Monday, November 14, 2011

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Not normal

Sooner or later in every talk, [David] Brower describes the creation of the world. He invites his listeners to consider the six days of Genesis as a figure of speech for what has in fact been four billion years. In this scale, a day equals something like six hundred and sixty-six million years, and thus "all day Monday until Tuesday noon, creation was busy getting the earth going." Life began Tuesday noon, and "the beautiful, organic wholeness of it" developed over the next four days. "At 4 P.M. Saturday, the big reptiles came on. Five hours later, when the redwoods appeared, there were no more big reptiles. At three minutes before midnight, man appeared. At one-fourth of a second before midnight, Christ arrived. At one-fourtieth of a second before midnight, the Industrial Revolution began. We are surrounded with people who think that what we have been doing for that one-fourtieth of a second can go on indefinitely. They are considered normal, but they are stark, raving mad."
(John McPhee, Encounters with the Archdruid, 1971)


"The Hetch-Hetchy Valley, California" by Albert Bierstadt, ca. 1874-1880.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Eat fruit and understand exponential growth!

You still believe Malthus was wrong? Study in a social "sciences" department, did you?




Exponential growth is counter-intuitive, but only very simple math is required. The "rule of 69" tells us that with a constant rate of growth, the doubling time (T2) is 69 years divided by the annual growth rate (in percent): ln2/k ≈ 0.69/k. With k the annual rate of growth, in percent, the doubling time, in years, is approximately 69/k. (With k=0.02 or 2% (2/100), the doubling time is ln2/k≈100*0.69/2≈35 years; If something grows steadily at 7% per year (k=0.07), the doubling time is 69/7≈10 years). This is all easily derived from the exponential growth function r(t)=r(0)exp(kt), where r(t) is the quantity r at time t, r(0) is the quantity at the start (t=0), and k is the growth rate. The doubling time is the time, T2, at which r(T2)=2r(0), that is, 2r(0)=r(0)exp(k(T2)), which implies that T2= ln2/k ≈0.69/k.

Furthermore, with each successive doubling, the resulting quantity is greater than the cumulative total of all quantities before that since the process began.

The quantity in question can be money, a particular resource, or an animal population, such as the human population size—anything that is capable of growing (for a while) at a constant rate of growth.

If r is a resource, such as global oil reserves, suppose we have R tons of oil left, and we are increasing the rate of oil use by 100k% per year. The expiration time, Te, the time it takes to use up all that oil, is the amount of time till the total used is equal to R. The total resource used by time T, is the integral from t=0 to T of r(t) with respect to t, which is ∫r(t)dt=∫r(0)exp(kt)dt=r(0)(exp(kT)-1)/k. Hence the expiration time, Te, is where R = r(0)(exp(kTe)-1)/k, so Te= ln((kR/r(0))+1)/k.

An excellent introduction to exponential growth can be found here:


You can watch Dr. Bartlett's entire lecture, piecemeal, here, or here.

Do it! It is every voting citizen's duty to acquire the understanding and the prerequisites needed to comprehend the important issues of our time.

If you are only going to watch one 9 minute segment of the lecture, part 3 gives a particularly vivid example:


It doesn't matter whether the growth is in population or in consumption.

Money can grow indefinitely, because the money we use today is simply debt. There is no absolute limit to the total amount of debt humanity can have. But there is a limit to the stuff we can buy with that money (debt)... Thor believes you can figure out the consequences of that for yourself...

"Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place…"
—Isaiah 23, 005:008

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

So cute...

Bull sharks... So cute! :-) No shark has a worse reputation among humans than the bull shark, which is often found in brackish and murky waters.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Not for profit

Donnie Maclurcan gave a TEDx Youth Talk a while back (below). Change the world to a not-for-profit model: remove the destructive and unsustainable profit motive and focus on enough, on sufficiency instead of excess.



Donnie's lecture includes the story of from Africa of a potlatch economy—more commonly known from North America. Many economic systems are possible. There is nothing magical about our particular economic system; except that it has yielded this incredible growth, which is proving so destructive. Time will tell if we find a way to steer away from this path, most akin to a mindless, trancelike collective suicide. Perhaps the time is ripe, where enough people are beginning to see that the neoclassical economic model has not really delivered on the promise that we have been breast-fed on the corporate teat and will begin to see the true costs of the anti-science perpetual growth model.


