Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

IR8

December 1, 2016

Every now and again we get to hear about people who, through their heroic deeds, managed to save other human beings from certain death. These compassionate acts of bravery typically happen during wars, terror attacks or natural disasters. But I recently became aware of someone who helped save 1 billion people and did it in the time of peace. To add another twist to the story his efforts were funded by the fortunes of two of the US greatest industrialists who had at the time been dead for a few decades. The name of this hero hardly anyone knows about is Norman Borlaug.

In 1960 International Rice Research Institute was established in the Philippines with the financial assistance of the two charitable trusts – Rockefeller Foundation and Ford Foundation. The institute worked on developing new genetic varieties of rice capable of better yields. In 1961 they crossed the Chinese dwarf rice known as Dee-geo-woo-gen and tall, bushy Peta rice from Indonesia. This produced the semi-dwarf variety which became known as IR8. In field trials in optimal conditions IR8 delivered an astonishing yield of over 10t per hectare – the average rice yield in the Philippines at that time was about 1t per hectare.

Following the introduction of the IR8 rice variety the annual rice production in the Philippines rose from 3.7 to 7.7 million tons. Similar results were achieved in other countries. The person requested by the Indian government in 1961 to modernise its agriculture was Norman Borlaug, who already had an impressive track record of introducing high-yielding wheat varieties in Mexico (funded by Rockefeller Foundation). Due to the adoption of IR8 and improvement in agricultural practices the average rice yield per hectare in India rose from 2t in 1960s to 6t in 1990s which helped avert mass famine. The price reduced from $550 per ton to $200 per ton making rice more affordable to the poor. According to some estimates the Green Revolution spearheaded by Norman Borlaug saved up to 1 billion people from starvation.

Like all achievers, Norman Borlaug has his share of detractors. In particular the Greens hate intensive agriculture ushered in by the Green Revolution because it relies on industrial fertilisation and uses much more water than a 1-ton-per-hectare approach. These miserable, negative people would be happy to sacrify the lives of millions in the name of ecological purity. It seems that being despised by the Greens is almost a prerequisite for having a meaningful and productive life these days but I digress…

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The Chernobyl nature reserve

May 2, 2016

To those used to the doom and gloom reporting surrounding the Chernobyl disaster this article may come as a surprise:

The exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear plant, which was evacuated in 1986 after a devastating explosion and fire, has become a wildlife haven on a par with heavily-protected nature reserves, scientists have found.

A detailed survey of the huge forested area around the stricken plant has revealed that it is teeming with large animals such elk, roe deer, red deer, wild boar and wolves despite being contaminated with radioactive fallout

Even more encouragingly:

The scientists found no evidence to support earlier studies suggesting that wildlife in the region had suffered from the radiation released after the Chernobyl accident of 1986

and:

The absence of human activity in the exclusion zone has benefited the wildlife of the region more than any possible damage it may have suffered as a result of coming into contact with radioactive elements, the researchers said.

So, to sum it all up, we now know that the hysterical predictions made by the likes of Greenpeace were politically motivated bollocks – the wildlife around Chernobyl is doing remarkably well. The main threat to nature is not exotic nuclear contamination but rather humans going about their everyday lives. But don’t tell this to the greenies who, instead of advocating to eliminate nuclear power, might want to eliminate humanity…

chernobyl

 

An extreme risk of misunderstanding

November 28, 2014

Some newspaper articles must be read very carefully in order to understand their real message and realise that the title was quite misleading. A good example is the “Risk from extreme weather set to rise” piece recently published in the Science & Environment section of the BBC website:

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http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-30215782

In the body of the article we read:

“For most hazards, population increase contributes at least as much as climate change – sometimes more.”

So the problem is largely caused by the development of marginal land to house the increasing population. In other words people end up exposed to the extreme weather because we are running out of safe places to settle.

They warn that the effects of extremes will be exacerbated by the increase in elderly people, who are least able to cope with hot weather.

