Paul Revere by Cyrus Dallin, North End, Boston



Friday, December 4, 2009


From Gordon Crovitz of the Wall Street Journal:
For anyone who doubts the power of the Internet to shine light on darkness, the news of the month is how digital technology helped uncover a secretive group of scientists who suppressed data, froze others out of the debate, and flouted freedom-of-information laws. Their behavior was brought to light when more than 1,000 emails, and some 3,500 additional files were published online, many of which boasted about how they suppressed hard questions about their data.

I have been writing about the impacts of energy on the economy, the environment, and public health since 1974. My career began as an educational and documentary filmmaker starting with this project: A Consumer Guide to the Energy Crisis (1974), a co-production of Prentice-Hall and the New York Daily News. Since the 1970s, I have written, directed, and produced numerous documentary films for Burns & Roe (engineers of utility-scale conventional and nuclear electric generating plants), the U.S. Department of Energy, and the Rural Electrification Administration (a division of the USDA). Although not an engineer or scientist by training, I am no stranger to the subject.

With respect to energy consumption and global climate change, it is hard to know where to begin. Shall we begin by talking about the hazards of coal starting with mining accidents … but by no means ending with slow agonizing deaths by black lung disease? Shall we talk about acid rain and the damage to North American forests, lakes, and streams? Or the Love Canal incident that drove hundreds of families from their homes after 21,000 tons of chemicals leached into their basements and groundwater? Or the oil slick that caused the Cuyahoga River to burst into flames? Or the incidence rate of cancer in the general population attributable to industrial pollutants? Or the 123 oil and gas platforms in the Gulf destroyed by Hurricane Katrina? Or the geopolitics of oil?

The history of corporate piggish and pigheadedness does not even begin to cover the global climate change debate.

I am tired … tired of corporate interests that put profits over public welfare, tired of privateers who pollute and pillage, and tired of climate change deniers and the want-it-now crowd lacking forethought as to the consequences of profligate consumption on future generations. I am tired of mendacities, false conspiracies, and every contrivance to confuse and confound the climate change debate.

These days, everyone is an expert with an opinion; but there is no prerequisite obligation to read a book or research a subject before blathering. Talk is cheap, and the Internet is cheapest where free confers a presumptive right to engage in free-for-alls. The Internet has not fulfilled its grand utopian vision as a repository of knowledge and scholarship; it has merely accelerated the spread of ignorance through viral messages and cyber-terrorism. If “the best lack all conviction” there will always be open-minded neophytes and dilatants willing to be suckered by swift boaters and hackers engaged in criminal acts parading as heroism. When cyber-crooks poke holes in the dike to trap fingers and hands, that is when they steal your wallet. Its called distraction, distraction, distraction.

My career rewarded me with a decent income, but there is no money, no glory, and all too often little sense of accomplishment in blogging. Why do we bother? Are we motivated by some overwhelming sense of mission and purpose? Or do we blog just to amuse and entertain ourselves? Why bother when you have to watch your back at every turn.

Cross-posted from The Swash Zone.


Ruth said...

Another long suffering environmentalist here, I worked on the first bill to give federal protection to endangered species, need I tell you how saddened I've been at the lies and frauds that have been perpetrated on the public to convince them that saving species is a threat to them? The positive aspect I have seen that happens in the face of constant, determined fraud, is the public's waking up to it, and forging on toward becoming its own advocate. Slowly, it happens.

Pamela D. Hart said...

While I am no expert on Climate Change, the Environment, Science, Health or Energy, I do try my very best to educate myself before I think or speak. I do NOT jump on band-wagons and I do NOT think that everything is black and white.

I believe that we as humans, who inhabit this beautiful, glorious planet that we call Earth, have an obligation to ensure that she is healthy for generations to come. With that being said, we must also ensure that NO ONE, regardless of what side they are on, exploits their beliefs to benefit a “cause” at the expense of others, for the glory of fame, or greed.

It seems, at least to me, that we have some extremists on both sides of this equation who do all of the above. Whether it be big Corporations who dump pollutants into streams because it’s “cheaper” or groups who claim that they want to “preserve” when in fact they are preserving their own wallets.

I know not everyone performs deceitful acts, but even a few can hurt the many. I don’t know what the answer is and I‘m not even sure more laws will help. I wish we could count on people being honorable, but that won’t happen because there will always be some who are dishonest. So, until we know for certain whether man-kind is the only cause for “climate change” we will have to do what we can to preserve our planet. I just hope we can find some compromise that will satisfy eveyone.

Tom said...

With all the evidence out there, I don't understand those who do not believe that humans are polluting the Earth.

Being smart about our use of energy should not depend on whether or not we can prove humans have damaged the Earth by their energy use.

Being dependent on other countries hostile to America for our sources of energy, should be reason enough to change our energy use habits.

Being as efficient as possible with our energy use (which includes choosing a long life energy source) is what should determine our choices.

We know that products taken out of the Earth are finite, and by my opinion are polluting the Earth.

