Joules and the Knowledge Economy
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Blog by Dave McArthur 28 December 2009
City of Babel. Rarely has that old fable had so much resonance.
They came from all corners of the Earth and made much babel and then
dispersed, even more confounded in their differences.
The old fable
expresses astonishing truths when I think about it. European societies
developed great armouries, went forth and claimed dominion of the other
peoples of the world and their lands. They devised ever more ingenious
ways to mine the minerals of The Earth and to build mighty machines. By
the sixteenth century rich families of Europe were building large greenhouses
as symbols of their power. To be able grow tropical plants and serve
manor-grown tropical fruit in the cold European climate was a sign of
their prestige and might.
In 1861 a huge
greenhouse was built in Britain, the famed Crystal Palace, to house a
great exhibition of machinery and weapons to celebrate “Great
Britain’s” dominion over the lands, seas and peoples of Earth.
There were those
at the time of The
Great Exhibition who sermonised that dominion involved
stewardship and warned of the dangers of interpreting dominion as being
the all-powerful right to plunder Earth’s resources regardless of the
impacts. They were faint voices amidst the celebrations of British might
and power in the great greenhouse.
And the symbol of
the greenhouse grew in European’s minds till it encompassed even the
airs of the Earth. It was the perfect symbol of the Industrial
Revolution, for it enabled Europeans to believe they could mine the
atmosphere with complete impunity, immune from the consequences.
“greenhouse” symbol of Earth gained even greater strength in the 20th
Century and around the world children grew up learning that the Earth is
a planet that resides in a man-made structure, a place beyond seasons
and climate, a place where humans can engineer and control the movements
of the airs and waters at their will. They thus grew up associating
Earth’s atmosphere with calm and order, insulated from the erratic
variegations of the universe. This unreal image with all its
accompanying emotions was evoked daily in class lessons throughout our
school system, in all media and even by eminent climatologists as they
spoke of greenhouse gases, greenhouse effects, greenhouse world etc.
Such was their abuse of our carbon potential in their daily lives that
even those climate experts who talked of the organic dynamism of our
atmosphere clung to the greenhouse symbol of its nature. They denied the
change they spoke of…
In the 21st
century the green house symbol is our modern building of babel. For two
weeks Copenhagen is the site where it is most manifest.
Variations on the
old fables of Babylon suggest that humans came to believe they were
beyond the laws of the universe and built mighty structures to prove it.
Each fable also tells human were punished, being afflicted with a great
variety of tongues so they lived in confusion with each other.
As those who
follow my columns know I have now spent tens of thousands of unpaid
hours studying the symbols we use to convey the nature of energy in
general and of our climate in particular. I have concluded our
communication of climate issues lacks science and indeed evidences major
psychopathy and psychosis or as I tend to put it – our use of symbols
evidences major denial of change/stewardship. This is news no one wants
to hear in a country like New Zealand. Hence the complete lack of
funding for work such as this.
I operate on the
premise that the Conservation Principle of Energy is as near as we have
to a natural law and we ignore it at our peril. It describes the truest
reality and contains great wisdoms, such as that energy is so bounteous
it can be considered a constant and that it continually transforms in
Our use of the greenhouse
image is in direct denial of this great Principle, as are our popular
uses of other primes symbols such as energy, power, warming, cooling,
science, love, change etc. This gross denial reflects our belief
that we are beyond the laws of the universe.
The discourse at
Copenhagen was framed by the rich and powerful, especially
Anglo-American Europeans. This discourse necessarily reflects our excess
greed and arrogance, our lack of compassion and thus lack of science and
our great denial of our roles as stewards amidst change. We deny the
Conservation Principle of Energy on scale and our consequence dissonance
was reflected in the utter confusion and discord at Copenhagen.
The hoards of
“green movement” members who destroyed millions of barrels of
precious mineral oil and flooded our skies with polluting jets in their
frenzy to care for the atmospheric balances that sustain us now wring
their hands and denounce Copenhagen as a failure. They fail to
understand that the confusion and babel they have experienced is very
much of their own making.
