Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Environment Reconsidered - A Positive Strategy

Canadian Oil Has a Social Conscience



Canadian oil has attached to it all the values of a secular democracy; equity regardless of sex, colour or creed, due process, exemplary world citizen etc. … We have environmental review processes that are overtaxing. What other significant oil producing supplier offers that to the World. The Saudis – NO – they have financed discord throughout the Arab world, they are the birth place of religious extremism AND in Saudi Arabia women are refused access to driving a car, let alone fair access to employment opportunities. Perhaps Venezuela – NO – they dump crude oil on roads to keep the dust down, crude oil then runs into the ditches and water ways AND there is no indication that oil wealth is building a creditable social platform. Perhaps Nigeria – NO – they, flare off natural gas like we did in the 1950s, dump oil in rivers, use child labour, syphon off state oil revenues to a Swiss bank accounts AND make no effort at equitable treatment of women. Russia? Iran? You get the point, the oil will get purchased and used, whoever sells oil gains material strength, think about which country you want to have the influence that comes with material strength – then think strategically.

What we humans want, we get, supply does wane, prices do go up – oil is no exception. Oil is the single biggest influencer on the human enterprise, without a doubt, where oil goes we follow. There are replacements, just none that come into play quickly enough to offer a liberating degree of fungiblity for this item, as George Bush said “we are addicted to it”.  When oil goes up, economic growth wanes, it is a constraint or boon to the economy; a cursory review of the modern economy indicates this reality. The good news is that there has been somewhat of a decoupling of oil and GDP post the 1970’s oil crisis. The move to a more efficient fleet is partly responsible and of course, we have moved to a more “intellectually” based economy – less physical stuff relative to information and services.  

Technology is giving access to more and more oil and we have yet to pursue the gasification of coal as an oil replacement, a process that was reported to be viable at about the present world price. In the 1980s, before tight gas was really accessible, coal gasification would have provided 100s of years of supply. The key point here is that we are nowhere near a point of reserve depletion to effect an economic imperative for the development of substitutes AND absent substitutes, the world will keep using oil for 100s of years. So then what is the best strategy for the environmental movement in the face of this reality?

Is the best near term strategy to block Keystone and Gateway, only to have oil producers of ill repute fill the supply gap – NO! The rhetoric and fear mongering that has emerged from the environment movement around pipelines for example, is unadulterated fear mongering. We have had pipelines for years and for the most part they have given safe service with very few environmentally significant failures. The present activities of Kinder Morgan in twinning their present facilities through British Columbia is meeting resistance, there is no rational reason from a safety perspective to oppose these actions, that pipeline’s record is exemplary. The desire to block pipelines is to obstruct the exportation of Canadian gas and oil, specifically, oilsands oil. How is this a rational course of action – WHEN WE KNOW – that the producers of ill repute will fill the supply gap.

In Canada, we have processes for review of projects. In Canada we have tort recourse in the courts. In Canada people can object, protest the works. In Canada people of conscience can review the industry and its conduct, and effect influence over that conduct. Canada has in effect, by being a country of conscience, facilitated the means to have our industry attacked. We are one, of very few, significant producers in the world that can offer ongoing monitoring and control of operations.

I offer this to the North American environmental movement as a strategy, stop punishing the “best of a bad bunch”, Canadian oil on all fronts offers benefit relative to other producers. Then, through political means, pressure the government to tax oil exports to facilitate transition to different energy sources and or development of technologies that render fossil fuel use harmonious with natural systems. The mission statement might be, by 2045 fossil fuel use in Canada will have no net “long-term” negative impact on the environment. 

There have been targets before and targets have faded in the face of pragmatism, a pragmatism born of the reality that our oil is sold as a commodity alongside the oil from the producers of ill repute. It is an obscene paradox, that in obstructing the Canadian oil industry the environmental movement is effecting a net degradation to the WORLD environment and shoring up regimes of oppression. The obstruction that is occurring in Canada from the environment review processes and the rest of the industry’s regulatory processes costs the industry money and negatively impacts their competitiveness in the world market. If the environmental movement “got behind” our industry, reduced the obstruction occurring now, the environmental movement would be in a position to levy the industry for funds for research and development of substitutes and or remediation of fossil fuel use – the means to facilitate transition would come to hand. The environment movement has to manage the axis of, on the one hand asserting their requirements and on the other, facilitating the financial strength of a good producer; in this way, like the martial arts, the environmental movement uses the weight of its opponent to meet its own ends.   





Sunday, November 23, 2014

Environmentalism Redefined - The Road to Prosperity



Some thoughts for the way forward. 

To imagine a world of harmony between man and nature may have been beyond the possible just a half century ago, but now with the world’s knowledge doubling every few months and the world’s people able to speak to one another with such ease, I am hopeful. Beyond human knowledge and ability, lies something stronger, human spirit. The most heartening thing I witness now is the spirit and strength of will that finds expression in our young people; they are conservationists who know and expect a good life; this fusion of ethnic and expected experience will guide them to take us closer to the harmony we all wish for.

