Adrian's Writing Blog

news, articles and reviews

Alternative 3 - the current situation

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A fortnight ago, I blogged about the very interesting UK ATV 1977 pretend-fact documentary called 'Alternative 3, with its pretend-serious message that the power elite of our world have known for a long time that our planet was heading for global environmental collapse. What's more, they have been planning what to do about it. After much thought, they came up with three alternatives:

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Alternative 1: A drastic reduction in the global, human population.

Alternative 2: The relocation of a fraction of humanity into underground bases and subterranean cities.

Alternative 3: The establishment of human colonies on the Moon and Mars.

In the rest of the previous blog article, I explained that the programme makers of Alternative 3 insisted that it was meant as a fictional programme. I do believe them but in truth, that's unimportant. What's now important is the question; 'Are Alternatives 2 & 3 in that programme actually underway?' Let's investigate… Read More...

Alternative 3 - fact or fiction?

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‘Alternative 3’ was a British television programme broadcast by Anglia Television (ATV) in 1977. It was planned to be broadcast on April 1st that year but due to scheduling problems, was eventually broadcast in June. Its original broadcast date was a big clue to its actual nature. ‘Alternative 3’ was designed and written as a spoof, as a fictional story posing as a serious science documentary.

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The programme begins by investigating a British ‘brain drain’, a mysterious exodus of leading British scientists and engineers who are leaving the country, supposedly to take up lucrative new posts abroad, but are never seen again. Some send back regular postcards but when the relatives try and visit the places abroad where the persons are supposedly living, they discover that their loved one is not living there at all; their correspondence was faked.

The programme then moves into an even more sinister area. Senior scientists in the UK admit to the investigative reporters that mysterious but extremely powerful groups at the top levels of government have worked out that the Earth is heading for a climate collapse due to the greenhouse effect (note that it is in a programme broadcast in 1977). These groups have concluded that in the next century-or-so, only a small fraction of the current human population will be able to live on Earth’s surface, due to the climate collapse. Read More...

Excellent short video about exponential population growth

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Here's an excellent video explaining the perils of exponential population growth:




It might be tempting to think that human population growth isn't as extreme as the one described in the video. Unfortunately, it is. Here's a graph of human population levels in the last ten thousand years, courtesy of Wikipedia:

Read More...

Wind power is flying high

This week, my post about the Climate Change march on the 7th March started positive and then fell apart into a morass of despairing futility. Sorry! To make amends, here's a really positive article about the progress of renewable power generation.

For a long time now, wind power has been criticised as being an eyesore and an inefficient and hopeless method of power generation, but these criticisms are fast looking ridiculous. For example, wind power is Denmark is so successful that it is meeting their entire energy needs during periods of the year! They constantly monitor and display the output in the country and the net difference between energy produced and energy consumed (source: energinet.dk):

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Read More...

Climate Change March - London 7th March

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Next Sunday on the 7th March, there will be another climate change march in London. I really enjoyed going to the last Climate Change march in London. It took place in September 2014 and it was attended by 40,000 people. That sounds a lot but then again, more people go to watch Arsenal play every weekend, so it's not that amazing. To be honest, it's a minuscule number when the subject of the march was stopping something that is going to transform our entire planet for the next thousand years or more into a state of existence that will support only a small fraction of our current population. If we don't do something major soon, children being born today will spend the latter part of their lives on a planet that is a cauldron of extreme weather, famine, war and pestilence. The four horseman often ride together and they will definitely be riding around our globe before the century is out if nothing major is done to halt climate change.
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If anyone is interested in a careful thorough study of what climate is going to do to our planet in the next century-or-so, both politically, geographically and environmentally, I recommend the book 'Climate Wars' by Gwynne Dyer. The book is readable, thorough and quite scary.

