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Is Christian Aid’s push for Divestment undermining the poor?

Over the last 10 years the ultimate Green concern of many Christians is Climate Change, which for many means Divestment from fossil fuels and the adoption of “clean” renewable energy. This has become the official stance of groups like Christian Aid, Tear Fund and Cafod, along with Christian Green groups, like a Rocha, Green Christian, with John Ray  Initiative sitting uncomfortably on the (barbed wire) fence. Within the mainstream churches if you do not agree with this consensus, you are clearly not green!! This is despite the majority not buying into it.

Apart from the Bishop of Chester, Peter Forster, who has a Ph. D. in chemistry, few challenge this consensus and thus it has become the default position of the churches, with frequent calls for divestment and a Bigswitch to “clean” energy.

This article in the Church Times  10 August 2017 by Joe Ware of Christian Aid is both strident and inaccurate, and seems to think the main solutions to environmental issues are Divestment and taking part in the Big Switch to “renewable” energy. One gets the impression nothing else really matters.

Until about 1990 care for the environment was hardly mentioned in the churches of the UK.  This was not because of a desire only to save souls or following the daft ideas of Dispensationalism as Joe Ware claims. More socially minded Christians were concerned about Apartheid, the inner city and urban issues and racialism. In the 70s Bishop Hugh Montefiore was one of the few who waved a green flag, but to speak of a divide between the church and environmentalism due to Dispensationalism is simply wrong. Very few believed in Dispensationalism and the over-riding view on the environment was simply apathy, as I found in 1982 when I tried to get Liverpool Diocese Board of Social responsibility to consider environmental issues. I was ignored and my request was not even minuted. I rejoiced when in the 90s churches began to go green. My joy is now muted as the focus has been narrowed down to Divestment and “clean” energy, as if any energy is clean.

Before 1990 the environment simply did not figure. Now it is foremost and many green christians are pushing for divestment from fossil fuels and are strongly opposed to fracking, so that the only thing that matters is fighting Climate Change, and that from an extreme perspective. Ware wrote favorably of McKibben, who has pushed for Divestment and anti-fracking for many years, but his enthusiasm is not tempered with accuracy or realism. Renewable energy makes up less than 10 per cent of total energy usage today and thus fossil fuels and nuclear must be used to make up the deficit and both will continue to be used for at least half a century. At best Divestment is simply virtue signalling. Apart from ideological greens, all informed commentators on energy argue that fossil fuels, preferably gas (thus fracking) must be used in the greenest way possible. This includes gurus those like Ware look to.  Thus we should read  the late Sir David Mackay, Dieter Helm, Lord Deben/John Gummer, Mark Lynas, the late Stephen Tindale (formerly of Greenpeace) and others. All accept the pressing issue of Climate Change, but differ on how it needs to be tackled. However the silent majority in the churches seem to be letting this happen, though many do not buy into this strong green agenda.

The result of the single-minded focus on Climate Change means that other issues are almost ignored (unless they can be blamed on Climate Change. In fact to say it is caused by Climate Change is often seen as a full explanation!).

Other issues in the environment are manifold.

Apart from blaming flooding on Climate Change, very little is said on reducing flooding, whether tree planting, peat restoration, or minor modifications in towns e.g. criticising hard surfacing front gardens.

My own diocesan environment group seems to ignore these but have been very forward on fracking, producing three (inaccurate) papers on the subject.

It would not be unfair to say  that  Christian Aid et al adopt much of “left-wing Junk science” and are not only anti-fracking but also anti-GMO, though they are more more muted than they were. Consider this statement;

Doubt about GM’s ability to
increase yields is not the only worry
about its use. The IAASTD warned
that GMOs in the human foodsupply
chain in the form of animal p93
feed ‘might threaten human health’.
GM’s potential environmental
impact is also a cause for concern,
with the evidence again patchy. p93-4

http://www.christianaid.org.uk/images/hungry-for-justice.pdf

It is sad for an august organisation siding with negative critiques of GMO. Here is a critique of Christian Aid going back to 2003 http://www.agbioworld.org/biotech-info/articles/biotech-art/christian_aid.html

More recently it has taken to opposing fracking.   http://www.christianaid.org.uk/ActNow/blog/2013/scc-fracking-action-drilling-fossil-fuels.aspx

and

http://www.christianaid.org.uk/Images/The-Big-Shift-QandA-august-2015.pdf

Does Christian Aid support fracking?
Christian Aid opposes fracking because shale gas is a fossil fuel and will therefore
exacerbate global climate change. Research conducted by the International Energy Agency shows that, whilst gas is a lower carbon fossil fuel than coal, exploiting the world’s reserves of unconventional gas, such as shale gas, could lead to a global temperature rise of 3.5°C.
This is far higher than the 2° rise that the UK and other developed countries has said is necessary to avoid dangerous climate change.Investing in shale gas exploration could also reduce the finance available to invest in renewable energy.

 

This statement completely ignores the difference between fossil fuels; Coal is the worst with the highest CO2 emissions (and other nasties, mostly particulates) ; oil is better  and as we now know petrol is better than diesel. Gas is the cleanest with the least CO2 emissions. (Of course we are told “fracked gas is worse than coal”, but that  only considers the papers by Robert Howarth which are contradicted by the other 05% of papers on the subject.) I can’t comment on his reference to the IEA as he gives no detailed reference. I suggest the operative word is “could”.

By making Divestment and the Big Switch the shibboleths to be a Green Christian, Joe Ware and others have introduced a new fundamentalism where Penal substitution and biblical inerrancy are replaced with Divestment and anti-fracking, and if you do not agree you are not welcome in this green fundamentalism. Sadly other  important green issues are often left to one side due to the adherence to a narrow agenda.

