Miscellany 5: The Next Green Revolution; How Modern Man Treats Vicuñas; The Loss of Britain; Some Notes on Strategy for Fighting Terrorism; Rainforest Destruction in Brazil; E-Waste; The 9/11 Charade; The US Election: Tyranny of the Minority; Catholics on Feminism; Cambodia, Rwanda and Sudan: Precursors of Things to Come; The Minimal Regret Society
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Some observations on the past month’s news and reading.
This past week I read portions of a book that has been on my bookshelf for quite some time. It is The Food Revolution, by John Robbins. Robbins is also the author of a popular “diet” book, Diet for a New America. John Robbins has an interesting background. He is the son of Irv Robbins, founder of Baskin-Robbins, the world’s largest ice-cream company. He walked away from his family fortune, and has made a name for himself writing about the way we eat.
The book is really interesting reading, and I recommend it to anyone who is interested in morality, his own health and the health of the planet. Much of the book discusses the health consequences of a non-plant-based diet: large increases in heart disease, cancer and diabetes, among other things. It also included a lot of discussion of the morality of brutally raising and killing billions of animals for human consumption. (In fact, the reason I started to read the book this past week is that, in flipping through the pages, I came across a photo that I had seen about twenty years ago. It is a picture of a young calf in the cage in which it is being raised prior to being slaughtered for human food (veal). The calf can barely move. It has twisted its head around to see the camera. The cage dimensions are 22 inches wide and 58 inches long. I originally saw this photo in the 1980s. It was captioned something like, “Question: Why can’t this young calf stand up? Answer: It only has four feet.” The picture is heart-rending. If I have time, I will contact the owners of the photo and obtain permission to display it.)
I am reminded of the saying, “You can tell a lot about a society by the way that it treats its animals.” Modern western society is raising billions of animals under the most cruel conditions imaginable. If there is justice in the world, this will not go unnoticed.
Robbins’ discussion of the unhealthiness of an unnatural, non-plant-based diet, and the immorality of raising of billions of sentient creatures under grossly inhumane and intensely cruel conditions for slaughter for food are, in my opinion, right on the mark. He also questions, with good reason, the wisdom of genetic modification. These topics are not, however, the point of my comments today. My comments today concern the gross inefficiency of raising animals for human food, and the serious environmental degradation that is caused by this practice.
On the Inefficiency of Raising Animals for Human Food
On the issue of the inefficiency of raising animals for human food, Robbins makes the following comments.
livestock production systems, domestic animals turned grass and other things
people could not eat into things people could.
And still, in many parts of the world (including most of
“Virtually all the
pigs and poultry in industrialized countries now reside in gigantic indoor
facilities where their diets include grain and soybean meal. Most cattle spend their last months in
feedlots where they gorge on grain and soybeans. Overall, nearly 40 percent of the world’s
grain is fed to livestock. And the
nations that eat the most meat dedicate the largest share of their grain to
fattening livestock. In the
“What we know:
Cattle alive today on Earth: More than 1 billion.
Weight of world’s cattle compared to weight of world’s people: Nearly double.
Area of Earth’s total land mass used as pasture for cattle and other livestock: One-half.
Grassland needed to support one cow under optimal conditions: 2.5 acres.
Grassland needed to support cow under far more common marginal conditions: 50 acres.”
“What we know:
Number of people whose food energy needs can be met by the food produced on 2.5 acres of land:
If the land is producing cabbage: 23 people
If the land is producing potatoes: 22 people
If the land is producing rice: 19 people
If the land is producing corn: 17 people
If the land is producing wheat: 15 people
If the land is producing chicken: 2 people
If the land is producing milk: 2 people
If the land is producing eggs: 1 person
If the land is producing beef: 1 person”
The point is that the world can support vastly more people if people eat a plant-based diet than an animal-based diet. This is referred to as consuming at a lower “trophic level.” In his book, Guns, Germs and Steel, Jared Diamond has the following comments on the subject of diet.
“Diet. Every time that an animal eats a plant or another animal, the conversion of food biomass into the consumer’s biomass involves an efficiency of much less than 100 percent: typically around 10 percent. That is, it takes around 10,000 pounds of corn to grow a 1,000-pound cow. If instead you want to grow 1,000 pounds of carnivore, you have to feed it 10,000 pounds of herbivore grown on 100,000 pounds of corn. Even among herbivores and omnivores, many species, like koalas, are too finicky in their plant preferences to recommend themselves as farm animals.
“As a result of this
fundamental inefficiency, no mammalian carnivore has ever been domesticated for
food. (No, it’s not because its meat
would be tough and tasteless: we eat carnivorous wild fish all the time, and I
can personally attest to the delicious flavor of a lion burger.) The nearest thing to an exception is the dog,
originally domesticated as a sentinel and hunting companion, but breeds of dogs
were developed and raised for food in Aztec Mexico,
So the point is, the planet can support far more people, if we simply switch from a meat-based diet to a plant-based diet. There is, in fact, no shortage of food (for human beings) in the world. Millions of people are living in malnutrition and starvation simply because the wealthy people of the planet do not wish to spend their money sending food to them.
