It's Not Nice to Mow Mother Nature

Recently, a friend sent me a Globe and Mail article entitled “Is it Time to Decolonize Your Lawn?” with the comment that he guessed it was a slow news day. Before I had finished the first few paragraphs, I saw what I was in for: a censorious screed against green grass combining anti-Western, anti-capitalist animus with an oft-incoherent environmentalism. 

The article, by Sierra Bein and Christopher Katsarov, informs readers that while many people associate a green lawn with carefree childhood summers, and may even “feel a sense of pride” about their carefully tended grass, such positive associations are a delusion. Just as we now regard with mystification the Victorian practice of affixing dead birds to ladies’ hats, so we may come to reject the traditional lawn as a symbol of violence. The lawn’s troubles stem from its location “at the confluence of two hot-button issues: climate change and Indigenous rights.” 

Not everything in the essay is nonsense. It is true, for example, that green lawns require a lot of water during hot summers, and that in drought-prone areas, the need for water—and for chemical fertilizers—is a problem. But a fact-based argument about alternatives to the grassy lawn would not have allowed the authors to range over such guilt-inducing preferred topics as cultural appropriation and planetary peril. 

The essay is a hodgepodge of assertions and half-made arguments, many over-stated or self-contradictory. Readers are chided for not realizing that weeds “are as wonderful as any other plants” (“when you actually get to know them”) and then told a paragraph later that attempts to get rid of weeds “often lead to more” (though wouldn’t that be a good thing according to the article’s logic?). At one point, lawns are criticized for failing to mitigate heat, as if gardeners don’t know that’s what trees are for. Biodiversity is touted, but never with the recognition that most serious gardeners seek biodiversity.

Nonetheless, despite its tangents, the essential ideas in the article are unambiguous: 1. Lawns are expressions of colonialism and private property, and are therefore a vestige of the bad old days; and 2. Lawns indicate our western attempt to control nature, a dangerous act of hubris that must be overcome.  

A settler-invader strikes again.

The suggestion that lawns violate “Indigenous rights” is perhaps the weakest of all the article’s dubious assertions, and it is never seriously pursued. But we are told that lawns are “a lasting symbol of how settlers appropriated Indigenous land and culture.” How so? The article never manages a coherent answer. It is stressed that the idea for green lawns—to be used for picnicking and croquet playing—was brought by European immigrants to North America in the late nineteenth century, even though the conquest and colonization of the land that would become Canada and the United States had occurred centuries earlier and had nothing to do with lawn care. It’s hard to believe that relations between Native and non-Native peoples would have developed differently if European Canadians had never come to valorize a swath of green, and I doubt many contemporary Indigenous advocates lie awake at night plotting to eradicate the lawn-mower.

The greater issue here, one suspects, is the opportunity for the authors to tout the superior ecological virtues of the Indigenous way of life, and to shame non-Native people for their alleged failures. A First Nations advocate is quoted extolling the respect Natives peoples traditionally held for the land. Jayce Chiblow, a member of the Garden River First Nation and spokesperson for a group called Indigenous Climate Action, says of plants that “Our teaching is that those are our relatives and that we belong to the land. It’s an entirely different concept” (from the destructive, instrumentalist attitude of non-Natives). Chiblow adds that “for Anishinaabe people, the bush was their pharmacy and fridge. ‘It was our everything.’” That “everything” was decimated as a result of the arrival of Europeans, who caused “a decline in the biodiversity so relied on by Indigenous people” and who brought “invasive species over with them.”

This is a familiar idea sometimes referred to as the motif of the Ecological Indian, the widely-held conviction that Indigenous people have a special caretaker ethic vastly different from, and superior to, the exploitative mentality of non-Native peoples. The reality is far more complex, as anthropologist Shepard Krech demonstrates in his book The Ecological Indian: Myth and Reality. Providing an extensive exploration of the notion that Native Americans were closer to nature than Euro-Americans, he examines the mass extinctions that accompanied the arrival of Native peoples on the North American continent, Native use of fire in agriculture, and the fates of buffalo, deer, and beaver populations under Native control. 

Myth

He concludes that although Native peoples certainly did emphasize the interrelatedness of human beings and other living things, neither their actions nor their belief systems—specifically their belief in animal reincarnation—supported a concern for the balance of nature or what would now be considered environmentalist principles. No matter. The romantic idea that non-Indigenous descendants of “settlers” (sometimes called “settler invaders” for the added sting) should engage in self recrimination for their despoliation of a pristine world is a hardy doctrine of contemporary belief. 

Related to the emphasis on non-Native desecration of the land is an equally familiar attack on property ownership. The article makes the link between lawns and “the property ownership mentality,” the capitalistic (i.e. bad) idea “that we can own” things at all. Readers are informed that, once established in North America, the manicured lawn became a sign of respectability and of wealth. “Every backyard essentially became a private park” as mini-landowners vied with one another for conspicuous displays of their status. All of this is presented as if its immorality and negative consequences are self-evident, and as if giving up our lawn-mowers and allowing the weeds to sprout unhindered are necessary acts of environmental and communal contrition. 

It doesn’t seem to matter to the article’s authors that it is impossible to establish any positive correlation between state or communal ownership of land and ecological flourishing: quite the opposite. Environmental catastrophe is the signature of Communist regimes, which lack the responsibility incentives of private or commercial ownership. As Thomas DiLorenzo points out in The Problem with Socialism, to envision the greater care involved in private ownership, one need simply notice “how car owners treat their property compared to how rental cars get treated, or how homeowners treat their homes and property compared to how renters treat theirs.” But in the upside-down vision of radical environmentalists, the man who lets everything go to weed is practising greater care than the person who labors to make his home beautiful.

The impetus behind the many flabby generalizations and utopian imaginings on display here is ultimately an anti-human one, as is made clear in the authors’ respectful quoting of Dr. John Douglas Belshaw, a Canadian history professor at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, B.C., who asks rhetorically, “What is a lawn but a statement of control over nature?” Belshaw goes further to itemize the indignities practiced by “settler culture” against our mother nature in furtherance of the settler culture imperative. “You see that river there? We can dam that. We can organize that water, we can make that water work for us. It’s essentially the same mindset. I can reorganize this landscape, flatten it, plant lawn, find a non-indigenous species of plant, of grass, and completely extract anything that’s not homogenous, that doesn’t fit with this green pattern and control it… A backyard with a big lawn is like a classroom for colonialism and environmental hostility.” 

Reality.

Belshaw does not mention that Native peoples too sought to control nature and make it work for them, but lacked the technology to do so as effectively as their European counterparts. Is this professor of Canadian history really advocating that we stop trying to make nature work for us? The degree of success of the European adventure in North America is rendered vivid by this well-read man’s inability to imagine how gruesome and full of suffering and death our lives would be without our much-denigrated “control” of nature.

