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Environment - Essays and Links
I live in the wilderness, for all practical purposes. When we moved here, there weren't a half dozen houses in the area. Now there are probably more than 100. Our land borders on a national park. Technically, this means we are inholders. An inholder is someone who lives in or near national parks, forests, and other such places. In order to be an inholder, a person must live within two miles, as I understand it. Obviously, sharing a common border makes me an inholder. A lot of people think that inholders are bad people. But what isn't widely known is that inholders are often the first people to report a forest fire. Obviously, the earlier a forest fire is reported, the less the damage will be. Also, many of us have intimate knowledge of wilderness places, including a thorough understanding of the ecology, and a deep respect for the region, which is shown in the way in which we live. Personally, I have done a deep and thorough study of the plants of the Sonoran Desert, and I have published some of the material I have written here:
Ethnobotany This includes information on edible and medicinal plants.
Close the extra window or tab when you're done.
Many people see El Niño as a disaster, and indeed, apparently it robs Australia of needed moisture and redistributes the moisture in the American southwest. It simply means that the rain falls elsewhere. El Niño only occurs every few years as a general rule. When we have an El Niño, the abundant winter rains produce a beautiful crop of spring wildflowers. In years like that, I spend a lot of money traveling around taking pictures. ;) You can see some of these pictures here:
I also have some photos elsewhere on my web site, in the art section, but these are older pictures. My newest work is almost always on the deviantART site.
Incidentally, over the years, I have watched the various wildflowers. We usually get wildflowers year round. And I have personally counted around 75 species just on my property. There are pictures of a few of them in my plants gallery.
El Niño seems to be caused by conditions in the Pacific, and is not related to global warming. We have had El Niño years periodically for as long as I can remember, and I've been here most of the time since 1958. That's 50 years of personal observations. In that length of time, I've seen the city multiply in size, and there is some increased pollution, though the newer technologies have kept this somewhat under control. The city meets EPA standards most of the time. And as you probably know, these standards keep getting more strict.
Speaking of global warming, it has been shown that if the carbon dioxide content of the air is increased slightly, it means more luxuriant plant growth everywhere, helping to restore destroyed areas of the earth and providing more food for man and animals. And I can't get past the hypocrisy of powerful people who bark about global warming but use a huge amount of resources for their own personal pleasure. In any case, the MAIN greenhouse gas is not carbon dioxide, but water. I don't hear anyone shouting that we have to do something to reduce our clouds! Funniest thing!
I remember when I was growing up, the alarmists told us we were going to have an ice age soon. From where I sit, THAT looks more likely even now.
Often, we need to look at several things when figuring out how best to combat undesirable climate change, including considerations other people rarely consider. For example, I drive Volvos. They don't have the best gas mileage in the world, but they are very, very durable, and since I can get at least 400,000 miles on one (I have one that is nearly that high), and it still runs like a top. And most cars, especially the lighter weight ones, are lucky to get 100,000 to 150,000 miles in their lifetime, you have to factor in the carbon cost of the manufacture of a replacement car. In addition, Volvos score very, very low in emissions tests. My cars, as old as they are, usually top out at about 1/10 the permissible level. For some reason, few people consider the carbon costs of replacing a car. And another factor is that because Volvos are so durable, in an accident, they are likely to survive, while the smaller, lighter cars get totaled. Again, this means the carbon costs of manufacturing a replacement car. Volvo had a wonderful emissions system, which was unique to Volvos. Unfortunately, the state of California decided to require that California Volvos have a catalytic converter. So Volvo developed a car that uses one, and still gets very low emissions. But that meant scrapping their system, which quite frankly, was much better. Now, the entire country gets Volvos with catalytic converters. Now what was the cost of this governmental meddling? Well, for one thing, catalytic converters are expensive and easily broken. I have replaced several. It costs several hundred dollars each time. For another, they get very hot, and if I park on top of dry grass, I can start a brushfire. Given that I often go into wilderness areas where there isn't a decent shoulder on the road, this can prove to be a problem. And for a third thing, catalytic converters produce sulfur dioxide, which is a nasty gas that harms people's lungs, and causes acid rain, H2SO4. Acid rain erodes many buildings and statues. We would have been better off if the nation had adopted the Volvo system, but bureaucrats usually do not have a clue, so we are stuck with this horrible compromise.
