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Bonus Joules and the Knowledge Economy

Bonus Joules and the Knowledge Economy

Chapter Six -Land of the Lost Trace Gases -Fireworks Fantastic on High Bonus Joules revels in the self healing dance of the atmosphere.

Bonus Joules and the Knowledge Economy: All content on this site is copyright 2001 and you are free to use it with care.

Blog by Dave McArthur 28 December 2009

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Copenhagen. The City of Babel. Rarely has that old fable had so much resonance. They came from all corners of the Earth and made much babel and then dispersed, even more confounded in their differences.

The old fable expresses astonishing truths when I think about it. European societies developed great armouries, went forth and claimed dominion of the other peoples of the world and their lands. They devised ever more ingenious ways to mine the minerals of The Earth and to build mighty machines. By the sixteenth century rich families of Europe were building large greenhouses as symbols of their power. To be able grow tropical plants and serve manor-grown tropical fruit in the cold European climate was a sign of their prestige and might.

In 1861 a huge greenhouse was built in Britain, the famed Crystal Palace, to house a great exhibition of machinery and weapons to celebrate “Great Britain’s” dominion over the lands, seas and peoples of Earth.

There were those at the time of The Great Exhibition who sermonised that dominion involved stewardship and warned of the dangers of interpreting dominion as being the all-powerful right to plunder Earth’s resources regardless of the impacts. They were faint voices amidst the celebrations of British might and power in the great greenhouse.

And the symbol of the greenhouse grew in European’s minds till it encompassed even the airs of the Earth. It was the perfect symbol of the Industrial Revolution, for it enabled Europeans to believe they could mine the atmosphere with complete impunity, immune from the consequences.

The “greenhouse” symbol of Earth gained even greater strength in the 20th Century and around the world children grew up learning that the Earth is a planet that resides in a man-made structure, a place beyond seasons and climate, a place where humans can engineer and control the movements of the airs and waters at their will. They thus grew up associating Earth’s atmosphere with calm and order, insulated from the erratic variegations of the universe. This unreal image with all its accompanying emotions was evoked daily in class lessons throughout our school system, in all media and even by eminent climatologists as they spoke of greenhouse gases, greenhouse effects, greenhouse world etc. Such was their abuse of our carbon potential in their daily lives that even those climate experts who talked of the organic dynamism of our atmosphere clung to the greenhouse symbol of its nature. They denied the change they spoke of…

In the 21st century the green house symbol is our modern building of babel. For two weeks Copenhagen is the site where it is most manifest.

Variations on the old fables of Babylon suggest that humans came to believe they were beyond the laws of the universe and built mighty structures to prove it. Each fable also tells human were punished, being afflicted with a great variety of tongues so they lived in confusion with each other.

As those who follow my columns know I have now spent tens of thousands of unpaid hours studying the symbols we use to convey the nature of energy in general and of our climate in particular. I have concluded our communication of climate issues lacks science and indeed evidences major psychopathy and psychosis or as I tend to put it – our use of symbols evidences major denial of change/stewardship. This is news no one wants to hear in a country like New Zealand. Hence the complete lack of funding for work such as this.

I operate on the premise that the Conservation Principle of Energy is as near as we have to a natural law and we ignore it at our peril. It describes the truest reality and contains great wisdoms, such as that energy is so bounteous it can be considered a constant and that it continually transforms in myriad ways.

Our use of the greenhouse image is in direct denial of this great Principle, as are our popular uses of other primes symbols such as energy, power, warming, cooling, science, love, change etc. This gross denial reflects our belief that we are beyond the laws of the universe.

The discourse at Copenhagen was framed by the rich and powerful, especially Anglo-American Europeans. This discourse necessarily reflects our excess greed and arrogance, our lack of compassion and thus lack of science and our great denial of our roles as stewards amidst change. We deny the Conservation Principle of Energy on scale and our consequence dissonance was reflected in the utter confusion and discord at Copenhagen.

The hoards of “green movement” members who destroyed millions of barrels of precious mineral oil and flooded our skies with polluting jets in their frenzy to care for the atmospheric balances that sustain us now wring their hands and denounce Copenhagen as a failure. They fail to understand that the confusion and babel they have experienced is very much of their own making.

