Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Eco Zealots

I often wonder, if my Father was alive today, what would he have made of all the Eco-Zealots obsessing about Copenhagen. His article that appeared in the Observer back in 1991 sheds some light....

The Observer

January 6 1991

Eco-zealots are my deadliest foes



LENGTH: 1085 words

THE GREENS sometimes make me see red. And by the greens I mean not only the Green Party, which was always a non-starter, but the whole jack-pack of conservationists, preservationists, ecologists, environmentalists, organic food faddists, ozone layer loonies, and, of course, the Friends of the Earth, whose initials FOE can perhaps be used to describe them all.

My feelings have been provoked by the news that it is now an offence to break open Speyside mussels, catch Allis shad (a rare type of herring), or bring home an adder.

I have never fancied mussels, can survive on common-or-garden herrings, and have never been tempted to bring home an adder, but it does show the extent to which the FOEs have pushed the best of causes to the most ridiculous lengths.

The FOEs have, of course, been around a long time in one guise or another and their case was perhaps best made by Byron nearly 200 years ago: There is a pleasure in the pathless woods, There is a rapture on the lonely shore, There is society where none intrudes, By the deep sea, and music in its roar: I love not man the less but nature more. Except that the last line is no longer true, and the trouble with the Friends of the Earth is that they are enemies of man.

It is not that they have ever called for euthanasia or abortions though that will come but they regard people as a nuisance. There are too many of them and they are multiplying too fast. They crowd the lonely shore, pollute the deep sea, and beat paths through the pathless woods. Sometimes they destroy the woods altogether and build towns. They eat other animals. They emit foul odours. Their homes and schools and working places spoil the scenery.

One found such sentiments in the back-to-the-land movement of the inter-war years, but industry and industrialists were the villains then, and countrymen and farmers were the heroes. Now any man who makes two heads of corn grow where one grew before, or who plants any corn at all, is a public enemy and if the FOEs had their way, the country would be reduced to a society 'where none intrudes'. In other words, to a wilderness.

As a matter of fact there are few sights more lovely than a neatly ploughed field on a bleak winter's morning, or a waving field of corn on a summer's afternoon.

Some farmers are too greedy and go too far, and the removal of hedgerows is unforgivable, but there is a beauty to be found even in so-called prairies.

Last summer I was driving along the A120 (one of the most attractive routes in the country), when I saw three huge combine harvesters moving line-abreast, like galleons, through a sea of corn, and I was so arrested by the scene that I stopped there in fascination till they had consumed the field.

There is great beauty to be found even in industrial scenes. Late one afternoon I was walking near the banks of the Forth when I suddenly caught a glimpse of the Grangemouth oil refinery. It looked like an illuminated cathedral from the distance. The nearer I approached, the more exciting it became, and I was so overwhelmed by the scene that I was almost indifferent to the sulphurous smells. If the FOEs had been as active in the inter-war years as they are now, that refinery would never have been built, and certainly not in an area of such natural beauty.

There was a time when everyone raged against electric pylons, but that was a generation or two ago. I should imagine if anyone tried to dismantle one now he would be accused of vandalism. Time beautifies all, but I found a quiet majesty in those pylons even when they were first erected. I liked their proportions and shape, and the sight of a whole line of them striding across a windswept moor can give an uplift to even the most jaded spirit.

When the Channel Tunnel route through Kent was announced, all the FOEs in the country, local and national, combined to stop it, some demanding that the lines should go underground.

There was a presumption behind the campaign that trains are ugly and nasty and they despoil any area they traverse, whereas they are not only marvels of engineering, but are often objects of great beauty and they move with grace. One of the joys of walking in the Chilterns, for example, is the sight of the great main line expresses hurtling along the chalky escarpments. The trains would not despoil the beauty of Kent, they would enhance it.

More than that, the great advantage of trains over any other form of travel is the pleasure one takes in the passing scene, but if trains are driven underground they are merely a means of getting from one point to another and cease to be pleasurable in their own right.

It can at least be argued that the parts of Kent affected by the railway are areas of outstanding natural beauty. The same cannot be said for the Essex flatlands stretching northwards from the Thames estuary, bleak, wind-blown, desolate, scarcely inhabited and largely inaccessible. About a year ago plans were mooted to build a recreation facility in the area. At once the cry went up that it was the habitat of some rare breed of gannet or grasshopper (I cannot remember which), and the plans were quickly abandoned.