But, as you know, I am not at all in favor of more people on Earth. In fact, because of the severe environmental destruction that large human numbers and industrial activity are causing, I am in favor of far fewer people. So why am I pointing out the fact that if we switch from a meat-based diet to a plant-based diet, we can feed many more people?
Well, the fact is, global production of oil is peaking – almost certainly in this decade, and very likely this year (2004: witness the total relaxation of the OPEC production constraints and the rapid rise of oil prices over the past few months). This has been predicted for a very long time (several decades), and is referred to as “Hubbert’s peak,” or “Hubbert’s curve.” (I have written about Hubbert’s curve in several places, and will not repeat the concept here. Briefly, the world has used about half of the planet’s total oil reserves, and at current rates of consumption, the remaining reserves (known and yet to be discovered) will be exhausted by 2050.) The large capacity of modern agriculture is totally dependent on the energy from fossil fuels (irrigation, mechanization, herbicides, pesticides, genetically modified varieties, processing and distribution systems). Without the energy from fossil fuel, the planet’s current budget of solar energy can support at most a few hundred million people. As global oil reserves exhaust, the human population will fall, correspondingly, from its current level (six billion plus) back to a few hundred million or less, by the year 2050.
Within the next few years, as fossil-fuel production falls, human population will fall. As people begin to die from starvation by the millions, and then by the billions, people will gradually come to accept the obscene waste associated with a meat-based diet. At that point, some effort may be made to switch from a meat-based diet to a plant-based diet. What this means is that the human population die-off that occurs as global oil reserves exhaust may “lag” Hubbert’s curve. If human society sticks to its meat-based diet, human population will decline about as fast as Hubbert’s curve (perhaps faster, as global war breaks out and human industrial and agricultural systems collapse). But if society switches from a meat-based diet to a plant-based diet, the population decline can be slowed. By 2050, in any event, most of the human population will be gone. And it is clear from the past half century that the industrialized world is never going to give up its meat-based diet and send the “saved” grain to the starving peoples of the world. (The issue is not just giving up meat – the industrial world is simply not willing to even spend the money to distribute grain to poor nations, even when it has it.) But when push comes to shove, and there is not even enough food for the industrialized world, then people will indeed switch from a meat-based diet to a plant-based diet. They will, at that time, choose to feed themselves with the limited grain supply, than feed it to cows and starve.
Since there are only about a billion highly industrialized people on the planet, about five billion will perish before industrialized society gives up its meat. If you take a look at Hubbert’s curve, barring global war, the human population will decline to five billion people by about 2040. At that time, there will be so little oil left that the industrialized world will no longer be able to support a meat-based diet, and they will switch. At that time, all of the world’s poorer (less developed) countries will be almost totally depopulated. All that will remain is the industrialized countries. Facing the prospect of starvation or switching to a plant-based diet, they will then switch.
The first so-called “Green Revolution” occurred a few decades ago, when scientists developed high-yield varieties of rice, corn (maize) and wheat. At that time, poor, overpopulated nations received a one-time windfall of greatly increased grain harvests. Of course, this surplus quickly disappeared, as these countries’ populations continued to explode. The only lasting “benefit” was increased profits to the companies that produced the new seed and the increased inputs to grow them (water, fertilizer, herbicides, pesticides). And, of course, the land was further degraded, with the use of more intense farming practices. If and when the industrialized world decides to stop eating meat, there will be a second “Green Revolution” – a massive increase in the availability of grains that were being fed to livestock. Unlike the previous one, which was achieved at great cost and destruction of the environment, the next one will be accompanied by meaningful benefits (less cruelty to animals, less stress on the environment (and, in particular, on tropical forests), less methane gas, etc.).
Because human population continued to explode, the first Green Revolution ended up accomplishing nothing in the way of abating starvation and human misery, and simply contributed additional stress to the environment. The second Green Revolution will be quite different. Since industrialized nations will not give up eating meat until all of the poor nations have starved (this is very clear from the last several decades of history), the food surplus will last substantially longer for the much smaller population of (industrialized) survivors. In addition, since all of the poor nations are gone, this will have the effect of skewing the right tail of Hubbert’s curve further to the right (the area must remain the same, since the area represents the total amount of oil, which is unchanged). This will give industrial society a real “shot in the arm.” With the five billion poor people dead, all of the oil that remains at that time, and all of the associated grain, will be available just for the world’s industrialized population. Barring global nuclear war or other global catastrophe (e.g., global warming), this will happen by 2040.
Had the industrialized world been
willing to stop eating meat and share the resulting grain with the world’s
poor, Hubbert’s curve would remain pretty
symmetrical, as it is usually depicted (this is because the world’s poor would
have remained alive, and continued to consume oil). Because the industrialized world will not
stop eating meat until its own food supply is inadequate, however, the world’s
poor (nonindustrialized) population will die off
quickly, before any of the rich (industrialized) population does. As this happens, Hubbert’s
curve will stretch further and further to the right (as the world’s poor
population dies off, and fewer and fewer oil consumers remain). Near the end, the world will consist of the
industrialized population in a few places (e.g.,
On the Environmental Destruction Associated with Raising Animals for Human Food
Robbins allocates a chapter (entitled “Once Upon a Planet”) of his book to the topic of the environmental destruction caused by a meat-based diet. I will quote some material from this chapter.
