Untermensch

Yesterday I attended my weekly lecture on Global Economics, which is a subject I quite enjoy. Towards the end we were shown a truncated version of this excellent video on the plight of Briggs & Stratton workers whose factory in Missouri had been closed and production moved to China. It was hard not to feel sorry for these Americans, many of whom were over 50, who’d suddenly found their jobs yanked from beneath them with no alternative. The sight of them walking around a jobs fair in a daze was pitiful.

When the video finished I raised my paw in the air (as I am fond of doing) to point out that there was a large elephant wandering around the room that nobody’s noticed. Whereas it is true that low wages are the main driving force for relocating a factory to China, US policies have made manufacturing artificially high, namely the ever-increasing environmental legislation. I said that the only western leader who acknowledges that environmental regulations impose a cost on developed-world industries is Trump. Nobody else even mentions it, and for most politicians they are an unalloyed good with no downsides, and the more of them the better.

This caused some umming and ahing to the effect that we need to “do something” about the environment and that Trump pulling out of the Paris Agreement is not the solution. This may be true and it may be not, but it’s beside the point. It is one thing to bicker about solutions, but quite another to deny the problem exists. So I asked why it was only Trump who was prepared to even acknowledge that environmental regulations heap costs on developed-world industries and contribute the very unemployment we’re getting weepy about in the video. I didn’t get an answer, but I knew it already.

Everyone in an MBA class in a business school in Geneva is by definition white collar and rich. Nobody who enters that building except the cleaners has their livelihood threatened by environmental regulations, and almost 100% are willing to vote for them. Everyone wants to live around clean air and water, and most middle and upper middle classes these days are engaged in a weird post-Christianity Earth-worship cult, sort of like pagans only with designer handbags, smartphones, and a penchant for air travel. They say they’re willing to pay more for things, but this is a luxury rich folk can afford especially when the cost comes in the form of slightly higher prices rather than permanent unemployment.

The more the urban-dwelling elites vote for policies which clobber everyone else, the worse the situation is going to get. One would have thought Trump’s election, Brexit, and the gilets jaunes movement would have woken them up, but it appears they live in a wholly separate world. I’ve said for a long time Trump was a warning shot across the bows of western civilisation, and that the world is lucky that it was him who stumbled on the unguarded palace gates and sat on the throne. Alas, those gates remain wide open. It used to be that politicians would bicker over problems and sell different solutions to the population. Nowadays, massive, elephant-in-the-room problems affecting millions of people are being utterly ignored by the ruling elites who busy themselves selling solutions to problems which are either trivial or don’t exist.

The reason populism is on the rise is because it has become a trivially easy route to power; you don’t even have to offer solutions, just pointing a finger at the problem is enough. And if that problem – immigration, unemployment, crime – affects you and your family, you’ll vote for someone who acknowledges the problem exists over someone who doesn’t, regardless of the feasibility of his or her solutions and with scant concern for his character and broader manifesto. People like to issue stern warnings about how Hitler rose to power by inventing a problem and convincing the masses he was the one to fix it. Many of the same people believe to avoid a repeat of history we must ignore real problems, and call anyone who draws attention to them Hitler.

This won’t end well.

Share

I told you so, carrier bag edition

I can’t honestly say that this story surprises me:

Supermarkets are selling customers billions of 10p ‘bags for life’ which contain twice as much plastic as 5p single-use bags, it was reported last night.

British retailers handed out a total of 1.18billion of them last year – at a cost of around 10p a bag. In the 12 months to the end of June, Tesco distributed 430million bags for life – the highest number for a supermarket.

What did they think would happen when they banned single-use plastic bags? That people would cart groceries home in their pockets? 1.18 billion multi-use shopping bags is one hell of a lot of plastic. Back in August 2016 when I first got the carrier bag bee in my bonnet, I asked:

Why is it assumed that a reduction in plastic bag use makes the world a better place? … Does using stronger, reusable plastic bags offer an overall improvement?  If so, where are the studies to back it up?

