Saturday, 16 January 2016

Lessen for buying Pink Lady apples

Two Pink Lady apples bought at Woolworths mid-week. Notice how they are completely infected with a brown fungus, species not known to me or my family
Mummy and I have liked the fresh, crunchy flavour of Pink Lady apples for over a decade now, so much so that apart from occasional purchases by myself of Granny Smiths we rarely buy any other type.

This week, as we prepare for a lengthy holiday in Singapore, Japan, and with a not-yet-acquired visa Vietnam, I had a rude shock when I brought a few Pink Ladies to tide ourselves over in our last few days in Australia. I bought four Pink Ladies, and found the first to be so brown – infected with a fungus of a species I have not researched personally – that I dared not eat it. When I was in the local Woolworths buying the apples, they felt quite OK, and in the past buying fruit I have always tended to rely on feel since bad fruit is more often than not bad only inside.

However, when we discovered another completely infected and inedible apple on this last day in Australia, and when I first noticed the earlier bad one, my mother said that bad Pink Ladies can in fact be detected by means of their yellow colour in the core skin. One can faintly see a yellow colour in the core of the opened apple, and the one uninfected Pink Lady was green or red all over.

This really should be a lesson for all shoppers, as well as for Woolworths itself!

Sunday, 20 December 2015

An unclear result vis-à-vis necessity

Today, the Animal Legal Defense Fund in the United States has ranked the states in order of animal rights.

Although I am sceptical of the arguments of extreme animal rights advocates, I understand that at least in hotter climates with poorer soils there certainly is need for restrictions on animal killing and possibly even on use in some cases (which probably are not found in most of the Western Hemisphere). Nonetheless, the soil map below, which shows lower-fertility and older soils in the South and nutrient-poor parent materials in the central west coast, does suggest that these hotter regions need more regulations on animal use:
This belief of greater regulation in hotter climates is supported by native cultures: generally there were greater taboos on animal food in hotter regions than in cooler ones, and the greatest taboos of all were found in arid desert regions and in southern Australia where poor soils and dry climates (which create alkaline soils that immobilise phosphorus, zinc and copper) severely limit the availability of animal protein. Many primitive peoples in these regions were de jure and/or de facto vegetarians as a means of conservation – it is ironic that vegetarianism is most “trendy” today in some extremely protein-rich regions such as the Pacific Northwest and Germany where diets based upon animal foods cause limited or negligible ecological costs and comparative disadvantages in plant-based food production tend to be very large.
As can be seen from the map above, there does not seem to be a strong relationship between laws and actual ecological need – though I will stress that this is better than the usual result of inverse relationship whereby the best ecological laws found precisely where there exists least need.

In general, the best animal protection laws would be needed in the low-nutrient Southern states and perhaps in the “southwest” (which ecologically includes California and Oregon as well as the states of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Nevada normally known as the “Southwest”). As can be seen, some of the relevant states, like Oregon, California, Arizona, Louisiana and Florida, are in the top third, but on the other hand New Mexico, Alabama and Mississippi have laws relatively much poorer than would be required. At the same time, numerous Northeastern states like Maine, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Massachusetts are relatively overregulated.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Two global temperature databases compared

Perhaps seeking to expand my knowledge of how Australia’s appalling record of the highest per capita greenhouse emissions in the world (in ecological terms, Australians would logically be permitted vastly smaller per capita emissions than Eurasians and Americans since Australia’s ecosystems are based on much slower metabolism) – I have in recent months studied global temperature data and then found two major sets of global temperature maps, both of which date back to 1880. I have shown a comparison for the northern hemisphere winter season of 1933/1934 as an illustration:
Comparison of the GISS and NOAA global temperature anomalies for the season of December 1933, January 1934 and February 1934
The GISS temperature setlist is generally preferable to the NOAA site as the reader can look at natural climate variability at least partially insulated from Australian-made greenhouse pollution. Being restricted to 1961-1990 and 1971-2000 means, the NOAA site cannot give figures relative to something even approaching a genuinely natural average, which is problematic when assessing temperature anomalies for stations with long records. The GISS site also has data for a wider range of stations in most cases, especially in earlier years which are the purest indication of natural variability before Australia’s coal and aluminum industries were developed and bloodlessly took control of the global climate:
Comparative NOAA and GISS temperature anomalies for the winter of 1885/1886. Note that in all three maps large areas have no data. Because Australian land clearing and fossil fuel burning was less developed or not at all, however, these early maps are very valuable as representing the most natural climate variability available.
A problem with the GISS setup that makes NOAA of some use, however, can be seen from their data for the winter of 1940/1941. Actual station data in northern interior British Columbia and northern Alberta (e.g. from Baldonnel) seem to verify the NOAA figures rather than the GISS ones. In Baldonnel, British Columbia the monthly anomalies from December 1940 to February 1941 via-à-vis 1971 to 2000 are:
  • December 1940: +0.542106˚C
  • January 1941: -4.62105˚C
  • February 1941: +2.08500˚C
whilst for Fairview, Alberta the figures are:
  • December 1940: +1.06842˚C
  • January 1941: -3.58˚C
  • February 1941: -0.28˚C
Yet, the GISS maps do not show colder-than-normal temperatures in northern Alberta and northern interior British Columbia in January 1941:
NOAA and GISS temperature data for December 1940, January 1941 and February 1941. Note the negative anomaly in January 1941 – verified by data over northeastern British Columbia and northwestern Alberta – is not shown in GISS.
It’s notable that the stations previously noted do not possess data for the hotter years after 1990, which would add to the negative anomalies.