So some of the problem is caused by the fact people live longer. This is similar to the issue of cancer being “on the rise” – people get cancer at 85 because they did not die of TB at 55. Increased life expectancy in saner times used to be celebrated as a triumph of medicine but these days we manage to present everything as a problem.

Urbanisation will make the issue worse by creating “heat islands” where roads and buildings absorb heat from the sun.

Similar to the above – a technological advancement which saves land and reduces commuting time and transport emissions is presented as a problem. I guess if we all lived in mud huts on one acre plots of savanna the scientists would be more positive about the future?

The authors say cutting greenhouse gas emissions is essential. But they argue that governments will also need to adapt to future climatic shifts driven by climate change.

The message is beginning to filter through to the eco-nuts – adaptation is the way to go.

They suggest threats could be tackled through a dual approach. The simplest and cheapest way of tempering heatwaves, they say, is to maintain existing green space.

So (part of) the answer is sensible urban design, with parks and green spaces. This is something urban designers have known for decades.

The authors say air conditioners are the most effective way of keeping cool – but they are costly, they dump heat into city streets and their use exacerbates climate change.

So the air-conditioners work but are expensive to run and only pump heat from area to another. This is something mechanical engineers have known for decades.

It finds that large-scale engineering solutions like sea walls offer the most effective protection to coastal flooding – but they are expensive, and when they fail the results can be disastrous.

So building dikes is better than putting all houses on stilts but when dikes fail there is trouble. This is something civil engineers have known for decades.

It puts a figure on those at greatest overall risk: populations in poor countries make up only 11% of those exposed to hazards but account for 53% of the disaster deaths.

So wealth buys resilience. This is something most people blessed with common sense have known for decades.

Some economists argue this shows that poor nations should increase their economies by burning cheap fossil fuels because that will allow them to spend more later on disaster protection.

Hallelujah!

Power to the people (2)

November 24, 2014

In the recent post I commented on the article by two engineers who had done research on the viability of the renewable energy, commissioned by the co-owner of Google, Larry Page. Their conclusion was that even a wholesale adoption of today’s renewable generation will not be able stave off the catastrophic climate change predicted by some climatologists. Does it mean that all hope is lost?

Dollar-Sign-Solar-Panels

This is where things are getting interesting. While I do not share Ross Koningstein & David Fork’s obsession with the carbon emissions humanity will at some point need to move on from fossil fuels. Coal and oil have contributed to the incredible advancement in all areas of life but they will not last forever. So what does the linked article say we should do?

What’s needed, we concluded, are reliable zero-carbon energy sources so cheap that the operators of power plants and industrial facilities alike have an economic rationale for switching over soon—say, within the next 40 years. Let’s face it, businesses won’t make sacrifices and pay more for clean energy based on altruism alone.

As opposed to the green Nazis keen on regulating, taxing and policing Messrs Koningstein & Fork prefer a market-driven mechanism. If we come up with new technologies which are economically viable, the operators will make a switch. Not for the noble reasons like saving the polar bears from extinction but purely to make more money. So far so good. But how to achieve that? Would solar be the way to go?

Solar panels, for example, can be put on every rooftop but can’t provide power if the sun isn’t shining.

Hallelujah! From my observations this simple fact fails to register with 90% of the eco-minded idealists. Yes – coal is dirty but we can burn it after dark or on still days, when wind turbines do not spin. But are there any zero-carbon alternatives?

What, then, is the energy technology that can meet the challenging cost targets? How will we remove CO2 from the air? We don’t have the answers. Those technologies haven’t been invented yet.

There we go. Despite what the environmentalists keep telling us solar and wind are not the answers – the numbers simply do not stack up. But in which direction might we look for the solutions?

A disruptive fusion technology, for example, might skip the steam and produce high-energy charged particles that can be converted directly into electricity. For industrial facilities, maybe a cheaply synthesized form of methane could replace conventional natural gas. Or perhaps a technology would change the economic rules of the game by producing not just electricity but also fertilizer, fuel, or desalinated water. In carbon storage, bioengineers might create special-purpose crops to pull CO2 out of the air and stash the carbon in the soil.

