At last someone who is prepared to take on the left leaning institutions like the BBC, universities, arts bodies, ... those one would expect to be able to demonstrate some critical thought!
Wednesday, 8 July 2020
The following letter appeared on the Harper's Magazine web site on July 7th 2020. As an author and writer I fully agree with the sentiments expressed in this letter. I reproduce it here in my blog to increase awareness of the letter’s existence along with this appeal: that people stop labelling others as racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. for making comments about these matters that do not conform to the dogmatic and ideologically driven political correctness that is stifling debate, freedom of speech and the open sharing of ideas, all of which are fundamental to a liberal democracy. Those who demonstrate the illiberality mentioned in the letter, who attack others with the aim of undermining their credibility, or who seek to rewrite history, are just creating the circumstances that will lead more decent people to support those like Trump. To coin a phrase - a plague on both your houses!
Here is the web link to letter along with its signatories: A Letter on Justice and Open Debate
A Letter on Justice and Open Debate
July 7, 2020
The below letter will be appearing in the Letters section of the magazine’s October issue. We welcome responses at firstname.lastname@example.org
The below letter will be appearing in the Letters section of the magazine’s October issue. We welcome responses at email@example.com
Our cultural institutions are facing a moment of trial. Powerful protests for racial and social justice are leading to overdue demands for police reform, along with wider calls for greater equality and inclusion across our society, not least in higher education, journalism, philanthropy, and the arts. But this needed reckoning has also intensified a new set of moral attitudes and political commitments that tend to weaken our norms of open debate and toleration of differences in favor of ideological conformity. As we applaud the first development, we also raise our voices against the second. The forces of illiberalism are gaining strength throughout the world and have a powerful ally in Donald Trump, who represents a real threat to democracy. But resistance must not be allowed to harden into its own brand of dogma or coercion—which right-wing demagogues are already exploiting. The democratic inclusion we want can be achieved only if we speak out against the intolerant climate that has set in on all sides.
The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted. While we have come to expect this on the radical right, censoriousness is also spreading more widely in our culture: an intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty. We uphold the value of robust and even caustic counter-speech from all quarters. But it is now all too common to hear calls for swift and severe retribution in response to perceived transgressions of speech and thought. More troubling still, institutional leaders, in a spirit of panicked damage control, are delivering hasty and disproportionate punishments instead of considered reforms. Editors are fired for running controversial pieces; books are withdrawn for alleged inauthenticity; journalists are barred from writing on certain topics; professors are investigated for quoting works of literature in class; a researcher is fired for circulating a peer-reviewed academic study; and the heads of organizations are ousted for what are sometimes just clumsy mistakes. Whatever the arguments around each particular incident, the result has been to steadily narrow the boundaries of what can be said without the threat of reprisal. We are already paying the price in greater risk aversion among writers, artists, and journalists who fear for their livelihoods if they depart from the consensus, or even lack sufficient zeal in agreement.
This stifling atmosphere will ultimately harm the most vital causes of our time. The restriction of debate, whether by a repressive government or an intolerant society, invariably hurts those who lack power and makes everyone less capable of democratic participation. The way to defeat bad ideas is by exposure, argument, and persuasion, not by trying to silence or wish them away. We refuse any false choice between justice and freedom, which cannot exist without each other. As writers we need a culture that leaves us room for experimentation, risk taking, and even mistakes. We need to preserve the possibility of good-faith disagreement without dire professional consequences. If we won’t defend the very thing on which our work depends, we shouldn’t expect the public or the state to defend it for us.
Friday, 22 November 2019
Seven Worlds, One Planet – Natural History Education or Climate Change Propaganda? (Introduction and Part I)
(Note: this is a rather long blog so is broken up into several parts which are published separately).
In my blog of November 1st, 2019 (Lord of the Flies …) I mentioned a film made (with the help of professionals) by an eminent British scientist, a Fellow of the Royal Society. It is without doubt a propaganda film in which so called facts are presented in a distorted way along with false claims to create a beguiling picture that communicates the ideology and beliefs of the film makers. The film is propaganda for scientific thinking known as eugenics. I suppose the science of eugenics was once, as they say, settled, so clearly not up for debate! But as it turned out it needed to be debated because eugenics was part of the scientific basis for National Socialism. Science makes it easier to turn people – human beings – into piles of ash. Remember that!
The film is also an example that demonstrates that the belief that scientists are the epitome of objectivity is naught but extremely naïve. The truth is that scientists are no different from anyone else and will distort, invent, lie, create myths, make subjective comments, contradict themselves, be inconsistent, jump to conclusions, make up explanations on the spot, etc. just as much as anyone else. The gospel according to Richard Dawkins exemplifies the point.
It is highly appropriate to mention this man, the high-priest of materialistic scientific atheism, which denies the existence of purpose, the influence of the future on the present – teleology. And yet in contradictory style the man finds himself reverting to teleology, when he explains that genes are selfish! The crowning achievement of the madness that is materialistic science is human induced global climate change – a science that treats nature as a machine, and which denies the existence of purpose. Now you pay the price! But more about these matters in future blogs, for it should be self-evident that a science, technology, engineering and mathematics that is part of the problem must change if we are to have a sustainable future. Sadly it is not self-evident. Probably it is, as they say, settled, so not up for debate! Thus do I write …
I would like to say that not all scientific research is fraudulent. I felt a need to say this, just so you do not start jumping to conclusions. To say that is not fraudulent though, is not to say that it is competently undertaken, and that the results should be believed just because scientists say this or that, and because, as they say, the science is settled. I would also like to mention that, what those promoting science, often as a salvation belief system (yet another one!), will not tell you is that science is based on assumptions. Change the assumptions, change the outcomes. Heresy perhaps?
Some assumptions are taken for granted and unquestioned, others are hidden. Exploring and revealing them is a way of understanding the limitations of scientific knowledge and the use of that knowledge, especially when science attempts to make predictions, which could in fact be no more than a modern version of prophesy. Exploring assumptions also helps to understand issues like biases and beliefs and why these exist. Followers of the messianic Swedish Child should proceed no further. Just believe what the scientists say. It is of course a recipe for a dystopian world. The evidence of history proves the point, for the rule of science and reason has been and gone, leaving millions dead, and creating suffering far beyond anything seen in the past in the so-called pre-scientific age, where people lives were, some would like us to believe, governed of superstition. But so-called superstitious people never turned the planet into a resource to be exploited regardless of the consequences, with an accompanying jumping around in celebratory glee! Someone should tell the scientists this – if they dare! Perhaps the scientists' beliefs are too, as they say, settled, to tell them anything anymore?
Now I am going to address another film, also made (with the assistance of professionals) by (another) Fellow of the Royal Society. It seems that learning from history is not part of the education of people who become Fellows of the Royal Society!
At the time of writing this blog, the BBC were running a series of natural history programmes, narrated by an eminent natural history broadcaster who I have always respected. Seven Worlds, One Planet, is the name of the series, which examines in each episode, life on one of the earth’s seven continents. The first episode dealt with the continent called Antarctica. I was unable to watch the programme when it was first transmitted, so I used the BBC’s iPlayer to watch at a later date, which was fortunate, for I was able to rewind and to view one particular part of the programme several times and to also create a transcript. What follows is that transcript (bear in mind that it is the narration of a film sequence):
“The wild life in these waters faces an uncertain future. The Southern Ocean is warming. 90% of the world’s ice lies in Antarctica and, in some parts, the rate at which it is melting is doubling every decade. Sea levels are rising. But there is a more immediate threat. The warming of the coldest region on Earth is having a profound effect on global weather patterns. And this change in the climate is already being felt right here.