It is sad that Christian Aid is adopting such a narrow agenda as they will prevent many
countries from developing their own (allegedly dirty) energy supplies. Thus the potential
oil and gas in the Western Rift of Uganda could well make Uganda energy sufficient thus
limiting deforestation by replacing would burning with gas. If not exactly clean, it would
be cleaner. To me, having worked in that area as an exploration geologist (for metals)
that would be a great improvement reducing deforestation and smoky huts.
To follow Joe Ware will mean that we will give with one hand and take away with the
other. If this policy is applied throughout the world, many people will be denied access to
energy.
I hope we can follow wisdom and realism and give with both hands.

 

Here is Joe Ware’s article in the Church Times, interspersed with my comments.

Church and tree-huggers, unite!

11 AUGUST 2017

 

The frost between the Church and environmentalists is thawing, says Joe Ware

ALAMY

Protesting: church leaders on 5 December 2009, including the Archbishop of Canterbury at that time, Dr Rowan Williams, wear blue gloves as part of a wave of support at Stop Climate Chaos’s The Wave event, in London

TEN years ago — long before the historic UN Paris agreement on climate change (News, 14 December 2015), and a full year before Barack Obama became President of the United States — the UK’s Environment Agency asked 25 leading environmentalists which five things needed to happen.

Of the top 50 suggestions, second on the list, behind improving energy efficiency, was that religious leaders should make the environment a priority for their followers. In a review of the list, The Guardian’s Alison Benjamin was baffled by the part that these green visionaries saw faith as playing: “I fail to understand how religious leaders’ making the planet their priority will make a sufficient difference to warrant its ranking at two,” she wrote.

No doubt, Church Times readers are more aware that we in the UK live in an oddly secular bubble: for most people in the world, from Brazilian Roman Catholics to Bangladeshi Muslims, faith plays a key part in their lives.

What these environmental champions had identified was the frosty relationship between the environment movement and religion or, more specifically, the Church. The perceived divide between a gang of godless tree-huggers, on the one side, and an institution that cares only about saving souls at the expense of ecological destruction, on the other,

I would love to know when this frosty situation was. In the 70s and 80s few in the churches were bothered. The concern of many was not for the environment but for Race relations and apartheid and the problems of inner cities. This social gospel was at the heart of many Christians’ understanding of the gospel in practice. It was not tree-huggers vs soul savers.

 

caused a damaging impasse in which both creation care and evangelism suffer.

The good news is that this cold war is beginning to thaw.

This misses so many thing. Few before the mid-80s emphasised the environment and they were lone voices and often got nowhere.

In fact, both groups share much common ground, which has huge potential for the Kingdom of God. Like the arrival of Aslan in Narnia’s perpetual winter — the invention of a Christian nature-lover, C. S. Lewis — spring is coming.

 

THE divide between the Church and the environmental movement is a recent one. It arose in the 1970s through the influence of dispensationalist theology, which often taught that at Jesus’s return the earth would be burnt up, and was therefore dispensable,

This is baseless. Christians in the 70s were little concerned about the environment. Yes, some Evangelicals followed Lindsell The Late Great Planet Earth, but it had little or no effect in the wider church. The environment was largely ignored as the focus was on apartheid, Inner city etc.

 

despite the biblical mandate to care for creation and its inhabitants.

Most read Gen 1 vs22 as dominion (good or bad) rather than creation care. This biblical mandate (however interpreted) only came to the fore in about 1990

The dualist second-century heresy of Gnosticism also played a part. Although rejected by the Church, this unbiblical belief that physical matter is evil and only the spiritual is important remains influential, and implies a disregard of the natural world.

This is very sweeping and  was never held by Christians

What is often forgotten is that the modern environmental movement owes its history to Christians.

There was a broad moving towards environmentalism in the 19th century and not only among Christians. One such was Darwin.

The Scottish Presbyterian John Muir, who had memorised the New Testament by the age of 11, established the world’s first National Park in Yosemite, California.

 

John Muir was a great pioneer but reading his biography scarcely shows that Christianity figured large for him as he was more in awe of nature than God.

It was Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley, with Octavia Hill, a devout churchgoer, and Sir Robert Hunter, a broad-church Anglican, who founded the Nation­al Trust in 1895 to con­serve the Lake Dis­trict. As the environ­mental theologian Pro­fes­sor Mi­­chael North­­cott commented, it wasn’t so­­cialists or tree-huggers who started that: it was Anglicans.

This is just picking out two people. There were more and part was the general rejection of killing for collection. An example was Charles Darwin and part may be a realsiation that some species were getting rarer. One forbear was the Rev F O Morris, an ardent anti-evolutionists who founded the Society for the Protection of Birds , which got its Royal Charter in 1904. Northcott’s assertion is dubious.

In fact, Christians and secular environmentalists have a similar world-view.

This is a very limited perspective and makes no mention of God or Jesus Christ.

They both believe that our pristine planetary home has been spoiled by human selfishness (and they are both criticised for being preachy and using guilt to shame people into action).

 

How many believe the earth was never pristine, whatever that means? Many today hold that humans are spoiling the earth, but that is often realism not some starry-eyed departure from a pristine condition.

 

Christians seeking to share the gospel will find that any­one angered by environmental destruction is al­­ready cognisant of human sinfulness and the need for restored rela­tionships throughout creation. A Christianity that empha­sises care for creation will get a ready hearing. As the late evangelist Rob Frost put it: “When Christians take the earth seriously, people take the gospel seriously.”

 

THE campaigners who spoke to the Environment Agency in 2007 effect­ively admitted that they needed help from the Church. The good news is that the Church is responding.

This assumes that these are these are the most important environmental responses. As it is, they focus only on divestment and the big Switch

 

In managing their funds, host of de­­nom­ina­­tions and Christian organ­isa­tions have disinvested from fossil fuels, a movement led by the Methodist campaigner Bill McKibben of 350.org (Interview, 25 October 2013).