One wishes the environmental movement would define its mandate solely with environmental clarity and pursue it with focus; the extraneous adjunct of social concern is hampering its progress. If climate change isn't an issue but an emergency, as Mr. Gore likes to remind us, then please environmental brain trust seek solution, solution that provides abundance within natural systems. The solution posited now – subsistence for all – is as disturbing in its acceptance as it in it’s misinterpretation of reality; the earth is a generous provider – abundant energy is the reality. There is a “silver bullet”, it is a matter of turning the environmentalist ship from “hyper conservation distorted by social concern” to the clear pursuit of solution. Imagine if you will the mass of resources spent now on opposing everything, fighting the oil industry and industry at large – now imagine those resources directed at the real solution, a viable replacement for fossil fuels or fossil fuels' agreeable use.    

It is my sincere hope, that a few words on a page can give young people insight into the prosperity we enjoy in the first world, its source being the freedom we have to pursue prosperity through largely unfettered enterprise. Be wary of people who detract from that source of prosperity, the marketplace in concert with natural systems, in the absence of distorting policy will surely bring us closer to harmony with natural systems, than the social engineers who have embedded themselves in the environmental movement. The communitarians whispering promises of social justice through equality have had their chance and failed many in the process. In the presence of abundance humans become most rational, kind and generous. Prosperity is the best guarantee for a safer and healthier world. Prosperity is a much better offering to the world's needy than the most hideous proposition of subsistence. Trade at its apex of execution will eradicate the prosperity asymmetry that now grips our world. Enterprise linked to the natural world will build an economy prosperous and in harmony with nature.    






  

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Environmentalism Reconsidered - Canadian Oil V. World Oil




Letter to the New York Times - More to Come - This serves as a primer. 

Dear Editor

This letter is in response to the NYT article of May 18, titled A Black Mound of Canadian Oil Waste Is Rising Over Detroit. Firstly, please allow me to thank you for the imagery – the Canadian black monster that ate Manhattan may have been more credible.

Allow me premise my comments by offering a brief mission statement for North America oil policy, so that readers may gain their bearings in regard to what I believe to be is a rational position on Oilsands development and oil policy in general.

MISSION STATEMENT: By 2043 North America’s fossil fuel’s net impact on the environment will be reduced to nil.

This mission statement is offered as a backdrop for thought around policy and to offer a time line for contemplation that permits transition rather than the immediate annihilation of the industry that some in the environmental movement seem to view as the imperative.  

Regardless of your position on climate change, the solution to energy provision lies in a better energy source than what is presently used. There is little merit, if you are advocating against fossil fuels, in forwarding environmental solution that seriously challenges immediate economic wellbeing; there is only public rebuke on that path. 

I am dismayed at the onslaught of “bad press” the Canadian Oil Sands and our industry in general receives. The sheer mountain of excrement that has been thrown against this wall astounds and to all our folly, much has stuck.

If one assumes that the world will need oil for some time to come, that in the present world circumstance there is a given demand for oil, that there is supply for provision of the oil, that no viable alternative exists – then it is rational to believe the oil will be delivered and used. Given this reality and in choosing a supplier of oil, the question then is, which oil offers the most hope for transition, the least immediate impact and the most social benefit – you need look no further than Canada.


Where would you rather source your oil, Nigeria perhaps; a jurisdiction that still flares millions of cubic feet of natural gas as waist and considers oil in rivers as being a part of doing business. Think if you will beyond just the environment, Nigeria, it is reported, has much of it’s oil revenues syphoned off to Swiss Bank accounts while the population lives in relative squalor. Canada is a responsible oil producer, the environmental movement has access to our regulatory process and influences industry behavior – to what extent does this occur in other jurisdictions; we are in effect the victim of our own good practices in this regard, in that we provision the forum for the environment movement to “attack” our industry, undoubtedly if the environmental movement thought they could effect change in Nigeria they would be as vigorous in their rebuke of that nation’s oil. Further, the men and women in our oil industry are very well paid, Fort McMurry Alberta is home to people from all over Canada, who would be otherwise unemployed or underemployed – please note men AND WOMEN!




Your article is less than flattering toward the Oil Sands oil, associating it with growing mounds of black and positing statements like “It’s really the dirtiest residue from the dirtiest oil on earth,”. One needs to contemplate Oil Sands oil honestly, perhaps by degree these statements are true, but only by a relatively small margin.  At the tailpipe FOB New York, Oil Sands oil is only marginally higher in carbon emissions than other sourced oil, rarely more than 12% and often at par. The complexity of assessing these issues and the mass of variables makes clear communication on the subject difficult, so someone will refute that number, regardless however, the oil will be consumed.    

Canadians want to refine oil on site if possible, we see the added benefit that accrues to us by doing so. We are faced with realities the thwart this desire. Oil Refining is a very marginal business and capital intensive, generating a circumstance where shipping oil to existing plant offers superior financial benefit. The environmental review processes in Canada all but precludes new plant. Our partners in the US want to use their refining capacity in an effort to render, what amounts to, stranded capital productive again.

The US and Canada have common cause on so many fronts, the fractious nature of this debate is disturbing; it does us both well to remember we contribute to each other’s security, while many of the other US suppliers of oil do not.

The environmental movement are running, like the Dutch boy with many fingers and many holes in the dike, finding new and ingenious ways to stifle the use of, what is by all measures, a superior product. A mound of coke here, a keystone pipeline there – while they spin their tires and permit irresponsible producers of oil to prosper – they leave the solution unaddressed. Rather than flail at Canadian oil, they ought to be demanding earmarked royalties to support transition, rather than running headlong into the brick wall of economic concern, they should be harmonizing their interests with what is an overwhelming reality; the world needs oil – for now.


