Class Warfare Blog

January 8, 2018

Just Plain, Or Not So Plain, Ignorant

I was reading Yuval Harari’s “Sapiens” last night and came upon this. (Despite my occasional cavils, this is a brilliant book, highly recommended.)

The Scientific Revolution has not been a revolution of knowledge. It has been above all a revolution of ignorance.

Shortly after came this:

Premodern traditions of knowledge such as Islam, Christianity, Buddhism and Confucianism asserted that everything that is important to know about the world was already known. The great gods, or the one almighty God, or the wise people of the past possessed all-encompassing wisdom, which they revealed to us in scriptures and oral traditions. Ordinary mortals gained knowledge by delving into ancient texts and traditions  and understanding them properly. It was inconceivable that the Bible, the Qur’an or the Vedas were missing out on a crucial secret of the universe – a secret that might yet be discovered by flesh-and-blood creatures.

If something couldn’t be found in scriptures then it was, by definition, trivial.

So, I have to ask: has anything changed? The power of religions is based upon their traditions and scriptures, so they reinforce that power every chance they get. They weave that power into our cultures and politics to sustain it.

And, it is clear that very, very, very important things were left out of scriptures as they were unknown at the time of their writing.

So, has anything changed?



September 22, 2016

Sure, We Can Trust Big Oil!

Last night I saw a TV commercial that, I presume, ran locally that was made by an Illinois-based petroleum industry organization. It started with acknowledging the ever louder call to “leave fossil fuels in the ground,” and tried to counter that with pointing to all of the good things petroleum is converted into: fertilizers, life saving pharmaceuticals, plastics and fibers, fire retardants, etc. Then of course, the plea pivoted on to “you wouldn’t want to put all of those things at risk would you?”

Apparently, these sort of “those are nice kneecaps you got there; it’d be a shame if sumpin’ were to happen to them” threats are considered common and effective now. This is also a straw man argument. The call to leave fossil fuels “in the ground” is due to the wholesale burning of those fuels to power moving vehicles and to be converted into electricity, the primary uses that result in carbon dioxide being injected into the atmosphere far faster than nature can deal with it, thus causing the conditions leading to climate change/global warming. No one is criticizing any of the wonderful things that can be manufactured from fossil fuels.

Of course, the commercial has calming music and pictures of farm machines reaping golden grain, smiling children and parents, etc. for the same reason factory farms still use bucolic pictures of Amish farms in their advertising, so I guess we shouldn’t hold that against them.

If one were to look critically at the, say, petrochemical industry, the industry that converts petroleum from out of the ground into “petrochemicals” other than gasoline, diesel, and other fuels, I guarantee you that there is much to find that we would dislike in the way of pollution, but these are small potatoes compared to the impact of the wide-spread, large scale combustion of fossil fuels (coal, petroleum, and natural gas) in our motors and stationary engines. This is not only causing global climate changes faster that we can adjust for them, but is also wasteful in that petroleum burnt can’t be converted into all of the wonderful things the commercial commented on.

Their argument will boomerang if that is the only one they have and it is the only valid one, even though they will mention all of the jobs in their industry that will be “lost” if a “leave it in the ground” policy were to be implemented. But, just like all of the other U.S. workers who have been “displaced” by corporate and government actions, those people will have to find other things to do. Whining about the loss of good paying jobs when the job description is “destroying the biosphere your children will need to survive” is a bit disingenuous, especially when so many other U.S. workers have been gleefully thrown under the corporate bus, just for a better bottom line.

Like the Wells Fargo accounts scandal, these continuing issues completely undermine the Conservatives’ campaign to “remove burdensome government regulations to unleash the power of U.S. corporations.” Clearly that is the last thing we want to do for the segment of our society which willingly does things on a daily basis to poison our environment, disrupt our financial systems catastrophically, and cheat their own customers, all governed by a need to “improve the bottom line.”

September 17, 2013

The Global Warming Misnomer

When the idea of global atmospheric warming was first broached, way back when I was still in college, the idea was simple: the atmosphere around the entire globe was increasing in temperature, a little bit at a time. But the atmosphere is a rather large entity. It weighs 5,200,000,000,000,000,000 kilograms, for example. (For Republicans, a kilogram weights 2,2 pounds or about the weight of a pair of heavy men’s dress shoes.) So much for being “light as air!” In that much mass, even a tiny temperature change represents a large amount of heat.

“So, what?” you ask. Isn’t this another example of the “the dilution of pollution is the solution?” Yes, it is but with all things there are unintended consequences. When the idea was first broached, the focus of scientists was upon questions like: Is it real? Is this a temporary phenomenon? Is this an artifact of the way we measure air temperatures? Is it truly a global phenomenon? These questions are important, because if it were a short-lived phenomenon or one that was local, then the problem would be different and the first rule of science is to know what the problem really is before trying to solve it. One of the confounding problems was the use of weather station data. Weather stations are placed mostly where people live or where people go (the airport, for example). Where people live is often paved and since growing things absorb sunlight, the lack of growing things results in higher recorded temperatures (the “heat island effect”). We had to figure a way to factor the heat island effect into those data.

“In other words: the outcome of global atmospheric warming is
“chaotic, energetic weather” for the foreseeable future.”

Once the data seemed real (from a bunch of different sources including satellite data), the questions shifted to more of “What will the consequences be?” Here the answers were confusing because only crude models of the atmosphere existed then (and now). The best answer was (and is) “we do not know” because there are so many possibilities. While people were looking at these (Remember “the ice caps are melting, the ice caps are melting!” Oh, by the way, they are.) they lost track of one of the certain truths. Weather is confined to the lower reaches of the atmosphere. Adding energy, in the form of heat, to the atmosphere means we will get more energetic weather and more energetic weather is unpredictable. In other words: the outcome of global atmospheric warming is “chaotic, energetic weather” for the foreseeable future.

The consequences of chaotic weather? Ask a farmer. We have had very unusually droughts over the last ten years. Colorado is experiencing bizarre floods right now. The East Coast was clobbered by a storm thought to be so strong that it was a 100 year or 200 year event, but there might be another in just a few years, meaning storms that happened only once in 100 or 200 years are coming once a decade now.

The term “global warming” sounds benign. Ask anybody in Minnesota and they would probably say “I’d like some of that.” It sounds like “tropical breezes.” Can’t be anything wrong with that. And, of course, the morons at Fox (sic) News still take the opportunity to say “Global warming, hah!” any time a major winter weather event occurs. They think it only means “things will become warmer.”

It means “Weather Chaos is upon us.”

If those scientists had only named it for the outcome, rather than the cause. No one would think “Weather Chaos” benign.

Weather Chaos is upon us!

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