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Blog by Dave McArthur June 23 2006

Have you ever wondered why we have a Climate Change Office? I can understand the need for Climate Balance Research Centre or even a Climate Balance Protection Agency. But an office of climate change? It’s as weird as having an Energy Conservation Authority or a Minister of Energy or a Ministry of Existence. Existence is, energy is conserved and climate change happens. Its real! They are all real. As real as real can be.

A few weeks ago I published my hypothesis that various groups of people have a vested interest in creating public confusion, or as I put it then, in deliberately generating cognitive dissonance in the general public. I was not suggesting they do it with overt malicious intent. Rather I suggested that most of them do it because they are experiencing major cognitive dissonance at their primal levels deep in their beings. 

Perhaps the conflict is a product of their inability to reconcile their sensibility of the unsustainable impacts of their activities on the environment with the intense societal pressures to continue those activities. Perhaps it is even deeper than that and reflects our common inability to face the fact that like all other forms of energy we die, disappear, dissolve into the unknown ether. Mortality can be a bit scarey to face at the best of times.

I hope I am making myself clear. When I talk of people deliberately creating confusion I am not condemning them for it. Who knows what heroic efforts they are making to keep meaning in their lives and sustain their fellow human beings? Its just we do have a tendency to develop a sphere of interest and become defensive of it. We back ourselves into all sorts of difficult corners, we box ourselves in, we lose the plot, common sense goes out the window and we start talking non sense. 

That can happen to groups of individuals too and in the worst case we get the psychotic multinational corporations. These are equally a menace to the inmates trapped in them as they are to humanity in general. I recommend the recent movies on this subject: The Corporation and Enron –the Smartest Guys in the Room. 

And as slight aside, I note Bill Gates is stepping aside a little from the repressive monster he created. Maybe he will have now have the opportunity to reflect and recall the exuberant, open-source spirit of joy, democracy, science, excitement, sharing and fun he enjoyed as a teenager when he and others met each week at the Homebrew Computer Club to share with each other the wonderful uses they had discovered they could plug into the then cordless little black box. That little black box has become the personal computer and gateway to the world. Or should I say the limited, mean-minded world of Microsoft et al. 

We are all vulnerable to boxing ourselves in and talking nonsense and that includes organised religions and sectors like the Environmental Education industry. It is possible that those who work in this industry are particularly vulnerable to becoming conduits for nonsense. This is because they may have enhanced sensitivity and knowledge of the impacts of human activities on the “natural” balances that sustain us. I refrain from using the word “environmental” because for me the environment includes all yours and my mindscape with all its symbols and myths as well as our exterior biosphere. 

In general Environmental Educators seem to ignore this vital aspect of our environment and leave this sphere of our mindscape to the unloving attentions of the PR industry. To clarify again, in using the word “natural” I am distinguishing between the bioscape of air, water, soils, minerals and biomass that sustain us and the mindscape of psychology, sociology and ideology in general. 

I suspect their relative inability to explore our mindscape compared to the intense ways they explore our bioscape reflects the extra tension and confusion generated by the disparity between their talk and their walk. And so I often observe the phenomenon where Environmental Educators are more likely to talk nonsense than the average person I meet in the street. Indeed Jo Citizen often tells me that the utterances of the “climate” and “energy” experts don’t make sense and can’t be taken seriously. 

Some Jo Citizens call them “a bunch of bloody hypocrites”, which is perhaps a bit unfair. What they are sensing is the discrepancy between the walk and the talk of the “environmental experts” and a lack of science. What is unfair is the fact that many of the experts are quite tortured by their knowledge of the discrepancy between their walk and their talk. They live anguished lives as a result. Other experts are oblivious to the contradictions between their walk and their talk. These experts cloak themselves with a sense of virtuousness and academic justification for their actions. Either way many Environmental Educators end up preaching nonsense and the result is not good for our children. There is less science and we are all the worse for it.

The problem seems pretty endemic in the Environmental Education industry. Readers who have followed the journey of Bonus Joules in search of the Knowledge economy and the general articles on my website will be aware that almost every Environmental Education resource I have looked at talks nonsense. Which reminds me I should explain to new readers what is going on in the cartoon strip drawn four years ago.

