Sunday, 25 August 2013



‘Tyger, tyger burning bright, in the forests of the night…’ flashed through one of my synapses as I lay reading during one of my nightly journeys through other people’s minds – night-time is when I do my serious reading – trying to stretch my nous beyond current confines beyond which lie not only oceans of ignorance, but also hopes and dreams.

Some of these journeys of the mind prove rather stirring, like coming across Peter Diamandis’ Abundance about which I already enthused at  “You’ve got to have support”  is the heading in the latest of his Abundance Espresso Shots which arrived by email:

“Do those around you inspire or hinder you? In this Abundance Espresso Shot, I talk about:
·         The people you go through life with
·         How the people surrounding you affect your actions
·         How to surround yourself with a great community
Watch it here. This is essential viewing!

Then there was Freeman Dyson’s The Scientist as Rebel [The New York Review of Books, 2006]
“From Galileo to today’s amateur astronomers, scientists have been rebels, writes Freeman Dyson.  In their pursuit of Nature’s truths, they are guided as much by imagination as by reason, and their greatest theories have the uniqueness and beauty of great works of art.”  

to quote from the book’s back cover blurb, where Wired is also quoted with “Dyson embodies the ideal of the scientist as iconoclast… Provocative, touching, and always surprising.” Just the right stuff for Tyger Nights.

As number five of twenty-nine Tyger quality book reviews came this:

“It is refreshing to read a book full of facts about our planet and the life that has transformed it, written by an author who des not allow facts to be obscured or overshadowd by politics. Vaclav Smil is well aware of the political disputes that are now raging abaout the effects of human activities on climate and biodiversity, but in The Earth’s Biosphere: Evolution, Dynamics, and Change [MIT Press, 2002]  he does not give them more attention than they deserve. He emphasizes the enormous gaps in our knowledge, the sparseness of our observations, and the superficiality of our theories. ….”

Dyson’s 2002 review has a Postscript 2006:

“After this review appeared, Vaclav Smil published anothyer book, Energy at the Crossroads: Global Perspecitves and Uncertainties [MIT Press, 2003], dealing directly with the practical issues of energy supply and demand. The new book makes a good complement to The Earth’s Biosphere, which describes the larger framework of ecology within which practical policies must fit.  I am gratefu to Smil for sending me the new book, and sorry that I had not seen it when I wrote the review.”

In trying to entice you to share my excitement in reading not only Freeman Dyson’s wide-ranging book reviews, but above all also the books about the biosphere and energy here mentioned, let me just quote two more sentences; apologies in advance if you know that already – I certainly have not:

“The fundamental reason why carbon dioxide abundance in the atmosphere is critically important to biology is that there is so little of It. A field of corn growing in full sunlight in the middle of the day uses up all the carbon dioxide within a meter of the ground in about five minutes. If  the air were not constantly stirred by convection currents and winds, the corn would not be able to grow.”

Neither had I ever heard of Vaclav Smil or of these books of his which Freeman Dyson finds so praiseworthy.  As one would do, first call is good old Wikipedia and his website With the lists of achievements and long lists of books and other publications to be found there I am surprised that Vaclav Smil appears unknown amongst the many books and general media that are the mainstream of energy, sustainability, biodiversity discussions on paper or the internet (could, of course, be due to my ignorance exceeding my awareness of it).     

In any case, three of Smil’s books were ordered, and read (!), immediately after reading Dyson's review. The resulting Tyger Nights left me thoroughly flabbergasted and gobsmacked since I thought I had known a little about energy, earth, sustainability and related issues, but now realize  after confronting these three reads alone, that I am at best only an ‘apprentice pundit’. 