I know this may seem an extreme and cruel suggestion. Words fail to express the compassion and affinity I feel for all these very well-intentioned people. Personally I do not welcome this insight either. It is just that my psychoanalysis of the Green Movement using the Sustainability Principle of Energy strongly supports this conclusion. It indicates the Green Movement is at the forefront in promoting in language that denies and confuses the nature of energy and climate processes in our schools and media.

There are a few simple and challenging explanations for this unhelpful behaviour. In brief:

  • “Green folk” have assumed the very public mantle of stewards of our planet;
  • The ancient wisdom that actions speak louder than words still holds;

  • They are thus far more vulnerable to dissonance and denial of change/stewardship.

  • As experts on and public custodians of Earth’s climate their use of cars and jets provides a model of behaviour that no amount of money can buy. For instance, Al Gore is the quintessential car salesperson, jet travel agent and Carbon Trader.

So the babel and confusion of Copenhagen is exactly what we “greenies” voted for. Perhaps now as we seek to make sense of the experience we will find strength to ask if and how we may have contributed to the mayhem.

Who knows what good comes from bad and vice versa. Personally I am writing this with a vast sense of relief. All my research suggests Carbon Trading is the purest manifestation of the psychopathy and psychosis that exists in us all to some degree. I have been observing all these well-intentioned climate educators racing around the world ringing alarm bells about the negative impacts of human activity on the climate (except much of the time they blame our climate and the thermodynamics of the universe). I have also observed the ease with which psychopathic corporations, such as commodity traders and the producers of Bulk-generated electrical products, are able to manipulate these climate educators.

I have been predicting for some years now that if New Zealand’s Emissions Trading Scheme is adopted universally at Copenhagen then it will enable a global abuse of our carbon potential that will make catastrophic global war almost inevitable within five years. As mentioned I have a considerable affinity with “green folk” and it has not been easy to face the reality that we as a group are acting as storm troopers for this war.

I believe history will show that the fact that this Carbon Trading regime was not imposed universally at Copenhagen has reduced the risk of such a horrific event. Sufficient countries still retain sufficient sovereignty and control of their wealth that they have the means to make sane uses of our carbon potential. The psychopathic Carbon Traders have not prevailed as they could easily have.

Looking back I can see how I will tend to define 2009 as my Copenhagen year. Instead of reflecting on how we can better communicate with science the wonder and awe of climate processes I have been distracted by my concern that the Carbon Traders would dominate at Copenhagen, thus resulting in even greater pollution and depletion of our carbon potential. Perhaps this distraction also makes me complicit in the grand denial of change/stewardship? Whatever, it has been a year of letters, submissions and other activities expressing that concern.

This year has been made interesting by the fact I learned I have gone a little blind – an important optic nerve controlling my right eye has died and thus I experience some diplopia or double vision. More importantly I discovered that as I seek to compensate for this I maintain harmful body postures. Thus I determined to move from writing to making videos and audios. I have few skills and did a most stupid thing – I bought a Hewlett Packard laptop equipped with Microsoft movie making product. Talk about working with demons!

Despite these multiply aggravating handicaps I somehow succeeded in producing the first four in a series of short videos of my work (Do a search on Youtube on mcarthurthedave). If you do then please be tolerant and understand the narrative device kept breaking down every few seconds.

The most important video is The Sustainabilty Principle of Energy.

I hoped this would provide negotiators and observers at Copenhagen with the science required to avoid the babel and speak with a common voice and provide a sustaining vision of how we can conserve the resources of this amazing planet. It was not to be.

I repeatedly tried to post the Youtube link to this video on EElist, a national Internet forum for New Zealand Environmental Educators. They banned it and it was only after I stripped the background commentary off the posting that the link was published. Only a couple of our educators watched it. This far only 43 people in the world have watched it. I guess this is understandable because the Sustainability Principle challenges the fundamental framework of our national education curriculum and the lifestyles of our Environmental Educators. Also it is possible that Google-Youtube blocks the broadcast of the video to many countries.