We're a good bunch of good friends up here, quit picking on us!



Friday, November 21, 2014

Environmentalism Reconsidered - Connecting Carbon & the Economy


Strengthening the ties between carbon and the economy

We need only to strengthen the ties mildly, between the abstract representation of human endeavor (the monetary system) and the environment to gain alignment between human action and natural systems. We have successfully globalized the monetary system in a manner that permits efficient international interaction; we need now to imbue that system with a connection to the natural world. The key is full and equitable participation.

To date efforts in linking the economy and the environment have been curtailing participation by creating a circumstance where major emitters are deterred by structural disadvantage in proposed solutions. Had the world approached Kyoto purely on the basis of environmental concern, Kyoto would have had a greater chance of acceptance. Proponents however, chose to engage in redistribution by placing the majority of the burden on first world countries and relinquishing responsibility from other countries. The Cap and Trade proposals were as much a redistribution program as an environmental program. Their justification for this approach was that the first world countries had created most of the problem so they should pay the biggest penalty, the underpinning was a social justice imperative of the “rich should pay”; this may sound fair but political realities drove the refusal of major players. This is an example where the social justice movement scuttled environmental progress. We can learn from the past, but only the future matters, and asking people to accept disadvantage in the future is sure to meet strong residence. Placing a price on carbon is an effective means to link the economy to the environment; the key is its universal application.

The Kyoto protocol was a starting point in the process of creating a worldwide link of the economy with the environment, the creation and negotiations of the cap and trade program needed to take place at the world trade organisation, perhaps as an extension of the Doha or other trade talks. While this would bring another level of complexity to the Doha process, it would be the best place for Cap and Trade to be developed, as Cap and Trade development would have taken place in the context of the multitude of other considerations in the development of a world trading system. The WTO is keenly aware of the asymmetry of prosperity and the influences it has in generating a world trading system, as such their expertise provides the greatest opportunity for the successful development of a cap and trade system.       

The flow of capital can provide some illumination as to the possibilities for the effective connection between the environment and the economy. The international clearing bank effectively manages the most complex transfer of funds to and from countries in an almost instantaneous fashion. The financial system is a complex entity and yet there is an international organisation that provides for the flow of capital instantaneously anywhere in the world. The emergence of this organisation happened because people prosper as a result of its creation and operation. A similar mechanism can function to facilitate as seamless a circumstance for cap and trade and other programs; the key though is universal benefit.   


There are many examples of existing organisations that can provide a conduit for the strengthening of the connection of the financial and real economies with natural systems, fostering universal attachment in the context of pursuing prosperity. Yet the environmental movement, I believe under the influence of social activist interlopers, have chosen to demonize these promising institutions. Rather than seeing an existing functioning entity with capabilities that satisfy green causes, they have chosen instead to reinvent the wheel absent considering the functionality these organisations represent.



Environmentalism Reconsidered - Lessons from the Canadian Cod Fishery



Environment and the connection to human enterprise

While most agree aggressive action is warranted in improving how we utilized resources that affect the carbon content of the air, the market has started to that for us. Until about 20 years ago, there was an almost perfect correlation between US GDP and energy consumption. Then something happen, the US economy started becoming an economy of intellectual endeavour and technologies came into play that made human action less energy intensive and that correlation has now broken. GDP is now consistently trending upward and away from energy consumption. The monetary system - the abstract representation of human endeavour, indicates as humans interact with their environment, there is a tendency for this abstract entity to also reflect the needs of nature. Is this perfect, no, are there market driven Faustian events, yes. With very little tweaking however, the monetary entity can be evolved to provide incentive for harmonising human action with natural systems. This requires good policy, policy that accelerates human action in accord with nature and expands human prosperity.

As a Canadian I witnessed the collapse of the cod fishery off our east coast. Successive governments engaged in policies that exacerbated the faustian effects of extraction of value from common property. The Canadian Government failed by falling prey to political pressure to save a way of life, as opposed to rational management of a resource. In a circumstance where the market was the only determination of viability of the Cod fishery over fishing could occur, and as the fish stocks depleted so would the fishermen, in much the same way a natural predator responds to depletion in prey, erroneously referred to as the “balance of nature”. In an act of complete perversion the Canadian government instituted a “fishing for stamps” program which allowed fishermen to collect unemployment insurance payments for only a very short period of work. This act extended the economic viability of fishing and depleted resource and provided incentive to fish to the point of the decimation of the cod fishery.

This demonstrates a queer dynamic of values colliding to create disaster. In western society we have a thing called the work ethic, which states that the only valid way to garner sustenance is by work, and if not fully engaged work,  then at least a token effort. So the government said to the fishermen, if you work a little bit, we will extend you financial benefits for sustenance. So instead of pursuing another means of livelihood in a viable industry, they continued to fish Cod. The government would have been better off to pay them to stop fishing, purchase their assets and pay them out, a Cod fishermen’s golden parachute if you will. The next value was the preservation of a way of life and the support of communities. This value contributed to the “fish for stamps” program and many other programs geared toward extending the viability of Cod fishing, where the Cod were disappearing. So in an effort to save communities, the government contributed to a circumstance where the traditional rational for that communities existence is more severely curtailed than if “nature had taken its course”. The value of environmental protection found expression in fishing limits and other management efforts to preserve the fishery’s viability, whatever the methods employed; the outcome indicates the effectiveness the government’s ability to manage a resource. The Canadian Cod fishery’s destruction was a tragedy of the commons in the traditional sense and in an expanded sense; as common concern trumped rational action.    

