The Limits of Science

Thirty-two million acres of national forest burned between 2000 and 2004. Scientists tell us that if we want a return to healthy forests we should salvage what timber we can and then replant the forests to avoid more devastation from erosion and infestations of pests that breed in dead trees. Other scientists think logging and replanting operations will create an unnatural environment. How do we know who is right?

The less educated among us will indulge ad hominem the fallacy and ask who is funding their research. They will then judge the science based on who paid for the research. Partisans will favor the side matches their political philosophy. Passionate people will make emotional decisions based on what they see.

In fact both sides got their science right. Not restoring the forest will cause erosion and risk infestations of healthy forests nearby. Managing the forest will create an unnatural environment by definition. Science can't help. This is a values decision.

We should first stipulate that there has been no truly natural environment in North America since the first people crossed into the continent, wiped out the native mega fauna and started regularly to set fires. The Native Americans created more open spaces and less old growth. For example, researchers estimate that in 1735 only about 30% of what is now Yellowstone Park was old growth forest. It became a park in 1872. Native Americans were kicked out and fires suppressed so a hundred years later about 65% was in old growth ready to burn trees. They did in 1988.

But we are not out of the woods with that fire. The new forest is dense growth of even aged lodgepole pine. In a few years they will be ready to burn again. In other parts of the country, different sorts of environments take over. In some places thick brush or mosses may resist the return of the forest for centuries. Nature tends toward extremes. Nature has time. In the long run, it all balances out, but in the long run we are all dead.

Should we keep our hands off nature or participate in it? Most people would take a compromise position. The disagreement is where to draw the line. Nut cases inhabit the extremes. Some people think humans are a plague on the earth. Others think we should do whatever we want whenever we want. Most people know some things should be preserved, others should be used and everything should be done wisely.

We should be informed by science, but recognize that we are engaged mostly in a values debate. We also need to recognize that humans live in nature and humans affect nature always and everywhere. We can't pretend we can live apart from nature and not affect it, and we can't live long with it if we ruin our environment.

Posted by Jack at February 28, 2006 9:29 PM
Comment #130399

Is there a particular point you were going for, or do you just like to ask a whole bunch of rhetorical questions? You don’t really state where you stand on this issue.

Posted by: Kimberly at February 28, 2006 10:05 PM
Comment #130401

You are confusing science with policy decisions. Politicians make policy based on what gets them re-elected, not on sound science. The only limits on science are due to human selfishness.

One of the strengths of science is the ability to learn and adjust. New findings merit new decisions. We don’t give up simply because of previous mistakes. Values are based on culture and are inherently biased and inevitably flawed.

Posted by: Loren at February 28, 2006 10:24 PM
Comment #130409

Jack, it’s not ad hominem to ask where the funding for research comes from, as the source of such funding can create a conflict of interest for scientists and other researchers performing their research. After all, one wouldn’t want to bite the hand that feeds them.

The Healthy Forests initiative under Bush can be failed on two simple principles: proximity of forests logged to communities, and fire risk posed by certain trees.

There are two ways a fire can go. It can sweep along the ground, destroying underbrush and new trees, or it can rise to the canopy and cause a crownfire, which are the bastards we tend to get fearful about.

Forestry Policy over the last few centuries, has been to stamp out forest fires the minute they are seen. Ironically, this has made things worse. Fuel has built up on the forest floors of many woods in America, along with denser stands of younger trees. This increased fuel and greater number of young trees has lead to many forest being in a critical state.

Are these the forests that are being targeted, especially close to communities? No. The stands of trees being targeted are the old Growth forests, where the risks of crown-fires are less, and which are typically situated far from civilization.

It’s a logging gimmee, plain and simple. Old Growth wood is prized for its strength and quality. That said, it also does much to support species and ecosystems that our clumsy understandings and tree growing techniques find it hard to replicate. Old Growth is usually less dense on the forest floor, owing to periodic fires cleansing it, and the blocking of the sunlight by the canopy.

Meanwhile, though, you have all these stands of woods near subdivisions and cities that are young, overly dense and which could bear some thinning. That’s not what’s being done.

Does this make any sense?

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 28, 2006 11:19 PM
Comment #130415


My point is that the science gives us options, but does not tell us what to do. Scientifically, there are many possible land management options that can be sustained for a really long time. Nothing lasts forever, of course. No natural community lasts forever and most don’t last very long at all. The beautiful birch forest you see today wasn’t there fifty years ago and it won’t be there fifty years from today, not as it is today at least.

There are good forestry practices which can be sustained essentially forever. But they are not “natural” in the sense that they are managed by humans.

Many unnatural landscapes are very pleasant and sustainable. Places like rural England or France are virtually completely man made. So is the region around Boulder, Colorado, for example or San Francisco. We choose these over the natural landscapes.

We agree that some places should be left as wilderness. But the Federal government owns large amounts of land around the country, especially in the west. National forests were designed for multiple use, which includes forestry, recreations, grazing and mineral extraction. We can decide to put them all off limits. As a private forest owner, that would be good for me, but it would be bad for almost everyone else.


Most people like to look at old growth timber. But if we put too much land off limits, we will have more old growth than we had 300 years ago. As I pointed out, there was more old growth forest in Yellowstone in 1988 than in 1735.

Old growth timber supports a different wildlife community than newer trees. When you have more of one kind you have less of another. There is no “right’ community.

The let it burn policy is one choice for land management. It is, however, very wasteful.

When you are talking about thinning operations, you have several options. You can pay someone to do it with tax dollars (and he leaves the timber to rot) or you can get someone to pay money to the treasury for the right to do it (he takes the timber). Both are sustainable options if done properly.


The questions are meant to make people think about it. My own opinion is that it depends. There are many options that will work for a long time. Some places have a unique value and we should try to protect them. Other places can be put to better use in grazing or timber. In any case, I believe the USG should NOT subsidize any activities in the forests. That would make some timber operations too expensive and those places would be defacto protected.

One thing that is true, however, you really cannot protect an ecosystem by doing nothing. No system is ever unchanging.

Posted by: Jack at February 28, 2006 11:59 PM
Comment #130429

Jack’s position is to let the Loggers cut the Old Growth Trees to “save” the forest. Wow. Talk about being a Lawyer!!! Makes Bill Clinton look like an amatuer.

Jack, may I ask how long it takes for a tree to become Old Growth? How many centuries will it take to get those Old Growth trees back?

Posted by: Aldous at March 1, 2006 1:16 AM
Comment #130432

Good article Jack and, perhaps, even better responses to the initial questions/rebuttals.

It always amazes me the way some people think nature is this lovely, forgiving, everlasting gift. But nature is brutal unto itself with or without man’s help whatsoever. The natural food chain is horribly brutal. Global warming scientists talk about the harmful fluorocarbons man has produced since the dawn of the industrial age … then they neglect to highlight that the Philippines’ Mount Pinatubo put out more fluorocarbons during its explosion in the early 90’s than all of mankind … ever. It doesn’t mean man should not try to reduce harmful emissions … just that we’re far from the only evils on the planet.

As far as people and nature go though, your article is prescient. It comes down not to some obvious, perpetual plan of action but rather a series of choices. These correct choices will most likely be different for each place and decade.

Posted by: Ken Cooper at March 1, 2006 1:24 AM
Comment #130434

It’s not wasteful if you’re dealing with ground fires consuming mainly underbrush. The Sequoias actually need it to open their cones and spread their seeds. The big, mature trees in these forests are resistant to these lower fires. It’s only when you have debris and younger denser trees in great numbers and amounts that you see both the critical rise in fuel for catastrophic fire, and the rise of that fire to the top.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at March 1, 2006 1:25 AM
Comment #130441

Mt Pinatubo put a large amount of Sulfur Dioxide into the atmosphere, NOT CFC’s. Sulfur Dioxide rains out of the atmosphere in a relatively short period of time. This is why the cooling caused by Mt Pinatubo’s eruption was a noticeable but short term effect. CFC’s are man-made, much longer lived, stay in the stratosphere, and are not precipitated out in a mere year or two.

This sounds suspiciously like the misinformation put out by Rush Limbaugh. He’s incredibly wrong on the issue of climate change. Climate Change, or Global Warming, is a matter of science, not politcal persuasion. Over 700 peer reviewed articles have been published in numberous scientific journals, and EVERY SINGLE ONE finds human-induced climate change is a given. Now, perhaps up to 25% of scientists have reservations about human-induced climate change, but NOT ONE has been able to get it past a review of their peers. NOT ONE. Ken, that’s 700 to 0. And please note, peer reviews are NOT the same as publishing a book using statistics from 1992, as Michael Crighton did a few years ago. Anyone can publish a book. Anyone can be a “dissenter” about climate change, as Bush proclaims to be. However, facts are facts. Peer review is an extremely rigorous process. Anyone who could disprove human-induced climate change would be in line for a Nobel Prize. But that’s not going to happen.

Ken, go to the library. Read up on the topic. You owe it to yourself and your children. If I’m wrong, you can swat me for a 580 foot home run to straight-away center. I’ll even live in a van and eat government cheese! But please, read up on this topic. A lot has been discovered in the past ten years, and the evidence is conclusive.

Posted by: phx8 at March 1, 2006 2:43 AM
Comment #130443

What “We the People” need to do is to figure out how to design an economy made out of sience that adds positively to Our Natural Environment than Old Growth Trees will not be an issue.

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at March 1, 2006 3:02 AM
Comment #130457


I’m not saying I disagree with global warming, just that I disagree with some of the doomsday theorists out there regarding global warming. I also believe that our climate is cyclical and that we don’t have enough data to completely understand those cycles yet. So, to talk about global warming as some slam dunk “we know the whys and hows” is misguided in my view.

I know S02 is prominent with eruptions but I will check on the CFC reference. I believe it came from a science article in the ‘97 timeframe which said the the large CFC’s in Mt. Pin. were due to some unusual factors about the underlying area … but the author could be all wrong. I’ll try to find an alternative source.

(BTW, Rush makes me smile because he “feels my pain” but I rarely have time to listen to afternoon weekday radio … maybe 3 times a year if I’m lucky. I go to him for entertainment, not fact finding.)

Posted by: Ken Cooper at March 1, 2006 3:49 AM
Comment #130458

I forgot to add: I use stick deoderant, not aerosols. (Just didn’t want to be labled as a earth-hating conservative.)

Posted by: Ken Cooper at March 1, 2006 3:57 AM
Comment #130459

Okay PHX8, I remembered/read that wrong, which makes me wrong. Shoot! Me being wrong, that happens earlier and earlier every year. Getting old stinks.

I stick by my original premise however that nature’s harshest enemy can many times be nature itself.

Anyway, found a good article about the delaying recovery of the Ozone layer in the process. I know its a Fox News site but it’s an AP article so don’t be afraid:,2933,177864,00.html

And I can never find a worthy, technical article on Carbon Monoxide specifically and the ozone layer. Is this just lumped in with “greenhouse gases”?

Posted by: Ken Cooper at March 1, 2006 4:17 AM
Comment #130479


I’d like to make a comment about your point that, and I’m paraphrasing, “nature is brutal enough on its own.”