"The frontier is no more. Now it is spaceship rules or death."
                                                      —David C. Korten

http://tvburkey.org/MyQuotesCollection.htm#OnEconomics

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Killing wolves in Norway

Write to Norwegian Environment Minister Erik Solheim to protest this repugnant idiocy.
(Information here: http://thorshammer.blogspot.com. Also, you may send a form letter here: http://forests.org/shared/alerts/sendsm.aspx?id=norway_wolves.
Please ask your favorite news agency (BBC, Der Spiegel, CNN, whatever) to cover the goings on in barbaric Norway.
For letter in Norwegian: http://tvburkey.org/documents/Solheim_brev.pdf)



"Whenever I see a photograph of some sportsman grinning over his kill, I am always impressed by the striking moral and esthetic superiority of the dead animal to the live one."
—Edward Abbey

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Yet another massacre

Norway is gearing up for yet another wolf massacre. Please contact your favorite/local/regional news organization and encourage them to cover the barbaric travesty playing itself out against a desperately persecuted, critically endangered species, the beautiful and intelligent grey wolf (Canis lupus) in the far northern reaches of Europe. Feel free to use the text below in your appeal for coverage of the Endlösung Norwegian authorities are unleashing on the once most widely ranging mammal species on Earth.



[Text]
Just as the last few wolves are dying in Sweden, Norway is gearing up for yet another massacre of the critically endangered wolf.

Sweden has raised international ire by repeating the stunt it started last year, in what now looks like an annual wolf massacre. Last year 28 wolves fell, and right now the last few are dying out of the 20 Swedish authorities have allowed more than 6,700 “hunters” to pursue this year, with the express goal of capping the population at 210 individuals.

Across the border, in Norway, the situation is much worse.

Local Norwegian “carnivore councils” have authorized the killing of eight wolves, out of the approximately 30-35 individuals in the country (annual surveys report the number of wolves tracked the previous winter, including wolves already known to have been killed or died naturally, but not including pups born the following summer and not including trans-border individuals). In the northern district of Finnmark, a natural corridor for migrants from the Finno-Russian wolf population into the desperately inbred population in southern Scandinavia, the hunt is already on for two wolves in a chase allowed to go on until March 31. In Oppland local forces have set about killing two wolves, and to the south of the country one was executed already in December. In Hedmark district, just outside the “wolf management zone” where national policy allows up to three wolf packs to persist, 1,300 “hunters” are set to begin the slaughter of three wolves on February 15.

The European Commission has launched infringement proceedings against Sweden for breach of European Environmental law, citing the unfavorable conservation status of the Swedish wolf population, lack of scientific backing for the cull of a critically endangered species, and other issues. EC criticism of Sweden, nor legal proceedings, wont keep Norway from killing eight of "their" approximately 30-35 wolves (>20%). Sweden is criticized for their arbitrary ceiling of 210 wolves set for the number of wolves in Sweden. Norway seeks to cap “their” wolf population at three breeding pairs or packs.

The Scandinavian wolf population was considered extinct until the discovery of a single re-established pair in the border region of southern Norway and Sweden in 1978. One additional immigrant managed to make it past the gauntlet of murderous reindeer herders in northern Scandianavia in 1991, and these three individuals formed the basis for the Scandinavian wolf population. That is, until recently the entire population was descended from just three individuals. It is consequently desperately inbred and in need of fresh immigrants from the adjacent Finno-Russian population.

In 2001, Norway sent Government “hunters” out to kill 10 of the 28 wolves in the country at the time, resorting at last to aerial killing from helicopters to get the job done. In 2005, the Government of Norway sanctioned the licensed persecution of five wolves out of an estimated 21-26 in the country the previous winter (a handful of which where already known to be dead), destroying three of the four established pairs/packs in the process. Now the Ministry for the Environment is poised to allow yet another slaughter. Population dynamicists and geneticists agree that the population needs to grow out of the current bottleneck as quickly as possibly. Clearly, these recurrent massacres are not helping.