The subsequent winter of 1941/1942 had a similar problem around the Gulf of Ob and Gulf of Yenisey, which can be verified for the station of Dudinka on the Yenisey River west of Norilsk:
  • December 1941: +1.51052˚C
  • January 1942: +9.47˚C
  • February 1942: +2.62˚C
Global temperature maps for December 1941, January 1942 and February 1942. Note the positive anomaly in the NOAA map but not the GISS map around the Gulf of Ob and Gulf of Yenisey
It’s notable that I have not so far been able to verify major errors in the GISS maps from earlier dates as I have for the World War II years, but this may be because of poorer NOAA data.

All in all, whilst despite these problems GISS is still the best site, NOAA nonetheless has considerable value for earlier years. Those interested in the weather need to know changes in temperature just as they do anthropogenically produced changes in rainfall in southwestern Australia and central Chile, because they demonstrate how unsustainable Australian energy, farming and transport policies have been for over half a century – and without protest from elsewhere in the world.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Longman reveals – unconsciously – the Enriched World as “circle of exclusive clubs”

Percent of mean national per capita income for each region of the US, 1929-1979
The now-veteran demographer Phillip Longman (he turns sixty in April), whose The Empty Cradle remains the best look – if without likely remedies – at the Enriched and Tropical Worlds’ severe demographic problems, has today showed, without having that aim, just how the Enriched World is becoming nothing except an exclusive club caught in a whirlpool of demographic suicide.

In November’s Washington Monthly, Longman in his new article ‘Bloom and Bust’, has argued that “regional inequality is out of control” after, as the graph on the left shows, having fallen for almost a century and a half until the 1980s. His data show that income inequality in the United States is increasing as
“geography has come roaring back as a determinant of economic fortune, as a few elite cities have surged ahead of the rest of the country in their wealth and income”
“only the very rich can still afford to work in Manhattan, much less live there, while increasing numbers of working- and middle-class families are moving to places like Texas or Florida... even though wages in Texas and Florida are much lower.”
Percent of New York mean per capita income for outlying US regions, 1969 to date
Longman then points out that the cities with highest per capita incomes have tended, in fact, to see large net out-migration, whilst areas where per capita incomes are not growing at all have tended to attract most in-migrants.

Longman’s primary argument is that looser enforcement of antitrust legislation and large amounts of financial deregulation during the 1980s and 1990s has led to the consolidation of extremely wealthy businesses in a small number of major cities on the East and Pacific Coast, notably New York, Boston, the San Francisco Bay Area, Washington D.C., Los Angeles and the cities of the Pacific Northwest. He believed the dominance of what he calls “retail goliaths” has meant much less is invested in “flyover” cities of the Plains, Mountain West and the South, with the result that the economies of these cities have severely declined as even new entrepreneurs must move to technology centres like Silicon Valley. Longman quotes Bill Gates to the effect that patent holders’ monopoly power – which he notes was expanded in the 1980s before which the federal government refused to grant any patents for software – makes it more difficult for inventors not allies with the patent holders. (Whilst I understand the value of patents in the context of agriculture, where Australia’s farmers do not pay anything for fertiliser technologies patented overseas but used to farm inherently unsustainable and exceedingly ancient soils, Gates’ and Longman’s criticism has major value.)

