Climate Myths

Responses to Andrew Bolt’s Article,“10 climate myths”

Responses to Andrew Bolt’s article, “10 climate myths” (Herald Sun, 29-4-09)

Andrew Bolt today presented climate change “myths”.

Here is my response to each. Essentially, the “skeptics” are searching for short annual or biannual changes, rather than looking at decade-scale trends. Failing to understand that science is a self-correcting discipline, they hope that, if and when they find minor errors or uncertainties (such as always exist) the entire scientific edifice behind the idea of climate change will collapse.

By the fact that the so-called “climate change skeptics” are attempting to refute every single direct observation and measurement in nature, as well as the basic physics and chemistry of the atmosphere, indeed climate science as a discipline, they reveal a resistance to the scientific method as such.

MYTH 1 — THE WORLD IS WARMING

BOLT: Wrong. It is true the world did warm between 1975 and 1998, but even Professor David Karoly, one of our leading alarmists, admitted this week “temperatures have dropped” since –“both in surface temperatures and in atmospheric temperatures measured from satellites”. In fact, the fall in temperatures from just 2002 has already wiped out a quarter of the warming our planet experienced last century. (Check data from Britain’s Hadley Centre, NASA’s Aqua satellite and the US National Climatic Data Center.)

Some experts, such as Karoly, claim this proves nothing and the world will soon start warming again. Others, such as Professor Ian Plimer of Adelaide University, point out that so many years of cooling already contradict the theory that man’s rapidly increasing gases must drive up temperatures ever faster.

But that’s all theory. The question I’ve asked is: What signs can you actually see of the man-made warming that the alarmists predicted?

GLIKSON: As has been projected by climate science over the last 20 years, the increase in atmospheric energy level associated with global warming results in greater variability, including: greater frequency and stronger amplitude of the ENSO (El-Nino – La-Nina) cycle and extreme weather events (hurricane intensity, floods, extreme droughts and fires) and, most particularly, rapid melt rates of large parts of the Arctic Sea ice, Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets and shelves — as is in fact happening around the world, including the recent Australian droughts, mega-bush fires and floods Australia.

MYTH 2 — THE POLAR CAPS ARE MELTING

BOLT: Wrong. The British Antarctic Survey, working with NASA, last week confirmed ice around Antarctica has grown 100,000 sq km each decade for the past 30 years. Long-term monitoring by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports the same: southern hemisphere ice has been expanding for decades.

As for the Arctic, wrong again. The Arctic ice cap shrank badly two summers ago after years of steady decline, but has since largely recovered. Satellite data from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Centre this week shows the Arctic hasn’t had this much April ice for at least seven years. Norway’s Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Centre says the ice is now within the standard deviation range for 1979 to 2007.

GLIKSON: This claim is inconsistent with the numerous reports by NASA and the National Ice and Snow Data Centre ( NSIDC) regarding the Arctic Sea ice, Greenland and West Antarctica (References: here; here; here; here), while the entire Antarctic ice sheet (east and west) has warmed over the last 50 years by 0.12 degrees C per decade and west Antarctica by 0.17 degrees C per-decade, including major polar warming anomalies where mean temperature rises over the last 10 years reached levels 3 to 4 degrees higher than during 1951 – 1980.

MYTH 3 — WE’VE NEVER HAD SUCH A BAD DROUGHT

BOLT: Wrong. A study released this month by the University of NSW Climate Change Research Centre confirms not only that we’ve had worse droughts, but this Big Dry is not caused by “global warming,” whether man-made or not.

As the university’s press release says: “The causes of southeastern Australia’s longest, most severe and damaging droughts have been discovered, with the surprise finding that they originate far away in the Indian Ocean.

“A team of Australian scientists has detailed for the first time how a phenomenon known as the Indian Ocean Dipole — a variable and irregular cycle of warming and cooling of ocean water — dictates whether moisture-bearing winds are carried across the southern half of Australia.”

GLIKSON: The development of the Indian Ocean dipoleis related to the current La-Nina ENSO phase and the development of turbulence northwest of Western Australia, resulting in strong southeast-directed air currents. The warming of these currents as they pass over inland Australia result in the dry warm winds which created the conditions for the tragic Victorian fires, as confirmed by CSIRO.