It's tempting to say that the worsening of the climate in recent decades has been less than expected and this indicates that perhaps the predictions are excessive and hysterical. Unfortunately, there's a very simply reason why they've been relatively mild; our oceans have been soaking up a lot of the CO2 we've been producing. According to recent measurements, they can't soak up much more, so in the next few decades, warming effects will be far worse than we've experienced up to now. If we collectively make a big effort only when we experience those effects, it will be too late. Tipping points will have already been passed (sea ice melt decreasing reflective albedo of arctic, permafrost melting causing methane release) that will produce more warming in a vicious cycle that we will not be able to stop.

In all honesty, I think climate change cannot be stopped. Fossil fuels have become the backbone of global civilisation, we have thirty-five time as many people as were living at the time of Christ and the majority of people on this planet are not change their lifestyles one iota to reduce their carbon footprint. Perhaps the best way to approach this tragic scenario is as individuals. If we individually decide to cut back our carbon footprint, by avoiding cruises and flights around the world (if possible), by having less children (a major carbon footprint decision!), buying gadgets second-hand, lowering the heating of our homes, cycling and walking more, living closer to work (if possible), sharing houses with others (if possible), repairing our clothes rather than buying new ones, then at least we'll feel at the end of our days that we personally made an effort and have nothing about which to feel ashamed. That's my hope.

Population blind spot

The kind folks at New Scientist magazine published another of my letters this week. This one's all about global population and is a response to an article in the magazine discussing whether we, as a species, could have avoided wrecking our environment by advancing technologically without fossil fuels:

Examining the possibility of a world without fossil fuels, Michael Le Page comes to the conclusion that global warming may be an inevitable result of any industrialised civilisation, as fossil fuels are an unavoidable phase of that development (18th October pg34). He also reports that this might explain the apparent absence of extraterrestrial civilisations despite the high probability that they exist, as each planet offers once chance at transitioning from reliance on finite fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.Perhaps it would be useful to consider a sentient race that could control its population? If our global population had stabilised at a healthy 7 million, rather than 7 billion or more, it's perfectly feasible that we could have passed right through our fossil fuel phase without wrecking our planet's environment.


The editor writes: We will never know for sure. But it is likely that a critical mass of people as well as energy is needed to reach something we would recognise as an industrialised civilisation.


It's an interesting response from the New Scientist editor. How many people
would be needed on this planet for us to continue to develop successfully as a technological species? From a genetic perspective, a species' minimum viable population (or MVP) is in the thousands, so a human population of a million or more is definitely genetically healthy. Genetics aside, what population is needed for technological development? What global population would be required to keep us advancing technologically to the point where we did developed a purely renewable technology society?

Well,
how about the entire Roman Empire?

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The map above (courtesy of the Wikipedia page) shows the extent of the Roman Empire in around 100 AD. It was big. Surely if our global population was the same as the population of the entire Roman Empire, we'd be able to keep going technologically? Around the time of Christ, daily life in Roman Empire wasn't significantly different from today. They had water supplies, sewage systems, household heating, international trade, docks, cranes, pottery and metalwork and a quality road network. They had developed mathematics, researched complex astronomy and created steam-power prototypes. If the Roman Empire was the only civilisation in the world and its population had stabilised at that point and it had been given enough time, surely it would have been capable of advancing past us? It is true that a lot of technological development in Europe was thanks to developments outside Europe, particularly from the Arab world but the Arab world gained many of their technological developments from Egypt and Greece, which were both part the Roman Empire. For a scientist trying to decide on a critical mass of people required to develop into a modern industrial civilisation, the population of the Roman Empire would seem an adequate amount.

Here's the rub. The population of the Roman Empire, east and west together, in 400 AD, was
70 million people. The entire population of the world at the time of Christ was about 170 million people. Our current global population is a hundred times larger than the population of the entire Roman Empire.

It's very strange that the subject of population is very rarely mentioned when people talk about climate change. It's almost a blind spot and yet population is the elephant in the room. For example, for every extra person in Britain, we need to spend £140,000
more on infrastructure; roads, houses, hospitals etc. Extra people are a big burden. For anyone interested in learning more about the effects of population increase, I recommend visiting the population matters website. Population Matters is a charity that works to educate and inform people about the effect of population on our planet and ourselves. The '£140,000' fact comes from a recent study they conducted into the effects of population growth.