With Copenhagen approaching I made and posted a video called The Carbon Trader Disease. I am a very poor speaker at the best of times, Windows Movie Maker is the demon I described and so I decided to use only a music soundtrack. Carbon Trading (mineral oil in particular) was a prime driver of the ghastly wars of last century and so I used snippets of Henryk Gorecki’s Sorrowful Songs as I discussed the terrible pathology of Carbon Trader disease.
Africa is the cradle of civilisation and so it seemed appropriate to use a few snippets of Toumani Diabete’s wonderful music as I discussed the magic of civilisation and cures for Carbon Trader Disease.

I posted this video late at night and to my surprise next morning I found over twenty people had viewed it as I slept, even though I had not posted links to it. They must have been the faceless Google-Youtube panel that decided to rip the audio off the video. I wrote asking what was the problem, who had complained and how to amend the problem but no one replied. My initial response was a momentary flash of anger that the greed-driven Music Traders should gut this music – this music, born of millennia of love and the search for truth and a celebration of shared meaning.

Then I realised the silence they have created is the perfect manifestation of the evils of the Corporate Traders’ ethos. It speaks eloquent volumes of their miserable, mean, loveless spirits. The video captures the essence of modern history and the miserable hopeless world of the Corporate Traders.

The Carbon Trading ethos messes with even the nicest of people. The same week EElist refused to publish my posting a local community organised the 350 Aotearoa movement to give a show. 350 consistently refuses to condemn Carbon Trading and my concern that it thus is little more than an agent for the Carbon Trader psychopaths is well known. The organisers found it convenient to ensure I did not learn of the show, though I would have attended only as a silent, interested observer.

All I knew is I sensed something deeply unpleasant was occurring. People shuffled by and my smile was met with looks of distress, shame and embarrassment. Soon after the show I learned the cause. Yes. Denial and deceit is always most stressful for good people who feel profoundly compromised by it.

Also the same week I went into Wellington to buy a $500 credit card to pay my deposit for the biannual New Zealand Environmental Educators conference to be held in January 2010. This is a big expense for me – two or three weeks of take home pay plus a week’s holiday leave. As I was going into the bank two Greenpeace campaigners approached me and asked what did I know about Greenpeace? I replied I knew a great deal after studying it for ten years. They asked my opinion of Greenpeace and I said “Well it contains many very well meaning people…. who do not seem able to listen”. They assured me they would listen and so I gave them a quick critique of the Greenpeace Clean Energy website. I then pointed out Greenpeace also supported Carbon Trading and began to explain its Enronian origins. Their eyes began to glaze, one slipped away, a moment later the other most conveniently received an urgent text and excused herself too.

I might not be into texting but I do know how it can be used. A billion little denials and deceits like this and we have the babel and psychopathy, which is Copenhagen.

I bought that credit card but did not use it. This string of little incidents made me aware of my great inability after a decade of trying to communicate to and through our Green Movement and teachers. Of course my message that the Movement is its own worst enemy is not a welcome one. A new approach is needed and I determined to stay home this summer, maybe have a play in the local school forestation project and just open myself up to the universe and see what new doors might open for me. Long ago I learned that when I hit a brick wall then it is best that I stop and ask the greater wisdom of our cells and the stars what I am best to do. Almost always the brick wall dissolves into a new and unimagined opportunity.

I certainly did not imagine an email from Bryan Crump of Radio New Zealand National inviting me to come on his programme. I fire notes off to all manner of public commentators on all manner of issues all the time. Bryan asked if I would be “interested in dropping into the studio for a chat (on air) about the control of energy, the ETS and the demise of the power boards etc”.

I should explain for the benefit of younger generations and recent immigrants, all of New Zealand communities used to own their local electrical grids and its intelligence. This became illegal in 1998 and communities were forced to divest these resources. I worked for two decades for these “power boards” and my life became a nightmare under the new banker owners. For some years, till our family broke up and our home was sold, I was under constant threat of them being raped, “trashed” and worse if I spoke out about the new regime; my work records were binned to discredit me and our family was threatened with legal annihilation and I lost my career and income. Was I ready to risk reliving that trauma on national public radio? I begged of Bryan a couple of nights sleep to consider the kind invitation.