I know this may
seem an extreme and cruel suggestion. Words fail to express the
compassion and affinity I feel for all these very well-intentioned
people. Personally I do not welcome this insight either. It is just that
my psychoanalysis of the Green Movement using the Sustainability
Principle of Energy strongly supports this conclusion. It indicates the
Green Movement is at the forefront in promoting in language that denies
and confuses the nature of energy and climate processes in our schools
There are a few
simple and challenging explanations for this unhelpful behaviour. In
So the babel and
confusion of Copenhagen is exactly what we “greenies” voted for.
Perhaps now as we seek to make sense of the experience we will find
strength to ask if and how we may have contributed to the mayhem.
Who knows what
good comes from bad and vice versa. Personally I am writing this with a
vast sense of relief. All my research suggests Carbon Trading is the
purest manifestation of the psychopathy and psychosis that exists in us
all to some degree. I have been observing all these well-intentioned
climate educators racing around the world ringing alarm bells about the
negative impacts of human activity on the climate (except much of the
time they blame our climate and the thermodynamics of the universe). I
have also observed the ease with which psychopathic corporations, such
as commodity traders and the producers of Bulk-generated electrical
products, are able to manipulate these climate educators.
I have been
predicting for some years now that if New Zealand’s Emissions Trading
Scheme is adopted universally at Copenhagen then it will enable a global
abuse of our carbon potential that will make catastrophic global war
almost inevitable within five years. As mentioned I have a considerable
affinity with “green folk” and it has not been easy to face the
reality that we as a group are acting as storm troopers for this war.
I believe history
will show that the fact that this Carbon Trading regime was not imposed
universally at Copenhagen has reduced the risk of such a horrific event.
Sufficient countries still retain sufficient sovereignty and control of
their wealth that they have the means to make sane uses of our carbon
potential. The psychopathic Carbon Traders have not prevailed as they
could easily have.
Looking back I
can see how I will tend to define 2009 as my Copenhagen year. Instead of
reflecting on how we can better communicate with science the wonder and
awe of climate processes I have been distracted by my concern that the
Carbon Traders would dominate at Copenhagen, thus resulting in even
greater pollution and depletion of our carbon potential. Perhaps this
distraction also makes me complicit in the grand denial of
change/stewardship? Whatever, it has been a year of letters, submissions
and other activities expressing that concern.
This year has
been made interesting by the fact I learned I have gone a little blind
– an important optic nerve controlling my right eye has died and thus
I experience some diplopia or double vision. More importantly I
discovered that as I seek to compensate for this I maintain harmful body
postures. Thus I determined to move from writing to making videos and
audios. I have few skills and did a most stupid thing – I bought a
Hewlett Packard laptop equipped with Microsoft movie making product.
Talk about working with demons!
multiply aggravating handicaps I somehow succeeded in producing the
first four in a series of short videos of my work (Do a search on
Youtube on mcarthurthedave). If you do then please be tolerant and
understand the narrative device kept breaking down every few seconds.
I hoped this would provide negotiators and observers at
Copenhagen with the science required to avoid the babel and speak with a
common voice and provide a sustaining vision of how we can conserve the
resources of this amazing planet. It was not to be.
tried to post the Youtube link to this video on EElist, a national
Internet forum for New Zealand Environmental Educators. They banned it
and it was only after I stripped the background commentary off the
posting that the link was published. Only a couple of our educators
watched it. This far only 43 people in the world have watched it. I
guess this is understandable because the Sustainability Principle
challenges the fundamental framework of our national education
curriculum and the lifestyles of our Environmental Educators. Also it is
possible that Google-Youtube blocks the broadcast of the video to many
approaching I made and posted a video called The
Carbon Trader Disease. I am a very poor speaker at the best
of times, Windows Movie Maker is the demon I described and so I decided
to use only a music soundtrack. Carbon Trading (mineral oil in
particular) was a prime driver of the ghastly wars of last century and
so I used snippets of Henryk
Gorecki’s Sorrowful Songs as I discussed the terrible
pathology of Carbon Trader disease.