A few months back, reader David Bishop alerted me to this Danish study (.pdf) into the environmental effects of different types of carrier bags. It looked into how some bags can be reused for a secondary purpose, e.g. for lining a bin, and at both the “climate change” impact and “other environmental impacts” of each type of bag. For ease of understanding, the traditional polythene carrier bag is called LDPE in this study, and the “bags for life” most supermarkets dish out are called PET (see pages 25-27). The killer info is in Table IV of the executive summary (pages 17-18) which shows how many times each type of bag must be reused to have an environmental benefit over the carrier bags our benighted governments banned:

What this tells us is that the PET “bags for life” – of which, let’s remember, 1.18 billion were sold in one year alone following the carrier bag ban – must be reused 35 times before they’re better overall for the environment. Amusingly, the recycled PET bags are worse for the environment, and need to be reused 84 times. Very few people, particularly the dim middle classes who campaign for environmental legislation, understand that recycling is an industrial process like any other only with different inputs. What the table above shows is we’re better off using PET bags made from fresh polyester than from recycled materials. (Incidentally, Tim Worstall has been banging on about how nobody considers the overall resource inputs when calling for everything to be recycled for years.)

So how many people use their PET bags 84 times? I’m not sure, but this table is interesting, no?

Look at the difference in CO2 emissions for the production of normal LDPE carrier bags and the PET bags so loved by greenies. Of course, someone will start going on about plastic in the ocean and a turtle offshore Bora Bora with a biro up its bum, but aren’t CO2 emissions supposed to be the greatest threat to mankind ever?

And look at the other types of bags. Paper bags, which have sprouted up in the vegetable sections in supermarkets all over France, need to be reused 43 times before they’re better for the environment than polythene bags. Who the hell reuses a paper bag once, let alone 43 times?  This is probably due to the fact that to make paper bags you first need a forest, and that takes up land. This is what makes the cotton bags which SJW’s adore so damaging: you’d need to use it 7,100 times before its environmental benefits are felt. If it’s made from organic cotton, it needs to be reused 20,000 times. That’s a lot of shopping. The report explains why (pages 69-70):

The environmental impacts connected to the production of the organic cotton bag (COTorg) were considerably higher than those of the conventional cotton bag (COT). This is due to the fact that organic cotton production does not involve the use of synthetic chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides, which lowers the yield of the cultivation. Eventually, more resources and land are required to produce the same amount of cotton than in conventional cotton cultivation processes.

Again, this is something informed people already knew. Not so the hippies who swan around with their cotton shopping bags wrecking the environment, and wrecking it even more if they’ve opted for an organic cotton shopping bag.

But we should remember, none of this legislation is rational. It is part of a quasi-religious culture whereby the wealthy middle classes (particularly women) need to signal their virtue having quit going to church a generation back. Therefore, the results don’t actually matter. Back in 2016 I wrote this:

For if we accept the use of plastic in itself is bad, why carrier bags?  Should we ban Bic biros and force everyone to use pencils?

And indeed, the EU has recently approved a ban on single-use plastics. This will have two effects. Firstly, substitutes will be found which, as we’ve seen with shopping bags, are worse for the environment than the thing they’ve banned. For instance, cotton buds will soon be made from wood, which means more forests, more land clearances, and more lumber mills. Is this better or worse than using plastic? Does anyone even care? Secondly, it will become apparent that there were very good reasons related to hygiene and health why single-use plastics have been adopted for certain applications. It is unlikely the EU mandarins have identified all these and excluded them from the legislation.

I started my one-man blogging campaign against the carrier bag ban by invoking Chesterton’s fence. I believe my doing so has was justified, but the arrogant fools who rule us and those who support them have yet to learn a damned thing.

Share

Incentives matter, part 23,567

This is a fascinating line from an academic paper I’m reading:

Stanwick (2001) found a strong association between CEO compensation and a firm’s reputation for being environmentally progressive.

This can be read several ways, but one interpretation is that CEOs sign up to green initiatives because it justifies their higher pay, or reduces criticism of it. Which would explain one hell of a lot, frankly.

Share

Charitable propaganda

In September I speculated that the plethora of news articles concerning ill-treatment of Rohingyas in Myanmar and Uighurs in China were the result of lobbying efforts by pro-Muslim groups awash with zakat money. I’d like to see a study done on how many “news” items are simply campaign propaganda, paid for by political organisations masquerading as charities with too much money. Take this CNN report, for example:

Beef isn’t good for the planet. But you probably knew that already.
You might know beef is responsible for 41% of livestock greenhouse gas emissions, and that livestock accounts for 14.5% of total global emissions. If you didn’t, you’ve probably heard about the methane — a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent that carbon dioxide — that cattle produce from both ends.

