Bill McKibben: Where do these numpties come from?

So here\’s the Greenie reaction to a massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami:

There have always been natural disasters, and there always will be.

Yes, yes, that\’s true.

We might decide that the human enterprise (at least in the west) has got big enough, that our appetites need not to grow, but to shrink a little, in order to provide us more margin. What would that mean? Buses and bikes and trains, not SUVs. Local food, with more people on the farm so that muscles replace some of the oil.

What?

Imagine, for instance, a nation that got most of its power from rooftop solar panels knitted together in a vast distributed grid. It would take investment to get there – we\’d have to divert money from other tasks, slowing some kinds of growth, because solar power is currently more expensive than coal power. We might not have constant access to unlimited power at every second of every day. In the end, though, you\’d have not only less carbon in the atmosphere, but also a country far less failure-prone.

Sorry?

Is there some special vat at Harvard where they prepare cretins to let loose on the world or something?

Take local food. So, if everyone in North-Eastern Japan were to be reliant upon local food supplies then everyone in North-Eastern Japan would now be condemned to starvation in the next month or so. Not just the ten of twenty thousand who have already died, but the hundreds of thousands, millions, that make up the entire population. For in the wake of an earthquake that destroyed much and a tsunami that swamped the rest, there is no food, no saved food storage and no damn chance of growing any for the forseeable future.

\”Localism\” would kill all of these people. And the same would be true of localism in Pakistan when it floods, Queensland when it floods, Cockermouth when it floods, any damn where when there\’s a drought and, in fact, any part of the planet that could be hit by any of those natural disasters which a vengeful planet can plop upon us, from the flood and drought already mentioned through to hurricanes, cyclones, potato or banana blight and plagues of frogs.

Are we allowed to hang people who propose such massive destruction of human life?

As to rooftop solar being the solution:

\"\"

Seriously?

Damn, it\’s multiple sources, spread across a variety of geographical regions, which provides security of supply of anything. Yes, food and power included. The answer to natural disasters is not to ensure that when one hits you will die but to try, as best is possible, to ensure that you do not. Which means trade, trade with people the further away from you the better.

There really is a reason why you can track famine across Europe and time: the more trade the less famine in any specific area.

Might I ask an important question here? Why is The Guardian paying this cretin, Bill McKibben, to advise people on the best way to make sure they die when the next, inevitable, natural disaster hits?

Remember folks, localism kills.

34 comments on “Bill McKibben: Where do these numpties come from?

  1. Localism might kill all these people, but look on the bright side – we would never hear about it. And so our comfortable little lives of unremitting toil on turnip farms would be unbroken by anything except concentrating on The Better World To Come.

  2. This guy has less of a handle on the subject than Mr. Murphy has on his.

    Dangerous romantic rubbish ignoring every reality about the way our society works.

    Even on the Grauniad he has come in for drubbing from the majority.

  3. “We might not have constant access to unlimited power at every second of every day.”

    As I keep saying to these people, would they be happy if the power failed while the surgeon were operating on their brain? We need power in our operating theatres too, it doesn’t just run Playstations.

  4. “Localism” would have killed all those people.

    Yes, but the result would be less carbon in the atmosphere. Priorities, Tim. If you think the human race is vermin or a virus, like many misanthropes, sorry, environmentalists do, anything which kills large numbers of them is to be welcomed.

  5. Our “green” town council prohibits me from chopping down to tree that stops me using rooftop solar power.

  6. ““Localism” would kill all of these people.”

    Yes, indeed. But as Rob points out, to the Greens, this isn’t a bug. It’s a feature.

  7. Fuck me, there are some nutters in thise comments. One wants to plough over the suburbs. Another thinks all of those criticising the article are puppets of the US army (WTF?!).

    Some of them make the Khymer Rouge sound like the Liberal Democrats. There are some seriously mad people reading the Guardian.

    Isn’t it strange that the author can see pictures of the debris and use this as an argument for de-industrialisation? Would he have felt better if instead of debris there were thousands of bodies floating instead, swept away when their flimsy reed huts were hit by the tsunami?

  8. I’m guessing that Mr McKibben doesn’t envisage that he will be toiling 15 hours a day on the farm.

  9. The Guardian is paying this person who, assuming generously, is a cretin & otherwise id deliberatley lying to help kill people, because they are in practice funded by the civil service, who pay for almost all their ads & thus most of their income.