Let me summarise what the authors of the article propose as possible drivers of the zero-carbon reality:

  • Relying on the market forces, as opposed to subsidies and tax disincentives
  • Nuclear fusion, ideally without steam generation
  • Synthesised methane as fuel
  • Producing fertiliser as by-product of power generation
  • Genetically engineered crops to bind carbon from the atmosphere

If you look at them every single bullet point above runs against the Green agenda. Free market, nuclear, hydrocarbons, fertiliser industry, genetic engineering. But these are the ideas environmentally minded engineers are left with when they have cracked their numbers. Everything else, like solar panels, wind farms and composting are just the PR stuff.

As mentioned above I do not share the authors’ concerns that carbon emissions will cause catastrophic changes to climate. What this post aims to show is that the environmentalists live in a fairy-land where imaginary solutions are proposed to be applied to equally imaginary problems.

Are WWF doing things by halves? (2)

October 18, 2014

The recently released WWF report claims that “in less than two human generations, population sizes of vertebrate species have dropped by half” but what does it really mean? In the previous post I showed that the jump in “population sizes” from 28% reported by WWF in 2012 to 52% in 2014 was due to a change in the assessment methodology. Does anything else in the WWF report look dodgy?

Well, I am a bit puzzled by the way WWF are counting the animals. If I understand their statistical methodology correctly they do not tally up all vertebrates alive to track how the total has changed over the last 40 years. What they do instead is look at the individual “populations” understood as species inhabiting a certain geographical area. For the 2014 report they assessed 10,380 populations belonging to 3,038 species to see what had changed since 1970. They then assign different “weighting” to the ratios of gain & loss for the groups of populations to (quoting from the report):

account for the fact that the population trends for each taxonomic group and biogeographic realm in the LPI database are not a perfect representation of the number and distribution of vertebrate species that exist in the world.

The tables of weightings for the taxonomic groups are as follows:

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But the data manipulation does not end here as the sub-totals from different realms are then weighted to produce the bottom-line average population size change. The weightings table for the realms is as follows:

Untitled2

When I see complex tables full of numbers used as input I instinctively distrust the output. Why is the weighting of mammals 10% of the birds weighting in the tropics but 40% in the Antarctic? I do not doubt that there is some justification for the weightings WWF have used but I am equally sure that substantially different numbers could just as easily be justified.

It is also intriguing how they have accounted for the farm animals. Some news items imply the WWF report is a headcount of wildlife only:

https://www.worldwildlife.org/press-releases/half-of-global-wildlife-lost-says-new-wwf-report

Half of Global Wildlife Lost, says new WWF Report

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/sep/29/earth-lost-50-wildlife-in-40-years-wwf

Earth has lost half of its wildlife in the past 40 years, says WWF

Does it mean that the cows, chicken and pigs have not been counted? So if an area of bog has been drained and converted to dairy farming we are lamenting the demise of frogs rather than celebrating that more cows produce more milk to feed the kids?

But perhaps I am just being paranoid and the report’s claims are actually well justified. What do others have say about the WWF conclusions? Let us start with the comments by Stuart Pimm, a biology professor at Duke University and prominent expert in animal extinction:

http://mashable.com/2014/10/01/global-wildlife-decline-half/

What it shows is that the variety of life on earth is in trouble — and that broad conclusion is absolutely correct, but the problem with this particular index is that it lumps all sorts of things together, and doesn’t do it in a way that is terribly helpful. (…) [The notion of “critical tipping points” suggested in the report] is a complete fabrication. It’s an attempt to grab attention to a particular view of the world. There is simply no evidence that there is some point below which biodiversity cannot go.

