Posts Tagged ‘environment’

The Future of Cars

January 28, 2018 Leave a comment

I have mixed feelings about the idea of electric and self driving cars. I am a bit of a “petrol-head” (car enthusiast) myself and enjoy driving fast, reading about fast cars, and watching supercar videos, so the new generation of cars is not necessarily welcome to me.

There is no doubt that electric power and self-driving cars are the future, but both of these remove the fun factor from driving. Of course, that might be thought of as a small price to pay for the huge advantages the future will bring, but it’s still kind of sad.

But I should talk a little bit about how great the future will be with these two technologies first before I discuss the disadvantages. So here’s what is so great about electric cars (I’ll deal with self-driving technology later)…

Electric is fast. I said I was a “petrol head” and liked driving fast, but I guess I could adapt to fast driving in electric cars as well. After all, no petrol car can get close to an electric for initial acceleration off the line. Electric engines produce maximum torque from zero RPM. My twin turbo petrol car (and every other conventional car) takes a lot longer to reach peak torque.

Electric is cheap. Well, when I say it is cheap I mean it is cheap to run. Unfortunately at the moment the initial cost is far too high, mainly because high capacity batteries are not being mass produced in enough quantity to bring the price down. Some countries have subsidies to encourage the use of electrics, but this shouldn’t be necessary, and hopefully one day won’t be.

Electric is simple. Modern petrol powered cars are ridiculously complex. Depending on what you count as essential components, a petrol car might have hundreds or thousands of moving parts, against just a few on an electric (again, the number of parts depends on whether you count cooling fans for the batteries, air conditioning, and other extra components). Despite this, modern petrol engines (and transmissions) are incredibly reliable. But an electric can have one moving part (essentially the rotor of the engine) connected directly to the wheel. That’s one moving part for the whole drive train! There are no cam shafts, valves, turbos, gearboxes, differentials, or CV joints. Once electric cars become better established their reliability just has to be far greater.

Electric is quiet. The sound of a high performance petrol engine might be music to the ears of a true enthusiast like me, but to many people it is just an annoyance. The electric ars are so quiet it almost becomes a hazard but this will soon become normal.

Electric is environmentally sound. The advantages to the environment of electric cars aren’t quite as obvious as is often imagined, but they are still significant. There is little doubt that electricity generated centrally and used to charge batteries for cars is superior to burning fossil fuels in an engine – especially when an increasing fraction of electricity generation is from renewable sources – but the production of batteries, and their disposal after they lose efficiency, is an extra environmental issue which is sometimes not considered. This makes the environmental advantage of electric cars a bit less certain, but the consensus seems to be that they are still significant.

Electric is the future. Even if you debate the points I have made above it seems that electric cars are an idea whose time has come. Even though they still make up a small fraction of the total fleet, there is a clear trend to them becoming more common on our roads. And, most importantly, they are now an obvious option for anyone buying a new car, where in the past they were a fringe possibility that few people would take seriously.

Of course, there are big disadvantages too. I have already mentioned the initial cost, but the other major factor is range, slowness of recharging, and lack of recharging points. The first two are inherent to the technology but are improving rapidly. The last is a sort of a “Catch 22” situation: there aren’t enough recharging points because there aren’t enough electric cars needing recharging, because there aren’t enough charging points for them.

There’s nothing quite like the sound of a high performance petrol car being thrashed – the sight and sound of a Lamborghini or McLaren exhaust system spitting flames is just awesome – and there’s no doubt that petrol cars have more “soul” than electrics. But people said the same thing about steam engines before they were replaced with electrics. I guess petrol cars will go the same way, so we might as well accept the inevitability of technical progress just get used to it.

I started this post by mentioning both electric and self-driving cars and I don’t seem to have got onto the self-driving part yet, which is actually far more controversial and revolutionary. So I might leave that to a future entry, since it deserves a post to itself.

So, until I switch to an electric myself I will continue to enjoy driving my current car – but I won’t try to race a Tesla away from the lights!


