Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Myth is as Good as a Mile - of Bike Road

It's time, once again, to dispel the myths that have accumulated to date over the city's 2006 Arana Gulch Master Plan and the 16-year-old Broadway-Brommer Bicycle Path Connection Project, around which the entire Master Plan was unfortunately conceived.

Proponents of the Broadway-Brommer project have continually maintained that a quarter-mile long, 8-foot wide with 4 feet of gravel shoulders paved bike roadway across Arana Gulch would "get people out of their cars" and reduce automobile air pollution in the Monterey Bay area.

However, in an Aug. 9 article in the Sentinel, we learn this turns out not to be the case. The Monterey Bay Unified Air Pollution Control District has halted all major bike projects because "while the projects have been popular among recreational cyclists, the district hasn't seen a dent in emissions." Actually, the city was informed by Caltrans years ago, in writing, that it could not make the unsubstantiated claim that building a bike project across Arana Gulch would get people out of their cars.

Proponents of the Broadway-Brommer project hold that the wide, paved bike roadway would provide handicapped access to the Arana Gulch Greenbelt, plus public interpretation of the natural area. If the city really wants handicapped access to the Greenbelt, nothing is stopping it from providing such.

The existing two access entrances to the greenbelt can be easily reconfigured and an ADA compliant real "path" around the perimeter of tarplant habitat can be easily designed and built. ADA access and interpretive signage don't require a bike road with a footprint of 12 to 15 feet and two bridges over two creeks, through federally designated critical habitat for an endangered species. As for interpretive signage, there used to be a gorgeous sign at the northern entrance to the greenbelt, gone for years, that showed a red-tailed hawk circling above and gave great botanical information about the endangered tarplant. The sign sits safely at the city's Parks and Recreation building for now.

Proponents have repeatedly claimed that the wide paved bike roadway is necessary to fund required restoration for the endangered Santa Cruz tarplant. This is not true. The city has been conducting tarplant restoration activities yearly since 1995, with no bike road in sight. And city Public Works officials have told the Coastal Commission that tarplant restoration is to be funded through the sale of property adjoining Arana Gulch, the proceeds from which will go into a dedicated restoration fund. The money for Broadway-Brommer comes from Federal transportation funds.

The Broadway-Brommer Bicycle Path Connection Project contained in the Arana Gulch Master Plan remains just what it is: a bicycle connection from one part of the urban county to another part, through Arana Gulch. In other words, a transportation project. As such, it cannot be considered a "resource dependent," interpretive trail, as is required by Section 30520 of the Coastal Act.

Michael Lewis and Jean Brocklebank, on behalf of Friends of Arana Gulch.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Science is not ruled by consensus

"Most climate scientists say the steady increase in the concentrations of human-generated greenhouse gases like CO2 play a decisive role in this climate change, by trapping ever-more solar energy in the home planet’s atmosphere."

This sentence demonstrates the danger of interpretation of science by non-scientists.

"Greenhouse" gases do not trap heat in the atmosphere. They absorb energy at certain wavelengths and reradiate it in all directions, some down to Earth, some out in space.

Recent satellite measurements show that heat energy leaving the Earth's atmosphere to space is much greater than that predicted by global climate models, and adopted by the IPCC in their prognostocations. This means that all of their "predictions" of future climate are called to question, including those parroted by "most scientists."

Fortunately, science does not advance by consensus. If ten scientists are wrong and one scientist is right, do we ignore the correct interpretation of data anyway? The findings of one scientist can completely negate the findings of hundreds. It is the data, methodology and conclusions that are critical in scientific investigation, not the number of scientists who agree.

Whether or not Antarctica respond to climate variation has no bearing on the source of climate change. Antarctica and the Arctic have been changing for millennia with no help from human society.

Climate variation is natural, spurred and limited by natural cycles within the biosphere.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

If we don't know about it, is it a conspiracy?

Who–and What–Are Behind the “Official History” of the Bin Laden Raid?:

"What we’re looking at, folks, is the reality of democracy in America: A permanent entrenched covert establishment that marches to its own drummer or to drummers unknown. It’s exactly the kind of thing that never gets reported. Too scary. Too real. Better to dismiss this line of inquiry as too 'conspiracy theory.'"

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Climate Variability vs. Climate Change vs. Global Warming

This article, It’s Not About Feedback by Willis Eschenbach, is critical to understanding the nature of climate variability and the mistaken direction taken by political organizations, such as the IPCC and others, in interpreting observations based on a preconceived misunderstanding of climate dynamics.

In our shared mechanistic world, we operate on the common sense principle that "If you push something hard enough, it will fall over." This is the linear world of everyday expectations, in which a given action always results in the same outcome, and it works pretty well in most situations, such as getting out of bed, drinking a cup of hot coffee or stepping off the front stoop.