MYTH 4 — OUR CITIES HAVE NEVER BEEN HOTTER

BOLT: Wrong. The alleged “record” temperature Melbourne set in January – 46.4 degrees – was in fact topped by the 47.2 degrees the city recorded in 1851. (See the Argus newspaper of February 8, 1851.)

And here’s another curious thing: Despite all this warming we’re alleged to have caused, Victoria’s highest temperature on record remains the 50.7 degrees that hit Mildura 103 years ago. South Australia’s hottest day is still the 50.7 degrees Oodnadatta suffered 37 years ago. NSW’s high is still the 50 degrees recorded 70 years ago.

What’s more, not one of the world’s seven continents has set a record high temperature since 1974. Europe’s high remains the 50 degrees measured in Spain 128 years ago, before the invention of the first true car.

GLIKSON: Isolated extreme weather events occurred throughout history, but the rapid rise in mean global temperatures since early 20 the century (+ 0.8 degrees C, or 1.3 degrees C once the masking effect of emitted sulphur aerosols is accounted for), and related shift of global climate zones by hundreds of km toward the poles , exacerbate these events, including droughts. Climate “skeptics” consistently confuse the weather for the climate, cite isolated weather events and decline to look at decade-scale climate trends, as explained among others in Pittock’s authoritative books.

MYTH 5 — THE SEAS ARE GETTING HOTTER

BOLT: Wrong. If anything, the seas are getting colder. For five years, a network of 3175 automated bathythermographs has been deployed in the oceans by the Argo program, a collaboration between 50 agencies from 26 countries. Warming believer Josh Willis, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, reluctantly concluded: “There has been a very slight cooling . . .”

GLIKSON: Check NASA’s website and find out that ocean surface temperatures have been rising through the last few decades (for example by 0.2 to 1.0 degrees C in most areas during 2000-2009 relative to 1951-1980), while lesser areas cooled by -0.2 to -0.5 mostly in the Pacific Ocean, partly in connection with La-Nina phases. Sea surface temperature increases around Australia are reported by CSIRO (“ Ocean warming on the rise “), stating: “The team of Australian and US climate researchers found the world’s oceans warmed and rose at a rate 50 percent faster in the last four decades of the 20th century than documented in the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report (IPCC AR4).

MYTH 6 — THE SEAS ARE RISING

BOLT: Wrong. For almost three years, the seas have stopped rising, according to the Jason-1 satellite mission monitored by the University of Colorado.

That said, the seas have risen steadily and slowly for the past 10,000 years through natural warming, and will almost certainly resume soon.

But there is little sign of any accelerated rises, even off Tuvalu or the Maldives, islands often said to be most threatened with drowning.

Professor Nils-Axel Moerner, one of the world’s most famous experts on sea levels, has studied the Maldives in particular and concluded there has been no net rise there for 1250 years.

Venice is still above water.

GLIKSON: From about 9000 years ago sea level have risen by about 15 meters (Siddall et al, 2003: Nature, 423: 853-853). Rates of sea level rise rose from a mean of 0.11 cm/year during 1870 -1970 to a mean of 0.25 cm/year during 1970 – 2006 and are currently rising at 0.35 cm/year, confirmed by both tide gauge measurements ( US Geological Survey ) and satellite measurements.

MYTH 7 — CYCLONES ARE GETTING WORSE

BOLT: Wrong. Ryan Maue of Florida State University recently measured the frequency, intensity and duration of all hurricanes and cyclones to compile an Accumulated Cyclone Energy Index.

His findings? The energy index is at its lowest level for more than 30 years.

The World Meteorological Organization, in its latest statement on cyclones, said it was impossible to say if they were affected by man’s gases: “Though there is evidence both for and against the existence of a detectable anthropogenic signal in the tropical cyclone climate record to date, no firm conclusion can be made on this point.”

GLIKSON: Cyclone intensity, related to sea surface temperatures, has risen according to Webster et al. 2005, who observe “We examined the number of tropical cyclones and cyclone days as well as tropical cyclone intensity over the past 35 years, in an environment of increasing sea surface temperature. A large increase was seen in the number and proportion of hurricanes reaching categories 4 and 5. The largest increase occurred in the North Pacific, Indian, and Southwest Pacific Oceans, and the smallest percentage increase occurred in the North Atlantic Ocean. These increases have taken place while the number of cyclones and cyclone days has decreased in all basins except the North Atlantic during the past decade.