Bonus Joules cannot understand how a human can be the Minister of Energy and wrote to Hon Pete Hodgson asking to meet to explain his position. In the last panel I had researched when such an inane concept became part of New Zealand legislation. Stop! Take a guess. Answer later. In this panel I researched the legislatures of as many countries as I could find on the net in 2002. A clear pattern emerged-there seems to be a strong relationship link between the direct sphere of US influence and Energy Gobbledygook. Science is lost as the sphere of influence spreads. And the answer to my question? No We have not had a Minister of Energy for ever as one might think. The earliest date I found was 1977 in New Zealand.

As mentioned, Energy Gobbledygook is endemic in the Environmental Industry worldwide. Here our NZ Consumer’s Institute with its Power Switch

NZ Consumer’s Institute with its Power Switch completely omits social and environmental factors all together. Only the $$$$ bottom line rates in our Institute’s scheme of things. It’s a classic case of Spin and sponsorship destroying the integrity of an organization, in this case by a Parliament determined to maintain the unsustainable Electricity Reforms.

The WWF Powerswitch is better and attempts to include environmental considerations but like our Consumer’s Institute still insists on generating dissonance by claiming power =Bulk-generated electricity etc. Contact Energy, Meridian Energy, Genesis Energy et al teach the impossible such as airless combustion of coal and hydro lakes that are perpetual motion machines. The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority is pure nonsense and makes things worse, if that is possible, by promoting impossible dreams of stuff called renewable energy and strategies for needless privation.

Equal nonsense is generated by climate experts. The esteemed Potsdam Institute in Germany helped create the Hollywood nonsense The Day after Tomorrow

It was easily predictable that that the recent Victoria University extravaganza The Climate Change and Governance Conference would simply generate more nonsense and it has. We see it in the reactionary establishment of the Climate Science Coalition, the equally reactionary Greenpeace (“Climate Change is Real”), and in the resultant confusing National Radio broadcasts.

And as ever, the Ministry for the Environment and its Climate Change Office are major generators of dissonance.

Its pretty clear to most people that the NZ Climate Change Office has failed in its objectives and it is heartening to hear that it calling for ideas on how it can improve its performance. I have failed to find a way of communicating with the Office for 6 years now and maybe I will continue trying. Maybe I will suggest the Climate Change Office could start by attempting to make sense of the recent Mfe publication gentle footprints BOOTS “N” ALL. 

Take the section titled Climate Change. Think of it from the thoughtful layperson’s position. It begins:

"Its getting hotter." 
(Hmmm – tell that to Canterbury people buried under the snow in with a failed Bulk-gen electricity system in June and over 70 days of winter to go. Tell that to me -it is 7
°C in this room as I write with the South Pole air rushing through the cracks in the floorboards and up my trouser legs. True!)

"Our climate is changing so you’d better get used to it" 
(So, what’s new? It would be more of a worry the day it stopped changing!)

"It is changing because of what we humans do and the gases we put into the atmosphere. We have already put so much gas into the atmosphere the climate will keep changing for a long, long time." 
(Goodness, where did we get all that gas from? I guess it means the atmosphere must be expanding or its pressure building up or something. And wasn’t the climate changing before humans came along?)

"Some of the changes may be good (at least in the short term) and some may be bad. But change is a near certainty."
(So its all bad after the short term if over? And that’s scarey to think that change is only a near certainty. The day there is no change the atmosphere will go phut!) 

….. and the chapter ends with: 

"The bottom line
It seems that the climate is changing and going to keep changing."
(Pheww, that’s a relief. So what was all that huff and scare about?!) 

The whole Climate chapter is nonsense to my mind. It would be so much more helpful if they had said we need to be mindful of the climate balances that sustain us and suggested that it would be helpful to know of the existence of the incredibly powerful Warmer Trace Gases that enable life on Earth as we know it. Do I hear you asking what a trace gas is? Well it’s a concept the Climate Change Office, which lives in a greenhouse, protects you from, perhaps because it will make too much sense.

The Climate Change Office is also founded on a premise that has led to the failure of civilisations without any exception that I know of. It is that humans can trade away the responsibilities for their actions. I guess that is why gentle footprints BOOTS “N” ALL equates the activities of 4 million New Zealanders with 1.5 million Chinese in the article. 

And check out the chapter on electricity. Our use of electricity has a massive impact on environment balances. Indeed, we are now possibly the most complex Electrical Beings that has ever existed on this planet. The recent Electricity Reforms were designed to and have successfully created immense fragmentation and confusion in our use of electricity and destroyed many of our options. In the Post Cheap Oil-Gas Age countries like ours will devastate our environments and provide models that will generate misery and war. There is no mention of this in the chapter on electricity. Indeed the chapter would suggest that our footprint from our electricity use is so gentle that it is invisible – as is the chapter.