    The civil service, in turn, pay for cretinous eco-fascist propaganda because “the purpose of government spending is to pay governmnt workers and their friends & the official, purpose is secondary at best” (Pournelle) and the best way to get bigger government spending is to frighten people into wanting more regulation. On the other hand the best way to increase national wealth is to get government out of the way – so anything but that.

    Leastways that is the only explanation I have seen that can possibly fit the facts and as Holmes says when you have eliminated the impossible…

  10. Toiling in the fields will be for the leetle peeple. The acolytes of Gaia will lounge around on their arse thinking of new ways of terrorising the peasants into reducing their already miserable standard of living.

  11. I suppose we have to brace ourselves for a tsunami of leftist bilge. Thank God for the Internet and this blog which is busy debunking it all.

  12. Local food, with more people on the farm so that muscles replace some of the oil.

    I’d love to see a team of greenies try and plough an acre of land…..

    Perhaps Bill McKibben should read up on how an acre of land was originally defined.

  13. I suppose we have to brace ourselves for a tsunami of leftist bilge. Thank God for the Internet and this blog which is busy debunking it all.

    Sadly Tim tends to be preaching to the choir. Now if he could get a regular gig on R4 or or R5 as a regular commenter that would be a useful use of the telly tax.

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  15. Simon F: “I’m guessing that Mr McKibben doesn’t envisage that he will be toiling 15 hours a day on the farm.”

    They never do.

  16. Imagine, for instance, a nation that got most of its power from rooftop solar panels knitted together in a vast distributed grid…a country far less failure-prone.

    I love it when people bring up this idea that you can distribute power generation like that. Balancing load and supply is hard enough with a centralised model. With massive numbers of small sources, it’s almost impossible. Local step down transformers don’t pass electricity back up the line, and if they did the losses would be astronomical by the time the tiny amount of power got to the other side of a city, let alone a country. This ends up as a “every home for themselves” formula. Power has to go somewhere – if you don’t control it, it will do it itself in ways you really don’t want. Like burning out transmission lines. Hell, even varying wind power with nominal 2MW generators managed to seriously destabilise Germany’s grid a few years ago. How on earth can we manage power from myriads of 1kW sources?

    I wonder if Mr McKibben has factored in all the electrical appliances that will be destroyed by variable voltage and frequency, brownouts, etc? Refrigerators in particular *really* don’t like that. And haven’t there been some problems with disposing of dead fridges in Europe?

    Oh sorry, he’s not an electrical engineer and doesn’t realise that providing a high quality electricity supply is a) important and b) not as easy as it looks.

  17. Those comments really take the cake. A couple of them are openly advocating some kind of genocide which should take place against the wealthy groups who are involved in some kind of conspiracy to make people consume more. Not sure who these people are, but it seems many deaths are envisaged. Of course this is all being mentioned in vast slabs of incomprehensible text. The term “flight of ideas” comes to mind.

  18. Ltw: the funny thing is that may of us have had to work in exactly the sorts of conditions that these people are proposing. Namely, no reliable central power source, no drinkable water on tap, generators outside the tent, stink of the fuel running them drifting all over the place, no showers. What they are proposing is Liberia-on-the-Thames, but they fondly envisage Henley-on-Thames (only prettier).

  19. Whenever anyone spruiks their latest Brilliant Idea for alternative power, ask them two questions
    1. Can it be scaled up to a terawatt plant?
    2. Can it be controlled to deliver power when you need it?

    If you can’t do that I’m not interested. If you don’t understand the questions I’m not interested in your opinion.

    Strangely enough, coal and nuclear fail the second test a bit – it’s quite hard to ramp them up or (as the Fukushima plant shows) down rapidly. Which is why they have gas turbine peaking plants. But even that’s better than no control at all which is what you get with wind or solar.

    One day – not soon, but eventually – my bet is on solar thermal with molten salt storage. That’s the only alternative technology I can see being able to provide controllable (key point there) baseload power. But I also forsee a lot of engineering problems scaling it up from 20MW demo plants to real power plants.

  20. Namely, no reliable central power source, no drinkable water on tap, generators outside the tent, stink of the fuel running them drifting all over the place, no showers.

    I know Rech. I’ve never had to live under conditions like that, although I’ve done a lot of site work that came close :) but that’s why blithe statements like “We might not have constant access to unlimited power at every second of every day” annoy me so much. He has no idea what he’s asking for.