We make a big mistake by allowing government or corporations make our choices for us. Politics or greed should be eliminated when choosing the best, most efficient energy sources to use.

Natural, renewable energy is the best way to do the least damage to the Earth, eliminate dependence on other countries for sources of energy, and have uninterrupted sources of energy for centuries to come.

TRUTH 101 said...

Why do we bother blogging? Because good people like Shaw like to hear what we have to say Octo.

Before I stumbled on to Libby Spencer and your Swash Zone, I thought I was one of only two liberal leaning bloggers in the world. The other one was a pompous ass.

Blogging became drudgery for me until I found you guys. I'm not going to blow smoke up your tentacles and say you or any of have a wide reach and the world is hanging on yours or my next post. But there are I would estimate in the hundreds of people that appreciate and respect your efforts Octo.

If Shaw thought enough of you ask that you act as caretaker of her site, and everyone I know would have you as their top choice to do the same,that should be thanks and affirmation enough that you are indeed making a difference and having a positive influence.

Pamela D. Hart said...

Tom: I do believe that humans pollute the earth and I believe that is wrong and like I said we owe Mother Earth preservation and respect. My problem is when people use and abuse that as a way to grow rich – Al Gore, who in my opinion is a hypocrite. He preaches but most definitely does not practice what he preaches; he’s not the only one, either.

I agree that we should not allow Government or Corporations make our choices. We all know where that gets us! But how do we implement the best choices for our planet? How do we encourage people to get onto the same page? It’s difficult because there are a lot of people who aren’t aware or who don’t even care. You have no idea how many people I’ve spoken to who have actually said THAT. It’s terribly sad.

Tom said...


To me, the only way to get around government or corporations, is to use our power as consumers and citizens.

Businesses make money providing what the customer wants. Buy homes designed with solar, wind, and water saving technology.

Install solar panels and cut your use of the grid.

Demand that utility companies generate their power from sources other than coal, gas, and other Earth products.

This is already happening at most utility companies around America. To slow and late for my thinking, but it is growing.

Get government to move away from Earth products as energy, by making it a national security issue. This is nothing new, but progress has been to slow so we are stuck until our technology catches up with us. But we can push that progress by consumer demands.

we cannot replace all our energy needs now, with alternative sources, but we have been wasting decades. If we had pushed this 30 years ago after the oil embargo, we would be 30 years ahead.

So Gore is a jerk, what else is new? Kill the messanger, not the message. It's fine to show him as the profiteer that he is, but that won't move people to change their energy habits.

Debate the issue as being smart on energy choices, not just trying to side with one group of scientists, or the other.

Talk down Gore, but also talk down Republicans who simply deny there is a problem.

Change the point of the debate to wise energy use, not a battle of whether or not the Earth is being harmed.

We can prove current changes in weather, but to show the Earth is actually going through a climate change takes more years of weather records than we have. That's the debate. Some scientists don't believe we are going through a climate change based on the actual changes we have seen in just a few decades.

Pamela D. Hart said...

Tom: I only have a minute, as I’m going to a “Purse Party”, but I want to say:

I LOVE the way you think!

I'll add more when I get back tonight and I'll let you know if I get any good buys tonight! :)

rockync said...

TRUTH said, "Before I stumbled on to Libby Spencer and your Swash Zone..."
Just a useless bit of trivia; did you know that Libby and I are biological sisters?

Jim said...

A question for my environmentalist driven friends. Can you name the one renewable energy source that is efficient and cost effective?

Arthurstone said...

Clearly the very most efficient and cost effective user of energy is the eighteen wheeler or the Chevrolet Corvette

Once one factors out environmental degradation. Cost of damage to infrastructure. Cost of fighting wars on a global scale to maintain petroleum supplies. Health costs attributed to pollution. Etc. Etc. Petroleum, that most non-renewable of energy forms is a real deal.

The better question would be why are the actual costs of non-renewable energy sources not factored into the equation? Tack $100B dollars a year spent fighting in the middle east to insure the flow of petroleum to the west and the cost goes up and up and up.

But hey. If we actually paid what gasoline was worth we couldn't all tool around in Ford Rangers.

Jim said...

Ah, Mr. A, you avoided the question.

BTW - what would happen to the economy if ALL petroleum based fuel was eliminated?

Arthurstone said...


You've mentioned you have a degree in 'history'.

You should take it out and dust if off once in a while. Yours was the very essence of the non-question.

But thanks for reformulating the question.

No one said a word about eliminating ALL petroleum based fuel.

Eliminate 75 mile one way commutes to the jobsite and firing up the Hummer for a jaunt down to the store for a pint of Haagen Daaz couldn't hurt either. Petroleum based fertilizers used in industrial based agriculture where food is built to travel rather than have flavor might be another item to consider.

But I do sympathize with your feeble question.

Why factor in every conceivable cost of development for alternative and sustainable forms of energy while limiting the 'cost' of petroleum
to the price at the pump?

A reasonably educated person might ponder that tidbit.