“This Grey-headed Albatross chick is four weeks old. So far it has been sheltered from the gales by its parents, who take turns to collect food for it out at sea. It is the only chick they will have in two years.
“The delicate touching of beaks strengthens their bond. But these tender moments cannot last forever. As a chick grows, so does its appetite. So one parent has to leave to find food before the other returns. Parting is a big step and they take time over it. For the first time in its life this chick is alone.
“The Antarctic is the windiest continent, and in recent years, climate change has brought storms that are more frequent and even more powerful. Winds now regularly reach 70mph. But the albatross chicks must try to stay on their nests.
“Surviving the storms in one thing … but now off the nest in these freezing temperatures, this chick has just hours to live. The brutal conditions have taken their toll. Some chicks have already succumbed to exposure. The bond is so strong, it can be hard for a father to let go.
“The albatross population here has almost halved in the last 15 years. These albatrosses are facing extinction. They simply cannot keep pace with the changes affecting their world.
“More parents are returning to the colony. Something is not right. The nest should not be empty. The chick is actually right below its parent, but because it is not on the nest, the parent doesn’t help it. Strangely perhaps these albatrosses do not recognise their chicks by sight, sound or smell. They identify them by finding them on the nest. So these violent storms have created a problem that the albatrosses are not equipped to solve. If it is to survive, the chick will have to get back on the nest by itself.
“The chick has made it. The bond is re-established immediately and its parent, once again provides the warmth that the chick so desperately needs. It’s safe … for now.”
And then the programme moves on, but this is not the end, for I found another piece of film on the BBC web site, with the title Web exclusive: The grey-headed albatross faces extinction. The sub-text tells more, it is about a cameraman who has seen the decline of the Grey-headed Albatross first hand. The cameraman is the one (it seems) that filmed the scenes that were narrated by the Fellow of the Royal Society. This is the transcript:
“Grey-headed Albatrosses are one of the world’s most endangered sea birds. We have travelled to Bird Island near to South Georgia to film them for Seven Worlds, One Planet. I’ve been to Bird Island twice before. I came here about 22 years ago, and there is a catastrophic change happening in their lives.
“Albatrosses are the ultimate wind bird. They are built with these massively long wings for dealing with strong wings and that’s how they travel so far across the open ocean, how they go and find food, and how they bring food back to their chicks. It’s part of their lives. The other thing that is part of their lives is that it’s wet here so their solution to that is to build these elevated nests – platforms for their chicks – so that the chicks can stay dry. It’s like a display stand.
“The problem is now it’s becoming so windy as the climate is changing that the chicks are actually getting blown off the nest. Once they’ve fallen off the nest some can’t get back on and those chicks are doomed. So there is a bird that lives by the wind that’s now suffering as the wind is getting too strong for them. They’ll all disappear and over time I suppose people will forget that they were ever here. Just remember that they were things called albatrosses, but no one will see them anymore. Their legacy will be this grassy hillside and not much else.”
And what would I find if I were to fact check this story? This:
First, I want you to understand that I am not seeking to say that climate change is a lie, as some people are saying (it is interesting that I need to make this point clear!). My interest has been, for many years, the study of knowledge creation. As part of that study I have examined many issues. One of the matters I have addressed is the collection of evidence about the inclination of people and organisations (mostly from the world of STEM and also the arts), some of whom speak with the voice of authority (by virtue of their standing in society), to make false truth claims. What exactly this means needs explaining in more detail, but for the moment I will limit my explanation to this: they say things that are often quite easily shown to be wrong. In particular I have noted that those from the world of research are increasingly, it seems, demonstrating a lack of integrity. Politicians are aware of this, but are confronted by denial from the research establishment – it is only a few bad apples type of explanation. This is not the case, but the issues are more complex than just plain fabrication and falsification, which do in fact seem to be rare events. I suppose more about the research integrity issue in future blogs.
Second, I was very careful and selective about the sources of information that I used. In particular I relied on information taken from papers published in scientific journals, with an emphasis on more rent publications (primarily in the range 2006 to 2019). I also consulted documents available on reputable web sites, these being: The British Antarctic Survey; The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources; The Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels; and The Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. In other words I trusted that information available was not false. This one might say is an assumption of trust. A possible exception to this rule will arise later – which I will flag at the appropriate time.
Out of necessity I had to look at the BBC’s web site, but I do not regard this in the same way as the previously mentioned web sites. Specifically the BBC is a broadcasting/media organisation, and, not therefore necessarily a source of reliable information!
Finally, this is a rather long blog, so I have organised the content so that it does not need to be read in full. There are three parts:
Part I includes my observations on the transcripts, followed by a summary of the findings of my readings of the scientific literature about Grey-headed Albatrosses as well as Albatrosses more generally. This is then followed by some observations about the film in the light of these findings.
Part II is a more detailed account of the literature. Here I have extracted many of the key points that are relevant to the matter considered, which I then used to create my summary of findings. Part II is published separately.
Part III is a list of the scientific literature consulted. Part III is also published separately.
My analysis of the transcripts follows:
You will notice that the narration of the film sequence in the TV programme does not state where the Grey-headed Albatrosses are being filmed – it is just described as “here”. In fact there is no mention at all of the location at any point. Neither does the film on the web site actually state where the TV programme film was shot, because all that is said is – “We have travelled to Bird Island near to South Georgia to film them for Seven Worlds, One Planet.” This only says that the film crew visited Bird Island to do some filming, not that what is seen in the TV programme was actually filmed on Bird Island. There is information in Part II which explains where Bird Island and South Georgia are located, and some of the climatic and geographical features.
I checked the BBC’s media web site where there is information for journalists about Seven Worlds, One Planet. Here I discovered that filming was undertaken at two locations: Bird Island and South Georgia. It seems that the filming was undertaken in 2017. This suggests that the decision to give the Grey-headed Albatross a certain spin (as they say in journalism), was taken around 2016, which also suggests that I should be able to find in the research literature, 2016 and earlier, the scientific results that support the spin given to this story.
The reason why I have sought information about filming locations will become apparent at the end of Part I, where there is a little surprise for you!
You may also have noted the statement about Antarctic being the windiest continent: “The Antarctic is the windiest continent, and in recent years, climate change has brought storms that are more frequent and even more powerful. Winds now regularly reach 70mph.” So does that mean that winds on the Antarctic continent regularly reach 70mph or winds on Bird Island (and South Georgia)?
I ask now that you consider what claim is implied by the transcripts: what do the texts of the transcripts and the associated film sequences (if you are able to find them on the BBC web site) mean? In other words what is your interpretant? I will state here what I believe: these films seek to imply that the decline in the number of Grey-headed Albatross at Bird Island – the reason why they are an endangered species – is because of climate change. I say this because no other causes for the decline are mentioned, only one – that being climate change, in particular increasing strong and frequent winds which are killing albatross chicks. Do you have a different interpretant?
And now to summarise of my findings which I will do in part by addressing the claims made in the films:
The Grey-headed Albatross is classified by The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) as an Endangered species – it appears on their so-called Red List of Threatened Species. Many other species of albatross are also threatened. The Grey-headed Albatross is not however one of the most endangered seabirds as the cameraman claims. The latest assessment of Grey-headed Albatross by IUCN is dated August 2018, the year following the filming expedition to Bird Island. They (the IUCN) estimate that there are at least 250,000 mature individuals, with the population declining. This should be compared with the assessment for the Triston Albatross. Of these, IUCN estimate, there are between 3400 and 4800 mature individuals, with the population still in decline. For this reason Triston Albatrosses are categorised as Critically Endangered.