“Trading Tropical Rainforests for Cheeseburgers
“The tropical rainforests are among the planet’s most precious natural resources. They contain 80 percent of the world’s species of land vegetation and account for much of the global oxygen supply. These forests are the oldest terrestrial ecosystems of Earth and have developed extraordinary ecological richness. Half of all species on Earth live in the moist tropical rainforests. And the rainforests are home to the world’s most ancient indigenous peoples, tribes who have lived in harmony with their environment since before the time of the Pharaohs.
“The biologist E. O.
Wilson once found as many species of ants on one rainforest tree in
(Robbins continues here with a paragraph about the exotic medicines that are derived from rainforest products. He does not discuss the tremendous value of rainforests as “lungs of the planet,” purifying the air and producing much oxygen.)
“With all of their beauty and importance, however, the tropical rainforests are being destroyed at a terrifying rate. Every second, an area the size of a football field is destroyed forever.
“What drives all of this devastation?
“’The number one
factor in elimination of
“’Rainforest beef is
typically found in fast food hamburgers or processed beef products. In both 1993 and 1994 the
“It has always struck me as the height of absurdity for Americans, whose cholesterol levels are already too high, to be eating hamburgers made from rainforest beef so they can save a little money. Particularly when the amount of money saved, according to the MacArthur Foundation, is small indeed.
“’Imports of beef by the United States from southern Mexico and Central America during the past 25 years has been the major factor in the loss of about half of the tropical rainforest there – all for the sake of keeping the price of hamburger in the United States about a nickel less than it would have been otherwise.’ (MacArthur Foundation Report)
imported into the
(Aside…In 1974 and 1975, I supervised
a project in Haiti to explore tax-policy changes that the Haitian government
might consider relative to major export commodities (coffee, cotton, sisal,
mangoes and meat), to increase the earnings of small farmers and generate
increased foreign-exchange earnings. I
was interested to learn that U.S. President Lyndon Johnson had been a major
owner of the Haitian American Meat Products Company, or HAMPCO. The
“What we know:
Number of species of birds in one
square mile of Amazon rainforest: More than exist in all of
Life forms destroyed in the production of each fast-food hamburger made from rainforest beef: Members of 20 to 30 different plant species, 100 different insect species, and dozens of bird, mammal, and reptile species.
Length of time before the Indonesian forests, all 280 million acres of them, would be completely gone if they were cleared to produce enough beef for Indonesians to eat as much beef, per person, as the people of the United States do: 3.5 years.
Length of time before the Costa Rican rainforest would be completely gone if it were cleared to produce enough beef for the people of Costa Rica to eat as much beef, per person, as the people of the United States eat: 1 year.
What a hamburger produced by clearing
The “Once Upon a Planet” also contains discussion of the impact of meat-based diet on contributing to greenhouse gasses.
How much longer will the destruction of the planet’s rainforests continue? How much longer will the industrialized world continue with its meat-based diet? Until the end.
For some time now, I have been reading, at a leisurely pace, Jared Diamond’s fascinating book, Guns, Germs and Steel. In his prologue, Diamond presents the following one-sentence summary of his book: “History followed different courses for different peoples because of differences among peoples’ environments, not because of biological differences among peoples themselves.” Apart from that basis for writing the book, it is a very interesting discussion of the development of civilization, over the last 13,000 years.
Someday, I may summarize some of the key points of Diamond’s book. For today, however, I would simply like to point out the difference between how primitive peoples treated vicuñas, and the way the modern man does. The following quote is taken from a discussion of why certain animals were domesticated, and others were not. (For your information, the necessary factors permitting domestication are (1) diet (it is much more efficient to use (low-trophic-level) herbivores for food than (high-trophic-level) carnivores); (2) growth rate (elephants and gorillas are herbivores, but take 15 years to reach adult size); (3) problems of captive breeding (some animals, such as vicuñas, are reluctant to breed in captivity); (4) nasty disposition (some animals, such as grizzly bears, hippopotami, the African buffalo and zebras, are intractably dangerous; (5) tendency to panic (nervous species, such as gazelles, if put in an enclosure, are likely to panic, and either die of shock or batter themselves to death against the enclosure walls); (6) social structure (Some animals live in herds with a well-developed dominance hierarchy among herd members, and the herds occupy overlapping home ranges rather than mutually exclusive territories. Such animals are easy to domesticate, since human being simply take over the dominance hierarchy. Others, such as cats, deer, antelope, and North American bighorn sheep, are solitary and territorial, and do not “imprint” on human beings.)
“A similar problem has frustrated schemes to breed the vicuña, an Andean wild camel whose wool is prized as the finest and lightest of any animal’s. The ancient Incas obtained vicuña wool by driving wild vicuñas into corrals, shearing them, and then releasing them alive. Modern merchants wanting this luxury wool have had to resort either to this same method or simply killing wild vicuñas.”