Alleging a series of historical, cultural, economic, and environmentalist accusations against lawns, this preachy article seems intended to provoke in readers a massive guilt and sense of illegitimacy. From whatever angle it is viewed, the green lawn accuses its owner of wastefulness, pride, immorality, and perhaps even complicity in genocide. 

With an article like this, we have left the realm of the rational, of cause and effect, and of individual agency far behind. The new conceptual arena we enter is one of collective shaming and technocratic governance.  As our ability to feel confidence in even the most seemingly apolitical actions and basic values is undermined, our need for reliance on “experts” including Indigenous advocates, conservation officers, radical environmentalists, and anti-humanist professors, must increase. The “decolonizing” project has almost nothing to do with lawns or biodiversity, everything to do with delegitimizing western freedoms and prosperity, and destroying our ability to understand or defend them. 

Whatever Happened to Puritan Wine?

Writing back in February, Christopher Horner had a great line which pops back into my head every now and again:

[C]limate changes – it always has, it always will. Of course, saying “climate changes” makes one a “climate change denier.” Go figure.

I was reminded of his observation recently, while reading David Hackett Fischer's classic historical study, Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America. The book itself argues that America's complex culture can be understood, in large part, by looking at the waves of English-speaking settlers who came to the New World between 1629 and 1775, with each wave bringing men and women from a particular region of England to a particular region in America, and with them the peculiar habits and mores (and accents) of their points of origin.

In the first section of the book, concerning the emigration of East Anglians to Massachusetts in the early 1600s, Hackett Fischer describes the initial, and fairly grim, encounter with the New World of those Puritans who had crossed over on the advance ships of the Winthrop Fleet, as documented in their journals:

Their first sight of America was not encouraging. In the month of June 1629, when England was all in bloom, these weary travelers reached the Grand Bank of Newfoundland. Suddenly the wind turned bitter cold and they passed an enormous iceberg hard aground in forty fathoms of frigid water, with the green Atlantic surf roaring against it. It seemed to be "a mountain of ice, shining as white as snow, like to a great rock or cliff," towering above their little ships. In great fear they sailed onward through a foggy night, while drift ice scraped dangerously against fragile hulls and the ships' drums beat mournfully in the darkness.

Dress warm, Pilgrims!

As they traveled further south towards Massachusetts Bay, things became more pleasant, but Hackett Fischer spends some time meditating on the unusual climate of the land the Puritans found themselves in, which proved surprisingly amenable to the foundation of their "Calvinist utopia."

The first and most important environmental fact about New England is that it was cold -- much colder in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries than today. The Puritans arrived in a period of the earth's history which climatologists call the "little ice age." Ocean temperatures off the coast of New England were three degrees centigrade colder in the eighteenth century than the mid-twentieth. In the coldest years of the seventeenth century, the water temperature off New England approached that near southern Labrador today. The Puritans complained of "piercing cold," and salt rivers frozen solid through the winter. One wrote that many lost the use of fingers and feet, and "some have had their overgrown beards so frozen together that they could not get their strong-water bottles into their mouths."

It's worth noting that Hackett Fischer doesn't say a single word about the industrial revolution or any other purported horseman of anthropogenic climate change. Most historians would include a virtue signalling nod in this direction today, but Albion's Seed was written in 1989, just before the current climate narrative had hardened into gospel. He simply states the widely shared interpretation of climatological data of the time.

Welcome to the Bay State: brrrr.

That interpretation was, essentially, that fairly dramatic worldwide climatic fluctuation is a common feature of both the historical and scientific records, with the Roman and Medieval warming periods providing a background to the expansion of the Roman Empire, the far-flung voyages of the Vikings, and the building of the great cathedrals. (There is also agricultural evidence for this warming, memorably mentioned by Mark Steyn, who pointed out that in the Middle Ages, there were vineyards "in places where one would certainly not dare to drink any local wine now," such as northern and southeastern England).

And then, round about 1300, the world began to cool, with the aforementioned Little Ice Age as the result. (Though even this is an overly-neat presentation of the data, as we know that there was a dramatic cold spell in the 900s A.D., and tree-ring records seem to indicate that some of the hottest years in the history of the Mediterranean occurred during the Little Ice Age).

Temperatures began to rebound in the mid-19th century, though they haven't done so in anything like a straight line, as the popular presentation seems to suggest. In 1974, Time Magazine famously warned us all about what was then "three decades" of global cooling, which, it was speculated, could be "the harbinger of another ice age." More recently, beginning in the late 1990s, temperatures have been more or less flat, which climatologists have taken to calling the "pause" in global warming (though one wonders if this "pause" is the basis for their terminological shift to the more accurate, if less meaningful, "climate change"). All of which is to say, there have been ups and downs, as well as plateaus.

Of course, from the perspective of the experts invested in climate change, these fluctuations had to be made to disappear. As John Robson put it,

Climate doomsters don’t like to talk about the Little Ice Age for obvious reasons: a natural temperature drop between around 1300 and 1650 and a rebound after 1850 make it pretty plain that much of the increase in the last 150 years was, at least prima facie, natural as well. And to get rid of the LIA they also had to do in the Medieval Warm Period, along with the Roman and Minoan ones and for that matter the Holocene Climate Optimum.

The climate changes. Modern climatologists would have you believe that change is rare, that gentle cooling was the norm for at least a thousand years before humans started emitting significantly more carbon through industrial activities. But both sides of that statement -- the gentle decline and dramatic increase of temperatures -- are contradicted by both science and history.

Just ask the Puritans, who might not have been induced to leave East Anglia had it been full of the vineyards their distant ancestors had once tended there. Then again, considering the abstemious nature of their sect, had they grown up surrounded by the grape, they might never have become Puritans.

How to Make Poverty Expensive

"Do you not know. my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed?" That’s a famous remark by a Swedish statesman, Axel Oxenstierna (1583-1654), one of the most celebrated men of his time who is now largely forgotten except by historians. He gave that advice in a letter to reassure his nervous son that he need not worry about the diplomatic negotiations in which the young man was about to engage because he wouldn’t find them that difficult. Message: Don’t be too impressed by important people, son. They may have no idea of what they’re doing.

Most people recognize the wisdom of this remark on hearing it but they’re not always able to explain why. My own view is that many of us get it wrong. We think Oxenstierna is deploring the low vices—greed, ambition, jealous rivalry, etc.—that lead people in positions of power into corruption and disaster. Such things happen and they produce bad results. But the disaster arising from greed and corruption are fairly minor compared to those produced by great schemes of idealism so virtuous that no one opposed them on grounds of cost for fear of seeming petty. They’re the really big ticket items.