What is the reason for the significant decline in the number of Grey-headed Albatrosses at South Georgia? One of the key reasons is industrial-scale long-line fishing. It seems that thousands of Albatrosses (of many different species) are drowned each year when they attempt to scavenge the bait on these lines. Although mediation measures have been developed and are proven to be effective, and are in fact mandatory in the maritime zone around South Georgia, Albatrosses fly long distances into international waters, where they encounter deep-sea fishing activities, for example long-line fishing for tuna species. In these international waters it appears that the proven mitigation measures are either not used or not used effectively.
Interestingly, the BBC web site for Seven Worlds, One Planet also includes a short film clip of a researcher from the British Antarctic Survey research station on Bird Island. It’s called Web exclusive: The fisherman's good luck omen. Why wandering albatross are in decline? I suggest you watch this as it verifies what I have just told you and what the research literature also says.
The British Antarctic Survey literature mentions that the populations of albatrosses that are declining most rapidly are those breeding on the UK Overseas Territories in the South Atlantic. On the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia, they say that the three species of albatrosses that they monitor are declining at between 2% and 4% a year.
Why are albatross populations so vulnerable? This is because they are one of the longest lived species of bird, with some surviving for more than 60 years. They take many years to reach sexual maturity, not breeding until they are around 10 years old. Although most breed annually, nine species – including the Grey-headed Albatross – lay only one egg every two years, and it takes the best part of a year for a young albatross to leave the nest. Because chick production is so slow, even small increases in death rates among adults will cause populations to decline.
The IUCN’s 2018 threat assessment of Grey-headed Albatross lists two threats. The first is industrial fishing, as mentioned above, which is regarded as have an impact described as “rapid decline in populations”. The second is climate change, but the issue here is not storms and bad weather, which are in any case normal circumstances in South Georgia. One paper that I consulted specifically mentioned that Bird Island is almost permanently under cloud cover, with high precipitation and frequent moderate or strong winds.
So what about chicks being blown out of their nests? There is no mention of this in the scientific literature that I examined, although it should be self-evident that this might happen in such stormy environment like Bird Island, under some circumstances. I did find evidence that westerly winds in the Southern Indian Ocean are shifting southwards and wind speeds are increasing as a result of a shift in the Southern Annular Mode Index to a sustained positive phase. In the Indian Ocean this is most notable at latitude 50 degrees south, which also corresponds to the latitude at which South Georgia is located in the South Atlantic. However, analysis of these wind shifts shows that the west to east component of the wind has changed little, and that it is the north to south component that shows the biggest shift. This, it is believed, has actually helped Wandering Albatrosses that breed on Crozet Island, because they are able to fly faster during foraging trips, with more foraging done south of the island (away from long-line fisheries), which has led to shorter durations away from the nest, which in turn has had a positive impact on breeding success.
This leads me to consideration of what are termed brood guarding, chick mortality, and breeding success. Not all Grey-headed Albatrosses breeding efforts lead to a fledged chick. Many factors intervene to prevent this: predation, condition of the adult birds, weather, adult quality (i.e. past breeding success), availability of food, disease. It is also the case that chick survival is dependent upon the condition of the chick.
A chick's ability to thermoregulate and to fend off predation increases with age, as does its appetite. There comes a point therefore when chicks no longer need the parents to provide heat, and parents have no choice but to leave chicks alone in order to forage for food.
Some research has shown that chick mortality in Grey-headed Albatrosses is high just after the end of brood guarding, and this mortality is strongly dependent on calendar date and chick condition, but is largely independent of the duration of brood guarding itself. The research has also shown that there is a marked seasonal decline in the duration of brood guarding, and that parents’ decisions concerning the regulation of brooding seem to be largely independent of chick age and also of their own [adult] body condition.
Research into Black-browed Albatrosses involving comparisons between two study sites, one being in the Falklands which has a more favourable climate than at the second site which was Bird Island, have shown that bad weather can be a problem for albatross chicks with limited thermoregulatory abilities, something confirmed by the fact, observed at both sites, that there were young unattended Black-browed Albatrosses apparently dying of cold during spells of inclement weather.
This research examined something the researchers called the cold-protection hypothesis. This includes a prediction that brood guarding should be longer in environments with harsher climatic conditions, which in fact was not observed. It also includes a prediction that adults should respond to short term variations in weather by prolonging brooding during spells of bad weather, and that adults should be more prone to terminate brooding under favourable (warm and dry) conditions. What was observed was that short-term weather fluctuations (measured by the wind chill index) had a demonstrable effect on the decision by the parent not to terminate brooding. It was noted that virtually no chicks were left on days with heavy rain. However, it is clear that adult birds, being pelagic seabirds, once engaged in a foraging trip, cannot quickly resume brooding behaviour as a response to possible deterioration of the weather.
I did not find any specific scientific evidence that higher wind speed is increasing chick mortality rates at Bird Island, or even if it were, that this is having a major influence causing rapid population decline. What I did discover is that breeding success is the result of complex interactions among multiple factors. And from experience I know that in such situations, simplistic statements about the negative effects on one particular issue (wind speeds) should be treated with scepticism, as it could also produce beneficial effects. It depends on the specifics and may also shift with time, especially if, as expected, the westerly winds continue to shift southwards.
I look forward to seeing the published scientific results on this issue. Or is it the case that people should only listen to the scientists when it suits them because sometimes the science is an inconvenient truth to those who make propaganda?
Now for that surprise that I mentioned which I will call Walrus-gate! Walrus-gate is another example of what appears to be a climate change propaganda film, rather than an educational natural history film. The natural history programme in question this time is called Our Planet, commissioned by Netflix. In Our Planet we once again encounter the distinguished presenter, the Fellow of the Royal Society, implying that Pacific Walrus are climbing cliffs and falling to their deaths because of climate change.
This programme, it is claimed, misled viewers into believing that scenes shot at two different locations, were actually shot at the same place, and that the Walruses climbing the cliffs are doing so to get away from the overcrowded beech that is the first location. The narrative also forgot to mention the presence of Polar Bears.
It seems that the shots have been re-edited for Seven Worlds, One Planet series – the episode that deals with Asia. Only this time it is made clear that the locations are separated by 250 miles. Yet it is hardly an accurate narrative. At the first location there are claimed to be 100,000 Pacific Walrus, “… almost the entire world population …” That’s an extraordinary claim to make given that the world population is unknown. Specifically the IUCN classifies the population of this species as Data Deficient.
If you look at the film shots at the second location, where there are now admitted to be Polar Bears, you can see too that the there is plenty of room on the beech, but the Walruses are corralled in the space below the cliffs or are being forced up the gentle slope to the left of these cliffs. Why? What is preventing them from using the space that is out of shot in the first part of the film, but which is evident in other shots? In fact, in the final shot it is possible to see the beech that is available, but which is not used. It is also evident that there is a barrier of some sort across the beech. Is this the film crew or are these Polar Bears? You might also notice that the claim that the falling Walrus starts a stampede is evidently not the case. That part of the film, of the stampede looks like it is made at a different location.