Unfortunately, Volvo went south, for two reasons. The first was government regulation that caused them to start to use materials that don't stand up as well. The second was that Ford bought them. I can't think of a WORSE candidate to own Volvo. Fords have lousy engineering. They don't corner well. Every time I drive one, I think I've taken my life into my hands! So I drive Volvos older than 1994, and they're getting scarce; buying one isn't easy. People don't let them go. I've heard rumors that Ford will be selling Volvo. Please! Let it be someone DECENT who buys it!
Now to make matters worse, the government has insisted that we use oxygenated fuel in the winter. This also produces some harmful chemicals, but we still have to use it. I can tell you from smelling the fumes that it produces really ugly and toxic substances. And my lungs have been damaged to some extent. Because I live in the wilderness, I don't get the brunt of it. But a very close relative developed lung cancer, which was ultimately fatal. I am convinced that this pollutant was a major factor, for she was a lifelong nonsmoker who spent many hours waiting for buses on major city streets, where she breathed it aplenty.
Just a side note before moving on to some other topic. I mentioned that I live in the wilderness. The prevailing winds here blow FROM us TO the city. This means we get very little pollution out here. But that hasn't been enough to keep my lungs healthy. But it should be noted that one of the first signs of significant air pollution is that the lichens die off. Well, they haven't here. I know where there is a HUGE stand of lichens, and the last time I looked, it was still very healthy.
To tell you about another environmental atrocity, let me switch topics. One of the wonderful geographical features near here, within walking distance, is a mountain peak, the tallest in the range. I have been up to the top, and I have hiked the trails several times. A few years back, the best way to get to a trail on this side of the peak was to go to a particular piece of private property, park, and hike from there. Well, the Sierra Club didn't like that arrangement, so they asked the government to do something about it. The government decided to fix it on the cheap. They should have bought the private land and constructed a parking lot there. Well, they didn't. Instead, they decided to make a new lot at the end of a fairly long dirt road, which they then had to pave. I don't think they saved any money. There was quite a flap over these plans. Neighbors were NOT happy. I went to one of the meetings, and a woman stood up and said that there was a little micro habitat where they proposed putting the new trails, that would be destroyed if they put in the new trails. They didn't listen. Sierra Club used its political clout to override the desires of the neighborhood, and got the government to go ahead with the new trailhead. I don't even see the point in it, because on any given day, I rarely see more than four cars in the parking lot. Maybe there are more people other times, but I'm not aware of it. Here they went and destroyed a sensitive piece of habitat because people wanted to hike, and they didn't care what damage the whole thing did to the environment. But sometimes the shoe is on the other foot. They want to make beautiful wilderness areas totally inaccessible to all but the able-bodied. Hey, the wilderness belongs to ALL of us, not just the people who are more inclined to throw their beer cans around!
I have found from years of observation that most environmentalists who live in the cities are pretty clueless. They don't know diddly squat, and they don't care. They just want what they want. I think that for the most part, the environmental movement is about political power, and not much else.
I have also kept my ear to the ground about various other happenings and goings on. I'll tell you about some of them.
Remember the red squirrel? Well, they wanted it put on the endangered species list. I don't know how rare this particular species is, to be honest. My suspicion is that it is a subspecies to begin with. Anyway, it was decided that a new telescope would be built on a local mountain peak. The environmentalists opposed this because they said it would harm the red squirrel. After a lot of costly litigation, which we the taxpayers probably paid for, the astronomers won, and the telescope was built. Interestingly, the population of red squirrels INCREASED substantially! Fast forward a few years. There was a horrible forest fire in the area, and the red squirrels sought shelter in the telescope compound, thereby saving the species! Umm, yeah! So much for THAT example of throwing its weight around.
Speaking of forest fires, you may be aware that there have been many devastating forest fires in Arizona that have denuded huge chunks of various mountain ranges. They had two here, in successive summers. During the second one, at one point the smoke came over our house. It was so thick it turned the sun bright red! And we live a good 50 miles from where the fire was. You could see all the swirling in the smoke. But do you know how those forest fires happened in the first place? Well, I'm about to tell you. It seems that the environmentalists got into the action, and opposed logging and controlled burns. They wanted the forest left alone, and they argued about the importance of old growth trees. I don't have an opinion on old growth trees, but there are several things I CAN tell you. For one thing, pine forests don't regenerate if there are no forest fires. The seeds won't start growing unless there has been one recently. For another, the logging companies stopped maintaining the forests. Usually, they would cut out the diseased trees, and replace with new seedlings. Wasn't happening, because they had been shut out. Another thing they did was make firebreaks. The result was that over a period of years, the trees became rotten and infested with beetles; the trees became wonderful timber for forest fires. And the forest fires happened. Tens of thousands of acres burned. And the second one destroyed most of the houses in the little community on top of the mountain. The cost of fighting these fires and replacing the houses was astronomical. And it didn't just happen here. It happened all over the state. Nowadays, they're doing controlled burns again. At least they learned SOMETHING. The sad part about it is that the trees won't grow back for decades, if ever. And another thing they didn't anticipate: the topsoil and ash washed down into the river in one of the prime recreational area canyons. It polluted the water and killed off a lot of the fish and other animals in the area. And now that it's gone, what will new plants grow in? Beats me! And the other result was that the wildlife fled the fire areas or were killed by the fire. This meant that predators moved down the mountain, to places near the city, where they were threatening the local people. Some of them had to be disposed of because of the threat they posed. Talk about an environmental atrocity! Folks, this is what happens when both sides of the issue on environment and climate change are not given a chance to debate each other. The policies are ruinous.