Captain’s Log

August 28, 2017 Leave a comment

Captain’s Log, Mission Day 30476.32

At 0.30 today we deactivated the star drive and approached the planet.

As our astronomers had already discovered, it is a rocky world orbiting a yellow dwarf sun. Compared to our own world it is just slightly smaller and hotter, and its sun is remarkably similar to ours, so it might almost seem like home to us.

The mysterious presence of molecular oxygen in the atmosphere has been confirmed by our observations but we are still too far away to discover what it source is. Whether it turns out to be some complex inorganic chemical reaction or the side effect of life we cannot yet tell.

I don’t need to tell you what a discovery it would be if this planet does have life, because in all the thousands of planets we have visited, all have been barren. Maybe we are the only ones, or maybe we have just been unlucky in our search so far. After all, there are hundreds of billions of planets in this galaxy alone and the few thousand we have visited is just a tiny start in exploring them. But I will end my speculation here because tomorrow we might know.

Day 30477.27

The detail visible on the planet’s surface is increasing rapidly as we approach. This final stage of space travel is frustrating, of course, because inside a solar system we cannot use the star drive and must revert to conventional propulsion systems.

The feature which dominates the planet’s surface is a huge impact crater which we calculate was formed relatively recently. If there was life on this planet it would likely have been virtually wiped out by this disaster.

A spectrographic analysis will be complete later today, and that should reveal the presence of the molecules of life if they exist here. We should soon know the answer to the question we came here for.

Day 30477.34

The spectrography is complete and we are almost 100% certain there is life on the planet. A molecule which is very similar to one used by plant life on our own planet has been detected in great quantities. It seems that all of the oceans (which cover over 60% of the planet’s surface) and a lot of the land contain some sort of organism which can convert sunlight to energy and release oxygen in the process. This explains the excess oxygen in the atmosphere.

Day 30478.72

We have put the ship into orbit around the mysterious planet and our detailed observations are now revealing something which has produced a lot of disagreement among our scientists. There are apparently symmetric structures over many parts of the planet which seem artificial. They are covered with many years of dust and debris from the impact but some of our more radical researchers think they are the remains of great structures built by an intelligent species which one lived here.

We are almost ready to send a party down to investigate these in more detail. This is potentially the greatest discovery of all time. Initially we coud barely hope to find any life here but now we are serious about the possibility of finding intelligent life.

Day 30479.37

The unthinkable has happened. Our landing party has confirmed that the structures are artificial. There seems to be no other explanation except they were built by an intelligence with technology approaching our own in sophistication. We now need to establish whether they survived the asteroid impact.

Day 30479.82

Most of the land surface of the planet has been devastated, but some life in the oceans has survived. We have discovered a massive variety of different species there, a few of which have some level of intelligence, but there is no sign of technology.

Day 30480.21

The exploration of the alien structures (it seems obvious they were cities where large numbers – perhaps millions – of the aliens lived) continues, and we have made a very significant discovery which might allow us to explore the history of the planet. We have found various objects which seem to be storage devices. Our best technicians will work on these and if we can read them we might be able to translate whatever information they contain.

Day 30480.69

The storage devices appear to contain electronic circuits based on silicon technology. We should be able to adapt some of our own computers to read them because they are similar to a technology we have used recently before moving to photonic storage.

Day 30481.11

We have cracked the storage devices! They contain data stored in an 8 bit code which maps to an alphabet. It seems that the symbols in this alphabet form groups which correspond to words in a language. The language is very obscure and is likely something which has changed and become more complex over a long time period. We will continue to work on decoding it.

Day 30482.48

The language decoding is progressing rapidly and we now know a lot about the society that existed there. A lot of what I am going to say here will seem shocking, but our best language experts and anthropologists agree it is what they material we have discovered reveals, and fits in with the physical evidence we see on almost the entire surface of the planet.

The intelligent inhabitants of the planet were called “humans” and the planet was called “Earth”. There were millions of different species on the planet before the impact but 90% of them, including all of the land species, were wiped out.

