, deep and forceful enough to power several lumber mills and float the barges to carry off the lumber. People swam in that stream. The mills produced sawdust; the treeless hills eroded and by 1900 the stream was diminished and had developed an alluvial plain that had to be dredged to keep the boat traffic moving. The wetlands people stepped in to halt the dredging to protect the fowl who depended on the alluvial plain. The birds were opportunists and saw a good thing; they adapted; but where did they go before the man-made wetlands were there? The wetlands people didn't know their history, or they are opportunists too. Whose environment are they saving?

  2. Across the way is a large mountain on which graze herds of cattle. They have been doing that for 150 years. Environmentalists succeeded in forcing the dairymen to restrict their herds to a small area because they were destroying the natural environment of the grassy mountain. The unshorn grass has grown to be a fire hazard that the district now has to trim, backfire and watch. What is crazy is that this grass was imported 149 years ago specifically to feed the cows. Whose environment has precedence?

  3. Santa drilling...oil environmental disaster that has put a stranglehold on any off-shore drilling for California. The catch is that I was in Santa Barbara in 1961 with my two little boys. We tracked in tar from the beach that was indigenous. The oil leaked up from the bottom of the ocean all the time because there was so much of it, and it floated to shore. Everyone knew about it and lived with it. It didn't pile up from year to year so some process was at work to keep the tar at a certain level. It may have soaked back into the sand or microorganisms may have eventually gobbled it up. There were lots of birds around that didn't mind. Clean beaches are great, and we like them for people reasons, not wildlife reasons. Environmentalists lie about it and demonize another process altogether. Whose environment are they destroying?

    I can't resist telling you a story from "Place Names of Marin" that fits here:

    "LIVERMORE, CAROLINE S., MARSH: dedicated by Audubon Canyon Ranch in May, 1983, as a memorial to conservationist Caroline S. Livermore, the 26-acre marsh is located on the east side of Tomales Bay adjacent to Audubon Cypress Grove. It is a fresh-water marsh; a berm built in the mid-1870's for the tracks of the North Pacific Coast Railroad keeps out the bay.(italics mine) Isn't that hilarious?

    There are three areas of discussion that were left untouched by your report on global warming and the only two areas you presented as proof..

    1) Is it really happening? The reports from satellites that record the mean global temperatures state that to the contrary the temperature has dropped. a) The dead stands of trees investigated were reported to have been under a decade of stress and have become susceptible to beetle infestation. The tree-corer stated that all the trees were the same age, around 210 years, but he didn't speculate whether they were just getting old and, thus, naturally weakened (cf. the several natural cycles of trees, oak, pine, scrub, that have come and gone in Yosemite Park despite naturalists' efforts to save them. The blame was erroneously placed on people, of course, until they checked back into the early history of the valley) or if, being the same age like a carefully sown crop, something must have been there before and maybe there is a recurring cycle. b) The retreating glaciers continue a process that has been going on for 11 thousand years. I grew up in Ohio and one of our geologic thrills was to study the great lakes, the glacial moraine and the retreat of Niagra Falls, and to think, boy, I'm glad I didn't live back then. And what about the abandoned villages in north Alaska that are buried under centuries of ice? Or the huge tree stumps found near Hudson's Bay? The planet was warmer then.

    2) Are humans to blame or, conversely, can we do anything about it? Ozone holes came and went without much help from us except that somebody has taken away my jet-propelled hair spray. Acid rain has lost its chic since it lost its connection with the modern world. I'm sure you've read the calculations attributed to the explosion of Krakatau and the density of the ash cloud that followed. The ashes circled the Earth for over a year, lowered the global temperature 1.2 C and was finally washed out of the air by (acid?) rain. There is nothing humans can do to match that; nor was there anything we could do to prevent it, either. As to the CO2 layer, inventive, positive-thinking folks in the antarctic threw iron filings into the sea and the algae fed and reproduced and poured forth O2, the thought being that if CO2 were really a threat, a couple of square miles of enhanced living conditions for the algae would clear it up in no time.

  4. If it's true, does it matter? Greenhouse: doesn't that conjure up images of lush and healthy growing things? Are we about to see the rebirth of Eden? Life on Earth hasn't changed much except that wealthy countries have learned to protect themselves and to rebuild in a hurry. Less wealthy countries are much as they were since the beginning of time, unable to be more than passive victims. Who do you think would most benefit from a greenhouse environment?

    Disasters did not begin with late-20th-century changes in the environment; you only think they did because, now, we see and hear every little detail about common vicissitudes of life on this planet. Did you hear about the tidal wave in Bangladesh that killed 200,000 outright and another 100,000 missing? or the earthquake in China that buried 242,000? or the flood in Holland that drowned 100,000? or the flu epidemic that killed 500,000 in the US alone? The key is that only recently have disasters made it onto cable for everyone to salivate over and we, the US, being inventive, far-sighted, hard-working and wealthy are in a position to help.