As I said, I deeply love the wilderness, and I will go out of my way to preserve it. But unless each of us has a say, one side will overpower the other side, and wreak havoc. We need the collected wisdom of the ENTIRE human race, not just the politically powerful. And make no mistake: the environmentalists ARE politically powerful.
In my section on health, I present information about genetically engineered foods. This is also a grave threat to all of us. And this time, large corporations are to blame. Not only are these "foods" harmful to people, they're also harmful to the environment. For example, did you know that some plants with built-in insecticide are killing off the butterfles and bees? What will we do to pollinate food plants once the bees are gone? And another thing: some plants are being engineered to resist herbicides. And then what happens when farmers rotate crops to preserve the soil? Well, guess what! These engineered plants become a weed they CANNOT eradicate! More on this topic on my health page.
Another thing most people aren't thinking about is the fact that contraceptives are making it into our water supply. The result has been that the males of some fish become incapable of reproducing. Just imagine what this will do to the populations, AND the natural balance of the ecology. But you don't hear environmentalists crying out about this, because they want to reduce world population, so they favor contraception. What they're forgetting is that human beings are part of the ecology, which was designed so that it thrives best when we manage it wisely. But they don't care. We're a "cancer". Why they are so intent on preserving other species and not Homo sapiens is a serious wonderment to me! Human beings solve environmental problems. And the more they are allowed to prosper, the better job they do. So many environmentalist policies would seriously impoverish us. From having talked to people who have traveled in the third world, I can tell you that when a nation isn't prosperous, they can't afford to clean up the pollution and trash, and they don't bother.
I recycle assiduously. I am a firm believer in it. For one thing, it just grates on me that so many things are wasted. But I realize that recycling may actually be a problem. Case in point: recently, with the economic slowdown, recycled materials, such as cardboard, that had been shipped overseas are now gathering on the docks. What in the heck are we going to do with all of that junk? Beats me. It COULD have been used for composting instead. Right now as well, recycling is more expensive than making new materials.
Or how about this example: biofuels. Biofuels have to be produced on land normally used for food. It turns out that they don't have the energy output other fuels do, and they cost MORE energy to produce than they yield, not to mention the fact that they take scarce water resources. And the worst part is that some of the priceless tropical rainforest is being cleared to make land to produce biofuels. Folks, what in the heck are we THINKING?
There's talk of developing a method of making biofuel that will use the rest of the plant after the food has been harvested. The only problem with that idea is that the plants SHOULD be plowed back into the soil or composted. They're not doing that now, and they need to start. Eventually, the soil becomes impoverished. You can't do that AND do organic farming, folks!
In the name of something or the other, environmentalists stopped all building of refineries, cold. The result is that a lot of our oil is being shipped across the ocean for refining, and then back again. Folks, the fuel that it costs to do that is a PROBLEM, not a solution! Not to mention the fact that we are thus paying good American money to countries that hate us, to do the refining. And they love nothing more than to cause us environmental damage through terrorist attacks. We think of the human cost, but I haven't heard anyone talk about the environmental cost. Oh, and it has wreaked havoc with the price of gasoline.
Let's talk about windmills for a minute. Think about this: windmills take up a lot of land, they only work when the wind is blowing, and they kill birds. What do we do when the wind isn't blowing? What do we do where there isn't much wind? And what do we do about the changing weather patterns they will cause? Do we have any idea how the weather patterns will affect us? NO!
What about solar power? The panels use scarce minerals. They're horribly expensive. And they don't work in most parts of the world, enough to make a real difference. Not enough sunlight. Either too far away from the equater, too cloudy, or covered with trees.