This is one of several reports I’ve seen over the past few weeks claiming eating meat is bad for the environment and everyone needs to drastically cut down their meat consumption if the planet is to be saved. These stories appear on major news sites littered with question-begging statements coupled with wholesale acceptance of the most extreme climate change predictions. So who’s putting this garbage on newsroom desks?

Firstly, it must be understood that environmental campaigning, vegetarianism, and veganism are western, rich people’s hobbies. I read somewhere that Greenpeace gets the bulk of its donations from Germans; apparently they’re sanctimonious bores who like to tell others what how to live. Who knew? The last decade has seen the number of environmental groups multiply, probably as a result of government money being hosed at anyone who sings from the climate change hymnsheet, but also because societies – particularly those in northern Europe, north America, and Canada – have got richer. People – particularly those in mid-career with disposable income and no children – are more inclined to donate money to environmental and green charities, allowing them to lecture others on sustainability before jetting off to the Bahamas on holiday. Hell, some of them might even believe they’re helping.

What is certain is these environmental groups are awash with money. One proof of this is how much they spend on salaries and marketing campaigns: it runs into the millions. Only they’ve come under a lot of pressure recently to spend more on charitable activities, which to you or I means going outside and getting your hands dirty to help those in need. But the wealthy social science graduates who run these organisations aren’t going to do that; so instead they spend the money on “awareness” campaigns which can just about pass muster as “frontline services”. They’ll call up their friends in media and ask them to run some nonsense about how everyone must go vegan to save the planet, and they’re only too happy to oblige. It’s cheap and it’s free for starters, and they don’t even have to leave the building.

As I said, I’d love to see a study done on how many supposed news reports are simply media campaigns put out by charities. But what I’d like to see even more is the government carry out a thorough investigation into these alleged charities, strip them of their charitable status, and start treating them as political organisations. It’s high time the public started treating them that way, too.

Share

An untypical protest

Heh:

France’s PM has announced a six-month suspension of a fuel tax rise which has led to weeks of violent protests.

Edouard Philippe said that people’s anger must be heard, and the measures would not be applied until there had been proper debate with those affected.

Good work, comrades.

The difficulty for Emmanuel Macron is that this is exactly the kind of capitulation to the street that he has vowed to stop. There will be no change of direction, he repeats to all who will hear, because that would only store up worse problems for the future.

The thing is – and I defy you to show me a British newspaper that makes this distinction – the French public were ready to accept reforms to the labour laws of the sort that traditionally bring the unions onto the streets. In fact, Macron did push through such reforms and the unions did strike, and the public refused to back the strikers. I remember all the complaining about the disruption to SNCF services when I was working in Paris, but the majority knew major reforms are necessary. What they clearly don’t support is their foppish president sacrificing the living standards of ordinary people on the altar of environmental hysteria. Most commentators will say this was a typical French uprising against reform and modernisation – plus ça change – but it wasn’t.

Macron had all the goodwill he could have wished for from a population who wanted to change; instead he chose to hit them hardest on a vanity project. That should be the story here.

Share

Hubris

This morning I came across this tweet:


Catherine Noone is an Irish senator and practicing solicitor. This tweet is a good example of something I find myself talking a lot about these days: hubris.

Tesco are an outfit at the end of an extraordinarily complex, technologically advanced, and finely-tuned supply chain which enables farm produce to be freshly available on supermarket shelves in city centres day after day with no interruptions. Looked at in isolation, the entire operation is nothing short of miraculous, an achievement of human endeavour which rivals the space programme.

But the metropolitan middle classes with social science, humanities, and law degrees think they’ve found something wrong with it. For some reason, the global experts in packaging, transport, storage, and retail operating on razor-thin margins have decided to use a few million tonnes of unnecessary plastic. Perhaps it was a decision made late on a Friday night when they all wanted to go to the pub, and never got around to revisiting it? Silly people! They spend millions on computer controlled warehouses, yet they can’t even get their packaging right.