There's a dark final point to the matter of a sustainable global population. It would seem that 70 million people (or 1% of our current population) is a believable global population for survival and development. We've grown fifty times larger in the last two-thousand years and we're still growing, but all the evidence points to climate change putting us back
down to that figure in the next five hundred years if we don't do it ourselves. That reduction will be brutal and ugly if we don't find a way to do it ourselves humanely. The choice is ours.

Dolphins and self-delusion

The kind people at the New Scientist magazine have published another one of my letters. Here it is:

"In her article exploring whether dolphins live up to their reputation for intelligence, Caroline Williams tells of being forcefully rebuffed by a dolphin after attempting to connect with it (27th September, p46). In this era of climate change, the possibility that dolphins don't want to be friends with humans makes them seem more intelligent and emotionally developed than ever."


The mention of climate change led me to think about its connection with another recent topic,
Milgram's Experiment. For a long time, many psychologists have been deeply unhappy that Milgram's Experiment seems to show that most people would willingly cause pain and death to an unfortunate target if they were gradually coaxed into it by authority figures. Humanity isn't like that, they say, people aren't that bad!

But a form of Milgram's Experiment is going on as we speak. It started a while ago when some people were coaxed into hurting a living target in return for personal reward. The level of harm they inflicted was slowly ramped up. They willingly continued to harm the target, even though they could see how it was suffering. Now, the experiment has reached the stage where the people involved are inflicting lethal levels of harm on the living target. Yet, they are still continuing
even though they profess to be concerned about the target's welfare. The experiment I'm talking about is climate change. The living target suffering is the Earth's biosphere and the people concerned are, well, nearly every affluent individual on the planet.

Perceptive creatures, dolphins.

The Climate March was fun!

Just a quick note to say that the Climate Change March yesterday (Sunday) was lots of fun! The atmosphere was very relaxed and sociable, the sun was out and the whole event felt like a slow moving folk festival without a beer tent. There were lots of fun things to look at. The Hare Krishna electric band whose amps and drum kit were being wheeled along on a small wagon was a hit; musically I'd say they sounded like George Harrison playing good pub rock. I saw Vikings (I think), a polar bear and what looked like a wookie masquerading as an endangered species. Then again, wookies are fictitious, so does that mean they're endangered? Here are some photos:

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There would have been more but I only had my creaky old mobile phone with me and its battery life is geriatric. I was planning to carry an inflatable globe (see earlier post) and was on the point of buying one in the excellent map shop near Covent Garden on Long Acre when I noticed that it was made in China. Hmm. Buying a lump of plastic carted half-way around the world to use as a symbolic prop in a climate change demonstration didn't seem quite right, so it stayed on the shelf.

Best quote of the day comes from the actress Emma Thompson whose advice on the threat of climate change and the urgent need for serious action was both accurate, succinct and charmingly direct:

“Unless we’re carbon-free by 2030 the world is buggered.”


London Climate Change march - this Sunday

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This Sunday (21st September), there will be a climate change march in London and other cities to promote and highlight this huge and incredibly important issue. A lot of different organisations are taking part, including Friends of the Earth, Population Matters and the Campaign against Climate Change. The march is along the Embankment from Temple Place, starting at 12:30pm and will end up in Parliament Square. The whole event should wind up around 3pm. For more detailed info, check out the websites of the various charities etc that are involved or click on the picture above. I've heard talk of all sorts of fun activities during the march, including a samba band, so it might even be fun!

I'll be taking part. I'm hoping (if I can find one) to carry an inflatable Earth with me. It'll make a good symbol and if I get bored, I can bounce it up and down like a beach ball. ;-)

It'd be great if lots and lots of people come along. Although it might not end climate change overnight, or even possibly make any significant change, it's still worth doing. You could even help to reduce the effects of climate change for entirely selfish reasons, as I chatted about in this earlier blog, but you could also do it because you want to be a person who stood up and made an effort. Later on, when things get tough and people start asking questions, you'll know that you tried. That could be a really good feeling to have.