I can, therefore, do no more than present these books and quote some of the blurb and comment texts from their respective back covers in the hope of engendering a wider readership.  In that respect I can only quote another hero of mine – Richard Buckminster Fuller – from the Foreword of his Critical Path  [Hutchinson, 1983]:

My reasons for writing this book are fourfold:
(A)   Because I am convinced that human knowledge by others of what this book has to say is essential to human survival.
(B)   Because of my driving conviction that all of humanity is in peril of extinction if each one of us does not dare, now and henceforth, always to tell only the truth, and all the truth, and to do so promptly – right now.
(C)   Because I am convinced that humanity’s fitness for continuance in the cosmic scheme no longer depends on the validity of political, religious, economic, or social organizations, which altogether heretofore have been assumed to represent the many.
(D)   Because, contrary to (C), I am convinced that human continuance now depends entirely upon:
a.     The intuitive wisdom of each and every individual.
b.     The individual’s comprehensive informedness.
c.     The individual’s integrity of speaking and acting only on the individual’s own within-self-intuited and reasoned initiative.
d.     The individual’s joining action with others, as motivated only by the individually conceived consequences of so doing.
e.     The individual’s never-joining action with others, as motivated only by crowd-engendered emotionalism, or by a sense of the crowd’s power to overwhelm, or in fear of holding to the course indicated by one’s own intellectual convictions."

I felt sure on reading Vaclav Smil's books that he must be motivated by no lesser reasons than Fuller – and then, there amongst 1000+ references, I find Vaclav Smil’s listing  of:  Fuller, R.B. 1981. Critical Path, New York: St Martin’s Press, in Energy at the Crossroads.

               MIT Press Paperback 2005

“The most sober, thorough, and thoughtful integrated text on energy available, and it embodies core facts and some fundamental truths that any analyst of energy issues should ponder….  This book should change the map by which we navigate the new energy century. In its intellectual content it is a great book, standing head and shoulders above most integrated writings on energy and environment.”
Michael Grubb, Nature

In Energy at the Crossroads Vaclav Smil considers the twenty-first century’s crucial question:  how to reconcile the modern world’s unceasing demand for energy with the absolute necessity to preserve the integrity of the biosphere. With this book he offers a comprehensive, accessible guide to today’s complex energy issues – how to think clearly and logically about what is possible and what is desirable in our energy future.

                       MIT Press Paperback 2003

“Finally we have an accessible, highly integrated account of the environment:  wise rather than clever, responsible rather than glib, comprehensive rather than confused, comprehensible rather than new. Smil’s unique biospheric narrative, devoid of hype and patriotism, transcends academic apartheid. This immensely learned story of the past history and current state of the third planet is destined to become required reading for anyone who seeks the environmental context for human activity.”
Lynn Margulis, Distinguished University Professor, Department of Geosciences, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and recipient of the National Medal of Science.

                                                            MIT Press, 2013

“Vaclav Smil, the extraordinary polymath, critically evaluates what we know about the enormous impact of humans on the productive capacity of Earth through our history. He concludes that our future will bring major challenges to society and threats to our biotic storehouse if we are to meet the demands of the projected nine billion people to feed by 2050.” 
Harold Mooney, Professor of Biology, Emeritus, Stanford University
“Wood and charcoal are still widely used in Brazil, the country that also leads the world in the use of ethanol; unfortunately, other national programs promoting liquid biofuels (most notably the U.S. corn-based ethanol and European biodiesel) make little sense as they do not offer any environmental, energetic, or economic advantages.”                                                                                                                                                                   from Chapter 9 

Go, get yourself some Tyger Nights.....

Wednesday, 14 August 2013



As I mentioned this word in my SAMIZDAT post of 11 July 2013, some further comments and considerations appear warranted.

Gleichschaltung, as dictionary defined – “the standardization of political, economic, and social institutions in authoritarian states” – certainly forgets to mention also the standardization of language, press and all other media. Dr Edgar Feuchtwanger, in new perspective Vol 7,  No 2, (to be found at, has this to say about Gleichschaltung:
“As a totalitarian regime the Third Reich developed its own language, a perversion of the German language. The control of hearts and minds, to which totalitarian political systems aspire, necessitates such a perversion of the normal use of language. Meaning is twisted and distorted in such a way that the citizens of a totalitarian state can no longer distinguish truth from falsehood. They are reduced to such a state of confusion and impotence that they can be fully manipulated by the dictatorial government. George Orwell’s famous books 1984 and Animal Farm are the classic fictional statements of this aspect of totalitarianism. In 1984 there is a Ministry of Truth, modelled on the Ministry of Propaganda and Popular Enlightenment established by Goebbels.”

