Tag Archives: environmentalism

Avatar fans upset that Pandora isn’t real

Avatar is currently well on its way to becoming the highest grossing film of all time, proving that James Cameron still has the magic touch. Part of it might be because of unusually high numbers of repeat viewers. Just as Titanic inspired legions of teenaged girls to sit through the ill fated romance again and again, Avatar is inspiring its own fans to do the same thing. As this CNN article explains, fans become so immersed in and enchanted by the idealistic planet of Pandora that they feel depressed when the movie ends and they need to come back to dreary, meaningless Earth. So they go back to watch the movie again. One even claimed to be contemplating suicide in the hopes of being reborn on Pandora. You can read the original forum thread where the fans share their woes here.

I think these people need to be reminded that Avatar is a commercial movie made for the purpose of earning money. This being so, buying into the whole thing would be contrary to the ideals of the simplistic, communitarian way of the life of the Na’vi. Not that the ideals made much sense or were even coherent anyway. Did anyone notice that for all the talk of hunting in the movie, you never actually see any of the Na’vi eat anything? I think Cameron knew very well that showing the Na’vi barbecuing the wildlife and chomping into them, animal juices flowing from their lips and chins, would not mesh with the overall pro-environmental message. These people just need to grow up and solve their own problems instead of thinking that running away would make the problems go away magically.

Anyway, while movies have preyed on the white man’s guilt before and made viewers wish they belonged to another ethnic group, such as the Native Americans in Dances with Wolves or the noble Japanese of The Last Samurai, I think Avatar is the first movie to make people wish to be a different species entirely!

Saudi Arabia seeks compensation for reduced oil consumption

In a move so outlandish that one would expect to see it only in an Onion article, Saudi Arabia has demanded that if the rest of the world reduces oil consumption due to efforts to combat global warming, it and other oil producing countries should be compensated for the corresponding loss of revenue. That’s about as heinous as drug pushers telling government authorities that they should be compensated if addiction treatment programmes successfully reduce their customer numbers.

While this is the first time I’ve heard of it, it appears that this has been the position of the Saudis ever since the first global climate talks in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. This time however they’re claiming that this is a “make or break” position for them, meaning that other countries must agree to pay compensation for reduced oil consumption or they’re going to walk out of any talks. Of course, Saudi Arabia and other oil producing countries need to diversify away from an economy that’s almost a hundred percent dependent on oil sales, but it’s not clear to me at all why other countries need to pay up to help them achieve that.

The wealth that the oil producing nations have earned from their black gold is already the stuff of legend, so what have they been spending it on if not preparing for a day when oil is no longer king? Furthermore, it’s not as if the oil is an infinite resource. In fact, if anti-global warming initiatives fail to reduce oil consumption, their oil would just be depleted all that much faster. Do they expect the world to compensate them for the loss of that oil then? It’s like asking their customers to pay for the same product twice.

Malaysian libertarian lambasts Western environmentalists

I’m one of the (probably) few Malaysians who’s actually signed up for and read Wan Saiful Wan Jan’s Waubebas.org site on a regular basis. It’s the official website for the Malaysian Think Tank which seems to be a group of Ayn Rand-inspired Malaysian libertarians. I have no idea how big or how influential they are, but apparently Datuk Zaid Ibrahim is a member of their advisory board, so it’s seems like a serious operation.

I pretty much agree with most of the editorials their director general writes, but I take issue with this one that appeared on The Malaysian Insider. Now, I’m a libertarian and I do admit to generally being a skeptic on environmental issues. In particular, I believe that the movement relies too much on general feel-good and not enough on rational cost-benefit analysis. On the issue of global warming, I now believe that a preponderance of scientific evidence indicates the phenomenon is real and is indeed man-made. The only debate is how much damage it would cause, how much it would cost to mitigate the effects and whether that exchange is ultimately worth it.

However, what really annoys me about this particular editorial is that he falls back on the old “let’s bash the Western imperialists” clarion call when he should really know better. Granted, it may well be true that some parties that are in government in certain Western governments may have the intention of using environmental regulations as a backdoor to impose protectionist restrictions on Asian countries, but we shouldn’t allow this side issue to dominate what is ultimately a very important debate.

Wan Saiful Wan Jan implies that all local environmentalists have been brainwashed by their Western compatriots who actually do not have their best interests in mind. Why isn’t it possible that there might be Asians who genuinely want a better environment for themselves and their children, even at the cost of some economic growth? This is surely a choice that Asians must make for themselves, all the while being conscious of the arguments on both sides of the aisle. Equally galling is the implication that since the Western countries achieved their present prosperity in part by despoiling the environment, therefore Asian countries have the “right” to do the same. Why not also say that since the United States built its country on the back of slave labour, Asian countries should be free to do the same?

Make no mistake. I’m as outraged as he is when lefties scoff at the importance of economic growth even while enjoying the material fruits of that growth. But I also do not believe in growth at all costs. As Asians countries continue to industrialize and expand their economics, their people need to do some serious soul searching about the relative weights of their different priorities. It’s not just environmentalism either. There are also important debates to be had about how unequal a society they’re willing to tolerate to achieve higher growth rates, how important social mobility is to them, how much they value free time and myriad other issues.