MYTH 8 — THE GREAT BARRIER REEF IS DYING

BOLT: Wrong. Yes, in 1999, Professor Ove Hoegh-Gulberg, our leading reef alarmist and administrator of more than $30 million in warming grants, did claim the reef was threatened by warming, and much had turned white.

But he then had to admit it had made a “surprising” recovery.

Yes, in 2006 he again warned high temperatures meant “between 30 and 40 per cent of coral on Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef could die within a month”.

But he later admitted this bleaching had “minimal impact”. Yes, in 2007 he again warned that temperature changes of the kind caused by global warming were bleaching the reef.

But this month fellow Queensland University researchers admitted in a study that reef coral had once more made a “spectacular recovery”, with “abundant corals re-established in a single year”. The reef is blooming.

GLIKSON: That the Great Barrier Reef is suffering from elevated temperatures, increased acidity and coral bleaching is beyond dispute as has been observed by numerous studies, including the University of Queensland, the Marine Park Authority and the Australian National University.

MYTH 9 — OUR SNOW SEASONS ARE SHORTER

BOLT: Wrong. Poor snow falls in 2003 set off a rash of headlines predicting warming doom. The CSIRO typically fed the hysteria by claiming global warming would strip resorts of up to a quarter of their snow by 2018.

Yet the past two years have been bumper seasons for Victoria’s snow resorts, and this year could be just as good, with snow already falling in NSW and Victoria this past week.

GLIKSON: Typically climate skeptics will look at annual or biannual changes rather than longer term decade-scale trends, and this applies to the ever shortening snow seasons in the Australian snow fields.

MYTH 10 — TSUNAMIS AND OTHER DISASTERS ARE GETTING WORSE

BOLT: Are you insane? Tsunamis are in fact caused by earthquakes. Yet there was World Vision boss Tim Costello last week, claiming that Asia was a “region, thanks to climate change, that has far more cyclones, tsunamis, droughts”.

Wrong, wrong and wrong, Tim. But what do facts matter now to a warming evangelist when the cause is so just?

And so any disaster is now blamed on man-made warming the way they once were on Satan. See for yourself on the full list, including kidney stones, volcanic eruptions, lousy wine, insomnia, bad tempers, Vampire moths and bubonic plagues. Nothing is too far-fetched to be seized upon by carpetbaggers and wild preachers as signs of a warming we can’t actually see.

Not for nothing are polar bears the perfect symbol of this faith — bears said to be threatened by warming, when their numbers have in fact increased.

Bottom line: fewer people now die from extreme weather events, whether cyclones, floods or blinding heatwaves.

Read that in a study by Indur Goklany, who represented the US at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: “There is no signal in the mortality data to indicate increases in the overall frequencies or severities of extreme weather events, despite large increases in the population at risk.”

So stop this crazy panic.

First step: check again your list of the signs you thought you saw of global warming. How many are true? What do you think, and why do you think it?

Yes, the world may resume warming in one year or 100. But it hasn’t been warming as the alarmists said it must if man were to blame, and certainly not as the media breathlessly keeps claiming.

Best we all just settle down, then, and wait for the proof — the real proof. After all, panicking over invisible things is so undignified, don’t you think?

GLIKSON: This point is answered in the reference to Webster et al. 2005 above, showing the frequency of category 4 and 5 cyclones has increased during the last decade.

Dr Andrew Glikson is with the Research School of Earth Science & School of Archaeology & Anthropology at Australian National University in Canberra. He can be reached at: andrew.glikson@anu.edu.au. Read other articles by Andrew.

29 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. rg the lg said on April 30th, 2009 at 9:40am #

    When we overpopulate, we suffer consequences.

    There are, simply put, too damned many of us for the system to handle.

    It really isn’t a problem – how much carbon and other crap we put into the system – the real problem is how many of us are putting carbon into the system.

    From my point of view … really … maybe a swine flu pandemic that kills billions will actually be a good thing? Even better, if those who caught the flu and then recovered to be sterile? That is even better.

    So, come on plagues! We could use some self-correcting plagues if we hope for humanity to continue. Maybe a few nuclear wars would be useful as well?

    Whatcha think …

    RG the LG
    And, NO, I am not being facetious.

  2. Don Hawkins said on April 30th, 2009 at 9:42am #

    This Glikson person in order to write this knows the science and knows it well. Dr Glikson my my my a little quote from Yoda.