    Who do you think most benefits from the instantaneous continuing coverage of disasters? The answer is: who profits? it has never been easy for the human race to survive; it has been a constant battle against the forces of nature: disease, earthquake, weather, predators. Up to now each advance in the fight has been heralded but it's being changed. You are more likely to hear: pity the poor wildlife of the wetlands in Panama; The Hoover Dam is destroying a wildlife preserve; Drain Florida and save the alligators; And damn the exploiters. Seldom do you see an interview with someone who says: I should have built my house stronger; or there are germs in this water...get out the chlorine; or I shouldn't have come back to live at the foot of the volcano; or even, I should be sure my taxes, providing I pay any, are going to strong bridges, great fire and rescue departments. But every report has a victim who blames the government for deserting them. These are people who still have no resources of their own, and no longer having the option to blame God like the old days, now turn to government. Government as the Devil, and Government as God. Profit is realized when certain voices say: I see what is wrong and only I know how to fix it. It's complicated, so don't you think about it; I'll take care of every thing. Just give me your Power of Attorney. What if they are wrong and what if nobody investigates the other side?

    I weary of keeping pace with the latest environmental fright-mongers. They are hit-and-run and ubiquitous. And they are irresponsible, scaring the wits out of us, demanding correction and running on to the next project without taking a long look at what they wrought. No tears for the children killed by government mandated airbags, no applause for the citizens of tornado-blasted Salt Lake City who, all by themselves, cleaned up in less than 24 hours; no payback for the drivers of California who paid big-time at the pump for the additive MTBE to meet government mandated air quality standards, and who now pay even more to replace their incinerated cars and to get the toxic stuff out of their water, and no recognition for the citizens of Bolinas, California, who were self-organized into a block network and who, when the earthquake hit this week, were able to make an almost instantaneous survey of damage and injury (These were the same folks who, miles from public fire and rescue services, had a private fire department until suit was brought because a non-contributor was upset when the fireman watched his house burn but protected his contracting neighbor). And no sheepish acknowledgement that their government funded predictions for Mt. St. Helen's were all wrong. (All they saw was ashes and dead timber; no carrion bugs, no birds after the bugs, no gophers surviving deep in the ground who pushed seeds before them when they came up for air, no seeds with lots of sun and fresh fertilizer, no deer to eat the new crop of healthy plants.) Environmentalists pounce on a single fact or statistic and project from there as it suits them. How clear it is that a single element does not exist in a vacuum and that a single viewpoint doesn't answer all the questions. You have to understand history, cause and effect, action and reaction, the astounding adaptive qualities of life on this planet and understand that more good is done by individual citizens than by governments.

So, what's going on here? What do they want? Do these hit-and-run artists have a purpose, a link? They don't stay around long enough to account for their projects, so it can't be science. Follow the money. I mentioned that I lived in Ohio, close enough to OSU to know how important the grant game is. With the Clinton/Gore administration calling the shots, environmentalism is receiving the big bucks. Maybe they crave the spotlight, emulating Ralph Nader, who needlessly destroyed the best small car GM ever produced, inadvertently quashing the domestic small car trend until the foreign market took over. I suspect a lot of them are what Immanuel Velikovsky called uniformitariansts: academicians invested too much in the way things are, and afraid to face a changing, cycling, adaptive world. They talk a lot about evolution but are dead set against any indication that it might really be going on. Down deep they want things to stay just as they are because they aren't capable of dealing with change. Some of them really enjoy making powerful people do what they want. George Lucas had to satisfy the most refractory, egocentric demands of neighbors and deed away 95% of his land in order to expand Skywalker Ranch. What was he doing that demanded punishment? And some of them want us all to be impotent, or poor, or cowed, because they have other plans for the US.

Environmentalists are characterized, then, as unscientific, greedy for public money, power-hungry, cowardly, envious dialecticians. Socialists are rankly unscientific; nothing technological has come out of socialist countries unless it was stolen first. They would like all property to be public, no private ownership of anything. All socialist countries march toward fascism; someone has to tell the unruly mob what is best for them. They are the Elite. The Elite fear the will of the people so they practice disinformation, censorship and punishment for wrong-thinking. Socialists see wealth as a zero sum balance; if you have it, then I don't have it and it's not fair. This is the basis for public ownership; everybody owns everything, or conversely, no one owns anything. Socialists operate out of wishful thinking; ours, not theirs. They promise the world in theory but deliver dust. Not one of their countries has survived. The pragmatics of survival for their dirt-poor subjects have resulted inevitably in dictatorship, revolution and barbarism. Environmentalists are, therefore, socialists, or (in PC) Liberals. None of them are protecting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, nor do they profess to.

So, just whose environment are they saving? Not mine; not my children's; and with Kyoto looming, not our country's.

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