Fake Arguments – Is Global Warming Caused by Overpopulation?

Why is this a fake argument?

Because it is used to misdirect the intellect and energy of our well meaning people so they end up arguing over something that does not matter very much instead of solving problems that do. It does not matter very much because:

1. We do know some things we can do to reduce global warming, and

2. The OTHER results of overpopulation are so dreadful, all by themselves, that global warming is relatively a pinprick. For example think AIDS. Think genocide. Think the Israeli land grab. Think war. Think failed states that are no longer able to educate or care for their people.

Is that enough reasons that we should begin the conversation about overpopulation?

Or at least provide protection for those who want it?

Fake debates are meant to keep people debating over things that don’t matter so they won’t do something about problems that do matter (that might be inconvenient for some persons who are making money, or at least getting lots of blog attention, off those problems).

Ask New Orleans

Why would we prefer to ARGUE without facts, rather than check to see if real facts are available.

When the issue is hurricanes — or global warming — or overpopulation — whatever we believe will only change one thing, and that is how we behave. Either we face the facts — or we don’t.

Opinions about facts do not change the facts. Gravity exists, hurricanes exist, global warming exists, overpopulation exists. We can not make-believe these kinds of things away, and the whole point of science (not technology, but science) is to KNOW what are the facts so we can find a way to survive. The function of politics should be to respond to known reality in a way that will bring the greater good to the greater number of people. That’s the only power that politics or technology actually have.

Politics and technology have no power to change facts; only how we respond to them.

Ask New Orleans.

Guest Writer, Sociology Prof.

Around here, there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of folks who, in good faith, and perhaps in honest naïvité, are doing all they can to safeguard the environment by buying electric cars and actively lobbying governments to pass legislation as well as actively trying to persuade car makers to make more fuel efficient cars. Also to equip their roofs at home with solar panels, etc. To advocate for wind generated electricity as well as by the action of ocean waves. And so it goes, on and on with good intentions. A lawyer and long time member of ACLU-SC is a strong advocate of legislation that allows corporations to do “carbon-trading,” that is to go ahead and continue their polluting operations by purchasing the unused rights of others to discharge a certain amount of pollutants into the environment.

All of that reminds of Albert Schweitzer on Naïvité:
“There are two kinds of naivité: one which is not yet aware of all the problems and has not yet knocked at all the doors of knowledge; and another, a higher kind, which is the result of philosophy having looked into all problems, having sought counsel in all the spheres of knowledge, and then having come to see that we cannot explain anything but have to follow convictions whose inherent value appeals to us in an irresistible way. (Christianity and the Religions of the World, p. 71f.)”

While some ordinary folks gamely try to do a little clean up, they seem totally unaware of the fact that there are both government and corporate giants who, seemingly unbeknownst to ordinary folks, massively obviate the miniscule results of painful conservation efforts by ordinary folks.

It appears to me that maybe, just maybe, the additive sum of all globally distributed do-it-yourself do-gooder efforts to save the earth by reducing their own personal carbon-foot print, put together, and multiplied ten fold, still are merely a puny sum in comparison to what powerful corporations and governments can do in a single day.

Take for example, as only just one example, what the government of Iceland and Alcoa corporation have been doing.

ALCOA is on track to build a massive heat-generating smelter on top of the polar ice cap ! ! !

It is undoubtedly a good idea to worry about our carbon foot print and to attempt to reduce that.

However, is that not simply a distraction from the profoundly serious effects of using massive amounts of electricity generated by perfectly green, non-carbon, means as the source of energy to power-up a massive heat generator that melts the polar ice cap, which raises ocean levels, floods major parts of the earth (Los Angeles included), and alters forever the nature of life on earth?

I have yet to meet a “green activist” who grasps the seriousness of what ALCOA and others are doing in perfect compliance with carbon-trading (the palliative that governments have ingeniously thrown at green activists). Even more distracted are Icelanders, who, with even more profound innocence, are concerned about the loss of beautiful vistas; not about the destruction of space-ship earth.