I have the advantage over most of those wringing their hands over food packaging of having actually worked on a large vegetable farm, including a few days in the packing plant. The farm would come to life at about 5 or 6am, everyone would be in the fields picking by 7am, and by 1 or 2pm the first produce would be coming into the yard, some of which would go into the packing plant. Between 2 and 5pm several large lorries from the major supermarkets would pull in, get loaded up, and be off to the distribution centres from where the produce would be sent to all four corners of the UK, where it would appear on shelves at 7am the next morning. One thing I noticed, being a part-time forklift driver, was that clever packaging was essential for rapid loading and unloading. Everything needed to be packed in such a way it could be stacked on a pallet and put on a lorry with a forklift. We used to being loose veg in from the fields in small lorries or with a tractor and trailer, and it was a right pain. This is why we had a packing plant.

If you want just-in-time logistics, you need to pack things properly. Also, as mentioned in this post by someone who knows what they’re talking about, the plastic serves a vital function in keeping the produce fresh. I am sure it is also used to keep moisture and creepy-crawlies out in some instances. Now I don’t know the optimum packing methods to achieve all this, but I think it’s a reasonable assumption that those who have a billion dollars worth of skin in the game have worked it out. The idea that vegetable supply companies use “excess” packaging is so ludicrous only the seriously dim and neo-religious could believe it. And of course, if they removed the packaging there would be uproar about food waste. That campaigns against this imaginary problem have such support is indicative of several things, not least the increasing divide between those who work white-collar jobs in air-conditioned offices in large cities and those who actually make the country function.

In any conversation on this topic, you’ll inevitably get someone – usually a woman with a good salary, nice handbag, and plenty of shoes – smugly state that they buy their vegetables loose from the local organic shop and “they’re perfectly all right”. Which is true, but you’re not going to be able to feed cities of between 2 and 5 million people via small shops filled with bent, muddy, and cracked vegetables chucked in cardboard boxes. Well you could, but not while maintaining the standards of living everyone now demands. These people are the equivalent of the apocryphal American kids who don’t know milk comes from cows.

One of the paradoxes of the population becoming more educated is they seem to know less. The middle classes are increasingly backing trendy causes – gender equality, renewable energy, fuel taxes, carrier bag bans – without having the slightest idea how the world functions beyond their bubble. They’ve never been on a farm, toured a factory, walked through the turbine hall of a working power station, seen the spaghetti-like piping in a refinery, watched a giant crane lift something into place, or stood on a platform built in the middle of a hostile sea to provide the life-blood their society depends on. They don’t know how things are done and who does them. All they know is they’re doing it wrong and they know best. Like I said: hubris.

This won’t end well.

Share

Enough is enough

It’s not surprising people are turning to violence:

What began as protests over President Macron’s fuel tax has transformed into general anger at high living costs.

Mr Macron says his fuel policies are needed to combat global warming.

So global warming is an existential threat, is it? Okay, but:

France is heavily dependent on nuclear power, which Mr Macron pledged to reduce to 50% of the national energy mix by 2035 by closing 14 of the country’s 58 reactors.

If global warming is really going to kill us all within decades, the problem of nuclear waste disposal and fear of accidents would seem rather small indeed. That politicians are closing nuclear power stations is proof that even they don’t believe global warming is an existential threat, or even a serious one.

That is on top of the closure of all four of France’s remaining coal-fired power plants and investment of billions of euros into renewable energy.

And that’s what this is all about: elites in government making life more expensive for the ordinary citizen so they can virtue-signal to other elites and the wealthy, middle-class idiots who support them. Like I said, no wonder people are turning violent. I’m amazed it’s taken this long.

Share

Signalled virtue fails to save whale

So how did this happen, then?

A dead sperm whale that washed ashore in a national park in Indonesia had nearly 6kg (13 lbs) of plastic waste in its stomach, park officials say.

Items found included 115 drinking cups, four plastic bottles, 25 plastic bags and two flip-flops.

The carcass of the 9.5m (31ft) mammal was found in waters near Kapota Island in the Wakatobi National Park late on Monday.