    “You must unlearn what you have learned.” “Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will…”

    “You will know (the good from the bad) when you are calm, at peace. Passive. Use the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack. “

  3. eric swan said on April 30th, 2009 at 10:48am #

    The way we treat animals has to stop. Love your neighbours includes your livestock.

  4. Russell Olausen said on April 30th, 2009 at 10:53am #

    The barbarians will never care about this hair splitting. I was once hunting with some native North Americans and we noticed a few white hunters. We stopped and found them to be discussing the age and sex of a moose in a field. My guides had a quick laugh and then blasted away. In this mean old world, sophisticated thinkers are still blasting away at metaphorical meese.(joke)

  5. Don Hawkins said on April 30th, 2009 at 11:21am #

    “Use the Force for knowledge and DEFENSE, never for attack. “ That’s DEFENSE! Let’s use that in a sentence. The cow jumped over DEFENSE. How’s that for sophisticated?

  6. Russell Olausen said on April 30th, 2009 at 1:01pm #

    You’ve done a wonderful job of building defence around Fortress America, now show the world you care as much about the gardener’s child survival as your own.

  7. Don Hawkins said on April 30th, 2009 at 2:43pm #

    Not just the gardener’s child the human race.

  8. lichen said on April 30th, 2009 at 3:09pm #

    If billions of people die in a plague, the survivors would likely be too traumatized to setup a kinder, ecologically sustainable way of life; so no, it would not be a good thing. Thankfully, we can use better solutions that we have right now to make the current population into a zero-footprint one.

  9. Deadbeat said on April 30th, 2009 at 3:29pm #

    When we overpopulate, we suffer consequences.

    Who is “we”? You mean as the “West” overpopulate or as the “rich” overpopulate because most of the world lives on less than $2.00/day so their footprint is not as large as the bootprint of the rich. The problem is not “overpopulation”, the problem is DISPARITY.

  10. rg the lg said on April 30th, 2009 at 5:00pm #

    Disparity?

    Could be … but the fact remains there are way too many humans. That is a simple fact … whether an economy is industrial or subsistence there is only so much space per human. Humans are rather prolific and since we thought keeping people alive was a good thing rather than understanding that the life cycle had a certain natural inevitability we are oh so fortunate to be alive as the species learns the hard way.

    Traumatized into not creating a sustainable world? No … we’d continue to procreate at the same rate and be back where we were … not much change.

    Some fool started calling us home sapiens … what about something other than sapiens … maybe absorbeo? or perhaps plumbeus?

    Oh, call me a misanthrope if you wish … but the reality is that we are a bunch of selfish greed heads. I don’t see anyone volunteering to give up their lifestyle for the greater good!

    Do you? Certainly NOT the person you see in your mirror.

    RG the Lg

  11. Hue Longer said on April 30th, 2009 at 5:05pm #

    I think it’s both, Deadbeat but unfortunately some lizards sucking up the sun only see more lizards as the problem. Even if somehow the ecosystem was repairable and we all behaved appropriately to the sustainability of the planet, eventually too may lizards would surpass the problem that was once created by the few fat ones.

  12. lichen said on April 30th, 2009 at 5:13pm #

    Yes, the planet can sustain current levels of population, with powering the world with only wind, solar, tidal, and geothermal power, and by taking simple steps to move the current population into zero-footprint and picking up sane, untraumatic policies to reduce population over time. And yes, the trauma of war, plagues, natural disasters and the like do bring about great changes, and actually move people away from the left reforms that we all want. That is a fact.

  13. lichen said on April 30th, 2009 at 5:22pm #

    Rg the lg, you sound like a spokesman for exxonmobile – oh yes, the problem isn’t needless pollution led by rich multinationals, it’s the people around you – cheer for the death of poor people instead of taking the steps toward green energy that are currently ready.

  14. Deadbeat said on April 30th, 2009 at 6:02pm #

    If people had more power then WE could rationally make better decisions about resource production and use as well as population. People desiring more control over their lives would actually have FEWER children. Zero population growth came to the forefront during the 1970′s however since the 70′s world poverty has grown and likewise population. The two are linked and I think it is rather elitist if not downright racist for people living in the West who disportionately consume the world’s resource to offer this Neo-Malthusian rhetoric without examining how Capitalism impoverishment leads to the kinds of desparate condition that INDUCES greater birth rates due to increased child mortality rates.

