What a tangled web we weave

sir_henry_raeburn_-_portrait_of_sir_walter_scottHave you noticed that our news cycle emphasizes what will shock us? It seems to be all about selling airtime … getting our eyeballs … and certainly not about educating us and making us better-informed citizens, is it? Nope, it seems to be about pandering to our worst traits. Let’s focus on the injustices that rile people up, rather than the more subtle injustices that may truly be more important and draw us together.

As I was taking my walk this morning in the early air, afamous phrase kept coming into my head. I titled this blog from the first line … you probably all remember it. This phrase is from Marmion, an epic poem by Sir Walter Scott about the Battle of Flodden Field (1513). It was published in 1808. The poem tells how Lord Marmion, a favorite of Henry VIII of England, lusts for Clara de Clare, a rich woman. He and his mistress, Constance De Beverley, forge a letter implicating Clara’s fiancé, Sir Ralph De Wilton, in treason.

So, you may ask, Joel, does this have to do with the energy business? Read the following link and you will get my point. http://m.bbc.com/news/science-environment-28870988

If you did yourself the service to read the BBC article, it would make you stop to consider the current emphasis on global warming, the costs that are being incurred, and the potential silliness of it all.

Have you noticed how our increased ability to get footage of every environmental or weather-related catastrophe has put the weather and purported “climate change” at the top of every newscast? Like the NASCAR races people watch for the collisions, the media plays the floods in Malaysia, the hurricanes in the tropics, the tornados in the Midwest and the fires in California as if these are new phenomenon never before experienced. Perhaps what has changed is our increased ability to find and record them as opposed to an increase in their occurrence.

We also forget that our instruments today are more precise than in the past. Temperatures today can be measured so much more accurately and reliably than in the past. Can we really believe we can compare temperatures over time then global_currentswith the small numbers in the article? Well, when you lust after a result, your judgment can be dulled. I likened this to a “glandular” point of view. Lust is not good.

We seem to lust after many things these days: eternal youth, prestige, position, etc. Lust is very dangerous because it twists the mind, putting things out of balance. Lust is essentially ardent enthusiasm gone wrong. If I called someone a zealot, would you think that was a good thing, even if he or she were a zealot for a just cause? Is zeal a good thing when it presents false or misleading information? Does the end really justify the means?

Personally, I don’t think so. We are accountable to a higher authority than just getting our way. If our democracy is going to work, we need to inform the public, discuss our options, and plan our future. Superficially appealing notions are inadequate. We are facing tough questions.

Lust is a very dangerous thing. It can destroy almost any relationship … as it seemingly fulfils others with excitement and temporary pleasure. We are dealing with lust my friends … not in the physical sense, but in the form of intellectual fantasy and delusion. In a sense, it has moved to a form of idolatry, replacing anything representing truth, justice, and the American way.

I think it is time to call it what it really is: environmental extremism. I think you get my point.

A New Moovie That May Change Everything

mooJust last week a new movie hit the streets of San Francisco and is headed to a theater near you. It is called “Cowspiracy” and is all about how big business is unwilling to face the ecological problems they are really creating. You can watch the movie trailer at www.cowspiracy.com

Cowspiracy | The Sustainability Secret
This is the film that environmental organizations don’t want you to see. This documentary will be as eye-opening as “Blackfish” and as inspiring as “An Inconvenient Truth.”
Read more…

Now, what makes this movie so potentially viral is the general mood in the US and around the world for that matter about conspiracy theories in general. Plus, there are many Vegans who have now seen this movie as the rallying cry for their point of view. Plus, there is a major constituent in the medical community who would agree that we would be a lot healthier if we ate less meat products, especially red meat.

Just wanted you to be informed. This is going to be a big deal. And, just like Watergate, there are a lot of very powerful people who are going to squirm when this hits the theaters more broadly.

You are now officially warned.

This is going to be very big. Udderly. No Bull!

Making a Difference

I love Steve Jobs’ advice:

“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

200273462-001How do you argue with that? Well, even though down deep in many hearts they aspire to this, the odds for change on so many fronts today seem insurmountable. How can one person truly change anything anymore? Why should anyone “stick their neck out” and try … you are more than likely to get it cut off or at least whacked.