You’re right, of course. But I think your comment leads to the mistanken conclusion that the imact humans have is therefore insignificant.

The thing is, nature takes care of itself. Volcanoes release SO2, which gets rained down and absorbed. Wildfires occur and burn themselves out. The resultant clearing and ash facilitates future growth. Ecological theories show that nature is pretty self-correcting.

Human activity is not. Think of natural phenomena as a baseline. Nature can take care of this baseline, plus some “extra” harm. The question is, does human endeavor add burdens that exceed the excess capacity built into the natural world? If yes, then by how much?

So a volcanic eruption adds X amount of pollutants to the atmosphere. Human activity adds Y (launching the space shuttle one time, for example, adds millions of pounds of aluminum dust and other pollutants to the atmosphere). We can’t make the volcanoes stop erupting. We can reduce the harm we ourselves do.

Posted by: Arr-squared at March 1, 2006 8:19 AM
Comment #130481

fires are actually good things for the ecosystem. they replenish the soil of much needed nutrients and are a natural part of any eco system. nature has been making use of fires for a long long time.

the problem is us trying to stop fires from even happening, thus there is a build up of “fuel” to burn and when a fire happens now it is much worse than it should be.

just like the people who can rebuild if their homes are destroyed the forest will also.

Posted by: tree hugging at March 1, 2006 8:30 AM
Comment #130487

Life is very resilient. It adapts to fill niches. We don’t have to worry about a forest or a species as nature will fill that gap. Of course, whatever was lost is simply gone.
As being pointed out here, the problem is our activities are changing the environment in ways that makes it increasingly hostile for human life as we live it now. The choices being promoted by BushII and Jack are beholden to the dollar first and to the stability and ongoing improvements of the environment last.
If we continue to ignore the changes we are forcing into the environment for short term profits then we do so at extreme peril. The people who support those policies and rely on fake science punditry, or the “nature does it too” inanity, and deny the damages being caused, they are at fault. That it is in the name of profit and politics is just wrong.

Posted by: Dave at March 1, 2006 9:27 AM
Comment #130496

Jack: I would venture to say that at least 90%of the American people have never seen an old growth tree. Less than 2% of the forest east of the Mississippi is old growth and they really aren’t old growth. I live in southern Ohio which is really best described as Appalachia. I used to love to spend many a day walking in the woods hunting mushrooms or taking pictures of the wild flowers (especially rare orchids). There wasn’t old growth but, the forests were mature trees with very little under growth. This was maninly due to the practice of select cutting. First it was trees that were larger than two feet in diameter then one foot. Today select cutting is giving way to clear cutting which is a disaster. Anyone who has tried to walk around a hillside two or three years after it has been clear cut knows that it is a jungle of small trees and brier thickets which are virtually impassable and the wild flowers are dissapearing. Today our forests are nothing more than farms. Trees aren’t allowed to grow more than twenty years before they are harvested.
Today the only true old growth forest left is in the pacific northwest and it is dissapearing rapidly. What is left, the logging companies want to cut so badly that it makes their mouths water. So, they resort to corporate science to prove that it is good management to cut them down. When they are gone they will be gone for good because it takes hundreds of years for old growth to recover. Maybe this is a great and wonderful thing for our economy, but,I dont think so.

Posted by: jlw at March 1, 2006 10:41 AM
Comment #130501

And Jack: That statement about the Native Americans is pathetic. It’s got to come from corporate science. The first white explores that came into Ohio marveled at the forests. One explorer who made his way into the Scioto river valley near Chillicothe stated in his journal that the white oaks covering the hills were sixteen feet in diameter at ther bases and streached down the valley as far as the eye could see. When Ohio was first settled by white men, Ohio was more than ninety percent forest. By the 1920’s less than four percent was forest. Today it’s less than thirty percent forest and only because the hills are to steep to farm.
Also, there were very few deer in the state. By the 1880’s they had been completely wiped out and only reintroduced in the 1930’s. Small trees are ideal habitat for the deer because of the tender shoots and leaves. As a result, we are becoming overwhelmed by the deer. Driving through the country side at night has become a high risk endeavor. Sorry for the history lesson.

Posted by: jlw at March 1, 2006 11:13 AM
Comment #130510

“I also believe that our climate is cyclical and that we don’t have enough data to completely understand those cycles yet.”

A tremendous amount of data has been collected in recent years. The Greenland Ice Sheet Project in 1998 started the ball rolling, and numerous other projects have also collected data from core drillings. Paleoclimatology has made great strides. We now know what happened. We can calculate temperatures, atmospheric composition, and more. Other cycles which affect climate, such as precession, orbit, etc., are understood, and these help explain why climate changes occurred.

One of the most surpising discoveries has been the timelines for changes. Most of us assume climate change is a slow, gradual process, like turning a dial, one that takes thousands of years to occur. The data suggests otherwise; that change is more like a switch, which occurs in a matter of mere years. The concept of abrupt climate change is a shocker, and even more worrisome given the current situation.

Posted by: phx8 at March 1, 2006 11:54 AM
Comment #130516


You make it sound like science is no help at all in making these decisions, when really that’s all we’ve got. I don’t have the same values as you, so I would really prefer you leave that out of the equation.

Conservatives know that scientists in general believe our planet should be protected from global warming. It’s really disgusting to see politicians telling scientists what to say or not to say based on their values. We depend on science to give us an objective view.

Not everything is clear-cut, but when 99% of the scientists out there are concerned about global warming that should be enough to do something about it regardless of whatever “values” (love of oil money?) standing in one’s way.

Posted by: Max at March 1, 2006 12:04 PM
Comment #130520


What you might think is old growth probably takes about 90 years for a tree like a white pine. At 60 you would think a loblolly pine is old growth. An aspen forest will come and go in that time. If you go from an old field to a climax forest of beech maples will probably be around 250 years. Most Douglas fir forests are around 300 years old. If the forest persists longer than that the composition changes. Only certain types of forest CAN be old growth, since natural selection will change the communities.

Your perception problem comes from not really knowing how much land there is and how the use changes. You can maintain a percentage of old growth but it doesn’t have to be in the same places. One forest reaches maturity while others are just starting out.


Please see above. Some types of forest require small fires. The redwoods are a good example. Few forest types are as old or persistent as redwoods and sequoias, but they are not the only type nor are they common in how they grow.


You need not attribute greed or bad motives to a difference of opinion about what is best for the forests. I did not write this to talk about how to make money. The best case scenario for my personal finances would be to ban all timbering on all public lands. That way the value of my trees would increase. Owning my forest also costs me money every month and will probably pay off only after I myself have become compost. People don’t go into forestry to make piles of money.

BTW – I have been restoring wetlands and streambeds on a quarter of my acres. I pay for the land. I pay for the improvements. There is no way to make money off this. It has cost me thousands of dollars directly. I don’t know how much in opportunity costs and I spend many hours working on it. What have you done for the environment that tops that?

In addition I work with the Virginia Tree Farm, that encourages good stewardship of the land. They pay me nothing to be communications director and it costs me money to go around the state to interview landowners. ( So please refrain from telling me about my greed destroying the environment until you can match at least a week’s worth of my efforts and money.


It doesn’t take long for a forest to grow up, as your own experience in Ohio indicates (4% to 20% in two generations). The Native population even when it was at its height was much smaller than ours. (and it was significantly reduced just before your travelers marveled at the trees) You would not expect to have as much land under trees today as then. That was not my point. The point is that the Native Americans managed their forests, by some clearing and burning.

You talk about selective cutting. Another word for that is high grading. It seems to make sense to take the trees when they are mature and ready to be cut and leave the rest, but that over time destroys the vitality of the forest. Many of the smaller trees are genetically less robust and/or they have been shaded long enough that they will NEVER become big trees. Nature generally knocks down forests periodically.

Deer are a problem for the reasons you state and just because deer prefer suburbia to the deep woods. We also have problems with growing populations of geese, bear etc. This is also a management issue with various options.

Posted by: Jack at March 1, 2006 12:08 PM
Comment #130532


Mea culpa; I put you in league with Bush. Imagine me making that particular mistake.

I’m glad to hear you act so responsibly locally, which makes it even more confusing as to why you insist on the global foolishness.

Posted by: Dave at March 1, 2006 12:28 PM
Comment #130536


I think there is a general misperception among some people that conservatives are anti environment.

What we oppose often is more government regulations. I supported and continue to support the command and contol methods of the early EPA. But we now must move beyond that to market based solutions that put human intelligence to work FOR a sustainable future.

Remember that government regulations have caused many of the problems we now face. Government subsidized water projects are a good example. The recent debacle in New Orleans is one instance of our creating a disaster. Now it is hard to turn back because so many are dependent on them. We also subsidize road building etc. If we just did nothing, we would be better off.

The past of environmentalism was government fiat. I repeat, I don’t want to roll that back. But the future is good stewartship, market forces and protection of property rights. Nobody washes a rental car, and people take better care of what they own.

Unfortunately, some environmenalist have drifted into a left wing paradigm of government control as the only way forward.

When I wrote this post, I wanted to explore alternatives. My goal is a cleaner environment with sustainable human activities. We are making more progess toward that than many people think.

Posted by: Jack at March 1, 2006 12:58 PM
Comment #130553


I completely agree that man should do what he can reasonably accomplish to make the environment better. And no one in these posts has made outrageous claims. But just be aware that there are claims out there about how horrible all of man has treated the environment. My only point is that most of mankind isn’t the great evil some extreme environmentalists make us out to be. 500 years from now they’ll see we invented aerosols, but within 30 years we recognized the impact they had on the ozone layer and made what was nearly a worldwide pact to reduce those types of emissions. And while the ozone layer full recovery is now estimated to take longer than forecasted, it’s still due for a recovery.

I would like scientists to make more noise about Carbon Monoxide. I believe we can reduce fossil fuel machines to airplanes, other extremely large equipment pieces, and perhaps just a few military-related machines. Besides flying around and seeing horrible smog layers over big cities, I want to reduce our dependency on oil for national security reasons. What is the detailed arguement of petrol burning cars vs. the environment because I would be happy to spread that word.

Posted by: Ken Cooper at March 1, 2006 1:47 PM
Comment #130558

I have about 100 acres of woods on my place. There is dense under growth in most of it. This isn’t good for the woods as it creates a fire hazard. Controled burning is one way to get rid of this undergrowth. But the government won’t let me do this. Why? It depends on who you ask. One agency will tell you that it will destroy the environment. Another will tell you that is will be harmful to the animals that live there. Still another will tell you that it’s just against the law.
It won’t destroy the environment. It will help it by getting rid of an unhealthy covering that harms the growth of the trees.
It’s not harmful to the animals. I can show you towns without any undergrowth that the same animals live in. There are towns that have deer herds in them.
It’s illegal all right. And that’s because the government wants to cantrol eveything we do.
But I’m solving my problem anyway. I’ve contracted to a local farmer that raises goats. He’s going to run them in the woods for the next year. Guess what? This is legal. It’s not concidered harmful to the animals living there or as destroying the environment.