On CNN last week there was a segment
in which Walter Rogers interviewed a number of Islamic British citizens. They spoke out emphatically on how Western
materialism and capitalism would be destroyed by Islam, how Islam was
“complete” and did not need the “injection” of democracy.
Through its suicidal immigration
policies – which are quite in line with those of the US, Canada, Australia,
France, and some other Western nations – Britain has invited into its nation a
large and growing population that is bent on destroying its way of life. Earlier Britons gave up their lives (in the
Crusades) to protect Christendom. Modern
(By the way, if you want to read more on this subject, see Jean Raspail’s The Camp of the Saints, or Peter Brimelow’s Alien Nation.)
I read recently where a number of
hospitals in the
If we do not stand up for our
culture, it will soon pass. Moslems and
others who wish to stay in the
game is very asymmetric. The War on
Terrorism is very unlike the game of the Cold War. That game could be well represented as a
two-person nonzero-sum game in which the two players had similar payoff
matrices. Under these conditions, both
players were led to adopt the Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) strategy, in
which it was to the advantage of neither side to wage (nuclear) war. Because of the high degree of symmetry, the
game is easy to solve (determine optimal strategies for). (See my article, Conflict, Negotiation, and General-Sum Game Theory on use of the
John Nash bargaining solution to solve this type of game, and on a fast method
for finding approximate solutions.) In
the War on Terrorism, our side (the
2. The politics of envy. Under the politics of greed, political power is used to amass and maintain material wealth. Under the politics of envy, the goal is to destroy what the opponent has, even if it does not improve your own position. The politics of envy is very much at work in this war. The enemy wants to destroy the West (materialism, capitalism, democracy, individual liberty), even though that will not improve (and will in fact worsen) their own economic position.
strategy is not based simply on intelligence. The current position of the
(A little more
discussion of strategy, and the importance of individual moves… In playing the game, the attacker’s actual
moves are essentially irrelevant – the goal is to maximize our objective
function (or implement Nash’s bargaining solution), given the opponent’s goals
(and values and resources). The
“solution” to the game is an optimal strategy
for each side (i.e., for us and for the opponent – even though the opponent may
not move optimally in actual play). The
solution to the game is not a single move, it is a
randomized strategy – a probability distribution of moves for both sides. In any reasonable game, the opponent’s moves
are not known to us in advance, and involve randomization. The War on Terrorism is a continuing
sequential-move game, with lots of possible moves (for each side). Finding out one of the attacker’s moves and
thwarting it is fine, but it is of little significance in the overall play of
the game. The importance of intelligence
is in knowing the opponent’s goals and constraints, so that we can develop a
good strategy to prevail against them (or, more specifically, realize our
goals), in the course of all of his
moves and ours. We can never be
successful in exposing all terrorist attacks, and that is not the
objective. If our opponent is crafty, we
may not be able to expose any of his
attacks. The objective is to determine a
strategy such that we perform well in the face of the attacker’s moves, whether
we learn about them in advance or not.
West’s Achilles Heel is energy. To
bring us (Western industrialized civilization) down, the enemy needs only to
attack our energy sources, since Western industrialized civilization is totally
dependent on energy. This is easy to
do. These targets include hydroelectric
dams, oil fields, oil pipelines, refineries, coal fields, and nuclear power
plants. Many of these targets are
outside of the
5. Harassment. To make us miserable, the enemy needs simply
to target population targets, such as the
6. The West is doomed to lose, eventually. Since global oil reserves exhaust by the year 2050, the industrial world (or, I should say, global industrialization) will collapse well before that date. So, in the long run, the Islamic fundamentalists are destined to win, no matter what they do, and no matter what we do. All that can be controlled is how we wage the (losing) war before it is lost. And that will be determined in such a fashion as to maximize economic productivity for those in economic control over the pre-collapse period (i.e., the next few years). Because of the phenomenon of “discounting in time and space,” it does not matter to the current elite that the West will eventually lose the War on Terrorism, as the Petroleum Age / Industrial Age draws to a close. All that matters is the “discounted present value” of their wealth, and the discount rate is a high one (i.e., the fate of future generations of mankind is of little concern – and the fate of the biosphere and other species is of no concern at all).
will determine the West’s strategy for dealing with terrorism. The Western world is controlled by the owners
of economic wealth. Those in control
will adopt whatever strategy generates the most wealth / makes the most
money. With the end of the Cold War, the
West (the elite, the rulers, the oligarchs) did not have a clear strategy of
what activities to engage in. Now that
the War on Terrorism has erupted, there is an endless string of profitable
activities that present themselves. As I
have noted many times, economic productivity is stimulated and increased by
destructive acts (e.g., if you smash your neighbor’s automobile window, Gross
National Product increases by the amount required to manufacture and install
another one). (The wealth of the
oligarchs is also increased – your neighbor may have to pay for the windshield,
or you may, so one of you will be poorer.
But the oligarch who manufactures windshields will be wealthier by the
profit associated with the manufacture of an additional windshield. Wars work the same way. The poor bastard who has to do the actual
fighting may lose his life or be disabled, but the rulers and the arms merchants
will be wealthier than ever.) The War on
Terrorism is the greatest thing to happen to the economy and to those in
economic control since the end of the Cold War.
