Category Archives: Environment

General stuff on the environment, especially Christians and the environment

How to Kill Dialogue

Sadly this is the case for many environmental issues. There is a desire to keep those who ask questions out.

That also applies in Christian green groups……………..

Why do some not want rational dialogue?

The Risk-Monger

Are we entering into a post-dialogue world? When did we stop listening to other ideas? Why are so many resorting to ad hominem attacks rather than engaging with people who disagree?
This post-dialogue world didn’t just happen – it was premeditated.

The third and final part of the Insignificant Trilogy will look at how the environmental activist cults impose their new authority by denying dialogue or a role for expertise. The first part looked at how activist gurus have skewed our understanding of leadership in order to profit from the fear they promulgate. The second part examined how the naturopathic cult populism has created an “entitled elite” who impose an intolerance towards others. This populism would do well to block dialogue, condemn any opponents to the ideology as threats and put a premium on emotional rhetoric. A Jacobin Terror script has been played out in every populist uprising. Part Three…

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Orion Magazine | Dark Ecology; A weird article

I reblog this six year old blog from a Cumbrian poet and scythe, not because I agree with it – I don’t – but because it shows a nihilistic turn of some environmentalists.This is seen by the author looking to the Unabomber who murdered 3 people before being caught in 1996 and is now in jail with no hope of parole. Not a moral inspiration.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ted_Kaczynski

Dark Ecology is gaining traction in some circles  – including among Christians who are supposed to have HOPE.

My feeling is that Dark Ecology lies behind some of what is going on today.

I was guided to this on the A Rocha international FB page  https://www.facebook.com/pg/arocha.international/posts/

It has six likes and one not with favourable comment

Read it and mark it, but don’t digest it.

 

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Take the only tree that’s left, Stuff it up the hole in your culture. —Leonard Cohen Retreat to the desert, and fight. —D. H. Lawrence

Source: Orion Magazine | Dark Ecology

“Evil” GE foods and “eco-friendly” organics

Far too often Green Groups – no names of course –  oppose GMOs as dangerous and organic is the best. Yet as we found with Friends of the Earth the claims are simply false. This blog deals with the issues and should shame those who misguidedly support them as the answer for food, whether for the affluent west or the poorer countries.

I do hate their virtue signalling

GMO EU action

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Evil GE foods and eco-friendly organics, Misrepresentations by radical greens promote myths of GE dangers and organic benefits, eradicate food poverty, genetically modified foods

Source: “Evil” GE foods and “eco-friendly” organics

 

It is interesting to contemplate a tangled bank

It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank;

So Charles Darwin begins the last paragraph of The Origin of Species. Now entangled banks are very common in Britain especially at the side of roads and country lanes. As a youngster Darwin must have ridden or walked past many near his home in Shrewsbury, including those on the way to Woodhouse when he went to see his first girl-friend, Fanny Mostyn Owen.

To me our entangled banks are a joy throughout the year and are very good for the succession of wild flowers, which cannot be reached by those despoiler of nature with their mowing machines.

Here are some taken in May 2018. The first five were taken on the lane by Millbeck just below Skiddaw which I climbed today. The last two are near Goosenargh by Preston. Here one can only see spring flowers and related plants, with no visible fauna. Also invisible are the microbial and fungal life which are very much present and essential to thriving life. To few are aware of them.

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I could have identified every flower and fern, but have left that to one side. To me there are two routes to the appreciation of nature/creation. One is identifying every creature, whether plant, animal or fungus and the other is more emotive and reflective and that is, to use a contemporary term, to “bathe in it”. In other words we simply enjoy what we see and experience and to be filled with awe and wonder.

I have long felt that Darwin went down the second route as he wrote the final paragraph of The Origin. It wasn’t entirely his own as it has echoes in an earlier piece by Sir David Brewster.

It is interesting to contemplate a tangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent upon each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth with Reproduction; Inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the conditions of life and from use and disuse: a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less-improved forms. Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.

Yet he seems to follow the two routes flitting like an insect or wren between the two. Perhaps we ought to flit like that as well and move easily from aesthetic awe to a scientific understanding and not see them in conflict. He starts like a nature mystic, worthy of any tree hugger and then flits to science as “all been produced by laws acting around us.” And then after more sciency stuff, like our wren he flits back; “There is grandeur in this view of life.”