Posted by: Ron Brown at March 1, 2006 2:03 PM
Comment #130559

using New Orleans as an example of gov’t doing worse than big business???
gee, it seems corruption is corruption regardless of whether it is housed in big business or government.
I am so sure that the Corporate angels would have built the levees correctly (hmmm, it was private contractors that actually mismanged, cut corners and generally were criminal in how they defrauded the government in the building of the levees!)

Now, concerning goood old “free market”
You said: “Remember that government regulations have caused many of the problems we now face”
Hmmmm, as I recall, alot of the government regulations came about because corporate america was polluting the heck out of OUR clean air and water — remember the Ohio River that caught fire!!
Oh yea, let’s just leave it to corporate america, they will look out for us!
Get Real

Corporate america will NOT concern themselves with the American environment except for what they can get out of it
You might want to do a bit of research on what is happening in Wyoming and Montana with Coal bed methane extraction — Private companies have been given (leased???? Gifts is more like it) the mineral rights — and under the outdated laws, that gives them the right to go on the property and just run rampant to drill wells and do their extraction -
the process ruins the land, pollutes the water aquifers and ruins the lives of those who own the surface rights (actually no rights as it turns out) to the lands.
There’s your Private Enterprize at work — (quitely in the remote areas of the American West)
with the helping hand of YOUR hero — GWB
and I thought Conservatives were for personal property rights — these people are being ruined by your “Conservative” hero.
So much for “compassionate Conservative”
He really is the “Corporate conservative”

Posted by: Russ at March 1, 2006 2:03 PM
Comment #130562


I agree climate changes happen faster than most people realize. I just get weary when I hear people say (no one here, but plenty elsewhere) that Bush and not signing Kyoto is responsible for the latest increases in hurricane season. As I have read, and I know you’ll let me know if I’m wrong, that hurricanes have cycles within themselves … a 20 year “bad” cycle exists on occasion which we just started a few years ago. Another similar 20 year bad cycle occured in early 20th Century. So, again, I know man has strives to make, but when I here “Bush is responsible global warming and this new influx of upper scale hurricanes” it just makes me shut down.

But I certainly don’t admit to as much technical knowledge as you seem to have … only what occasional articles teach me.

I see things like Kyoto (which was almost unanaminously turned down by Congress during the Clinton administration if my memory serves me) and wonder why the US is so targeted. I like you have traveled a good portion of the globe and have seen many “1st world” countries make northern New Jersey and other US environmental improvable areas look like a golden New Hampshire lake or a Coronado coast. Should we have signed Kyoto even though it was heavily weighted against our economy simply because we have a good economy? … while other nations with more potent violations were let off the hook because their suspect gov’ts ran their economy into the ground?

Posted by: Ken Cooper at March 1, 2006 2:06 PM
Comment #130571

another bad side effect of mr duponts cfcs when in high concentrations and heated they release, the deadly gas phosgens.

Posted by: rodney brown at March 1, 2006 2:23 PM
Comment #130574

Kyoto was turned down by a Republican congress…

Ron, I’m confused. How do you have dense undergrowth when the undergrowth receives little sunlight? Or is it that your woods are young? It would seem to me that the govt would allow controlled burning of old forests. They don’t stop naturally ocurring forest fires.

Posted by: Loren at March 1, 2006 2:40 PM
Comment #130577

ron ,the goats really help they eat almost any thing,we,(the family) have 650 acres in the finger lakes of upstate new york that my ancestors left over two hundred years ago, they run about 200 goats, up there , they also use the bush or brush hog ,ron, dont turn your back on the billie (male)!

Posted by: rodney brown at March 1, 2006 2:46 PM
Comment #130581

Ron Brown,

“But I’m solving my problem anyway. I’ve contracted to a local farmer that raises goats.”

Some years ago, I rented 2 floors of an old farmhouse in the foothills of the Berkshire mountains. The house was on 40 acres, the front 3 was scrub, the back 37, dense woods.

The owners fenced in the front 3 and turned 2 dozen pygmy goats loose - they went at that scrub like white on rice! Less than 2 years later, that front 3 was pristine lawn.

Posted by: Arr-squared at March 1, 2006 3:00 PM
Comment #130585


Russ is pointing out the extreme contradiction in your postings. You claim to promote the environment yet you excuse this administration for its dismantling of established programs based on weakness in those programs, rather that fighting for improvements to the programs based on their strengths.
You point to NO as an example, yet if people followed wetland rules for the last 50 or so years, there would have been a manageable “problem” instead of “disaster” irregardless of what happened to the levies.
Using right wing rhetoric like “left wing paradigm” doesn’t help your point either.
When it comes to the environment, it seems the only problems the gov’t causes may be economic restictions beyond need. Lack of regulation of development and industry can only hurt the environment and our futures.


The hurricane cycles do exist with regards to frequency of hurricanes. What’s happening is increased water temperatures, beyond the normal cycle limits, is increasing the strength of the hurricanes as well as allowing earlier and later development of the storms than prior history suggests. There is also concern that these increasing temperatures may shut down the “heat pump” that moderates the northern winters. Kind of a reverse effect, golbal warming will cause an ice age.
Kyoto is a flawed treaty from our interests. It is a not bad treaty from global interests. It was also written when China/India were really third world nations on their way up. They’re now (almost?) second world nations and should pay the environment some dues.

Posted by: Dave at March 1, 2006 3:24 PM
Comment #130593

I’ve been around goats before. That’s one reason I contracted with the farmer.
I tried to use my bushhog in there. All I manage to do is to tear it up. Another reason I conrtacted with the farmer.
I’m not sure how many goats he’s going to run in the woods. But he says they’ll only take about a year to eat through the underbrush. Then they’ll start on the trees. That’s when he’s going to take them out.

Inorder to do a controlled burn around here you have to get a permit from the forest department. They won’t issue them unless your a commerical tree farmer.
The woods I have is mostly young. The old growth has very little undergrowth. But it’s there. The part I’m talking about though is within the last 15 to 20 years. This is about 80 of the alomst 100 acres of woods I have.

Posted by: Ron Brown at March 1, 2006 3:37 PM
Comment #130595


Kyoto was turned down by a Republican congress.

The Senate was controled by the Democrats and almost none of them supported it.


It is a not bad treaty from global interests.

Yes it is. It ignores the world’s biggest polluters.


I like the goat idea. You’re using nature to control itself.


I enjoy your articles on the environment. Keep up the good work.

Posted by: TheTraveler at March 1, 2006 3:42 PM
Comment #130602

,we use the goats to control, the non native plants and vegitation that some boneheads planted up there , because they thought it was pretty, and their killing out the native species,after two hundred years my family by trial and error has learned that organics and conservation is the best way to keep the land and water as pristine as it was two hundred years ago.

Posted by: rodney brown at March 1, 2006 4:24 PM
Comment #130604

If the Market is to drive the economy than why is it not out front encouraging and providing incentives for all the rebuilding in the Katrina effeted area to be built “Green?” The new bio-material is good for high tech jobs in America and the investment into recycleable materail in the area would help keep future costs down. Yet, President Bush has done nothing on this front. Why?

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at March 1, 2006 4:40 PM
Comment #130607

ron you have to have kudzu down their how do you get rid of it?? the goats will eat it

Posted by: rodney brown at March 1, 2006 4:50 PM
Comment #130608

saying that the undergrowth “isn’t good for the woods” is not a matter of personal opinion. If this undergrowth is the result of native species, most likely a number of them, it is a part of the forest that the wildlife may rely on to survive. Destroying it could result in nontarget environmental destruction. In this case, the fires would be natural and necessarry for the life-cycles of the forest community. If this undergrowth is not native, most likely a single invasive vine species, destroying it is encouraged. Everyone will benefit from its destruction. Since you claim the government won’t let you do this, than it is most likely native and is beneficial to the forest. Don’t destroy it, or risk serious possible reorganization of the entire forest community. These claims of why they won’t let you are all good reasons.

You don’t know more about environmental protection than the biologists working for them. Understory growth will not kill trees unless it is invasive, in which case you should try to identify the species and report it to the government, which will not risk ignoring the claim.

But the worst thing you can do is percribe your own biocontrol. Goats do not work, and this has been proven through history. Whenever grazing mammals are used as biocontrol, they become invasive themselves. Instead of eating away the target weeds, they may go after anything that catches their eye, or they may ignore the plant entirely and go for other plants. Either way, there will be consequences to goat release for the environment, as well as possible legal consequences for youself. Intentional release of a known invader is absolutely illegal. Again, I suggest trying to identify the plant as an invader. If it is, tell the government what it is, they will deal with it. If you describe it here and tell me generally where you live, I could probably tell you what it is if it is invasive. If it is native, please don’t damage the natural environment.

Posted by: dbpitt at March 1, 2006 4:51 PM
Comment #130613

“Most people like to look at old growth timber. But if we put too much land off limits, we will have more old growth than we had 300 years ago. As I pointed out, there was more old growth forest in Yellowstone in 1988 than in 1735.”

But Yellowstone is a very specific protected area, this does not apply to most of the rest of the country.

There are a few problems with relying on loggers to take care of your forest problems, Stephen mentioned issues with dense young forests and underbrush, but another problem is that when you allow loggers to be part of the process, you have to be sure that theyre going to follow responsible practices, and legal requirements of replanting. With demand what it is, they can often get away with cutting far beyond what is reasonably safe for the environment, and with a justice department resistant to pursuing campaign contributors, there is little repercussion to doing great damage to forest systems for short term profit.
now, obviously this is a horrible idea for logging companies in the long run, if you consider that not replanting at the legal level means that they will not have business in future years, but for some reason companies tend to ignore these issues, and deplete their renewable, if complex, resources. We have similar problems in maryland with oyster farming, and off the coast with fishing. this is the classic case of the tragedy of the commons.
of course, this doesnt mean i disagree completely with your contention, that there are multiple ways to deal with the problem, i simiply think there must be a consideration made to the fact that not everyone does what they should, and when they feel they can get away with it, most corporations dont do what they should.

Posted by: iandanger at March 1, 2006 5:08 PM
Comment #130614

Here of some ideas I have if it is invasive:

Leafy spurge: has alternate, frosted, lance-shaped leaves that are bluish-green in color, height ranging from 5- 90 cm. It grows in very dense stands and produces a milky white substance that seeps from the plant when torn or cut. Goats are a known effective biocontrol.

Japanese knotweed: rapidly grows to over 3 m in height with Red/purple shoots that turn green as the plant grows; characteristic pattern of purple speckles. Leaves broadly oval to somewhat triangular and pointed at the tip. Goats won’t eat it. Only physical removal and chemical controls will control it.

Kudzu: Semiwoody vine, 10-30 m long, with alternate leaves, 3-leaflet, usually lobed. Physical and insect biocontrols work, but not goats.

Unless its leafy spurge, don’t attack it with goats. It won’t work. If it is leafy spurge, don’t release goats either. Report its invasion to the government. They will control it with their own time and money.

Posted by: dbpitt at March 1, 2006 5:12 PM
Comment #130615

i relize no one was addressing me but in that area THEY suggested herbicibes and some really invassive ideas to control non native species,goats do as people do, if they are out of control they ruin things .as good sheperds of any flock know. goat cheese ,goat milk, goat wool. goat manure. they provide valuable things.