“Hold on”, you say, "but we live in democracies, not authoritarian states". Well, if we are so democratic, we wouldn’t have any of this obvious Gleichschaltung in language, media, taxation, finance and other laws and regulations (not forgetting public relations and university finance), but since we do have it, we obviously are living in somewhat authoritarian states, albeit via supranational forms of authoritarianisms.

Vaclav Klaus, while President of the Czech Republic, was the only elected head of any EU nation resisting EU and IPCC Gleichschaltung.  Wikipedia notes:  “Klaus is a strong critic of the theories that any global warming is anthropogenic. He has also criticized the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as a group of politicized scientists with one-sided opinions and one-sided assignments. He has said that some other top-level politicians do not expose their doubts about global warming being anthropogenic because ‘a whip of political correctness strangles their voices’.“  

Helmut Schmidt,  the  former German Chancellor, in his address to the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft on the occasion of its Centenary Ceremony on 11 January 2011 in Berlin, had this to say under the title  

The Responsibility of Research in the 21st Century 

“… 5. In addition to all the above-mentioned problems caused by humans, we are simultaneously disturbed by the phenomenon of global warming and its consequences.  We know that ice ages and warm periods have always been natural events; but we do not know how great a contribution humans will make, now and in the future, to the present-day global warming.  The "climate policies" propagated internationally by many governments are still in early stages.  The documents so far delivered by an international group of scientists (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC) are encountering scepticism.  In any case, the goals publicly announced by some governments have so far been based less on scientific than on merely political arguments. I think it is time for one of our top scientific organisations to put the work of the IPCC critically and realistically under the lens, and then to explain the conclusions drawn from this examination to the general public of our country, in an understandable way...” 

Not to be overlooked is that virtually all states accept the IPCC bribe of Taxing Air (as the book with this title by Bob Carter* & John Spooner just published by Kelpie Press in Australia explains). Dead horse trading, if ever there was some:  Carbon trading worldwide reached $126 billion in 2008 [Jo Nova’s SPPI paper Climate Money et al  ], and just how much this IPCC collection of tributes costs the UK alone, is stated by Matt Ridley in his Angus Millar Lecture of the Royal Society of Arts Edinburgh, 31 October 2011: "Remember Britain's unilateral Climate Change Act is officially expected to cost the hard-pressed UK economy £18.3 billion a year for the next 39 years and achieve an immeasurably small change in carbon dioxide levels." [ ]

*Breaking News (anyway, as of 28 June 2013):
“One of Australia's most prominent climate change sceptics believes he has been dumped by James Cook University because of his outspoken views. Professor Bob Carter, who argues global warming stopped 17 years ago, has been given his marching orders after 32 years at the university.”
Apart from his previous book - Climate: the Counter Consensus, Prof Carter is also known for his cost assessment of the biggest dead horse trade ever: “ the world had wasted $2-3 trillion on the Kyoto Protocol, to no effect whatsoever".

Tuesday, 13 August 2013



Right in line with my thoughts on Civic Energy and definition of Clean Energy comes this press release about what could almost be called homestead wind power, and from which I would like to quote:

“…Americans are increasingly installing wind turbines near their homes, farms and businesses to generate their own energy, concludes a new report released today.

The 2012 Market Report on Wind Technologies in Distributed Applications is the first comprehensive analysis on a growing field called distributed wind, which involves generating wind energy close to where it will be used instead of purchasing power from large, centralized wind farms. Distributed wind can range from a small, solitary turbine in someone's backyard to several large turbines that power a manufacturing facility or a neighbourhood.

‘The public often pictures large wind projects with long rows of turbines when they think of wind power,’ said the report's lead author Alice Orrell, an energy analyst at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. ‘But this report provides detailed data that shows this image is incomplete. Many of the nation's turbines are for distributed, not centralized, wind projects.’

Some of the report's findings include:
--           68 percent of all wind turbines installed in U.S. between 2003-2012 were distributed wind turbines, representing about 69,000 turbines that can generate 812 megawatts combined

--           About a third of all wind turbines installed in the U.S. in 2012 were distributed wind turbines, representing about 3,800 turbines that can generate 175 megawatts combined….”

And what is more, scaled battery power appears on its way, if Donald Sadoway wins through:


The PNNL press release can be found at