However, when we deal with complex systems such as weather, atmosphere, oceans and climate, this principle serves us poorly. In the world of complex and chaotic systems, when you push something hard enough, sometimes it does indeed fall over. Other times, when you push that same something with the same force, it stands resolutely unmoving. And even other times, the same push results in the object flying off into a corner of the room and whining piteously to itself.

This is because in the complex world, there are far more variable and unpredictable factors than one's simple push acting on the object and affecting the outcome.

This is the case with climate variability. The IPCC, and other political and science organizations, operate as if climate changes in reaction to one simple push, the total amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. They have put together a body of observations: increasing average temperature at many surface temperature measuring stations; a decline in extent and thickness of Arctic ice; melting of glaciers and ice fields in some parts of the world; and increasing atmospheric concentration of CO2 (and other "greenhouse" gases). They have entered these data into their computers and the computer ground on them a bit and spit out a Douglas Adams answer: 42. Unfortunately, just as in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, they neglected to formulate the appropriate question to the ultimate answer.

The basic assumption in these computations, well refuted by Eschenbach, is that there is a linear relationship between the total concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere and average surface temperature, and further, that human production of CO2 is responsible for the observed increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration. In other words, if humans continue to push up CO2, temperatures will continue to rise, glaciers will continue to melt, and, in short, the global Popsicle will be no longer lickable.

As Eschenbach points out, this turns out not to be the case.

The Earth's biosphere, including the oceans, landmasses, atmosphere and all the biological and geophysical bits that hang about within them, is a pretty clever place. Over unimaginable millennia, the biosphere has developed a homeostatic system that works to keep conditions on the Earth within a narrow range of temperature, humidity and atmospheric gas concentrations, hovering around the freezing point of water. Even odder, this range of conditions is uniquely maintained at just the right combination for the establishment and maintenance of life, as we know it, as it has been fruitful and multiplied across the face of the earth, in pursuit of its own unique form of happiness.

This has caused a great many philosophers to scratch their thinning pates in consternation. Is the Earth and this Universe designed just so, for Life and human beings to evolve and contemplate the wonder of its creation? Or, on the other hand, paw or various appendages, if the Universe were not so ordered would there be anyone around to scratch their thinning pates wondering about it?

This is known as the Anthropic Principle, over which much ink and dead trees have been sacrificed in sorting it all out.

What's important for those of us getting out of bed in our mechanistic world, contemplating steaming cups of coffee and slippery front stoops, is this: Climate variability has no constant rate of change or direction; climate changes constantly, as it has since there first were oceans and atmosphere; and global warming is a misperception of cause and effect caused by overdependance on computer models and insufficient attention to the complexity of global climate systems.

Friday, August 12, 2011

All Oil Companies Spill Oil

Just as I.F. Stone taught us that All Governments Lie, we now learn from the BBC: Shell fights spill near North Sea oil platform, that all oil companies, eventually, inevitably, spill oil.

Oh, and by the way, all governments lie about all oil company spills.

I was living and teaching in Valdez, Alaska on March 24, 1989 when I woke in the long gray hours of the morning to hear our local radio announcer tell us, "The Exxon Valdez is on the rocks and leaking oil." From the moment of that first truthful, though understated, announcement, the spill of lies quickly overwhelmed reality.

The full amount of oil spilled was never determined, or unequivocally revealed. Reports of the number of animals killed by the toxic goo changed hourly, obscured by cadres of clean-up workers, bonfires on remote beaches, Exxon hired biologists and unnumbered freezer trucks full of uncounted carcasses.

Throughout that first summer, and for the next two years, I documented in still photographs and video the effects of the spill on Prince William Sound and the Alaska Natives who lived in this supremely beautiful place. I went out into the Sound every day from March 25 to September 15 of that first year.

On September 15, when Exxon declared the clean-up to be successfully completed (Mission Accomplished!), I stood on a beach that was so slippery with North Slope crude that it was all I could do to stand upright on the rocks, let alone walk across them. When I returned to Valdez, I watched open mouthed as elegantly coifed TeeVee presenters on the City dock, miles from the nearest oiled beaches, waxed eloquent on the wonderful job Exxon had performed in cleaning up the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Oh, and by the way, TeeVee presenters, the stenographers of power, always lie about government lies about oil company spills.

The one lesson we learned from the Exxon Valdez oil spill was this: once the oil is out of the container, there's no getting it back in. And, there is no technology on this Earth that will ever prevent the oil from spilling out of its container.

