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« Green Book Award: Nominations Wanted | Main | The Dark Side of Green »

The Green Bandwagon

I got a job at Stevens Institute of Technology two years ago in part because I enjoy infecting susceptible young minds with memes. I get a special kick, I admit, out of propagating negative memes, like those in The End of Science. But lately I've found satisfaction in spreading positive messages, pointing out, for example, that science and engineering can help us solve some of our most pressing problems, such as war and environmental catastrophe.

That’s why my friends and I at Stevens created the Green Book Award, which will be given to Harvard’s Edward Wilson on May 9. That’s why I’m bringing Peter Davoren, CEO of Turner Corps., who happens to be a neighbor and friend, to Stevens on April 11 to talk about “green construction.” Turner is one of the world’s largest builders and a leader in green construction, which attempts to minimize environmental impacts of buildings, as well as lowering operating costs and improving the quality of life of occupants and neighbors. Green construction incorporates features such as solar energy, water recycling and recycled building materials.

I realize that for some companies “green” is just another marketing slogan. And ordinarily I try to avoid jumping on bandwagons. But I’m happy to be on the green bandwagon, and to urge others to climb on board. The more crowded it gets, the better.


Andrei Kirilyuk

A Green Brick in the Wall, or The System Wins Again

That's not true, John. Quantity alone is never a good reason or criterion, it's quality that matters. Qualitatively, what you call the green bandwagon, i.e. the mainstream “ecological awareness/fight” of any kind, is not a good choice because it does NOT solve the problem it tries to deal with, but it does divert really huge amounts of efforts to the wrong direction of formally “good” but vain promises and illusive solutions.

Why do they say that hell is paved with good intentions? Just because of that “diversion to the impasse” effect so easily induced by good intensions/promises when they are not based upon deep enough, consistent understanding of the whole system and its development. Your (and other) “green guys” do not propose any real solution, neither Edward Wilson with his “love of life” instead of realistic, scientifically based solutions one might expect, nor this industrial construction monster with all those “green houses” that can never be really green (or else we have the perpetuum mobile of the second kind), but are always destructive as any industrial product of today. By producing strong illusions about such “easy” ways to sustainability (“love plus windmills” kind, no real change), the mainstream ecology consuming unlimited billions effectively diverts the whole world power to ever deeper impasses of unitary (industrial) system. Why did I expect that the advanced American journalism can avoid falling into that elementary trap?

A scientist having a very comfortable life in the richest country doesn't succeed in his main subject, understanding of life, and now tries to sell us his “love”, passion for a “green planet”, as if we, the rest of us, do not love nature and try to destroy it intentionally. He also jumps to the Templeton bandwagon, and it seems that John Horgan (at least one of them, e.g. ) was clearly against such false “unifications” (maybe just because they are based on those false good intentions). Isn't all of it eventually reduced to the single bandwagon of prosperous business truly unifying all of them, scientists, business men, journalists, “intellectuals”? They just want to be ever more prosperous, remain “on top” using any current mood and fashion, but can they propose real, provable and well-specified, solutions to ecological (and other) problems? No, they can't, they're just lying, imposing those externally seducing illusions of a “change without change”, in exchange to ever growing personal profits, popularity, power, etc. Can a lie in such matters be really positive (or “elegant”), even when it is accompanied by all kind of exclusively good words and intentions (let alone very good additional incomes)?

I am afraid we are passing here to the ultimately general discussion about “positive” and “negative”, good and evil, in their modern versions. When I read The End of Science or my favourite “From Complexity to Perplexity” article in Scientific American, I do feel strong positive impacts, intentions, attitudes, just due to their critique. And when I look at those infinite, purely subjective “honours” for strangely understood “greatness” without progress (Edge-style “optimism”), I can see no true positivity, only another deception. “Money for nothing and sex for free”. Pomposity and artificial, exaggerated feasts of a decaying civilisation, yet another one. What are you celebrating, actually, all the time? You are celebrating your purely material success obtained at the expense of nature (including human nature) being always destroyed, with or without “love” and “green houses”. Sorry if it's not “elegant” enough for your perfectly elegant (=lying) society, but the real truth is always like that, you know, ugly, bleeding, crying, and ... promising, like a newborn baby.

So, quo vadis, Horganism?

In any case, I hope, John, that you can always reserve a couple of inconvenient questions to your laureates, just because they are so positive. If we really want the progress of good, rather than the reverse, it would be better to stimulate its development by VERY inconvenient questions...

mike cook

In the spirit of things green, I am busy thinking of how to win the $20 million prize for extracting a billion tons of carbon from the atmosphere. My best idea so far is to immediately cut down all old growth forests and replant the land with young trees.

Doing this greatly increases the extraction of carbon from the air. It is important, however, to use all the old growth lumber to build second homes or dachas for the rich.
Homes that are more elaborate in construction tend to last longer and are better cared for.

My policy will also forestall another bad consequence of having too much old growth timber around, which is that older trees inevitably fall down eventually and start to rot on the spot because salvage logging is frequently prohibited in old growth areas for quasi-sacramental reasons.

Unfortunately, rotting logs put out a lot of methane into our atmosphere, and methane is what--some twenty times or more an efficient greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide! Rotting logs are definitely bad actors when it comes to methane release, but then, so are all swamps. Methane is called swamp gas for a reason.

Swamps, however, in postmodern parlance are called wetlands. Like Old Growth forests, wetlands have achieved quasi-religious status as sanctuaries for the endangered frogs and invaluable herbal medicines we have yet to rediscover after Christian missionaries and shysters selling patent medicines out of the back of wagons ran off all the natural medicine men.

Methane is a real problem, particularly for me because I love red meat. Unfortunately, beef and dairy cattle tend to emit a lot of methane quite impolitely into our atmosphere. Their body wastes are also nothing to sneeze at in the methane department, for unless quickly ploughed under as fertilizer drying dung emits huge quantities of methane. People worldwide who still burn dung as their primary heating and cooking fuel do us all a great favor, but stoves and ovens do a much better job of burning all the methane than do open fires.

Wild grazing animals do the same thing as far as polluting the air with methane. Truly, the best anti-greenhouse management policy is to encourage wolf packs everywhere because these packs will drastically cut down the numbers of both domestic and wild herbivores.

We can't, however, allow grass to simply die and turn brown uneaten, because this also releases way too much methane. The best policy is to have really huge wild fires to burn off all decaying grass, shrubs, and fallen trees.

These fires will produce a lot of carbon dioxide, but that is still a much better way to slow down global warming than letting methane loose. The only real way that man sucks methane out of the air once it is in the air is by flying somewhere on jet airliners. Once again, this is just converting a really bad greenhouse gas into a less-bad one.

They say that sulfer dioxide actually works to cool the atmosphere, so if we want to fight global warming we should mandate using high sulfer fuel in jetliners. Of course, this will create acid rain, but you can't have everything. It is one way to get carbon to rain out of the atmosphere as particulate soot as well.

Actually, putting additives into common jetliner fuel is a remarkably effective way to do a lot of tinkering with the atmosphere, as we all love to fly. Perhaps I can earn my $20 million prize by thinking of an additive for JP-4 that makes all carbon fall to the ground!

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