That was brought home to me this week when I came across a televised debate in the U.K. House of Lords in June 2019 in which Viscount Ridley (in private life, Matt Ridley, author of The Rational Optimist and Innovation, and on climate change a “lukewarmer”) was complaining the British government didn’t seem to have conducted a cost/benefit analysis of its decision that the U.K. would eradicate its net contribution to climate change by 2050.

In fact, when Prime Minister Theresa May announced the decision the previous week, she had said proudly: “This means the U.K. will be the first G7 country to legislate for net-zero emissions.” (Tory cheers!) Ridley was less proud because he thought that spending a vast but unknown sum to reduce U.K. carbon emissions to net zero by 2050 without first discovering what it would cost or what benefits it would deliver suggested a spirit of light-hearted financial abandon.

“We’re faced with a measure,” he declared, “that is likely to cost at least a trillion pounds on top of the 15 billion pounds a year that we’re now spending on subsidies to renewable energy. Let’s remind ourselves for a second just how big a sum a trillion pounds is. If you spent a pound a second, it would take you thirty thousand years to get through one trillion pounds. You’d have to start before the peak of the last Ice Age where woolly mammoths and Neanderthals roamed across a tundra where we now sit.”

Ridley went on to point out that when you added in the costs of other measures to reduce emissions—converting gas-heated homes to electricity, switching to hydrogen-based fuels, etc.—the total costs of U.K. policy came to something like £2.8 trillion. Similarly, writing in the monograph Greenhouse Emissions: the Global Picture, Martin Livermore estimates the various costs of government measures to mitigate climate change as likely to present every family in Britain with a bill for 100,000 pounds.

Loader Loading...
EAD Logo Taking too long?

Reload Reload document
| Open Open in new tab

These are massive expenditures—so massive that we have no real sense of what the statistics mean until someone like Ridley takes the trouble to express them in an arresting way. That explains why two of the earlier speakers in the Lords debate had dismissed them implausibly as “nickles and dimes” and “manageable.” These Brits had already swallowed Everett Dirksen’s Kool-Aid: “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money”—except that a billion’s no longer real money.

And, finally, they are being spent at a time when other vast sums are being allocated both to treat patients suffering from Covid-19 and to sustain the living standards of workers made unemployed by the lockdown even though the expected recession will greatly reduce revenues going to the Treasury.

Burning bread since the 9th century.

A certain giddiness has seized the minds of hitherto sober politicians and officials. If you ask the question: “Is the U.K. taxpayer getting decent value for the expenditures being made on his behalf,” you’re likely to be told that’s not the point. What is the point then?  It’s to save the world by setting a moral example of a mature developed nation making sacrifices for the common good of the world by moving to a net-zero carbon economy.

That arguments falls at more fences than there are in the Grand National. We exaggerate our sacrifice. Much of the fall in Western carbon levels comes from moving our industries overseas to Asia and then importing the goods they produce back to home. Our consumption levels still push up carbon levels. Even if we went without those goods, that would persuade Asians not to cut back on carbon emissions but to look for new markets. They want higher production and higher standards of living which, in the absence of major technological breakthroughs, will require greater use of fossil fuels and higher carbon emissions. And for Western countries to make the deeper emission cuts promised by their leaders, that would mean much higher electricity and other fuel prices and a much reduced standard of living, inflicted on Western voters by their own governments. Even then, in the case of Britain, it would have no impact on global emission levels because the U.K.’s share of them is so small.

As the Brits were making these painful but pointless sacrifices for the common good, China, India, and the former developing countries would be surging ahead and pushing up carbon emission levels ahead of themselves. Indeed, that’s exactly what they are doing and why carbon emissions are not falling but rising. Among other consequences, the shift of economic and financial power (and ultimately of military power too, as we’re starting to realize) from the West to Asia would be greatly accelerated by our own energy policy!

And what makes the position of Western governments still more uncomfortable, as Livermore points out, is (1) that their long-term strategy for getting to net-zero is neither economically nor politically plausible without carbon capture and storage technologies that don’t yet exist, and (2) that they will have to modify it by adopting energy solutions such as nuclear power that they and their peoples have rejected until now. Livermore’s picture of Western policy is like a maze with exits that close as soon as you approach them.

Just whistle a happy tune and it will all turn out right.

No sensible analyst thinks that the plans for net-zero carbon economies by 2050 (let alone 2030) can possibly succeed. They have no justification unless it’s an exercise in multicultural masochism and the politics of sainthood. The voters won’t tolerate them even if small groups of fanatical greens agitate violently to impose them or if the Eurocrats try to close down democratic access to energy policy, which Andrew Willshire recently hinted at in his Spectator piece on the EU’s new energy targets. And their enormous cost will become increasingly burdensome as the bills for so many other better causes fall due.

 

Conservative Energy, or Canada at the Crossroads

Now that scandal-prone Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s approval rating has taken something of a hit, placing the Conservatives at least potentially within striking distance of forming the next government, the question that confronts Canada is whether a Conservative administration could honestly face the shambles that the Liberal government has made of Canada’s most important resource industry, energy production. Would it rescue the energy sector, located primarily in the province of Alberta, from its dormant condition and, at the same time, render unnecessary the budding secessionist, or Wexit, movement in a justifiably resentful Alberta, thus saving Confederation? 

The platform of the newly-elected leader of the Party, Erin O’Toole, seems at first blush encouraging for the energy sector and Alberta’s future prospects, but O’Toole is a noted flip-flopper—not particularly good news for either energy or Alberta. As John O’Sullivan writes in The Pipeline:

O'Toole has been all over the place on the resource sector, initially calling for an end to fossil-fuel subsidies…before backing away from that pledge.

How O’Toole can claim in his platform that “Climate Change is a global problem, that requires a global solution,” while at the same time stating that “Domestic energy production – including oil and gas – is an important part of making our country more self-reliant and more resilient in future” remains a conundrum. Which is noise and which is information? In other respects, his platform seems promising, but the jury will be out for some time. 

A pumpjack in a canola field keeps the lights on.

Leslyn Lewis, whose strong finish in the leadership sweepstakes may earn her a shadow cabinet position, has a Master’s degree in Environmental Studies from York University in Toronto—one of the country’s notoriously woke institutions with little professional stature—where actual climate science yields to a highfalutin iteration of cultural studies. It is, according to its mission statement, “a community that respects and values insight, creativity, justice, and diversity,” but leaves real science at a discount. Although lauded for her environmental expertise, Lewis, as a graduate of Environmental Studies, is a mere dilettante in the field. She has taken many principled social and political stands, but regrettably understands neither energy nor economics.