What about nuclear power? It's unbelievably safe, despite the hype of environmentalists, who don't usually know the first thing about it. We have had ONE accident in the US over the entire history they've been used. And one in the USSR, which was clearly due to very poor construction and other factors. Europe is turning to nuclear power. Yes, the spent materials are a bit of a problem, but not an insoluble one, and some of them do have uses. Nuclear power plants are constructed so that when the power fails, they automatically shut off. It's done by gravity, and the last time I checked, gravity ALWAYS works. We can't figure out how to switch it off! And the same mechanisms are brought into play when the reactor gets too hot. And I heard they now have designed or are designing small nuclear power plants that can be used by small neighborhoods, individual homes and cars. Hey, it's another source! And lest you think I don't know what I am talking about, I'll just point out that I was fascinated by this subject when I was in grade school, and I read everything I could get my hands on about the subject. So yes, I do.
Dams can be very helpful, but let's remember that when a new dam is built, often priceless places of wild beauty are destroyed in the process. I remember when this was being talked about when the dam that formed Lake Powell was built. A number of slot canyons are now underwater, and even if we drained the place, they would still be wrecked. Lake Powell provides a lot of recreation, and that's good. But remember, no matter what we do, there are always tradeoffs.
Oh, that reminds me. What about the caribou of Alaska? Well, we weren't supposed to build pipelines to ship oil from Prudhoe Bay because it would hurt the population. Well, guess what! We built the pipelines, and the population has greatly increased! Like by a factor of about 10. Why? Because they seek shelter from the bitter winters UNDER the pipelines! Once more, the extreme environmentalists struck out! And obviously, if we can't use our own resources, we have to buy oil from our political enemies, who, by the way, don't have a problem with doing grave harm to the environment with their terrorist attacks. Just look at the amount of air pollution and debris the 9/11 terrorist attack caused. And they would sure like to do more. Think of the impact dropping a nuclear weapon on a major US city would have on the wildlife in the surrounding area!
While we are talking about energy, I'd like to mention another thing. Several years ago, I drove to Page, Arizona for the first time. I arrived after dark, and the first thing I noticed was a power plant putting out some kind of smoke. And I thought, "Oh brother! It's gonna STINK in Page!" Well guess what! It didn't. The air is totally sweet. I learned that the power plant is run by the Diné (Navajo). I don't know the full story of how this plant was built or anything, but I did learn some very interesting things about it. The power produced is being transmitted to California. It provides legitimate employment for a lot of people. This means they don't get involved in things likely to destroy their culture and ours (such as casinos). And the most interesting thing I learned is that the "smoke" I saw was just water vapor, nothing else. They TOTALLY scrub everything else out. And the most SURPRISING thing about this plant is that it is COAL-FIRED! Hey, if they can do it, so can the rest of us! The coal is mined in a mountain nearby and sent to the plant by conveyor belt. We have huge coal reserves, and there is no reason whatsoever for NOT using them, or our oil. We don't really have any other major use for it.
Just a side note. Maybe you think casinos are harmless. Well, they're not. A lot of elderly people are blowing their life savings hoping to win big so they can live better. Most just simply use up all their resources. Who then gets to take care of them? Either their children (who are being taxed to death), or the government, in which case, we're paying the bill. This problem is serious enough there is debate going on to figure out how to curb this type of gambling. So far, nobody has had any bright ideas. Well, I have one! Shut down the casinos! Duh! After all, the elderly aren't the only people being hurt.