Because of this, the powers that be will not be overly aggressive in
fighting it. They will not adopt any
aggressive strategies, such as closing US borders, terminating immigration,
terminating free trade, or destroying the terrorists’ support groups, since
that would bring the War to an end, and it is not in the best interest of the
economic powers-that-be to do so. (In
fact, the economic powers have to have
a war. Global nuclear war is not very
attractive to them, but the War on Terrorism is just perfect. It is a “made to order” replacement for the
Cold War.) The Cold War was a little
stressful, since either side (the
West does not want a final, decisive victory in the War on Terrorism. If the
9. What is a good strategy for waging the War on Terrorism? In order to determine a good strategy for waging the War on Terrorism, the West / US must decide what is important to it, and what its goals are. If it is individual freedom, open borders, having lots of foreign immigrants, and letting our culture be destroyed – all for more money – then fine, go for it, and this goal will determine an optimal strategy. If, on the other hand, it is surviving as a culture in an intact (biologically diverse) biosphere after the end of the Petroleum Age, then that is fine, too, but it will involve a quite different optimal strategy. Rather remarkably, for an issue of such importance, the discussion is not being carried out at a high or public (national or world level). We have not explicitly (publicly, as a nation or culture or planet) talked about our goals, or about those of the enemy. Once people understand that it is not in the economic interest of those in control to end the War on Terrorism, they may feel somewhat more comfortable with our current “no-win” strategy, and understand the seeming ineffectiveness or foolishness of our current approach (“bring the terrorists to justice” etc.). Before a good strategy can be developed for ourselves, it is necessary also to understand and articulate the goals and values of the enemy. When we have identified our own goals and values, and those of the enemy, we will then be in a position to determine a good strategy for waging the War. (Note that to “solve” a game, the goals and objectives and constraints must be specified for both sides, and optimal strategies are determined for both sides.)
10. The role of religion and other cultural groups. If you read Jared Diamond’s book, Guns, Germs and Steel, you will come across his discussion of the relationship of religion to states. The following excerpt is from his chapter, “From Egalitarianism to Kleptocracy.”
“The remaining way for kleptocrats to gain public support is to construct an ideology or religion justifying kleptocracy. Bands and tribes already had supernatural beliefs, just as do modern established religions. But the supernatural beliefs of bands and tribes did not serve to justify central authority, justify transfer of wealth, or maintain peace between unrelated individuals. When supernatural beliefs gained those functions and became institutionalized, they were thereby transformed into what we term a religion. Hawaiian chiefs were typical of chiefs elsewhere, in asserting divinity, divine descent, or at least a hotline to the gods. The chief claimed to serve the people by interceding for them with the gods and reciting the ritual formulas required to obtain rain, good harvests, and success in fishing.
“Chiefdoms characteristically have an ideology, precursor to an institutionalized religion, that buttresses the chief’s authority. The chief may either combine the offices of political leader and priest in a single person, or may support a separate group of kleptocrats (that is, priests) whose function is to provide ideological justification for the chiefs. That is why chiefdoms devote so much collected tribute to constructing temples and other public works, which serve as centers of the official religion and visible signs of the chief’s power.
“Besides justifying the transfer of wealth to kleptocrats, institutionalized religion brings two other important benefits to centralized societies. First, shared ideology or religion helps solve the problem of how unrelated individuals are to live together without killing each other – by providing them with a bond not based on kinship. Second, it gives people a motive, other than genetic self-interest, for sacrificing their lives on behalf of others. At the cost of a few society members who die in battle as soldiers, the whole society becomes much more effective at conquering other societies or resisting attacks.
importance of religion in war cannot be understated. It was, for example, the basis of the
Crusades, in which diverse nations embracing Christianity waged a large and
continuing war against diverse nations embracing Islam. As I noted, President George W. Bush has
emphasized that the War on Terrorism is not a war against Islam. Don’t be too sure of that, Mr. Bush. Was our war against Hitler not a war against
the entire nation of
The role of other
cultural groups; why is President Bush so interested in “bringing terrorists to
justice? My grandfather, who fought
in both World Wars (in the Canadian army), told me when I was very young that
he was “born to kill Germans.” Late in
his life, he told me that he realized that the Germans fighting him were just
as good people as the Canadians. A good friend
of mine was an American born of German parents who had immigrated to
and religion are strong ties. And to win
a war it is necessary to fight a lot of good people who are just as spiritual,
religious and moral as you are (both sides will likely be strong – and
different – on all important cultural characteristics, or they would not be
prepared to fight at all). If you do not
fight and kill these good people, you will never defeat the enemy, if it is
part of them and they are its support group.
Our parents understood this. If
all of the terrorists are Saudi, or Arab, or Moslem, you may very well have to
wage war against
culture, language, religion or race into which you are born may be very
arbitrary, as may be the country, culture, language, religion or race of your
nation’s enemy. But being a loyal
citizen and soldier of that arbitrary group is part of being a human being. Every person on the planet is part of some
support group (nation, race, religion, etc.).
In most cases membership in a support group is arbitrarily decided as an
accident of birth. Depending on the
course of world events, your support group’s enemy may be of any other culture
(nation, religion, etc.). In the
Crusades, it was Christianity vs. Islam.
