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Posts Tagged ‘climate change

Majority of NYT Science Editors Disbelieve in Climate Change

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(via Fair Blog)

John Horgan over at Scientific American came out last week with the stunning revelation that a majority of the editors of the Science Times section of NYT do not believe in climate change:

Two sources at the Science Times section of the New York Times have told me that a majority of the section’s editorial staff doubts  that human-induced global warming represents a serious threat to humanity.

My brain just exploded.

Oh, also:

Written by pavanvan

March 30, 2010 at 6:35 pm

Posted in environment

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The Coming Totalitarianism

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Chris Hedges in Alternet with one of the most well-written dissections of our modern politics I’ve ever read:

Democracy, a system ideally designed to challenge the status quo, has been corrupted and tamed to slavishly serve the status quo. We have undergone, as John Ralston Saul writes, a coup d’état in slow motion. And the coup is over. They won. We lost. The abject failure of activists to push corporate, industrialized states toward serious environmental reform, to thwart imperial adventurism or to build a humane policy toward the masses of the world’s poor stems from an inability to recognize the new realities of power. The paradigm of power has irrevocably altered and so must the paradigm of resistance alter.

Too many resistance movements continue to buy into the facade of electoral politics, parliaments, constitutions, bills of rights, lobbying and the appearance of a rational economy. The levers of power have become so contaminated that the needs and voices of citizens have become irrelevant. The election of Barack Obama was yet another triumph of propaganda over substance and a skillful manipulation and betrayal of the public by the mass media. We mistook style and ethnicity – an advertising tactic pioneered by the United Colors of Benetton and Calvin Klein – for progressive politics and genuine change. We confused how we were made to feel with knowledge. But the goal, as with all brands, was to make passive consumers mistake a brand for an experience. Obama, now a global celebrity, is a brand. He had almost no experience besides two years in the senate, lacked any moral core and was sold as all things to all people. The Obama campaign was named Advertising Age’s marketer of the year for 2008 and edged out runners-up Apple and Take it from the professionals. Brand Obama is a marketer’s dream. President Obama does one thing and Brand Obama gets you to believe another. This is the essence of successful advertising. You buy or do what the advertisers want because of how they can make you feel.

We can march in Copenhagen. We can join Bill McKibben’s worldwide day of climate protests. We can compost in our backyards and hang our laundry out to dry. We can write letters to our elected officials and vote for Barack Obama, but the power elite is impervious to the charade of democratic participation. Power is in the hands of moral and intellectual trolls who are ruthlessly creating a system of neo-feudalism and killing the ecosystem that sustains the human species. And appealing to their better nature, or seeking to influence the internal levers of power, will no longer work.

The absurd idea that the marketplace alone should determine economic and political constructs led industrial nations to sacrifice other areas of human importance – from working conditions, to taxation, to child labor, to hunger, to health and pollution – on the altar of free trade. It left the world’s poor worse off and the United States with the largest deficits – which can never be repaid – in human history. The massive bailouts, stimulus packages, giveaways and short-term debt, along with imperial wars we can no longer afford, will leave the United States struggling to finance nearly $5 trillion in debt this year. This will require Washington to auction off about $96 billion in debt a week. Once China and the oil-rich states walk away from our debt, which one day has to happen, the Federal Reserve will become the buyer of last resort. The Fed has printed perhaps as much as two trillion new dollars in the last two years, and buying this much new debt will see it, in effect, print trillions more. This is when inflation, and most likely hyperinflation, will turn the dollar into junk. And at that point the entire system breaks down.