You might also discover that Walrus Haulouts (as they are called) are not a new phenomenon, and there are records dating back to the 1850s of these events, which can be quite large. They occur across the whole range of this animal, on the Russian Artic Ocean coast (where the films were shot), as well as the Russian Pacific coast, and across in Alaska too, on the northern and southern coasts.
One of the criticisms of the Our Planet programme was that the behaviour of the Walruses was being influenced by Polar Bears and also by the film crew and their use of a drone for filming.
There is video commenting on Our Planet available on YouTube and also an explanation from someone pointing out the issues: Netflix,Attenborough and cliff-falling walruses: the making of a false climate icon. Here I flag my promised warning about the exception to my rule of only using information that should be accurate. This film clip would appear to be sponsored by the Global Warming Policy Foundation. I am unsure about the standing of the organisation. They are a think-tank and claim to be independent. They also say that they embrace the full range of perspectives on the issue of human-induced climate change. They also are concerned about the use of computer models to make long-term predictions (that concerns me too).
The claims made in the above mentioned YouTube video clearly need to be fact checked – something for another blog. I have the relevant literature, and will examine it in due course. Here though is a little taster: In 2017 the US Department of the Interior Fish and Wildlife Service said that listing the Pacific Walrus as an endangered or threatened species under the [Endangered Species] Act is not warranted at this time. They also noted that the species possess degrees of resiliency, representation, and redundancy that have allowed it to cope with the changing environments of the last decade. The IUCN also noted eleven threats, one being human disturbance. It also noted that the species is easily panicked into stampedes.
My purpose in revealing the existence of this video is to show that doubts have been expressed previously about the accuracy of natural history programmes that address climate change. In particular I noted that it is evident that the film shots used in Our Planet have been re-edited with a different (more accurate, but still misleading) narrative, thereby confirming the presence of Polar Bears, which are speculated to be there in the YouTube video! In the video there are also clips from Our Planet, including a cameraman expressing his beliefs. Justified true beliefs or just what the cameraman believes? A saying comes to mind: Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive!
What to say by way of conclusion? This: the camera never lies, just the people who use the camera to make propaganda films. What these people are (sadly) doing is providing evidence that they are being lied to about climate change. Moreover, propaganda is not as effective as it is believed to be, especially in a pluralistic society where free-speech allows people to speak out against what these film makers are doing. In the case of the BBC that also might be activities undertaken at public expense!
What is needed is education, not propaganda! Propaganda is counter-productive. It is also unhelpful to those who seek to conserve albatrosses, to have members of the public misled into believing that climate change is responsible for the decline in Grey-headed Albatrosses. What they need, is to be educated about the impact of industrial-scale fishing and not subject to indoctrination and propaganda. We can all help to ensure the survival of albatrosses by making sure that sound policies are implemented and by only buying tuna that is caught sustainably, i.e. in a way that is not harmful to sea-birds.
I think you should understand that the behaviour I have identified, and the assumptions underlying these propaganda films, is dangerous, just as dangerous as Huxley’s behaviour was in the 1930s.
For the good of science, and by that I mean science undertaken rigorously by competent researchers and not misrepresented by those with an agenda, it is time to speak out.
It is also time to understand that scientists are not special people, and that those who dwell in the House of Salomon are increasingly showing signs of being corrupt, incompetent or ignorant, and the worship of such people as a priesthood who are beyond engaging in such behaviour is the same order of magnitude misjudgement that artists, scientists, engineers, and intellectuals displayed in the 1930s when they enthusiastically embraced the new world orders of scientifically based National Socialism and scientific Communism, depending upon their right of left leaning tendencies, which are of course highly subjective.
We need to make fundamental changes to science. The idea that nature should be viewed as having no purpose is out dated and dangerous. I hope that people now will start to understand that it is a materialistic science that views humans (who are part of nature) and the nature that surrounds them, as machines without purpose (along with engineering and the technology that results from this belief), that is in reality, partly responsible for our current woes. We have already seen how science was used (in Nazi Germany) to justify turning people into ash, and also to justify (in the Soviet Union) the oppression and murder undertaken by the Communists. We can now see just what science has done to our Planet.
And it is time to understand that criticism of science is not an attack on science as some would have you believe, but a call to make fundamental changes.
This is a continuation of my blog entitled Seven Worlds, One Planet – Natural History Education or Climate Change Propaganda? (Introduction and Part I) published on Nov 22, 2019. Part II provides a more detailed account of the material I collected from reading the scientific literature.
First a lesson in geography as you may be wondering where Bird Island and South Georgia are located.
South Georgia is part of a group of islands known as South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. These are two geographically distinct groups of islands in the Atlantic Ocean sector of the Southern Ocean, situated between 26 and 43 degrees west longitude and 53 and 60 degrees south latitude.
South Georgia and its associated smaller offshore islands, islets and stacks lie between the parallels of 53°00’S and 55°00’S, and between the meridians of 34°30’W and 42°00’W. These islands are very isolated, lying about 870 miles (1,400 km) east-southeast of the Falkland Islands, 963 miles (1,550 km) north-east of Cape Dubouzet (the nearest point on the Antarctic continent), 1,336 miles (2,150 km) east of Cabo Virgenes (South America’s nearest mainland point) and 2,983 miles (4,800 km) from Cape Town, South Africa. The nearest land is Zavodovski Island, the northernmost island in the South Sandwich Islands group, 342 miles (550 km) to the east-south-east.
The island group covers 1,450 square miles (3,755 square km) and ranks as the third-largest sub-Antarctic archipelago after the Falkland Islands and Iles Kerguelen. South Georgia itself is 106 miles (170 km) long and 1.2 to 25 miles (2 to 40 km) wide, and its long axis is orientated in a north-west to south-east direction. It is surrounded by over 70 islands, islets, stacks and rocks, including the outliers Shag Rocks, 155 miles (250 km) west of the north-west end of the island, and Clerke Rocks, 47 miles (75 km) east of the south-east end. The larger offshore islands support vascular plants and breeding seabirds, and include Willis Islands and Bird Island off the north-west extremity, Cooper Island off the south-east extremity, and Annenkov Island, 9 miles (15 km) off the central south-west coast.
The south-west coast of South Georgia is fully exposed to the prevailing westerly weather systems. It is colder and more heavily glaciated than the north-east with numerous glaciers debouching into the sea and permanent snow and ice starting at 300 m altitude. The coastline is predominantly rock and ice, and extensive Tussac-covered lowland areas are uncommon. In contrast, the north-east coast is more sheltered, with a permanent snow line starting at 400–600 m altitude, and extensive ice-free vegetated peninsulas bounded by glaciers, many of which terminate on land. The south-west coast of the island is exposed to heavy wave action under the influence of the prevailing westerly wind and ocean swell.
South Georgia lies in the Scotia Sea within the Antarctic Zone of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, and about 217 miles (350 km) south of the Polar Front. It is surrounded by eastward-flowing Antarctic surface waters, with temperatures between 0°C and 4°C. South Georgia’s high-altitude glaciated interior, together with its position south of the Antarctic Polar Frontal Zone and surrounded by cold Antarctic waters, results in a cooler oceanic climate than that of most other sub-Antarctic islands, and a harsher climate than expected from its latitude.