With the exception of failed leadership candidate Derek Sloan, who is pro-life, a believer in family and parental rights, emphatically anti-socialist, and a muscular supporter of the energy industry—and who is in danger of being expelled from the Caucus on the ludicrous grounds of  “racism, misogyny, and bigotry”—the Conservative Party as a whole, to this point in time, has been more or less devoid of positive initiatives.

Indeed, it appears to have forgotten its founding principles, as adumbrated by Canada’s great conservative thinker George Grant in Lament for a Nation: love of country, the rule of law, civil responsibility, an enduring moral order, freedom of speech, economic prudence, and restraint upon the sweeping exercise of government authority. Unfortunately, conservatism and the Conservative Party in its current incarnation do not always speak the same language. Whether O'Toole represents an answer to the Party’s dilemma remains to be seen.  

Erin, go bragh.

Meanwhile, Alberta is still holding the short end of the stick. It is for the first time in living memory a have-not province. After sending $630 billion in transfer payments to Quebec and the other provinces since 1961, it has received a federal transfer supplement (or so-called equalization payment) of $22 billion for 2020, misnamed as a “net gain.” This is total nonsense.

To begin with, in the current economic context $22 billion is a mere sop; moreover, the supplement is borrowed money that will have to be repaid with interest as part of the $350 billion Canada is borrowing for this year.

Ottawa is not re-distributing domestic wealth to disadvantaged provinces, as envisioned in the national Equalization Formula, but transferring borrowed wealth. Things need to be called by their proper names. Alberta’s $22 billion does not qualify as a “net gain” but a net liability. Wexit does seem to be the only hope for Alberta, whether as a bargaining chip or a realized outcome, but the trouble is that there are too many Canadians and not enough Albertans in the province. 

A sane reclamation of the energy sector will be a difficult slog—not least because an acceptable conservative in leftist Canada, as geologist John Weissenberger writes in The Laurentian ‘Elite’: Canada’s Ruling Class, is “one who can be counted on to lose gracefully”—but Canada will reap the whirlwind in scuppering the energy industry and bankrupting Alberta in the process. Energy is gold and it resides mainly in Canada’s west. 

It will take a surge of conservative energy to restore the country to its former viability. If Erin O’Toole remains true to his commitment to revive domestic energy production, without equivocation, the future may not be entirely dismal. Perhaps we will see a strong pushback by patriotic organizations intent on restoring the energy sector. The threat of Wexit may help to awaken a sleepy Canadian electorate, who may also be galvanized by mounting unemployment, rocketing prices, extortionate taxes, social anarchy and a failing power grid. But by then it may well be too late.

At Last, an Upside to the Covid-19 Panic

It takes the Associated Press five trained-poodle bylines to breathlessly report this breaking news:

Thousands of oil and gas operations, government facilities and other sites won permission to stop monitoring for hazardous emissions or otherwise bypass rules intended to protect health and the environment because of the coronavirus outbreak, The Associated Press has found.

The result: approval for less environmental monitoring at some Texas refineries and at an army depot dismantling warheads armed with nerve gas in Kentucky, manure piling up and the mass disposal of livestock carcasses at farms in Iowa and Minnesota, and other risks to communities as governments eased enforcement over smokestacks, medical waste shipments, sewage plants, oilfields and chemical plants.

The Trump administration paved the way for the reduced monitoring on March 26 after being pressured by the oil and gas industry, which said lockdowns and social distancing during the pandemic made it difficult to comply with anti-pollution rules. States are responsible for much of the oversight of federal environmental laws, and many followed with leniency policies of their own.

The media, led by Pravda (the New York Times), Izvestia (the Washington Post) and the news agency Tass (the AP), are heavily invested in the myth of the rampaging Black Death of Covid, seeing it as a club with which to beat the opposition into submission on its preferred policies, including the phantom menace of "global warming" and the destruction of the fossil-fuel industry. So naturally, they're alarmed.

AP’s two-month review found that waivers were granted in more than 3,000 cases, representing the overwhelming majority of requests citing the outbreak. Hundreds of requests were approved for oil and gas companies. Almost all those requesting waivers told regulators they did so to minimize risks for workers and the public during a pandemic — although a handful reported they were trying to cut costs.

Here we go back to the bad old days of polluted rivers that catch on fire, three-headed fish, and smog over Los Angeles, right? Not so fast:

The Environmental Protection Agency says the waivers do not authorize recipients to exceed pollution limits. Regulators will continue pursuing those who “did not act responsibly under the circumstances,” EPA spokesman James Hewitt said in an email.

Bah, humbug! barks the AP's five-headed dog:

But environmentalists and public health experts say it may be impossible to fully determine the impact of the country’s first extended, national environmental enforcement clemency because monitoring oversight was relaxed. “The harm from this policy is already done,” said Cynthia Giles, EPA’s former assistant administrator under the Obama administration.

EPA has said it will end the COVID enforcement clemency this month.

But that's not good enough --  even though the horses have left the barn and the damage is already done, there follows a couple dozen paragraphs exposing the environmental horrors of the temporary waivers. It's propaganda masquerading as reportage. In other words, "journalism" today.

Diary of an Acclimatised Beauty: Masking

At long last, one appreciable benefit of the much-hyped coronavirus! After Annabel and I each tested positive, every last one of her house guests were sent packing. Peace and quiet rule the day. Her husband also slipped away (just in case) and the usual August attrition (housekeeping staff that might otherwise take a long holiday) simply did not happen. With resorts closed and half the world out of work, they were all too happy to stay on.

I do like her husband, but Annabel’s never quite the same around him despite this being her family’s estate. And really how much can one listen to him bang on about their ownership/non-ownership of the non-tidal river that he insists was once a tidal river? Where one really has to excuse oneself is when he goes on about a marked wall. If only said wall had not come down eons before any of us were born. Basically, I have the run of the place as Annabel is still keeping to her bed despite showing no ongoing symptoms.

With all this alone-time I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not meant for yoga. Firstly it’s the clothes—something one would have worn in the 1980’s except now with a myriad of extra seams, and in muted unflattering colours. And also… just why? Second, who wants to admit to doing yoga? If asked how did you spend your day—who is responding with “bound ankle pose”? Even the dogs were laughing at me. But worse yet is the barmy dialogue that runs through my head… including the Greggs Vegan Sausage Roll advert  Not exactly zen. I have better powers of concentration in church even when I can’t understand what’s being said.