We cannot find any signs that any of the humans survived, but they did have the technology available to live almost indefinitely in the oceans so some might survive there. They also had space technology sufficient to travel around the solar system, but did not have the capability for interstellar travel.

The humans had a society which had many admirable characteristics. The planet was divided into hundreds of areas called “countries” which had slightly different types of inhabitants, different leadership, economic systems, etc. Most of the countries had a system to choose a leader where the population voted and the most successful person became leader for a period of time. Unfortunately this system became corrupted and the leaders were rarely very competent.

Most shockingly there was constant competition between these countries and this often extended to organised combat between different factions, often resulting in numerous deaths. Reasons for these “wars” included competition over resources, land ownership, and even differences in opinion over philosophy, including (most bizarrely) an amazingly common system known as “religion” where the humans became believers in various supernatural entities. Why they maintained these bizarre beliefs and how one myth was chosen over another requires further study.

You can see at this point that humans exhibited a strange combination of quite advanced science and technology and surprisingly primitive beliefs. It would not be uncommon, for example, for a believer in a supernatural entity who espoused pacifism to use an advanced combat machine of some sort to kill thousands of his opponents who believed in a slightly different deity. Clearly our anthropologists have a lot of work to do in this area.

But finally in this initial report on the history of humans I must discuss the most obvious question, and the one which is both hardest to understand and the most tragic to contemplate. That is, if the humans had the technology available, why did they not divert the asteroid, avoid the impact in some other way, or even move some of their people to another planet?

The initial evidence seems to indicate that they were too distracted with other things, especially their economic system. A lot of resource and effort was applied to things which make no sense, such as persuading people to buy unhealthy drinks which had no benefit at all, or paying participants in entertainment events which no intelligent person could take seriously. Yet all this time completely inadequate effort was put into protecting the planet from obvious threats.

When the asteroid was first seen it was already too late. A small investment in monitoring the sky for asteroids and in the technology required to divert them would have saved the planet. Yet they seemed to believe that other things were more important.

As captain, I shouldn’t really offer a value judgement on what happened here on Earth, but it is so disappointing to find a spark of intelligence, so rare in this universe, has now gone, completely unnecessarily. And I have to say that, given the way they acted, maybe it was for the best.

Forget About Growth

August 23, 2017 Leave a comment

I recently read a brief report on how an individual could make the greatest contribution to minimising climate change. This has been a controversial subject for many years now but the need to act is now more accepted.

So it seems that the world is gradually coming around to the idea that climate change is real and – even more gradually – to the idea that we need to do something about it. Even Donald Trump’s latest opinion is that is something that needs to be acted on, but he would prefer not to it through Paris Agreement.

So people who don’t accept climate change as real are probably increasingly irrelevant, and the discussion on what to do about it is where the real conflict now happens. Unfortunately it is now too late to fix the problem relatively painlessly and only difficult options remain. So the people who refused to accept reality in the past have now got us to the point where they now don’t want to act because it is too hard, but that is only because of their past obstructiveness.

But this post isn’t primarily yet another lecture on climate change. I like to tackle the really big subjects so this goes beyond the biggest problem facing modern society and looks at the cause of it, and most of the other major problems we have.

Getting back to the report: it listed several actions an individual could take and showed how many tonnes of CO2 emissions per year that would save. Upgrading to low energy light bulbs would save 0.1 tonnes, recycling would save about 0.2, going vegetarian about 0.5, buying only green energy 1.5, avoiding a trans-Atlantic air trip 1.6, and having one fewer child 60 tonnes.

The methodology used to generate these numbers could be debated, but the overall message is still relevant: that the real source of most of our problems is that there are too many people! When having one less person in the world saves six times more CO2 than all the usual energy saving efforts combined this should be obvious.

There is nothing inherently wrong with burning fossil fuels, we are just burning too much. A certain amount of rain forest clearance is sustainable but it is just happening too quickly. The environment can cope with some level of pollution but not the levels we generate now. Famine primarily happens because there are too many people for what the land can produce in food. Many conflicts happen because populations exceed the levels a country can cope with.