Posted by: rodney brown at March 1, 2006 5:21 PM
Comment #130619


The alternative to government isn’t big business. The alternative to government in the case of New Orleans would just be less government and a better environment. Many of the levees should not have been built at all and no individual investor or consortium of businesses would have done so because they could not raise that kind of money.

When we lease lands owned by the U.S., we should charge the actual cost. I don’t believe in government subsidized give aways. I know, George Bush does it. So has everyone for generations. Don’t ban it. Just make it pay. Then much would not be done.


Kyoto was turned down by a vote of 95 to zero (five people didn’t show up) The Senate had 48 Democrats. Your without sin act is getting tired.


The left wing paradigm I was referring to was not about the environment per se. It was about a general desire to use the government even when it was not the best solution.


Rebuilding after Katrina will give us the opportunity to experiment with many things. I hope we take it.


Some companies are good. Most are good. Some are bad. This is a persistent management problem. I am now getting to know a lot of people who make part of their livings in the woods. Almost all of them love the forest. They take LESS than they are allowed. They spend EXTRA money to make the roads right. Of course there are bad guys, crooks who need to be watched.

If you make it unprofitable, you will get more bad companies who can bid low, make a mess and move away.

Timber companies are not the only solution, but they are one of them. Some areas should be left alone; others not. One size doesn’t fit all, but we have to be in the business of managing everything. There is no such thing as a nature environment, only ones well managed in harmony with nature and ones not.

Since there are several billion of us living on this planet, doing nothing with nature is not an option and doing the wrong things is a disaster (for us. Nature has no opinion contary to some cartoons and television shows)

Posted by: Jack at March 1, 2006 5:34 PM
Comment #130620


Setting fires in a southern woodland is often excellent management. It has been the norm in the region since the end of the last ice age.

It is illegal in some places because people don’t like the smoke and don’t understand the ecology.

Posted by: Jack at March 1, 2006 5:37 PM
Comment #130621

I’m ahead of you on this one. About 98% of what I have is kudzu. This stuff will take over anything that stands still for more than a week.
I’m afraid that most my trees are either dead or dying because of it.
I’ve just purchased this land and the last owner was a woman from Chicago who came down here on vacation in the summer and thought the kudzu was pretty to look at. The crap has over grown her house.
My plan is to get rid of the undergrowth, and then any dead trees. Some of these dead trees are on the ground and have already tore up my bushhog.
After I get rid of the dead stuff I plan to pulp out the rest. Then I’m going to replant the land with pines.
The government knows of this problem and is ingoring it. We have this shit thanks to Jimmy Peanut Brain. He had it brought into Georgia when he was Governor.
If managed right the goats won’t destroy anything I don’t want destroyed. The farmer I’ve contracted with has a excelent reputation for properly handling his heards. I wouldn’t deal with him otherwise.

Posted by: Ron Brown at March 1, 2006 5:50 PM
Comment #130623

ron, i knew it was the kudzu, i take it you were not a fan of mr carter?

Posted by: rodney brown at March 1, 2006 6:11 PM
Comment #130633

I’m hoping the goats will get at the roots also. If they do it will make sure the kudzu won’t come back.
NO, and never will be.

Posted by: Ron Brown at March 1, 2006 6:41 PM
Comment #130634

ron not to pour salt on your wounds but big goverment paid the poor farmers down there in the 30S and 40s they paid them $10 a acre .they said cotton is dead kudzu is king that was our big brother goverment, the dept was called the conservation service dept. started by president FDR……

Posted by: rodney brown at March 1, 2006 6:49 PM
Comment #130644

ron ,the goats wont eat the root because its very bitter. but they will pull it out of the ground and that should kill it. they seem to like the taste of the vine. a goat is a puller it pulls the food out of the ground. while a sheep is a clipper. they wont get 100% but they should get the biggest part. make them earn there keep! and the kudzu has already killed everything no harm no foul! after they done there work. stop spray. try some organic soaps.and the pine is a native tree. down there.

Posted by: rodney brown at March 1, 2006 7:26 PM
Comment #130646

Yoo-hoo, Jack.

Sorry to butt into your conversation, but I need to find a recipe for crow. It seems I need to eat a large helping.

I disagreed vehemently with “your history” re: the COSCO / China / Long Beach port deal during the Clinton years in a discussion on the “blue side”.

Quite simply, you were right and I was wrong. I’ve heard it several times today even from as far left as Howard Dean himself. So, my apologies.

Now, about that recipe…………

Posted by: KansasDem at March 1, 2006 7:43 PM
Comment #130662


Thanks. Everybody makes mistakes. I appreciate it. But let’s not get too polite or this will be less fun.

Posted by: Jack at March 1, 2006 9:42 PM
Comment #130664

“let’s not get too polite or this will be less fun.

Posted by: Jack at March 1, 2006 09:42 PM”

Very little danger of that.


Posted by: KansasDem at March 1, 2006 9:56 PM
Comment #130667

Goats will not kill kudzu. The plant is colonial, so they would have to eat all of it, but they don’t eat the roots so it just grows back.

Posted by: dbpitt at March 1, 2006 10:07 PM
Comment #130673

ron you do what you have too. goats will pull the roots out of the ground just like a weed. like i said they wont do it all, so let the roots dry on the ground like hay and burn or mulch. it will work my dad lived in arkansas for 15 years it is tried and tested and proven to work, dont spray poison around because the pines will die

Posted by: rodney brown at March 1, 2006 10:29 PM
Comment #130675

Accually there aint that much kudzu in this part of Georgia. But what is here is a real bear.
In fact my woods and one other place are the only two spots in this county where there is any kudzu. The other farmer is using goats also to get rid of it.
Most the kudzu in this state is found up around Atlanta and north.
I reckon as long as the goats pull the roots up it doesn’t really matter if they eat them. I can take my tractor in there and rake them up and burn them. But I sure as hell have to watch for the downed trees or I’ll end up tearing my tractor and rakes up.
The old growth woods doesn’t have any kudzu in it. That most likely because it’s not that close to the new growth.

Posted by: Ron Brown at March 1, 2006 10:30 PM
Comment #130680

Where did your dad live in Arkansas? I have a sister in West Fork. It’s just south Of Fayetteville.

Posted by: Ron Brown at March 1, 2006 10:43 PM
Comment #130693

i little town outside of little rock. choctaw ark. not to discount dbpit they do have a large taproot but once you get the crap out of there the bush hog every year or so will work

Posted by: rodney brown at March 1, 2006 11:40 PM
Comment #130718
Controled burning is one way to get rid of this undergrowth. But the government won’t let me do this. Why?

Ron, it’s probably because you’re asking the politician who gets kickbacks from the logging industry. Rather than saying you want to clear it yourself, try asking if they know someone who can clear it for you. ;)

Posted by: American Pundit at March 2, 2006 4:53 AM
Comment #130727

Good conversation from everyone but addressing the PHX8/Ken thread, “Over 700 peer reviewed articles have been published in numberous scientific journals, and EVERY SINGLE ONE finds human-induced climate change is a given. Now, perhaps up to 25% of scientists have reservations about human-induced climate change, but NOT ONE has been able to get it past a review of their peers. NOT ONE. Ken, that’s 700 to 0,” Wow, sounds impressive, but to me it is no different than Rush Limbaugh stating “facts” on his show. Until I see the references PHX8, I tend to be on the common sense side of this issue and that is to do what you can sensibly do to reduce damage to the environment and let nature take care of itself. Unless you want to eliminate humans from the equation, there will always be human influence on the environment. As far as Rush Limbaugh is concerned, I believe he has has his place. If it were not for him, the Al Gores and Ted Dansons of the world could continue to spew uncontested. It is my stance that Al and Ted are more extreme and less informed by far than Rush.

Posted by: David Miller at March 2, 2006 6:05 AM
Comment #130759


This Link and this link should show you that Global warming is REAL, and must be caused by human industrial development of the past 300 years.

Posted by: Warren P at March 2, 2006 8:44 AM
Comment #130765

In America the value we cherish most is freedom to choose what’s right for ourselves. Anyone who wishes to force others to subscribe to any other set of values is unAmerican.

Posted by: Max at March 2, 2006 9:39 AM
Comment #130790

Originally I came across the information on peer reviews in “Winds of Change” by Eugene Linden, published 2/7/06. However, here is a link for the same material from 2004:

I’d strongly encourage reading the article. It’s short and to the point. Here is the relevant portion:

“… The evidence for human modification of climate is compelling… That hypothesis was tested by analyzing 928 abstracts, published in referred scientific journals between 1993 and 2003, and listed in the ISI database with the keywords “climate change” (9).

The 928 papers were divided into six categories: explicit endorsement of the consensus position, evaluation of impacts, mitigation proposals, methods, paleoclimate analysis, and rejection of the consensus position. Of all the papers, 75% fell into the first three categories, either explicitly or implicitly accepting the consensus view; 25% dealt with methods or paleoclimate, taking no position on current anthropogenic climate change. Remarkably, none of the papers disagreed with the consensus position.

Rush Limbaugh is presenting a political perspecitive. “Environmentalist wackos” threaten the opinions which make up his worldview.

Will nature “take care of itself”? In a fatalistic sense, that’s true enough. Something will happen, whether good, bad, or indifferent. And humans are part of nature, that’s true too.

But it’s not a matter of politics. It’s not a matter of a religious worldview, either, unless one ascribes to a Gaian hypothesis or a heretical version of Christianity. Climate is a simple matter of fact, which can be proven; if wrong, it can also be disproven.

Bush is a “dissenter” on Global Warming. Rush Limbaugh “just has a feeling” that humans have nothing to do with cllimate change. Bush and Limbaugh may not like the facts because the facts invalidate their worldview; but that does not make their stances legitimate, or their views correct.

Posted by: phx8 at March 2, 2006 12:04 PM
Comment #130794


I believe that the climate is changing and the human activities have some effect. The question is what to do about it. Kyoto won’t work. The Euro Kyoto economies since 1997 have increased their CO2 emissions by 5.3%, while the U.S. did just 4.7%.

The solution is more nuclear power and technological change and the best way to encourage that is price. Governments can give tax advantages and sponsor basic research, and our does that more than any other.

The equation the says Bush=Bad, therefore we need more government regulation does not lead to a better solution on the climate problem.

Posted by: Jack at March 2, 2006 12:57 PM
Comment #130799

Yes Jack,

That’s exactly my point as well. People talk about Bush turning down Kyoto as if he didn’t help a poor little old lady across the street. The FACT is that the entire Congress thought it was a bad idea.

The other FACT is that we have increased our hybrid cars in this country many fold since Bush has been in office … something that has occurred in part because of the nice, Bush-approved, federal tax cut for buying a hybrid car. I know I have a car due to retire in the next 2 to 3 years and I’ll be buying a hybrid of some kind when that happens, tax relief or not.

So the “Bush is a dissenter” on the environment … “Environment good, Bush bad” talk only plays with me as a political tactic and not as an engagement in reality.

Posted by: Ken Cooper at March 2, 2006 1:37 PM
Comment #130800

max right on!.. this queston is more for the experts on this subject, i understand france is using close to 70% nuclear power?

