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        On the Lack of Science in the Communication of Climate Processes 
(Reflections on  George Monbiot's comments. April 2010)


Sustainability Principle of Energy


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From the Sustainability Principle we get:


"The more we accept change the greater the harmony we know. The more we deny change the greater the misery we know."



“To the extent we are Mirror Beings (our brains are laced with mirror neuron systems) and we have an ability to mirror the world around us, we are stewards of our actions – whether we like it or not."    


“Actions speak louder than words because they form symbols that reveal and evoke the vast wordless world within in each of us.”



“Symbols are shared crystallised information and without them there is no civilisation.”



“ If we have no symbol for a form of energy then its potential cannot be manifest."





Link here
 to a list of 
sustainable uses of key symbols - including

energy energy efficiency
global warming

Peak Oil
exponential growth








Yesterday (Friday 9 April 2010) I attended a very interesting lecture by Tim Searchinger on “the consequences of bioenergy for greenhouse gas emissions”. Tim is very concerned that there exists a critical error in how we account for emissions and asked we spread the word. 

It so happens I had been following the debate between Steve Easterbrook and George Monbiot on “climate scientists” this week and so Tim’s lecture dovetailed rather neatly into commentary I was writing. 

** I have amended Steve’s comment a little.

The whole debate between George and Steve is posted here on George's website.

(See initial commentary on Walled In below)

Letter to George and Steve 10 April 2010

Hello George and Steve

Re Steve’s concluding statement:

“We’re f**king this up bigtime, and it’s not the scientists who are at fault.”

This debate between you omits the central fact – climate experts are human beings like the rest of us. They may have considerable expertise about climate processes and this does not necessarily make them any more or less a scientist than the rest of us.  

Climate experts are still equally capable of incredible self-deceit and denial as the rest of us. Thus their communication can equally reflect and generate harmony and dissonance too. The problem is that on balance they currently generate dissonance. There is a psychological explanation for this that I will not delve into here. 

I have asked the world’s top climate experts the following sorts of questions and they consistently responded in confused and non-scientific ways. In other words they evidence considerable dissonance. 

Re u se of “warming” symbol.

Q You equate Global Warming with a change of temperature, a rise in temperature i.e. warming up?
A. Yes.

Q. Then if warming equals warming up i.e. involves temperature change then how do you describe the situation when warming equals cooling and there is no temperature change?
A. I don’t understand your question.
A. I would call that constant temperature.

Q.(unasked to latter response) Why then don’t you talk about changed temperature instead of Global Warming?


Q What scientific evidence is there that your use of the “global warming” symbol works as intended? Is it possible that most people associate it at a primal level with a healthy, life enabling process?
A. That’s your opinion. 
A. I think most people know what I mean.

General comment – Our climate experts tend to destroy the capacity of our young people to understand basic thermodynamics, which is that a continuous thermal interchange occurs and we human beings, for instance, exist for the trace period (c 70-80 years) that our capacity to balance warming and cooling exists. Also they ignore our primal response to symbol uses. 


Re use of “climate change” symbol.

Q. Why do you say climate change is bad and we must combat it? Might not it be good sometimes?
A. I am talking about how humans are damaging the climate balances... human-induced climate change.

Q. Then why don’t you say that?
A. It’s a bit of a mouthful – it’s inconvenient. People know what I am talking about.

Comment – this is a common manifestation of denial of stewardship. The non-human factor is blamed for the human factor i.e. climate use is denied. We see this in the common use of the “energy crisis” symbol rather than the “energy-use crisis” symbol.


Re use of “greenhouse" symbol.

Q. Why do you evoke images of the atmosphere as a greenhouse? What scientific evidence is there that your use of the “greenhouse” symbol works in sustainable ways?
A. There is nothing wrong with the greenhouse term...everyone uses it, including most scientists.
A. I believe in straight-talking...calling a spade a spade.
A. There is no alternative or better analogy.
A. Everyone understands what it means.
A. Everyone has had an experience of a greenhouse or similar situation...sitting in a car with the windows shut etc.
A. It’s a valuable metaphor and I think you are being pedantic to question it.
A. We can’t push the language too far beyond the boundaries of what people understand.


Comment: In 2006 when the Frameworks Institute in the USA finally did surveys of this use of the symbol they concluded it does not work for most people and recommended the use of the “blanket” symbol instead. They provided no evidence supporting this use of the “blanket” symbol and appear to have no cohesive rationale explaining climate communication as I have.