The orographic effects of the island’s central mountain ranges greatly influence regional precipitation and weather. The south-west side and the extremities of the island, being exposed to the prevailing westerly weather systems, are typically cold, wet and cloudy with strong winds. The northeast coastal areas are more temperate, being sheltered by the mountain ranges and local topography. Here, the average annual precipitation is 1,600 mm, average annual wind speed is 4.4 m per second, and average annual temperature is +2°C with an absolute range of -19°C to +24°C. Winter and summer seasons are clearly defined, with temperatures averaging +4.8°C in the summer and -1.2°C in winter. Föhn winds produce localised rapid increases in temperature; katabatic winds associated with passing frontal systems may result in gusts of over 100 knots (115.2 mph).
The literature also reports that the speed of the surface westerly winds over the Southern Ocean has increased by approximately 3 m/s in summer months which may be responsible for causing more Föhn wind events on the North East side of South Georgia.
Observation: So what have I established? This: South Georgia lies in an area called the sub-Antarctic. It is a very cold, very wet and very windy place. It is exposed to prevailing westerly winds and weather fronts, but conditions vary across South Georgia, as one would expect. Under certain conditions, the mountains and weather fronts interact to create very strong gust of wind over 100mph.
What about Albatrosses?
Grey-headed Albatross are covered by a multilateral agreement that goes by the name The Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels. The UK signed the agreement in 2001 and this was ratified in 2004. The agreement strives to conserve albatrosses and petrels by coordinating international activities to mitigate threats to their populations. In May 2019 the ACAP Advisory Committee declared that a conservation crisis continues to be faced by its 31 listed species, with thousands of albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters dying every year as a result of fisheries operations.
The Grey-headed Albatross has a circumpolar distribution, breeding at six island groups or archipelagos in the sub-Antarctic: South Georgia (in the South Atlantic); Crozet, Kerguelen and the Prince Edward Islands (in the southern Indian Ocean); Macquarie and Campbell islands (in the South Pacific); and Diego Ramirez and Ildefonso (in southern Chile).
South Georgia is a globally important breeding site for Grey-headed Albatrosses. The archipelago hosts approximately 50% of the world population, considerably more than any other island group.
South Georgia is not just the breeding place for Grey-headed Albatrosses, but also for other species as well. A number of these species populations at South Georgia are also in decline.
The Grey-headed Albatross is listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red-list of Threatened Species. The species is currently listed as Endangered. Previously it was listed as Vulnerable.
The IUCN’s latest assessment of the species is dated August 7th 2018. In this assessment they provide their justification for the listing as an Endangered species. This is what they say: “This species is listed as Endangered as data from South Georgia, which holds around half the global population, indicate a very rapid rate of decline of the world population over three
generations (90 years), even if colonies lacking trend information are assumed to be stable. The major driver of declines is likely to be incidental mortality in long-line fisheries.”
The assessment estimates the number of breading pairs to be c 98,601. This figure as based on a number of surveys undertaken at several breeding sites across the bird’s range, over the period 1997-2016. It is thought that the figures imply a population size of mature individuals of at least 250,000.
The IUCN also state that the population trend is downwards. At South Georgia, the population is estimated to have declined by 25% between 1977 and 2004, and by 43% between 2004 and 2015 which equates to a projected decline of 85% or even higher if declines continued at this rate over three generations. On Campbell Island, data from 2004 suggest that the population declined by over 75% between 1940-2004 which equates to a 95% decline over three generations. However, this population underwent a major decline until 1997 but has since stabilised. Population trends are unknown for Chile, Iles Kerguelen and Iles Crozet (representing around one third of the global population). Also, in contrast to South Georgia and Campbell Island, on Marion Island there has been a 1.2% annual population increase from 1988-2011.
The British Antarctic Survey reported in 2017 that 15 of the 22 species of albatrosses are threatened with extinction. They also state that the Waved, Tristan and Amsterdam Albatrosses are Critically Endangered (as opposed to Grey-headed Albatross which is only classed as Endangered).
In 2018 the IUCN changed the classification for the Amsterdam Albatross to Endangered since the population was increasing, even though it was still small (92 mature individuals). They also reported that the population of the Critically Endangered Triston Albatross was still decreasing with between 3400 and 4800 mature individuals (as compared with at least 250,000 mature individual Grey-headed Albatross).
The British Antarctic Survey also mentioned that the populations of albatrosses that are declining most rapidly are those breeding on the UK Overseas Territories in the South Atlantic. On the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia, they say that the three species of albatrosses that they monitor are declining at between 2% and 4% a year.
It is of course possible, given the monitoring that takes place and the lack of information from other breeding sites, that the issue is not South Georgia specific.
The British Antarctic Survey also provides an explanation why albatross populations are so vulnerable. This is because they are one of the longest lived species of bird, with some surviving for more than 60 years. They take many years to reach sexual maturity, not breeding until they are around 10 years old. Although most breed annually, nine species – including the Grey-headed Albatross – lay only one egg every two years, and it takes the best part of a year for a young albatross to leave the nest. Because chick production is so slow, even small increases in death rates among adults will cause populations to decline.
All the papers and reports examined point to fishing being the primary cause of the decline in albatrosses, in particular the use of long-line fishing. The Grey-headed Albatross being a case in point – they become bycatch because they scavenge the bait on the fishing lines. As a consequence of this many are drowned by being pulled under the surface. The IUCN 2018 assessment identifies large scale fishing as a threat to the majority of Grey-headed Albatrosses with a severity: ‘rapid decline’.
Mitigation measures have been developed to deal with this problem and have proven to be effective. Around South Georgia, there is a 200 nautical mile maritime zone in which commercial fishing is controlled and mitigation measures are mandatory. During the late 1990s, 6000 seabirds were killed each year by fishing vessels around South Georgia. The introduction of these measures has been so successful that bycatch has been reduced to negligible levels in this fishery since 2006.
So why, given that the mitigation measures have been so successful, have populations continued to decline?
In May 2019 the ACAP Advisory Committee stated that thousands of albatrosses and petrels are continuing to die every year as a result of fisheries operations, notably by long-line and trawl vessels. Despite efforts that have been put into researching and recommending effective mitigation measures to address seabird bycatch in fisheries by ACAP and other bodies, in many instances these are not being implemented or are not being fully implemented. A lack of compliance with measures adopted by those Regional Fisheries Management Organisations responsible for high-seas tuna fisheries (tuna RFMOs) was identified as a critical issue.
During the breeding season, Grey-headed Albatross breeders forage predominantly in and to the south of the Antarctic Polar Frontal Zone, where they exhibit little overlap with fisheries due to the time-area closure of the South Georgia Patagonian Toothfish fishery. Nevertheless, their foraging distribution during the breeding season does extend out of this area and into the area managed by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas
(ICCAT), particularly during incubation, where they overlap with pelagic long-line vessels targeting tuna and tuna-like species. However, it is during the non-breeding period that birds are likely to face the greatest bycatch risk. During this period, birds are widely dispersed across the Southern Oceans. Their circumpolar distribution and propensity to forage at oceanic frontal zones, also targeted by fisheries, brings Grey-headed Albatrosses into potential conflict with a wide range of pelagic long-line fisheries.
The above is one explanation. There could be others. So what about climate change?
The IUCN 2018 mentions climate change as a threat. Specifically its sub-category (11.3) Temperature Extremes resulting in eco-system stresses. To explain: this refers to eco-system degradation (direct damage to an eco-system’s biotic and/or abiotic biological condition) and indirect damage to the eco-system (such as threats to food sources). The IUCN have not listed the category (11.4) Storms and Flooding as a threat to the Grey Headed Albatross (as of August 2018) nor the stress category (2.3.7) Reduced Reproductive Success (for example through chick mortality).