Posted by: rodney brown at March 2, 2006 1:42 PM
Comment #130807

If ever there was such a thing as a global problem, climate change is it. Kyoto was the first attempt at international coopertation. It was a first step, the first step, not the ultimate solution. As the largest producer of greenhouse gasses, other countries look to the US for leadership- or at least, they used to. We could have insisted Kyoto look any way we wanted it, negotiated for whatever position we desired, and the rest of the international community would have cooperated.

Bush did not just reject Kyoto. He opposed international cooperation. In the meantime, the energy policy of the Bush administration has been written by companies like Exxon, with predictable results.

Incredibly, Bush refuses to mention climate change in the State of the Union address.

It’s not that Bush = Bad. It is the policies of this administration that are bad. It would be extremely easy for Bush to turn this around. Willingness to mention climate change in a major speech would be a good start.

Posted by: phx8 at March 2, 2006 2:05 PM
Comment #130819

David Miller-
I invite all the Republicans on this site to read this book: The Change in the Weather : People, Weather, and the Science of Climate It does a very good job, in a fairly unbiased way, of setting out the facts and why most scientists believe global warming is a human driven phenomena.

The trouble with Limbaugh is that his thinking on this matter is very 19th century. There is in fact plenty of evidence to demonstrate that human beings can have a profound effect on their environment. A good book to read on this subject is Jared Diamond’s Collapse. There’s a reason the once fertile regions of Mesopotamia are now the arid, desert-ike nation of Iraq. We do not live and sustain ourselves upon this earth with impunity. We are immersed in the context of our surroundings, and in turn can effect them greatly.

The key in dealing with problems of Global Warming and stability, is to not do things merely because we feel like it, but to discover whether our instincts are good or bad. It’s a sad thing this got made into a political debate instead of a debate on the ways and means to deal with the problem.

Someone once said that with a lever long enough, one could move the world. The facts can be an excellent fulcrum to get things done. But our illusions offer no such support. The degree to which we can distinguish between them, is the degree to which we can get things done.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at March 2, 2006 2:22 PM
Comment #130830

Isn’t Everybody Sick & Tired of the 911 Conspiracy Freaks?

Is it me? Or are these 911 Conspiracy Freaks becoming intolerable and, might I say, quite dangerous? Somebody please put an end to their wild conspiracy theory. It’s been nearly five years since the deaths of thousands of innocent citizens; hard working citizens with families and friends who’ve had their hearts torn apart by the events of 911. Out of respect for the victims and for the safety of our nation’s future, I urge all of us to move forward from the rants of the tin-foil hat brigade. It’s a tough challenge. They are a unified group sticking to their insane and impossible story like the glue under their nose which they’re probably sniffing. Okay, I understand what a conspiracy is, two or more people planning a subversive act; and we have conspiracy laws on the books because they actually do happen all the time. Yeah, but these 911 freaks want all of us to choose their conspiracy theory over another one.

Here are the two top conspiracy theories; I’ll leave it up to all of you rational minded individuals to make a decision. Either you join the ranks of the freaks or you join the normal world of intelligence.

Conspiracy Theory #1 – On 911, nineteen disgruntled goat herders from the other side of the world hidden in a dark cave plan and then orchestrates the most devastating attack upon the most highly budgeted and dominating, impenetrable defense system the world has ever known, and succeeds with hardly any money and armed only with razor blades; thus forcing that nation to alter its way of life more so than from its previous World Wars and major military conflicts. In effect, goat herders with razor blades were mightier than all enemies combined from WWI; WWII; Korean War; Vietnam War; etc…


Conspiracy Theory #2 – Some of the world’s richest and most powerful individuals with vast resources, top notch organizational abilities, direct access to US military apparatus and the most experienced and notorious clandestine operation units on the planet decide to implement the 911 attack to stir up necessary support from the American people in order to invade Middle Eastern countries and move closer to their goal of absolute control of oil markets, creating record shattering profits, establishing a long standing intimidation stance in the region (permanent US military bases in the region) and protection of oil resources and long term profits. Corporate hegemony or better known as Benito Mussolini put it, fascism.

The 911 Truth Movement is alive and growing fast. For those not in the know yet, come back to reality and join the hundreds of thousands of concerned citizens who desire justice and a safer future for our children. Get informed with the facts. Freedomtown is a great place to start. Check it out, and then ask yourself, in light of all the information, what really happened on 911? Are you interested in finding out more? The most accessible and rational voice in the 911 Truth Movement is David Ray Griffin. His books are highly recommended; The New Pearl Harbor; and The 911 Commission Report, Omissions and Distortions.

(By no means am I insinuating that goat herders as a whole are an evil bunch.)

Posted by: Greenback at March 2, 2006 2:50 PM
Comment #130842

Isn’t Everybody Sick & Tired of the 911 Conspiracy Freaks?

Yes. We’re also tired of people bringing them up for no reason.
Can we get back to talking about the environment now?

Posted by: TheTraveler at March 2, 2006 3:27 PM
Comment #130845


(appology to Mony Python)

Kyoto is passed on! This treaty is no more! It has ceased to be! It expired and gone to meet its maker! It is a stiff! Bereft of life, it rests in peace! If you guys hadn’t nailed it to the perch it wouls be pushing up the daisies! Its metabolic processes are now history! It is off the twig! It kicked the bucket, shuffled off its mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisibile!! THIS IS AN EX-TREATY!!

If we could have had any kind of treaty, why did we get one like this that costs a fortune, doesn’t work and leaves out the big future CO2 makers like China, Brazil and India?

The Senate votes 95 to zero to oppose it BEFORE it was even sent in. That is ALL the Democrats and ALL the Republicans who voted turned it down.

We have to forget Kyoto and move on. The Asia Pacific partnership is one good start. We need to encourage nuclear power. The President’s deal with India alone will be much more effective in the long run than Kyoto. Let’s make sure it gets through.

Posted by: Jack at March 2, 2006 3:43 PM
Comment #130859

“I’m not dead yet.”

The Kyoto Accord is in effect. We’re not participating.

On July 25, 1997, before the Kyoto Protocol was to be negotiated, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed by a 95–0 vote the Byrd-Hagel Resolution (S. Res. 98), which stated the sense of the Senate was that the United States should not be a signatory to any protocol that did not include binding targets and timetables for developing as well as industrialized nations or “would result in serious harm to the economy of the United States”. (Wikipedia)

1997. Since then we’ve made tremendous strides, and gained considerable knowledge. Thanks to the Greenland Ice Sheet Project in 1998, and other core drillings, we now know earth’s climate history and atmosphereic make-up going back hundreds of thousands of years.

We know there is more C02 in the atmosphere than anytime in over 450,000 years, possibly in 20 million years.

Last year we suffered a hurricane season like no other.

Since 1997, we’ve seen records set for temperature, year after year.

Would the Senate pass the same resolution today?

Nuclear power? Personally, I have reservations, but it’s worth asking questions.

The problem is that Exxon and the Bush administration have opposed any actions concerning climate change. I suppose it would be fair to say Exxon and the Bush administration have prevented the US from any substantial with the international community to date.

Here’s a pretty good site on Exxon’s role in the matter:

How much longer?

Posted by: phx8 at March 2, 2006 5:14 PM
Comment #130860


To me you don’t have to prove climate change is a potential hazard (although I don’t think hurricanes had anything to do with it yet)

But if climate change is a problem, Kyoto is not a solution. Even if Kyoto works as advertised it will reduce temperatures by 1/10 of one degree.

Kyoto is too much a foreign aid and wealth redistribution treaty and not much of an environmental one.

And w/o nuclear power, we have no chance. The French BTW get 78% of their electricity from nuclear. We get about 20%. We should be more like the French.

Posted by: Jack at March 2, 2006 5:28 PM
Comment #130864

What did you think of “Collapse”? I’m finishing “Guns, Germs, & Steel” this weekend.

Anytime we get involved in international cooperation it’s going to mean… well… working with other countries. Other cultures. Some consider corruption an acceptable way to do business. Others are not like the US.


I understand you & I are going back and forth about what to do. Nuclear power? Regional rather than international cooperation perhaps? Unfortunately, there are still too many people who don’t recognize the problem in the first place.

Posted by: phx8 at March 2, 2006 5:46 PM
Comment #130875


Yes. We make compromises. But why sign on to something that will cost us big time and even in the best case scenario do almost nothing to improve the situation?

We can do better. If we pretend that Kyoto is solving the problem, it is worse than nothing. It is worse to follow a false solution than not to have one at all.

Posted by: Jack at March 2, 2006 7:03 PM
Comment #130904


Jack said this earlier:

“The Euro Kyoto economies since 1997 have increased their CO2 emissions by 5.3%, while the US did just 4.7%.”

I think he meant, maybe, CO instead of CO2 but in any case, this is the first I’ve heard of that and, if so, quite telling in my view.

Do you dispute Jack’s quote?
Jack do you have a source for such?

I know I’m usually sarcastic but I’m truly trying to find answers. Thanks.

Posted by: Ken Cooper at March 2, 2006 9:20 PM
Comment #130914


I read your link and it is decent. I must say however, that I am somewhat skeptical by anything that a UN organization puts together and dissemiantes. I know what their political agenda is and I am not in agreement. Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe in protecting the environment, but I do not think most of the extremist views (from both sides but predominantly the pro global warming side)have the answers. Try this link and let me know what you tbink.

Posted by: David Miller at March 2, 2006 9:44 PM
Comment #130919

If you like that one, you’ll very much enjoy this one. I think material like his is very important. It forgoes the clumsiness of political correctness, but doesn’t take up arms the opposite way trying to justify outdated views. He’s not afraid either to say that a tyrannical political system aided in bringing a system back from the brink, nor apologetic about such systems when he demonstrates how they contributed to the collapse of the system.

I think Conservatives, if they can get pass his being pro-choice, can take heart in his honest examination of the issues of business in the context of environmentalism. He’s not a raving eco-freak blaming the corporations for anything and everything, though he doesn’t hold back from describing their misbehavior.

Overall, it’s an excellent work that all Americans could benefit from reading, our party included.

Conspiracy theories can be comforting. The problems with your theory are as follows:

1)Most of the hijackers are middle class. The Middle East has sizable urban populations, and creates more college graduates than it has positions for. al-Qaeda itself has shown considerable technical sophistication in its attacks. In the attack on the Cole they even hid the explosive in the hull of the boat to defeat searches.

2)The operation cost over a hundred thousand dollars to pull off.

3)I want you to imagine something. You’re locked, unarmed, in a narrow tube with a fanatic wielding a sharp razor blade which he likely just used to kill somebody. Your experience with hijackings is that the plane will land and you will survive if you don’t make trouble. Otherwise, you have to consider whether you’re next. Three out of the four times, the hijackers succeeded because of that combinations of events.

The terrorists succeeded because we had major holes in our security, because of the culture of complacency, and because their manner of executing their plan was so different from the normal terrorist plan, that we simply weren’t prepared to do what needed to be done to stop them.