I can be painfully inarticulate in public. At College I was unique in my classes in that for four years in a row different English teachers interrupted my stumbling attempts to read out lines of poetry and plays and got the next reader to take over from me to relieve the universal embarrassment. My system can go into shock in the public gaze. All this is OK as it enabled me to perhaps sit back, observe and reflect more deeply than others. Could I face one of my worst demons? That weekend after the invite I had to give a speech at my sister’s wedding. I found nothing had changed in fifty years – within a minute I had reduced the lively gathering to an excruciating torpor. Even the floorboards were yawning.

My decision was made even more difficult. About that time I listened to an interview with Kim Hill, another host on Radio NZ National. Kim can generate amazing, empathy filled and insightful discussions. However in this interview an American architect dared to question the media orthodoxy that on 9/11 airliners collapsed the New York buildings in such neat fashion. The idea that US agents may have been complicit in the destruction was beyond her capacity to imagine and she systematically demolished the hapless guest. I know I also ask inconvenient questions and could see how she could easily leave me looking like a gibbering fool too.

I was shocked by this interview not only because I am passionate about public radio. I am also very aware there are many other quiet, shy New Zealanders who have wonderful if radical ideas and insights we can all benefit from. I wondered how many of them decided, as I did, that they would never risk going on our national public radio.

And now I was being invited to risk so much too. I did not mind if I made a fool of myself for I knew it would be easy to disappear again into the obscurity I so enjoy. What concerned me was that somehow in the process this might consign the wonderful ideas in the Sustainability Principle of Energy to obscurity too - just when humanity so desperately needs such insights.

Several sleeps later and a lovely note arrived from Robyn the producer of Nights asking if I had considered Bryan’s request, this time expressly stating an interest in discussing the Sustainability Principle of Energy. The babel, which is Copenhagen, is by now an inane roar in the media. Maybe the time for the Principle has come?

Bryan has been my intimate companion for many years now and lives inside my head. I am a school cleaner and while I vacuum classrooms and clean S bends of toilets into the night I listen to Nights on headphones so his conversations occur in the centre of my skull. I admire him because he is prepared to explore exotic ideas and interview inarticulate folk like me even if he risks a major failure of an interview. I know the Sustainability Principle will challenge him to his core and yet remain mindful it was his wonderful discussions with Ann Kerwin on philosophy that freed my mind up to contemplate the unthinkable as I scrubbed away…could it be? … what if? …might there be a pattern to this behaviour… what is it to be a human?…what is science? …what is the essence of communication…what roles do symbols play in our lives?

Suddenly it seems very logical to attempt to introduce the Sustainability Principle to New Zealand on the programme that has introduced me to the greatest known philosophers. Before I know it I have agreed to an interview. I have no idea how interview are conducted. I write a tentative framework of the seven or so key ideas underpinning the Sustainability Principle and post it off.

Bryan is meticulous and caring, just as I had imagined from his interviews. Two days before the interview he rings to chat the content over. It is easy to become bogged down in the semantics of individual symbols and I suggest it is helpful to discuss the general principle governing our popular use of a range of our prime symbols so people might catch a glimpse of common driver of our choice.

Bryan is concerned I will lose people talking about symbols and I make a mental note not to be surprised if we do not actually get to talk much about the Sustainability Principle. Long ago I learned that it does not matter if a person thinks other people cannot understand an idea or if they personally don’t really wish to discuss it- either way the discussion does not tend to go there.

I jot down the list of questions he proposes and write out detailed responses so I am clear what I want to say. As Richard Feynman says in his fine address on cargo cults, “May I also give you one last piece of advice: Never say you will give a talk unless you know clearly what you are going to talk about and more or less what you want to say.”

I am pleasantly surprised how the response flows. Bryan seems to have triggered a relatively coherent flow in me and I begin to feel safe in his hands. I have already warned them of my shyness and lousy memory and how they will have to work hard to extract ideas out of me. I fire off the proposed response and give way to trust.