I can remember that a few decades back population control was one of the most commonly discussed issues in environmentalism but now it is hardly heard. What has changed?

That’s hard to know, for sure, but I think a major factor is capitalism’s constant need for growth. We have seen this everywhere. Unless business is growing we have a recession. The idea that the economy might have reached a point where is it sufficiently healthy and we don’t need any further growth just seems impossible to contemplate.

Growth in itself isn’t always problematic – although it often is – but the way that growth often happens is. Here in New Zealand it has mainly been achieved through increased population . We keep hearing that our economy is healthy and growing but, of course, it isn’t. Measures, such as per capita GDP, which calculate the economic contribution for each person, have not changed, and some have actually gone backwards.

So there is no growth except in population, and increased population is causing many social and environmental problems, including poverty, homelessness, and traffic congestion.

New Zealand has a small enough population that even quite significant percentage increases can be absorbed without causing a total disaster, but the same phenomenon in other countries which already have large populations is a bigger problem, and each country affects all the others.

Water pollution is a major issue in New Zealand. Why do we have that? Because we have too many dairy cows, and the reason we have those is that there is a good market for milk powder to feed all the Chinese people who are suddenly participating in the global economy. And the effects of overpopulation is much worse in India and some other countries.

We have too many cows because farmers can make more money by cramming more cows into land which previously was not used for dairying. They are prepared to do this while destroying our environment because, in capitalism, too much is never enough.

There are other causes of overpopulation, of course. I have already blamed capitalism so you might not be surprised to hear the next culprit I will accuse is religion! There is no doubt that religious beliefs such as an aversion to birth control and a need to have large families to increase the number of members of your particular church are a problem (yes, I’m talking about you Catholicism and Islam).

And to make matters even worse, the increased birth rate because of this is often in exactly the countries which are already struggling with famine, civil war, and other significant issues.

We need a bit more rationality in this world. I don’t mean I want to have everyone walking around like robots or Mr Spock, I just mean we could do without the more extreme cases of irrationality which cause a lot of harm to society in general. And the pursuit of growth for no good reason would be a great place to start.

Waking Up

August 2, 2017 Leave a comment

I have already mentioned in some past blog posts how interesting I find the ideas of neuroscientist and philosopher, Sam Harris. I recently started listening to his podcast “Waking Up” and before that had read a lot of material he has produced (including the books The End of Faith, and Letter to a Christian Nation) and watched many of his debates and lectures on YouTube.

It must be tempting for some of my debating opponents to say “of course you like Sam Harris – he is another militant atheist, just like you” but it goes beyond that. I find everything he says genuinely thoughtful and he doesn’t just fit in with a stereotype such as materialist, anti-theist, or liberal.

I like this because I am always suspicious of people whose ideas closely match a particular political, religious, or philosophical “clique”. For example, in the past it intrigued me how libertarians always supported the idea of free markets but rejected the truth of climate change.

Those two things aren’t really linked in any meaningful way, but if you found someone who thought a laissez-faire economy was a good idea they would probably also think that climate change was a conspiracy. That is not so much true today because climate change is becoming increasingly difficult to deny, but it was common 10 years ago.

And with conservatives it might be common to find other ideas such as aggressive military intervention and being anti-abortion associated. These really do not seem like they should be linked in any way, yet they are.

Finally – and this is something I might have been guilty about in the past before I “woke up” – liberals are also susceptible to this phenomenon. Many would (and still do) believe in strong environmental protection while also being against genetic modification. A strong case could be made that in order to protect the environment genetic modification is almost a necessity, although I admit there are other options as well.

My point here is that it is unlikely that individuals have some to these conclusions based on deep and unbiased examination of the facts. If they did I would expect to see a lot more variation in how the ideas I have listed are linked. For example, there should be a lot more environmentalist who strongly support research into genetic engineering.