I love stories about people who do change things. I think Malala Yousafzai is truly inspiring … yet who would have thought the world would respond so well to her? She did what she did because she stayed true to herself and just persevered.

Perhaps we need to change perspectives. Our most likely impact is not this transformative. Maybe we should take the perspective of the girl on the beach throwing starfish back into the water. People come by and tell her that she is wasting her time, what she’s doing doesn’t matter.

I like her reply as she threw yet another back into the surf: “It mattered to this one!”

I can only hope we have this perspective. In any event, it works for me. Several people have read and shared their perspective on my blog posts, which I enjoy seeing, and I’ve had some nice responses to the book I published last year, “It’s the Thermostat, Stupid.” Things are looking up …

Superficially Appealing Notions

gargoyleI remember the first time I heard the phrase “superficially appealing notion.” It struck a chord with me that some ideas are so intuitively appealing that we jump to the end without working out the details. Yet, we all know the Devil is in the details, don’t we?

“Hope and Change” – great idea, right? “9-9-9” – the centerpiece plan for a presidential hopeful. “It’s the Economy Stupid!” “Freedom from Foreign Oil.” “A chicken in every pot.” “Universal health care.” The list goes on. The devil is always in the details.

There are lots of people with great ideas, but making them work in practice is quite another thing. Couple this with today’s news cycle that “does not do complex well” and you get a sound bite styled presentation. But, where is the critical thinking about how to make them work. No one seems to want to do the hard work of making ideas work. Or, if they don’t work, figuring out why and learning a bit.

There is true beauty in thought when it can be reduced to crisp, simple ideas. I love the words in the Old Testament book of Micah, Chapter 6 verse 8 “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” That is profoundly helpful suggestion and a lifelong quest for me.

Einstein is known of course for saying many important things, but I especially like these two:

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

“For every problem there is a solution which is simple, obvious, and wrong.”

Can we probe today’s superficially appealing notions to see if they have broken either of Einstein’s suggestions here? Can we ask the tougher questions about the details? Or, are we afraid we will be criticized as flat earthers, DOUGs (Dumb Old Utility Guys), etc.

I really want someone to tell me how we can have a hydrogen economy when hydrogen doesn’t naturally exist anywhere we live? I want to understand how burning natural gas in a fuel cell somehow is carbon neutral … where did the carbon go in the natural gas? I want to know why burning wood is carbon neutral when it happens in seconds and it takes years to grow a tree?

I am feeling a lot like Sigourney Weaver in the movie Aliens when she is confronted by a review panel as to why she destroyed the space ship. She responds with “Did IQ’s drop sharply while I was away?!”
Perhaps they have Sigourney … perhaps they have.

All the News That Fits

The New York Times still has the moniker: All the news that’s fit to print. Yet, over time, the type of news and the reaction to it in comments tends to align more with an editorial bent than just evenhandedly covering the news in general. Take the recent news about Australia’s vote on carbon taxes. This major no vote should have gotten a lot of media attention over the past few days… but it hasn’t at all. So, the new moniker seems to be “All the news that fits my point of view.”

Of course, we have had bigger stories that dominate the media right now. The commercial jet liner that was lost and the escalating tensions in the Middle East. I have been wondering when the big news about Australia’s decision to kill a carbon tax was going to get more attention.

footprintsIt was really interesting to see just how differently the NewYork Times and the Wall Street Journal were in reporting the recent turnabout in environmental policy in Australia. Take a look at each news article and then take a close look at the comments to them. It is hard to reconcile them as a commentary for the United States. Views could hardly be more different.

Wall Street Journal:

http://online.wsj.com/articles/australia-repeals-carbon-tax-1405560964

New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/18/world/asia/environmentalists-decry-repeal-of-australias-carbon-tax.html
So, here we are. These are tough questions and we really do need to move past rock throwing. Do you see any sense of dialogue? Can you hear any humility in the tone? Not hardly.

I would expect the news agencies to publish all the news that’s fit to be published … nothing less and nothing more. Apparently, it is all the news that’s going to fit with getting my readership up.