And now a succinct quote from an opinion piece by Ivo Vegter:

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/opinionista/2014-10-06-wwf-alarmism-raises-even-green-eyebrows/#.VErgcvmUfAx

Even if the recent claim by the WWF, that the world’s animal population has declined by 52% since 1970s, were true, it would be a misleading statistic to report. Masters at fund-raising propaganda, the WWF turned out a gem of quotable nonsense.

As usual, one should make one’s own mind who to believe.

THE END

Are WWF doing things by halves? (1)

October 11, 2014

The recently released WWF “Living Planet Report 2014” has filled me with a mix of feelings. On one hand its central claim that since 1970 we have lost 52% of “population sizes of the vertebrate species” sounds scary. This is more than half of the World’s animals gone in the last 40 years. On the other hand WWF is a multi-million dollar eco-propaganda outfit living off making scary claims which does not exactly inspire confidence in their latest report.

To make sense of the WWF claims I decided to do my own research. I got off to a good start because the WWF website has download links to both the summary and full report. The summary is just a glorified media statement so I studied the full report in hope of finding out how exactly the vertebrates were counted. Having read through the WWF methodology I am still far from clear about their maths but a few perplexing details have drawn my attention.

The graph on page 18 of the report indicates the number of populations which are increasing, stable and declining:

Untitled

You may be surprised to notice that there is more green (increasing) than purple (declining) in the graph. This is not an error – more populations are increasing than declining but, as explained in the report:

Even though slightly more populations are increasing than declining, the magnitude of the population decline is much greater than that of the increase, resulting in an overall reduction since 1970.

Because WWF are not comparing the number of populations on the increase versus those in decline but rather working out the average loss ratio across all populations the above explanation sounds reasonable. The problem is WWF have already done the same exact exercise before – with different results. Their 2012 “Living Planet Report” claimed a 28% decline for the period 1970-2008 (I deliberately left the date of the report in the footnote):

2012

But the loss of animal life for almost the same assessment period of 1970-2010 now stands at 52% (again – check out the footnote):

2014

How could the ratio of loss in the animal populations have changed from 28% to 52% in two years? Was one quarter of the World’s animals slaughtered in 2009 without anyone noticing? No, as it turns out the reason for this surprising dip is a lot less dramatic – WWF used a different assessment method in the current report. On page 138 we read:

The unweighted LPI (LPI-U) methodology presented in previous editions of the Living Planet Report makes calculations based on the average rate of change across all species from year to year. (…) The LPI-D is an adapted version of this method. It has not been used in previous editions of the Living Planet Report. 

So WWF have changed their maths and the Global Living Planet Index took a massive dive. What a coincidence! So, was the previous calculation flawed? Again, let us refer to the Q & A section of the 2014 report for explanation:

The previous results were calculated using a valid peer-reviewed method. Now that the dataset is larger, it is possible to use a revision to this method producing different results that are considered to provide a better representation of trends in vertebrate species than previously. These new results do not discredit previous LPIs; rather, they are the latest outputs from what is a continually evolving process.

So, there was nothing wrong with the previous method but LPI-D provides a “better representation of trends” than before. A cynic in me is getting a bit uneasy when I hear about a revision of a perfectly adequate method, which happens – just happens – to produce much more dramatic results.

Are WWF doing things by halves? (2)

The “pause” is old enough to vote

October 6, 2014

One thing I have learnt in the 2+ years of blogging is the importance of a post’s title. A clever, sexy title can attract a lot of views to an otherwise dry and technical essay. Conversely, uninspiring titles have sunk many a brilliant posts. After this little introduction let us get into it.

I have written quite a few posts dealing with the issue troubling the best minds in the World of climatology. The “pause”. There are different methods for working out trends from the climate data. Using the simplest one of them – linear regression – we have not seen any surface warming for 18 years and 1 month now. This means there are people entering the voting age who have experienced no global warming in their lifetimes. The story has a number of angles which I want to explore.