When we read the sixth edition, we find “the Creator ” is mentioned but in 1859 he wrote “having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that,” without mentioning God, leaving the source of the breathing as unspecified. However, whether we prefer the First or the Sixth edition, it is clear that Darwin did not see the natural world as a machine which simply needed disecting to be explained, but that the sum total of living things (biosphere!) fill us with wonder and awe and this is prior to scientific explanation.

 

We could write and argue for hours on whether or not Darwin believed in God as Creator, but he had the sense of awe, which any theist should have. Though I must add I have known too many Christians who don’t give a damn about nature or creation.

So years after Darwin a Jesuit priest took up poetry and many of his poems are nature/creation inspired. His poem on the kestrel The Windhover renamed the raptor to be more acceptable to Victorian sensibilities! Undoubtedly his finest poem on creation is God’s Grandeur;

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge |&| shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

Hopkins starts with an awareness of natural beauty which he saw daily in the Vale of Clwyd. He moves to damaged creation, which I reckon are the mines at Halkyn mountain to the east. They are still devoid of beauty

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Not a pretty site!!

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast |&| with ah! bright wings.

Yet Hopkins has hope in the renewal of creation and, unusually, theologically looks to the Holy Spirit

 

There is so much here and I explored it in another blog; https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2014/08/26/gods-grandeur-gerard-manley-hopkins/  . In this sonnet written five years before Darwin died he evokes the grandeur of God in creation, the frequent pollution by humans, ending with the optimism of the earth’s renewal. Perhaps all doomster environmentalists should ponder the last four  lines and look with hope to a restored creation.

It is no surprise that so many Christian look to God’s Grandeur today.

And so to the Bible on Creation. Apart from Genesis there is so much on creation in the Bible, especially in the Wisdom Books and the Prophets. Some of the finest writing on creation is the end of Job. Many of the psalms are nature psalms and one of the finest and briefest is Psalm 8

 O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is thy name in all the earth! Thou whose glory above the heavens is chanted 2 by the mouth of babes and infants, thou hast founded a bulwark because of thy foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. 3 When I look at thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast established; 4 what is man that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that thou dost care for him? 5 Yet thou hast made him little less than God, and dost crown him with glory and honor. 6 Thou hast given him dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet, 7 all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, 8 the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the sea. 9 O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is thy name in all the earth!

The main theme is wonder at creation, and the psalmist almost sees creation as a reflection of the Glory of God (God’s Grandeur). The reference to babes and infants shows it is no erudite worship but available to all. It poses the question what humanity is,and then echoes Genesis with humans being given dominion over creation. That is often contentious as so often that dominion has been bully-boy tactics rather than loving nuture.

These three writings from such different writings and settings all speak of the glory and wonder of the natural world. Darwin in the sixth edition is the weakest theist, but brings out so much of the wonder by focussing simply on an entangled bank. Hopkins and the Psalmist go further and thus I conclude with the Psalmist

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is thy name in all the earth!

 

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The Precautionary Principle gone to excess

A warning against the precautionary principle gone wrong and used by extreme environmentalists like FoE and GP to stop any possible advance.

Too many have fallen for their pseudoscience

The Risk-Monger

What follows is the base text for a presentation made at the BAFSAM general assembly in London on 17 May 2018. As the presentation was delivered without notes, the actual content may differ slightly.

Happy 50th Birthday!

50 years may only be one monarch in the UK, it might only be a blink of the eye since The Risk-Monger had entered grade school, but it is two full generations and a world of change for farming. What has happened to the feed additive industry over the last 50 years? What has your half-century of technology advances done for the world? How have you helped advance farming and food security since your parents’ time? … since your grandparents pioneered the advances in food and feed technology?

Our Grandparents’ World

The world of farming and food production of our grandparents was quite different from what we see today. Increasing food production following…

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Requiem for Neonicotinoids: A Failure in European Leadership

More on pernicious effect on pesticides and bees. Often based on Friends of the Earth misinformation

The Risk-Monger

Last Friday, the EU Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (PAFF) voted through the European Commission’s proposed ban on all outside applications of three main neonicotinoids (imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam). This capped off a four-year ordeal which pitted industry and farmers on one side and activists and the organic food lobby on the other. The European Commissioner for Health, Vytenis Adriukaitis, celebrated the vote as evidence of the consistent use of science in EU policy. It was nothing of the sort, and the sad thing is that the Commissioner knows this.

