Paul's Four Laws

Not the end of the world

We all come at arguments from a point of view, and more often than not, that point of view will take us to a foregone conclusion. These are some rules which I use to help me navigate through the confusion of information overload. I call them Paul’s Four Laws.

1st Law. The only thing you can be certain of in life is that nothing is certain
My generation grew up under the threat of “the bomb”. It would devastate the earth, we were told, and kill off whole countries, or at least cities full of people. We marched in the streets and learned to hide under the kitchen table.

And then Chernobyl happened. 100 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, and the world didn’t end. Not to denigrate the deaths it did cause (immediately) and the consequential cancers that will probably never be fully known.

But The World Did Not End, and vegetation and animal life has returned. As did a number of women who defied their government and walked back to their villages after a few weeks. In their 70s and 80s now, they live off the land and support each other. As one of them said, “I’m more afraid of starvation than I am of radiation. Radiation doesn’t bite!”

The Babushkas of Chernobyl @ Vimeo On Demand

2nd Law. Anyone who predicts what’s going to be happening three years from now is either wrong, lying or trying to sell you something
In 1995, Robert Metcalfe predicated that the Internet would ‘catastrophically collapse by 1996″. Wrong.

“The horse is here to stay. The motor car is just a fad”. Wrong, plus – from a banker in 1903, probably more interested in selling you a loan for the price of a horse.

“The telephone has too many flaws to be considered a reliable means of communication.” William Orton, trying to sell you the benefits of his own Western Union.

“There will be an emergency budget if the UK votes for Brexit.” A lie.

“The iPod will be gone by next Christmas. Over. Kaput.” In 2005 Alan Sugar was trying to sell you his own products.

3rd Law. Never, ever, overestimate the significance of events that have happened, or will happen, in your lifetime
10,000 years ago The Great Barrier Reef didn’t exist. There’s a reason it came together, and there will be a reason it goes away. Nothing is forever.

We live on an organism (Planet Earth) that began with one land mass and a hydrogen-based ocean. Over aeons – compared to which the existence of The Great Barrier Reef has been less than the blink of an eye – the land-mass broke up into thousands of smaller land masses and the ocean transformed to become oxygen-based.

Or consider this. Ordinary people have been reading books for fewer than 150 years. Mass sales of literature (as opposed to the Penny Dreadfuls) didn’t really start in the UK till the launch of the cheaper paperback by Penguin in the 30s.

The Economist predicted, around 20 years ago, that the last print newspaper or magazine would roll off the presses in 2047. We are all Luddites now, bemoaning how the experience of ‘holding a book in your hands’ will be lost to future generations. But the technology for enabling ever greater numbers of people to read the written word has been developing and changing since Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1440.

Which is not to mention that, when we were children, we were told to ‘put that book away and get out in the fresh air’. Future generations will neither be holding ‘a book’, nor, possibly, feeling the need for fresh air given the myriad stimuli that will be feeding their brains.

4th Law. The planet is in charge; we are not
The Fukushima Daiichi reactor meltdown was, like Chernobyl, similarly non-catastrophic. The irony in Japan was that the meltdown was caused by a natural disaster, a tsunami, against which we supposedly ‘all-powerful’ humans have yet to find a defence.

Look at the C02 and other pollution pumped out by Mount St Helen’s in 1980 and by the 2010 eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland. Nature has continuous and eye-watering ways of demonstrating our puniness, and yet we continue to indulge ourselves that our survival matters to the planet.

Those people who tell us to stop using oil and coal are the same people seeding the oceans with iron filings with no proper understanding of the consequences; or creating gases to halt the depletion of the ozone layer. Theses gases are now discovered to be far more effective at warming the planet than C02. And they will survive in the atmosphere for thousands more years than C02.

Or ponder this: to provide California with all of its power needs from wind, you’d have to wind farm over the entirety of its two neighbouring states. Nobody could sell that idea, so they sell it in dribs and drabs and screw up our countryside. In 50 years we’ll be taking the turbines down and our grandchildren’s children will be laughing at us.

Environmentalists break all four of Paul’s Laws with every breath they take. They are the King Canute of the modern era. If they ran the world, we’d all be ploughing our allotments without even the use of animals. Or they would have us back in the Stone Age, and then tell us we’re running out of stones.

Fossil fuels are no longer the answer. We know that. And with that knowledge, we’ve given ourselves some breathing space.

We need to use that breathing space to invent new technologies that are clean and renewable. And that doesn’t mean wind farms, or messing about with the ocean, or any of that other crap that costs more money than it saves, and ultimately damages the very thing we’re told it will save.

Every 30 years we’re told we have only another 30 years. And still the planet chugs on. As it will until after we destroy ourselves, or figure out how to look after ourselves. Planet Earth can look after itself with or without us.

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