Other scientific literature also mentions climate change. It is though, rather generic and speculative. I did find mention of heat stress in relation to a breeding site in the Indian Ocean, but nothing more. Two sources did mention possible positive effects on albatrosses of changing wind speeds, but this is evidently dependent upon their location and the time of year.
And what is being done in South Georgia to stop the population decline of Grey-headed Albatrosses?
In order to bolster efforts to better understand the factors contributing to the long-term decline in numbers of Grey-headed Albatrosses at South Georgia, and to address these threats, the Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (GSGSSI) in 2016 identified the need for a dedicated Conservation Action Plan for this species at South Georgia.
This Conservation Action Plan is intended to serve as a framework to guide, in an informed, prioritised and co-ordinated manner, actions required to improve the conservation status of Grey-headed Albatrosses at South Georgia, and globally. The scope of the Conservation Action Plan is limited to the South Georgia population of Grey-headed Albatrosses (i.e. the actions identified are targeted specifically at this population, for which GSGSSI have responsibility). However, given the global importance of the South Georgia population, improvements in the conservation status of this population will positively influence the overall conservation status of the species. Furthermore, given their wide-ranging nature, the ultimate responsibility for addressing threats to South Georgia Grey-headed Albatrosses varies. This Conservation Action Plan includes measures that are the direct responsibility of
GSGSSI, but importantly also includes ‘external’ actions that involve other nations and organisations. In these latter cases, GSGSSI aims through outreach, collaboration and diplomatic engagement to promote and assist where possible the management of these ‘external’ threats to Grey-headed Albatrosses that breed at South Georgia.
The goal is to ensure the recovery and long-term survival of Grey-headed Albatrosses at South Georgia by understanding the nature and extent of the threats they face, and importantly to reduce or eliminate these threats by implementing or promoting the required conservation research and management actions. The ultimate aim is, by 2020, to have stopped the decline of the population of Grey-headed Albatrosses breeding at South Georgia.
And on the matter of brood guarding: In pelagic seabirds, the dilemma of leaving or staying is particularly acute given that foraging trips can last up to several days, and an unattended, young and hence vulnerable chick is potentially exposed for long periods between visits. The duration of brood guarding in albatrosses and petrels is highly variable, even within the same climatic region, for example lasting just 2-3 days in Antarctic prions, but 3-6 weeks in albatrosses. Part of the variation can be accounted for by nest site characteristics; brood-guarding is shorter in burrow-nesters, than surface-nesters. However, there are large variations even within these two general groups.
So what about chicks being blown out of their nests? There is no mention of this in the scientific literature that I examined, although it should be self-evident that this might happen in such stormy environment like Bird Island. In fact what is implied in the narratives of the two films concerns issues around brood guarding, chick mortality, and breeding success. Not all Grey-headed Albatrosses breeding efforts lead to a fledged chick. Many factors intervene to prevent this: predation, condition of the adult birds, weather, adult quality (i.e. past breeding success), availability of food, disease. It is also the case that chick survival is dependent upon the condition of the chick.
A chick’s ability to thermoregulate and to fend off predation increases with age, as does its appetite. There comes a point therefore when chicks no longer need the parent to provide heat, and parents have no choice but to leave chicks alone in order to forage for food.
Some research has shown that chick mortality in Grey-headed Albatrosses is high just after the end of brood guarding, and this mortality is strongly dependent on calendar date and chick condition, but is largely independent of the duration of brood guarding itself. The research has also shown that there is a marked seasonal decline in the duration of brood guarding, and that parents’ decisions concerning the regulation of brooding seem to be largely independent of chick age and also of their own [adult] body condition. One factor at work here is believed to be that chicks are safer when there are more chicks in nests. This is called the predator swamping effect – safety in numbers. This reduces the probability of an individual chick being eaten as predators cannot keep eating.
Research into Black-browed Albatrosses involving comparisons between two study sites, one being in the Falklands which has a more favourable climate than at the second site which was Bird Island, have shown that bad weather can be a problem for albatross chicks with limited thermoregulatory abilities, something confirmed by the fact, observed at both sites, that there were young unattended Black-browed Albatrosses apparently dying of cold during spells of inclement weather.
This research also examined something the researchers called the cold-protection hypothesis. This includes a prediction that brood guarding should be longer in environments with harsher climatic conditions, which in fact was not observed. It also includes a prediction that adults should respond to short term variations in weather by prolonging brooding during spells of bad weather, and that adults should be more prone to terminate brooding under favourable (warm and dry) conditions. What was observed was that short-term weather fluctuations (measured by the wind chill index) had a demonstrable effect on the decision by the parent not to terminate brooding. It was noted that virtually no chicks were left on days with heavy rain. However, it is clear that adult birds, being pelagic seabirds, once engaged in a foraging trip, cannot quickly resume brooding behaviour as a response to possible deterioration of the weather.
I did not find any specific scientific evidence that increasing wind speed is resulting in greater chick mortality rates at Bird Island, or even if it were, that this is having a major influence causing rapid population decline. What I did discover is that breeding success is the result of complex interactions among multiple factors. So simple statements like those offered in the TV programme cannot be made.
This is a continuation of my blog entitled Seven Worlds, One Planet – Natural History Education or Climate Change Propaganda? (Introduction and Part I) published on Nov 22, 2019, and Part II also published on Nov 22, 2019. Part II provides a more detailed account of the material I collected from reading the scientific literature. Part III is a list of the scientific literature consulted.
Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (2010). ACAP Species assessment: Grey-headed Albatross Thalassarche chrysostoma. Retrieved from: https://www.acap.aq/en/resources/acap-species2/248-grey-headed-albatross/file
Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses (2019). Eleventh Meeting of the Advisory Committee: Report of the Population and Conservation Working Group. Florianópolis, Brazil, 13–17 May.
Bannister, D. and King, J. (2015). Föhn winds on South Georgia and their impact on regional climate. Weather, 70(11), pp. 324-329.
Barbraud, C. et al. (2012). Effects of climate change and fisheries bycatch on Southern Ocean seabirds: A review. Marine Ecology Progress Series 454, pp. 285–307
BBC Media Centre (2019). Seven Worlds, One Planet: Antarctica. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/mediapacks/seven-worlds-one-planet/antarctica
BirdLife International (2018a). Thalassarche chrysostoma. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T22698398A132644834. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2018-2.RLTS.T22698398A132644834.en
BirdLife International (2018b). Diomedea dabbenena. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T22728364A132657527. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2018-2.RLTS.T22728364A132657527.en
British Antarctic Survey (2017). Albatrosses – Science Briefing. Retrieved from: https://www.bas.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Albatrosses-science-briefing_Apr17.pdf
Catry, P. et al. (2006). Factors affecting the solution of a parental dilemma in albatrosses: at what age should chicks be left unattended? Animal Behaviour, 72, pp. 383-391
Catry, P. et al. (2010). Brood-guarding duration in black-browed albatrosses Thalassarche melanophris: temporal, geographical and individual variation. Journal of Avian Biology, 41(4), pp. 460-469.
Cleeland, J. (2017). Factors that drive demographic change in a community of albatrosses. PhD Thesis, University of Tasmania. Retrieved from: https://eprints.utas.edu.au/29563/1/Cleeland_whole_thesis.pdf
Dias, M.P. et al. (2019). Threats to seabirds: A global assessment. Biological Conservation 237, pp. 525–537.