It seems far more likely that these ideas have come about as a result of them being “absorbed” from other people in their social group. So if you live in a conservative environment you would absorb diverse attitudes such as being anti-abortion, pro-guns, anti-welfare, etc, while if you came from a liberal environment the exact opposite would be true.

Both Harris and I seem to be less easily classifiable into commonly recognised groups. We get quite strong negative feedback (often it is genuine abuse and threats) from all sides of the political spectrum. Of course, Harris is a well-known public intellectual and I am just an obscure blogger, but I would still like to think we share a lot in common.

So to give you an idea of why I count myself as a “rationalist” rather than any of the more traditional groupings, such as “conservative” or “liberal” or “libertarian”, here is a list of my attitudes on some contentious subjects…

Equality. I think everyone should get a fair chance to succeed and utilise their talents, but I am very suspicious of political correctness and affirmative action. I would be far happier seeing equality achieved in ways which don’t simply give advantages to “minority” groups even if there is good reason to think they are disadvantaged in some situations currently.

Environmentalism. I strongly support environmental protection. I think a natural consequence of unfettered capitalism is the destruction of the environment, so capitalism must be controlled. I tend towards the idea that we must move on from capitalism completely, but in the interim controlling it is sufficient.

Immigration. I think it is good to have some variety in the backgrounds, cultures, and beliefs of people in every country, but I don’t want that to extend to people with extreme beliefs that might destroy the positive character a country already has. For example, for a Muslim to come to New Zealand they should first prove they don’t take their religion too seriously by eating a pork sausage or some similar test!

Free Markets. I understand why people don’t want their government controlling the economy in too fine detail (or at all in some cases) but I can’t see the advantage in handing over control to large corporations which are probably even less likely to have the best interests of the majority in mind. So I think markets should be controlled where it makes sense but not to a ridiculous extend such as where obsolete industries are artificially kept running.

Abortion. I am conflicted here. The problem is that there is no obvious point where a cell becomes a foetus and a foetus becomes a baby. I think abortion in the very early stages of a pregnancy is OK but how to determine where the point is when a distinct, conscious individual is involved is difficult to determine.

Gun Control. I understand that the best way to avoid gun deaths is to eliminate guns and that is at least partly practical in some countries. But in others, such as the US, that chance has passed so guns must be accepted as a necessary evil. It should be necessary to prove a high degree of competency in using one before a license to own a firearm is issued though. I know that the “bad guys” will just get guns without a license, but at least the legal owners will have a higher level of skill and that might make the defensive advantage of guns greater.

Racism, Misogyny, Xenophobia, etc. I reject the idea of being biased against anyone because of factors such as race, gender, or country of origin. I also know that scientific tests show that everyone is biased in exactly these ways, often subconsciously! But at least knowing that, a person can try to overcome that bias. But, I also reject the over-use of these terms. For example, saying I don’t want a fundamentalist Muslim allowed into the country isn’t racist because Islam isn’t a race, it’s an idea. I reject bais against people, but not against ideas.

I hope that by looking at those opinions I could not be easily labelled with any of the traditional stereotyped political identities. I see some good points in all political positions and yes, I’m not afraid to admit that I agree with a few things controversial figures like Donald Trump have said.

And unlike most of my opponents I can justify my opinions with rational reasoning, not with simple-minded dogmatic hypocrisy which I so often see from people who obviously identify with one political movement. Instead of trying to fit in with that identity and to impress their friends with similar beliefs they should learn to think for themselves. They should wake up!

Batshit Crazy

November 1, 2014 Leave a comment

Politics isn’t fair and nobody should be naive enough to think it is. Different parties have different agendas and it makes sense that they will be treated differently – maybe not even deliberately – based on those agendas and on stereotypes which aren’t generally fair or accurate. For example I have no doubt that the media in New Zealand give the National Party, and especially the prime minister, a free pass on many things that they would criticise others for.

The New Zealand media is now almost entirely controlled by big business so it would be surprising if they weren’t somehow biased towards a party (that is National) dedicated to increasing the privileges that big business already has.

