Thursday, May 20, 2010

Denialism and FUD!

FUD. Fear Uncertainty, and Doubt. A term used in tech circles. Intel, for example, was purported to have used FUD tactics to intimidate competitors, and the market. They would announce a product aggressively and encourage people to WAIT instead of buying competitors products. Then mysteriously these big products would get delayed or cancelled. Who knows. Products get delayed. Also, SCO -vs- IBM exemplified another form, where SCO made a lot of claims with NO concrete details. Mathematically this equates to throwing out unproven corner cases as arguments, before they are substantiated.

I notice this behavior pattern in people a lot. They are angry, usually for no reason to do with you, and attack something lame. It's usually a good sign that you shouldn't take it personally. A few times my dad has yelled at me for swimming too much. What the hell? Oh,'re mad about something else. I look for this in myself. When I use a lame excuse to get emotional, I know I should pull back.

Global Warming. Fact Versus Fiction. THERE IS A TON ON BOTH SIDES. Clearly there are a TON of lame excuses to counter global warming details. BUT we know a lot of truths. CO2 DOES increase temperatures. Temps are going up, but this has happened before. The Urban Heat Island Effect skews these readings. And alas, correlation does NOT equal causality. I want to take care of the environment, but I don't think SCARING people into doing it is the right way.

I read article about denialism in New Scientist. They talk about how people get stuck denying things that are obvious. Including Global Warming, though again I stipulate, if you are saying "temps are going up" I agree 100%. If you say "Humans are causing temps to go up" then there is a lot of room to debate.
Whatever they are denying, denial movements have much in common with one another, not least the use of similar tactics (see "How to be a denialist"). All set themselves up as courageous underdogs fighting a corrupt elite engaged in a conspiracy to suppress the truth or foist a malicious lie on ordinary people. This conspiracy is usually claimed to be promoting a sinister agenda: the nanny state, takeover of the world economy, government power over individuals, financial gain, atheism.
I dig that quote. I always laugh when people justify conspiracy theories. They (New Scientist) also comment on the limitation of some types of arguments:
Similarly, global warming, evolution and the link between tobacco and cancer must be taken on trust, usually on the word of scientists, doctors and other technical experts who many non-scientists see as arrogant and alien.
So a call to action. For years people didn't believe cigarettes were bad because of lame excuses. We KNOW texting and using cell phones is dangerous when driving, yet I see people still doing it all the time. For years we had people who could only call Bush "stupid," like we now have people who just call Obama a "Socialist" instead of arguing policy. There's a lot of this kind of thinking out there, and many people buy in to it, ESPECIALLY in politics. In Buddhist parlance this results from Dependant thinking as opposed to Independent thinking. Let's spend our time contemplating the REAL world, not the world people want us to see.

I should confess this post was inspired by my friend Greta in Brazil, and reading this Essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson, on Self-Reliance.

Woah. Check this out. This guy is an awesome skeptic that Seems to embody my thoughts on this subject well:

He's got cool stuff about intelligent design, and other pseudoscience subjects.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Roundup Resistant Weeds ATTACK!

I was reading coverage in the NY times about how Roundup resistant weeds are proliferating. This is similar in cause and effect to overuse of antibiotics accelerating development of resistant bacteria. I believe this is once again an example of the shortsightedness on the part of the farming industry, but logical in a competitive market.

Once again I have to go back to natural capitalism for some startling statistics, and information about the state of our farming industry. Our farming methodologies are inefficient with regards to energy consumption:

American farms have doubled their direct and indirect energy efficiency since 1978. They use more efficiently manufactured fertilizer, diesel engines, bigger and multifunction farm machinery, better drying and irrigation processes and controls, and herbicides instead of plowing to control weeds. 

And also even more worrisome is that we are destroying the genetic diversity of our crop species:

Clear-cutting at the microscopic level of DNA may be creating the gravest problem of all. The world's farming rests on an extraordinarily narrow genetic base. Of the 200,000 species of wild plants, notes biogeographer Jared Diamond, "only a few thousands are eaten by humans, and just a few hundred of those have been more or less domesticated." Three-quarters of the world's food comes from only seven crop species, wheat, rice, corn, potatoes, barley, cassava (manioc), and sorghum.

Not only are we reducing genetic diversity, but also our "single crop mindset" is creating fertile breeding grounds for prime predators, and a disaster waiting to happen:

The single-crop mentality both ignores nature's tendency to foster diversity and worsens the ancient battle against pests. Monocultures are rare in nature, in part because they create paradises for plant diseases and insects, as science writer Janine Benyus puts it, they are like equipping a burglar with the keys to every house in the neighborhood; they're an all-you-can-eat restaurant for pests. Disease already damages or destroys 13 percent of the world's crops, insects 15 percent, and weeds 12 percent; in all, two-fifths of the world's harvest is lost in the fields, and after some more spoils, nearly half never reaches a human mouth.

Hopefully we can be ahead of the curve on this one, before disaster strikes
Another example. Recent New Scientist coverage of a Nature article about new pests evolving to attack Genetically modified crops:
The rise of mirids has driven Chinese farmers back to pesticides - they are currently using about two-thirds as much as they did before Bt cotton was introduced. As mirids develop resistance to the pesticides, Wu expects that farmers will soon spray as much as they ever did.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

First offshore wind farm

I already read an article dissing the fact that the first wind farm was built in bureaucracy central (east coast), versus the gulf by Texas (no rules basically). Still this announcement of a big off shore wind farm being built is pretty exciting.

As usual there were a bunch of complaints (this time Indians, not environmentalists), but luckily we were able to navigate the rough waters and get it done. I don't want to assign blame, or credit politically. I'm just happy it happened.