Dilley, B.J. et al. (2016). ‘Scalping’ of albatross fledglings by introduced mice spreads rapidly at Marion Island. Antarctic Science 28(2), pp. 73–80.
Government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands (2016). Conservation Action Plan for Grey-headed Albatrosses at South Georgia (2016-2020). Government House, Stanley, Falkland Islands.
Lin, X. et al. (2018). Mean, Variability, and Trend of Southern Ocean Wind Stress: Role of Wind Fluctuations. Journal of Climate, 31, pp. 3557-3573.
Lowry, L. (2015). Odobenus rosmarus ssp. divergens. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: e.T61963499A45228901. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2015-4.RLTS.T61963499A45228901.
Phillips, R.A. et al. (2016). The conservation status and priorities for albatrosses and large petrels. Biological Conservation 201, pp. 169–183.
Poncet, S. (2006). South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. In: Sanders, S. (ed.) Important Bird Areas in the United Kingdom Overseas Territories: Priority Sites for Conservation. London: RSPB.
Poncet, S., et.al. (2006). Status and distribution of wandering, black-browed and grey-headed albatrosses breeding at South Georgia. Polar Biol. 29, pp. 772–781.
Ryan, P.G. et al. (2007). Breeding frequency in Grey-headed Albatrosses Thalassarche chrysostoma. Ibis 149, pp. 45–52.
Ryan PG, et al. (2009) Recent population estimates and trends in numbers of albatrosses and giant petrels breeding at the sub-Antarctic Prince Edward Islands. African Journal of Marine Science 31(3), pp. 409-417.
US Department of the Interior Fish and Wildlife Service (2017). Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 12-Month Findings on Petitions To List 25 Species as Endangered or Threatened Species. Federal Register 82 (192), Thursday, October 5, pp. 46618-46645.
Weimerskirch, H. et al. (1997). Foraging and provisioning strategies of black-browed albatrosses in relation to the requirements of the chick: natural variation and experimental study. Behavioral Ecology, 8(6), pp. 635-643
Weimerskirch, H. et al. (2012). Changes in Wind Pattern Alter Albatross Distribution and Life-History Traits. Science 335, 211. DOI: 10.1126/science.1210270
Tuesday, 5 November 2019
Here are the lyrics of the first verse of a satirical song!
Is it raining, is it snowing, are you dry or are you wet,
Is there thunder, is there lightening, do you shiver, do you sweat,
Is the sun out, is it cloudy, are you melting, do you freeze,
Is it raw out, does it thaw out, do you cough or do you sneeze:
Climate change is all to blame for it!
To blame, to blame, to blame for it!
Why so, why is climate change to blame?
My child don’t ask, it is to blame!
Your problems too, go blame climate change!
Believe you me, it is to blame,
To blame for all, to blame for all. Olé!
Acknowledgements to the great satirical song writer, Friedrich Hollander, whose lyrics we have slightly – perhaps significantly! – modified. We are deploying here a technique known as intertextuality. Intertextuality: the relationship between texts, especially literary ones.
So what it my point? The above is a short introduction to something to come – a demonstration that people and organisations that speak with the voice of authority by virtue of their standing in society are spreading misinformation. In this case it is the BBC, in a natural history programme called Seven Worlds, One Planet, where there is an example of Blame it on Climate Change. A false truth claim! You will have to wait for the details, but once again I leave you with words from Hannah Arendt’s 1951 book The Origins of Totalitarianism:
“The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e., the standards of thought) no longer exist.”
Friday, 1 November 2019
Lord of the Flies – What a World Run by Children (with or without with Asperger Syndrome) would be Like!
A follow-up to a previous blog …
The world has gone mad! You may have heard people saying this, and if proof were needed, look no further than a Swedish child with Asperger syndrome having a temper tantrum at the September 2019 UN Climate Action Summit, while engaging in her rant about how others – those possessing the property of otherness – in this case climate change heretics (those who have not been indoctrinated into the repent your sins for the end of the world in nigh ideology of the messianic Swedish child) are blamed for destroying her future. Only one person is responsible for that – the Swedish child with Asperger syndrome!
Looking beyond the echo chamber in which, no doubt, some of her devotees dwell, picking up (oh so accurate?) information from that (oh so reliable?) information source called the world-wide-web and a proliferation of social-networks (complete with imaginary friends), I suggest a remedy for their misguided thoughts, which are of course beliefs – secular religious beliefs! They are part of a socially constructed reality in case you were wondering. I’m afraid you will need to be familiar with one of the classic works of sociology to understand what I am referring to. Most people are not familiar.
And that remedy – I suggest that those who are still able to read, should do just that – read that is! I mean books. Hard work! Yes of course. Nothing worth having comes easy! In particular, as a starting point, read William Golding’s Lord of the Flies! You might also want to familiarize yourself with Asperger syndrome as well! You might then look at the Swedish child in a different way and realise how potentially dangerous she is. You might also want to reflect upon just how easy it is for people to follow messianic figures. The world went mad in the 1930s as well!
Lord of the Flies is a novel about children’s attempt to govern themselves in a situation where there are no adults to govern them. Whether children have Asperger syndrome or not, there is a reason why children do not get to become Prime Ministers, Presidents or to determine environmental policies! Read the novel to find out more about what a world run by children – with or without Asperger syndrome – might be like!
Lord of the Flies is interpreted as a story about the conflicting human impulses toward civilisation and social organisation – living by rules, peacefully and in harmony – and toward the will to power. Themes include the tension between groupthink and individuality, between rational and emotional reactions, and between morality and immorality. How these play out, and how different people feel the influences of these, form a major subtext of Lord of the Flies. The name Lord of the Flies is a literal translation of Beelzebub.
Some people might think that Beelzebub is highly appropriate to the Swedish child, judging by the hate speech directed against her. Such thoughts though are inappropriate. The point is that there is another side to the Swedish child that people are missing, and that is the potential danger she poses to civilisation, as her message encourages young people to give up on civilisation and social organisation. Her negative message somewhat misses the point too, because children, like many adults, do not understand the science of climate change, and they also overestimate the integrity of the scientific community, being as they are naïve children lacking in worldly experience. More on the integrity issue at the end!
The aforementioned interpretation of Lord of the Flies does of course have relevance to issues around global warming, and the contradictions between what people think collectively (socially constructed reality) and individually (special people who see what others do not see – artists for example if you believe such myths, or children with Asperger syndrome who think that they are special (this it seems is what the Swedish child told the BBC!), who become messianic. Think back to the 1930s – surely the world has had enough of such people and the mass hysteria that they create? Or perhaps not! Perhaps people want more of that sort of madness?
What individuals think, based on what some psychologists call, fast thinking, could be very different from what individuals think based on slow thinking. Fast thinking though is natural and automatic and can be wrong. Everyone thinks fast, including scientists! Esteemed presenters of natural history programmes also think fast and can be wrong. So, I suppose, do children with Asperger syndrome. Or perhaps you want to believe that is not the case?
How can one tell whether what people are saying is not the result of fast thinking with its high risk of systematic error? What implication does this systematic error have for humanity? This is why I study flawed decision making. It is more common than people realise. Experts in particular are prone to this problem including scientists, esteemed presenters of natural history programmes, artists, and others too! Everyone in fact including the Swedish child! And the followers of Extinction Rebellion! Even the ones who say they are former senior police officers! There is no escape from fast thinking. The only remedy is to slow down, take a long time to analyse the original source material, and start critically questioning what people are saying. And you have the free time for this do you? And the specialist knowledge and skills?