If nothing else, the overall dynamic around the destruction of the Canadian Cod fishery demonstrates how poor a bedfellow “social activism” makes to environmentalism.  The feeble attempts at placating social concern severed to generate a circumstance were both the environmental concern and the social concerns were both ill served. In the case of the Cod fishery, the outcome would likely have been better absent government intervention as financial imperatives would have resulted in lower fishing participation.   


The scarcity doctrine lingered in the background as fishermen believed the world held little else for them and government held an impoverished view of fishermen’s ability to adapt. I would wager that had government adopted a view of abundance and provided generous mitigation to the fishermen subjected to government miss-management, the entity called the Government of Canada would be better off now, because the fishing industry would once again be enjoying the benefit of a reinvigorated fishery.



Strengthening the ties between carbon and the economy

We need only to strengthen the ties mildly, between the abstract representation of human endeavour (the monetary system) and the environment to gain alignment between human action and natural systems. We have successfully globalized the monetary system in a manner that permits efficient international interaction; we need now to imbue that system with a connection to the natural world. The key is full and equitable participation.

To date efforts in linking the economy and the environment have been curtailing participation by creating a circumstance where major emitters are deterred by structural disadvantage in proposed solutions. Had the world approached Kyoto purely on the basis of environmental concern, Kyoto would have had a greater chance of acceptance. Proponents however, chose to engage in redistribution by placing the majority of the burden on first world countries and relinquishing responsibility from other countries. The Cap and Trade proposals were as much a redistribution program as an environmental program. Their justification for this approach was that the first world countries had created most of the problem so they should pay the biggest penalty, the underpinning was a social justice imperative of the “rich should pay”; this may sound fair but political realities drove the refusal of major players. This is an example where the social justice movement scuttled environmental progress. We can learn from the past, but only the future matters, and asking people to accept disadvantage in the future is sure to meet strong residence. Placing a price on carbon is an effective means to link the economy to the environment; the key is its universal application.

The Kyoto protocol was a starting point in the process of creating a worldwide link of the economy with the environment, the creation and negotiations of the cap and trade program needed to take place at the world trade organisation, perhaps as an extension of the Doha trade talks. While this would bring another level of complexity to the Doha process, it would be the best place for Cap and Trade to be developed, as Cap and Trade development would have taken place in the context of the multitude of other considerations in the development of a world trading system. The WTO is keenly aware of the asymmetry of prosperity and the influences it has in generating a world trading system, as such their expertise provides the greatest opportunity for the successful development of a cap and trade system.       

The flow of capital can provide some illumination as to the possibilities for the effective connection between the environment and the economy. The international clearing bank effectively manages the most complex transfer of funds to and from countries in an almost instantaneous fashion. The financial system is a complex entity and yet there is an international organisation that provides for the flow of capital in and instantaneously anywhere in the world. The emergence of this organisation happened because people prosper as a result of its creation and operation. A similar mechanism can function to facilitate as seamless a circumstance for cap and trade and other programs; the key though is universal benefit.   

There are many examples of existing organisations that can provide a conduit for the strengthening of the connection of the financial and real economies with natural systems, fostering universal attachment in the context of pursuing prosperity. Yet the environmental movement, I believe under the influence of social activist interlopers, have chosen to demonise these promising institutions. Rather than seeing an existing functioning entity with capabilities that satisfy green causes, they have chosen instead to reinvent the wheel absent considering the functionality these organisations represent.



Environmentalism Reconsidered – The Narrative and its Origins


Urban Perspective

Prior to expounding the virtues of nature, people need to spend a few days in the rain. Most people of the western world today live in isolation from almost everything they depend on for survival. The largest portion of our population live in urban settings of offices at optimum temperature and homes with thermostats set at comfort. Food is accessed in a similar manner, clean perfect environment no fuss no muss. Homes they live in and all that has gone into the construction of those homes, find little room in the psyche of people who’s life experience has generated a complacency that is absent even the most elementary concerns related earth, wind and fire. This populace is fertile ground for miss information, absent the witness of nature’s immense capacity to exist and create, having never really been exposed to nature absent a means of retreat to relative comfort, people can be convinced of nature’s fragility where in fact resiliency and power exists.       

Nature’s perfection constrained the minds of the essentialists in the past and a similar mode of thought is constraining us presently. The essentialists viewed nature as the perfect condition, unchanging from a point of origin. This view served to detract from their ability to observe the dynamic at play with nature and confounded their ability to respond to the natural world effectively. Similarly the environment movement now is contributing to a “perfection in stasis” view of nature, which is preventing progressive use of the natural world. Dialog from children and their keepers reveal the prevailing view that nature has wisdom. This is a dangerous ideal to allow exist, as nature is a series of events that occur on such a massive scale they are nearly outside perception. There are patterns that emerge as the multitude of existing things react to each other, in the same way a river finds patterns in response to the various geophysical influences. The water and the physical world react to each other to trigger events, neither the water nor the physical world hold wisdom. This seems blatantly oblivious, yet the idealist view of a wise nature is prominent and is gaining more prominence as people propagate this distorting doctrine.