Blaming it all on Western imperialism is just a cheap trick to short circuit the debate and achieve your objectives without having to directly address the arguments both for and against the issue. If Wan Saiful Wan Jan thinks that global warming is a hoax, then let him marshal the scientific sources to back up his claim. If he thinks that economic growth is important enough in the short-term to justify some damage to environment, let him spell out exactly how much damage he’s willing to tolerate and how much growth he thinks we can achieve in exchange. Then let the Malaysian public decide what to go for.

Married without children

This post was prompted by a recent thread on QT3 which quickly spiralled into a decidedly heated discussion about the sometimes condescending attitude that some have towards others, especially married couples, who choose not to have children. Someone also linked to an excerpt of a pretty interesting article on the subject which seems to have attracted a great deal of comments. My wife and I have been married for three years now and we happen to be one of those couples who have decided not to have any children ever.

Personally, I can’t say that we’ve gotten the level of grief that some similar couples on QT3 seem to have had over this decision, but I can certainly say people often seem befuddled when we tell them about our decision. At the very least, this tends to open a gap between ourselves and friends of our age who have gone on to found families of their own with children. As I posted on QT3, children are the main topics of conversation in many social circles and not having children of our own means other people have a hard time relating to us and inevitably leads these friends to drift away.

I don’t care to go into the details of our personal reasons for not wanting to have children. But I do want to point out that I feel that this is a very personal issue over which no one has the right to judge anyone else over. While few people would go to the extreme of accusing childless couples of shirking from their responsibility of replenishing the human race (though some do, even on QT3), many more seem to insinuate that not having children automatically means leading less fulfilling, less worthy lives and that is something to be pitied.

I don’t really have the energy to reiterate through the myriad arguments of why not having a child can be a good thing (you can read through that QT3 thread and the comments on the above-mentioned article for that), other than to note that it’s probably the single most environmentally friendly decision a person can make if you’re one of those green types (which I’m not). I do want to note that ultimately, from a moral dimension, none of that should matter. Having a child is a personal and private decision that should have no bearing on whether or not you’re a good or a bad person. Unfortunately, many people don’t seem to agree with me.

Are you responsible for trash dumped on your property without your permission?

Just because I love pondering questions about personal responsibility, here’s the latest one that’s come to my attention. The Daily Telegraph has a report on an Earl, that is one those filthy rich heriditary nobles who make the U.K. look so anachronistic, who is being sued by his local council for having one million old tyres and over a thousand tonnes of shredded rubber on his land. The problem is that the tyres were dumped on the Earl’s lands without his knowledge or his permission. However, because the unscrupulous businessman who was responsible for dumping them and who¬† has already been convicted and jailed for two months back in 2002 doesn’t have the money to properly dispose of the tyres, the local council is forcing the Earl to pay to clean the mess.

It seems that the tyres were dumped there quite a while back and the council issued an order back in 2004 to the Earl to dispose of them in an environmentally safe manner and the deadline was set for 2006. Since then, the Earl’s estate has managed to dispose of two thirds of the tyres at their cost but with over 350,000 old tyres on the property, the council has threatened to prosecute the Earl for not complying with its order. As you might expect, dealing with this much trash costs a considerable amount of money. While it is true that the Earl can afford it, should he bear that cost when he was not responsible for dumping the trash in the first place?

The article could do with some additional details but there seems to be plenty of blame to spread around and no easy answers. My gut instincts are that the council should pay the costs of cleaning up the tyres but should try to recover money from the parties actually responsible for creating the mess in the first place. Even if the actual businessman who dumped the tyres doesn’t have the money, it’s obvious that he was paid by someone to dispose of the tyres. It’s likely that he snagged the contract with an unrealistically low bid without having any intention to do the work in the proper way and the company or companies involved accepted his bid and paid the money just to make the problem go away. If this is the case, it might be possible to sue those companies for hiring an unlicensed contractor in the first place. If no money is forthcoming, then some jailtime, considerably more serious than a mere two months, might be in order for all those involved in the dumping.

Pope: Saving humanity from gays is like saving the rainforest

I apologize for these anti-religious posts on Christmas Eve, but this is really too good to pass up. Blame the Pope for choosing the festive season to make an announcement like this. From the report by Reuters:

Pope Benedict said on Monday that saving humanity from homosexual or transsexual behavior was just as important as saving the rainforest from destruction.

“(The Church) should also protect man from the destruction of himself. A sort of ecology of man is needed,” the pontiff said in a holiday address to the Curia, the Vatican’s central administration.

“The tropical forests do deserve our protection. But man, as a creature, does not deserve any less.”

That’s an awesome display of insensitivity and being out of touch with the general population right there.

Aliens watch Hollywood film for free

The latest Hollywood blockbuster right now is this year’s remake of the science-fiction classic The Day the Earth Stood Still starring Keanu Reeves. In one of the odder publicity moves, the producers have decided to beam the film into outer space just in case any extraterrestrials want to watch it. The transmission is being directed at the star system closest to our own, Alpha Centauri, which is about 4.37 light years away from our Sun, though the studio notes that it is a wide beam transmission so that any aliens who happen to be travelling within the cone of the transmission or even beyond Alpha Centauri should be able to tune in as well.

More seriously, it’s pretty unlikely that any aliens will be close enough to catch it, and it’s a big question whether or not the signal will remain coherent enough to be watchable at any reasonable quality 4.37 light years away. In any case, since Earth has been leaking radio transmissions into space for decades by now, if any aliens are in Alpha Centauri and wanted to send a reply, we’d have heard from them by now.

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