The Ministry for the Environment’s retiring chief executive is quoted as saying the book is his farewell gift to New Zealand and I don’t want to seem ungrateful. Nor do I want it to look like I am picking on the Mfe-CCO or Barry Carbon.

Excuse me, I just have to stop a moment for a chortle. I think it dates from my postie days. To relieve the boredom we would spot and share occupational names ie the medical doctors called Doctor Ayling and Dr Well, the gardeners and tree surgeons called Greenway or Greening of Greendale Road, the farmers called Crop and Ramsbottom etc. It seems no coincidence that a Mr Carbon should manage our national carbon trading agency and it perhaps this explains why the CCO mistakenly describes carbon dioxide as the dominant Warmer Trace Gas. Any climate scientist worth their oats can tell you the truth. Water vapour is by far the dominant Warmer Trace Gas. Without it the average temperature of Earth’s surface  would be over 20°C colder ie several degrees below freezing point.

You may recall that in my last blog I was beginning an attempt to alert New Zealand and our Green Party in particular to the risks of Enviroschools. I explained how our Government is sponsoring this environment education resource into our schools on an increased scale. Already it has changed our school structure and there is a good probability it will seriously undermine the science syllabus. On top of that I figure it is the most perfect example of national Greenwash I have struck.

I knew my task was not easy, as the majority of teachers have never had reason to doubt the effectiveness of the resource. It is possible there are others beside myself who have attempted to express serious doubts and concerns about the resource. I do not know. However I do know that the promoters of Enviroschools have assiduously kept any questions about the integrity of the resource from general circulation.  

Anyway my assumptions were correct. It is proving very difficult to suggest the Enviroschools has fatal flaws and to communicate this with compassion. Also I suspect many are not aware of the old adage “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” 

I posted my concerns on an Environmental Educator’s forum and was immediately attacked as self-serving, ignorant, inarticulate (which I freely admit I am) “playing games with the audience”, presumptive, garbled, negative, small minded, lazy etc. I was asked to provide a concise summary of my concerns. This has proved a futile activity in the past and so I made a plea for people to provide their own concise summary of what I had said. I explained this would aid me to assess how well I was communicating my ideas. These are the ideas outlined in my last blog and the two articles Green Party Alert! and Why Climate Scientists Generate Cognitive Dissonance.

I do not find it easy to be subject to the abuse, even if I understand the process by which we assimilate new and radical ideas (dismissiveness >> reaction>> anger/derision>> interest>> acceptance>> status quo “common sense”). Mind you, the abuse is easy to bear compared to the years of abuse and threats I lived through with the Bulk-gen Electricity Industry in New Zealand. During those years I lived with very real threats of having our house “trashed’ and family and raped and worse if I did not keep right out of the industry. In the process I lost my family, our self-built home, my career, my reputation and most else. I guess one thing I learned from this quite devastating experience was that there is still something more to life when all those things we hold so dear are gone. 

I had puzzled how I might introduce the possibility that Enviroschools is fundamentally flawed to these people. The news would be distressing for many. I knew it is vital to keep the debate and vision wide. I figured that maybe if I showed what nonsense is talked generally in the Western culture, the Environmental Education industry folk might not take my comments on Enviroschools too personally. So I assembled a list of the nonsense that our Anglo-American English speaking world persists with and invited the forum members to see if they could identify the common pattern of behaviour driving the nonsense. 

Up till this point I have received not one insight or hypothesis in response. That’s OK. It’s not an easy task. I am just hoping something deep in their souls recognises the common sense behind the list. Similarly I hope the Climate Change Office and EECA explore the list of nonsense  as they perform their current review of their activities. Maybe they will see their own flawed practices reflected in the gross nonsense. Then maybe they can understand why they have failed so badly in meeting their objectives this last decade.

Here’s my list. It was written in a hurry and can easily be refined and added to. However I think there is enough nonsense there to whet your sense of reason as to question why we put up with it at all. I asked if people believe the following common staples of the Environmental Education industry:


cooling = cooling down = cooling


warming =  warming up = warming


global warming = bad= global warming


climate change = anthropomorphic driven changes to our climate 


climate change = bad = climate change


greenhouse = enhanced air/thermal convection


greenhouse =bad = greenhouse


atmosphere=suppressed air/thermal convection=blanket= greenhouse


the dominant greenhouse gas = carbon dioxide


trace gases =                                              !?


energy = energy forms= energy


energy = fuel = energy


fuel = combustion =fuel


energy = Bulk-generated electricity = energy


power = Bulk- generated electricity = power


energy = tradeable activities only = energy


humans can create, destroy and conserve energy



See if you can spot the common human traits driving these weird uses of symbols and work out why we embrace such nonsense.