    And what does Capitalism do to control birth rates? War and disease and punitiative controls. Clearly that doesn’t work. Yet these Neo-Malthusians offer no real “solution” to a IMO manufactured problem.

    In addtion “localism” which is offered by these Neo-Malthusians or “Environmentalists” has its own set of problem such as provincialism, xenophobia, nationalism, and racism that ironically can lead to conflict and WAR.

    So if “overpopulation” the answer coming from the Neo-Malthusian soothsayers is tremendously flawed and needs to go back to the drawing board. But the most dangerous aspect of their rhetoric is that it lets Capitalism off the hook and Neo-Malthusian will attract the strain of the ruling class who will use Neo-Malthusianism to retain POWER.

  15. Suthiano said on April 30th, 2009 at 7:07pm #

    “People desiring more control over their lives would actually have FEWER children.”

    You are trying to make this connection causal.

    Some of the lowest birthrates are in Eastern European countries, where people have very little control over their lives.

    Mormons have a lot of children even when they’re very wealthy.

    There are very large oil-rich Arab families.

    There is no causal relationship.

    Some people who realize they have little control over their lives decide not to have children… their are many social, religious factors in these decisions.

  16. Tennessee-Chavizta said on April 30th, 2009 at 7:43pm #

    suthiano: hi, you are real smart and logical. And indeed, young people who are really beating the bulles in this world, don’t have children. They know that if they’ll have children, they will suffer a lot in the future.

  17. bozh said on May 1st, 2009 at 6:05am #

    let us also include a bn dogs on the planet when musing about how many people can it sustain with present amout of overuse and overwaste or with zero regression.

    but even a dog in congo does not use as much as a dog in many countries.
    if the problems cld be fixed, they wld be fixed only thru a much, much more gregarious/sharing/interdependent society.
    brutal competition for survival among an animal specie, was designed by nature.
    our near-extinction i take as proof that nature had not designed us to thrive on brutal competition on interpersonal and international levels.
    when an animal thinks wrongly; i.e., wrongly believing in having safe distance from a predator, it may lose its life.
    but not all animals think wrongly while almost all people do due to
    a millennial poison gift from shamans/clergy/feudal lords.
    tnx

  18. rg the lg said on May 1st, 2009 at 8:55am #

    lichen … that’s a plant, right?

    Anyway … comparing me to a spokesman for exxon-mobile is almost laughable. I am so thoroughly anti-corporate that it is almost stupid.

    I do not give a rats ass, one way the other, whether it is the poor or the rich that die. It is only that about 75% of us need to. The percentage would be less if the proportion was heavily toward people like us … you and I … in the west with all of our electricity driven toys … like the computer we are using to communicate with.

    So, “powering the world with only wind, solar, tidal, and geothermal power” is the panacea? I think not. Sure it sounds good … but do you really think that “the trauma of war, plagues, natural disasters and the like do bring about great changes, and actually move people away from the left reforms that we all want” can be obviated by the continuing demand for resources and the constant building of ever growing populations?

    It is still a numbers game … too many people is the problem. We saw it coming … and we ignored it.

    Of course, when I was younger I was simply an idealist … but over time a thick hard shell has grown around my idealism … it is called cynicism and coupled with a deep skepticism, I am not sanguine that technology is the solution.

    RG the LG

  19. E-Liz said on May 1st, 2009 at 9:39am #

    cheer for the death of poor people instead of taking the steps toward green energy that are currently ready.

    Thats disgusting Lichen, How dare you write something like that on this most holy site!!!

  20. E-Liz said on May 1st, 2009 at 9:42am #

    Now people see how easy it is to make your point when you only use what you want to out of your adversary’s statment

  21. bozh said on May 1st, 2009 at 11:37am #

    rg,
    don`t we have legs and arms+ obesity, lard É; my queery mark is not working again.
    arms to push, lift, fondle and legs to stand on and a gesitz, guzica, ass not to use for sitting only but also use in dancing and sex.
    we have all that and damn even a spark of electricity; particularly one coming from burnng coal for electric knives, toothbrushes, can openers, escalators, etc.
    after most people slim dwn to their natural weight, they cld use a donkey and a cart made of bamboo; wld not worry about gas except an odd fart, nor severe accidents or any accidents.
    goodby insurance, paint, repairs, garages. What a bonus wld that beÉ.
    i sit only thre hours a day. I stand, walk, lift weights ten hours and in bed about 8-10 hours a day. We do have a car but drive only 1T miles a yr.
    and my wife screams at me when a say let`s sell the damn thing. tnx