National politicians find it difficult to muster the guts to stand up against a vociferous public in rural areas wielding a varying grab-bag of irrational, anti-scientific, and opportunistic arguments, and national authorities lack the scientific understanding and the mental capacity to withstand this pressure. It goes without saying that if the competence is lacking at national level, it is certainly lacking at local and regional levels, whence national politicians have seen fit to delegate responsibility for natural resource management and biodiversity.

For more background on the situation for wolves in Norway and Scandinavia, see: Science, law and politics in the case of the Norwegian wolf.

Sweden may weasel their way out of trouble with the EC, but Norway, having opted out of EU membership, is not subject to EU law or criticism from the European Commission. Nor, it seems, do they consider themselves bound by such arcane matters as science, morality, and decency.

Yet another wolf massacre: letter to Norway´s Minister for the Environment, Mr. Erik Solheim

Thor has sent a letter of complaint to Erik Solheim, Norway's Minister for the Environment, protesting the pending massacre of seven wolves in Norway. The pursuit of two wolves in Finnmark and two in Oppland is already underway, and the killing of three wolves in Hedmark district is set to begin February 15, just as the recent massacre of 20 wolves in Sweden is winding down. One wolf was executed in southern Norway already in December.

Please send your own letters to Minister Erik Solheim (miljovernministeren@md.dep.no, postmottak@md.dep.no), protesting this barbaric and anti-scientific massacre of a critically endangered wolf population. Feel free to copy text from the letter below if you wish; add your own personal touch if you have time. Please cc to Janne Sollie, Director, Norway's Directorate of Nature Management (Janne.Sollie@DIRNAT.NO) and Heidi Sørensen, Secretary, Ministry for the Environment (heidi.sorensen@md.dep.no). Letters may be accorded more weight if they manifest physically. If you can be bothered, send snail mail versions to

Erik Solheim, Minister for the Environment
Postboks 8013 Dep, N-0030 Oslo, Norway

Janne Sollie, Director, Directorate for Nature Management
Postboks 5672 Sluppen, 7485 Trondheim, Norway

Heidi Sørensen, State Secretary, Ministry for the Environment
Postboks 8013 Dep, N-0030 Oslo, Norway


Text:


Minister Solheim,


Please stop the imminent massacre of wolves, one of the most critically endangered species in Norway.

We know you Norwegians fancy yourselves big movers and shakers in the international environment arena, with your $3 billion promised for tropical forest conservation, your projected role in international negotiations, “your” Brundtland commission, etc., but that doesn’t count for much when you haven’t the wherewithal to ensure that allocated money brings actually results and you don’t deliver at home.

In 2001, one of your predecessors sent Government “hunters” out to kill 10 of the 28 wolves in the country at the time, resorting at last to arial killing from helicopters to get the job done. In 2005, the Government of Norway sanctioned the licensed persecution of five wolves out of an estimated 21-26 in the country the previous winter (a handful of which where already known to be dead), destroying three of the four established pairs/packs in the process. Now your ministry is poised to allow yet another slaughter of beautiful and innocent creatures, if you do not overturn local decisions to kill seven wolves in Hedmark (starting February 15), and in Oppland and Finnmark (already started, running until March 31)—in addition to the one executed in Vest-Agder in December. Eight wolves out of the approximately 30-35 individuals estimated in the country is more than twice as large a proportion of the Norwegian population as the situation in Sweden where the last few individuals are currently being shot down from a quota of 20—and for which Sweden has received such heavy criticism (including from the European Commission which has started infringement proceedings against Sweden under EU environmental law, and criticized Sweden for the arbitrary nature of this extermination policy and the obvious lack of a scientific basis for it).

Norwegian law may be weak on this issue, but not as weak as your bureaucracy choses to interpret it. Furthermore, you should make policy that clarifies these interpretations in a more precautionary direction, or simply issue better guidelines and decisions. It would be easy to use the precautionary principle, firmly established in Norwegian law, to overturn the current permits. One need only refer to the lack of scientific analysis justifying the killing of such a large proportion of such a critically endangered population since Norwegian law specifies that such killing can only proceed if it does not jeopardize the viability of the species. It would be easy to demand analyses that clearly demonstrate that these murders can proceed without jeopardizing further the viability of the population, both in Norway and the Scandinavian wolf population as a whole.