It was never about the science

The EU Commissioner for health knows full well that pollinator health is a complicated issue and he has some of the best scientific advice at his disposal … that he managed to completely ignore.

laddomada-labs Only one lab reported pesticides as a cause of bee colony mortality

His own DG Santé (then…

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My reasons for supporting fracking as the best but not perfect energy source

I wrote this for the newsletter for retired Anglican Clergy as I was requested to do so. It was written two years ago. I attempted to be conciliatory but the next newsletter had a rant of a response from some retired canon, who decided that I was a climate change denier and generally not concerned by the environment. He was clearly blessed with great pastoral gifts – NOT! A nice chappie!

It is two years out of date but the arguments are the same!!

To Frack or not to Frack; that is the question.

On April Fool’s Day 2011 I sent off proofs for a chapter on Evangelicals and Climate Change, where I was critical of American Climate Change deniers. I never noticed the earthquake caused by fracking at Preese Hall ten miles away. After that I began to hear about fracking and was negative initially, but did nothing until a party political leaflet came through the door (not UKIP!). I liked what I read;-improved cycling facilities, recycling, environmental improvements, etc, but the last paragraph made me stamp my feet causing a Magnitude 0.75 quake! The Preese Hall quake was big and dangerous! As a geologist I knew a Mag 2.3 was trivial. When I worked in a Ugandan Copper mine, quakes 1000 times more powerful were common. The most memorable was at an Ascension Day service causing the organist to miss a note! This election leaflet goaded me into action, or rather delayed action as I had limited time until I retired in 2013. And so I began to investigate.
The usual arguments cited are;
• flaming taps due to methane in water,
• toxic chemicals in fracking fluid
• quakes, i.e. minor seismicity.
• poor geology,
• aquifer and water pollution,
• rampant capitalism
• industrialisation of the countryside

and

  • damaging to climate change . (This is used to trump all and to ignore any other challenges on the above points!!