I need something now to calm me from yoga stresses and work might be just the ticket. So allow me beauty readers, to say you’ve given no thought whatsoever to the wearing of masks—I need a filter for my Instagram account! I thought I’d done my part in helping all of you create a skin-clearing tonic from ordinary household products for the mask-acne that was cropping up, but now that you’re braving the outside world—do stop in front of a mirror. Please!

Does this mask make me look fat?

Unless it’s absolutely necessary the disposable surgical masks look worse than those the health minister suggested we craft from leftover t-shirts. Think about it—since when do we look to the medical profession for fashion inspiration? Second, do not look to bank robbers either. Plain black masks are scary no matter the task, and even Cary Grant didn’t sport one in To Catch a Thief so neither should you. Even from a distance, these are off-putting. Understandably, I can’t forever raid my mother’s closet for couture, nor do I suspect can most, but do consider a scarf in a pinch, especially if you will be meeting someone other than the delivery chap.

Printed faces masks almost always look sloppy—like repurposed children’s pyjamas—something else to be avoided. Photos and printed slogans are also a no-no. If you wouldn’t like to be photographed in a t-shirt with a slogan why would you now slap it on your face? And that goes double for campy cartoons. When is the last time you sported a Mickey Mouse Band-Aid and received a meaningful compliment? More likely you apologised for wearing it and blamed a friend for having nothing but kiddie plasters in the cabinet.

It's all so...  Mickey Mouse.

And please, dear readers, what is up with the bling masks? If adding a sparkle headband or sequin belt to your outfit doesn’t work, neither does the mask. Do consider it is now the first thing anyone sees when looking at you -- your eyes take a distant second. If you still think I’m being too harsh consider how much time you invested in choosing the right shade of lipstick and multiply that by the surface area of an already ugly accessory. Simple is best, light colours are best and a good quality fabric and stitching can only improve upon what is already an unpleasant undertaking.

Some of you have written to me about lipstick, hence your preference for the black bank-robber masks. Are you really choosing a dark-coloured mask so you can accommodate having lipstick smeared around the inside?

Our mothers managed well enough—it’s called popping into the loo for a touch-up when you arrive. Or carry a small mirror and a truly luxurious colour—trust me you’ll feel just like Liz Taylor. Your other option is a trip to the pharmacy for one of their indelible lip glosses. The colours may disappoint but nothing at the department store can come close to the lasting power of these discount shades—clearly Maybelline saw this coming.

I checked in on Annabel who seems to be doing just fine, sipping on a raspberry martini and eating puffed water lily seeds. In case you are wondering… they taste like every other gluten-free snack -- salted puffed cardboard. She had a lilt in her voice and I heard the name Paulo, so I’m just going to assume this is her masseuse and head upstairs to my rooms.

Just then Judith called. She has an annoyingly uncanny way of knowing exactly what I’m doing even when we are divided by oceans or miles. Must be a mother thing. She just happened to mention that she’d read hot yoga was dangerous. Of course I knew this already, hence it having been banned in some countries, but I wouldn’t pursue it due to its impact on the environment anyway. That said, I’m not sure how she imagined I was practising hot yoga on Annabel’s croquet lawn. And then she said that many religions take a dim view of yoga owing to its pagan origins and faint resemblance to idol worship.

Well, that settles it for me then. Goodbye forever yoga. You understand… it’s for God and country.

Spinning the Environmentalist Agenda: a Primer

A recent edition of the Sunday Chicago Tribune featured a story with the provocative headline “Chicago Air Dirtier in July than Notoriously Smoggy LA”, with the subhead “It didn’t improve during the lockdown, and more unhealthy days are coming." The story that followed was equal parts dishonest, foolish and lazy. But it provides this writer with a stellar example with which to demonstrate how deceptive environmental journalism is routinely fashioned by today’s mainstream media.

It’s no secret that mainstream media coverage of politics is unapologetically agenda-driven these days, but I’m not sure the public realizes how deeply that cancer has infected the MSM’s coverage of science and environmental topics. Let’s put "climate change" to the side for a moment. Politically-correct climate change coverage is symptom of the disease that metastasized decades ago when legacy journalists grew blind to the distinctions that separate healthy environmental protection from irrational ecological puritanism.

The dishonesty that infects MSM coverage of science and the environment is rarely apparent to the general public. Why should it be? Most of the deceptions involve technical points that appear too complex or obscure to pore over. Worse, the most skilled deceptions don’t involve outright lies, but skillful arrangement of only those facts that support the narrative. It’s not fake news so much as it is selective storytelling. The author of the doomsday yarn featured in the Sunday Trib, environmental writer Michael Hawthorne, is a master of this particular art.

In his piece, Hawthorne implies that Chicago’s air is now chronically unhealthy and is doomed to be so for a long time to come. He concludes that usual suspects are to blame for this sorry state of affairs: Donald Trump and climate change. And, of course, there is no shortage of supporting quotes from hand-picked “experts” and selective use of data to buttress the argument.

So, let’s start with that headline, is Chicago’s air quality now worse than the chronically smog-filled L.A. basin? To find out, we have to examine relevant data. To do that, we should start by understanding what the data is telling us.

A convenient way to look at air quality data is a metric the EPA has long used called the Air Quality Index, or AQI. The AQI is a comparison between actual readings by air quality monitors in the EPA system and the target concentrations that officially define what is clean air for a variety of air pollutants. These target concentrations are known as National Ambient Air Quality Standards, or NAAQS. An AQI score less than 100 means that the highest monitor readings that day did not exceed the applicable NAAQS. Such days are described as “good” or “moderate” depending on how far below the NAAQS the worst case monitoring data proved to be. An AQI score greater than 100 is described as some degree of “unhealthy.”

There are really only two air pollutants that routinely cause NAAQS exceedances in urban areas: fine particulate and ozone. Fine particulate, officially known as PM-2.5 and for some reason known only to Hawthorne and God as “soot,” consists of very, very small airborne particles about 1/40th the diameter of a human hair. Ozone, sometimes called smog, is produced from an interaction between two air pollutants. The first is oxides of nitrogen, or NOx, that is generated by forms of combustion, be it industrial boilers, your car’s engine, a forest fire, etc. The second is Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOC, which describes organic vapors of all kinds, from gasoline fumes, to paint thinners to the solvents used in nail polish. When these two pollutants have an opportunity to interact and a relatively hot and windless day provides the energy and environment for the right reactions to occur, ozone forms. Ozone in the upper stratosphere is a good thing, protecting us from ultraviolet light. This sort of ozone, much of which stays low in the troposphere where it can be inhaled is not desirable.