  22. bozh said on May 1st, 2009 at 11:41am #

    rg, right,
    technology offers no solution; only knowledge does that; technology being a significant part of knowledge. tnx

  23. lichen said on May 1st, 2009 at 12:47pm #

    Rg the lg, what I said in my post above was that we could both switch to only the green energies I listed AND use more humane, but firm population control through drastically lowering the birth rate to come to a much smaller population. I don’t know why you seem to reject that when you also admit yourself that after a huge tragedy, like an earth-led genocide, no one’s going to be in a state to care about maintaining zero population growth. If you really want the population to be reduced, I think you should at least advocate other ways of getting there than mass death, which is an apathetic non-starter. And actually, if drastic worldwide measures are not taken to leave oil, coal, and the like in the ground, than 100% of humans and most species on the planet will die, which is not a good thing. And yes, lichen is a plant that often grows on the bark of trees.

  24. rg the lg said on May 2nd, 2009 at 7:05am #

    Here is a book review from Powell’s (As a librarian, I read such things. )

    What We Leave Behind
    by Derrick Jensen and Aric McBay
    What We Leave Behind

    Your Price $24.95
    (New, Trade Paper)

    After Us, the Deluge
    A Review by Jeremy Garber

    “Industrial civilization is incompatible with life. It is systematically destroying life on this planet, undercutting its very basis. This culture is, to put it bluntly, murdering the earth. Unless it’s stopped — whether we intentionally stop it or the natural world does, through ecological collapse or other means — it will kill every living being. We need to stop it.”

    –Derrick Jensen and Aric McBay

    ÷ ÷ ÷
    From the first paragraph of the preface through four hundred trenchant pages of well-reasoned and well-researched polemic, What We Leave Behind is a scathing indictment of our culture’s wanton disregard for, and destruction of, life on earth. Co-authored by Derrick Jensen (A Language Older Than Words; The Culture of Make Believe; and volumes one and two of Endgame) and Aric McBay (Peak Oil Survival: Preparation for Life after Gridcrash), the book is unwaveringly forthright, urgent and compelling. While there has been no shortage of recent works written about climate change, environmental degradation, dwindling fossil fuel supplies, and impending catastrophe, few are as direct, pragmatic, and compassionate as this one.

    With an understanding of waste and its associated cycles (decay and regeneration) as the center from which their premise unfurls, Jensen and McBay assert that the disruption of these processes and the increasing toxicity of our garbage (both organic and industrial) are having devastating consequences on the health of ecosystems worldwide. These disastrous effects, they argue persuasively, are intrinsic to the industrial capitalist system. They see this system, based as it is on centralizing control and externalizing consequences, as impervious to any meaningful systemic change, “Industrial capitalism can never be sustainable. It has always destroyed the land upon which it depends for raw materials, and it always will. ”

    Jensen and McBay employ some sobering statistics to further illustrate how rampant the deleterious effects of our culture have become. In the chapter on plastic they write, “There is at least six times more plastic in the middle of the Pacific Ocean than phytoplankton.” Though much of the data cited throughout the book is as bewilderingly unreal, the book concludes with over 30 pages of end notes and bibliographic sources, making a reader or would-be critic hard-pressed to make a case that the authors were hurried in their writing or lacking in research.

    Portions of the book confront the notion of sustainability, and the so-called “greenwashing” of industries that are inherently unsustainable. “It’s a pretty basic point that’s perhaps intentionally missed by almost everyone in this culture who claims to participate in sustainable activities: an action is sustainable if and only if all necessary associated actions are sustainable.” The authors, as example, instance the green architecture movement and its most renowned champion William McDonough (dubbed a “Hero for the Planet” by Time magazine in 1999). As stated on McDonough’s website, he worked to install a “10-acre (454,000 sq. ft.) ‘living’ roof” atop the Ford Rouge Dearborn Truck Plant in Dearborn, Michigan, that serves to “retain half the annual rainfall that falls on its surface….provide habitat….[and offer] a glimpse of the transformative possibilities suggested by this new model for sustaining industry.” McDonough also developed a new campus for Nike’s European headquarters in The Netherlands, described by a Nike executive as “designed to integrate the indoors with the surrounding environment, tapping into local energy flows to create healthy, beneficial relationships between nature and human culture.” Jensen and McBay expose the duplicity often underlying what is passed off as sustainable initiative:

    Does anyone besides me experience a deep sorrow that someone called a “Hero for the Planet” and a “star of the sustainability movement” is designing truck factories and Nike headquarters? Ninety percent of the large fish in the oceans are gone. Ninety-seven percent of the world’s native forests have been cut. There are 2 million dams just in the United States. Once-mighty flocks of passenger pigeons are gone. Islands full of great auks, gone. Rich runs of salmon, gone. Gone. Gone. Gone. The oceans are filled with plastic. Every stream in the United States is contaminated with carcinogens. The world is being killed, and this is the response? Not only am I angry, not only am I disgusted, I am also deeply, deeply sorrowful.

    In the chapter that takes aim at McDonough, the authors expound upon the “infighting and petty attacks” that often characterize resistance movements.

    It happens enough to have a name: horizontal hostility. It has destroyed many movements for resistance against this culture, and driven people away from these movements in hordes. It’s much easier to attack our allies for their minor failings rather than take on Monsanto, Wal-Mart, Ford, Nike, Weyerhauser, and so on.

    By admission, there was reluctance to pen the section criticizing McDonough, as the authors explain, “He is, after all, at least heading in the right direction.” Correspondence with Lierre Keith, an activist peer, would quell this hesitation, as Keith wrote in her response:

    But in the end, McDonough isn’t heading in the right direction. He’s heading in the same direction — complete drawdown of planetary reserves of metal, oil, water, whatever — but we’ll get there a bit slower on his plan. Industrialization is still industrialization….So I think their project is corrupt and it’s only prolonging the inevitable. They’re still fighting for a way of life that necessitates destroying the planet.

    Perhaps the most powerful and unflinching parts of What We Leave Behind are the sections where the authors describe, rather acutely, the cognitive dissonance required to go on countenancing the damage our culture has done, and continues to do, while arguing for implementing change that is in contrast to the very culture itself. Jensen and McBay argue that any effort, however small, towards the end of halting the omnicide that our culture perpetuates is worthy and much needed. They refuse, however, to accept the feel-good idealism that these actions by themselves will produce any meaningful change.

    How do you stop or at least curb global warming? Easy. Stop pumping carbon dioxide, methane, and so on into the atmosphere. How do you do that? Easy. Stop burning oil, natural gas, coal, and so on. How do you do that? Easy. Stop industrial capitalism.

    When most people in this culture ask, “How can we stop global warming?” that’s not really what they’re asking. They’re asking, “How can we stop global warming, without significantly changing this lifestyle that is causing global warming in the first place?”

    The answer is you can’t.

    It’s a stupid, absurd, and insane question.

    To ask how we can stop global warming while still allowing that which structurally, necessarily causes global warming — industrial civilization — to continue in its functioning is like asking how we can stop mass deaths at Auschwitz while allowing it to continue as a death camp. Destroying the world is what this culture does. It’s what it has done from the beginning.

    Jensen and McBay spend the final third of their book imagining the future. They refute many of the oft-heard claims that the very technologies that are responsible for so much of the planetary degradation will somehow save us from the consequences we’ve set an inevitable course for. They consider what possible futures would look like if we continue on and implement no systemic changes, or if we rely too heavily on a future we envision as “technotopia.” Also, they imagine what is becoming an increasingly plausible, if not downright likely, scenario: collapse.

    An overarching condemnation of like-minded works is that they too seldom offer practical suggestions for ways the common person can make a difference. Reducing waste, reducing consumption, recycling, donating to local non-profits: the authors concede these are important tasks that do have some effect . “What we are saying is this: we aren’t going to insult your intelligence by asserting that such solutions are even remotely sufficient to address the problem.” A brief exploration of resistance movements provides for some salient observations, as examples of individuals and groups fighting back against the dominant power structure abound throughout history. A quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian who was put to death for resisting the Nazis, precedes the chapter entitled “Fighting Back” and reflects the authors’ clearly articulated ideas on the matter. While in prison, awaiting execution, Bonhoeffer wrote:

    We have spent too much time in thinking, supposing that if we weigh in advance the possibilities of any action, it will happen automatically. We have learnt, rather too late, that action comes, not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility. For you, thought and action will enter on a new relationship; your thinking will be confined to your responsibilities in action.