The inclination to revert to an angelic past where the world was harmonious and humans existed as one with nature resides deeply in the culture of many in the preservationist wings of the environmental movement. The point that needs to be made sharply is, the angelic past is absent in history. Human existence is better now than it has ever been because of our mastery of our environment, and nature has changed, as it always has and always will. While seeking action in compliance with nature, humans should seek to expand their lot to become even more the master of their environment.

Sustainability and the power of apocalyptic thinking.

Sustainability is the most prevalent word in contemporary lexicon related to the environment. There are times when we can actually measure sustainability, in the case of harvesting a forest we can calculate, based on historical data, the rate of growth a given forest type and then harvest at a rate within that rate of growth to achieve a “sustainable” circumstance. Often the word is used in broad terms however, “the way we are using the earth is unsustainable”, like somehow the world is ending – it is all running out. This brings a whole new level of dread to the human psyche. A narrative is developing that says that, by our very existence we are contributing to our own end. This is bringing about a drive to acetic existence; unless we cease the utilization of all the comforts our mastery of our environment has provided, we are contributing to our end. To model the sum total of human endeavour is certainly outside the ability of any mortal, to model the universe and its limitations or potentiality, is most certainly outside the ability of any mortal. So why has the assertion that, what we are doing on earth is unsustainable, considered valid? An every bit as valid assertion is that the earth is a robust environment of massive resource able to provide human’s with an abundant life. Why are we hampering our society with a psychological hobble of unsubstantiated limit, when there is a track record now of a steady upward trend in human existence with nature functioning and providing.

Sustainability is really a moving target, the land base required to support a hunter gather population is far greater than a land base required to support a comparable population with agriculture. The determining factor in this regard is technology as it relates to effectively harnessing natural systems. It is important to note, if human population had stayed constant at any point in time, modern agriculture technology would facilitate utilization of smaller and smaller portion of the earth’s surface for sustenance. Modern technology is a friend to the environment by increasing the productive intensity of every given acre under cultivation. Granted the collective effect of technology in general has facilitated more people to feed, that fails to diminish the fact that technology serves to satisfy human requirements in the context of the environment at large. To date technology has always addressed sustainability by providing humans with more effective ways to utilize natural systems. If at any point in time this ceases to be the case, then the massive forces of nature will dictate the outcomes, then maybe the preservationists will have their way and the Anthropine will be over.

Much of what feeds the human psyche is the realization of our end. We accept that at the moment we’re born a process is started that will result in dieing. We know this to be fact. This reality resides in an almost denied manner within us and finds expression is every step we take. The perverse attraction to apocalyptic narrative comes form the resignation, collectively as humans, to our own end, apocalyptic belief is massively rational to humans because it is so deeply rooted in stark fact. The devastating end being so deeply enshrined in the human mind and allows devastating projections find sympathy with humans and is a powerful influence over us. This reality provides a rational basis for irrational belief, feeding the willingness of people to accept the dire predictions of doom that flow from the influencers of the world. This “negative ad campaign” that is assaulting our way of life is having negative affect and needs to be countered; countered by enlisting dread as a companion to the positive message of abundance. We can fill whatever collective prophesy we choose to propagate, propagate the apocalypse and you may get it, believe as I do in mother earth’s abundance and it will be provided.


Environmentalism Reconsidered - Agriculture the realities of scale



“It took some 10,000 years to expand food production to the current level of about 5 billion tons per year. By 2050, we will likely need to nearly double current crop production again.” Norman Borlaug Norman Borlaug received a Noble prize for his contribution to the green revolution. He is probably the most deserving recipient of a Noble prise of any, as modern agriculture has saved more lives than any other human endeavour. He helped to father the modern agriculture complex that supports humanity today.

When one listens too many in the environmental movement, modern agriculture instead of being lauded as humanity’s greatest achievement, it is demonized. While modern agriculture has negative impacts and elements need remediation, it is on the whole a laudable human endeavour. Agriculture is an example of how of human intervention can augment natural processes to create a more productive ecosystem. Agriculture is an integral part the environment that has taken natural systems, enhanced them and fed millions who would otherwise have been subject to starvation and all the resulting scourge that accompanies starvation.

In reviewing literature form organizations such as Greenpeace and other’s, I find them advocating “small farms” for the world’s poor to grow their own food. They are advocating subsistence agriculture as the solution to world poverty. Extending the means to someone to simply subsist in the name of the environment is cruel at least and slow-motion genocide at worst. The land allocated to subsistence agriculture exacerbates the hunger and poverty that exists, as it fragments the land base into small portions unable to access the scale that provides for efficiencies that has driven the green revolution and all the benefit that has accrued from it. In terms of providing food, it is better to retire person’s trapped in subsistence agriculture, provide them with the food they require and distribute via market process increased production from the application of modern agriculture taking place at scales which generates inherently superior productivity. The environment is better served and the population as a whole is better fed.          