It would be more accurate to say some. This is simply assuming that all Christians should follow the lead of McKibbin. Perhaps we should be aware that many of his claims are more emotive than factual.

Thousands of churches in the UK have also switched to 100 per cent renewable electricity through the Big Church Switch scheme, under which more than £1 million in electricity shifted away from fossil fuels (News, 2 September 2016Comment, 15 April 2016).

Is the Big Switch a good idea? It depends on the supposed distinction of clean and dirty erenrgy and makes no distinction between coal (dirty), oil (cleaner) and gas (cleanest fossil fuel) and the fact that “clean” energies aint clean. further it ignores the inaccurate sales talk of some firms eg Ecotricity who blythely claim that they can provide all the gas the UK needs from grass grown for biodigesters. Most experts reckon that biogas like this will top out at 10% – unless we put all National Parks down to grass :). £1million in electricity is minimal as it represents less than 2000 households. What must be asked is whether it is possible to move ALL customers over to renewables. The answer is simply NO, as Sir david Mackay argued in No Hot Air, and will remain NO until at least to the end of century. At best this is virtue signalling and little more than kidding oneself.

 

And, of course, Pope Francis released his encyclical Laudato Si’, which put care for our common home at the heart of RC teaching, and ignited a wave of interest in climate change before the signing of the Paris Agreement in 2015 (News, 26 June 2015). After President Trump’s decision to withdraw from this agreement, a stand by the Church has never been more needed.

The Church has a crucial part to play in helping to accelerate the world’s much-needed low-carbon transition. If it can pull it off, and unite all those that care for God’s creation, then both heaven and earth will be able to rejoice.

The implication is that those who do not accept his arguments, which are shaky to say the least, do not care for God’s creation. That is unjust in the extreme and rather cultic in the way it excludes those Christians who do not agree. It is simply a Green Fundamentalism. Rather than harnessing the whole church’s resources this is simply dividing Christians and will result in less being done.

Joe Ware is a journalist and writer at Christian Aid. He is on Twitter at @wareisjoe.

The Church Times Green Church Awards – Buildings

Assam Earthquake 15th August 1950

As we mark the 70th anniversary of India and Pakistan, we would also remember that the Assamese did not have a good day on the 15th August.

During the night a massive Mag 8.6 earthquake struck the area, with its epicentre just inside Tibet.That makes it far bigger than the Mag 7.8 in Nepal in 2015. However the damage or loss of life, though considerable, were far less as the area was less densely populated.

My own interest is that we were living in Jorhat on the tea plantations of Assam at the time and the quake became part of family history. We lived in a bungalow, which was built on stilts for protection against earthquakes and had about ten servants as was the norm.

So what happened?

The bungalow on stilts began to sway. Wardrobes fell over, but didn’t hit anyone.

The car, an american Studebaker, rolled out off the garage onto the lawn.

My parents took my brother and I to spend the night in the car.

In Jorhat there was much damage, but also poetic justice. There were acute food shortages and grain sellers kept their grain hoping to get higher prices. However the quake collapsed many of the warehouses and then the price dropped. Locals imply went in and took what they wanted.

The other personal detail concerns a friend of my parents, Frank Kingdom Ward, a botanist and plant-collector. He was known to be in the vicinity of the epicentre and was actually sleeping on top of it. nothing was heard of him for three months when he re-appeared. On 16th August he had intended to botanise in a Himalayan valley, but that was partly filled in with landslides. He slowly made his way out and returned to safety.

For further details read https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1950_Assam%E2%80%93Tibet_earthquake

Not surprisingly that is the biggest quake I’ve been in. When I was working at Kilembe mines as a geologist in the Ruwenzori Mountains of the Western Rift Valley smaller quakes were common. we often had Mag 3 to 5 quakes and as they did no damage we almost ignored. The most memorable one was during a church service at All Saints Church, Kilembe. Halfway through a hymn a quake struck and the whole church (wooden) shook violently. The organist missed a note and carried on. Nobody mentioned afterwards.

Two years earlier a Mag 6.5 hit the northern Ruwenzori and a dozen were killed, including the son of a vicar Rev Mikairi Nturanke, who I later knew well and went to a harvest service in his church. I preached my first sermon there!

Since then I’ve felt a few quakes in Britain but none more than 5.  the biggest caused a little damage but no injuries.

Living in Lancashire now, we often have unfelt Mag2s and occasionally a bit more but I have never felt any.

This biggest were those of Preece Hall fracking in 2011 being up to Mag 1.5 and Mag 2.3 . They were hardly felt and did no damage , despite dubious claims. The biggest damage was to the minds of certain people who read about them later and wrote creatively about them.

 

Many don’t grasp the Magnitude scale. I am rather simplifying and seismologists might like greater precision, but this gives the picture.

From this you will see that the fracking quakes of Lancashire were no more than lightning bolt, that the Mag 8.6 in Assam  was far greater than the explosion of Mt St Helens and about the same as Krakatoa.

Even the quakes, due to injection into wells,  of Oklahoma which are mostly about 3 to 4 are trivial compare to those of the 2004 tsunami, Nepal 2015 and Assam 1950

 

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Charles Darwin exposes A N Wilson as a fraud

What a rubbish article!!

Frankly this article by A N Wilson in the Evening Standard couldn’t have been much worse if it had been written by a Young earth Creationist like Ken Ham or Kent Hovind.

I lifted the whole article and made a few comments on the worst errors. I expect the book to be worse.

In the 90s I read Wilson’s two books; God’s Funeral – written in his athiest phase, and The Victorians, which on science and religion just repeated the well-worn, and, by then well-refuted, myth of the conflict of science and religion. I was not impressed then and am less so today.