All traditional standards and beliefs are shattered in a severe economic crisis. The moral order is turned upside down. The honest and industrious are wiped out while the gangsters, profiteers and speculators walk away with millions. The elite will retreat, as Naomi Klein has written in The Shock Doctrine, into gated communities where they will have access to services, food, amenities and security denied to the rest of us. We will begin a period in human history when there will be only masters and serfs. The corporate forces, which will seek to make an alliance with the radical Christian right and other extremists, will use fear, chaos, the rage at the ruling elites and the specter of left-wing dissent and terrorism to impose draconian controls to ruthlessly extinguish opposition movements. And while they do it, they will be waving the American flag, chanting patriotic slogans, promising law and order and clutching the Christian cross. Totalitarianism, George Orwell pointed out, is not so much an age of faith but an age of schizophrenia. “A society becomes totalitarian when its structure becomes flagrantly artificial,” Orwell wrote. “That is when its ruling class has lost its function but succeeds in clinging to power by force or fraud.” Our elites have used fraud. Force is all they have left.

Written by pavanvan

March 18, 2010 at 8:28 pm

The Re-Colonization of Africa

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Alternet out with a grim report on Africa. It would appear that much of the land in the Sudan, Tanzania, Kenya, Malawi, Madagascar, Ethiopia, and many other nations is being bought up by billionaires and multi-national corporations in a 21st century “scramble for Africa”. All of this is being done, of course, though shady backroom deals between business executives and US-installed dictators – without the permission or even notification  of the indigenous peoples already living there.

As a few locals remark:

“The foreign companies are arriving in large numbers, depriving people of land they have used for centuries. There is no consultation with the indigenous population. The deals are done secretly. The only thing the local people see is people coming with lots of tractors to invade their lands.

“All the land round my family village of Illia has been taken over and is being cleared. People now have to work for an Indian company. Their land has been compulsorily taken and they have been given no compensation. People cannot believe what is happening. Thousands of people will be affected and people will go hungry.”

It looks like this is mainly agribusiness, commodity traders, investment banks and hedge funds. They’re quite plainly “hedging” against future environmental disaster by cornering virtually the last untouched, sparsely populated and cheap land to be had. And they’re making a killing – leases go for $1 per year per 2.5 acres.

Written by pavanvan

March 10, 2010 at 11:14 pm

Global Warming Denial and Its Evolutionary Cousin

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Leslie Kaufman has a good article in today’s Times about how Creationists are latching on to the “controversy” over climate change and arguing that just as science classes treat climate change with skepticism, so should they treat evolution.

This, to me, seems like learning precisely the wrong lesson: science classes should treat neither subject with very much skepticism, as consensus on those issues is as solid as one could possibly expect. But the article does mention something which I have thought for some time: that the know-nothing movement demanding that we “debate” climate change uses the same tactics, and is likely made up of many of the same persons that demand “alternate viewpoints” to evolution be taught in the classroom.

Its no surprise that the Texas Board of Education has mandated teachers present “all sides” of the Climate Change and Evolution “debates”, but Kentucky and other states are considering legislation of similar impact, and a vocal minority would like to see such rules nationally mandated. (Ironically, the same minority that usually demands “small government”)

Meanwhile, The Times Magazine has a fantastic article by Elizabeth Green on new paradigms in improving elementary school teaching techniques. The article mostly focuses on how to teach math to an 8-year-old – a fascinating enough subject, but one which, I think, deserves less scrutiny than she gives it. If he’s smart, an 8-year-old will eventually learn arithmetic. But if he’s continually told that evolution and climate change are all massive “left-wing conspiracies”, he may just leave the classroom believing that.

Written by pavanvan

March 4, 2010 at 10:15 pm

Posted in culture

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Climate Denial and OJ Simpson

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Bill McKibben has a great analogy in this week’s The Nation that explains the success of our staid climate change deniers:

The campaign against climate science has been enormously clever, and enormously effective. It’s worth trying to understand how they’ve done it. The best analogy, I think, is to the O.J. Simpson trial, an event that’s begun to recede in our collective memory. For those who were conscious in 1995, however, I imagine that just a few names will make it come back to life. Kato Kaelin, anyone? Lance Ito?