It should be noted at this point that the reason ozone and fine particulate are the most problematic pollutants in urban areas is not because emissions related to either have increased over the decades. The opposite is true: emission rates of ozone precursors and fine particulate have steadily and dramatically dropped in the United States since the Clean Air Act was first passed in 1970. It’s the definition of clean air that has changed. Administrations of both parties have steadily reduced NAAQS for these pollutants again and again, effectively moving the goal-posts to points that make compliance a distance speck on the horizon.

Now that you have earned your official air quality ranger merit badge, we can dive into Hawthorne’s claims. Let’s start with fine particulate. Here is a plot of worst case fine particulate PM-2.5 data for the greater Chicagoland metropolitan area for 2020, through July 13:

And here’s the Los Angeles basin for the same time period:

The LA monitors pop the limit seven times in the selected time period, while Chicago monitors do so only twice. And what might be the cause of that big peak that makes for the two days in July that both LA and Chicago monitors showed exceedances? The dates of the exceedances might provide a clue: July 4 and July 5. In his story, Hawthorne observes that “Independence Day celebrations added to the (air quality) problem”. A more realistic appraisal would be that Independence Day celebrations were the problem.

It’s also important to note that neither industry nor transportation sources contribute much to PM-2.5 pollution any longer. According to EPA data assembled during the Obama administration, about 80 percent of PM-2.5 emissions are generated by “miscellaneous” sources like natural activity, forest fires, agriculture, use of consumer products, etc.

This brings us to ozone. While it is true that June and July have been warmer on the average than mean temperatures in Chicago over the last twenty years, temperatures have not been outside of normal bounds. And though Chicago has seen a jump in ozone concentrations, there’s really no comparison to L.A. area ozone concentrations:

Through July 13, the Chicagoland area logged 16 “unhealthy” days based on ozone AQI. The L.A. Basin had 46 such days in the same time period, 6 of which exceeded the single worst ozone AQI day recorded in Chicago in 2020.

One question should remain in a genuinely curious journalist’s mind: even if Chicago’s air quality isn’t worse than Los Angeles’ – which it clearly is not – there has been a blip in ozone concentrations in the Chicagoland area. If that’s not the result of climate change or the president MSM journalists are sworn to hate, what is the cause? To quote Bob Dylan: the answer my friends is blowing in the wind.

We learned earlier that ozone forms when NOx, VOC and sunlight interact on relatively hot, windless days. In most places, the sum of the complex chemical reactions that produce ozone can be thought of as NOx playing the role of the “ore” than yields ozone, while VOC acts as the “pick” that “mines” the ore. In most places. Not in Chicago. In Chicago the prevailing winds and the location of Lake Michigan on the normally downwind side of local weather patterns can change this equation substantially. In many circumstances NOx emissions don’t matter all that much and in some of those they are even beneficial, reducing rather than increasing ozone formation in the Chicagoland air-shed. In recognition of this unique atmospheric chemistry, the USEPA issued a “NOx waiver” to Illinois back in the '90s that allowed the Agency to ignore NOx emissions as they related to ozone formation in the Chicagoland metropolitan area.

The waiver has since been revoked, but the science remains unchanged. Once the lockdown in Illinois began, monitoring data shows that ambient concentrations of NO2 (the portion of NOx that EPA monitors) dropped by about two-thirds compared to seasonal norms, as would be expected with the corresponding drop in traffic and industrial activity. The evidence thus strongly suggests that neither climate change nor the Trump administration is responsible for the odd spike in Chicago area ozone, but rather the odd meteorology of the area itself. Don’t expect Michael Hawthorne or the Chicago Tribune to consider that possibility however. For them, it’s all about the narrative or it’s about nothing at all.

Joe Biden's War on Suburbia

For 50 years environmentalists have told Americans that suburbs are bad. They are boring and conformist. There isn’t enough friction between different groups and classes to make life stimulating or spur deep thoughts. Living in single family homes, spread over large areas, is wasteful. This ruins the land. They consume too much energy. They require automobiles, which take too much energy, cause terrible pollution, and require additional roads, which are ugly, and lead to more suburbs… and so on.

So you’d think that the most woke, hard-left presidential campaign in American history would have a plan to make American cities better for those who live there, including the poor, especially at this moment when the middle class is fleeing irresponsible, profligate and unsafe urban governance, bad schools, and the density that leads to the spread of disease, like, say, Covid-19.

You'd be wrong. Last month, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden announced his housing policy platform, to great cheers from the socialist, Bernie Sanders wing of his party. There will be no enterprise zones to foster job growth in neighborhoods where intergenerational welfare dependence is common. Instead, Joe’s plan relies on shipping the poor to those boring, energy inefficient suburbs.

The Biden policy, called AFFH (Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing), is couched in terms of racial "fairness." In fact, it is a radical plan that would crush the ability of American citizens to choose what kind of community in which to live. It would destroy the attributes that make the suburbs the destination of choice for 52% of Americans. We know this because the policy is not new. AFFH was widely imposed, and somewhat less widely implemented, during the Obama administration, by radical Housing and Urban Development secretary Julian Castro.

Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) is a legal requirement that federal agencies and federal grantees further the purposes of the Fair Housing Act. This obligation to affirmatively further fair housing has been in the Fair Housing Act since 1968 (for further information see Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, 42 U.S.C. 3608 and Executive Order 12892). HUD's AFFH rule provides an effective planning approach to aid program participants in taking meaningful actions to overcome historic patterns of segregation, promote fair housing choice, and foster inclusive communities that are free from discrimination.

As provided in the rule, AFFH means "taking meaningful actions, in addition to combating discrimination, that overcome patterns of segregation and foster inclusive communities free from barriers that restrict access to opportunity based on protected characteristics. Specifically, affirmatively furthering fair housing means taking meaningful actions that, taken together, address significant disparities in housing needs and in access to opportunity, replacing segregated living patterns with truly integrated and balanced living patterns, transforming racially and ethnically concentrated areas of poverty into areas of opportunity, and fostering and maintaining compliance with civil rights and fair housing laws. The duty to affirmatively further fair housing extends to all of a program participant's activities and programs relating to housing and urban development."

The nut of AFFH is a redefinition of the longstanding definition of “fair housing.” Traditionally that term meant no discrimination by race, sex, or other unalterable human attributes. The Obama Administration, by fiat, decided that “fair housing” would henceforth include economic class, as if civil rights for African Americans is synonymous with access to live in places that individuals cannot pay for. So, if not many people of a certain ethnic group live in a certain suburb, either because they cannot afford it, or they prefer somewhere else, that demonstrates racial discrimination. The remedy is forced integration by means of building low income and Section 8 housing for the poor and very poor, with an eye on creating a racial mix too.