As for those conspirators? I have no doubt that these people might have profited, or exploited the situation, but they are hardly the organized conspiracy they appear to be. These people aren’t necessarily the smartest, and they don’t necessarily have the control over things they seem to do.

All things being equal, I find al-Qaeda the likelier conspiracy to bring this about. The exploiters of 9/11 have been too godawful stupid about their actions to convince me that they could have pulled off a fraud like that.

Just what are the Republicans doing with all that power. Do you not think, if they seriously want to deal with the problem right, that they would have written up their own treaty, brought forward their own standards? All we have here is a rejection. No negotiation towards something different, no deals being made, no nothing.

Absent the positive sign of an international agreement authored by the Republicans, and given years of disdain for the idea that global warming exists and/or is human-caused, are we off-base in supposing that the opposition to Kyoto is not some sign of environmentalism out of the blue? Also, that supposed rejection seems more like a resolution that says they want a better agreement.

Where is that better agreement? Without that, there is no alternative to Kyoto, and therefore no reason to believe that explanation of the GOp majority’s motives.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at March 2, 2006 9:55 PM
Comment #130928

It is a really complicated assessment and you won’t find clear answers.

Greenhouse gas emissions are related to many things. There was a big improvement in E. Europe in the 1990s, not because of any environmentalism, but just because of the fall of Communism.

Centrally planned Communist countries were very bad for the environment. Emissions dropped remarkably because of the end of that terrible system. Germany actually cut its emissions because it acquired E. Germany and promptly shut down the filthy communist era industries. The Brits also got points in the 1990s by shutting down its coal industries in the Midlands.

That is why 1997 is a good base year, both because of Kyoto itself and because by then the restructuring was mostly done. If you go back to 1990 it includes the big drop. Europeans know this and are a little dishonest when they take the stats from then.

On other hand, taking 2000 as a base year also create ambiquities. Another variable is economic growth. Greenhouse gas emission in the U.S. dropped in 2001 because of the recession, but in general European economies grow slower generally, so their increase in gas is less.

You actually should measure emissions in relation to growth in GDP.

Anyway, we can fool with the figures, but there is no reason to believe that Europeans are reducing any more than Americans besides related to general shutdowns or slow economic growth.

The only chance we have is technological improvement. The French love nuclear power. Every environmentalist should be in favor of clean nuclear power. In the long run we can go to some renewables, but we need nukes for the time being. There is no other bridge to the future.

Posted by: Jack at March 2, 2006 10:03 PM
Comment #130930


The alterntive to Kyoto is technological improvement.

Kyoto doesn’t work. It is not an alternative. It is a misstep. People want to keep it because they feel they have invested a lot of time in it. They are right re time, but wrong about conclusions. A sunk cost is what Kyoto is.

Posted by: Jack at March 2, 2006 10:07 PM
Comment #130936

Imagine the widespread development and use of:

sustainable, progressive energy sources, like wind, hydro, and nuclear;

newer, more efficient, less invasive methods of obtaining wood for manufacturing;

and finally a little thinking outside the box for a change with the whole auto emissions issue (jeez, I remember the big ethanol flop thirty years ago, and I was only eight).

Wouldn’t these technologies, if they were obsessively pursued, create an incredibly robust new business sector? Wouldn’t they inject billions of dollars into that nation’s economy that decided these possibilities were not simply ideas of the future, but ideas whose times had come? Wouldn’t they foster hundreds of thousands (or perhaps millions) of new jobs, for bright and well-trained engineers, physicists, chemists, researchers, field technicians, etc. etc. etc? In other words, would they not simply create the newest and most important new microeconomy since the notion that every household could have a computer in it?

I guess not, since the America I believe in would have done all that by now.

Posted by: macsonix at March 2, 2006 10:46 PM
Comment #130943

David Miller-
The primary source for your article is a college student whose career path is labor relations. He takes Ross McKitrick and co-author Stephen McIntyre’s paper at face value, then basically gives out the climate change talking points as already delivered by a number of conservatives.

Your secondary source here was published in a social sciences publication, rather than in some harder science journal. One, McIntyre, is a self-admitted Mineral Exploration Businessmen, which translates into English as a Mining company exec. The other, Ross McKitrick, is an economist, and a fellow at The Fraser Institute, a right-wing thinktank from the country upstairs.

So far, not one person here has a background in climate sciences, or even hard sciences. One guy had “real world” experience of a scientific matter, but being a executive in a company doesn’t necessarily require or engender expertise in the company’s field. After all, there are subordinates to handle those details.

In a field as complex as climate and meteorology, it’s crucial to not just wade in off the street. This is one of the most complex sciences there are.

The famous Butterfly Effect originated as a concept in a study that a guy named Lorenz was doing. He was running a very crude model of air circulation, and found that he could not get his results to repeat, even if he started out things the same each time. He also discovered that while the thing did not have a periodic function, it did have a kind of structure, one which seemed very consistent.

The model was iterative, which meant that the computer fed the results from the last point in time in order to figure out the next. The Butterfly Effect itself stems from the problem that small errors in the calculation could produce tremendous differences given enough time. This factor in calculating systems that feed back into themselves is part of what makes Climate Science a poor game for amateurs, and an even poorer game for getting your data wrong.

McKitrick does a fine job of getting the data wrong. How can you trust a guy who can’t even get thermodynamics right to check the work of a guy whose specialty is dealing with how temperature changes in a climate? If we’re going to be scientific about this, let’s not beat around the Bush when it comes to maintaining standards and not merely socially promoting a dogma.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at March 2, 2006 11:03 PM
Comment #130947

I don’t think we’ve even done enough with the technology we’ve got now. You saw how long it took for hybrids to become big. Corporations are in the game to make money, not save the world. We don’t have to do Kyoto, but we got to do something as a nation.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at March 2, 2006 11:12 PM
Comment #130981

Thanks for replying to David on the Fraser Institute, and for the recommendation on Diamond’s Collapse.

It’s true of most issues, but especially of climate change; check the date, and check the source. From Wikipedia:

“Critics of the Institute and other similar agenda-driven think tanks have noted the Fraser Institute’s reports, studies and surveys are usually not subject to standard academic peer review or the scholarly method.”

I don’t know about the CO2 statistics. As Jack mentions, it’s a complicated topic. Kyoto establishes goals for 2012. Personally, I’m not wedded to any particular solution, or Kyoto. I would just like to see the US assert international leadership, and get serious about addressing the issue.

Posted by: phx8 at March 3, 2006 1:02 AM
Comment #130990

queston does the u.s. employ the use of reprocessing nuclear spent fuel? i think the u. k. has been reprocessing there spent fuel where at least 95% of it can be recyled.. if we dont do it why not? and not to sound like jules verne but i recall reading years ago of a method called subductive waste disposal. i think it was using the core of the earth.

Posted by: rodney brown at March 3, 2006 1:36 AM
Comment #130997

macsonix, very good post. that is a fantastic idea, just like the computer and information age of the 1980s thru 2000 injected trillions. thats where it is! some day i hope they relize oil is not a sustainable or renewable resource. a darn diesel, (compression ignition) will run on new or used peanut oil just fine and burn 65% cleaner.

Posted by: rodney brown at March 3, 2006 2:32 AM
Comment #131041

Subductive waste disposal? If you know your plate tectonics, you know that means the oceanic trenches, where heavier ocean crust buckles and slides underneath lighter continental rock.

The idea is we dump this stuff on the bottom of these trenches, to be carried into the mantle and the core by the subducting continental slab.

The question is whether its isolated enough and secure enough a place to put nuclear waste. Also, does the trench move fast enough and smooth enough to eliminate the waste in a timely fashion. I don’t think there’s a magic bullet solution to nuclear waste.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at March 3, 2006 10:02 AM
Comment #131042

Pardon me, oceanic slab.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at March 3, 2006 10:03 AM
Comment #131059

The Antarctic Ice Sheet is in significant decline

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at March 3, 2006 11:03 AM
Comment #131120

stephen thanks,i was aware of the theory, but it was about eight years ago when i read it. one can only hope. i guess one place is better than 320, dont know if i would invest in las vegas property.

Posted by: rodney brown at March 3, 2006 1:35 PM
Comment #131186


Who cares if they are in it to make money and not save the world as long as they save the world. I have found that interest is more reliable and sustainable than abstract desire to save the world or anything else.

Posted by: Jack at March 3, 2006 8:11 PM
Comment #131200

People have been known to do some pretty shitty and irrational things in pursuit of profits. We need two things: Laws that regulate other obligations into play, a change in the notions of what leadership is in this culture.

The Book I mention, Collapse, should be on your list. It actually shows how the corporate profit motive can work for environmentalism. I would say, though, that he doesn’t believe that markets alone will do the job. I don’t believe that either. Markets can be the means by which movements both negative an positive come about. The concept of the market really has no more morals, knowledge, or good sense than the people who apply it.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at March 3, 2006 10:42 PM
Comment #131224


What makes you think that government has more morals, knowledge or good sense than the market?

“Collapse” deals with mostly government failure. Easter Island or the Maya, did they have free markets? Montana has actually not collapsed yet and it looks like the market may yet bail it out.

Posted by: Jack at March 4, 2006 12:19 AM
Comment #131276

Collapse, as I understood it, dealt with human failures, not merely those of government or corporations or any other system in isolation.

I don’t think he took your market-exclusive view. I think he provided more than enough examples of failures of leadership, of economic forces helping to create the ruin of civilizations as much as they saved them. Many times, he cited the failure of a government to act decisively as one reason why a civilization slid into chaos.

Some might want to read one side or another’s argument into his- I think he presents a less partisan view of things than that.

The Market is just the sum of economic social behavior. If made in ignorance or uncertainty about the facts, it can have disastrous effects. Even if made knowing the facts, it can still have all the unintended consequences that human actions always have. It’s useful because it represents many individual companies ability to choose different ways of dealing with issues of economics, and the ability of others to imitate and assimilate good ideas.

It’s useful when it’s bounded by the rule of law. When its not, or when the leadership is weak on enforcement of rules and ethical behavior, it becomes a catalyst for negative behavior, as people seek a competitive edge by whatever means they can summon to their disposal. They will cheat, cook the books, lie, inside trade, hire illegal immigrants, use shoddy materials, allow shoddier work from employees, abrogate agreements, poison the air, the water, and the land, and knowingly contribute to all kinds of other problems because once it becomes economically advantageous for people to take the dark path on these things, it persistently dominates the market’s norms form that point on.

In short, I guess the question is: why do you think any human solution, market or government works justly and well without feedback and accountability? Given that we are a society built on the rule of law, what makes you think the market alone will fix the problems of pollution and corruption? Corporations can do many harmful things and keep doing them unless restrained by the law because they are profitable, or can be made to look so. The Market, if not reinforced by outside law, morals, and ethical codes can become an engine of corruption, where bad behavior can persist because the market either is blind to it, or rewards the competitive edge it brings.

The Market is idol undeserving of such fawning worship as we see on the right. The government can be an idol, too, but I don’t think that’s yet such a problem as Market worship is now. The Market has become everybody’s SEP excuse; Somebody Else’s Problem. We don’t need to take decisive action on corporate corruption! Let the market take care of them. We don’t need to take care of polluters! Let the Market take care of them. We don’t need to put as much aid in to the Katrina recovery as they want down there! Let the market take care of that.