Since then he has come back to faith , having originally been an Anglican ordinand. However he is still better at creative writing, rather than well-researched writing, which cares about intellectual honesty and accuracy.

It is so different from great biographies like that of Janet Browne, or rob Wesson’s recent study of Darwin’s South American geology – Darwin’s First Theory.

If you think I am annoyed about this, you may just be right.

For those who don’t know me, I am a semi-retired Anglican priest, who still runs a parish. I took a degree in geology and was an exploration geologist before ordination. I have written a fair amount on science and religion and also on Darwin’s geology and his beliefs.

BTW you should never use the word “silly” when criticising someone’s writing, unless………

A.N. Wilson: It’s time Charles Darwin was exposed for the fraud he was

https://www.standard.co.uk/comment/comment/it-s-time-charles-darwin-was-exposed-for-the-fraud-he-was-a3604166.html?amp

Two of his theories about evolution are wrong — and one resulting ‘science’ inspired the Nazis

Comments deleted!!

Visionary or crank? Charles Darwin in 1881, photographed by Julia Margaret Cameron
Visionary or crank? Charles Darwin in 1881, photographed by Julia Margaret Cameron Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy

Charles Darwin, whose bearded face looks out at us from the £10 note, is about to be replaced by Jane Austen. I’ve spent the past five years of my life writing his biography and mastering his ideas. Which do you throw out of the balloon? Pride and Prejudice or The Origin of Species?

Funnily enough, in the course of my researches, I found both pride and prejudice in bucketloads among the ardent Darwinians, who would like us to believe that if you do not worship Darwin, you are some kind of nutter. He has become an object of veneration comparable to the old heroes of the Soviet Union, such as Lenin and Stalin, whose statues came tumbling down all over Eastern Europe 20 and more years ago.

Silly writing. Very few, especially among scientists, venerate Darwin. He is highly regarded as a great scientist and his limitations known.

We had our own version of a Soviet statue war in London some years ago when the statue of Darwin was moved in the Natural History Museum. It now looms over the stairs brooding over the visitors. It did originally sit there, but it was replaced by a statue of Richard Owen, who was, after all, the man who had started the Natural History Museum, and who was one of the great scientists of the 19th century. Then in 2009, the bicentenary of Darwin’s birth, Owen was booted out, and Darwin was put back, in very much the way that statues of Lenin replaced religious or monarchist icons in old Russia.

By the time Owen died (1892), Darwin’s reputation was fading, and by the beginning of the 20th century it had all but been eclipsed.

Too simplistic. If you read Bowler’s works eg The Non-Darwinian Revolution, you will note that after 1880 natural selection went out of favour for half a century. However Darwin was still highly respected as events on his centenary show.

Then, in the early to mid 20th century, the science of genetics got going. Science rediscovered the findings of Gregor Mendel (Darwin’s contemporary) and the most stupendous changes in life sciences became possible. Watson and Crick discovered the structure of DNA, and thereafter the complexity and wonder of genetics, all demonstrable by scientific means, were laid bare. Only this week we have learned of medicine’s stupendous ability to zap embryonic, genetically transmuted disorders.

Darwinism is not science as Mendelian genetics are.

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That is a most face-palming comment. The use of the word Darwinism is unhelpful whether to describe the science of Darwin or his so-called followers. As for Darwin his science is as accomplished as it is wide ranging. He started as a geologist and showed great prowess. I have been lucky to study his geology in Shropshire and Wales in depth. This took place before and after his voyage on the Beagle. This can be studied in Sandra Herbert Charles Darwin;geologist and Rob Wesson.Darwin’s first theory. (or my lesser writings just-before-the-beagle  ) He had great plans for his geology in the 1840s and want to look at every limestone reef in Britain but illness put paid to that..

So on moving to Downe he did a highly detailed study on Barnacles, wrote the Origin and after that wrote some wonderful scientific monographs on so many aspects of biology. He was fascinated by the chemistry of drosera/ sundew which catches flies instead of photosynthesising. He was the first to use chemistry in biology. An American friend is writing a book on his experimental work.

I wonder if Wilson has read many of Darwin’s books, scientific papers or even notebooks

None of this denigrates Mendel or Wallace. Though Mendel is not highly significant.

 

It is a theory whose truth is NOT universally acknowledged. But when genetics got going there was also a revival, especially in Britain, of what came to be known as neo-Darwinism, a synthesis of old Darwinian ideas with the new genetics. Why look to Darwin, who made so many mistakes, rather than to Mendel?

A silly comment. All good scientists make lots of mistakes. Darwin described his 1839 work on the Parallel roads of Glenroy  as a “long, gigantic blunder”. I found many in his 1831 geology BUT he produced so much good science.

 

There was a simple answer to that. Neo-Darwinism was part scientific and in part a religion, or anti-religion. Its most famous exponent alive, Richard Dawkins, said that Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually satisfied atheist.

Perhaps so for Dawkins up to a point, but still grossly simplistic and silly.

You could say that the apparently impersonal processes of genetics did the same. But the neo-Darwinians could hardly, without absurdity, make Mendel their hero since he was a Roman Catholic monk. So Darwin became the figurehead for a system of thought that (childishly) thought there was one catch-all explanation for How Things Are in nature.

The great fact of evolution was an idea that had been current for at least 50 years before Darwin began his work.

Silly. There had been tentative suggestions for 50 years, but none whether Erasmus Darwin Lamarck or Chambers in the Vestiges were acceptable scientific theories. Darwin produced the first scientifically TENABLE theory of evolution, even though there were gaps

 

His own grandfather pioneered it in England, but on the continent, Goethe, Cuvier, Lamarck and many others realised that life forms evolve through myriad mutations.

silly. See above. BTW Cuvier adamantly rejected evolution but was excellent on the succession of life worked out from fossils

Darwin wanted to be the Man Who Invented Evolution, so he tried to airbrush all the predecessors out of the story.