In World War II it was
In his repeated emphasis on “bringing terrorists to justice,” President Bush seems to go to extreme lengths not to offend any significant group of people – no nation (although virtually all of the 9/11 attackers were Saudi Arabians), no ethnic group (although all of the attackers were Arab) and no religion (although all of the attackers were Moslem). On the surface, this seems really strange. In the Second World War, our goal was never to “bring Hitler to justice,” or “bring Hirohito to justice,” or “bring Mussolini to justice.” It was to defeat their support groups – to kill so many people (good or bad) in the nations that supported them, that they had no further support at all. “Justice” is for law-abiding Americans. I do not care in the least if Adolph Hitler or Benito Mussolini or Emperor Hirohioto or Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein receive “justice.” That is immaterial to my welfare, and is a total waste of time and effort. Those people aren’t even Americans, and so I could care less if they receive “justice.” All I want is the threat to my security removed. So why is President Bush interested in “bringing terrorists to justice”? Perhaps it is because he has no real interest in ending the War on Terrorism at all, but just in waging it.
Note of clarification: I am frequently misunderstood in my views on war. In the above, I am not proposing that we go to war against any nation, religion, race, or other group. I have little interest in war per se (although I do not shy from it, and see a useful role for it in certain circumstances, and view that global war will inevitably occur as global oil reserves exhaust over the coming years) – I am a mathematical statistician, not a soldier or an arms merchant (or even an oligarch). My sole interest is in saving the planet’s biosphere (and avoiding the extinction of mankind). I write these “Miscellany” notes simply to draw traffic to my web site, so that visitors may see my articles on planetary management. What I am saying here is that in all previous wars, in which the enemy was led by a single person or small number of people, the approach was never to “bring those leaders to justice.” It was always to declare war on the entire nation – all of its people, good or bad – and defeat it. But in the War on Terrorism, this is not the approach at all. It is very clear who the terrorists’ support groups are, and yet we do not declare war on any of them. Hence the inference that we are not interested in winning the War on Terrorism at all, but simply in continuing it.
11. Low-intensity terrorism will continue indefinitely, since it is good for business. In “olden” times, kings waged wars. Wars were not only the “sport of kings,” but they were good for economic activity and generation of wealth. With the advent of nuclear weapons, however, war became much less practical. In previous times, kings avoided “all-out” wars, in which the king might lose his life. After the dawn of the nuclear age, the possibility arose that an “all-out” war could ruin things for everyone (that is, for everyone in charge – the common folk don’t count for much in such matters). Today, the world is under control of wealthy oligarchs – they are the “kings” of the modern world. They do not want to lose their wealth, and, as the kings of old, they very much want to profit from war. (See my article, The Story of Civilization, for discussion of why wars are so important to economic interests.) Since traditional, large-scale war between nations is no longer practical (since it might, if things got out of hand, ruin things for all of those in economic control), a serious issue in recent years was what would replace it (to continue economic growth). Low-level terrorism is a perfect substitute, in the nuclear age, for general war of the pre-nuclear age. Modern economies can make tremendous profits in waging the War on Terrorism. All that is needed for the system to continue to work well is to avoid an all-out, life-and-death struggle. The West will take steps to make sure that this is avoided (e.g., by saying that we are not at war with Islam; or by “taking out” anyone, such as Saddam Hussein, who might upset things too much (although it was access to oil, not weapons of mass destruction, that was the primary reason for the war in Iraq)), but it will absolutely not take steps to stop the War on Terrorism completely, since it is not in its economic interest to do so. (Note: Although continuing the War on Terrorism is good for Western economic interests, that goal may not be the goal of the terrorists. Given the politics of envy and the promised rewards awaiting Moslem martyrs in Heaven, they may be more interested in destroying the West completely, even if it means their own physical destruction. From this point of view, it is very important to understand the enemy’s goals and values. “Intelligence” is very important in providing this understanding (although it is of relatively little value to the extent that its primary purpose is providing information about specific attacks).)
the government does not wish to discuss its goals, they may be inferred from
its adopted strategies. It may be
War on Terrorism is great for business.
Exactly what the people work
on to produce wealth for the elite does not matter very much to the elite. It does not matter to them whether the
workers make refrigerators, televisions, video games, cars, security systems,
or weapons. But, to keep the system on
track (stable government) they do want the public to demand (want) something, and to be very busy (working,
producing wealth for the oligarchs) most of the time. Demanding refrigerators is OK, but a drawback
with consumer goods is that they last so long (i.e., are “durable”). Producing weapons for war is much more
profitable, not just because they are sophisticated and expensive, but they are
quickly obsolesced or destroyed, producing much economic activity and wealth
for the oligarchs. The War on Terrorism
is much better for the economy and for the oligarchs than producing
refrigerators. It produces more money
for Raytheon, for Microsoft, for Halliburton, for the
will close with a quote from Hermann Goering: “Why of
course the people don’t want war. Why
should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he
can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally the common people don’t want war;
The July 24 issue of The Economist contained an interesting
article on deforestation of the Amazon region of
“Yet the paving of the BR-163 is feared as much as it is yearned for. The road joins what Brazilians call, without great exaggeration, the ‘world’s breadbasket’ to the ‘world’s lungs’ – the fields and pastures of the Mato Grosso to the Amazonian rainforest. If the past is any guide, the lungs will suffer. Paving the Br-163 could lay waste to thousands of square kilometers of forest, carrying deep into the jungle the ‘arc of deforestation’ through which it passes.