Robyn, the producer, meets me in the foyer and guides me up to the studios. I know the building well from my meter reader days but the studios are new to me. Entering them is like entering the holy of holies for me. This is the home of New Zealand public broadcasting, one of my great passions. In the 1990s its existence was under a threat and I was invited to be part of a panel discussing what National Radio meant to me. I raved how it was my university, a vital thread sustaining my intellect and spirit in my long days of labouring. I felt I was speaking out for the many thousands of National Radio listeners I had encountered on my meter rounds washing the dishes, caring for children, tending the garden, working the factory lathe, building a house, mending a car, seated too old, blind or infirm to move or lying in bed unable to sleep... for so many of us public broadcasting is a vital source of sustenance and inspiration.

I am aware of Robyn telling me they run a relaxed ship. That’s good. I am in work shorts and shirt, having just come from a couple of hours of heaving and stacking larger classroom furniture clear so the school is ready for the industrial carpet cleaners due first thing the next day. Bryan is as nice as he sounds on the radio and much nicer than his photo on the Radio New Zealand website. I feel respected in turn, which is an unusual feeling as generally when I discuss the Sustainability Principle it is with groups who are severely challenged by the ideas, if not plain dismissive of me. Here I am treated as interested and interesting.

I stare at the pages of questions that Robyn gives me. She realises I am having trouble reading them and in most kind way offers to read them to me. I decline her offer. I am an extremely slow learner and to hear what looks to be a rather different set of questions will tend to confuse me at this stage. I remind myself I know more about the Sustainability Principle than any one else in the world. I will just trust from now on, though I do beg Robyn to allow me to take my notes into the studio as my “Linus blanket”. They remain that and the dynamic of the interview is that I hardly refer to them.

It is easy to be overwhelmed. Robyn leads me into the studio control room and points to windows into neighbouring studios. Next door the Morning Report team is huddled discussing some matter and beyond them in another studio Warwick Burke is reading the 7pm news. People skilled at diction, highly articulate and able to think “on air”, surround me. I have a flashback to my English teacher, tiring of my fumbling articulation, telling me to stand up and spell this word “sudof um” that I constantly punctuate my responses with. S.U.D.O.F I intoned, much to the merriment of the class. Only much later did I realise that that the words I sought is actually spelled “sort of”. Such can be the nature of stuttering.

The news ends and two songs are played. I complement Robyn on their choice of music and say how wonderful it is they continually play music I have never heard – it was my dream for National Radio. On that panel in the 1990s I begged for the broadcast of WOMAD music, of New Zealand music, of different music. I begged that we learn of the cultures the music comes from and to hear the stories of the composers and performers. I tell Robyn my dream came true – everything I asked for came to be.

I also called on that panel for programmes on what I then called “science”, articles on new discoveries and these came to be also. Tonight I will be sudof part of the dream myself if we do get to discuss the Sustainability Principle of Energy.

After the interview I return to the control room. The engineer congratulates me on the interview and I say with some amazement that I have no idea how it went - I cannot recall a single thing I said! It is an amazing psychological phenomenon. I can only recall what I did not say. I am truly fascinated by this. I hear only my agenda. Bryan, another human being, has his agenda. These two agendas are laid over each other and it is not what we had in common that remains in my consciousness but rather what was not in the interview. What does that teach us?

I recall that we did not discuss the Sustainability Principle of Energy. I recall I did not explain with compassion how the Green Movement is its own worst enemy.

A specific recollection is etched in my awareness:
I am a tactile sort of bod and tend to look down into my body when in conversation. Also my diplopia means that Bryan is seated on angle by which both images of his face are framed in a tangle of four microphones – my one and his one. He asks me why we so lack awareness of our solar potential and draws my attention to his sunburned arms and face.

It is a brilliant question and as I gaze on his countenance I become aware that it is lit up, on fire with intense concentration and interest. It is the face of an artist at work, only this time it is not some object the artist is attempting to reflect on the canvas. Rather it is I that is the object of the intense focus of the artist as he attempts to capture my truths and reflect them onto the airwaves.