Pure fantasy. You just need to read all his references in his books

He even pretended that Erasmus Darwin, his grandfather, had had almost no influence on him.

Probably true as Erasmus put his ideas into a poem 🙂

He then brought two new ideas to the evolutionary debate, both of which are false.

One is that evolution only proceeds little by little, that nature never makes leaps. The two most distinguished American palaeontologists of modern times, Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge, both demonstrated 30 years ago that this is not true. Palaeontology has come up with almost no missing links of the kind Darwinians believe in. The absence of such transitional forms is, Gould once said, the “trade secret of palaeontology”. Instead, the study of fossils and bones shows a series of jumps and leaps.

Many reckon that Gould and Eldredge overstated the jumps, but both they and Darwin were operating on a long timescale.  Hey what!! I wonder if Wilson wants to reject the geological timescale. He might even find Ken Ham a good buddy.

Hard-core Darwinians try to dispute this, and there are in fact some “missing links” — the Thrinaxodon, which is a mammal-like reptile, and the Panderichthys, a sort of fish-amphibian. But if the Darwinian theory of natural selection were true, fossils would by now have revealed hundreds of thousands of such examples.

A typical Creationist argument. in fact “Darwinism” (I hate the term – just say evolutionary science) predicted Tiktaalik and Shubin went to find it in Greenland. In a sense all fossils are intermediates!! Wilson’s misunderstanding of evolution is immense.

Species adapt themselves to their environment, but there are very few transmutations.

Darwin’s second big idea was that Nature is always ruthless: that the strong push out the weak, that compassion and compromise are for cissies whom Nature throws to the wall. Darwin borrowed the phrase “survival of the fittest” from the now forgotten and much discredited philosopher Herbert Spencer. He invented a consolation myth for the selfish class to which he belonged, to persuade them that their neglect of the poor, and the colossal gulf between them and the poor, was the way Nature intended things.

Silly. Despite, or in spite of his wealth., Darwin had a great concern for the poor and needy. This statement runs contrary to everything we read about him and his actions

He thought his class would outbreed the “savages” (ie the brown peoples of the globe) and the feckless, drunken Irish. Stubbornly, the unfittest survived. Brown, Jewish and Irish people had more babies than the Darwin class. The Darwinians then had to devise the hateful pseudo-science of eugenics, which was a scheme to prevent the poor from breeding.

Eugenics cannot be blamed on Darwin

We all know where that led, and the uses to which the National Socialists put Darwin’s dangerous ideas.

A smear tactic with no historical foundation

Now that we have replaced Darwin on the tenner with the more benign figure of Miss Austen, is this not the moment to reconsider taking down his statue from the Natural History Museum, and replacing him with the man who was sitting on the staircase until 2009 — the museum’s founder, Richard Owen?

A.N. Wilson’s Charles Darwin: Victorian Mythmaker (John Murray, £25) is out next month

Darwin’s Boulders

In June 1842 Charles Darwin undertook his last geological field trip. He was at his father’s house, The Mount  in Shrewsbury, that month and after a winter of sickness, he felt somewhat better. Thus, he went in his gig to Snowdonia to assess whether Buckland was correct in identifying proof of a former Ice Age. In October 1841 William Buckland travelled to Wales with Thomas Sopwith (his grandson designed the Sopwith Camel, a WW1 fighter plane) to see whether Agassiz could be right about a former Ice Age. In a few days of horrendous Welsh weather Buckland identified all the main glacial troughs

Buckland

Buckland dressed for Welsh Glaciers by Thomas Sopwith

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View from top of Y Garn 3104ft showing the Llugwy trough leading to Capel Curig, Llyn Idwal, a morainic lake.

To the left is Nant Francon, viewed below – with embellishments.

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In 1831 de la Beche painted this watercolour to show that little rivers could not produce big valleys. He was right, but ideas of glaciation were a few years ahead.

This map shows the routes of both Buckland and Darwin in 1841-2 with some further details

1842JOURNEY

This map shows the locality of Cwm Idwal with the lake/llyn in the centre.

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Darwin spent a few days in Capel Curig and then several around Cwm Idwal before moving on to Moel Tryfan and then Llanberis and Snowdon.

 

Most iconic are the boulders he found in Cwm Idwal dubbed the Darwin Boulders. Here is the partial transcription of his 1842 notes, which are often scarcely legible

 

60- 80 yards west of exit of river – a gigantic boulder

broken into 4 tabular surfaces thus rest on their narrow edges

upright. the two lower ones have fallen over + rest on

neighbouring grt boulder _ the two upright plates stand

transversely on gentle slope in which they rest _ the fragment and

so far a part this xxxxx xxxx must have been

thrown with force where it now stands, but not rolled

from neighbouring precipice otherwise plates have been thrown

over . _ action of ice. fallen though . _ example xxxx

stronger . =

First, the boulders lie to the EAST of the “exit of river” and not the WEST, which confuses all. It is alway great to confuse students!!

He sees the 4 (angular ) bits as the original boulder which fell through the glacier and landed on another which shows a few marks of being water-worn.

At that time Buckland and Darwin only noted AN Ice Age and not a succession of them as became apparent later. This in itself was a great breakthrough

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The boulders with Twll Du/ Devils Kitchen behind which he described in 1831

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Boulders with Pne yr Oleu Wen behind

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Same, but closer too

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Boulders from across Llyn Idwal with Pen yr Hegli Du behind

DSCF0974

Boulders just visible to the left of the llyn. View of Idwal slabs and Cwm Cneifion above – an ancient hanging valley.

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My dog and field assistant Topper in 1999 after he had waited for me to negotiate a cornice on the headwall of Cwm Cneifion.