Q. You evoke images of the atmosphere working like a greenhouse. How do you think this affects people’s understanding of how to use insulation wisely?
A. I have never thought of that. I can’t see how it matters anyway.
A. Why would it affect their understanding – I know of no evidence that it does.


Comment: Greenhouse design and use is about the effective suppression of air convection, as is insulation in general. The atmosphere is characterised by a powerful capacity for convection and adding thermal energy to it enhances this capacity. Try making sense of greenhouse-atmosphere/insulation/climate use to our plumbers, electricians, builders and those who make the real decisions.


Re non-use of the “trace gas” symbol

Q.(to NZ’s top climate expert). You say “If only someone could get across to people that when we talk about “greenhouse gases we are really talking about trace gases!!!” Why don’t you talk about trace gases instead of greenhouse gases?
A. None.

Q. (Months later) I followed up your statement about the need to talk about trace gases and followed its possible impact throughout our education system compared to the current prevailing Greenhouse Model. I would like to show Dr Pachauri the work at our planned meeting next week…
A. You just stick to showing him the conventional education resource (Energy Action). You are not to talk to him about your own funny ideas about greenhouse terms..


Q. I am concerned that you appear to endorse Carbon Trading and associate it with stewardship of our carbon potential. My research indicates it’s a psychological mechanism that actively denies and destroys stewardship. Could you clarify your position on Carbon Trading please?
A. Carbon Trading may not be the best approach but at least it is a step in the right direction.
A. Well that is your opinion. Next question from the audience please.


Re use of “energy” symbol

Q. You speak of stuff that you call “renewable energy”/”sustainable energy”. Is not this in denial of the Conservation Principle of Energy, which states energy cannot be created or destroyed?
A. It is a very common and convenient term.
A. I think you are being a bit pedantic there.


Q. You say energy efficiency is about conserving and using less energy. Surely it is about using resources so we conserve the balances and flows that sustain humanity?
A. The fact is we have to conserve energy.


Q. You say energy is power and you say power is electricity, by which you seem really to be talking about Bulk-generated electrical products. How can this be?
A. Everyone knows that power is electricity –it’s common language.
A. Complete silence.


Re Sustainability Principle of Energy (or Conservation Principle of Symbols) 

Q. I have developed a general Principle of Energy, tentatively called the Sustainability Principle of Energy, which may well enable us to transcend our ego and communicate climate issues much more effectively. Are you interested?
A. (Universal response) Complete silence.


Enough examples. These were drawn from a decade of interactions with climate experts. Wellington is the Capital of New Zealand and Victoria University prides itself on being a world class “Climate Change Research Centre”. Thus I have considerable opportunities to attend the lectures of prominent climate experts and analyse their content. I have concluded their communication lacks science and there are simple reasons pertaining to the fallibility of human beings why this is so. Dissonance and denial will prevail until we address these reasons.

Saturday. Since writing the above about the lack of science of our climate experts I attended a lecture by Tim Searchinger here in Wellington yesterday.

His topic: True Consequences of Bioenergy for Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Tim made what may be a profound insight into another major failure of our climate experts. You can read here

" This is the author's version of the work. It is posted here by permission of the AAAS for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Scinece (Vol. 326, October 23, 2009, DOIA: 10, 1126/Science. 1178797) "

If I have Tim right, the current accounting system fails us in that while it accounts for the pollution from chimney stacks and exhaust pipes it fails to account for the alteration of sustaining carbon balances because of changed land use. How could such a critical error in accounting occur? Tim spoke kindly of the UNIPCC when he observed, “Scientists do what scientists do well, which is science. They don’t tend to think of the legal ramifications of their proposals. This is left to lawyers. Lawyers do not know much about climate science and do what lawyers do well – make laws. Climate scientists should perhaps have communicated the issues better with the lawyers and vice versa.”

Notes: I may have paraphrased Tim a bit. He pointed out he is a lawyer and knows the profession well.

Tim suggested correction of this accounting error is very urgent. At present the “bioenergy” industry is relatively small. However large corporations are levering off the error and are preparing to invest large amounts in the industry. When those investments are operational it will become very difficult indeed to correct the error. 

Tim suggested New Zealanders are in a better position than most to point out this perceived critical accounting error and to suggest how it can be ameliorated. He asked us to alert as many people as possible to the perceived error and so I am doing this now. 