The unspoken, because obvious, nature of American suburban life, is that people gravitate to places with other people who share their values. Those include safety; quality of schools; access to appropriate job markets; proximity to particular religious and cultural institutions; and social comfort. Most Americans, of all races, say that their priority is finding the best quality of public education they can afford.

Because suburban housing is allocated by the market – what can you afford to pay? – neighbors have a comparable stake in preserving the schools, the environment, and other goods. This is codified in local zoning laws, designed by local representatives, to create or preserve a town’s density, leafiness, school quality, and nature and location of commercial strips. It is not an overstatement to say that the Biden policy literally decimates each mechanism for preservation of local character. In the process it severely mitigates freedom of association, and, property rights as we have known them.

How?

Land in those leafy suburbs with zoning for one-acre lots, and homes starting in the mid-six figures, is way too expensive on which to build taxpayer funded housing. Which means that local zoning laws cannot stand. So local control cedes to federal mandates. Then HUD requires your town to build high density apartments to house people with half or less the local median income. Coming from urban projects, they usually don’t have cars. Now your town needs public transportation. It needs a denser commercial area, so people can shop without cars. The schools will have to spend money on programs to accommodate children with different educational needs. You need a bigger police force, because studies show that crime follows Section 8 housing. Et voila: your community is quasi-urban; the value of your property is down; and your taxes are higher, because you are now obligated to pay for the needs of your new neighbors.

Why?

As the middle class has been pushed out of many cities, leaving behind the very wealthy and the poor, urban tax bases have shrunk. Urban/poverty policy types want to send the poor to middle and upper middle-class suburbs, because that’s where the money is. They want access to the suburban tax base, to fund the ever-growing list of quasi-socialist demands, to provide luxuries in the name of "fairness," whether or not people have earned it.

While they’re at it, Democrats are happy to destroy the culture of individualism fostered by one family, one house. People who earn their way into better communities often vote Republican. Low-income people in high rises, dependent on public transportation, want different things from government. It’s not an accident that they are importing enough Democrats to change suburban political outcomes.

Why does an energy website care about this issue?

The Biden housing policy it is a clear example of how the left, working through issue organizations, and ultimately through Democratic administrations, will use any excuse – any real or imagined social and cultural problem—to steer this country towards socialism. Fifty years of stated environmental policy, based on energy concerns, pollution, and efficiency, are tossed the instant a plan to federalize the suburbs appears.

Funny thing: the Democrats have not changed their stated views on the harm to the environment caused by cars and suburbs. Candidate Biden’s energy policy, released this past week, allots $2 trillion to avert the destruction of the planet by getting rid of carbon emissions, building higher density communities, and lots of new public transportation. Even if no one wants to live in cities. So they push endless spending, destruction of the communities citizens have created organically, and ever-increasing federal control of every aspect of how Americans live, while forcing the struggling middle class to pay for those who, for whatever reason, cannot earn their way up the ladder.

Because it’s never about what they say. It’s about accruing power, by destroying individual rights.

House 'Climate Plan' Not Really About Climate

One would reasonably expect that a report entitled “Solving the Climate Crisis,” issued last month by the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, would focus on ways to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that committee members believe endanger life as we know it. The report does contain some discussion about ways to lower those emissions, but its also a blueprint for remaking America socially, economically and politically in accordance with the progressive wish list. The report subtitle makes it clear that the Committee is interested in a lot more that manipulating the temperature of planet earth: “The Congressional Action Plan for a Clean Energy Economy and a Healthy, Resilient and Just America.

Loader Loading...
EAD Logo Taking too long?

Reload Reload document
| Open Open in new tab

Turns out that the “climate crisis” is not just about the climate, but is also the root cause of just about everything that is wrong or will go wrong in America. This being the case, one can justify just about any action, in any sector of society, so long as it’s framed in such a way so as to appear to be another weapon with which to battle "climate change."

The result is a plan that calls for massive expansion of federal power and programs in virtually every sector of the economy, with trillions of dollars worth of goodies to pass around to favored beneficiaries. But not to worry, every dollar spent is really an investment sure to return profits a hundredfold thanks to the cutting edge new programs to be implemented under the wise direction of that most skillful of money managers: the United States Government.

Consider, for example, antiquated concepts like city planning and zoning. The climate crisis demands federal intervention to ensure that cities are designed with “..safe and convenient access to services, including health care facilities, childcare, education and workforce training, affordable housing, food sources, banking and financial institutions, and other retail shopping establishments.” (Page 107). The Department of Transportation will take care of that, thank you very much, once Congress has expanded the DOT’s budget commensurate with its new responsibilities.

Presumably these redesigned cities will include “complete streets,” defined as a new roadway standard that will require consideration of “…all potential users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, public transit riders, children, older individuals, individuals with disabilities, motorists, and freight vehicles.” (Page 108). Federal aid will be made available, but only to recipients “meeting strong labor standards” that pay due homage to other progressive causes.

Most people agree that the nation’s transportation infrastructure is in need of attention. Many of us thought that was because a lot of it is aging, nearing the end of its useful life. Thus, repairs and replacement are required. Silly us. Turns out that infrastructure improvements are necessary because the consequences of climate change are going to put the transportation system in grave danger. (Page 114). Who knew?

The committee is very concerned about methane emissions, or at least that portion of methane emissions that originate from the oil and natural gas industries. (Page 200). According to the EPA’s latest Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report, methane emissions from oil, natural gas and petrochemical sources account for about 0.1 percent of the total U.S. greenhouse gas inventory. This is the opposite of low-hanging fruit, in other words -- unless one’s objective is to continue to demonize the fossil fuel industry. Fortunately the Committee assures us that the multi-billion dollar programs it wants to impose on the energy sector will more than pay for themselves. Odd that not one of the usually financially astute energy giants figured out the terrific return on investment associated with finding, fixing and avoiding low grade leaks.

Loader Loading...
EAD Logo Taking too long?

Reload Reload document
| Open Open in new tab

New pipelines? Not likely to see many if the Committee has its way. They want to be sure that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission thoroughly considers the “climate crisis” before approving new pipelines. (Page 204). Apparently upset with FERC’s unwillingness or inability to block multiple high profile pipeline projects in recent years, they want to hold the commission’s feet to the fire in the future.

Then we have a rather troubling section entitled “Invest in America’s Workers and Build a Fairer Economy”. (Page 288). Among other pronouncements we are told that: “One of the best ways to ensure that a resilient, clean energy economy is a fair economy is to strengthen workers’ right to organize a union and negotiate higher wages and better benefits.” There’s a fair bit of poorly-disguised socialism that leaks through in this section. I’ll spare readers the tedium of going through it all, but cannot help but observe that moving to socialism would indeed drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, since broken economies use far less energy than healthy ones.