Check it out:

Green Plants

090329tgt_dsc0072sAlmost everyone knows that animals breath in oxygen and breath out carbon dioxide, and the reverse is true of plants. That makes it sound as though the plants actually need us in order to breath. They don’t, because they can also “breath out” carbon dioxide as they do the work of staying alive; but we need them because we need oxygen. Before there were plants on earth the atmosphere did not have oxygen. Also because we need to get rid of the extra carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The trick to all of life is balance, and this is one example of how the ecosystem keeps its balance so it can stay alive.

A while ago, talking about energy, I said there is high-level energy and low-level energy (and stages between) and that energy can go from high to low. However, it can not go from low to high level. Light is high energy, chemical energy is medium energy and heat is low energy. The genius of plants is that they can take high level energy (light from the sun) and use it to do the work of making medium level chemical energy (food). And then they can use the chemical energy (food) to do the work of staying alive.

I’ll say that again. The plant takes the energy of sunlight and uses it to make the major molecules of life. You may have heard on Star Trek (or was that before your time?) that carbon compounds are indicators of life. They don’t make themselves. The plant makes them, using energy from the sun. Even though every kind of cell is different, all cells are made up of carbon compounds: carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, DNA and other things. Carbohydrates are sugars and also the wood and cellulose the tree is made of. Lipids are fats. Proteins and DNA everyone has heard about on TV. The bottom line is this: the plant uses a source of high energy from the sun to make the molecules of life. The molecules contain chemical energy. The plant can then use the molecules and the chemical energy to do the work of keeping its cells alive.

carbondioxidelfAnd then of course, we do the same. We eat the plant and use the molecules to build our cells and the chemical energy to do the work of keeping our own cells alive. Animals can not live unless they have plants or other animals to eat because we can not use the energy of light to make carbon compounds. This will not be a surprise to you. The more interesting part is what happens to the chemical energy that the plants have stored in their tissues.

The first possibility is that the plant might die and become fossilized and turned into oil or coal or natural gas. Imagine how many plants and animals were fossilized millions of years ago. Now we mine the oil or coal or gas, because they are carbon compounds that are a rich source of the chemical energy the plants have captured from the sun, and they burn. We burn these to do the work of driving the car, heating the house, burning the light bulbs and running the factories.

Burning is the process of releasing the energy from a carbon compound. Oxygen is required for burning; that’s why we breath it in. Oxygen + carbon compound releases energy and carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is a waste product of burning. That’s why we (and the car) must get rid of it.

In the car, this burn is controlled and the energy that is released is used to do the work of firing the pistons.

In our bodies, in every cell, the burn is controlled and the energy that is released is used to do the work of sustaining our lives.

And all this energy comes from plants and only from plants because the only kind of energy we can use in our bodies is chemical energy.

If we use up all the oil and gas and coal that were made millions of years ago, we could of course burn wood. In very poor parts of the world people are forced to burn up all the trees — to use them for the same things that we use coal and oil and gas. In other poor parts of the world people are cutting down the forests, just as we cut down vast portions of the North American forests, to plant food for cows to eat. Or for us to eat. If we keep doing this, we will run out of trees to burn. We will run out of oil and coal and gas in any case. Sooner than later.

Before that time comes, many people believe we should try to find some way to use the energy from the sun directly, bypassing the green plant. We could MAKE food, but it would require more energy to make it than we would get back. And where would we get the energy? So that is not practical. We need to find a source of chemical energy that we can not cut down, burn up or use up. So that’s the fuss about sustainable energy.

090331_dsc0106sAnd converting light energy to chemical energy is not the only thing plants do for us. Remember where we started. Plants also “breathe in” carbon dioxide. That’s how they make carbon compounds in the first place. Plants can do the reverse process of burning. They use the energy of the sun to make carbon compounds. They take the carbon right out of the air, where it is cycling around and around through the ecosystem. They use light energy from the sun to make the big carbon compounds from the little carbon dioxide molecule (and other molecules that are also cycling around the ecosystem). At the same time the plant converts high-energy light from the sun into chemical energy that is stored in the large carbon compounds the plant is making. The problem here is that the carbon cycles around the ecosystem and has to be got rid of from atmosphere. The other problem is that ENERGY does not cycle around the ecosystem. It comes in as high energy. We use it to stay alive. Poof it is gone away in the form of heat and we can not make more chemical energy.