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Boulders with Carnedd Llewellyn behind

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Boulders from the moraines of Cwm Cneifion

Most of these photos were taken in August 2017 while leading a field trip for Harvard Summer School

For further reading

Darwin, Buckland and the Welsh Ice Age, 1837 – 1842, Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association 123 (2012) 649–662

And on his visit of 1831

Darwin at Llanymynech; British Journal for the History of Science, 1996, Vol 29, pp469-78

Darwin’s Dog-leg ; Archives of the History of Natural History, 1998, Vol 25, p59-73

I   coloured a map ; Archives of the History of Natural History, 2000, Vol 27,p69-79

Charles Darwin’s 1831 notes of Shropshire,Archives of the History of Natural History 2002,Vol 29 , p 27-9; co-authored  with Prof.S.Herbert (University of Maryland)

Darwin’s Welsh Geology, 1831,  Endeavour  Spring 2001, 25, p33-37

Available here just-before-the-beagle

 

 

 

How Organic Food is a contrick

A concept used by some for ideal food is LOAF i.e. Local,. Organic ,Animal friendly and Fair Trade.  Organic becomes contentious and this blog of David Zaruk explains why. (I did not write it but like it)

How Organic is a marketing concept

Rickmonger is Dr David Zaruk a prof at a Belgian Univ  https://risk-monger.com/about-2/

https://risk-monger.com/2017/08/04/how-organic-is-a-marketing-concept/

For almost two decades, the Risk-Monger and others have held the belief that scientific facts, data and evidence were sufficient for rational decision-making. In the case of the rise in public demand for organic food, he was foolishly wrong and quite tragically Stupid. Facts don’t matter in our decision-making process (although we all agree they should), emotions do. And when we come to emotions, we are in the domain of marketing, not scientific facts.

Using scientific data to address the emotional messages crafted by the marketing geniuses from the organic lobby is like bringing a knife to a gun-fight. The organic lobby has slaughtered science and common sense on agri-tech with their marketing machine, expensive campaigns and networks of special interests filling the well-funded troughs with their brands, referral fees and sponsorship deals.

Definition note. I use the term: “organic industry lobby” to include interest groups dictating and defining organic. Lobby groups like IFOAM and OCA (which funds USRTK and many anti-industry campaigners), NGOs like PAN, FoE or CFS, Internet generators like SumOfUs, label bodies like Non-GMO Project, Trojan Horse organisations like Moms Across America or GM Watch, funding foundations like Rodale or Cliff Family, internet gurus, activist scientists, retailers and organic brands (most usually led by outspoken “philanthropists”). Often I hear organic farmers and advocates correct me that these groups do not represent “organic”, but rarely do they stand up and speak out against their lobby’s unethical marketing practices.

This week I released a summer series of memes on twitter to illustrate how the organic industry is built on a number of basic marketing concepts. People on social media often talk about “organic” merely being a marketing label, but I have never read an analysis of which marketing tools they use. These six concepts are by no means the only tools used by organic industry marketing experts, but they are standard tools taught in schools. As you read through the sections, ask yourself if there is anything to organic food other than a series of slick marketing tricks. I asked myself that and have drawn a blank.

As you read through the sections, ask yourself if there is anything to organic food other than a series of slick marketing tricks.

1 fear1. Marketers use fear to sell

Hands up: Who wants to eat toxic chemicals?

Most people will spend more on organic food to avoid pesticides or chemicals. A UK survey stated that 95% of consumers choose organic to avoid exposure to (conventional) pesticides. This was the motive behind the Swedish retailer, the Coop, with their chemical-free “Organic Effect” campaign (since ruled by a Swedish court to be false advertising forbidding the Coop to continue to make such claims). Marketers merely have to mutter: “chemicals in your body” and frightened consumers run to their wallets.

Marketing organic is overly built on fears and doomsday scenarios. In the last month, like most of the months before, we have been told the following:

  • that biodiversity and the agricultural system is on the verge of collapse,
  • that humanity will go extinct from pesticide influence on the endocrine system,
  • that autism will soon affect half of our children.

There is no reasonable evidence provided for any of these claims; the mass repetition on social media is justification enough. Other daily doses of fears on the threat from conventional farming include: bees, water, biodiversity, cancer, obesity … and, of course, climate change. Need I also add corporate domination of the food chain, particularly by a company that begins with an M (which apparently I troll for!)?

Few people ask whether organic (non-GM) farming actually is better for health, biodiversity, bees, pesticide reduction… Why? Well the scientists with the evidence are not marketing alternative products; the companies with the data have ethical codes of conduct that restrict them from openly assaulting competitors’ products; and people want to believe organic is better (a fear is only effective if there is an antidote). Whenever the Risk-Monger tries to show these marketing experts are full of shit, he gets a load dumped on him!

cachet2. Marketers create a false perception of  luxury

Whether it is a designer label, a technology trinket, a gourmet burger or a sleek logo, the marketing sweet spot has always been associating your brand or product with a perception of quality or luxury.

Organic food carries a cachet of being better: better taste, better nutrients, better quality, better for you, for the environment and for biodiversity. None of these perceptions are true by the way (see links) but this perception of being better implies that the consumer who buys organic is better. The price for organic food is mostly not justified (any more than an iPhone or Burberry trench coat price is justified), but is often a luxury levy for the organic label. Chains like Whole Foods do well with the increased margins, but their price gouging does hurt the overall image of organic food.

Organic’s marketing message is clear: conventional food is cheap, unhealthy and toxic. You and your family are worth more; the planet is worth more. The message is clear: organic is smug. It doesn’t help that the organic lobby has embraced elites and celebrities to speak on their behalf.