It has become the primary excuse in the Republican and Democratic party for failing to lead, for failing to apply the rule of law and protect the people’s interests. While people should protect their own interests to the extent they can, I don’t think it’s just for them to have the door slammed in their face by our government officials because those we’ve elected, and those appointed by elected officials can’t be bothered to tackle the problems that are beyond the individual’s limited resources of time, money, expertise, and authority.

Most Americans have full-time jobs, jobs which require much of their attention and energy to attend to. Your party would add meat inspector, drug guinea pig, stock analyst, and any number of roles to a persons life, when they often have enough on their plate. If this kind of dumping persists, then our economy will sag under the weight of uncertainty, worry, and misfortune generated by this.

The government needs to do its job so the rest of Americans can do theirs. That includes regulating emissions. Nobody else can force the car companies to comply on a regular basis.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at March 4, 2006 8:20 AM
Comment #131293

First, I don’t think we should read too much into the book. He is a best seller, but it is not a scholarly book. His first big book, Guns, Germs and Steel, was kind of replay of Toynbee without the detail and with more extrapolation.

But to take it as a starting point, yes he is talking about whole societies. But the management of those societies was different from ours in that they were not market economies. The market is a better allocator of resouces than Maya chiefs or Easter Island clan leaders.

The market works because it aggegates information and decisionmaking in a way no one authority can.

As you know, I believe in some government regulation and rule of law, but they must be in the context of a market and the market is clearly our best bet.

Posted by: Jack at March 4, 2006 11:44 AM
Comment #131303

I think there’s more to his material than you might think. One of my pet subjects is the way complexity works in the real world.

I think you have things backwards. Markets cannot properly function if they are not backed and defined by laws and government. I know it’s fashionable nowadays to act like the multinationals are more powerful than the governments, but their control is informal and symptomatic of a reliance on the systems governments set up. A nation can be run without corporations, but corporations cannot run without the guarantees of government.

The Republicans like to believe that mankind can master nature, and overcome any natural obstacle. Unfortunately, their policy is scientifically illiterate, or even contrarian, and doesn’t recognize that nature can be more hard and fast in its opposition than any political opponent. There, the dangers of turning every argument into a debate on ideology make themselves clear.

Icelanders tried to force their kind of farming on Iceland, and as a result, lost rich soil. The Australians, faced with huge 400 foot trees, thought they were in a natural eden, only to discover they had some of the world’s poorest soils. for decades they’ve tried to make pastoral farming work, only to find it a losing proposition. The Midwest in the late 1800s and early Twentieth Century allowed rich soils to blow away, squandering fine glacial soils.

It matters how we approach nature, because it works by its own rules. Ours are only approximations. If we get them wrong enough, we waste our efforts and our resources needlessly. We have the capacity in our time to peer past many of the illusions that destroyed our predecessors. If we choose to just do things our way because we feel like it, we’ll come out no different. It will just be more of a greek tragedy, because we knew better.

Go ahead and wait for the market to fix things on its own. I say lets get good policy going first and let the market sort the rest out.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at March 4, 2006 12:42 PM
Comment #131322


The market did fix those things you mention to some extent.

I don’t say markets always work. They just work better than the alternatives. The thing about the market is that it is limited by the need to make money. Government doesn’t have that constraint immediately.

The big environmental disaters are government financed. The Soviet Union was by far the most polluted place on earth. China is currently contesting that title. Even in the U.S. consider the recent problem with New Orleans. The market, w/o government subsidizing levees etc could never have built so much below sea level.

And yes - markets can’t function without the rule of law. A market requires a reasonably efficient and honest government. I have written about this subject many times.

I guess the best way to put it is that government should not long act outside what the market will support. The market is a constraint on government, just like in your example what the environment would support is a constraint on people. The situation is very similar in fact. When government pushes beyond the rules of the market, there is a collapse.

Posted by: Jack at March 4, 2006 6:05 PM
Comment #131391

The market is forever going to be a reactive entity. It reacted to Katrina, it didn’t work to build the proper levees and safeguards to protect New Orleans. in the first place. It punished Enron, but only after years of fraud and deception, even despite its vicious interference in the California Energy markets.

Look at sport stars, movie stars, and corporate executives. Look at what they pull down. Why do these people get paid so much to do what they do? Many good actors get paid not even a tenth of what some actors do, yet give more value to the audience. Does the market keep costs down there, have actors charge reasonable rates? No, because certain unprovable assumptions are made about how much an actor contributes to the economic success of the film. It gets to the point, though, where the big name actor becomes one of the biggest liabilities in the budget, making it difficult for them to make anything but huge budget pictures. It’s not much different than an auction, with actors charging what the market will bear, and studios paying that, rather than spending money on the production itself.

Same thing with sports stars. Have Athletes necessarily gotten that much better, or, again, have the agents and the organizations simply bid up the salaries of the stars based on what everybody else is getting, regardless of the real value of the player?

Finally, executive compensation. The idea has gone out that somehow the big salaries are what it takes to get the competitive talent, but with all the corporate malfeasance and mismanagement, we’re hardly seeing an improvement. We can’t trust the numbers they give us, because they often have options as part of their compensation, which gives them incentive to artificially inflate the stock for their own profit. They lie, spin, and cover things up, all to enrich themselves. Meanwhile, their investors and customers suffer lower quality of business, have to wait on the slashed workforce in the companies to do the same amount of work over more time, and so on and so on.

I have observed, again and again, the market only working after the fact, and then a few months or years later, seeing the same kind of crap happening again and again.

The difference between the Market an the Government in terms of regulation is that the Market can encourage, but only the government can obligate. The government obligates corporations to make money for their stockholders. It should go further and obligate that their means of doing so not compromise the public’s interest in a clean environment, a safe and equitable workplace, a clear understanding of the company’s finances, and a stable climate.

We should not procrastinate on the problems we know we have, waiting for others to do the same. Problem is, while we wait, others wait with us, believing that others will do what it takes. It use to be that leadership meant taking action on things. Now it seems to mean telling people you’re taking action, or that you’re not getting in its way, or somebody else is doing it. Forgive me if I’d rather have people in government take a more proactive and competent approach to leadership than that.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at March 5, 2006 10:21 AM
Comment #131401


The market didn’t build the levees. And Enron’s business was energy arbitrage made possible only by government regulation.

You say, “The difference between the Market an the Government in terms of regulation is that the Market can encourage, but only the government can obligate. The government obligates corporations to make money for their stockholders.”

The government doesn’t obligate corporations to make money. No government can obligate that because nobody can guarantee that. As any investor knows, many corporations do not make money for their shareholders. That is a good thing, since it then reallocates resources.

But you are right that only government can obligate. Government has a monopoly on coercive force. That is why government is dangerous.

I don’t believe the market or the government always makes good or bad decisions. But government, with its ability to coerce, can persist in bad decisions for a longer time than the market can.

Government is not good and the market is not bad, or the opposite. Each has its proper role. Since government controls coercion, it is more likely to expand beyond its proper role than the market is.

All of the really big disasters have been done with government support. The environment in various communist countries was much worse than ours AND they managed to destroy the environment while staying poor and backward. How stupid is that?

Business people often are not advocates of the free market. Their goal is to gain control of government to prevent competitors from selling better or cheaper products and to get the government to use its coercive powers of taxation and regulation to benefit them.

Government WILL be controlled by powerful interests. If you don’t trust them, you should not trust government.

So government is a sharp and dangerous tool. It can be used for good or evil, but it is not a cure for all our problems. If the market can do it, we should let the market do it. And we cannot make our desire for perfection ruin our good world.

Posted by: Jack at March 5, 2006 12:12 PM
Comment #131462

Why do you think the markets are good at solving environmental problems? Correct me if I’m wrong, but the problem I see with that thinking is that a corporation’s primary function is to make money for its shareholders. Companies exist solely to earn profits.

They don’t have any obligation to be moral (whether in the environment, labor, human rights, etc.) or to protect the environment, and in fact a company that puts special effort into doing so at the expense of profits won’t be as competitive as one that recklessly disregards the planet.

That’s why we need a government that can and will intervene in the capitalist economy for a higher good. It’s supposed to be by and for the people, not the corporations. While I consider myself independent, that’s why right now I think the democratic party is probably better for our country. The republicans just want to auction off the government to the highest bidder, as seen in the Abramoff scandal and the fact that most anti-consumer laws are created by conservatives. I don’t mean all conservatives, but a lot in the government, are that way.
I’m open-minded though and would be interested in your response.

Posted by: John at March 5, 2006 8:37 PM
Comment #131478

C. S. Lewis, in speaking about the four loves (Affection, friendship, Eros, and Charity), says of the first three that if they are allowed to become Gods, they become Demons.

This can be said of just about any human endeavor, emotion, or interest including the profit motive and the market.

There is a duty placed upon those who lead corporations to operate in the best interests of the stockholders. That means they can’t do something that hurts the interests of the stockholders, even if it’s supposed to be the right thing. They can’t just sacrifice their profits for the sake of the environment, for their workers, or for anything else.

That duty could be in times past balanced by other legal and ethical interests, but those have been chipped away by Republican interests who believes the market solutions and economic growth overrule other considerations in our society. This unfortunately puts the financial duties of corporations in ever greater tension with the other duties of a citizen in this day and age.

As far as government goes, I don’t trust it, but I expect it to do certain things for the public interest. I don’t simply stand by and let it fail like many Republicans seem content to do because of their pessimism and cynicism about government.

I believe that government is one of those things that doesn’t work left to itself. I believe the same thing about the market. I believe the same thing about any system, any group, any faction. This is a system where everybody wins because nobody has their ultimate victory.

People are always the leads in their own stories, and folks do not always do evil out of evil intentions. Set in competition with others, they will fight for things other people cannot fathom their motivations for supporting.

The limits of our understanding often mean we support things we might not do so fully understanding what’s going on.

In terms of global warming, this is no instant conclusion that’s come to pass. This is a consensus developed over time. Faced with that, we’re not dealing with a problem where the interests are narrow to the industry, but one which affects us literally in a global fashion. There is no place to hide from the consequences of these folk’s actions. If your argument is do something that will make the best difference against the problem, I’m on your side here.

If you’re saying this is not where the government should intervene, where else could it be suited to intervene? I’m not saying fill bookshelfs with minutia here. I know how information and lawyerly logic work. I’m saying that as imperfect as government regulation is, the broad regulatory power of the government is the only thing that can create the unified response required of us. As for Kyoto, it might not be the right idea, but so far the Republicans have brought nothing to the table in those terms. You need to bring something to the table if you are going to criticize the world’s solution to the problem. You can’t say yours is the best solution if you present none at all.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at March 5, 2006 10:07 PM
Comment #131479


I lived in a former communist country where the government owned or controlled everything. I have never seen as much pollution anywhere in the U.S., including Gary Indiana, which was the worst place in the U.S. I saw.

I repeat again that I think we need reasonable regulation. What I adovcate is market METHODS. The cap and trade begun by Bush and run by Clinton did an excellent job of reducing SO2. This is what works.