So we are back full circle. The people (and the cars and factories and power plants and all that) are eating the carbon compounds and using up the chemical energy that is stored in them — and at the same time we are breathing out carbon dioxide because it is a poison to us. The plants breath in the carbon dioxide and breath out oxygen that we require to burn the carbon compounds in our bodies.

Carbon dioxide is released into the air from all the burning in machines and in our own bodies, and carbon dioxide is a waste product that causes global warming.

What will happen as we continue to destroy the trees and other plants and burn them up in our machines and in our bodies? The more machines and the more people, the more carbon dioxide. The fewer trees and other plants — also the more carbon dioxide. And less oxygen and less energy available in the form of chemical energy. Energy is all around us, yes, but the energy of life is chemical energy.

So that’s what people worry about, and it is completely logical that we should worry. This exchange system between plants and animals has created our ecosystem. It is based in natural laws of physics and biology that can not change. Therefore, if we want human kind to survive, we need to understand the natural laws that keep us alive — and behave accordingly.

The point is not to rush out and get more excited than the media over who is wearing what color this year (green is good). The point is, as T.D.Jakes has said: “You can not change what you do not confront.” Of course he is right, but “Confront?” Why do we always think we have to fight with each other and with life? Life is about balance; without balance there is no life. Our success will come when we stop confronting each other about things that none of us can control, and begin the discussion. The point is to talk about it.

Among all the millions of people on earth, I think if we start to talk together -here is an example – about our problems we might actually come up with solutions that work within the natural laws of the ecosystem, and I think that’s better than waiting around for Exxon or Fox News to save us from them.  I think that would be a long wait.

Do you know of any other examples, in addition to simple-green-frugal, the link above here, of people talking together about down-to-earth factual biological reality?

09021520sunrise_dsc8918sOf course we all know that all these biological problems are related to each other, just as every element of the ecosystem is related to every other in a network of interacting systems.  One of my goals is to connect the dots.  Yes indeed the understanding of evolution is important to the understanding of energy, gobal warming, and the importance of green plants.  ASAP I have some things to say about green plants, if I can cut myself free of this political game playing.

To Be Prepared

So now I see we are all in an uproar about global warming again, trying to pretend that politicians yelling at each other can change the way the ecosystem functions. (Dot Earth, BBC, BBC) But does anybody come right out and tell us how the ecosystem functions? Of course not, because it’s quite too complicated to describe in five paragraphs, and besides nobody knows all about it and we won’t until after it finishes happening. But by that time we will have lost the power to respond to the situation, and we could be talking about the basic laws of nature and life on earth that we do understand.

So what is this problem once referred to as global warming and now renamed climate change? Not surprisingly, the problem relates to energy, so it is probably best to begin with energy. One reason we worry about energy is that burning fuel to get energy causes global warming; the other is that we are worried about running out of energy. Today I have some comments about the latter. Why are some people so upset about energy shortage, while others tell us not to worry about it?

Logically, it seems like we could never run out of energy. We look around and it’s obvious to everyone, even scientists, that the universe is full of energy. The sun is almost pure energy. Radio waves are flying around, atoms are exploding, children are running and screaming, birds are flying, the heat of the day is warming the ground and the scientists are talking about kinds of energy nobody can see. There is energy everywhere. So what is all the fuss about?

The bottom line answer is that there is only one kind of energy that keeps the earth ecosystem alive, and that is chemical energy. The energy of food. When we use it, we can’t use it again. We must go back and get more from the only one source, and that is plants.

Here is how it works, according to the “laws of nature.” The “laws of nature” obviously are not “laws” that people made — people did not make nature. My guess is that God did, but however it got made — we describe the way it functions as the “laws of nature.” If it were not for the characteristics we describe as laws,  it would not function.