And if one cannot build anything new, one dare not touch anything old. There is hardly a structure in the country, no matter how ugly, which will not have a preservation order slapped on it, provided it has outlived its original use. The FOEs rightly condemn the glass boxes built since the Second World War, but they cherish the brick boxes built before the first one. They don't mind factories and mills, no matter how dark and satanic they may have been, provided they are museums and not places of actual employment.

Yet if the FOEs are too zealous in some respects they are not zealous enough in others. There was no outcry when Mr Edward Heath eviscerated the counties of England each with its own unique character and historic traditions and replaced them with meaningless areas like Cleveland, Humberside and Avon. And there is none against the despoliation of the English Sunday.

And therein, possibly, lies the main fault of the FOEs. We live in two worlds, an inner one and an outer one, and the former can sometimes be more important than the latter, yet the FOEs are only concerned with the latter. They will throw themselves before earth-movers to prevent the reclamation of a marsh, but are indifferent to the transformation of the landscape of the mind.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Be careful who you call a flat-earther Gordon

If anyone needs proof of how out-of-touch the Prime Minister is with the electorate, they need look no further than his recent statement that: "we mustn't be distracted by the behind-the-times, anti-science, flat-earth climate sceptics".

If Gordon Brown, Ed-Milliband and all the other arrogant "we-know-better-than-you" Ministers had an ounce of common sense, they would work a little harder to convince the rest of us why we should be paying trillions of dollars to prevent climate change rather than labelling all of us as idiots.

In fact a large number of us are not deniers, we are merely unconvinced. And climategate (followed by the attempted excuses and cover-ups) has not helped to convince us any further.

I am no scientist (and nor is Gordon Brown one the last time I checked), but the following is unclear to me:

1. Why haven't global temperatures risen during the last ten years?
2. Even if climate change is occurring, it's by no means clear to what extent man is responsible (even warmers don't agree)
3. And even if man is in some way responsible, how will heavy taxation that slows economic progress solve the problem? Surely developing cleaner, more efficient technologies is the solution? I can't imagine the Chinese giving up on economic development for the sake of climate change?

In fact the biggest tragedy of the whole climate change debate is the fact that it's presented as a trade off between economic progress and the environment. Do the government have to tax us out of flying and driving? Is it not possible for example to develop high performing yet environmentally friendly cars and planes?

Unfortunately, many of those in the warming camp have an anti-capitalist, anti-technology agenda, and long for us to return to some kind of pre-industrial age. Sadly, the real victim of all this will be the environment. Issues that most of us agree on such as conserving finite resources, improving air quality, reducing landfill, and preserving our beautiful countryside or drowned out by the obsession with climate change. Yet instead of focusing on measures that can be quantified (e.g. recycling), we are focusing on something that is impossible to quantify. The result is a wasteful 12 day conference at which there is unlikely to be any agreement and at best a very weak agreement that few governments will even bother to keep to.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A balanced climate change debate

David Aaronvitch says in this morning's Times:

Lord Lawson’s foundation claims it wants a ‘balanced’ climate change debate. But really it wants to disprove the science.
Of course they are sceptics, but there is nothing wrong with them demanding a 'balanced' debate. They are merely arguing that the 'deniers' (as the Guardian calls them) should also have the opportunity to have their voice heard. That's what balanced debate is about: people for and people against a particular argument being free to argue their position without being drowned out.

Take the latest opinion polls with a pinch of salt

Like James Forsyth, I am not overly worried about the recent opinion poll showing a fall in Tory support. But even if you take all the polls from recent months and put them together, it's not looking that great for the Tories. Whilst people may be sick of Labour, they are still unconvinced by the Tories. When you consider that they are going to need the second biggest parliamentary swing in history just to get a majority of 1, you realise what a mountain they still have to climb.