“During the 1990s, deforestation may have accounted for 10-20% of the carbon released into the atmosphere. Road development could deforest 30-40% of the Amazon by 2020, according to one estimate.
“The road was opened 30 years ago by dictators whose idea of manifest destiny was to send bulldozers to clear a trail into the forest and entice people to follow with the prospect of land and subsidies. ‘Land without people for people without land,’ they urged, and many responded, settling along the margins of thoroughfares that took turns as dust and mud. One indigenous tribe, the Panará, was decimated by viruses brought by the settlers and expelled from its traditional territory. The BR-163 hosts what the transport ministry calls ‘the highest concentration of slave labor in the known world.’
“The Amazon forest has already shrunk by 15% since the 1960s. In general, some 85% of deforestation takes place within 50 km of a road, because a road makes it more profitable to fell trees, first for timber and then for pasture, the biggest contributor to the denuding of the forest. The paving of the BR-163, which passes through one of the Amazon’s most varied bird habitats, will destroy 22,000-49,000 square kilometers of forest within 35 years, according to a report in 2002 by two research institutes, IPAM and the Instituto Socioambiental.
“With the paving of the road in prospect, Trairão is experiencing a boom. Its population has swelled from 14,000 to 25,000 in the past two years. The price of land along the road has jumped nearly tenfold.
“No enemy is more
arch than Mr. Maggi, who, besides being Mato Grosso’s governor, is
part-owner of the world’s biggest soya producer. Anything that is good for soya
is bad for
For almost all of my adult life,
people have been decrying the destruction of the Amazon forest. Yet each year, the destruction continues. I can remember when the amount of
deforestation was 3 percent. Now it is
15 percent. Soon it will be 40
percent. In order to secure access to
The industrialized West is destroying the biosphere in which we and countless other species live. It is causing the extermination of an estimated 30,000 species per year. It has caused severe degradation of the biosphere for all future time. It will not listen to reason. The Bible says, “Those who destroy the Earth will be destroyed.” What is taking so long?
(It is interesting to consider that
the Amazon forest is being destroyed by two parties – the Brazilians, who are
cutting down the forest, and the developed countries of the world, who are
demanding Brazilian hardwood and Brazilian beef. A similar situation exists in
There is a very interesting article on electronic waste (“e-waste”) posted at the CommUnity of Minds website, http://solutions.synearth.net/2004/07/24 . It is entitled, “High Tech Wasteland,” and the author is Elizabeth Grossman.
Some time ago, I became aware that
the 9/11 Commission was citing a failure of intelligence as the main problem
associated with the
I will simply reiterate here my view
that the 9/11 Commission’s report is a compete whitewash. The direct cause of the 9/11 attack is the
nation’s policy of open borders, massive international trade, and mass
immigration. These policies were
implemented many years ago (e.g., the Immigration Act of 1965). The
As a follow-on
to my notes above on strategy for fighting the War on Terrorism, I will reiterate
the point that the
Improved intelligence may avert a few
attacks, but it does nothing to reduce the number that are being planned, or
the damage they will cause. The main
reason for our vulnerability is not a lack of intelligence: it is a lack of
will to protect the country. The
country’s leaders are unwilling to do anything that will jeopardize economic activity,
profits, and wealth for the elite. They
are quite content to trade off a few thousand, or even
a few million, American lives, just to keep the economy racing ahead. Given this view, the nation’s strategy for
fighting the War on Terrorism will continue pretty much the same as it has in
the past, viz., business as usual. When
the casualties reach the millions, and the terrorists start to cause Gross
National Product to shrink, the
So, why would the 9/11 Commission
cite the failure of intelligence as the principal failure associated with the
9/11 attack, when other factors are clearly the underlying cause? It is being done for several reasons: (1) it
absolves previous leaders (e.g., the Kennedys) , who promoted mass immigration and mass international
trade, of responsibility; (2) it absolves current leaders of the same charge;
(3) it diverts attention from these factors, which are in fact the primary
causes, because they generate much wealth for the elite, and the elite do not
want to change the existing (global economic) system. The 9/11 Commission is a complete whitewash. The government knew what it was doing when it
destroyed the integrity of our borders and the homogeneity of our culture. Honorable men such as North Carolina Senator Sam
Ervin pointed out the follow of the current path many years ago. The government is quite willing to accept a
few thousand or a few million deaths from terrorism, in order to keep their
evil economic system, which is destroying the biosphere, running smoothly and
profitably, and generating massive wealth for the elite. (If you don’t believe that the government
doesn’t mind losing millions of people, read Hermann Kahn’s On Thermonuclear War sometime. All governments are the same.