I thought carrier bags had been banned from French supermarkets and bars in London no longer provide drinking straws, so how come we have a dead whale in Indonesia? Ah yeah:

Five Asian nations – China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand – account for up to 60% of the plastic waste that ends up in oceans, according to a 2015 report by environmental campaigner Ocean Conservancy and the McKinsey Center for Business and Environment.

Nevertheless:

The European Parliament has voted for a complete ban on a range of single-use plastics across the union in a bid to stop pollution of the oceans.

MEPs backed a ban on plastic cutlery and plates, cotton buds, straws, drink-stirrers and balloon sticks.

Next up: hosepipe bans in Surrey to prevent drought in Ethiopia.

Share

Une Manifestation

On Saturday, while trying to get on the A41 on my way to a seminar in Geneva, I ran into this:

One protester has died and more than 200 were injured as more than a quarter of a million people took to the streets of France, angry at rising fuel prices.

The female protester who died was struck after a driver surrounded by demonstrators panicked and accelerated.

The “yellow vests”, so-called after the high-visibility jackets they are required to carry in their cars, blocked motorways and roundabouts.

They accuse President Emmanuel Macron of abandoning “the little people”.

I was pretty annoyed, especially when one of them told me I had to move my car to the side of the road to let the bus behind me past, which was carrying children. I was tempted to suggest that, if kids languishing in buses are a concern, maybe they shouldn’t be blocking the f*cking road. They then handed me this:

The protesters were mostly aged between forty and fifty, rather too old to be subscribing to anarcho-communist ideologies which have no chance of success at the ballot box. But when I got home and read the BBC article, I thought they may have had a point:

The price of diesel, the most commonly used fuel in French cars, has risen by around 23% over the past 12 months to an average of €1.51 (£1.32; $1.71) per litre, its highest point since the early 2000s, AFP news agency reports.

World oil prices did rise before falling back again but the Macron government raised its hydrocarbon tax this year by 7.6 cents per litre on diesel and 3.9 cents on petrol, as part of a campaign for cleaner cars and fuel.

The decision to impose a further increase of 6.5 cents on diesel and 2.9 cents on petrol on 1 January 2019 was seen as the final straw.

Diesel has always been cheaper than petrol in France, in part because French companies were early pioneers in diesel engine technology and the refineries were geared to meet the subsequent demand. But a decade or so back politicians across Europe decided CO2 emissions were the greatest danger mankind had ever faced and encouraged everyone to switch to diesel cars, which get a better mileage per gallon. So everyone did, only now the politicians are saying diesel is bad and have whacked up the tax, leaving millions of people facing rising fuel bills and with cars that in many cases will be near-worthless. An increase of 14.1 cents per litre in two years on a fuel the government encouraged people to adopt is extortion; no wonder people came out in protest.

Speaking on Wednesday, the president blamed world oil prices for three-quarters of the price rise. He also said more tax on fossil fuels was needed to fund renewable energy investments.

So why not just borrow the money if it’s such a great investment? After all, aren’t we forever being told that renewable energy is now so cost effective it doesn’t need subsidies? In any case, why should motorists be taxed to pay for renewable energy generation? Why not charge the customers directly?

So we have a government invoking an idiotic fad to punish people for following an earlier idiotic fad, which nobody in power has taken any responsibility for pushing. At the same time we have a blatant cash-grab in order to fund white-elephant projects which make the government look good when it struts around on the world stage with other kleptocrats. Little wonder Macron is the most detested French president in living memory.

Nearly three-quarters of respondents to a poll by the Elabe institute backed the Yellow Vests and 70% wanted the government to reverse the fuel tax hikes.

More than half of French people who voted for Mr Macron support the protests, Elabe’s Vincent Thibault told AFP.

Annoyed though I was at being delayed on Saturday morning, I’m rather glad I’m in France and people are making a noise. Most other places, the population would just eat it up.

“The expectations and discontent over spending power are fairly broad, it’s not just something that concerns rural France or the lower classes,” he said.

Indeed. How many of those supporting lunatic environmental policies live in cities, smugly tell everyone they don’t own a car, and have no idea how the country is fed and the lights kept on? Once again, the wealthy, metropolitan middle classes are making life miserable for everyone else.