Cuadrilla

The horrors of fracking in Lancashire from Talkfracking
The University of Google directed me to anti-fracking sites, but I wanted something more reliable. As a geologist, I started with the British Geological Survey, and then the United States Geological Survey. Fracking cropped up on the Affiliation of Christian Geologists and so I contacted friends there, along with more friends in the USGS. It soon became apparent that the earthquake concern was very rare, and low risk, and where larger quakes occurred (Mag3 – 5), these were not due to fracking but wastewater injection. These had occurred since the early 80s, i.e. two decades before (the present style of) fracking started and mainly involved waste water from traditional oil production. That is still the case today. (One friend, who in 1991 wrote the earliest papers on these, took me up a couple of 14,000ft mountains in Colorado and I took him up Ingleborough!) Fairly soon, I realised that problems were caused by bad practice rather than the fracking process itself.
After that I left my geological comfort zone and looked at the other issues. I had a choice of three major sources;
• The plethora of publications by anti-frackers, and ‘eco’ organisations.
• technical material from bodies like the BGS, EA, PHE, HSE, scientific bodies and independent academics
• publications from gas operators.
I focussed on the second group. It took time to grasp the technicalities of fracking. I quickly realised that there was little scientific credibility to the antifrack publications. I used the antifrack material to guide what I should look for and ignored material from firms like Cuadrilla. Delving into all this was frustrating and annoying as I became more and more appalled at the inaccuracies of those opposing fracking, including those in the churches.
The straw which broke the camel’s back was my attending a meeting of Frack Off near Garstang in August 2013. I realised then that this meeting promoted ideologically motivated duplicity and scaremongering. More of that later.
I found dealing with anti-fracking rather like dealing with Creationism, which I have dealt with since 1971 after a visit to Schaeffer’s L’Abri in Switzerland – when I thought I was about to join Servetus in Geneva. At the risk of offending Creationists, their arguments are always fallacious, if not dishonest. Creationist claims on the inaccuracy of radiometric age-dating and other scientific questions were poor science. After many years of checking them out, I have never found any which are valid. It is the same with arguments against fracking, which either universalise from examples of bad practice as with pollution of water supplies in Wyoming, exaggerate, or misquote the evidence..
As a result I was forced to re-assess my long-held views on the environment, not that for a moment I even considered rejecting Care of Creation or environmentalism. For 50 years this has itself in appreciation of the natural world, wildlife gardening, economy of energy use and insulation etc. Not to mention my bike as my preferred means of transport, or driving economically. (I try to get 50mpg out of a Corolla which should only do 44!) I had convinced myself of the Peak Oil argument in 1971, not knowing King Hubbert presented it two decades earlier. Peak Oil came to the fore after 2000 when it seemed that fossil fuels would soon run out. I presumed society would be forced to adopt renewables. Shale gas and oil has changed that and almost certainly fossil fuels will NOT run out before 2100. Rather than adjusting to an imposed fossil-free world in a few decades, the limitless (almost) supply forces choices in relation to the environment. Not being a Global Warming Denier, that means a wise use of fossil fuels. Here for many reasons, gas (increasingly fracked) along with every other source of energy except coal is the best option for both the planet and people and here I concur with the IPCC and what actually came out of Paris in 2015!
I began my journey in 2011 rather sceptical of fracking. It was a steep learning curve forcing me to think more about energy and the environment. I came to the conclusion that fracking was the best, or least bad, option and very necessary for Britain. That put me in agreement with the “best environment minister ever” John Gummer aka Lord Deben, but meant that I went against most green Christians. As I considered the whole fracking debate issue to be important, I began to put my head above the parapet. That was impossible to avoid after Cuadrilla applied for two exploration wells 10 miles from my home in February 2014. Now that changed everything. For two years it has dominated many aspects of life in Lancashire.
In February 2014 I went to Cuadrilla’s open meeting at Elswick and was greeted by anti-frackers at the door. Many had arrived in gas-guzzlers! Inside were various stands and many staff from Cuadrilla and Arup. I did not say I had been an exploration geologist but simply asked questions. They gave very reasonable answers and did not try to blind me with science. I went away confident that they were careful operators. A few weeks later I went to a meeting at Inskip of RAFF (Residents against Fracking Fylde). It was very different as the speakers simply peddled the anti-fracking line. During question time I raised questions about a speaker’s geological understanding pointing out it was contrary to BGS reports. I was surprised that she was supported by a Friends of the Earth worker, as I had always had a high regard for FoE. I became aware of hostility to those who did not support the anti-fracking line. About that time lots of anti-fracking signs appeared in the various villages.
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One of many signs near the Preston New road site near Blackpool

 

 

this is fracking

The nightmare opponents of fracking have, but forget that this is not fracking with long laterals but close vertical drills.

 

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Welcome toRoseacre! After this appeared houses were difficult to sell
I took copies of the RAFF leaflet Shale Gas; the Facts, which I found to be grossly inaccurate. I was put in touch with Ken, who shortly had complained to the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) about a leaflet distributed by Frack Free Somerset. Before the ASA made a judgment FFS withdrew the leaflet! Ken and I put in a complaint to the ASA against RAFF https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2014/08/19/complaint-to-asa-against-raff-residents-action-on-fracking-fylde-for-gross-errors/ . RAFF tried to answer our complaints but shortly before a judgment was due they withdrew the leaflet. We did the same for Frack Free Ryedale who in Feb 2016 withdrew their leaflet. We await the result over a complaint about Friends of the Earth’s leaflet appealing for donations to fund their work in Lancashire. Some may have seen some of the press coverage of FoE in February stemming from Cuadrilla’s complaints to the Charity Commission https://michaelroberts4004.wordpress.com/2016/01/29/how-fiendish-is-friends-of-the-earth/ . At present I am trying to work out what FoE have done in Lancs over the last few years in preparation for a paper to be given at a geological conference. It is clear they worked on local villages and fuelled the local opposition. They also provided training in public speaking in preparation for the June hearings. However those speaking simply repeated the pseudoscientific party line of the antis. My own involvement convinced me that much of the opposition in Lancashire had been fired up by groups like FoE and Greenpeace.

 

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The substance of the Friends of the Earth leaflet
I also became concerned at the violence, intimidation, and law-breaking from some anti-frack supporters, some of which I observed.
Last autumn, we went on holiday to the USA and as we went to Philadelphia we spent a day going around a fracking area. We were put in touch with the CEO of a local company, who took us on a tour of various wells in hilly woodland. It was more attractive than most forestry commission areas. From the valley the only visual impact was a gas pipeline.