Here's a great article from Jarvis Cocker in today's Guardian newspaper, putting forward his thoughts on Sunday's march.

Here's a more general report from the Guardian, including comments from a host of celebrities.

For those of you who might be motivated by watching a programme about the forthcoming worldwide climate change march on Sunday, here's the official documentary:



For everyone else, please come. It really, really, really, really is important!

Evil, Shiny, Trendy, New Eco-Bag

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This week, I’ve been looking for a new laptop bag. I do have two older laptop bags but one’s too small for the new laptop. The other one is a messenger bag with fabric so heavy-duty, it rubs the bejeezuz out of my corduroy jacket when I’m carrying it over-the-shoulder. To avoid my jacket sharing the same fate as a summer shirt that died at the hands of that bag, I though it was time to buy something new.

Being an environmentally minded bloke, as well as an advocate of workers’ rights, I wanted to try and buy something that might tick at least one of those boxes. After browsing the web, I found a bag made from 100% recycled PET plastic from bottles. ‘Hooray!’ I thought, ‘this looks good and is environmentally responsible. I can buy with a sound conscience!’

But after another minute’s thought, I changed my mind. I realised that, for me in England, a recycled-plastic laptop bag made in China is about as environmentally responsible as a solar panel on an oil rig. Read More...

Save the planet for entirely selfish reasons

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Climate Change reached a milestone this year. The atmosphere measuring station in Hawaii recorded a global CO2 value of 400 parts per million. The planet hasn’t had that much CO2 in its atmosphere for millions of years. Typhoon Haiyan has just stormed through the Philippines, the strongest storm ever recorded and recent measurements of the Pacific Ocean show that it has warmed 15 times faster in the last 60 years than at any time in the last ten thousand, which is a bit like sticking your aquarium on top of the radiator.

The fact that the developed world (who are doing nearly all the CO2 generation) are carrying on with their day with minimal attempt to reduce their fossil fuel use, in spite of all the evidence of climate catastrophe, is like passengers on a runaway train checking the lunch menu. People! This train is out of control and heading downhill! We’re all going to die and leave our grandchildren orphaned if we don’t do something! No, I don’t care that the steamed mullet is off this week! Neither do I think it’s spiffing that our increasing speed means you’ll get to the next stop quicker! We’re accelerating towards a hairpin bend and will soon be plunging down a mountainside in a ball of fire and twisted metal! No, I am not being negative! No, we cannot assume the railway company is going to fix the problem in the next quarter of a mile by remote bluetooth diagnostics! We have to do something ourselves! Read More...

Forks over Knives documentary

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Forks over Knives’ is an American documentary that explores the effect of reducing the animal protein in a person’s diet and the health benefits that can give. On the face of it, you might think it would be a polemic pushing an ethical eating agenda but, in fact, it has a very different message. Although the contributors to the documentary do discuss animal welfare, the message they impart is about human health. The documentary explains that there is extensive scientific research that shows that a diet that contains more than 10% animal protein carries a large increased risk in cancer. I checked for supporting scientific evidence for such a bold claim and found that there is a lot of evidence supporting that view. Here’s a useful link at the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Read More...

Climate change - methane is now bubbling up from the open ocean

I feel I have to make people aware of another ominous development in our changing climate. I reported at the beginning of the year on methane bubbling up from the relatively shallow sea of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf. This event had been predicted by scientists. Vast amounts of methane are trapped in the frozen ground in that region, created from decaying vegetation. As the arctic warms, the surface ice will melt, releasing that methane gas. Methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide and so will help to increase the temperature of the region even further, causing more methane release and eventually, catastrophic heating.

A news article has appeared in this morning's Independent newspaper reporting that methane has now been discovered bubbling up from the open arctic ocean, appearing through cracks in the thinning ice. To quote: Read More...