  21. As I keep telling these people, we CERTAINLY won’t have constant access to power under their management. I myself have been in operating theatres which went dark while the surgeon was slicing through someone’s organs. I tell them that too, but they can’t put 2 and 2 together. They just assume that when they get old and someone is stitching their aorta together or taking a lump out of their brain, everything will take care of itself.

    If I were dictator I would march the CiF writers off to an aid camp for an 8 week stint cleaning latrines, and see what their opinions regarding infrastructure were when they came back.

  22. I think the idea is that if Japan had been local all along, the people who would starve as a result of localism would not have been born in the first place.

    That apparently makes it okay.

  23. “It would take investment to get there – we’d have to divert money from other tasks, slowing some kinds of growth”

    Hmmm… I seem to recall Greens in the 1970’s saying we were rich enough, and didn’t need to grow any more. Since then our real incomes have doubled. We now see the need to reduce government spending back to 2005 levels. So, Greens, what cuts do you propose to make?

  24. “The m0re trade the less famine”.Care to give at least three independent quotes and instances for this ex cathedra statement?(Like you would have to do if you were a disciplined historian and not a lets-cut- the -evidence- crap quasi scientist.)
    There is plenty of evidence the other way: the Irish pleading for the ports to be closed during the Potato Famine to stop grain being exported out of Ireland because, thanks to laissez faire, it could be sold at a premium.Charles Trevelyan ,commemorated for ever and a day in the Fields of Athenry,sung by Catholic football supporters,conflated market forces with the will of God and saw the famine as ” a direct stroke of all-wise and merciful providence” striking at “the deep and inveterate root of social evil”.
    James Donnelly of “The Great Irish Potato Famine” (2002) blames the pursuit of laissez faire principles pretty entirely.
    Mike Davis “Late Victorian Holocausts”(about El Nino famines in India ,Brazil …)is harder still on laissez faire , his views summarised as “The chief culprit was not the weather but European empires with Japan and US.Their imposition of free-market economics on the colonial world was tantamount to ‘a cultural genocide.’ ”
    Maybe these geezers are n’t right either but those on the losing-side of the Two Cultures Debate viz students of the humanities did get one thing right: that those narrowly trained in science and technology appear to have no appetite for the hard grind of gathering dispersed and conflicting evidence about human behaviour.

  25. DBC Reed – the Corn Laws were hardly laissez-faire, and were a major contributor to Irish grain exports continuing during the Potato Famine.

    rech – I can’t imagine the predicament of a surgeon working with irregular electricity. If all this stuff goes ahead maybe it would be good to get into diesel gensets, there should be a good demand for them.

  26. Surely the most glaring stupidity is

    buses and bikes and trains, not SUVs.

    I mean, we have seen whole stretches of railway track and roads destroyed. How on earth will emergency aid arrive, in the short term, unless by SUV or similar?

  27. Speaking of Japan, they went on conquest in the 1930’s because they could feed only 40% of their population, and had no natural resources. Except people.

    After they were demolished, and making way for Western concepts, they prospered and even doubled their population. They still feed 40%.

    In the new (old) world suggested by intellectualoids Japan will, after a proper collapse, pare it’s population down from 125 million to the twenty million sustainable by these methods.

  28. In the green utopia, the intellectuals imagine gently hoeing the fields under a benign sun before strolling back to their pleasant little cottage…

    In reality, try digging your way through a field of wet clay in the pouring rain knowing that if the crops don’t produce, you can say goodbye to it all. And there’s no one to help you, so tough luck when you get pneumonia or grow weak from lack of food…

  29. DBC Reed

    “The m0re trade the less famine”.Care to give at least three independent quotes and instances for this ex cathedra statement?

    Many cases where an absence of trade exacerbated a local famine – Ukraine in the 1930s, China in the 1950s, Ethiopia in the 1980s. And numerous examples in, for example, India – one even discussed on TV by Jim Cameron in his dotage, when he viosited a village in the midst of a famine and slept in the grain store. As he departed, he watched the villagers burning the grain because he had contaminated it by not being of their religion.

  30. “I’m guessing that Mr McKibben doesn’t envisage that he will be toiling 15 hours a day on the farm.”

    But of course. His job will be to sit in a comfy chair all day thinking deep thoughts. Then, in the evening, when the workers want to rest, they will be required to listen to his inspirational lectures.

  31. Excellent post and spot on. Bill McKibben really does live on another planet, by the way, one that he calls Eaarth. Things are obviously rather different there.

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