First, this is not a confabulation of the paid lapdogs of Exxon-Mobil (otherwise known as “deniers”). The “pause” is real and the length of it can be easily calculated from the publicly available climate databases run by the mainstream academic institutions. Anyone possessed of a computer can download the archived temperature record, enter it into Microsoft Excel and get the same result. The “pause” is a scientific fact.

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In saying that, the interpretations of the “pause” vary, depending on the spin people try to put on it. The mainstream climatologists have been coming up with the explanations why the “pause” is either not real or else irrelevant. A list of 52 such excuses is presented at the following blog link. The most popular claim is that, while the surface of the Earth is not warming, the depths of the oceans are (based on the recently available data) so there is no “pause”. I am finding this very unconvincing because when the surface temperature was rapidly increasing in the 1970s and 1980s we were not told that this had little meaning since the deep sea temperatures were not accounted for. The issue only came to prominence when the surface trend leveled. To a seasoned cynic like me this is too much of a coincidence.

I equally do not accept the assertion of some people on the other side of the debate that the “pause” invalidates all research into Earth’s climate. A lot has been learnt about the complex interactions between the land, water and atmosphere. But in the process we have also realised how much we do not know. Crucially, to give momentum to the political push for carbon emissions control, what we know has been perhaps over-emphasised at the expense of the uncertainties. It happens in life when we sometimes appear more convinced than we really are to impress the decision makers. “Officer, I am sure I was doing only 51 so can you not let me off with a warning?”. Well, a similar thing may have happened in science where research grants, tenures and reputations depend on the validity of a contentious climate theory proposed by the academia in the 1970s.

The last aspect of the story I want to touch on are the repeated claims that things are “worse than we thought” in the World of climate. If no warming for 18 years is worse than they thought then what did they think was going to happen? A cooling? Surely, no warming must be better, not worse than whatever they thought – otherwise what was the fuss all about?. Also, we keep hearing that the emissions of CO2 are rising faster than projected which is a bad thing. Hello – if the CO2 levels are going through the roof and still there is no warming does it not mean that our understanding is of the correlation between the two is seriously incomplete?

One explanation of the above paradoxes is that climatology is a new branch of science which is yet to develop its own checks and balances. Well, as the “pause” is entering adulthood, the need for maturity in the science interpreting it is becoming really urgent.

Steven Koonin on climate change

September 21, 2014

This is possibly the best overview of what we know and do not know about climate change by Steven Koonin who was undersecretary for science in the Energy Department during President Barack Obama’s first term. It is well worth a read in full but I will reproduce a few crucial passages for those too busy to click on links:

http://online.wsj.com/articles/climate-science-is-not-settled-1411143565

The idea that “Climate science is settled” runs through today’s popular and policy discussions. Unfortunately, that claim is misguided. It has not only distorted our public and policy debates on issues related to energy, greenhouse-gas emissions and the environment. But it also has inhibited the scientific and policy discussions that we need to have about our climate future.

(…)

The crucial scientific question for policy isn’t whether the climate is changing. That is a settled matter: The climate has always changed and always will (…) Nor is the crucial question whether humans are influencing the climate. That is no hoax: There is little doubt in the scientific community that continually growing amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, due largely to carbon-dioxide emissions from the conventional use of fossil fuels, are influencing the climate (…) Rather, the crucial, unsettled scientific question for policy is, “How will the climate change over the next century under both natural and human influences?”

(…)

We often hear that there is a “scientific consensus” about climate change. But as far as the computer models go, there isn’t a useful consensus at the level of detail relevant to assessing human influences (…) These and many other open questions are in fact described in the IPCC research reports, although a detailed and knowledgeable reading is sometimes required to discern them. They are not “minor” issues to be “cleaned up” by further research. Rather, they are deficiencies that erode confidence in the computer projections (…) Yet a public official reading only the IPCC’s “Summary for Policy Makers” would gain little sense of the extent or implications of these deficiencies. These are fundamental challenges to our understanding of human impacts on the climate, and they should not be dismissed with the mantra that “climate science is settled.” (…) Policy makers and the public may wish for the comfort of certainty in their climate science. But I fear that rigidly promulgating the idea that climate science is “settled” (or is a “hoax”) demeans and chills the scientific enterprise, retarding its progress in these important matters.