Don’t be depressed by the insanity of the list. Just know each of us can avoid such nonsense very easily by taking more care with what we say and do. Often the simple addition of words like “up” “down” or “use” and substitution with “resource” “balance” “trace” “love” “care” and “protection” can transform us and open up a whole new wonderful vision of our existence. It just takes a bit of practice and getting used to. Once the practice is imbedded and resonating, common sense looks after things beyond that. It will even become resistant to the continuing onslaught of nonsense generated by the PR industry. The new vision of life is too inspiring.

Some correspondents have suggested they have caught a glimmering of what I am banging on about and this is heartening.

On another forum, the Sustainable Energy Forum, I received news that was most supportive and humbling. I have long argued that there is little science underpinning current communication of the nature of energy and none underpinning the communication of climate issues. I could only argue using my knowledge of the great movements in human history that sustainable change does not come from frightening and confusing people or encouraging them to trade away their responsibilities as our Climate Change Office does. We just end up with our current  ignorant Parliament and a dismissive people.

The news was supportive in that it was a link to recent research. I will just link you to the article and you can read it for yourself. It is an important read for it is a very rare piece of research into climate communication.

You will see that it supports all ideas I am promoting for communicating climate issues, particularly the unhelpfulness of our current use of the ‘greenhouse’  symbol. You will also notice that the ideas I propose are far in advanced of those quoted in the article. For instance, the Frameworks Institute have not yet begun to identify the damage caused by educators when they confuse warming with warming up and try to associate the warming and climate change processes with bad. Nor do they seem to understand how promoting blanket images screws up the general population and the way we build and use our dwellings.

You will also notice I go far beyond suggesting people change their type of light bulbs, for instance, as a means of reducing the risk from unsustainable changes to climate balances. I provide detailed analyses of how our Electricity Reform Legislation destroys efficiency and excludes communities from using their local grids intelligently. I discuss how efficient use of resources reduces risks from a wide range of threats, not just climate events. I look at the pollution of our imagery and suggest simple ways of avoiding it.

This all suggests I am relatively on a more sustainable path, a path that goes in a very different direction to what our Green Party, our Parliament and our Environmental Educators are taking New Zealand. To whet your interest I will suggest this research could lead to the paradigm shift some argue our civilisation needs if it is to survive and I will give a brief quote from the article in Truthout

"Research conducted in the United States as part of the Climate Message Project led by the FrameWorks Institute discovered that some of the ways in which climate change is commonly being reported is actually having a counterproductive effect - by immobilizing people."

What is humbling for me is the link to this article was drawn to my attention by a person emailing me saying

"You were right. Well done.


Understand we had been engaged in a vigorous debate on the Sustainable Energy Forum in which I had argued carbon trading is just a way of rich people rationalising their continued high carbon emissions and siphoning off taxpayers money is carbon credits for technology that were viable anyway because of recent price rises for oil, Gas etc and advances in technology. I based this on experiences watching our Climate Change Office dole out tens of millions of dollars of credits to companies that were calculated on oil being $20US a barrel when it was actually over $US40 a barrel. As someone else pointed out on the forum:

However more important is that the companies subject to the ETS, and especially the electricity generators, have built the carbon price into their prices, thereby recovering the full market value of the credits used, even though they were given the credits free of charge.  The result has been a Europe wide transfer of wealth to the generators on a scale that makes Enron look like small potatoes.  The scale of it does not seem to have hit home yet.

My kind correspondent who congratulated me had strenuously argued with others that carbon trading was working to reduce carbon emissions. Indeed this person works overseas for a regional agency that negotiates carbon trading deals worth $100s millions throughout EurAsia. It was humbling that someone who had such an investment in the concept of trading should write to me so. Indeed when I thanked him for his kindness and said I was not experiencing quite the same science on the teacher’s forum he wrote back

"Don’t doubt for minute that you are on the right track or I will personally come and twist your arm. OK? Keep it up."

So OK, I will continue because already I write with a shoulder blade that has been wrenched off its mount, a shoulder blade dislocated from its socket, a crunched forefinger joint and a crushed thumb from various industrial accidents over the years.