Share

UN-driven neo-colonialism in Africa

I’ve noticed that the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals seem to get mentioned a lot in my presence recently, particularly when I’m in Geneva. It’s not so much that my university has a policy of pushing this stuff as Geneva being home to various UN bodies, hence is stuffed to the gills with do-gooders, NGOs, and busybodies who latch onto them. In short, it’s more by virtue of proximity than anything else.

Naturally, I’m unimpressed by it all. I sat in a seminar recently where various well-educated, pasty-white western folk living the high life in Geneva at taxpayer expense spoke about Africa as if it were populated by retarded children who haven’t yet worked out that gender equality will catapult their societies into a whole new era of peace and prosperity. If they’d been wearing pith helmets and talking about Christianity rather than gender equality I’d have thought I’d gone back in time to the peak of colonialism. I’ve decided I’m going to do a podcast on each of the UN’s sustainable development goals. highlighting the downsides and trade-offs of which their proponents seem unaware.

Anyway, yesterday a long-time reader and ex-boss sent me the link to this paper:

This research explores how female-led micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in semi-arid lands experience and respond to climate risk. MSMEs account for about 80% of employment in developing countries, are highly vulnerable to climate change and are limited in their capacity to adapt.

Female entrepreneurs can be key in promoting resilience at micro (e.g. household) and macro scales but how they experience or adapt to climate risks has been little researched. This paper addresses that gap with a case study of how female-owned MSMEs experience climate risk in the semi-arid county of Narok in Kenya’s Rift Valley. Findings suggest female-led MSMEs in Narok may face both additional exposure to climate risk compared with men, and additional barriers to adapting to that risk.

So in parallel to pushing more women to become entrepreneurs in Africa the neo-colonial missionaries have discovered these same women are now at greater risk from climate change. The reasoning is a veritable work of art:

The research found that strong social and cultural norms around gender roles, and resource use and access, confine female-led MSMEs to sectors that experience higher exposure to climate risk – most notably agriculture.

Society and cultural norms must be overturned to protect UN-encouraged female-led small businesses from climate change.

These norms also create pronounced barriers to women coping with climate risks and building business resilience, including reduced access to land, capital, markets, new technology and educational opportunities compared with men.

This seems to have very little to do with climate change.

The research identified examples of female entrepreneurs pursuing unsustainable forms of coping that may help in the short term but which reduce their capacity to adapt to climate change in the longer term.

Go on.

Coping strategies include selling business assets, e.g. reducing stock at times of water scarcity; diversification, e.g. into the charcoal business, which weakens long-term resilience by exposing agricultural land to erosion;

Clearly these are gender-related problems.

and land sales, which are usually carried out by men, with female-led MSMEs usually not receiving any direct benefit.

So climate change might lead to a female-led business having to sell land which, for some reason, is usually carried out by presumably random men and the woman will usually not receive any money. I don’t know about you, but I’m convinced.

Adaptation tools appear to include social networks such as women’s groups and table banking initiatives, through which groups of women save, rotate funds and lend money. However, these funds appear unlikely to be adequate to protect MSMEs from the impacts of climate extremes.

If female-led businesses insist on excluding men from their financing operations they’re going to struggle, regardless of what the climate is doing.

Female entrepreneurs in this research suggested a strong dependency between household resilience and business resilience. Therefore building women’s resilience at the household level is likely to serve as a key route to enabling private sector adaptation among female-led MSMEs.

Okay, but when western countries build up women’s “resilience” we find a lot of them never actually get to run a household. Is this what African women want, increased “resilience” at the price of being single?

The research also finds that while Kenya recognises the need to support female entrepreneurs in various national policies (including in national climate change legislation), these policies are currently poorly implemented.

Why, it’s almost as if the government pays lip service to the latest western fad in order to keep the aid money rolling in but doesn’t actually implement anything. In Africa, of all places! Who knew?

The research consisted of a literature review plus focus group discussions and interviews with 17 female entrepreneurs, most of whom work in agriculture, and a workshop with other stakeholders including government and NGOs.

This is the basis on which they want to overturn African societal norms? Interviews with 17 female entrepreneurs? Meanwhile, a thread on Twitter provides the view of an actual African woman on such matters. I recommend reading the whole thing, but here are the most poignant parts:

“The religious aspects of these secular movements”. I’ve written about this before.

Share