The same romanticism that resides in the minds of sentimental preservationists, that has them seeing the world bounded by limit and nature as being fragile, has them viewing the bucolic rural setting with mindless nostalgia. I share the appreciation with of the evening sun’s long shadow cast across rolling hills with the red barn and the gentle twitter of happy children at play in the backyard. Having been born on a farm were family worked together, I often yearn to retreat to that very setting. I know however, that the new family farm has evolved it an agro enterprise and that new structure is what is providing the production necessary to supply 6 billion mouths. In addition to just providing food, the agro complex is delivering food to North Americans at approximately 10% of disposable income, contributing to the overall economy by leaving funds for discretional spending in the hands of other families. The family farm is an important accruement to the world’s economy, a family farm that profits the family on the farm as opposed to the family farm that indentures families to a life of subsistence. When people extend subsistence to the third world as a solution, all the while lapping up first world amenities, amenities lavish and accepted in almost apathy, it is offensive. It is apparent that in their pursuit of environmental “sustainability”, they are seemingly content to adopt policy that would have all people reside in a state of unnecessary subsistence.

Are there aspects of modern agriculture that need to harmonized with nature, absolutely, there are unethical applications of technology that threaten the very people they are intended to serve. Means are needed to be accessed to subdue methods that are damaging to the natural world and to people. The requirement to pursue methods even more in league with nature are pressing and comfort can be taken in the great advancement that is being made in this regard. The environment movement needs to press for progress in the context of agriculture that takes place at optimum scale, and resist the temptation to find the solution in processes that ignore the progress and contribution of modern agriculture. There are instances where small is better, there are instances when big is better; the key is executing at optimum scale.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Environmentalism Reconsidered - Scarcity Doctrine




It is the intention of writer to bring to light to a corrosive element that has appropriated the environmental movement in a manner that has the environmental movement in conflict with the western mode of life. In doing so, this corrosive element is undermining support for the valid efforts of the environmental movement and impairing important change, while attacking the most liberating and vital element of western life, a market based economy. Environment, prosperity and liberty are ours for the taking if we embrace the sheer abundance of the earth and shun with vigour the indoctrination of scarcity that is being propagated by the subversive redistributionist elements. These elements which have co-opted the environmental movement are elements subversive to people’s efforts as environmentalists and subversive to our way of life and the two’s interaction. The concept of “scarce resources” flows from the school of economics, it is amazing to me how so many people who promote themselves as “green” have appropriated scarcity to service their view on redistribution under the vale of “environmental necessities”, and yet somehow managed to ignore the abundance the rest of the school of economics addresses. Scarcity then has blended together under the two banners of social activism and environmentalism. In the first case it is a red herring and in the second it is damaging to the cause.

Scarcity has found prominence in the human psyche because the human psyche has evolved in a position of ignorance to natural processes and hence in subservience to nature. Scarcity comes naturally to humans because hitherto it has occupied much of human existence. Even in times of human abundance, humans find comparative scarcity. The environmental movement is capitalizing on the human inclination to accept scarcity as a reality, what they are failing to realize is that people will accept scarcity in abstract terms; however, when scarcity takes action and people are faced with a reduction in living experience, people will repel scarcity and the environmental moment with it. Environmentalism must be presented and actuated, in the spirit of and with the acceptance of the presence of abundance, to find resonance with the population.
  
In the world of environomics scarcity lives large in the lexicon and finds expression in terms like “we need to respect the earth’s limits”. Limits occupy the minds of the enviro-economist, every expression of concern that emanates from them seems to be preoccupied with limits. This is evident in the “solutions” they propose. Often when there is a suggestion to utilise resources, it seems there is a misguided person opposing it on the limits of nature, as their minds have been bathed with an interpretation of reality that inaccurately limits human action as a result of misperception of the earth’s capacity being finite as a provider, when infinite abundance is the fact.

Scarcity is a tool used by redistributionist elements to justify redistribution itself. In believing the pie is a fixed size they justify taking from people with wealth to give to the people absent wealth. In reality however, the pie is infinite and persons absent wealth are better served by the expansion of the pie and wide access, than by redistributionist policy.

The environmental movement’s desire for conservation has been appropriated and transferred to scarcity doctrine by the redistributionists. This action serves to attract people to their cause under the guise of environmental concerns, when equality concerns are at the heart of their action. One can debate the appropriateness of equality as laudable societal goal, what is outside debate is the negative effect it is having on the environmental movements efforts. As one who shares environmental concern, I reject out right both the effectiveness and premises for redistribution; so this elements presence in the environmental movements ranks repels me; a source of remorse given my alignment with many aspects of the environmental movement.      

When you examine the “solutions” to “problems” posited by many people associated with the environmental movement as with the redistributionist movement, you find scarcity at the root of their thought processes, resulting in them suggesting constraint of human action as a solution. They want to move us to have and use less. Prudent use of resources is wise, if you need to drive to hospital use a smart car, but go to the hospital. The environmental movement wants to constrain human action, fly less, see less and do less. Certainly, if you can have a wonderful home and can heat it more efficiently, you should, the environmental movement are all too often saying, to do without the nice home. Certainly there are facets of consumerism that are frivolous and their adjustment would serve all concerned. This is hardly a basis to rebuke a mode of interaction that has provided us with historically unparalleled abundance, that mode of interaction being trade supported by a market based system. The legitimate concerns of environmentalism are being challenged by allowing the anti-market economy movement to attach itself to environmentalism’s shirt tails. The perception by people who believe in a market economy as the engine for society, begin to attach rhetoric that attacks their way of life with concerns expressed about the environment. The environmental movement needs to bring resolution to their message, specifying issues of nature in a manner that both allows others to “do business” and engage in actions in accord with natures demands.           
         