    What We Leave Behind is an important contribution to the increasing body of literature devoted to effecting actual and lasting change. Loathe to offer mere rhetoric, a diluted portrait of how precarious things actually are, or unrealistic promises of technological salvation, the book is unabashedly vehement. It may unsettle the unwitting reader, but for those with even the faintest hint of the trouble we are facing, it will provide fertile ground from which to grow a greater understanding. Derrick Jensen and Aric McBay have crafted a remarkably well-written, crucial work. Like the peril they so ably convey therein, it is one to be ignored only at great expense.

  25. bozh said on May 2nd, 2009 at 9:14am #

    rg the lg,
    in short, progress without regress for biota and people; elimination of much of the accumulated ‘progress’ such as private aircraft and cars wld be very beneficial.
    cutting dwn on amount of salt, fat, and sugar wld also be very progressive.
    standing still is not what we want. We want more good medicine, food, entertainment, politicains, priests, educators, reporters, judges, etc.
    but we don’t want ” full ‘progress’ ahead, damn the regress” any more.

    of course by elimination or stoppage of car manufacture, jobs wld be lost but with the basic right of work principle, we have plenty to do and easily find new things to do and hire laid off people. tnx

  26. Brook said on May 4th, 2009 at 5:42am #

    This is all B.S., folks. We fell for Iraqi WMD’s and now we’re falling for the next ruse — global warming — a complete distortion and ridiculous assumption of disaster.

    The above top secret government has technology you can’t even imagine.

    We could clean this planet up tomorrow, but the government wants to control you instead. Wake up! That bovine smell is not a cow — it’s the Federal Reserve Bankers!!!

  27. Mulga Mumblebrain said on May 5th, 2009 at 6:21pm #

    Brook, of course, is an idiot, or a troll. Anthropogenic climate change is real, attested to by the science, the field observations and the vast majority of real scientists in the relevant disciplines. It is opposed by business, vested interests in fossil fuel industry and the ideological Right. That is where Bolt crawls in. If you have any knowledge of the Australian press you will know it is uniformly Rightwing, as everywhere else in the capitalist world, 70% is controlled by Murdoch, in my opinion a monster, and that while cynically and hypocritically claiming to be ‘reducing its carbon footprint’, his newsrags run an unrelenting and utterly one-sided ideological jihad against the science. Bolt serves on one of Murdoch’s down-market filth-sheets, and was most notable in recent years for his fanatic opposition to the revelations of child-stealing of indigenous children over many generations. Anthropogenic climate change denialism is a Rightwing mission, one designed, I am now convinced, to precipitate a Malthusian cull of the ‘useless eaters’ for whom the global parasitic elite have no use. This explains, I believe, why there has been such a marked upswing in comment denouncing ‘over-population’ in the poor world, when over-consumption in the rich world does so much more damage. We are being psychologically prepared for the greatest mass murder in history, presumably by pandemic disease, a tragic ‘act of God’.

  28. E-liz said on May 5th, 2009 at 7:00pm #

    Mulga,

    I can’t believe that you would say such a thing about we on the right. We love the poor of the world and we will need them if things get worse,
    we plan to eat the poor, we already have the recipes, let’s see now we have,
    Mexican meatballs
    chinese chili,
    Rawandan rumaki
    and so on.

  29. mary said on May 6th, 2009 at 12:10am #

    Mulga – Agree completely. Have you ever come across the English playwright Dennis Potter? He was a lovely and talented man and had a terrible disease which he named ‘Murdoch’. This excerpt is from his last interview just before he died.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lnVrK38xI-A

    Omitted from the list of British newspapers at the end are the Sun and the News of the World, both suitable for wrapping fish and chips. And in the US I believe the Wall Street Journal is now in Murdoch’s hands.

    The Zionist lobby and the military fascists have a good servant in him too. The Sun and the NotW are always running ‘Our Brave Boys’ stories about Afghanistan and previously Iraq. They also played a large part in bringing Blair to power and hence the consequent murder of over one million Iraqi people.