The Royal Society’s Blatherfest

March 24, 2012 at 3:22 pm

official conference blogger Eva Flinkerbusch - click for photo source

official conference blogger Michael Edwards - click for photo source

A “major international conference” will begin on Monday in London. It’s being hosted by the Royal Society, the oldest science academy in the world and previously the most prestigious.

But over the past decade the Royal Society has abandoned its longstanding neutrality and become a political lobby group.

The depths to which this formerly esteemed body organization has now sunk may be seen on the website for this conference. A number of official blog posts appear there, including one written by the event’s co-chair, Mark Stafford-Smith. It declares:

our science tells us that the Earth has entered the ‘Anthropocene’, a geological era in which human impacts are now as important in driving how the planet operates as geological and astronomical forces have been in past eras. [backup link]

But this is nonsense. As I observed last August, a scientific body called the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS) is responsible for naming geological eras. It has made no such determination that a new one has begun.

This strange claim can be traced back to informal musings a decade ago by atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen. He is not a geologist. He’s doesn’t belong to the ICS. He has no more authority to announce the beginning of a new geological era than I do.

The Anthropocene is 100% a political statement. It amounts to a PR strategy on the part of activist scientists. It is a trap laid for gullible journalists. That the co-chair of a conference hosted by the Royal Society has the audacity to suggest that science tells us we’ve entered a new geological era demonstrates not only that science has left the building, it was never there in the first place.

Other conference blog posts are equally disheartening. In one, Liese Coulter – a PR/media relations professional  – tells us that she thinks her husband drives their car too much so she “made him” pay for carbon offsets [backup link].

In another, Sunita Narain – who is described as an Indian environmentalist and political activist – calls the United States “the world’s biggest climate renegade” and says that Australia, Japan, New Zealand and Canada are “other big polluting guns.”

She also makes reference to US “Republicans – Neanderthals who do not believe climate change is real” (backup link). Evidently Ms Narain’s mother never taught her that, when you’re trying to change other people’s minds, publicly denigrating them is rarely a successful strategy.

In yet another conference blog post, “independent environmental educator and musician” Mike Edwards declares:

We face a stark choice: we can either carry on destroying the planet to the point of catastrophe, or we can change our habits…we need to…reconnect with nature and shift towards a value system that doesn’t place material wealth first. [backup link]

Edwards, who considers himself “a climate change expert,” will be part of a panel discussion titled Making the vision reality III – creative, connected science. According to the conference website:

This session will make the case for a new, holistic thinking paradigm that allows space for multiple scientific, artistic and cultural discourses to achieve the vision of a sustainable world. It will be fun, energetic and participatory but will be based on the message that novel thinkers are needed to provide transformatory ideas to address global environmental challenges. [bold added]

Yeah, that sounds like the sort of thing to which the Royal Society should be linking its scientific reputation.

Still another blog post was written by Eva Flinkerbusch, who edits the newsletter and manages the website for the Global Water System Project. She

  • refers to the “alarming state” of freshwater resources
  • declares that the “problem of water scarcity is going to escalate worldwide in the foreseeable future”
  • and discusses “the need for changes in…governance systems”

Her post closes with the typical activist’s rallying cry: “Action has to be taken now.” (backup link)

But matters don’t quite end there. Blogger Bo Kjellén, Sweden’s former chief climate negotiator, pompously opines that “there have to be significant changes in the way our societies and economies operate” – and suggests that humanity’s use of fossil fuels may be analogous to selling our soul to the devil (backup link).

Yvo de Boer – who has served as the UN’s climate chief (and whose academic credentials are apparently in social work) – spends his own blog post lecturing private businesses about how they should run their affairs. In his words:

  • “Companies need to develop resilience…”
  • “businesses must manage risks…” [bold added]
  • “businesses need to fully assess and understand future sustainability risks…”
  • “…strategic planning and strategy development are needed as well…”
  • “businesses needs [sic] to understand the root causes of what affects their operations…” [bold added; backup link]

So if I’m running a business that’s coping with a depressed economy, if I don’t know whether I’ll be able to make payroll next week, does anyone really suppose I’m going to spend five seconds worrying about what a UN bureaucrat thinks I need to do?

I mean, honestly. A lot of money is being spent on this conference. They’re expecting 2,500 people to attend – almost all of whom will arrive there via fossil-fueled modes of transportation.

This is being billed as the “largest gathering of global change and sustainability scientists prior to the Rio+20 Earth Summit” (italics added). But as we can see, many of the individuals involved aren’t scientists at all. They’re politicians and bureaucrats. They’re communications managers and musicians. Most of all, they’re political activists. In some cases, this fact is self-admitted. In others, it’s revealed by how they behave and what they say.

That this conference is being hosted by the Royal Society is nothing short of scandalous.

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