The Dream Team of lawyers assembled for Simpson’s defense had a problem: it was pretty clear their guy was guilty. Nicole Brown’s blood was all over his socks, and that was just the beginning. So Johnnie Cochran, Robert Shapiro, Alan Dershowitz, F. Lee Bailey, Robert Kardashian et al. decided to attack the process, arguing that it put Simpson’s guilt in doubt, and doubt, of course, was all they needed. Hence, those days of cross-examination about exactly how Dennis Fung had transported blood samples, or the fact that Los Angeles detective Mark Fuhrman had used racial slurs when talking to a screenwriter in 1986.

If anything, they were actually helped by the mountain of evidence. If a haystack gets big enough, the odds only increase that there will be a few needles hidden inside. Whatever they managed to find, they made the most of: in closing arguments, for instance, Cochran compared Fuhrman to Adolf Hitler and called him “a genocidal racist, a perjurer, America’s worst nightmare, and the personification of evil.” His only real audience was the jury, many of whom had good reason to dislike the Los Angeles Police Department, but the team managed to instill considerable doubt in lots of Americans tuning in on TV as well. That’s what happens when you spend week after week dwelling on the cracks in a case, no matter how small they may be.

Bill McKibben has done some fantastic journalism on this issue, and I highly recommend reading his article in full.

Written by pavanvan

February 27, 2010 at 12:11 pm

Climate Change and the Political Impasse

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Bradford Plumer over at The New Republic has an excellent review up on a leading climate scientist’s latest book. Things are looking mighty grim:

I’m not trying to start a nerdy parlor game, but if we were to list the most important climate scientists of the past fifty years, James Hansen would have to be in the mix. Three decades ago, he helped create one of the world’s first climate models to predict how the Earth would heat up in response to rising greenhouse gases. (Many of his early forecasts held up well.) He stepped into the spotlight again in 1988, issuing one of the first climate warnings to Congress. And, in the 2000s, when Bush appointees tried to downplay the severity of global warming, Hansen was the one blowing the whistle. The director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies is hardly infallible, but as would-be Cassandras go, his record has proven awfully solid.

Like many global-warming skeptics, Hansen has sharp disagreements with the mainstream scientific consensus on climate change. Unlike the deniers, however, he believes that the consensus view actually downplays the problem. The computer models used to project future warming, for example, seem to be too conservative: they failed to predict, among other things, the rapid collapse of summertime Arctic sea ice since 2007.

Written by pavanvan

February 14, 2010 at 10:41 pm

Climate Misinformation

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Media Matters has a timely and thorough rundown of Mr. George Will’s fantastic assertions in the Washington Post. Mr. Will, the Post‘s resident climate change denier, willfully misinterprets data, offers baseless accusations, and generally behaves as a corporate propagandist might be expected to.

Will claimed “evidence” of climate change is “elusive.” In an October 1, 2009, Washington Post column, Will claimed that “evidence” of climate change is “elusive” and that scientists are overstating the threat of warming when they say — in the words of a September 21 New York Times article Will criticized — that a recent “plateau” in temperatures has “no bearing” on the long-term warming trend. In fact, scientists routinely present strong evidence of long-term warming and its consequences — including a September 2009 United Nations report Will himself cited that says “rapid environmental change is underway with the pace and the scale of climate change accelerating.” [10/1/09]

Will cited no evidence to claim that climate scientists are suppressing or massaging data. In his December 6, 2009, column, Will claimed that “[d]isclosure of e-mails and documents from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) in Britain — a collaborator with the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — reveals some scientists’ willingness to suppress or massage data.” Will cited no evidence to support his claims. He also flogged an out-of-context email to falsely suggest that it made the case for global warming “less compelling.” [12/6/09]

Oh, and The Post is quite aware of their colleague’s flights of fancy:

Will columns criticized by environmental community, Post colleagues. Will’s global warming columns have been widely criticized by the environmental community and have also been criticized by Washington Post editorial board member and cartoonist Tom Toles, Post weather columnist Andrew Freedman, and Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander. Fellow editorial columnist Eugene Robinson also said that Will “cross[ed] the line” in spreading global warming misinformation.

I wasn’t aware such a line existed.