Welcome to Pripyat, comrade.

Many in industry, including this author, believe that the concept of “Environmental Justice” is a wrong-headed, bleeding-heart concept that leads to economic injustice in many poor communities that would otherwise be attractive to new project developers. Well, it turns out that addressing environmental injustice is part of the climate crisis too. (Page 300). So is expanding government-funded healthcare. (Page 313). So is government support of organic farming. (Page 347). So is government interference in the use and fate of private property. (Pages 348, 367, 369, et al ).

Serious and fair scientists studying climate change, no matter where one falls on the spectrum of opinions regarding its severity, causes and importance, know that there has been no increase in severe weather events over the past twenty-plus years. The statistic the alarmists cling to when trying to make the contrary argument regards the increase in the aggregate cost of such events over the years. The increase in costs is primarily a function of: 1) increased population density in urban areas where extreme events sometime strike, and 2) the natural effects of inflation. Normalize those two factors and it’s clear that we have had a lull in extreme weather for a very long time now.

This does not prevent the Committee from creating long and tedious sections that speak to building the “climate resilience” necessary to survive in world beset by meteorological disaster after disaster. But then what else would one expect from a document that has little to do with addressing a perceived problem, and most everything to do with perpetuating a leftist agenda in the run up to the election?

Dakota Pipeline Ruling Unfeasible, Harmful

 The recent ruling by U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg ordering a temporary shut down and emptying of Energy Transfer’s, Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) by August 5th until an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is completed is legally extreme, technically impossible and economically burdensome to the oil and gas industry, the state of North Dakota, and the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, the Three Affiliated Tribes (TAT).

The ruling was jarring and seemingly unexpected by the industry and by the plaintiffs themselves. This outcome, however, underscores a necessary pivot that the entire fossil fuel industry must immediately undertake. 

[Despite reports indicating Energy Transfer would refuse to obey the judge's order, the company issued this statement late yesterday:

We would like to provide further clarification around news reports out today regarding the operations of the Dakota Access Pipeline. To be clear, we have never suggested that we would defy a court order. Rather, DAPL is seeking appropriate relief from that order through the established legal process.

Energy Transfer spokeswoman Vicki Granado had reportedly said in an email, "we are not shutting in the line,” adding that the judge had  “exceeded his authority and does not have the jurisdiction to shut down the pipeline or stop the flow of crude oil.” The company has requested a stay of the judge's order.]

The lawsuit is merely the second act in a theatrical production that began at the Standing Rock Indian reservation -- where the great Sioux chief Sitting Bull was shot and killed by Indian police in 1890 -- and will end only when the entire fossil fuel industry, including the Three Affiliated Tribes, is completely neutralized. The Standing Rock opposition, beginning with the protests in 2016,  has been wholly scripted and financed  by the extremist organization, "Bold Nebraska", whose wealthy financiers include failed presidential candidate Tom Steyer and elderly agitator George Soros -- the marionettists from the Marxist wing of the Democrat party. Run by House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s former aide, Jane Kleeb, Bold Nebraska is the brainchild of the manufactured activism that fuels the rot of reason that's been on full display at Standing Rock and continues to be front and center in this current legal effort.

It is rooted in a hatred of the fossil fuel industry and a desire to destroy the financial independence of the Three Affiliated Tribes of North Dakota. By financing civil unrest and fueling the destruction of an industry that has delivered financial independence to the Tribes for the first time in modern history, the environmental terrorists of the Marxist Left have revealed their disdain for the very peoples they claim to support. They would rather the Indians be dependent upon handouts by the Left, than have a resource from which they can be independent of the Left. 

At Standing Rock, Bold Nebraska used native American tribal representatives as pawns. The protesters, many of whom were from the Pacific northwest and Minneapolis, not from local tribes, were paid activists. They were standing on the stage of tribal rights -- allegedly defending the rights of the tribal members, while destroying the very land they were purportedly there to protect. They brought cars into the area, destroying the grasslands, camped, used dope, and produced rubbish the description of which is not fit for repeating.

Now, in Act Two, this current case, the financiers continue to posit wildly imaginary, though deeply implausible arguments claiming a threat to Native American land -- through which the pipeline does not even run according to all legal reckonings. Judge Boasberg asserts that the fourth of ten possible factors is what obliges him to rule as he did: "[t]he degree to which the effects on the quality of the human environment are likely to be highly controversial" [page 3 and 4].

Loader Loading...
EAD Logo Taking too long?

Reload Reload document
| Open Open in new tab

Likely to be "highly controversial’" That's the point?  No reasonable person could suggest that paid activists and a "protest" financed by wealthy Marxists could be viewed as "highly controversial." Throw in civil unrest and environmental zealots and add some tents, fire, sign-waving and chants and -- voila! The reality however is different. The real controversy should be that these self-ascribed white protectors of Native Americans are turning off a pipeline that will disproportionately and unjustly effect the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara tribes. 

Forget the fact that retroactively requiring an environmental review is absurd on its face. Consider the practical reality. It is not even possible to drain the entire pipeline in 30 days, as per the judicial order. Were it ever even attempted, it would take at least 90 days. The mandate unfortunately reveals the judge's lack of interest in educating himself in a meaningful way on the subject matter and relevant issues in this case. Indeed, the opinion was an unsophisticated witches' brew of legal wanderings. It lacks the traditional neutrality generally sought in the judicial process and it appears Judge Boasberg surrendered to an unrestrained desire of his own will, not sound judicial reasoning -- something the courts must always try to avoid. 

Regardless, Judge Boasberg offers the fossil fuel industry an important lesson that must drive us toward a proactive strategy of communication and messaging.  

Energy Transfer made specific, fateful decisions during the Standing Rock protests. They chose not to fight on the field of messaging. Instead they chose the "North Dakota Nice" approach, hoping their attackers would vent and then go away. While North Dakota Nice is a lovely sentiment when welcoming visitors to our great state on summer holiday, it has no place when engaged in battles as important as this to our industry, and to the future of America’s economic health. Had Energy Transfer proactively planned for the predictable and well-practiced tactics of Bold Nebraska, and invested in the requisite communication expertise four years ago, perhaps the outcome Monday would have been different. We will never know.

From this moment on, we, as an industry must engage in the battle of ideas and communicate them using emotionally compelling messages. We must define our position, protect our flank, and place a flag in the industry we love. After all, the work we do each day has resulted in American energy independence, free from the geo-political influences of forces overseas and will help lead the country to economic recovery. 

We need now to take this painful lesson and spin it into positive strategic change. Ideas matter. Messages matter. Communicating those messages matters.