I posted this
video late at night and to my surprise next morning I found over twenty
people had viewed it as I slept, even though I had not posted links to
it. They must have been the faceless Google-Youtube panel that decided
to rip the audio off the video. I wrote asking what was the problem, who
had complained and how to amend the problem but no one replied. My
initial response was a momentary flash of anger that the greed-driven
Music Traders should gut this music – this music, born of millennia of
love and the search for truth and a celebration of shared meaning.
Then I realised
the silence they have created is the perfect manifestation of the evils
of the Corporate Traders’ ethos. It speaks eloquent volumes of their
miserable, mean, loveless spirits. The video captures the essence of
modern history and the miserable hopeless world of the Corporate
Trading ethos messes with even the nicest of people. The same week
EElist refused to publish my posting a local community organised the 350
Aotearoa movement to give a show. 350 consistently refuses to condemn
Carbon Trading and my concern that it thus is little more than an agent
for the Carbon Trader psychopaths is well known. The organisers found it
convenient to ensure I did not learn of the show, though I would have
attended only as a silent, interested observer.
All I knew is I
sensed something deeply unpleasant was occurring. People shuffled by and
my smile was met with looks of distress, shame and embarrassment. Soon
after the show I learned the cause. Yes. Denial and deceit is always
most stressful for good people who feel profoundly compromised by it.
Also the same
week I went into Wellington to buy a $500 credit card to pay my deposit
for the biannual New Zealand Environmental Educators conference to be
held in January 2010. This is a big expense for me – two or three
weeks of take home pay plus a week’s holiday leave. As I was going
into the bank two Greenpeace campaigners approached me and asked what
did I know about Greenpeace? I
replied I knew a great deal after studying it for ten years. They asked
my opinion of Greenpeace and I said “Well it contains many very well
meaning people…. who do not seem able to listen”. They assured me
they would listen and so I gave them a quick critique of the Greenpeace
Clean Energy website. I then pointed out Greenpeace also supported
Carbon Trading and began to explain its Enronian origins. Their eyes
began to glaze, one slipped away, a moment later the other most
conveniently received an urgent text and excused herself too.
I might not be
into texting but I do know how it can be used. A billion little denials
and deceits like this and we have the babel and psychopathy, which is
I bought that
credit card but did not use it. This string of little incidents made me
aware of my great inability after a decade of trying to communicate to
and through our Green Movement and teachers. Of course my message that
the Movement is its own worst enemy is not a welcome one. A new approach
is needed and I determined to stay home this summer, maybe have a play
in the local school forestation project and just open myself up to the
universe and see what new doors might open for me. Long ago I learned
that when I hit a brick wall then it is best that I stop and ask the
greater wisdom of our cells and the stars what I am best to do. Almost
always the brick wall dissolves into a new and unimagined opportunity.
I certainly did
not imagine an email from Bryan Crump of Radio New Zealand National
inviting me to come on his programme. I fire notes off to all manner of
public commentators on all manner of issues all the time. Bryan asked if
I would be “interested in dropping into the studio for a chat (on air)
about the control of energy, the ETS and the demise of the power boards
I should explain
for the benefit of younger generations and recent immigrants, all of New
Zealand communities used to own their local electrical grids and its
intelligence. This became illegal in 1998 and communities were forced to
divest these resources. I worked for two decades for these “power
boards” and my life became a nightmare under the new banker owners.
For some years, till our family broke up and our home was sold, I was
under constant threat of them being raped, “trashed” and worse if I
spoke out about the new regime; my work records were binned to discredit
me and our family was threatened with legal annihilation and I lost my
career and income. Was I ready to risk reliving that trauma on national
public radio? I begged of Bryan a couple of nights sleep to consider the
I can be
painfully inarticulate in public. At College I was unique in my classes
in that for four years in a row different English teachers interrupted
my stumbling attempts to read out lines of poetry and plays and got the
next reader to take over from me to relieve the universal embarrassment.