The sum of human action is without limit by our natural environment. Humanities opportunity for an ever richer existence is omnipresent. The environmental movement is fostering a narrative with scarcity at its core, when we exist it ambit of abundance. The answer is outside the cessation of natural resource use, the answer is pursuing a philosophy of abundance with action in accord with nature. Nature is changing, the athropine is here and humans are the catalyst of change. When the sun sets at the close of everyday, the world will be different; this is in most cases good. Adroit human’s action will change the face of the earth while pursuing ever better circumstance for humanity. So by pursuing the multitude of human values, many of which have nature as their genesis, humanity can have abundance in accord with natural requirements. 
   
There exists an infinite supply of energy. Carbon is our friend. Coal is an excellent source of energy. Three statements that would be considered wrong by conventional wisdom in the context of the public at large. A public inculcated by a readily absorbed narrative “the limited environment” would treat this as heresy. The fact is terawatt after terawatt is entering our atmosphere daily. The fact is carbon is our friend; it is the building block of life. Coal is an excellent source of energy. We need only to apply ourselves to the task of developing technologies that allow access to these boundless realities in a manner that is in compliance with the environment at large. 

Choosing a lens to view the world and issues affecting the world is critical to the culture that will ensue. When a lens of scarcity is placed on an issue, all actions are directed toward claiming possession of resources. When a lens of abundance it placed on an issue, all actions move toward expanding resources. When belief that the earth is a place of abundance and alignment is sought with that abundance, the discourse turns from one of staking territory to one of generosity. The financial market lends affirming testament to this reality, when people believe collectively that markets are ascending, a prosperous circumstance ensues and by contrast when people see scarcity, an impoverished circumstance ensues. This cycle of abundant belief and scarcity belief osculates constantly as the abstract measure of human endeavour, the market place, gives expression human perception. As the inclination toward scarcity is so strong in humans due to their evolutionary backdrop, extreme efforts needs to be activated to bolster a view to abundance and with this view as convention, abundance will emerge – this is the self-fulfilling prophesy of abundance. There are two truths relating to environmental stewardship that need attention. Firstly, the earth is an abundant provider with massive capacity and secondly, natural systems (of which humanity is a part) are in constant change. Today’s beautiful mountain is an erupted volcano tomorrow or today’s caterpillar is tomorrow’s butterfly.

The much maligned market economy, inadvertently maligned by environmentalists and intentionally maligned by redistributionists, really is a thing of beauty. The gestalt which has as its parts, democracy, market economy, the work ethic and healthy self-interest has given us in Canada abundance absent in human experience, and that prosperity is gradually spreading to the rest of the world. In areas of the world where other systems have been at work, humanity lives at the whim of state and tyrant, where environment degradation has been the rule as opposed to the exception. Compare the United States environmental record with the Soviet Unions, neither is perfect, one is just better than the other’s.

Scarcity is the Environmental redistributionist manifesto, Marx and Engles wrote the communist manifesto to promote access to a fair life for the working peoples of the world, a noble work that ended up promoting a dysfunctional mode of governance. It’s safe to say Marxism was high jacked in much the same way as the environmental movement is being, Marxism by totalitarian authoritarians and the environmentalism by the totalitarian authoritarian’s precursor, Marxists activists. Equality is a stupid goal while equity is a laudable goal. Equality forces the ambitious to pay for the less ambitious and forces the less ambitious to engage life at a tempo they would rather avoid. Equity ensures fair treatment regardless of a person’s chosen life cadence. Society and all its component parts when equitably applied become the sub straight of a liberated person’s chosen life; as a piece of paper is a sub straight and we all may choose to commit to it what we will. Deeply embedded in the environmental movement are social engineers, they are eager to impose scarcity on us all in the name of social justice and “the environment” is their cover. They say to impoverished persons in the emerging world, accept subsistence as your life’s lot as the world is a basket of scarcity. There is another message for the impoverished and that message is that the world is an abundant place and we are seeking to give you access to it. As human beings we owe that to each other.

The Canadian narrative has taken many turns holding to a base of modest and unadventurous in many respects. The mass introduction of scarcity to the Canadian narrative will serve to bridle the minds of our people and impair their progress. The narrative of scarcity and the assault on the foundation of Canadian success, the market place, will turn our country’s minds away from respectful fruitful human endeavour seeking harmony with natural processes, to one of consternation and constraint truly putting us on the road to subsistence.        