Let's talk about vegetarianism for a moment. Lots of people think that this is a healthy thing. Maybe a lot of them even think it's good for the environment. Well, I've got news for them! It isn't, and it isn't. While it is true that we probably feed more cattle from land that could be used to produce vegetables, it is equally true that there are vast areas of the world where vegetables edible by humans cannot be grown. For instance, there are large areas of Africa that are nothing but grassland. Grazing cattle there makes sense. And you can't really live off the land as a vegetarian in Alaska and other such areas. And there are vast areas HERE that are not good for anything but grazing. Turns out, too, that if we don't hunt for wild meat, the result will be overpopulation of some animals, resulting in stripping the vegetation, and ecological imbalance. I'll remind you. We are part of the ecology. Our activities are already provided for. And what about the fish that serves as a major source of food in many parts of the world? So what we are doing is throwing away precious resources, which could be used to feed people better. And vegetarianism is a very unhealthy diet anyway. I talk about this especially in the religion section (under cults and sects) where I discuss the consequences of the vegetarianism of Seventh-day Adventists. Hey, I watched our very healthy, strong son become a scarecrow on a vegetarian diet, and I watched other family members develop anorexia and become suicidal, not to mention the harm it did to things like their delicately balanced hormones. I have also noticed that most of the vegetarians I know who are older aren't a normal weight. They are either too thin or too fat. As I have time, I will be writing more about the nutritional deficiences of the vegetarian diet. I have had people put longterm pressure on me to become a vegetarian. I have told them I have to eat meat for medical reasons, but that doesn't usually stop the pressure. It's only when I get nasty that they leave me alone, and I don't really like being nasty. I don't believe in harming animals unnecessarily. When we raised goats, the male kids were designated for food. We couldn't afford to raise them for their natural lifespan, not to mention the feed they would require. They were pampered while alive, and killed humanely. I don't like to see anything die, but most people who actually raise animals know you can't keep the excess males, no matter how much you may want to. Most environmentalists are unaware of the realities here. And finally, let me mention that not having animal manure to enrich the soil where you grow plants is also harmful.
Besides, I love to fish, and the fish I catch taste SO GOOD!
In the name of population control, China has developed the most INHUMANE scheme I have ever seen! Now admittedly, they do need to address population growth, at least to some extent. But forcing a woman to have an abortion against her will is WRONG. It's supposed to be about choice, isn't it? The result is that China has forced millions of women to have abortions they didn't want. Not only is this just plain an atrocity against women, but in the long run, it will come back and bite them. The medical consequences alone are going to cost more money than they can afford to spend. Abortion damages a woman's body, sometimes severely. It also causes a great increase of the incidence of children born with cerebral palsy, and we all know that the therapy and training they require are expensive. And elderly people won't have offspring to care for them when they become disabled or retire. So who is going to pay for this, or are we just going to start killing them off, too? And they now have an excess of men. What does a nation usually do with excess men? They go to war. And war is one of the WORST sources of pollution on the planet! Not to mention, my dear readers, that many of you are opposed to it anyway. But does China care? Nope! Just look at what they are doing to Tibet and the Tibetans. We want to make it easier for them to do MORE of that? I don't THINK so!
Let's talk about famine and hunger a minute. I used to believe there was a population explosion. Not anymore. I read a book by Colin Clark, and Australian demographer, and he pointed out several things that changed my mind. He said that prosperity is the quickest way to lower population growth. It's also the most humane. People in Africa, for instance, will have four children because only two of them will survive to adulthood, and the children are the parents' social security. I got that little factoid from Frances Frech of the Population Renewal Office. More about her in a minute. The second thing he pointed out is that earth has enough resources to feed 40 billion people at the same level of nutrition as the Japanese. You read that right. That's FORTY billion.
I first heard Frances Frech speak at the International Women's Year conference in Cleveland. She started out with a rather stark demonstration. The room must have had somewhere between 60 and 100 people in it. She asked everyone to stand up. Then she asked everyone who was a third child or later to sit down. Some sat down. Then she asked all the people who had a parent who was a third child or later to sit down. More sat down. That included me. If that one hadn't gotten me, the next one would have. She asked everyone who had a grandparent who was a third child or later to sit down. At that point, only two people were left standing!
People don't realize it, but the greatest danger isn't a population explosion, but a population IMplosion. And it is already too late to prevent it. It will destroy the world economy. And like I said, people who aren't prosperous can't afford to take care of the beauty and the land.
I'll be adding more examples to this essay as I think of them. In the meantime, here are some links to balance out all the alarmism that the hard-core environmentalists are causing.World Climate Report a blog
untitled article on climate change with links
Dot Earth a blog
Prometheus a blog
RealClimate a blog
Global Warming Science and Public Policy
Tech Central Station covers a wide varity of topics
Gore Sea Levels? New! An important collection of information that will have an impact on your life.
Fight Global Warming Hysteria
Human-Caused Global Warming Slight So Far Christian-oriented discussion by a scientist
The Absurdities of Water Fluoridation
Fluoride: Protected Pollutant or Panacea? And by the way, I have information personally that would implicate fluoride both as a cause for Down syndrome, and as a cause of early onset Alzheimer's in Downs patients
Green Tea, Fluoride, and the Thyroid
Fluoride and the Thyroid
Fluoride and Lead Frances Frech is a personal friend who frequently spoke about fluoride to me
untitled page about offshore drilling
Some of the background material graciously provided by Gedeon