But everyone should understand this fact which means that the other parties really do have to be a lot more careful about giving the media an opportunity to ridicule them. So Green Party MP, Steffan Browning supporting homeopathy as a treatment for Ebola is so obviously stupid that you’ve really got to wonder what was he thinking (or if he is even capable of rational thought).

Unfortunately many people associate environmentalism with fringe beliefs and historically (and to a lesser extent now) I think there has been a link between them. But looking after the environment has now become a more mainstream idea and the need to do more to prevent global warming, water pollution, and depletion of resources is well supported by science. And that’s the type of idea the Greens have been trying to move towards.

But now this clown comes out and gives the enemies of his own party plenty of ammunition to use against them. WhaleOil and all of his rabid buddies have had a field day, and fair enough too, why wouldn’t they? Most people aren’t genuinely interested in discussing policies and ideas, they are simply interested in tagging their opponents with labels like “the Green Taliban” and “batshit crazy and dangerous”.

This is nonsense of course, but 90% of the far right’s ranting is nonsense. The Greens are now remarkably mainstream, maybe too much so in my opinion. And every party has its embarrassing members which the leadership probably wish would just go away. On the opposite side of the political spectrum the Act Party are are least as batshit crazy as the Greens. But I don’t say that because of one small indiscretion by one member (such as the Act leader suggesting that incest is OK) but because their core policies are dangerous.

There is one point I should have perhaps made earlier: homeopathy is nonsense, and potentially dangerous nonsense too. Not only is the prior probability of it being real practically zero because there is no mechanism through which it could possibly work, but every well designed study evaluating it has found its effects are at placebo levels.

So yes, the risk of using homeopathy instead of real treatments and of potential contamination in homeopathic products is probably greater than any placebo effect it might have, and suggesting it as a treatment for something as serious as Ebola really is dangerous. But that doesn’t mean that the whole Green Party or environmental movement in general are wrong. Making that sort of unfounded generalisation really is batshit crazy!

No Opinion

June 12, 2014 Leave a comment

Federated Farmers is organisation which supports farmers’ interests here in New Zealand. I’ve never been very impressed with them because they generally follow a fairly conservative line which ignores real innovation and positive change and is mainly interested in maintaining the status quo where agriculture gets significant privileges that the rest of us don’t have.

So from my perspective they’re a pretty terrible organisation to begin with, and you might be able to imagine how my opinion of them worsened when I heard a recent comment they made on climate change.

I have to admit that at least they had a slightly different spin on the problem and demonstrated a slightly more nuanced view than some other groups, but on the other hand they still showed a great deal of ignorance and irresponsibility.

So basically their statement was that “Federated Farmers has no opinion on whether climate change is real or not and it makes no difference to farmers anyway.”

You might say that FF is not an organisation which is an expert on climate change so maybe they shouldn’t have an opinion, but they are also not experts on other subjects such as social and economic change but often have an opinion on those subjects. Maybe they should just stick to useful topics like what colour gumboots are best!

Clearly FF want to be climate change deniers but are too scared of being ridiculed (quite rightly) for talking that stance so are using the same dirty tactics that other pressure groups use in similar situations. A classic example of this strategy is creationists who couldn’t impose their religious myths on science classes so created something called “intelligent design” instead, and when that failed they came up with the “teach the controversy” strategy even though no controversy exists.

But denial of the facts reaches a whole new level with the claim that “it makes no difference to farmers anyway”. Before I continue I should say that I know that not all farmers share this crazy view and many are probably quite embarrassed to be represented by the clowns at Federated Farmers.

I could interpret the phrase “it makes no difference to farmers anyway” two ways: the more obvious one that they think global warming won’t affect them, and the other possibility that they justy don’t care.

First, if they think they will be unaffected they should think again. If this generation isn’t affected much the next most certainly will be. There is no scientific doubt about that. And I am totally aware that in some situations in some areas farming will improve because of warming but the overall global result will be overwhelmingly bad.