The concept of the 100 hundred mile diet is laudable in its spirit. The spirit of reducing foods carbon foot print, while sometimes true it is often untrue depending on the product in question. The side benefit of the 100 mile diet is it promotes local agriculture and related cottage industry, which is an asset to any community. The assertion that we should all seek food in close proximity to our place of residence is flawed for a number of reasons. Often the production environment for food is more favourable in other jurisdictions, requiring fewer inputs to produce, even in considering the transportation carbon emissions, the food imported has a smaller carbon footprint overall. This is often the case and each food product needs to be judged on it’s own merit, in this way the100 mile diet can be detriment in the context of reducing carbon usage. To advocate contraction of human endeavour as a solution to anything is errant, it only serves to reduce opportunity for access to abundance and solution. Only by broadening our scope of action technologically, geographically and spiritually; by reaching out to all in the universe and drawing on every human thought, every religion, every mode of action, every unique ecosystem, do we find for all of humanity and nature, health and abundance. When a person’s words have in them limit, explore the extremes of that thought process, if somebody suggests to live on food from within 100 miles, how will your life be when they find a way for you to limit your food collection form a square foot. The world’s regions offer us abundance in different forms, by accessing the whole world; each region’s strengths find complementary expression in the world as a whole. This reality provides us with unimaginable abundance, we I walk into a grocery store the entire world’s bounty is represented there. The most important point here is, more than pleasing my pallet, the important point is that by accessing regional strength efficiency ensues, and in efficiency conservation resides and in this case, conservation provides access to abundance. It takes less energy to grow a tomato in California and truck it to Vancouver in December, than it does to grow a tomato in Vancouver in December. The carbon foot print of a leg of New Zealand Lamb is smaller in London than an English leg of Lamb in London.

An interesting mental exercise to illustrate this point; imagine the world absent state boarders and under the direction of a single democracy such as Canada which facilitates a globally similar living standard. In the absence of national interests; where would people live, where would they mine, where would they log, where would the grow food, where would they do all the things they do. There would be very few people in Canada, because living here is expensive relative to more temperate parts of the world. Manufacturing would occur in temperate areas where people could live inexpensively and less energy was required it heat manufacturing facilities. The examples are endless, but in removing yourself from nationalism and the constraints of boarders, you can begin the un-bias contemplation of where activities are more logically suited to occur. While a world under Canadian management is a pleasant thought, it is unlikely to occur any time soon, what can occur however, is a moderated reality that seeks optimum utilization of the earth’s resources within the provisions of statehood. We are able, through organisations such as the World Trade Organisation, to orchestrate better use of the earth resources in a manner that harmonises human action with the natural attributes of all region’s environments. The unfettered flow of the substrates of life gives birth to the highest and best use of the earth’s resources, the closer we can move toward a free flow of goods and services, the sooner that humanity as a whole will achieve environmental congruency with the earth. Remember, the earth is a single entity without the ability to distinguish China from the USA, the earth functions absent political bias and is one unified ecosystem artificially segmented by political boarders.

The unfortunate reality at the moment is that energy purchased by currency as opposed to being currency. If the world’s currency were energy, then the natural attributes of the globe would enforce behaviour consistent with less energy use and hence less carbon emissions. The unfortunate reality is that we measure human action in currency and human exchange motivated by currency is distorted by national interest and distortions that emerge from government regulations. While global trade is certainly a boon for the environment, even in it’s present state, the world’s asymmetry of prosperity is conspiring to distort human action in ways that are energy inefficient. It is the asymmetry of prosperity that causes the miss creation of goods in one area of the world, when the goods would be better created closer to their user. One influencing factor, among many, is that the labour cost savings in one area of the world is greater than the additional energy costs to transport the goods.

It is the asymmetry of prosperity that is inhibiting the free flow of goods and services throughout the world and the resulting environmental benefits, as people correctly fear for the erosion of their living standards. Ironically, it is the free flow of goods and services that will, if permitted to take their course, facilitate the homogenization of prosperity world wide. This reality may find expression if western governments mitigate the displacement caused in the reconciliation of the  asymmetry of prosperity. In the free flow of goods and services, environmentalist find resolve through the most prudent deployment of resources and the redistributionists may find equity, if not equality, as the dynamic of world trade takes prosperity around the world. It seems ironic when considered in this context that there is opposition from both groups to liberalized trade. It may be the opposition from the environmental movement is caused by the presence of the redistributionist elements influence, because rational thought on the part of environmentalists would have them seeking the most eco efficient means for people to garner goods and services. 

The above discussion considers carbon emissions in the context of the traditional utilization of hydrocarbons, which has inherent in it the releasing of carbon from vast reserves of ancient energy. If we tighten the carbon cycle so that carbon released today is absorbed tomorrow, perhaps through the use of biofuels, then the above point is maybe muted somewhat in the context of energy, but still remains sound in the context of overall utilization of resources.

The environmental movement needs to address outcomes and focus on objectives. Sure, pursue a given action on the land; just meet these objectives for the natural environment - rather than permeating the populous’ consciousness with tie-raids on the evening news exclaiming the coming environmental apocalypse, the very same apocalypse I heard them warning about 25 years ago. I wonder how rational people get influenced by people who can exclaim straight faced that construction of a small hydro project is going to spell the end of a liveable environment for the world’s wildlife, when in fact constructing a small hydro project has the potential to enhance the habitat for wild life and create carbon free power. The environment, far from being degraded, is merely transformed and enhanced to serve humans and potentially other flora and fauna as well. If person’s associated with the environmental movement would engage people with objectives to meet that are absent values that are excessively taxing or stemming from values associated with aversion to change in the context of athletics, the general population would be more eager to extend credence to their assertions. In the 1970s I heard people from the environmental movement predicting we would be out of oil by 2000 and the planet would be uninhabitable. Of course 2000 came and went and the world was fine, needing some adjustment of course, but fine nonetheless. Given the aforementioned points and dynamics, when a just environmental concern is presented, the message is met with a jaundiced eye.