Energy is the ability to do work; that is it’s definition. Work, basically, is when anything moves or changes. One of the energy laws is this: Energy can change from one form to another form — from a higher (more energetic) form to a lower form, and it does this when it is used to do work. However, energy can not change back to a higher form. One example of this is — if you burn something you can use some of the chemical energy of burning to do the work of running your car or making your muscles work, or anything that happens in the living world. But at the end the chemical energy changes to heat energy that you can’t use again for more burning.

The energy of life is chemical energy. Our food provides all the vitamins and minerals that people are always talking about, but more important than that, our food provides the chemical energy that makes everything in our bodies do the work of staying alive. Lungs breath, legs move, brain thinks. All of that is “work” and so it needs energy, and chemical energy is the energy of life.

We can’t use a lower form of energy, like heat, to make a higher form, like chemical energy because the process uses up more energy than what we get back, and we end up with less than we started with. We also can not use higher forms of energy, such as light energy, for food, because our living bodies require chemical energy for food.  But Plants can change light energy into chemical energy, and that is the reason ecosystems are alive.  Plants change light energy into chemical energy and then use the chemical energy to do the work of living — technically the plant “burns” the chemical energy to do the work of living, and at the same time it stores energy in it’s plant body in the form of chemical energy – that is the energy bonds of molecules.  And then we can eat the plant and use the chemical energy to do the processes of our living. Or we can cut it down and burn it up to make heat with our fires. Or we can take fossil plants and animals (coal and oil) that are very high quality purified chemical energy and burn them to run our cars and factories.

But the bottom line fact is that we will run out of coal and oil, because it takes a few million years to make fossils. We can use green living plants to make biofuels. But those green living plants are our food. The more people we grow the more we need our corn for eating.

So what is the energy problem? The real core of the problem is that the energy for us to live requires plants — and we are now using up the plants faster than they can grow. (I’m not giving statistics here, but this is not an opinion – it is a measurable fact that can be confirmed.)

And so why do some people say we should prepare for the future and other people tell us not to worry about it? Because some people think it would be better to face facts, and other people imagine how much money they will make as the coal and oil become more and more scarce and people begin to panic.  The power of being prepared for the future argues with the power of being rich now.

Let’s Avoid Learning from our Mistakes

A mistake on Twitter (see last post) is an unpleasant lesson for one person — or a possibly amusing lesson for however many people read the story.  We all learn by making mistakes; it’s the normal human way of doing things, but of course some mistakes are worse than others.  Climate change, for example, is not something we want to learn by doing.  Much better it would be to know how the climate works — and use that information to help us make the smallest possible mistakes that will cause harm to the least number of people.  Science can help with that sort of question when it involves factual data.

Science is the study of facts, using the scientific method.  We do know a great deal about how things work.  But it seems to take at least ten years of science “knowing” before the problem becomes so obvious that ordinary people (by that I mean politicians) are willing to believe it.  I’m thinking of AIDS, and I’m thinking of Climate Change. Human kind can not control the facts of physics or biology, but human science can learn to understand these facts. After the ten years of doubt, more or less, at some point AIDS or Climate Change become accepted, and then everyone jumps on the bandwagon, and then we get technology, which is not science

We like technology better than science, because we CAN control technology, but considering the numbers of mistakes humans make we should perhaps be more careful about what we decide to do with our technology. Technology uses the information from science to make things.  In our generations, primarily technology is a physical machine that is used by the corporate machine to make money.

And that’s why it’s sometimes difficult to understand the real facts about how things work.  The corporate and political machines know that our knowledge is our power, and so they like to keep the real facts to themselves. The hype from the corporate and political con-machines changes with the times, but the facts do not.

But here I’m getting on my soap box again, the bottom line is:  The facts of biology are not too difficult to understand — not easy, but not too difficult — and once we do understand, we can evaluate all the false claims for ourselves.  When it comes to problems like climate change, it’s very much better to learn how biology really functions —  from a text book written by real scientists than it is to find out — OOOPS, we shouldn’t have done THAT.090316_dsc9642ss