Probably you will know (you have acquired an understanding) that children are innocent and that out of the mouths of babes … In other words children can say things which might seem wise and perhaps, unconstrained by social norms, will say things that adults will not say (but perhaps need to say!). Thus, when a child with Asperger syndrome turns up, apparently saying wise things, and claiming that because she has Asperger syndrome she sees things that other people cannot see, you may have a strong inclination to believe her, even though you probably know nothing or very little about Asperger syndrome. This will not stop you from believing – because it is a good story and seems to make sense, even if it is not correct.
This is an example of fast thinking – fast and automatic. Thus you might also accept too, that young people have no future and that causing young people to miss out on their education by not attending school is not a problem, and that the Swedish child with Asperger syndrome is not leading young people astray. Back to Lord of the Flies!
If you try to stop this automatic process and make an effort to think through issues slowly, in other words critically, you might become horrified by the idea that someone, because of their condition, who may have an obsession with one narrow subject, who may engage in restricted patterns of behaviour and who may also have a very literal understanding of language, who may also struggle with the natural ambiguities of language, and think people always mean exactly what they say, is encouraging people to miss school and damage their future.
This is the future that collectively the world is making – which is (perhaps?) in the longer term, more damaging to humanity than issues which apparently have already rendered young peoples’ futures irrelevant and not worth working for – a message of hopeless! Abandon hope all ye who enter here!
The way for young people to make a better future for themselves and the rest of the world, is through education, not through listening to those who think that the future has been stolen from young people. The future belongs to no one, and is made by those who journey to the future, not by those who encourage the young to give up this precious gift called education.
Politicians declaring climate emergencies does nothing to solve the issue – but it does make them popular! Hence populist politicians, like in Scotland, who in contradictory style, declare the primacy of a border (leave the UK), while simultaneously declaring borders to be irrelevant (join the EU), or who (again contradictorily) declare climate emergencies while looking to the extraction and sale of more fossil fuels (oil) to enable the implementation of that other contradictory policy that declares the primacy of a border, while simultaneously declaring borders to be irrelevant. Well they are politicians! Thinking politicians? What do you believe?
And to that matter of the integrity of scientists, and others who I would say, dwell in the House of Salomon (or Solomon if you prefer). If you are wondering what I am referring to it is because you do indeed need to read more books!
I have spent my working life surround by those who dwell in the House of Salomon, and understand them better than most, and I speak their disciplinary languages as well. For many decades I have been monitoring and recording case studies of their flawed decision making, noting too an increasing lack of integrity in that domain called research, from which the climate change narrative emerges. I have noted too, how people who do not support this particular narrative are treated. Not very scientifically, but essentially as heretics, which is why I have also studied the social sciences and looked for explanations why people behave in this way, and indeed why people believe others, like scientists, who have a dark history that cannot be dismissed as a few bad apples, or as aberrations. This latter statement may conflict with your beliefs: yes the word is correct – beliefs.
The scandal of Eugenics is a prime example of scientists and their lack of integrity – and morals! It is something that still persists today, only few now dare to say openly what they think, which is not scientific, but just prejudice masquerading as science. By way of example, I suggest you look at Richard Dawkins’ imbecilic views on Down’s Syndrome – do you really believe that his opinions are the result of scientific work and critical thinking, that he has spoken to people with Down’s Syndrome? If you do then you are part of a socially constructed reality – a very dangerous one that would have been well appreciated in Berlin between 1933 and 1945.
This is an appropriate moment to mention an eminent British evolutionary biologist talking scientific nonsense. Sir Julian Huxley, FRS! Note the letters FRS which is the highest scientific accolade available in the UK – FRS or Fellow of the Royal Society. You should watch Julian Huxley’s 1937 film Heredity in Man. It is available for free viewing on the British Film Institute web site (https://player.bfi.org.uk/free/film/watch-heredity-in-man-1937-online). The film is described as “a chilling insight into the brave new world of pre-Holocaust eugenics.” Notice the language he uses – “mental defectives” and “maintaining the race at a high level, physically and mentally”. Do not be fooled into thinking these are the perverse views of one individual – there was what scientists call, a scientific consensus around this eugenics nonsense. If you do watch the film, notice the (scientific?) (pseudo-scientific?) prediction at the end. Can you see the flaws in this model and his arguments? If not you might want to rant and scream about the need to listen to these scientists, for your future is being destroyed because the purity of the race will be destroyed by (to use Huxley’s words) “mental defectives” who are going to swamp all normal people (that’s another phrase Huxley uses – what exactly is a normal person?).
If you follow the Swedish child’s advice to listen to the scientists, you will want to implement Huxley’s brave new world, and rant and scream at those who are Eugenics Deniers! Or perhaps you are going to be inconsistent – which is okay, because that is what people are.
Here is something else to imagine. It is the early 19th century and a different (earlier) Swedish child with Asperger syndrome has just read Thomas Malthus’ (another Fellow of the Royal Society) Essay on Population. Its full title is: An Essay on the Principle of Population; or A View of its Past and Present Effects on Human Happiness; with An Inquiry into Our Prospects Respecting the Future Removal or Mitigation of the Evils that it Occasions. Suddenly this different Swedish child is ranting, saying we should listen to the scientists, otherwise my future will be destroyed because there will not be enough food to feed the population. Perhaps you might want to join in the chorus? Or perhaps you might see the flaws in Malthus’ oh so scientific model and predictions! Or perhaps not! Self-evidently his prediction of the global food emergency that was already happening turned out to be – a false prediction. I wonder why?
The most fundamental problems of humanity are not external, but lie within us, for we are fundamentally flawed, and the flaw lies in the mind. Most of what you think is knowledge – what you know – is not knowledge in the philosopher's sense of justified true belief, but in the sociologist’s sense that, if enough people believe something, then it is knowledge. Hence Eugenics, Communism, National Socialism, and climate change hysteria, to mention just a few examples of human madness based on – knowledge. He who eats the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil will surely die.
Beware those who with beguiling words speak of scientific consensus, for it may just be another way of describing human behaviour in group situations, and what people want to believe based on knowledge – that is to say beliefs! And how many of you have the knowledge (in the sense of justified true belief) to understand this, regardless of age and Asperger syndrome? So please do listen to the scientists, and then question what they say, for as Hannah Arendt writes at the end of her book The Origins of Totalitarianism, “The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e., the standards of thought) no longer exist.” As I said at the beginning, the world has gone mad for we are increasingly seeing people whose reality of experience and standards of thought are that of the ideal subject of totalitarian rule. Quite a few scientists fall into that group, as Huxley demonstrates, which is perhaps why scientists and engineers so enthusiastically embraced the new world order that was National Socialism. More books to read!
I find it difficult to convey to people using this genre (blogs), the extent to which people and organisations that speak with the voice of authority by virtue of their standing in society, are engaging in communicating misinformation and false truth claims. Huxley illustrates this. So does Dawkins. The problem seems to have grown as mass media has also expanded, and anyone can now broadcast their beliefs to an audience hungry to believe in something (anything?).
The evidence I collect increasingly points to people who dwell in the House of Salomon being either morally corrupt, ignorant, or incompetent, sometimes all three. And few want to believe this. This is why I have turned to developing another genre – the scriptovisual – for as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote in the text of his Nobel Lecture, beauty saves the world. More reading!