My system can go into shock in the public gaze. All this is OK as it
enabled me to perhaps sit back, observe and reflect more deeply than
others. Could I face one of my worst demons? That weekend after the
invite I had to give a speech at my sister’s wedding. I found nothing
had changed in fifty years – within a minute I had reduced the lively
gathering to an excruciating torpor. Even the floorboards were yawning.
My decision was
made even more difficult. About that time I listened to an interview
with Kim Hill, another host on Radio NZ National. Kim can generate
amazing, empathy filled and insightful discussions. However in this
interview an American architect dared to question the media orthodoxy
that on 9/11 airliners collapsed the New York buildings in such neat
fashion. The idea that US agents may have been complicit in the
destruction was beyond her capacity to imagine and she systematically
demolished the hapless guest. I know I also ask inconvenient questions
and could see how she could easily leave me looking like a gibbering
I was shocked by
this interview not only because I am passionate about public radio. I am
also very aware there are many other quiet, shy New Zealanders who have
wonderful if radical ideas and insights we can all benefit from. I
wondered how many of them decided, as I did, that they would never risk
going on our national public radio.
And now I was
being invited to risk so much too. I did not mind if I made a fool of
myself for I knew it would be easy to disappear again into the obscurity
I so enjoy. What concerned me was that somehow in the process this might
consign the wonderful ideas in the Sustainability Principle of Energy to
obscurity too - just when humanity so desperately needs such insights.
later and a lovely note arrived from Robyn the producer of Nights asking
if I had considered Bryan’s request, this time expressly stating an
interest in discussing the Sustainability Principle of Energy. The babel,
which is Copenhagen, is by now an inane roar in the media. Maybe the
time for the Principle has come?
Bryan has been my
intimate companion for many years now and lives inside my head. I am a
school cleaner and while I vacuum classrooms and clean S bends of
toilets into the night I listen to Nights on headphones so his
conversations occur in the centre of my skull. I admire him because he
is prepared to explore exotic ideas and interview inarticulate folk like
me even if he risks a major failure of an interview. I know the
Sustainability Principle will challenge him to his core and yet remain
mindful it was his wonderful discussions with Ann Kerwin on philosophy
that freed my mind up to contemplate the unthinkable as I scrubbed
away…could it be? … what if? …might there be a pattern to this
behaviour… what is it to be a human?…what is science? …what is the
essence of communication…what roles do symbols play in our lives?
Suddenly it seems
very logical to attempt to introduce the Sustainability Principle to New
Zealand on the programme that has introduced me to the greatest known
philosophers. Before I know it I have agreed to an interview. I have no
idea how interview are conducted. I write a tentative framework of the
seven or so key ideas underpinning the Sustainability Principle and post
meticulous and caring, just as I had imagined from his interviews. Two
days before the interview he rings to chat the content over. It is easy
to become bogged down in the semantics of individual symbols and I
suggest it is helpful to discuss the general principle governing our
popular use of a range of our prime symbols so people might catch a
glimpse of common driver of our choice.
concerned I will lose people talking about symbols and I make a mental
note not to be surprised if we do not actually get to talk much about
the Sustainability Principle. Long ago I learned that it does not matter
if a person thinks other people cannot understand an idea or if they
personally don’t really wish to discuss it- either way the discussion
does not tend to go there.
I jot down the
list of questions he proposes and write out detailed responses so I am
clear what I want to say. As Richard Feynman says in his fine address on
cargo cults, “May I also give you one last
piece of advice: Never say you will give a talk unless you know clearly
what you are going to talk about and more or less what you want to
I am pleasantly
surprised how the response flows. Bryan seems to have triggered a
relatively coherent flow in me and I begin to feel safe in his hands. I
have already warned them of my shyness and lousy memory and how they
will have to work hard to extract ideas out of me. I fire off the
proposed response and give way to trust.
producer, meets me in the foyer and guides me up to the studios. I know
the building well from my meter reader days but the studios are new to
me. Entering them is like entering the holy of holies for me. This is
the home of New Zealand public broadcasting, one of my great passions.