(…)

Any serious discussion of the changing climate must begin by acknowledging not only the scientific certainties but also the uncertainties, especially in projecting the future. Recognizing those limits, rather than ignoring them, will lead to a more sober and ultimately more productive discussion of climate change and climate policies. To do otherwise is a great disservice to climate science itself.

The above so brilliantly encapsulates my own views that I do not have much to add. If written by a skeptic this essay would be dismissed as a Big Oil PR job but the fact it was penned by Obama’s former scientific adviser should lend it more credibility.

historyofsettledscience-big11

How much is 600 take away 600?

September 10, 2014

The issue is not as trivial as it sounds. We keep hearing about the “peak oil” meaning that the rate of extraction is bound to start reducing as the known oil fields are exhausted and new ones get harder and harder to find. This will be a harbinger of the sobering new reality – the World without oil.  But what are the numbers underpinning this scenario?

In 1980 the confirmed oil reserves were just over 600 billion barrels. Back then the annual rate of consumption was approximately 22 billion barrels so the environmentalists came up with a projection that the World would run out in about 30 years. I distinctly remember feeling uneasy thinking about it in the final years of high school. Fast forward 30 years. According to my crude (ouuups) calculations by 2010 the World had used the 600 billion barrels we thought we had in 1980. Which brings me to the title question of this post – how much recoverable oil was there still left in the ground in 2011? The answer may surprise you. Over 1400 billion barrels.

This is because of the new discoveries made through exploration and technological progress in squeezing more oil out of the old reserves. When I hear the environmentalists today going on about the World post-oil one question bugs me. Are they the same people who, in 1980s, predicted “end of oil” by 2010? If not, where has that crowd gone? Have they, disgraced and ridiculed, resigned their posts at the environmental departments of the “progressive” universities? Or have they moved on to do research in the field of climate change?

Here are the two graphs my numbers above are based on:

World Crude Oil Reserves by Year (Billion Barrels)-page-001

World Crude Oil Consumption by Year (Thousand Barrels per Day)-page-001

The end of the rotten weather

September 2, 2014

This is an environmentally responsible post with a twist. In the past I have gleefully reported on the so-called “pause” in the global warming (here and here) evidenced by the plateau in the temperature record after 1997. To the delight of the climate sceptics, there has been no warming in the last 17-18 years. But I may yet have to eat a humble pie since, according to the research paper by the US Naval Research Laboratory published in Geophysical Research Letters and reported in the Guardian:

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2009/jul/27/world-warming-faster-study

the “pause” will soon end and the warming resume. The research paper shows convincingly that the temporary hiatus in the recorded warming was due to low solar activity and no El-Nino events which would push the temperatures up. Both factors are due to shift in the near future and the relentless CO2-driven warming will be back with a vengeance. A few quotes from the Guardian article are reproduced here for your convenience.

The analysis shows the relative stability in global temperatures (…) is explained primarily by the decline in incoming sunlight associated with the downward phase of the 11-year solar cycle, together with a lack of strong El Niño events. These trends have masked the warming caused by CO2 and other greenhouse gases. As solar activity picks up again in the coming years, the research suggests, temperatures will shoot up at 150% of the rate predicted by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

So there you have it – the science has again proved sceptics like me wrong. The research paper even specifies when exactly we can expect the resumption of the warming on steroids:

The world faces record-breaking temperatures as the sun’s activity increases, leading the planet to heat up significantly faster than scientists had predicted for the next five years

So, shamed and disgraced, I may decide to ditch blogging and chain myself in protest to the nearest SUV within the next five years.

Ok – now the twist. Have you noticed that the article in the Guardian is dated 27 July 2009? This was almost exactly … let me count it … 14 take away 9 –  five years ago!