The problem is that Longman gives much too little attention to how impossible it is for the middle class – let alone the working masses – to live in such wealthy cities as New York, Boston, the Bay Area, Seattle, Portland and Washington D.C. Demographers ought to know all too well that:
  1. lowest-low fertility is a consequence of family formation being unaffordable due to limited housing space and consequent:
    1. simple unaffordability of housing for all but the very rich
    2. extreme lack of space in housing that is uncomfortable for all but one- or two-person houses and cannot accommodate families
    3. it is clear to me that, despite minor criticisms I received years ago Wendell Cox, many indices like fertility would correlate much better with:
      1. cost of housing per unit of housing space (relative to income) rather than actual total cost (because cheap housing is not useful for families if it be too small for comfort)
      2. cost of housing relative to each individual worker’s income, rather than with total household income (because a single income allows the mother to take more care of children)
      3. such criteria would show more accurately the problems Enriched World cities have with housing space and the need for women to work to gain basic sustenance – and of course this work tends to require high levels of education
  2. that severe land-use restrictions – in lands devoid of unique biodiversity (ice-free only for 15,000 years) and/or low secondary productivity to justify restrictions – create a large part of this housing shortage
  3. that politics in big “imperial cities” tends to be very left-wing due to the concentration of wealthy entrepreneurs there and resultant extreme levels of class resentment
  4. a fourth insight, which Longman does give, is that as the public sector has retreated from providing transport, government regulation of land supply and roads in “imperial cities” has precluded the private sector doing anything to improve mobility
  5. a fifth insight is that many regulations and much government spending in “imperial cities” is designed to help the very poor but:
    1. exacerbates natural flat land scarcity by means of rent control, which often allows less wealthy people who initially lived there to pay very low rents compared to what the market would charge
    2. create a culture of welfare dependency amongst these cities’ less wealthy populations, who obtain more from welfare than they could from modest-paying employment locally
    3. reduces job and trade opportunities by placing wages far above theoretical market levels given the regions’ resource poverty and dense pre-industrial populations, and by means of extreme and usually unnecessary (vis-à-vis Australia or Africa) environmental regulations
Under these conditions, Enriched World cities have no choice but to compete for the most skill-intensive industries extant. Their lands are generally cool, mountainous and pre-industrially densely populated, so they have large comparative disadvantages in agriculture. Glaciers and the Alpine Orogeny have stripped the Enriched World of difficult-to-smelt lithophile metals and preindustrial mining stripped it of easily smelted chalcophile ores, ruling out mining as a long-term base. The dense population and demands for clean air make unskilled labour totally inadequate as an income even with two partners, so that labour- or capital-intensive manufacturing industries also cannot serve as a long-term base for Enriched World economies.

The educational requirements and demographic consequences of an economy based exclusively upon skill-intensive industries have been documented for over a century. In 1900, when among women generally fertility rates were five to six children per lifetime, those of educated women could be as low as a tenth of that: I recall that one survey estimated the few tertiary-educated women produced merely 0.47 children over their lifetime! The situation has changed little in modern times – the difference is that dependence upon skill-intensive industries is now no isolated phenomenon but characterises most corners of the Enriched World and many of the Tropical, making these regions exclusive clubs for the skilled 1 percent or, in the most mountainous or densely populated, much less than that. Even if they had large pre-industrial populations or rapid modern growth, these nations, as shows dramatically by Japan post-1990, will one by one decline in global importance.

Families – who form the next generation – are being forced to move to land-rich regions like the American South or suburban Australia, which is where the future of the world must lie. Despite these regions’ inherently low soil fertility and generally high species diversity, the former trait tends to enhance cooperation and solid families and minimise the class conflict that produces the excessive regulation in cool climates. This sense of community undoubtedly allows tolerance for much lower quality of life via greater emotional support during social or environmental crises, by avoiding heat-of-passion reactions that can disturb relationships even between those who deeply love each other. It is this family-friendly “community culture” that drives migration to places with poor economies, bad climates and low quality of life, and the politics of the cooler and more mountainous regions of the globe make it unlikely to change.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Paris still can't get its priorities right
Although I have tried to avoid following the Paris climate negotiations, it has long been clear to me that there is an extremely basic failure in every climate negotiation since Kyōtō that almost nobody recognises.

This being that most global emissions originate, at root, in the mineral resources of a small number of desert nations, who form a discontinuous rim around the southern and western sides of the Indian Ocean. With the gradual exhaustion of more easily smelted chalcophile mineral resources originating from the younger lands of the remainder of the globe, industry – and most especially high technology – can only become more and more dependent upon these desert Indian Rim countries. Indeed, as oil becomes exhausted and electronic technology more and more important, Australia alone will become more and more exclusively the source of mineral wealth for industry, since the vast majority of important minerals for the electronics sector like sand and lanthanide elements come from Australia,. Among present-day continents Australia is uniquely un-depleted in these elements, and their extreme affinity for oxygen means they concentrate to an extreme extent in ancient continental cratons – the Australian Craton alone has 20 percent of the Earth’s total budget of lanthanide elements.