In the 1990s its existence was under a threat and I was invited to be
part of a panel discussing what National Radio meant to me. I raved how
it was my university, a vital thread sustaining my intellect and spirit
in my long days of labouring. I felt I was speaking out for the many
thousands of National Radio listeners I had encountered on my meter
rounds washing the dishes, caring for children, tending the garden,
working the factory lathe, building a house, mending a car, seated too
old, blind or infirm to move or lying in bed unable to sleep... for so
many of us public broadcasting is a vital source of sustenance and
I am aware of
Robyn telling me they run a relaxed ship. That’s good. I am in work
shorts and shirt, having just come from a couple of hours of heaving and
stacking larger classroom furniture clear so the school is ready for the
industrial carpet cleaners due first thing the next day. Bryan is as
nice as he sounds on the radio and much nicer than his photo on the
Radio New Zealand website. I feel respected in turn, which is an unusual
feeling as generally when I discuss the Sustainability Principle it is
with groups who are severely challenged by the ideas, if not plain
dismissive of me. Here I am treated as interested and interesting.
I stare at the
pages of questions that Robyn gives me. She realises I am having trouble
reading them and in most kind way offers to read them to me. I decline
her offer. I am an extremely slow learner and to hear what looks to be a
rather different set of questions will tend to confuse me at this stage.
I remind myself I know more about the Sustainability Principle than any
one else in the world. I will just trust from now on, though I do beg
Robyn to allow me to take my notes into the studio as my “Linus
blanket”. They remain that and the dynamic of the interview is that I
hardly refer to them.
It is easy to be
overwhelmed. Robyn leads me into the studio control room and points to
windows into neighbouring studios. Next door the Morning Report team is
huddled discussing some matter and beyond them in another studio Warwick
Burke is reading the 7pm news. People skilled at diction, highly
articulate and able to think “on air”, surround me. I have a
flashback to my English teacher, tiring of my fumbling articulation,
telling me to stand up and spell this word “sudof um” that I
constantly punctuate my responses with. S.U.D.O.F I intoned, much to the
merriment of the class. Only much later did I realise that that the
words I sought is actually spelled “sort of”. Such can be the nature
The news ends and
two songs are played. I complement Robyn on their choice of music and
say how wonderful it is they continually play music I have never heard
– it was my dream for National Radio. On that panel in the 1990s I
begged for the broadcast of WOMAD music, of New Zealand music, of
different music. I begged that we learn of the cultures the music comes
from and to hear the stories of the composers and performers. I tell
Robyn my dream came true – everything I asked for came to be.
I also called on
that panel for programmes on what I then called “science”, articles
on new discoveries and these came to be also. Tonight I will be sudof
part of the dream myself if we do get to discuss the Sustainability
Principle of Energy.
interview I return to the control room. The engineer congratulates me on
the interview and I say with some amazement that I have no idea how it
went - I cannot recall a single thing I said! It is an amazing
psychological phenomenon. I can only recall what I did not say. I am
truly fascinated by this. I hear only my agenda. Bryan, another human
being, has his agenda. These two agendas are laid over each other and it
is not what we had in common that remains in my consciousness but rather
what was not in the interview. What does that teach us?
I recall that we
did not discuss the Sustainability Principle of Energy. I recall I did
not explain with compassion how the Green Movement is its own worst
recollection is etched in my awareness:
It is a brilliant
question and as I gaze on his countenance I become aware that it is lit
up, on fire with intense concentration and interest. It is the face of
an artist at work, only this time it is not some object the artist is
attempting to reflect on the canvas. Rather it is I that is the object
of the intense focus of the artist as he attempts to capture my truths
and reflect them onto the airwaves.