Other related events in New Zealand since my last blog? There was a wet-snow dump on Canterbury over a week ago which collapsed many utility poles and some households still do not have access to Bulk-gen electricity eight days later.

A “D” shackle broke at Otahuhu substation in Auckland, leaving half our largest city“ powerless”. 

And that has been the hysterical refrain of our media this week. We are “powerless”, have “lost power”, had our “power cut”, been “disconnected from power”, “ground to a halt with a power outage”. The Listener’s Jane Clifton even enlightened us: 

“The fact that Aucklanders spurn the term “power cut” in favour of the pretentious “outage” butters them no parsnips with the rest of the country.”

Such is the confusion of our journalists. They have almost universally have been brainwashed into believing power and energy = Bulk-generated electricity! They confuse energy with the forms it takes and, to continue Jane’s horticultural analogy, as they sow, so we reap, they set the furrow and so the seed lies...

Its a bit like someone setting up a fruit shop called Vital Fruit in a town that has never seen a fruit shop and selling lemons only. Large signs proclaim them the freshest fruit in town, the cheapest fruit in the world, the modern fruit and people are offered bonus fruit with each purchase of fruit. The local media make extra profits selling special fruit editions and from billboard headlines screaming Fruit Crisis!! when lemons are in short supply. Soon the townsfolk learn to ask for fruit when they wish to purchase a lemon. And they are sold fruit. 

All this commerce may be perfectly true and honest. Where it gets sad is when it results in the townsfolk never get to learn that there are other types of fruit such as crunchy apples, sweet tangeloes, smooth bananas, juicy grapes etc. and these can provide vitamins when lemons are out of season. And when the fruit shop becomes a corporation and buys up all the local farm lands and replaces existing crops with lemon orchards....

Same goes for power. Anyone with a well insulated home, with solar heated water, a micro wind turbine and an efficient wood pellet burner would not be feeling so powerless. However, as our most recent budget shows, our Parliament would rather give away all our power to the oil merchant bankers and is pouring $NZ10s billions into vastly inefficient motorway systems and other billions into more uncontrolled population growth and wasteful material consumption. I ask our parliamentarians to try this experiment: Try hugging a motorway to keep warm. 

Similarly I woke this morning to hear the announcement that Parliament is going to make huge increases in expenditure on the main electricity grid. That will solve nothing. Its not the national grid wiring that is failing. It’s the wiring in our brains. It’s the unsustainable bioelectric circuits in our heads that breeds such dangerous nonsense as the Electricity Reform Legislation. Investment in still more Bulk-gen electricity puts us all at greater risk than ever and seriously stuffs our kids’ options.

And of course all the nucleartopia bods were out in force.  I cannot say it better than this posting on SEF by Rob Bishop:

"If Auckland had a nuclear power plant supplying its needs, it would just becoming back up to power now, ten days after the wind induced failure at Otahuhu substation.

In the August 2003 US/Canada east coast blackout, it took two weeks for the reactors to come back up to full power - it took three days to get back to5%, because of the mass of fuel, and resulting slow startup. (as described in the Spring 2006 Rocky Mountain Institute newsletter, available at

If Auckland relied on a nuclear generator to solve their appetite for electricity, they would be much more inconvenienced than they were.

RMI calls nuclear plants "the opposite of a peaking plant: guaranteed unavailable when most needed".

Don’t get me started. I will stop and go and read some of my website and refresh myself on some of the major options we would have if our nation was sane and our legislation enabled communities to make intelligent uses of electricity in general and our utility grid in particular. 

I do concur with the general conclusions of the Frameworks Institute. Sure, I fail to see how climate change is a bad thing or why anyone would want to prevent it, as they do.

And judging from the use of the Bulk-gen wind turbine symbol on their home page I suspect the Institute is oblivious to most of the framework that forms our unsustainable culture. A positive thought is that it does look like the Institute may have measured the walk and not just the talk, which makes in an advance on most such studies. Yes, the following conclusions might have some value: 

Applying this approach to communications on climate change in the United States, the FrameWorks Institute drew several conclusions: 

It recommended placing the issue in the context of higher-level values, such as responsibility, stewardship, competence, vision and ingenuity. 

It proposed that action to prevent climate change should be characterised as being about new thinking, new technologies, planning ahead, smartness, forward-thinking, balanced alternatives, efficiency, prudence and caring. 

Conversely, it proposed that opponents of action be charged with the reverse of these values - irresponsibility, old thinking and inefficiency.

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