Monthly Archives: July 2010

Climate Change

When I was a kid, eggs were good for you and people were worrying about “Global Cooling”.

When I was a young man, eggs were bad for you and people were worrying about “Global Warming”

Now eggs are good for you again and people are worrying about “Climate change”

Forgive me if I refuse to panic. Instead I will ask three simple questions:

  1. Is climate change a bad thing?
  2. Is climate change man-made?
  3. If so, can it be reversed?

People talk about “climate change” as if they expected the climate not to change. This is a living planet. Ice ages come and go. Seas rise and fall. Mountain ranges thrust forth from the Earth’s Mantle. Continents collide. Stuff happens.

I consider the term “Climate Change” to be a bit of a cop-out; like when a doctor who describes and treats the symptoms without looking into the root cause or future prevention – possibly correct, but not very helpful. Yes, it’s true that this is an exceptionally hot summer. It’s also true that a volcano erupted in Iceland not long ago, belching massive quantities of greenhouse gases across the northern hemisphere. Could there not be a cause-effect relationship in play here?

I refuse to fall prey to media-induced scaremongering. I can go to jail for yelling “FIRE!” in a crowded moviehouse, but CNN were talking about “the recession” a year before it happened. Personally I think that this kind of irresponsible journalism was a self-fulfilling prophecy that made things worse.

Every month, my electricity bill compares the average temperature with that of a year ago. Going back over six years, a substantial majority show that it is getting cooler.

So who am I to believe? And what, if anything, can we do about it?

No, I am not dismissing climate change or denying that it exists; I am asking if it is something that we can fix. Some folks treat this like a religious crusade, asking questions like “What will it take to convince you?”.

That is the wrong question. The right question is “What are you willing to give up?

  • Are you willing to step our of your big SUV into a smaller car? Would you want to be seen driving something like a smart car or riding a scooter? And no, for many of us, cycling is not an option (hint: most people downsize vehicles because of the price of gas, not out of environmental concern, as is evidenced by SUVs and trucks on fire-sale when gas hit $4, along with the large number of old people driving huge vehicles)
  • Are you willing to sacrifice performance for the environment (hint: the advertising heavily emphasizes sporty, chic and fast; “environmentally friendly” somehow always ends up on the cutting-room floor).
  • Are you willing to downsize to a smaller house to protect the environment? (answer:no. Most people downsize because kids have left, or to go into institutional care).
  • Are you willing to go without Air Conditioning in the summer and heating in Winter? (answer: No. Just… no)

We can sit and whine about “green power” all day, but the only real options right now are Clean Coal and Nuclear, both of which are unacceptable, as evidenced by the fact that no new power stations have been built in the US in over thirty years. I favor Nuclear; while there is pollution, it is more specific and localized. But the idea of Nuclear Power fills most people with horror. Why? Not because they are unsafe – the US military has been operating Nuclear-powered ships for decades without a mishap – but because nobody wants a power station in their back yard (probably because of scare stories like “three mile island” – a nuclear accident in which no one was hurt).

But none of this matters, because right now, the biggest polluters are in the Far East. How do you stop them? You can’t. This means that even if climate change is our fault – which is as yet unproven – the US cannot fix the problem. And China ain’t about to abandon their ambitions for world domination to keep a few Western Environmentalists happy.

In any case, Mother Earth will have the last laugh.

Now Reading: Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis

Additional: A few days after writing this, I came across this piece, which restates the case better than I ever could. Highly Recommended.

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Loreena misses the point – and punishes popcorn sellers

I recently came across this piece, by Loreena McKennitt. The piece appears to have been written by a copyright lawyer. I say that because it predictably trots out the RIAA party line, ignores the consumer and misses the point on several fronts.

  • Piracy is not destroying the music business; the music business is destroying the music business – by insisting that it is still 1975.
  • More Law is not the answer; new copyright legislation will not make your business model more profitable. The US has had the DMCA for over ten years. It hasn’t helped – the music business is imploding. And more heavy-handed legislation will merely hasten its demise.
  • More Technology is not the answer; there is no such thing as a “lockable bit”. What technology can hide, technology can reveal. Not long ago, some very clever people invented state-of-the art encryption for Blu-Ray; a little later, some other clever people broke it. Anti-copying technology does not hinder real pirates (large-scale operations with duplicators that copy everything – content, locks and all), but mainly serves to annoy legitimate users – piss them off at your peril.
  • “User rights” is not crafted language; terms like “Intellectual Property Protection” and “License” are crafted language. The term “User Rights” is not about the right to pirate; it means that I can enjoy my stuff when, where and how I want to. As long as this does not cheat you out of a sale, you don’t get to control what I do with it after the transaction.
  • Not all downloaders are pirates. Not all downloads are lost sales. Not all lost sales are full-price. I would contend that some piracy is push-back against a 19th-century business that is still having some trouble adjusting to the 20th.

Your comment about buying a license is complete and utter bollocks. If I had a license, the medium wouldn’t matter. If I had a license, I could get a replacement disk if the original broke. If I had a license, I could get mu music collection replaced if it were destroyed. If I had a license, I could listen to the licensed music whenever and wherever I wanted. What you are selling, and what your customers are buying, is music. Ignore that at your peril.

The world has changed. Your customers don’t buy plastic disks from record stores anymore; they buy blobs of data from websites and plop them on their music players and phones. You can profit from this, if you are willing to change. You can compete with free – AllOfMP3 proved that before Big Music had them whacked. Just offer your customers what they want, how they want it, at a price that they are willing to pay. Charge more for higher quality – the fans will pay extra. Make it cheap and easy enough to buy music and they will come.

I am against piracy. I do not share content, and I buy my music. But you seem to think that copyright means that you get to dictate terms after the transaction has been completed. I disagree – and since I am the customer with the money, mine is the only opinion that counts.

Your “popcorn” comment was by far the most laughable.

  • Here in the US, corn is heavily subsidized. A five-dollar box of cereal contains about ten cents’ worth of corn. What a great example of free-market economics!
  • I have never seen a popcorn seller at a concert – have you?
  • People have been known to eat popcorn at home!
  • Concert popcorn sellers are not particularly well-paid – whose fault is that?

If you want to support concert popcorn sellers, tour or shut up. Don’t come whining to us if you don’t want feel like touring.

For the record (no pun intended), I don’t have any of Loreena’s music, legally or illegally acquired, but after reading such twaddle I am inclined to avoid her music for the rest of my life.