3 star power3. Get your product star-struck

Of course any luxury brand gets its cachet from the star power it generates. Marketers have known this simple equation since the early James Bond films. Not since the glory days of tobacco advertising has the marketing world seen anything like the golden carpet the organic lobby has laid out for celebrities having grown tired of remembering their lines. The rush for pixie dust has allowed B-listers like Paltrow, Alba, Cox and Hurley to profit handsomely from putting their names on organic operations.  It is a win-win. Today a celebrity needs a “cause”, and standing up for the organic lobby is righteous enough without the need to get your hands dirty. All it takes is a few lines in front of a camera!

We all aspire to be like the famous, to be “Like Mike”, and we are willing to pay for it. Given the number of small, emerging organic food brands, a simple endorsement from a celebrity is enough to bring a hitherto unknown brand into the mainstream with shelf-space. It is not uncommon for these small brands to pay celebrities in part-ownership of the companies: more product placements, more shareholder profits.

If you are a typical celebrity, with all the personal quirks, then promoting organic brands is a lot safer than identifying yourself with other environmental causes. You can still fly on private jets, check into rehab (Hey! That even offers more marketing opportunities with a new ‘detox’ line!) – hell, you can even wear fur! And once the organic lobby sniffs that a star may drift towards the foodie side, they handle all the coms … and they never impose ethical expectations or codes of conduct!

The organic lobby has also created their own home-grown star power (Vani, Dr Merc, Zen, Ranger Mike and the Avocado can move millions and product referral fees pay handsomely. Mamavation even organises an event called Shiftcon which helps emerging bloggers to network and find organic industry reps who will support them (a mutual “wellness” exchange!).

4 simple4. It’s all about feeling good

Consumption is based on our need to feel good about ourselves, and those choosing organic (more natural, fewer inputs) are told to feel wonderful about themselves. The organic lobby has presented an image of benign consumption with clear simple messages: Buy local, from small farmers, chemical-free, all-natural, less waste, sustainable …

Activists who engage with me on social media want to let me know how they are solving all of the world’s problems with simple solutions: organic roof gardens, getting homeless people to work in urban gardens, saving seeds, organic food banks, school lunch contributions, fighting industry domination … These are little solutions, however, to big problems. They are promoted with a religious zeal by opportunists who understand that complex debates have no marketing value. Of course we can feed the world with organic, we just need to stop food waste and build more roof gardens! Stupid Risk-Monger!!!

Scientists addressing these problems with agri-tech solutions are attacked as being the source of the problem. GMOs don’t work! Get industry out and let the little farmers feed the world. Stop pumping poisons into the soil and these farms will flourish. Stupid Risk-Monger!!!

Science looks at all possible solutions and decides on the best approach to take. If organic or agroecology provided a better solution, it will be accepted. Agroecology does not consider all solutions … only the organic ones (sorry, but in my books, that is the definition of a religion, not a science). That makes the message simple and clear – exactly what organic lobby marketers want. And if a pro-organic scientist cannot find the facts or data to back up what he wants to say, no problem. Just say: “I guess we just have to trust our intuition at times. I’ve met many people who say they just feel better eating organic foods — or foods that are sprayed less often.”

Science looks at all possible solutions and decides on the best approach to take. If organic or agroecology provided a better solution, it will be accepted. Agroecology does not consider all solutions … only the organic ones (sorry, but in my books, that is the definition of a religion, not a science).

5 narrative5. Follow the Cultural Narrative

Our cultural and social narratives define how we perceive the world, order the stories we tell and structure our values. Narratives don’t have to be true or factual but simply trusted (and trust is emotion-based). A dominant cultural narrative in many affluent countries is that products coming from nature are good (and that which is man-made is suspect). Recently this has led to a growing negative public perception of conventionally grown produce, biotechnology, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and vaccines. The more Western societies are relying on technological advances, the less consumers understand or trust them.

Marketers are not in the business of educating consumers with science and data. Their goal is to sell more and satisfy consumer wants. If the narrative defines these wants as being nature-based then the marketing gurus will put some ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ label on the product.

pinkunicornBrands do not have a moral imperative to do what is right; they have a fiduciary imperative to their shareholders to do what is profitable. Marketers simply take whatever narrative is widely accepted, and fashion a campaign around it. So if your society’s narrative convinces you that invisible pink unicorns grow organic salt, brand marketing experts will put a picture of a cute unicorn on the package. More than that, they will develop a religious fervour around unicorns to ensure you keep buying their salt.

Intensive marketing of products around an illogical narrative will reinforce it and insulate consumers from rational discourse. It took several generations to get mothers to return to breastfeeding and today the stigma still resonates. The more companies, brands and retailers promote high-margin organic food brands as attainable luxuries, the more the stigma of conventional farming will spread. I fear this marketing episode will take more than a generation to return the narrative to a rational balance, and with a growing global population, I am not sure the food chain can survive such a prolonged stretch of Stupid. Lives will be lost (… but not those involved in the market research studies!).

While the narrative shift towards organic and natural has created enormous marketing opportunities, without any scientific guidance, it has also led to significant societal risk. Some examples: Pepsi has started promoting soft-drinks with traditional (natural or real) sugars; Chipotle has grown beyond the capacity of a safe, organic supply chain. I cannot fathom the depth of depravity of snake-oil supplements salesmen like Joseph Mercola or Wayne Parent who invest heavily in spreading the narrative mischief that underlines their bottom line. The most blatant marketing offender though has been Cargill, who recognise that the anti-GMO science is wrong, but, with zero integrity, spot the market opportunity of the growing cultural narrative and are working with the activists to take over the organic supply chain.  Pepsi is not responsible for the rise in obesity levels (or the environmental damage of increased sugar cane production), nor is Chipotle responsible for growing public distrust in the food chain, and it seems Cargill will not be accountable for serious stresses in global food security and potential famines.