I agree with Janet Daley's analysis that first impressions last, and the Tories have left it pretty late in proving they are heavyweights. Even if the Tories work their socks off during the next six months, I think the best we can expect is a hung parliament.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The majority of voters don't (yet) believe in man-made climate change

Today's Times editorial states that:
"A large proportion of the British public does not yet believe that climate change is made by man. It is a stark political failure that they have not been convinced"
So there you have it. You either believe in man made climate change, or you don't yet believe in man made climate change. There are no true unbelievers. But is it a stark political failure? Maybe the British public are on to something:

For starters, the scientific community is by no means unanimous as to the cause of climate change. Secondly, even those who believe in man made climate change cannot agree to what extent our climate will be effected. And thirdly, voters don't take very well to bullying politicians telling them what to think (especially when it's not clear that clear that even they believe in it).

The British public are not quite as ignorant as politicians imagine them to be. Maybe they should be spend a little more time listening to voters and a little less time listening to "experts".

How much more of the nanny state can we take?

I am beginning to understand why so many Americans equate big government with tyranny. They need only look across the pond to see what a nanny state Britain has become.

Do we really want to live in a country where the police follow you home from the supermarket because they overheard you threatening to smack your children? Or a country where you need a criminal background check just to give your friend's children a lift home from school?

Sorry to use that awful cliche, but the road to hell is paved with good inventions. The Labour government may profess its desire to protect our children, but treating a quarter of the adult population like criminals isn't the way to go about it.

We have a stark choice at the next general election, between a government that is ideologically committed to intruding into every nook and cranny of our lives, and an opposition that is prepared to roll back the nanny state and protect our freedom.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Despite the Fort Hood massacre, America is still safer than Britain

I may have been a little naive, but I never thought that something like the Fort Hood massacre would happen in America. Nevertheless, I stand by what I wrote after the 7/7 bombings, American Muslims are better integrated than their European counterparts:
  • Unlike Britain, America expects its immigrants to integrate as a condition of citizenship. I doubt that America would give sanctuary to members of the Taliban, or to Osama Bin Laden's spiritual ambassador.
  • America doesn't have Britain's self-loathing establishment, it's still a country that for the most part believes in itself and its values.
  • America has a much smaller welfare state. New immigrants are expected to stand on their own two feet and look after themselves, not to rely on the state. A far higher proportion of American muslims have made it to the middle classes compared to their European counterparts. Few languish in urban ghettoes like Rotterdam or Clichy-sous-Bois. Besides, the debate over immigration in the US is about illegal Immigrants from Mexico, not Muslims.
  • Contrary to the Guardian's alarmist headlines, I'm willing to bet money that there will be no backlash against Muslims. Despite the UK liberal establishment's view of Americans being a bunch of homophobic racist rednecks they are actually a pretty tolerant lot. I would feel a lot safer being an American muslim than a British muslim.
However, I would end with note of caution. Before 9/11, Americans were too naive to believe that foreign terrorists would attack their country. Maybe they have also been a little too naive about home grown terrorism. American muslims may be better integrated, but clearly not all of them have signed up to the American dream.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

It's important to forgive, but isn't it important to show remorse too?

We are often lectured by liberals on how important it is to forgive and how forgiveness has paved the way for reconciliation in South Africa and peace in Northern Ireland, but why do they never talk about showing remorse?

A case in point is the "Forgiveness Project", dedicated to "helping build a future free of conflict and violence by healing the wounds of the past". It has just hosted a reception for the IRA bomber Patrick Magee at the Houses of Parliament. This is a man who was quoted as saying "I stand by what I did".

I'm all in favour of conflict resolution, but why should we forgive an unrepentant mass-murderer? The victim must forgive, but it seems that all the perpetrator has to do is stop killing.

Forgiveness has become little more than a get out of jail free card.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The special relationship - 1945 - 2009 - RIP

The row over the decision to allow Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi to return to Libya is the final nail in the coffin of our special relationship with America.

It serves us right. If we are going to be an unreliable ally, why should America take any interest in us?

The rehabilitation of Chamberlain

As our collective memory of World War II fades into the distance, I worry that history is repeating itself.

You only have to read William Rees-Mogg's piece: Does appeasement look so bad, 70 years on? to see where we are heading. A revisionist view seems to be taking hold of many in the establishment - the fashionable view of Churchill is that he was a bloodthirsty warmonger who needlessly bombed helpless German civilians. Chamberlain by contrast is seen as a man of peace who took every opportunity to seek a diplomatic solution to Germany's agression.

As the years go by, this argument will only get stronger as people choose to forget the fact that Hitler's war against both the Jews and his neighbours began long before 1939.

These are worrying times.