The thought occurs that there has to be a better way than Tim flying half way around the planet to tell me this. There is a very great risk his act of flying becomes his central message and dominates his communication. Indeed I noted he evoked the “greenhouse” image of climate processes at least 25 times i.e. an average of more than once every two minutes. Similarly he consistently equated the energy symbol with tradeable commodities as in “energy production”, an impossible process if one accepts the Conservation Principle of Energy.  

One of Tim’s prime messages was for us to be prudent. He suggested, in answer to a question, that biofuels should in the short term be used for heating. When we have alternative means of heating then long term “bioenergy” should be used to replace aviation fuel. He seemed unable to imagine a world without jet travel. He suggested a requisite for this use of biomass is that we have in place systems to feed everyone first. However he was perhaps unable to advise us to be prudent and stop flying until this occurs, having acknowledged over 1 billion people already are malnourished now. 

I was particularly intrigued by Tim’s graph suggesting it takes 30 years for trees to realise the efficiency of wind, thereafter both having the same efficiency. In other words fuels from trees can never achieve the same harmony with the sustaining carbon balances as wind derived resources. I asked if a similar sort of comparative equation might be done for education purposes that illustrates the relative carbon impacts of the use of “biofuels” in cars and mass transit vehicles. It could be useful for pointing up the relative efficiencies and costs of each mode of transport. 

My question was not clear and Tim said he would have to think about it more. I was asking a complex question in terms of accounting for the impacts of our activities on our carbon potential. I guess I was fundamentally asking how far a gallon of “biofuel” takes person in a car compared to travelling on a mass transit system, assuming the costs of building and maintaining each vehicle’s system is taken into account. I was then asking that the longer-term land change costs be added to the calculations of each mode of travel.

Now I decided not to fly again several years ago. I could break this decision, get a passport, jet around the planet and camp outside your doors with a large placard introducing the Sustainability Principle of Energy (, Tim’s concerns and the fact I have flown 12000 miles to catch your interest. I like to think we can communicate in more sustaining ways. In particular I am appealing to the scientist that resides in each of you or, to put it more truly, I am appealing to the state of science I know you both enjoy. In this state we know compassion for all, including climate experts and ourselves with all our shared fallibility.

I will leave you with a paraphrase of my paraphrase of Tim’s statement:

“Climate researchers do what climate researchers do well, which is research the climate. They don’t tend to think of the communication ramifications of their utterances. This is left to media people. Media people do not know much about climate science and do what media people do well – make headlines. Climate experts should perhaps have communicated the issues better with the media people and vice versa.”

And perhaps we can all learn the deeper messages of the great Principles of Energy and communicate in more sustainable ways.

In kindness  

Dave McArthur

P.S. I will post this on the Sustainable Energy Forum in New Zealand as part of my efforts to promote Tim’s concerns and to encourage science in the communication of climate processes.

Commentary on original article "Walled In" by George Monbiot.

Hello George

Re your article Walled In

You are correct about our dumb, narrow schooling and how so many of us find the current notion of science incomprehensible. However the situation is far more chronic than you suggest.  

Our contemporary use of the “science” symbol is based on the notion “I think therefore I am” whereas greater evidence, including that from research of mirror neurons, supports the notion “I act there I am”. This suggests we are each stewards amidst the universal flux, whether we like it or not. We cannot simply hang up the mantle of “scientific practice”, close the laboratory door and wander around the world as “non-scientists”. Yet that is what our schools teach us is possible and what many of our self-styled “scientists” believe. 

Our education system is much more unsustainable than this though. Our national curricula frame science as a parallel activity to language, the arts and civics – just a way of thinking. The reality is science is a state of being that enables us to develop language, the arts, civics and all that we know as civilisation. It is a state of being we are all born into to some degree even as we are born into a state of “non-science” (ignorance) too. The ultimate test of the degree of science a person enjoys is the measure of the sustainability of their use of this planet’s resources. Our self-styled “scientists” rate very low on this measure, which is one reason why many people do not trust them. 

There is a greater reason for the distrust of these folk. Despite the destructive effects of our education system everyone retains large elements of science, including its vital sensations of inclusiveness, collegiality and sharing.

Our schools first remove most of the meaning the “science” symbol – in particular that pertaining to its profound enabling and moral role in our lives. They then associate it with a narrow amoral use of knowledge (called “science”). Those who thrive in this environment and who gain expertise in some small area of knowledge are defined as being of “the community of scientists”. When you ask these self-styled “scientists” what portion of the population are “scientists” they tell us less than 1% of the population belong to this elite. 99% of us are “non-scientists”. Such notions are blatantly exclusive and most people sense something is very wrong with them. 