6 You Suck6. You Suck!

The key marketing trick is to convince the consumer that he or she sucks. Shame, (fear of) humiliation and peer inadequacy are key tricks for motivating consumption. If you don’t buy my expensive fashion label, use my high-end mobile phone, eat in this expensive gourmet hamburger joint or drive the right type of car, well, You Suck!

Nobody wants to be a bad parent, bad boyfriend, bad person so the solution is to buy an overpriced product, shop at the Organic Emporium, wear trendy clothes from Goop, get designer nappies from Honest … please spend all of your money to finally be someone. Otherwise, … You Suck! (Ironically, I developed this idea from an early piece from the head of Greenpeace America, Annie Leonard.)

Organic retailers like Whole Foods Market create an aspirational brand – a smug: “You’ve made it and can afford what is good for you and your family!”. A Belgian Bio-Planet supermarket (equivalent to Whole Foods in its elitist foodie pretentiousness) is on my running route, and each time I pass, I can’t help but count the number of Beemers and Mercs in the car-park (strangely, no bicycles). What sort of person who could afford a luxury lifestyle would not then pop a couple thousand extra a year for luxury food? Only one who sucks!

Mamavation and Moms Across America are the most unethical exploiters of this marketing trick, aiming at the marketer’s sweet spot: the guilt-prone mother. When Mamavation published its smug Top 10 Reasons to Feed Your Family Organic (let’s face it, only a bad mother would not!), I lost it and wrote my Top 20 reasons not to feed your family organic. I was not prepared for the positive reaction that blog received from people who were fed up with the condescending nature of these marketing experts.

What the organic lobby has done so brilliantly is turn the “You Suck!” nuclear option back on the brands and retailers themselves. Just Label It and USRTK tell brands that if they use GMOs or don’t put GMO-free on the label, then their consumer movement will reject the brand or company. Vani Hari, The Food-Babe, used “You Suck!” to cower chains like Subway and McDonald’s to fall in line to her organic simplicity. Recently, the Organic Consumer Association used their patsy in the New York Times to try to “greenmail” Ben & Jerry’s to go all organic. Until now, Unilever are resisting the “You Suck!” pressure tactics.

Even more interesting is how the organic lobby has made divisiveness core to their campaigns. Without any ethical codes of conduct, organic lobbyists are fighting dirty, attacking anyone who disagrees with them, labeling them Monsanto shills (the ultimate sucking!) and portraying conventional farmers as evil capitalists poisoning the planet. If you don’t farm organic, then You Suck! If you support science and agri-tech, then you’re a shill and … yes, … You Suck!

Apparently I suck so bad that quite regularly some pro-organic actor wishes me dead on twitter.  I suppose this blog isn’t going to make that go away.

I had mentioned at the start that there were other marketing tools that the organic lobby uses. For example, our yearning for the good ol’ days (nostalgia) is very effective. How often do you see superficial memes reminding us that all agriculture used to be organic? The organic farmer is often portrayed as an old, friendly man with a straw-hat (as opposed to the conventional farmer in a hazmat suit).
Every marketing textbook will tell you that sex sells and a goal in making your product attractive. Sex is used as a marketing tool by the organic lobby (but not as much as one would anticipate). Besides the obvious efforts of Vani Hari’s Food Babe character, Rodale and Cliff have been trying to show how an organic life leads to better sex.

The Risk-Monger has Hope

I know, I know, … “hope” is a pathetic straw clutched by losers still in the game … but I need something to fuel these lonely, late night writing sessions!

I cannot see any intrinsic value to promoting organic food (note this blog did not get into the negative consequences, of which there are many), which implies that the organic lobby has used superficial marketing tricks alone to grow their business. Ironically, this is good news long term (although history will judge the present period as pathetically stupid).

Building your house on the marketing concepts discussed above is not a sound business decision. While scientific facts, evidence and data are reliable for long-term planning, fear and emotion are not. People may wake up tomorrow and realise that the arguments and tricks these marketers built up are quite hollow, ethically-challenged or, simply put, scams. Consumers may see the elitist privilege behind the labels and look for other meaningful brand identification. Or the supply chain may struggle under the weight of such marketing success, leaving retailers and manufactures to race to find alternative marketing tools (remember “organic cotton”?).

The rise of Big Organic, its marketing muscle and its regulatory influence has been impressive. Social media in the Age of Stupid, combined with the affluence of western societies persuading people to fear commerce and industry, has allowed this new consumer sector to flourish. Such a tower built on sand can, however, collapse in a heart-beat … and then what?

In the autumn, I will publish a series of blogs providing an alternative to the mess these marketers have forced upon us. The solution will not be more science and facts however … but more clever marketing tricks.

Yes, indeed, The Risk-Monger sucks!

 

Eight Tips on How to Grab the Bully by the Horns

Here are the woes of someone dealing with ant–GMO types. It all sounds very familiar. It is exactly the same on fracking or any other green issue, where the “activist knows best”.

The Risk-Monger

“It’s getting ‘shilly’ out there!” That is my usual reaction when I glaze through my morning twitter breakfast buffet of gratuitous insults from pro-organic activists. I understand that being positive towards genetic engineering, agri-tech and conventional agriculture in Brussels is enough to justify name-calling and bullying (forget dialogue or discussion in today’s volatile policy landscape!). But I am always curious why people who think they are so good act so badly toward those who disagree with them.

I’m often told: David, rise above them! or: Don’t stoop to their levels! But I’ve seen these bullies before and as their desperation or frustration increases, so do their personal attacks.

  • I have a hard time tolerating lies and deceitfulness;
  • I have a hard time tolerating those who use fear and emotion to counter facts and reason;
  • I have a hard time tolerating those who attack others rather than engage in dialogue;
  • I…

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