Thursday, 9 October 2008

One per cent is all it took.......................


For 99 per cent of the world’s history, I read, man did not exist. It is a tribute to his energy that he has only needed one per cent to ruin it.


For all that time before his arrival, neither welcome nor opportune, the world had been a tropical paradise in which magnificent animals roamed freely without a single war. They ate each other, it is true. But only when they were hungry.


When it first swung out of the trees, man was timid. Well, it was the smallest and the least equipped to defend itself. Naturally it became another tasty morsel in a vast delicatessen. So its first priority was to duck and dive.


Like the other animals, it ranged the tropical earth looking for nuts and fruits and the occasional animal which was either smaller or less equipped to duck and dive. Then some fool invented territory and an even bigger fool invented religion to explain the natural phenomena which puzzled and frightened them. Warfare was an inevitable consequence. We became the only species on the planet which brought mass production to killing perfect strangers.


Since then the evolutionary escalator has been programmed ever downwards. We reached the basement in the 18th century, in what we had the nerve to call the Age of Enlightenment, which gave us among other horrors the Industrial Revolution.


True, we invented music and painting and told ourselves stories to pass the time. We learned how to create beautiful buildings and pleasing artefacts; but spent most of our time destroying them by ever more sophisticated methods. Science has discovered many wonders, most of which produce ever more efficient ways of destroying ourselves. Medicine has learned to keep us alive long after our sell-by dates; yet has not learned how to care humanely for the old. It has banished many of the diseases which were Nature’s way of maintaining a healthy balance.


It is one hell of a price to pay for daytime TV



My chum Revel Barker, a former Mirror Group Managing Editor, shares my view on climate warming. He writes:


An Intuit Chief Aqqaluk Lynge is particularly worried about "an authoritative report by 250 scientists" that the climate in his region would change between 4C and 7C over the next 100 years - "which would be twice the global average."


Which is true, provided that the global average increase over the next 100 years is 2C to 3.5C.


On the other hand, Mr Lynge [; for all I know it might be Mr Aqqaluk] could listen to 250 different scientists who say the climate isn't noticeably changing at all, or 250 others who say that if there are any changes they will not be caused by mankind, or - far more comforting for him, presumably - the thousands of scientists who warned, authoritatively, in the 1970s that we would have another Ice Age by 2020.


As far as we can tell, the earth's temperature increased during the last 100 years by an average of slightly less than 0.7 of one degree centigrade. In other words, by an amount smaller than could be measured on most thermometers.


That was a century that saw the introduction and popularisation of the motor car, the aircraft, the jet engine, world-wide air travel, two highly mechanised world wars, the explosion of the atom bomb (and several test explosions of it), the bombing and deforestation of Viet Nam, space travel, and more coal dug and burnt, and more industry pumping out smoke, than ever before or since.


This century has cleaner air than ever before, and a slow-down on deforestation, but according to the warm-mongers things are gonna get worse, far worse.


If Inuits are taught Eskimo history, they will know that their country is colder today than it was just over 1,000 years ago when it was discovered by Erik the Red and his Viking chums.


They called the place Greenland, which might be a bit of a clue. And they settled there to hunt and to farm - which might be another clue.


I have no idea what their impact might have been on the local environment, a bit of ploughing perhaps, the firing of wooden missiles into the air during hunting, but 500 years later came the "Little Ice Age", which made the place what it is today: covered in ice. The region's polar bears - presumably hitherto gathered in the frozen wastes around the north pole like May dancers in an English country village - must have thought that Christmas had come early. And then that it had come for good.


Wake up and smell the melting blubber, Aqqaluk. The climate changes. It always has. That's what it does.


What serious scientists have found is that the main land mass at the south pole (the Antarctic) is actually getting colder, while at the north pole the western Arctic is - yes - getting warmer, but the eastern Arctic is getting colder. Mother Nature (don't you find?) seems often to find a way of levelling things out, somehow.


In Washington DC earlier this year I learnt from a jubilant Greenpeace-US that the organisation had been successful in having the polar bear classed as a "threatened" species under the federal Endangered Species Act, "due to the meltdown of its sea-ice habitat caused by global warming."


When I asked whether there was, in fact, any actual evidence that the number of polar bears was decreasing, or that their continued existence was under any threat, the Greenpeace representative replied (and readers who are being scared out of their wits by the doomsayers might like to consider this): "Maybe not. We don't actually know. But the classification is a temporary measure, while we try to find out the facts."


Well, that's one way of approaching science - declare a situation as true and scary, and then set about checking it out.


The documentary "evidence" to support this claim appears to be one photograph of one polar bear on one tiny ice flow. Other pictures show wiser bears moving off small pieces of ice onto more solid ground. That, presumably, is how the species continues to survive.


The Greenpeace argument also claims to be supported by "NASA findings that the polar bear is at risk."


Exactly why NASA (that's the National Aeronautics and Space Administration - the people who send people to the moon, vehicles to Mars, and run the space shuttle) should be interested in polar bears is a different matter for concern, but Greenpeace says that it (NASA) had announced "measurements showing Arctic sea ice is hitting major lows... This is more bad news on the impacts of global warming effects and bad news for the polar bear." 


Only the first of those two statements was actually from NASA. And where did the spacemen get their data about Arctic ice? Oh... From Greenpeace-US.


American travel agents who specialise in Arctic ventures are meanwhile advertising excursions on the basis that it is nowadays easier than ever to guarantee polar bear sightings - "possibly" (being no more scientific than that) because of an increased population.


So perhaps we should be more concerned about the finders, than about the findings.


Meanwhile, if the polar bears (presumably currently enjoying the most immense acreage ever known to their species) are worried about survival, they'll need to move around a bit, something that's not normally beyond the wit of even the dumbest animals. Similarly, if Inuits are worried about their property falling into the sea, they'll have to learn not to build so close to the edge.


If they can't survive a small temperature change, well, maybe they were not intended to survive at all. Or maybe they were intended and expected to shift camp, as Erik the Red did, when he fetched up in the place around 982... having fled Norway, as you will remember, following a dispute with a neighbour over the non-return of a borrowed shovel.


Thought for Today


From the splendidly named Sir Laming Worthington-Evans, secretary of state for war nearly a century ago: "If the Arab population realised that the peaceful control of Mesopotamia ultimately depends on our intention of bombing women and children, I'm very doubtful if we shall gain that acquiescence of the fathers and husbands of Mesopotamia to which the Secretary of State for the Colonies looks forward." He was referring to Iraq in the 1920s; he could have been talking about Afghanistan or Iraq now.