I don’t recall
what I replied to his question. I am aware I did not say, “ Well, it
is little wonder we remain oblivious of our solar potential because we
have no symbols of it. Look at New Zealand’s legislation. We have had
Ministers of Telegraph and Electricity, of Mines, of Minerals for a
century till about 1977 when we decided these are really energy and thus
we have had since Ministers of Energy, or what our media love to call
“Energy Ministers”. We have never had a Minister for the
Conservation of our Solar Resources. We mope around staring at the
ground in an obsessive way, never lifting our eyes to the heavens and
this is reflected in all our legislation. The Wellington City Council
was very happy when the owners of the house next door increased the
rateable value of their home by building a second story on it. Our media
and politicians were ecstatic too as it destroyed my cottage’s solar
potential. The economy was seen to thrive and grow, tax revenue grew too
as I can no longer use free sunlight to keep warm and must buy products
of the national grid generated by burning coal and mineral gas … as
always it stems back to a lack of democracy. 2000 years ago it was
considered plain barbaric to build out your neighbours sun and it was
illegal under 6th Century Justinian code... as always the
answer is …what we need is more democracy…”
A week later when
I started writing this blog reflecting on the experience I had to listen
to the interview. Friends have already told me I sounded nervous.
Passers-by observing the local school caretaker spraying the weeds in
the safety matting must have wondered if I was intoxicated as I kept
getting the giggles listening to it on my Ipod. They are not to know why
I giggled. They never knew my spider.
window faces direct over the Cook Strait. It’s an ancient casement
window and even when shut the southerly gales pass through unhindered.
Last year a spider set its web up across the opening and in many ways it
is a good spot for insects are attracted to the bathroom light. It is
also an exercise in fanatical hope and determination and a display of
ingenious technology. I don’t know how the web stays so intact when it
is subject to 150 kph southerly blasts. As I shave and wash my hands etc
I gaze on that spider clinging to the web, being vibrated like crazy in
the gale force winds. The spider was for at least a year and became
great source of entertainment, wonder and laughter for me. A true Don
Anyrate I saw the
tremor in my voice in that spider vibrating amidst the tempest. I may
not have appeared as a tempest to Bryan but I can imagine that at times
he must have felt he was attempting to extract information about an
object viewed through a shimmering mirage. The listener will never know
his challenge and the interview is a testament to the dedication, care
and skill of the Night’s team as broadcasters. I came away strangely
empowered. I have never broadcast my own voice on my radio station and
now suddenly I feel able to.
That is some
testimony! That powerful of image of Bryan radiating interest and
concentration persists with me. The photos of its radio hosts on the
Radio NZ website completely fail to capture the spirit of these
craftspeople. The photos should be replaced by shots of these people
when they are most fully alive and engaged in action as artists of the
airwaves. Then Radio NZ web-pages will radiate intelligence and interest
and do these people justice.
Probably by the
time you read this Radio NZ will have buried the
interview in their vaults – but for the Christmas delay it
would now be gone. Part of me is happy – who wants your first fumbling
experiment with national public radio to be open to continuing scrutiny.
Another wiser part of me says this is unsustainable. All material should
be circulated as freely as possible, for that begets the precious state
of science in our communities. The barbarians who run Radio New Zealand
fail to comprehend this. Thus they prevent this interview, like many
other far more inspirational and educational interviews, from being
sustained on my computers for broadcast over the Internet or over the
local airwaves. Such is the lack of democracy in New Zealand.
And thus much of
the meaning in this blog is also destroyed.
The cartoon panel
that accompanies this blog is pure serendipity. Several years ago I drew
it after our leading educators and “energy experts” challenged me to
show that it was possible to communicate the dynamics of our atmospheric
system without resorting to the “greenhouse” metaphor. The cartoon
captures our debate, with Junk Joules defending their “greenhouse”
symbolisation of Earth.
Copenhagen convention is a great tipping point? It is clear to many now
it is a modern Babylon, a city of many tongues and great confusion.
Perhaps we can see the babel for what it is, step outside the
“greenhouse image”, sense the real air with all our beings and enjoy
greater harmony with the atmospheric balances that sustain us? Perhaps
our insights into the folly of Copenhagen will enable us to conserve the
potential of our prime symbols with enhanced care. Heres hoping.