Being over the age of 50, Mr. Will enjoys complete impunity from the effects of his lies. As I’m sure as he figures it, he’ll be long dead by the time the real effects of our civilization are laid bare – the droughts, oil shortages, advancing deserts, agricultural collapse, etc. Thus he has no qualms about acting as an industry cheerleader; committing willful and wanton lies to increase their profits by just that much. If I believed in an afterlife, I’m sure there would be a special place for specimens such as Mr. Will – but since there is, after all, no justice in this world, I’m sure Mr. Will will continue to draw his fat paychecks while composing shoddy and scurrilous pap aimed specifically at deceiving the public.

Written by pavanvan

January 27, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Bill Gates Warns of Dystopian Future

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(c/o The Daily Digest)

Bill Gates said he fears Earth might become a post-industrial wasteland plagued by heat, chronic food and energy shortages, and rampant disease unless governments and private organizations invest more time and money solving what the Microsoft chairman believes are the world’s most pressing problems.”If we project what the world will be like 10 years from now without innovation in health, education, energy, or food, the picture is quite bleak,” said Gates, in his annual letter from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, published earlier this week.

“Health costs for the rich will escalate, forcing tough trade-offs and keeping the poor stuck in the bad situation they are in today,” Gates wrote. The damage won’t be limited to the Third World, Gates said.

“We will have to increase the price of energy to reduce consumption, and the poor will suffer from both this higher cost and the effects of climate change. In food we will have big shortages because we won’t have enough land to feed the world’s growing population and supports its richer diet,” said Gates.

Yeah, I’m not feeling too optimistic these days either.

Written by pavanvan

January 27, 2010 at 11:26 am

Lithium! We Need Lots of it

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Lithium is a key component in “hybrid” and electric car batteries, and is also extraordinarily rare. It’s already evident that not enough lithium exists to replace the world’s existing internal-combustion fleet (more than 1,000,000,000 automobiles and counting) with electric technology.

In a bit of divine irony (god does play dice) most of the world’s lithium lies under South America – mostly under Bolivia’s famous salt flats, with some in Argentina. Car manufacturers and would-be industrial giants (Japan and China) are already trying to corner the market.

Now Toyota wants in, and has reportedly signed a major deal with Argentina to mine its lithium:

A key supplier of Toyota Motor Corp. has formed a partnership to mine lithium in Argentina, securing greater access to a metal critical to the production of future hybrids and electric cars.The partnership, announced late Tuesday, includes Toyota Tsusho Corp. and Australian miner Orocobre Ltd. They will develop a lithium mine in northwestern Argentina, and the project is expected to cost about $100 million, Orocobre Chairman James Calaway said.

So next time you see someone driving a hybrid car, ask them where they got the battery. My guess is that the emissions from mining all that lithium more than make up for the gas they save themselves from burning. (And don’t forget all our electricity comes from coal anyway. You know that ain’t clean.)

Written by pavanvan

January 25, 2010 at 11:17 pm

Climate Hypocrisy

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Johann Hari gives us an excellent rundown of Copenhagen’s failures in today’s issue of the Independent. In it, he outlines the three major “discarded ideas”, which the rich polluters didn’t even bother to consider. Here are some salient passages, but the article is definitely worth reading in its entirety:

Discarded Idea One: The International Environmental Court. Any cuts that leaders claim they would like as a result of Copenhagen will be purely voluntary. If a government decides not to follow them, nothing will happen, except a mild blush, and disastrous warming. Canada signed up to cut its emissions at Kyoto, and then increased them by 26 per cent – and there were no consequences. Copenhagen could unleash a hundred Canadas.

Discarded Idea Two: Leave the fossil fuels in the ground. At meetings here, an extraordinary piece of hypocrisy has been pointed out by the new international chair of Friends of the Earth, Nnimmo Bassey, and the environmental writer George Monbiot. The governments of the world say they want drastically to cut their use of fossil fuels, yet at the same time they are enthusiastically digging up any fossil fuels they can find, and hunting for more. They are holding a fire extinguisher in one hand and a flame-thrower in the other.