Pollution is a waste product and an external cost. Governments role can be to make firms account for the external costs. Firms are good at reducing costs. Firms are already doing a good job of reducing waste.

In order to make progress, we need to reengineer processes, not catch and clean. Government regulation can’t go beyond that. Only the market will.

Posted by: Jack at March 5, 2006 10:11 PM
Comment #131481


It depends on what you are trying to do with government. It is a tool, as I wrote. The old saying that if you give a man a hammer and everything begins to look like a nail applies to government. The market has a bigger toolbox.

Republican ideas re CO2 have not been good so far. I regret that. But I don’t think we should go with the wrong and very costly idea by dfault.

As for most other forms of pollution, I would not scrap command and control, but would suplement it with the market incentives. Energy is best handled by prices. You saw how fast people responded to price rises a few months back.

Posted by: Jack at March 5, 2006 10:18 PM
Comment #131491

There are lots of situations where only a government has enough influence and power to create a certain change. I don’t think the mission to the moon, the invention of computers, or the manhattan project (whatever you think of these) could have been possible without it. Likewise in the 20th century it was through government regulations that corporations initially stopped massive polluting.

If Bush actually stood up and led an effort to solve the problems of energy and global warming, I’d have much respect for him. Unfortunately he’s done nothing of the sort. You can’t count on the oil companies to do this.

Also, the other factor besides companies are the consumers. However, consumers don’t always act in their best interests. For example, global warming is based on very complex science the average person doesn’t have the time or education to really understand. Because air pollution doesn’t have an immediate, easily visible affect (like someone dying from tobacco smoke might) you can’t count on people to automatically do what’s best. That’s why these things take objective research and if necessary government effort.

One other thing, a lot of neo-conservative politicians claim to be in favor of market approaches. However, it’s not really a pure consumer-driven market approach. They really are in favor of actively helping out corporations and business interests, even if it goes against consumers. One example of this is the music and movie industry and the issue of “digital rights.” Republicans keep trying to create laws to erode fair use rights and ensure the studios have control of the media you use. This is to ensure their profits, and probably because of lobbying efforts a.k.a bribery. If they truly were for free markets they wouldn’t interfere. When neoconservatives interfere it’s for the business interests, when liberals do it it’s to help the public or environment.

Posted by: John at March 5, 2006 11:50 PM
Comment #131522


You are talking about goals and I am talking about methods.

A cleaner environment requires government regulation and goal setting. Intitially you could use commmand and control methods to cut pollution, since you could see the pipe or smokestack and damand it stop. We have now moved beyond that. We now have dispersed and diverse sources. We can’t find them all. For this kind of work, we need to use market methods, such as cap and trade. We still set goals as a society and government sets up the ground rules, but we let people and firms decide the methods - the market.

You used the analogy of computers. How about Internet. The Department of Defense built the Internet, so you could say it was a government program. But the government does not strongly control what goes on Internet. Or more simply, the government builds a road, but does not dictate what types of goods are carried.

Posted by: Jack at March 6, 2006 1:47 AM
Comment #131552


I haven’t kept up with this thread but:
Market forces don’t work for the environment because there is no reason for business to satisfy the “environment-as-customer”. Cap and trade is simply a shell game; the force of change is the enforced limits (cap). We also need penalties for breaking the limits which are far higher than the cost of compliance. The Bush admin is moving the goals and changing the rules to benefit “business-as-contributor” at an unacceptable cost to the environment.

BTW: My personal choice of a new paradigm is to regulate business by requiring compliance with ISO14000/14001. With the EPA serving the same role as the FDA does with 21CFR820/ISO13485.

Posted by: Dave at March 6, 2006 9:19 AM
Comment #131592


Please read more of the thread. To sum up

-I am talking about market METHODS that work best
-Government can and should regulate in the gross sense, but for the more complex problems such as reengineering, market incentives work best.
-The worst environmental disasters (Soviet Union, N. Korea, China) are/were in non-market societies.

Posted by: Jack at March 6, 2006 12:24 PM
Comment #131595


We differ in that to me Cap and Trade is not a “market” method. It places pollution into the market place for profit taking by efficient plants but it doesn’t reduce the net pollution.
Pollution will go down by “market force” only when it is more expensive to pollute than not pollute. For example, in a chemical process there is waste. If the raw material is more expensive than improving yields (i.e. reduce waste) then there will be yield improvement. Otherwise, the only incentive to reduce waste is making the waste cost more.
There is only “carrot/stick” for something that is not a product, and pollution is not a product.
As for USSR etc…, don’t you think that is more related to lack of fear of consequence by autocratic regimes than “free market”? So far, we still have the ability to punish companies for gross violations even if this administration is loath to do so.

Posted by: Dave at March 6, 2006 12:37 PM
Comment #131673

The worst industrial disaster in history was Bhopal. Union Carbide was a private concern, and India was then a market economy.

The Soviet Union’s problem wasn’t that it was big government. The problem was they just didn’t care. Concerns about the environment just didn’t fit into their big plans. the problem isn’t government involvement, it’s government denial, and that, dear sir, the Bush administration has in spades.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at March 6, 2006 4:45 PM
Comment #131684

Stephen and Dave

When you guys say government, you actually assume good government. The human experience with government is not good.

Communism once ruled half of the world. Nazis and various other sorts of despots ruled most of the rest. Even today, most governments are not entirely free or competent.

This is what you get. If men were angels any government would work, but if men were angels none would be needed. We are not.


The cap and trade can be reduced over time at the option of whomever controls it (i.e. government). It is METHOD for controlling pollution that worked very well in practice to reduce SO2 and NO.

When they system was set up in the early 1990s, many people said it wouldn’t work. It did.

Posted by: Jack at March 6, 2006 5:20 PM
Comment #131702


I agree that no government is perfect, and governments can often do despicable things. However, you seem to then automatically assume industries and corporations are therefore the opposite. However, this isn’t the case. Like I said the duty of a company is to make money for its owners. Protecting the environment is usually a conflict of interest, as this would interfere with profits.

Companies aren’t angels any more than the government, and at least the government is by and for the people. (Well, not anymore but that’s a different topic). Also I don’t think anyone in favor of environmental regulations like this wants the US to become like the soviet union. I think most on the left want the government to be willing to step in on environmental matters, but not to abolish the market system or anything.

Posted by: John at March 6, 2006 6:35 PM
Comment #131870
The cap and trade can be reduced over time at the option of whomever controls it (i.e. government). It is METHOD for controlling pollution that worked very well in practice to reduce SO2 and NO. When they system was set up in the early 1990s, many people said it wouldn’t work. It did. Posted by: Jack at March 6, 2006 05:20 PM

summary: CAP is the CONTROL method which limits pollution, TRADE is the MARKET method which allows localized profit.

The TRADE element allows companies with below limit pollution to sell their excess allotment.
Despite the fact that TRADE gives microeconomic incentives to individuals and could count as a market force, the net pollution is controlled by the CAP, which is NOT a MARKET method.

Do you agree that it is not the MARKET that limits pollution but the CAP? Or are you going to repeat the word METHOD again?

Posted by: Dave at March 7, 2006 11:06 AM
Comment #131953

Dave definite it as you wish.

IN that case I am in favor of the government method of allowing cap and trade. I am also in favor of government letting the market determine price and in favor of the government allow firms the option of buying or not.

What I don’t think works is when the government dictates methods and uses command and control.

BTW - you will rarely get an argument out of me over terms. I am a pragmatist. You can call things whatever you want. I only care what they do and how they work. If you let me do what I want, you can call me what you want.

Posted by: Jack at March 7, 2006 5:16 PM
Comment #131972


Normally I wouldn’t persist over semantics but your continued insistence on abusing the language dictates otherwise.
CAP is command and control and IS what limits pollution.
TRADE helps businesses and is a market tool and price etc.. should certainly be whatever the market bears. I am all for it when it doesn’t hurt the overall picture but it does NOT limit pollution and is not relevent to the actual limiting of pollution.

Pollution control is simply not in the interests of free market forces so there must be “command and control” descisions. I would agree to let market forces figure out how the details happen but the market will in this case always be driven by the tax or fine incentives.

Posted by: Dave at March 7, 2006 6:19 PM
Comment #132050


The cap and trade works very different. It was considered a radical break in the 1990s and it divided some environmentalist. Some are also resisting a similar program for mercury.

The difference is that firms get to choose how and where to make changes. It makes pollution a cost to be controlled.

It just makes lots of sense. It sets a control, but does not command about how and where. It changes pollution from an external cost to one that firms bear.

BTW the “cap” is based on current levels. After that it declines.

You can call it what you want as long as you support cap and trade, we are both happy.

Posted by: Jack at March 8, 2006 8:08 AM
Comment #132063

(1)Works different than what?

The cap and trade works very different.

(2) What does this mean?

It changes pollution from an external cost to one that firms bear.

(3) I like cap and trade. But it’s the “caps” that make the difference and this administration’s caps are a farce; that is what is being resisted. Trade is just like a mercantile exchange, it has nothing to do with “making the product”, it only responds as a money game.

Posted by: Dave at March 8, 2006 9:05 AM
Comment #132287


Don’t believe the propaganda.

The Adirondack Council sums it up this way, “The existing market-based cap and trade acid rain program has proven itself to be highly economical with an almost perfect record of industry compliance.”

If you follow the link, you will also read about the new progress being made.

Bush has rolled nothing back. It just is not true.

Posted by: Jack at March 8, 2006 9:54 PM
Comment #132383


That link is over two years old. Try this one from the same site:
The Adirondack Council opposes the CAMR and the trading of Mercury emissions.
Bush is an environmental disaster, some day you’ll feel bad you defended him so obstinately.

Posted by: Dave at March 9, 2006 9:43 AM
Comment #132384


You ignored my questions, which were by the waypropoganda free, and you post with some outdated propoganda of your own. Tsk tsk tsk…

Posted by: Dave` at March 9, 2006 9:45 AM
Comment #132394



1)Works different than what? Works differently from command and control in that firms get a general goal and they figure out how to meet it. Market forces dictate “prices” for pollution. The previous system would dictate exact targets for each firm, sometimes for each section. It might make sense to reduce pollution 75% at one place and not at all in another. The total pollution would be less.

(2) What does this mean?
It changes pollution from an external cost to one that firms bear.
Pollution is an external cost in that it is passed along by a firm to society. External costs are always dangerous because the person getting the benefit doesn’t pay them. There is no incentive to be careful. If you make it an internal costs, firms seek to control it. When you go to an all you can eat buffet, do you eat more or less than when you have to pay for each roll? Do you waste more or less? That is a (maybe bad) example of an external cost.

(3) I like cap and trade. But it’s the “caps” that make the difference and this …
Both cap and trade are important. The cap is just like the old system. The trade makes if more flexible, cheaper and ultimately more effective.

The caps have not been increased. On the contrary, they are tougher. The link you include on mercury does not address this. It just says mercury is bad, which we all know. The Administration has addressed mercury from power plants FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER. The job is not done, but it is started.

Posted by: Jack at March 9, 2006 10:27 AM
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