For various political and geographic reasons, these Indian Rim nations – Australia, New Caledonia, Southern Africa and the Persian Gulf States – have generally the highest per capita greenhouse gas emissions in the world even when indirect emissions are counted elsewhere, with only North America and a few small declining industrial nations comparable:
This map shows the nations with the highest per capita greenhouse gas emissions (note New Caledonia – hard to see here – is one of them and also a major biodiversity hotspot)
Even more critically, most greenhouse emissions and much of the worst pollution from non-Indian Rim nations are dependent upon either:
  1. easily exhaustible and soon-to-be-exhausted deposits of more traditional chalcophile elements like lead, zinc or copper or
  2. fossil fuels or lithophile minerals imported from the desert states of the Indian Rim
Extensive mountain building adds elements normally concentrated in the core and colloquially known as “poor metals” – the lower elements of the boron, carbon, nitrogen and oxygen families along with all of the zinc and copper families – to the continental crust of the Enriched World. Glaciation spreads this enrichment to the more geologically stable Enriched lands located poleward of the Alpine Orogeny. (In fact, the Quaternary appears almost designed to ensure all of the northern hemisphere shares in this “poor metal” enrichment). Although this addition does not come from the core but from the mantle – where these “poor metals” are depleted vis-à-vis solar abundances though to a lesser extent than in Precambrian continental cratons – it is so significant that concentrations of “poor metals” in Enriched World soils are essentially non-overlapping with those in Australian soils.

My brother said that most of Australia‘s greenhouse emissions are the result of China’s industrialisation, but I think he has placed the cart before the horse. The ability to smelt and use abundant lithophile metals with very strong bonds with oxygen and hence enrichment in cratonic crust is the cause of industrialisation in East Asia. Asia industrialised preferentially over Latin America and Africa because of its large and consistently growing comparative disadvantage in agriculture, and its greenhouse pollution is small per capita and largely created from Australian, Southern African and Gulf minerals. For this reason, it is clear to me that China’s and India’s emissions are much more dependent upon Australia than the other way round: Australia could develop its own polluting industry without China or India or Europe so much as existing, but East Asia and Europe without lithophile metallurgy and the “Green Revolution” (a contributing factor to Australian emissions due to permitting even poorer land to be cleared) would lack both adequate raw materials for major manufacturing and the comparative disadvantage in agriculture that encourages its development.

Moreover, even if Australia is extremely unfavourably situated geographically for manufacturing, this could well change if environmental regulations in the Enriched World become tougher and those in Australia do not. There must be a point beyond which lower taxes and fewer regulations would overwhelm Australia’s geographic disadvantages in manufacturing industry, especially since excessive regulation leads to the demographic decline which is already well-advanced in Japan and incipient in the rest of the Enriched and Tropical Worlds – thus overcoming the problem of Australia’s small population.

This is why a mere 26 percent cut in Australian emissions is both inadequate and difficult to maintain in the long term.

The usefulness of per capita emissions is a little arbitrary because of demographic differences and human migration, so that I have felt the need to look for something more genuinely “ecological” as an indication of the sustainable energy consumption of a country. Since soil nutrients determine the quality and amount of energy animal can consume, I feel greenhouse emissions per unit of available soil nutrients (very tough to calculate) Australia would have very limited emissions. Australian soils average an order of magnitude less available phosphorus at the surface than Enriched World soils – and the difference increases with depth – so that per unit of soil fertility Australia’s emissions are certainly much higher than most major European nations (e.g. France, Spain) and incomparably higher than most less-developed nations. This difference is of course much, much more extreme if we consider either:
  1. “poor metal” micronutrients (whose importance to Australia’s ecology has been outlined by Gordon Orians and Antoni Milewski in ‘Ecology of Australia: The Effects of Nutrient-Poor Soils and Intense Fires’)
  2. the large proportion of overseas emissions produced by the use of Australian minerals
and consequently it is clear to me that uniquely large cuts in emissions are needed by Australia and Australia alone to fairly pay the costs of global climate change. In the absence of demands these to be paid by Australia’s polluting industries, we are seeing a rapid escalation of climate change with severe costs for those not responsible.