As some of our more “conservative” elements might say: “Drill, baby, drill!”

Written by pavanvan

December 20, 2009 at 10:01 am

Copenhagen Finale

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Well, the Copenhagen Climate Conference is just about over, and the amount of “binding agreements” which have so far been enacted would cause an impassioned observer to weep. The airplanes used by the delegates to get to Denmark probably emitted far more carbon than their collective agreement will cut.

Furthermore, a memo intercepted by (you guessed it) The Guardian expresses in stark detail just how far the goalposts have moved.

As they say:

The draft says countries “ought” to limit global warming to 2C, but does not bind them to do so. Rises of 2C and above are the levels scientists say would result in catastrophic consequences in many parts of the world.

It does not give specific targets for emissions cuts or a peak year for global emissions but says only that “deep cuts” are required and that emissions should peak “as soon as possible”. However, the text makes it clear that this subject is still under negotiation.

The text, drafted by a select group of 28 leaders – including UK prime minister, Gordon Brown – in the early hours of this morning, proposes extending negotiations for another year until the next scheduled UN meeting on climate change in Mexico City in December 2010.

So the world went (in three short days) from demanding that global temperatures rise only 2 degrees C to making that number “more of a guideline”. No binding emissions cuts have been agreed upon, and the world has decided, in essence, to procrastinate yet another year.

I have always thought that if our leaders weren’t so implacably old, we would have gotten on climate change much more vigorously. After all, if one is older than 50, greenhouse gases, emissions cuts, and sea-level rises don’t really mean that much. Those over 50 will be dead long before the effects of climate change make themselves known. Those between 10 and 35 years old, however, will have a front row seat for the havoc our short-sighted leaders will wreak. I, for instance, at age 22, will be quite alive during the doomsday year of 2050, and will likely see the sea levels rise, the deserts encroach, the rains dry up, the ice caps melt. The ones making these decisions, however, can rest assured that, after having lived a fruitful and extravagant life, they will sleep the great sleep before things become too hairy.

No wonder they don’t care!

Written by pavanvan

December 18, 2009 at 7:17 pm

Climate and the Bailout

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Hillary Clinton announced a $100 billion fund to help “developing” countries cope with the effects of climate change at Copenhagen today. The EU had already promised $200 billion for the same purpose, and I suppose the US was shamed into throwing its own symbolic dime into the hat.

So, for the record: the US will spend upwards of $2,000 billion bailing out its banks and another $3,000 billion prosecuting its murderous rampage in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. But to help poor countries suffering from the effects of climate change (of which the US stands as the primary culprit), only $100 billion can be found.


Written by pavanvan

December 17, 2009 at 6:52 pm

Sino-American Bickering

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Hopeful observers of the Copenhagen climate talks have been holding their breath to see when the first major dispute between China and the US would erupt. The two countries, after all, come to the conference with irreconcilable goals – the US wants the world to forget that most of the CO2 already in the atmosphere was made in America, while China wants the US to quit hoggin’ all the carbon, and let someone else try burning for a while. It seemed only a matter of time before these two viewpoints clashed, and behold, they just have.

China refuses to allow international inspectors to see firsthand its promised carbon cuts, which is leading many to assume that, like their vaunted GDP figures, their emission reductions will be true on paper only. The US also believes that China’s stated target (a reduction of “carbon intensity” by 40 percent) is “disappointingly low”. Carbon intensity means emissions per unit GDP, so carbon emissions could still grow precipitously, even if “intensity” is cut, provided GDP also grows (a safe bet, given China’s decade-long 8% annual growth).

This, of course, makes the US “reluctant” to adopt emissions cuts of their own, and it is clear that without a firm committment from both the US and China, the Copenhagen talks will have been a failure. After all, Zimbabwe isn’t exactly the one we need to convince.