A new polar bear of the Greens

July 23, 2014

The environmental movement can always be counted on to give us a good laugh. As I wrote on da-boss in 2012:

https://da-boss.com/2012/12/27/polar-bear-hunting/

Despite being fierce predators, polar bears look fluffy and cute which has not escaped the attention of the PR experts of the Green movement. A polar bear was made into a symbol of the environmental threats facing the Arctic. This resilient, powerful animal was supposedly vulnerable and prone to extinction unless we curb the CO2 emissions.

But the polar bear stubbornly refused to be affected by the reducing Arctic ice cover and its population has actually been growing since 1970 when a real threat to its existence – commercial hunting – was banned. The fact this poster child of the campaign to stop the environmental destruction is actually doing very well got so embarrassing for the Greens that a new symbol had to be found. Enter the white lemuroid ringtail possum.

https://au.news.yahoo.com/a/24520231/possum-a-polar-bear-of-climate-change/

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White, fluffy and cute just like its predecessor in the role of an ambassador of the eco movement, in the words of the tropical rainforests expert and James Cook University researcher Professor Bill Laurance:

… is a better icon for global warming than a polar bear because it typifies the type of biodiversity we will lose in the future.

With only four individuals left alive there may not be much anyone can do to save them but it beats me why a possum typifies the biodiversity better that the polar bear. Or might it be, Mr Laurance, that your previous icon has simply failed to expire and you had to find one that will?

A whale of a time in the Southern Ocean

February 11, 2014

As the Greenpeace vessels are skirmishing with the Japanese whaling fleet in the freezing Antarctic waters let us take a cool look at the issue of whaling.

greenpeace_whalers_lrg

I will start by declaring that I have a lot of time for the idea of vegetarianism. There are plenty of valid objections to the way we breed, farm and kill animals for the purpose of eating their carcasses. I am also not entirely convinced that humans must eat flesh to survive and stay healthy. I was on a vegetarian diet myself on two occasions, each time for a period of many months, without any adverse health consequences. In this post I will look at what practices may be somewhat more acceptable than others if we really believe we have to kill animals and eat their meat.

One concept of improving the lot of the animals we farm has to do with their living conditions. It is generally accepted that industrial farms are the worst possible arrangement, causing untold misery to animals before they meet their untimely end. A much better way is the “free range” farming, where the animals are free to roam a fenced patch of grass or scrub. This brings their situation a step closer to the wildlife which is able to move freely through forests or roam the oceans. If only all animals we end up killing and eating could experience this freedom before they become fillets or steaks on our dinner plates!

The second idea associated with more acceptable meat production I will dissect today is more ethical in nature. Since every life counts it matters how many lives are sacrificed to make a meal. A shrimp soup may require ten or twenty crustaceans per bowl. One chicken will be enough for dinner for a family. A cow will feed perhaps ten families for a month. To limit the number of animal lives taken we should try to eat large animals. Ideally, they should be large animals living free range or, even better, in the wild.

The last angle I will touch on in this post is even more subtle. Killing a predating animal will mean extending the lives of its prey. Shooting a lion will save tens of antelopes. One less grizzly bear will give hundreds of salmons a chance to get through the rapids. From this standpoint, killing and eating predators should be preferred over hunting herbivores. The more prey they kill and eat, the more animal lives will be saved when a predator is eliminated.

You should by now get a sense of where this argument is heading – whaling ticks all the three boxes. Whales live in the wild and have a great time until they stray into the cross-hairs of a Japanese harpoon gun. One whale carcass (frozen) will feed a village for a year. They are also voracious predators and each will during its lifetime devour many hundreds of tons of shrimps, squids and fish. In fact I have it on good authority that the extensive whaling in mid 20th century has led to the explosion in the population of sea lions and seals.

So, short of turning vegetarian, whaling appears to be the way to go. Can someone please tell Greenpeace?