The more a person enjoys the state of science the less they tend to call his or herself a “scientist” for they know all people are scientists to some degree. 

The tragic thing is that that while our education system works to destroy the state of science in people it is also destroying our capacity to develop language, arts and civics. We are denied the appreciation of the underlying process that enables them and thus we conclude we cannot “do” science or arts or learn languages while our sense of empowerment in civics is impaired.

No doubt you are aware of the development of the modern use of the “science” symbol. It conveniently enables the Anglo-American empire and Industrial Revolution with our massive despoliation of the planet. Sample insight at 

Some weeks ago I forwarded you a link to a recent essay I wrote introducing the Sustainability Principle of Energy. I suspect you would have written a very different article if you had had time to read and reflect on it. It is far more profound and radical than it seems on first reading. For instance it suggest our “climate scientists” communicate their messages very well indeed but the messages are not what they think they are. This is perhaps true of the Green Movement in general. 

Yesterday I wrote a formal submission of the Sustainability Principle of Energy to the New Zealand Royal Society. I am fascinated to learn their response. Already I am an inconvenient presence for them. For instance, I drew the attention of the public to the fact that our Royal Society endorsed Genesis Energy’s education module. This corporation operates the largest fossil fuel combustion device in the country and conveniently its Internet-based interactive model of the plant contained no chimney or air intake. Also conveniently the lake levels of its interactive hydro-electrical plant never altered no matter how hard the children worked the turbine. I have also pointed out that our Royal Society teaches that energy, power, electricity and Bulk-generated electrical products are the same thing. They are also heavily involved in promoting the New Zealand Goverment’s Carbon Trading agency. Our national statistics revealing some of the highest increases in carbon emissions per capita in the world tell the real story about our commitment to making a quick buck off Carbon Trading and the associated lack of stewardship of our carbon potential. 

Two weeks ago I attended a lecture the NZ Royal Society held in the Wellington Town Hall to celebrate 350 years of the Society. Martin Lord Rees was the celebrity speaker. You can read my blog here  

I applied the Sustainability Principle to his address and concluded he is the best advertisement for car and jet travel since Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth”. If true then this also is very inconvenient for our Royal Societies. I understand you have forsaken jet travel and this will tend to open you to all sorts of amazing possibilities, especially the appreciation of the marvel of our atmosphere and how mineral oil came to be. I believe it will make the insights of the Sustainability Principle of Energy more accessible to you too. 

Below is my submission of it to the NZ Royal Society.  

I hope it is of help in your work, George. 

Thank you  

Dave McArthur



 The New Zealand Royal Society
4 Halswell St,
Wellington 6011

C/- Mable Shirley

I would like to formally introduce you to a proposed new principle of energy and invite the response of the Royal Society of New Zealand.

The Sustainability Principle of Energy
(Draft Statement April 2010)

“When a symbol use works to deny change it will materially alter the potential of the universe (energy) in a way that results in a reduction in the capacity of the symbol user to mirror reality. When a symbol use works for the acceptance of change it will increase the capacity of the symbol user to mirror reality.”



The Sustainability Principle of Energy is based on the insights of the following notions:

  • The Conservation Principle of Energy.
  • The Uncertainty Principle of Energy.
  • Our brains are laced with mirror neuron systems.
  • Information is physical.
  • Symbols are shared crystallised quanta of information enabling life to exist.
  • Human consciousness is a trace element of the total being.
  • The human psyche is capable of grand self-awareness and incredible self-deceit –both capacities including and exceeding the limits of thought.
  • Reality is a continually transforming universe (including human beings).


The Sustainability Principle of Energy is a coalescence of these insights – in particular the Conservation Principle of Energy. It might also be known as the Conservation Principle of Symbols as it provides a powerful guide as to how we can conserve the potential of our prime symbols and thus live more sustainable lives. Its capacity to transcend our egos enables us to psychoanalyse individuals and societies in a more rigorous and objective way.

It also provides an improved predictive framework and has very practical application. It is a measure of the state of science underpinning a symbol use. A sample application of symbols used in denial and acceptance of change/stewardship is at A child of ten can apply this analysis.