One question which every American needs to answer, but which few have so far been willing to concerns per capita emissions, of which the US stands at the head. US per capita emissions are 4 times that of China and more than 10 times that of India. What gives an American the right to emit four times as much carbon as a person from China? Don’t bother asking our delegates to Copenhagen! (They either don’t know, or don’t care.)

Written by pavanvan

December 15, 2009 at 11:30 am

Danish Equality

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The Copenhagen Climate Conference kicked off today with a secret memo circulating amongst the ‘rich’ participants. Originating with the US and UK, the memo details a significant departure from the Kyoto Framework. If its recommendations are enacted, rich countries will no longer be obliged to reduce their carbon emissions in proportion to poor countries – indeed, they would be permitted to continue emitting more than twice the carbon of the “developing world” all the way to 2050. This is truly a scandal.

From The Guardian:

A confidential analysis of the text by developing countries also seen by the Guardian shows deep unease over details of the text. In particular, it is understood to:

• Force developing countries to agree to specific emission cuts and measures that were not part of the original UN agreement;

• Divide poor countries further by creating a new category of developing countries called “the most vulnerable”;

• Weaken the UN’s role in handling climate finance;

Not allow poor countries to emit more than 1.44 tonnes of carbon per person by 2050, while allowing rich countries to emit 2.67 tonnes.

This development cannot be seen as anything less than an attempt by the “developed” world to renege on its Kyoto obligations. Working together, these rich polluters have much more “negotiating power” than their poor counterparts, and will likely be in a position to dictate terms.

One diplomat says:

“It is being done in secret. Clearly the intention is to get [Barack] Obama and the leaders of other rich countries to muscle it through when they arrive next week. It effectively is the end of the UN process,” said one diplomat, who asked to remain nameless.

Such talk smacks of neocolonialism, of utter disregard for the United Nations or international law. Ideas of “carbon exchanges” and “cap-and-trade” are meaningless if the rich still get to pollute twice as much as the poor. This memo is evidence of implicit bad-faith on the part of the 20th century colonists, and I’m not sure if the conference will be able to regain its credibility.

Written by pavanvan

December 9, 2009 at 9:26 am

CO2: Black, not Green

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The Center for Media and Democracy turns us on to a thoroughly scurrilous attempt on the part of Big Gas and Oil to downplay the negative effects of CO2 output.

“CO2 is Green”, a new Montana-based advocacy group, derives its dollars from the Coal and Oil Industry and has the sheer audacity to claim that “There is no scientific evidence that CO2 [carbon dioxide] is a pollutant. In fact higher CO2 levels than we have today would help the Earth’s ecosystems.” without breaking into guilt-induced conniptions.  Here we have yet another example of “The Big Lie” technique. If you can make a such a statement as above on television with a straight face, many people will conclude that it must be true. No one could possibly be audacious enough to repeat such a patently absurd claim unless there was some truth to it of which the public is not aware. Thus, the idea that “CO2 is not a pollutant” will likely enter into mainstream discourse, despite the fact that almost every scientist declares the opposite.

Some of you may recall this is not the first time our oil companies have undertaken such an advertising campaign. Indeed, as Greenpeace revealed earlier this year, Exxon-Mobil secretly funded much of the Global Warming denial we saw earlier this decade. On podium after podium, cable news show after fabricated report, their hired “scientists” spread the claims that (a) Global warming doesn’t exist and (b) even assuming it does, Global Warming isn’t man-made. Now, of course, we see both of those statements for the patent falsehood  they present, but at the time they proved quite influential and likely set us back years in dealing with this problem.

Today, a new generation of pseudo-scientists, such as our friend H. Leighton Steward, a former executive of Enron, wish to spread the message that CO2 is a “net benefit” for the planet – and, presumably, that we are doing our earth a huge service by burning coal and oil.

Please watch their commercial. It gives an excellent overview of the false populism and junk science employed by the coal and oil industries to defend what remains, in the last analysis, a thoroughly indefensible business. And I would encourage everyone to do precisely what they suggest at the end by contacting your Senator, except instead of agitating for even more pollution, ask them to clear our airwaves of deleterious propaganda.