I don’t recall what I replied to his question. I am aware I did not say, “ Well, it is little wonder we remain oblivious of our solar potential because we have no symbols of it. Look at New Zealand’s legislation. We have had Ministers of Telegraph and Electricity, of Mines, of Minerals for a century till about 1977 when we decided these are really energy and thus we have had since Ministers of Energy, or what our media love to call “Energy Ministers”. We have never had a Minister for the Conservation of our Solar Resources. We mope around staring at the ground in an obsessive way, never lifting our eyes to the heavens and this is reflected in all our legislation. The Wellington City Council was very happy when the owners of the house next door increased the rateable value of their home by building a second story on it. Our media and politicians were ecstatic too as it destroyed my cottage’s solar potential. The economy was seen to thrive and grow, tax revenue grew too as I can no longer use free sunlight to keep warm and must buy products of the national grid generated by burning coal and mineral gas … as always it stems back to a lack of democracy. 2000 years ago it was considered plain barbaric to build out your neighbours sun and it was illegal under 6th Century Justinian code... as always the answer is …what we need is more democracy…”

A week later when I started writing this blog reflecting on the experience I had to listen to the interview. Friends have already told me I sounded nervous. Passers-by observing the local school caretaker spraying the weeds in the safety matting must have wondered if I was intoxicated as I kept getting the giggles listening to it on my Ipod. They are not to know why I giggled. They never knew my spider.

My bathroom window faces direct over the Cook Strait. It’s an ancient casement window and even when shut the southerly gales pass through unhindered. Last year a spider set its web up across the opening and in many ways it is a good spot for insects are attracted to the bathroom light. It is also an exercise in fanatical hope and determination and a display of ingenious technology. I don’t know how the web stays so intact when it is subject to 150 kph southerly blasts. As I shave and wash my hands etc I gaze on that spider clinging to the web, being vibrated like crazy in the gale force winds. The spider was for at least a year and became great source of entertainment, wonder and laughter for me. A true Don Quixote.

Anyrate I saw the tremor in my voice in that spider vibrating amidst the tempest. I may not have appeared as a tempest to Bryan but I can imagine that at times he must have felt he was attempting to extract information about an object viewed through a shimmering mirage. The listener will never know his challenge and the interview is a testament to the dedication, care and skill of the Night’s team as broadcasters. I came away strangely empowered. I have never broadcast my own voice on my radio station and now suddenly I feel able to.

That is some testimony! That powerful of image of Bryan radiating interest and concentration persists with me. The photos of its radio hosts on the Radio NZ website completely fail to capture the spirit of these craftspeople. The photos should be replaced by shots of these people when they are most fully alive and engaged in action as artists of the airwaves. Then Radio NZ web-pages will radiate intelligence and interest and do these people justice.

Probably by the time you read this Radio NZ will have buried the interview in their vaults – but for the Christmas delay it would now be gone. Part of me is happy – who wants your first fumbling experiment with national public radio to be open to continuing scrutiny. Another wiser part of me says this is unsustainable. All material should be circulated as freely as possible, for that begets the precious state of science in our communities. The barbarians who run Radio New Zealand fail to comprehend this. Thus they prevent this interview, like many other far more inspirational and educational interviews, from being sustained on my computers for broadcast over the Internet or over the local airwaves. Such is the lack of democracy in New Zealand.

And thus much of the meaning in this blog is also destroyed.


The cartoon panel that accompanies this blog is pure serendipity. Several years ago I drew it after our leading educators and “energy experts” challenged me to show that it was possible to communicate the dynamics of our atmospheric system without resorting to the “greenhouse” metaphor. The cartoon captures our debate, with Junk Joules defending their “greenhouse” symbolisation of Earth.

Perhaps the Copenhagen convention is a great tipping point? It is clear to many now it is a modern Babylon, a city of many tongues and great confusion. Perhaps we can see the babel for what it is, step outside the “greenhouse image”, sense the real air with all our beings and enjoy greater harmony with the atmospheric balances that sustain us? Perhaps our insights into the folly of Copenhagen will enable us to conserve the potential of our prime symbols with enhanced care. Heres hoping.

Have a creative and meaningful 2010.


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