There is no way that human beings can extract toxic materials such as oil, coal, tar sands, oil shale, and even uranium from the Earth without causing damage to fragile ecosystems and living beings that cannot be restored, even using all of the energy produced by those same fuel sources. Our attempts to use these ancient accumulations of sunlight are the greatest demonstration of the principle of entropy in the history of mankind.

This is why TeeVee presenters always lie about government lies about oil company spills. The inherent, fatal consequences of the use of fossil fuels completely undermines the mythology of modern human civilization and the deeply held belief in the transcendence of unlimited economic growth. In a world of finite resources, continued growth is impossible. To think otherwise is to participate in collective madness.

If the truth were to get out, and the people realized that we have been fed a fairy tale of economic lies by our governments, via the stenographers of power, the people might just decide that they've had enough and reengage in the process of self-government, self-reliance and mutual aid.

Hmmmm... not a bad idea, that.

Pssssst! Shell Oil is lying to you about their latest North Slope oil spill, and your government is not telling you the truth.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

What can we do about the Great American Lie?

I. F. Stone told us many years ago that All Governments Lie. Daniel Ellsberg, in Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers, told us why governments, including Presidents, always lie, and must continue to lie about what they know to be true, but about which they cannot talk under constraints of "National Security." The lies place an impermeable barrier between Those Who Know and Those Who Cannot Be Told, a barrier that trickles downhill forever separating the citizenry of the United States from their government.

Today, the lies continue, as they must, even though journalists, bloggers and other malcontents desperately chip away at the facade. The raid into Pakistan to capture Bin Laden is revealed to have been not a one-off military adventure, but part of an on-going campaign of covert military intervention in 120 countries around the world on the part of a highly organized and secretly funded cadre of 15,000 specially trained soldiers let loose on the world.  There was never any intent to capture Bin Laden alive. The goal of the raid was to kill this living embarrassment to the United States government and remove any chance that he might say something awkward and revealing before he died of kidney failure on his own.

It's not just the President who is foisting lies on the public. Politicians of all stripes meet in smoke filled back rooms with corporate lobbyists and industry representatives, barely deigning to conceal the bribes slipped under the table into their grasping clutches. Nudge nudge, wink wink. The press is summarily dismissed from these gatherings, such as ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, as politicos hide their faces from the peering eye of the Internet, pretending we do not see. The back slapping and glad handing continue safely within the confines of the Marriott Hotel, where legislation is crafted far from the public eye. Would that they were only making sausage.

What do we do in the face of a government corrupt to the core, a government that professes to be Of the People, by the People and for the People, yet continues to do the bidding of unaccountable corporate lobbyists, revolving door "experts," and an overweening military technology industry? Do we continue to vote for new fodder for the corporate grist mill, aka Congress? Do we demand legislation that will stop the Congressional gravy train, from those who are first at the gravy bowl? Do we demand a President to lead us out of the wilderness scheduled to be clear-cut for corporate profits?

The central authoritarian government doesn't have the answer, as it is the central problem. Jeffersonian Republicans knew what they were doing when they opposed Alexander Hamilton's Federalists at the turn of the 19th Century. They foresaw the coming excesses of centralized authority in a world dominated by capitalist greed. They viewed the Federalist agenda as anti-revolutionary, a continuance of the economic system that had strangled the North American British colonies until the Revolution tore them free.  The Anti-Federalists argued for small government, democracy, mutual aid, self-reliance and self-government. As foreseen, Hamilton's paternalistic state has fostered a populous that cannot take care of itself, let alone serve as a beacon of democracy and freedom in an increasingly privatized world.

There is only one path open to those few willing and aware US citizens: turn around and take a new step forward. We cannot solve the problem of corrupt government by appealing to the corrupt government. Jefferson was fond of the concept of public dissent and rebellion: "Every generation needs a new revolution."

It's time for our generation to expose the lies and foster a new revolution, a revolution that starts between the ears, and works outward through our families, neighborhoods, communities and bioregions. Not a violent revolution, as that which spawned this country, but a quiet revolution over back yard fences, neighborhood meetings in living rooms, public gatherings with local representatives, the anonymity of the polling booth. By the time the central authority recognizes the revolution, it will be too late, a fait accompli, a done deal.

The challenge at present is to penetrate the fog of lies and mindless distractions of popular culture sufficiently to foster such a revolution.

The solution is simple: we tell the truth. The Orwellian bumper sticker tells us: "During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act." Whenever we encounter a lie, we respond with the truth. From local neighborhoods to the White House, in the coffee shop or City Council chambers, we never let a lie pass unchallenged. This accomplishes two goals: we raise the consciousness of all within reach, and we challenge those who lie to us and expect to get away with it.

Thus the revolution begins.