This application assumes continual change in our awareness of the dimensions and scale of change. Thus the application of the Sustainability Principle involves continuous refinement of our use of symbols. This includes our use of the “science” symbol, which is currently based on the notion “I think, therefore I am”. The Sustainability Principle suggests it can usefully be extended to include the notion “I act, therefore I am.” – thought being a subset of action. Science becomes more understood as a state of being rather than as a way of thinking – thinking being a subset of being.
This state of science is enabled by the experience of compassion, with its rigours of inquiry; inclusiveness and sharing; honesty and trust; and generosity of time and reflection. The experience of these qualities enables sustainable learning. (See sample education curriculum framework at

Application of the Sustainability Principle of Energy this far suggests humans tend to be consistent beings: our activity tends to be reflected in our use of symbols. The relative dissonance and harmony generated by our awareness of our roles as stewards/change is reflected in our use of symbols. The relative dissonance-harmony tends to form the key element of the communication.

Variations of the Conservation, Uncertainty and Sustainability Principles of Energy have existed in different forms in other cultures for millennia. Our use and misuse of their contemporary formulation generates the general symbols that enable our current New Zealand culture. Initial analysis using the Sustainability Principle indicates our New Zealand culture is profoundly unsustainable. I am confident there is now consensus at the NZ Royal Society that our destruction of carbon resources and carbon pollution puts humanity at great risk. The initial analysis also indicates we can ameliorate this situation.


Summary background notes:

In the 1990s I became very aware that we in the Anglo-American nations were abusing our carbon, electrical and solar potentials on scale. By 2000 my analysis indicated that this abuse put humanity at extreme risk of catastrophic global warfare within two decades. I asked what I could do to prevent this event. Almost immediately I found myself involved in creating education resources communicating the nature of energy and climate processes. This work soon had me interacting with our top “energy” and “climate” experts and it rapidly became very clear to me that the communication of these subjects lacked science on a profound and dangerous scale.

I also realised that for a range of reasons I might be uniquely able to ameliorate this situation. One reason was that funding for such work does not exist as it challenges the essence of our current culture, including the activities of some of our most vital institutions. Few people in the world have my combination of skills, experience and capacity to face the poverty and opprobrium that this particular work entails.

My vision of the nature of science enabled me to attend hundreds of lectures, including those of the most revered “energy” and “climate” experts and policy makers in the world, trawl through thousands of documents on these subjects in a wide range of media and to ask reasonably open questions. These include:

What are our greatest guides to the nature of energy?
What is the essence of change in our climate?
How can we transcend the capacity of human beings for self-deceit?
What are the fundamental drivers of the behaviour of “energy” and “climate” experts? In particular, what enables them to act in discord with their knowledge and how is this dissonance manifest in their use of symbols?

By 2002 I realised these questions cannot be addressed in normal discourse – the elements of denial of change/stewardship inherent in our ego are too powerful. Using a range of research media I set about gathering a list of prime symbols, categorising their various uses and searching for common patterns and drivers. Fortunately my vision of the nature of science is sufficiently sustaining that I was able to provide the 20,000 hours of unpaid labour required to achieve this task. The result is the Sustainability Principle of Energy. This symbol may have the revolutionary power of the Conservation and Uncertainty Principles of Energy, from which symbols it was born. As with these Principles, it must be used with care for its use to be sustaining. It is probable it is considerably in advance of similar work done by research centres such as the Potsdam Institute and the Frameworks Institute.

The wording of the Sustainability Principle of Energy needs revising. It attempts to encapsulate the insights from the wide range of fields outlined above and I welcome suggestions as to how it can be improved. It is perhaps best defined by its practical application. Therein its beauty, simplicity and profoundness becomes manifest.

I am also aware this submission may not conform to the formats and protocols that are the norm for the NZ Royal Society. I beg your tolerance and remind you that the work was necessarily done in a non-conventional way and without conventional support structures.

I look forward to the official response of the New Zealand Royal Society.

Yours sincerely

Dave McArthur

85 Houghton Bay Road
Wellington 6023

2010 Essay introducing the Sustainability Principle of Energy

2009 10-minute draft video introducing the Sustainability Principle of Energy

2009 Practical application of the Sustainability Principle of Energy- list of symbol uses illustrating denial and acceptance of change/stewardship. 

2008 Definitions of prime symbols

2007 Draft rationale for the Sustainability Principle of Energy

2006 Sample education curriculum framework


The Sustainability Principle of Energy 
(including the 2007 draft rationale underpinning the principle)

Read the 2009 ESSAY 
introducing the Sustainability Principle of Energy

(An easy-to-read illustrated introduction)

VIDEO - The Sustainability Principle of Energy
10 minute Youtube video featuring the great ideas underpinning the principle

The Principle generated  an

Inventory of Sustainable Uses of Key Symbols
(illustrating elements of acceptance/denial of change/stewardship in each symbol use)



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