You could easily make the argument that current Norwegian law, your international commitments, and the intention of the Norwegian Parliament in its white paper on carnivore management (even though Parliament appears to have been misled due to the poor quality of information provided by the agencies for which you are responsible), preclude another massacre on this desperate, heavily persecuted population. We understand that there are political pressures on your Government to proceed with this massacre, but you could easily argue that current science and current law does not permit you to let political considerations trump sound management principles. You hardly need to be an expert in population dynamics or population genetics to understand that wiping out such a large proportion of such a small population—already critically endangered and suffering from severe inbreeding and founder effect—makes an already precarious situation significantly worse. This population needs to grow out of its current bottleneck as quickly as possible, away from its current state so close to extinction and it needs to be supplemented with fresh immigrants from outside the southern Scandinavian population.

Your Directorate for Nature Management is neglecting its job, by not informing you, or the Norwegian public, how much these massacres are increasing the extinction risk for the Norwegian and the southern Scandinavian wolf populations. For some incomprehensible reason they have neglected to carry out the necessary analysis. They do not have the competence to do such an analysis themselves, and for unknown reasons they have neglected to request such an analysis from someone who does. They either don’t want to or they don’t understand that they ought to. It seems like they do not understand that this is a quantitative issue that has to be simulated in iterative models, and that, particularly, if such an analysis is to conclude that such killings “do not jeopardize the viability of the population” (as they claim) then such a simulation model has to be very good indeed.

Your wolf “management” policy is more accurately described as your wolf extinction policy, involving as it does these frequent mass killings, limiting the wolf’s range to a narrow strip near the Swedish border in southern Norway, making successful immigration from Finland/Russia extremely difficult for the poor individuals that try it, and the de facto cap on the population at three breeding pairs/packs. By not making the likely population dynamic consequences of this policy clear to legislators and to the voting public, you are in clear violation of the Århus Convention (the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters). In order to do a responsible job on biodiversity protection and conservation of endangered species, you have to at least be capable enough to at least hire staff that are both competent and well-intentioned.

There is copious expertise internationally that could help you design responsible carnivore management regimes. IUCN, where you are a member, is just one example of an agency that may facilitate such an undertaking for you.

Please take this opportunity to overrule the local carnivore councils that have given permission for the pending massacre, based on the lack of a scientific basis for their rulings. Respond to the complaints you have received and overturn these horrific rulings to let these wolves live to contribute to the future fitness and viability of the population.


Sincerely,


Thor, God of Thunder

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Addicted to risk

The addiction to risk of which Naomi Kline speaks is also linked to the clinging to the frontier economy mindset against all reason. Taking outrageous risks to make a mint when the world is full and the room for profit is shrinking inexorably is the mark of a madman.

Furthemore, Thor has never seen any geoengineering "solutions" that also deal with the acidification of the world's oceans. Guess food and oxygen and coral reefs and fish life is not so important...




Sunday, January 9, 2011

Merchants of Doubt

Last year at about this time, Thor berated climate deniers as politically motivated charlatans who have taken a page from tobacco lobbyists´playbook to pollute the public discourse on global warming and ensure that no meaningful measures were taken to avoid disaster. Thor also blamed journalists for not having the knowledge required to withstand this cynical ploy. A somewhat heated debate ensued in Norwegian media.

Now, Naomi Oreske´s book "Merchants of Doubt" is out, and you can hear her lecture at University of New South Wales, explaining how a political campaign deliberately casting false doubts about the state of climate science managed to confuse an ignorant public and derail the historical opportunity to save the world: Merchants of Doubt

Naomi is Professor of the History of Science at UCSD.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Debtris

Play it here: http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/2010/debtris/

Happy New Year, Planet Earth!
Points given for creative ideas on switching some of those expenses from the negative column to the positive column...