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Trout Run, nr Williamsport, PA. gas pad at top of hill. Forest cleared for gasline

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The “flat hill” is a gaspad with 6 wells. Houseowner happy to have it there

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Well being drilled 2 mls from previous photo
We were sent on a tour on empty roads. I visited one pad and spoke to a couple whose house was only yards from another pad, and they were quite happy with it all.

I spoke to people in the motel, restaurant and shops. One or two had some reservations but most valued the fracking. This was in Bradford county a supposedly grim area for fracking.
My intention from the beginning was to consider “all sides”, and that meant talking to green groups, industry and “official” bodies and academic institutions. One major problem was that many green groups, whether in the flesh, or online, simply wanted no questioning or dealings with anyone who questioned them. I was more fortunate with the other two categories. Academics in the UK and USA sent me technical papers on request, which were often behind a pay-wall. I have had personal dealings with several and have been on geological fieldtrips with others, as I know the Forest of Bowland well. (some of my blogs on the geology of the Bowland Shales have been used by university geologists!) I have got to know staff from Cuadrilla, and they have also allowed me on-site. I have made useful contacts with many connected with the shale gas industry

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Three Oxford geology profs and D. Phil student looking at Bowland Shales
As can be seen, fracking is both a technical and a social issue and the two are often inter-twined. Often polarisation gets deep and fractious.

So far the CoE has made no official statement on fracking, but many individuals have. Nearly all follow the anti-fracking line and their ‘science’ is poorly evidenced and argued. Most appear to have no technical or scientific knowledge. Doctorates in literature do not qualify one to speak on drilling wells or geology!
This Church Times article https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2013/6-september/comment/opinion/wanted-a-green-theology-that-probes-fracking is simply emotional, and this discussion paper from the Blackburn Diocese is very inaccurate and biased. The Url http://www.ctlancashire.org.uk/issues/ (go to fracking) gives the paper and my response.

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Cartoon to go with Church Times article. Since removed.
My conclusions of my study are;
• Fracking is as safe as any other industry. The regulations are robust. There is environmental risk (as there is with farming!), but has been greatly exaggerated. There may be accidents and minor environmental spills etc, but the key pollution pathways responsible for many of the US problems have been examined by the Royal Academy of Engineering. This has lead to a raft of regulations.
• Local gas will be better for meeting Climate Change targets, provided there is a concerted effort on renewables, energy efficiency, etc etc. The key climate issue is to eliminate of coal, which may kill 1600 people a year in the UK. LNG imports are worse for the climate than locally fracked gas.
• So often environmentalists polemically present the option of fracking OR renewables rather than both.
• If fracking takes off it benefit employment, especially in Lancs and Yorks.
• It will improve energy security and help the UK’s balance of payments, as North Sea oil did for decades.
However fracking alone is insufficient. Other aspects need tackling, e.g. planting of trees, farming methods, peat restoration, energy conservation, etc.
One of the weaknesses of many Greens today is to see everything through a lens of Climate Change, and to see fracking as the biggest evil of all. In fact, Green campaigners and architects of the Climate Change Act, the late Stephen Tindale, and Baroness Briony Worthington see shale gas as the way forward, in progressing to a low carbon future. The myopic anti-frack approach has resulted in polarised arguments which help no one.
This fractious polarisation is often fuelled by certain green groups, who cannot, or will not see the big picture. They constantly chant the mantra #keepitintheground. Sadly, a secondary result of my study of fracking is that many Christian Greens make the same mistake.
Over the last five years the clamour against fracking has not been edifying and the church has made no useful contribution. Many commentators have ignored the mass of scientific evidence from so many professional groups, such as the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Royal Society, Public Health England, the HSE, the Environment Agency, the British Geological Survey, CIWEM, the European Union, the US Environmental Protection Agency and dozens more. Much of this is on the internet. A good place to start is http://www.refine.org.uk/
They comment on ‘toxic’ chemicals that are not permitted under UK and EU law. They also ignore the hundreds of research papers that confirm the safety of the process. These commentators prefer health studies that are dismissed by health experts, and histrionic reports of pollution incidents that are nothing to do with fracking.
To me it is a matter of great concern whether for the environment, the well-being of people (and planet), and the credibility of the churches. Thus I am one of the many who support a well-regulated fracking for the sake of the environment.
Not all think I am right!