(Note: As the Petroleum Age draws to a close, the number of deaths per year from starvation will soon average about 100 million people per year. As I have discussed before, not everyone will be content simply to lie down and starve to death. A number of the 100 million deaths will be caused by terrorism, not by starvation. Terrorism will flourish. It will be nurtured by the intense anger of those who see that the elite did not care that human population would soar to six billion, and then those six billion would starve to death – while the elite continue to eat beef (Marie Antoinette must be smiling now). Luddism will be back in vogue. Each year, the fundamental issue will be: Which 100 million will perish that year – 100 million people in less-developed countries, or 100 million in industrially developed countries. Does anyone care to make a guess about which 100 million will die?)
I noticed an interesting headline on
Yahoo.com the other day: “Expatriates may swing
As a result, the candidates standing for an election cannot afford to offend any of them. The candidates must pander to the blacks, to the Hispanics, to the homosexuals, to the immigrants, or to any sizable minority group. As a result, they end up standing for nothing at all. You can see this effect very clearly in the current election campaign, with George Bush running against John Kerry.
This election, as all of the previous ones, are truly amazing. The biosphere is being destroyed at a horrific rate (an estimated 30,000-150,000 species per year becoming extinct because of large human numbers and industrial activity). Global oil reserves are half-exhausted, and all remaining oil will be gone by 2050. Since the world population is totally dependent on oil for modern agriculture, world population will drop from its current six billion to a few hundred million by then. Do Bush and Kerry ever discuss this? Of course not. It is never mentioned. Why? Because neither of them has the foggiest idea what to do about it? Because to do something meaningful to change things would reduce economic activity and the rate of creation of material wealth for the oligarchs? Take your pick. Nero is truly fiddling while Rome burns (aside: this is a strange expression, given that the violin was not invented until long after Nero’s time).
On Sunday, August 1, Yahoo.com posted an article entitled, Women Criticize Vatican Document on Feminism. Here is the article.
The document, issued Saturday, said modern feminism's fight for power and gender equality was undermining the traditional concept of family and creating a climate where gay marriages are seen as acceptable.
Frances Kissling, president of the U.S.-based Catholics for a Free Choice, said she thought she had "passed through a time warp" when she read the document.
"I thought for sure I was the 1960s and Archie Bunker had been appointed theologian to the Pope," she said, referring to the character in an old American TV series whose bigoted views included opposition to any form of women's rights.
In a 37-page document "On the Collaboration of Men and
Women in the Church and in the World," the
The document, which re-stated Catholic Church positions, including the ban on female priests, said that many women felt they had to be "adversaries of men" in order to be themselves.
It criticized feminism's attempt to erase gender differences, saying it had inspired ideologies questioning the traditional family structure of a mother and a father and making homosexuality and heterosexuality virtually equivalent.
"Such observations could only be made by men who have no significant relationships with women and no knowledge of the enormous positive changes the women's rights movement has meant for both men and women," Kissling said.
Emma Bonino, a former European
commissioner and current member of the European parliament, said the
"This letter could easily have been written by an imam
of al-Azhar," she said referring to Sunni
Islam's most respected institution of religious learning in
"To be fair to the Catholic Church, no religion is a great friend of women," she told the Corriere della Sera newspaper. "They pay you a lot of compliments but when push comes to shove they ask you to stay in your place: wife, nurse, mother and grandmother."
The document said that although motherhood is a "key element of women's identity," women should not be considered from the sole perspective of procreation.
It said women who choose to be full-time mothers should not be stigmatized and it appealed to governments to make it easier for mothers to hold outside jobs without "relinquishing their family life."
Some women suggested that the
"Everyone knows that men and women are different and
the feminist movement has always held this view," said Chiara
Saraceno, a professor of sociology at the
"What continues to shock me is this teaching attitude that is always directed at women and never at men," she told the leftist newspaper L'Unita. (End of article.)
Within 45 years, all of the planet’s commercially extractable oil will be gone, and world population will fall to a few hundred million or less. At that time, most of the planet will return to traditional values, including a nuclear family with the man in charge of obtaining food and the woman in charge of the children and keeping the home in order. The Catholic Church is right on the mark in holding to its traditional values. If it abandoned them now, it would have no moral authority, and people would not turn to it for inspiration and guidance when the industrial world collapses.
It appears that global oil production is in the process of “peaking.” The OPEC has released all production controls, and the price of crude oils is soaring. In the years to come, global annual production will gradually fall, reaching zero by about the year 2050. As oil becomes more and more scarce, poor countries will be the first to be “cut off” – not just from oil, but from all that its energy creates. People will begin to die by the millions. In the decade 2010-2020, people will die at an average annual rate of about one hundred million per year. What you are seeing now is just the beginning.
In my book, Can
This book has been on my website since 1999, and it continues to (usually) receive more “hits” than any of my other articles on the site. Periodically I check the website “statistics,” to see what search-engine terms are bringing visitors to the site. The phase “minimal regret” occurs from time to time, but last week was the first time I noticed the phrase, “Minimal Regret Society.” While I had used the descriptor “minimal regret” just in referring to a population, it is quite appropriate to use it to refer to a society. It is gratifying to see more and more interest in the concept of a long-term sustainable population.