Maybe they think New Zealand will get off quite lightly and that other countries will be affected more giving them an advantage in the market place. I know everyone is encouraged to think about everything as competition in a global market now, but I really hope that things haven’t really sunk to this level of immorality.

Maybe they think they wil be rescued by science and technology finding solutions to reduce the bad effects of climate change. Well if they do think that first why not say so and why not pressure the government to put more research into this area because it is badly needed.

Or maybe the second explanation is true and they just don’t care. This would certainly fit in with the modern trend for agriculture to destroy the environment it claims to respect so much. Agriculture is the biggest producer of greenhouse gas in the country and thanks to intensive dairying most of our rivers are now a mess.

Famers care about the land? Yeah, right. They are as bad as any other industry driven by profit and it’s about time they were brought under control. My first suggestion: ignore everything Federated Farmers says.

Go Tim!

March 26, 2014 Leave a comment

In my last blog entry I criticised Apple – and specifically mentioned CEO Tim Cook – for the company’s actions regarding tax avoidance. But I believe nothing is ever black and white, because there are always two sides to a story, and good and bad in every person and organisation.

So today I want to congratulate the same company – and especially Tim Cook himself – for acting in the complete opposite way by specifically rejecting the “profit at all costs” mentality.

If you follow technology or business news you will probably have realised by now that I am referring to the recent well known incident where Cook completely rejected the policies of the National Center for Public Policy Research in a recent investor meeting. The NCPPR suggested that Apple should maximise return to its shareholders above all else and that it should provide costings for its activities with environmental and social elements, with the added implication that they were unacceptable because they reduced return on investment.

If you read this blog you will be very aware of my opinions of the “greed is good” philosophy. No, greed isn’t good in general, and is rarely good even for the greedy individual. These same people want less government intervention in business yet they encourage the exact behaviour which makes intervention necessary. Well they can’t have everything!

The NCPPR is a right-wing “think tank” based in the US. I really object to this term “think tank” because it seems to imply that deep research and philosophical thought is happening there where really all most of them do is work on ways to produce propaganda to progress their ideology and find ways to influence the political process in their favour.

The NCPPR, like almost every right-wing organisation, is deeply deluded and has little grasp of reality, and is also challenged in the area of morality. They think climate change is a myth invented by “Al gore” and they think companies shouldn’t concern themselves about the environment because their entire focus should be on ROI.

It’s an interesting philosophy and one shared with extreme libertarian dogmatists. The idea is that a company can do whatever they want to maximise profits, but if they do anything too bad their customers or shareholders will react against them reducing their profits and forcing a change in behaviour. So the pursuit of profit itself becomes a factor leading to the environmental (and social, etc) policies the customers want.

Of course it sounds fine in principle and no doubt it works in Cloud Cuckoo Land or wherever else conservatives and libertarians live. But in reality it is a total disaster and every person who works in the real world with all it’s inconvenient truths (and I deliberately used of that phrase) will realise this.

Tim Cook certainly did. His usual calm demeanour seemed to disappear and he gave quite an emotional response to the statement from the NCPPR.

So here’s the sort of thing they said: “…an area of concern to all shareholders: Company affiliations that may primarily advance social or environmental causes rather than promoting shareholder value.” and “…finding that dubbed carbon dioxide as a pollutant that is now driving much of the corporate climate change hysteria.” and “…we object to increased government control over Company products and operations, and likewise mandatory environmental standards.”

So it’s the old standard conservative/libertarian agenda: deny climate change, demand total freedom for corporations to do whatever they want, and make the governments look bad when they are just trying to control the excesses of corporations.

What would most CEOs have said? Maybe they would have agreed with a lot of this stuff, or maybe they would have just pretended to agree so that the shareholder was happy. But no, Cook did the right thing and said “When we work on making our devices accessible by the blind, I don’t consider the bloody ROI” and then “If you want me to do things only for ROI reasons, you should get out of this stock.” Go Tim!

If only we had more people like this in charge of big corporations. But now Tim, how about doing something about those dodgy tax deals?