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Mar 22 2013

It’s nice to see someone willing to live by their own advice

All the scientists and naturalists out there crying foul on behalf of the desert need to hang their intellects up for a moment and spend some time in their hearts for a while.

I get the best rebuttal yet to my piece taking down Allan Savory’s “green the deserts by filling them with cows” pseudoscience.

(And remember, when you hang your intellects up for a moment, to heed Joan Crawford’s timeless counsel.)

25 comments

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  1. 1
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    Scratching my head at this (from your link Chris):

    ” We cannot subsist on desert plants and animals, nice though they may be, and the planet needs us, along with other high-order organisms, to do our part in the transformation of solar energy into ever more subtle forms before they can be absorbed by the planet body (which it cannot do directly)”

    Granted, this is well beyond my skill set, but ‘the planet needs us to help transform solar energy into *something*?

    What is that *something* and what makes us suited to providing it?

    If the planet needs anything from us, I would argue (if I were inclined to think of our planet needing anything at all from us) that would be ‘fix this damn problem you have helped create’.

    More importantly, how did mother earth (and what was the deal with that–planetary ecosystem spirituality) survive all that time prior to our existence?

  2. 2
    Inaji

    The question is, are these habitats low-order ecosystems or a high-order ecosystems? What is best for the planet as a whole? When we consider the transformation of solar energy into plant tissue, herbivore, carnivore and human, logic dictates that the evolution of high-order animals and ecosystems took place for the sake of the global ecosystem (called by many names, “Gaia,” Mother Earth, etc.)

    Oh FFS. There’s enough bullshit in that utter nonsense to fertilize my property 10 times over.

  3. 3
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    “Spending some time in their hearts” sounds painful.

    And deadly.

  4. 4
    danielrutter

    So apparently if super-advanced aliens ever visit us, “logic dictates” that even if they for some perverse reason do not want to eat us, we must persuade them to do so.

    Got it.

  5. 5
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    Caine:
    I know.
    By dog that was some pseudoscience wrapped in spiritual nonsense.

  6. 6
    Maureen Brian

    Show him this project, Chris – to prove that we can turn solar energy into food entirely without pseudoscience, pomposity or making up daft new words. (I live 4 miles away. I eat the food it produces.)

    http://www.incredible-edible-todmorden.co.uk/

  7. 7
    slowdjinn

    When we consider the transformation of solar energy into plant tissue, herbivore, carnivore and human, logic dictates that the evolution of high-order animals and ecosystems took place for the sake of the global ecosystem

    Aaaw, he believes in the Great Chain of Being! How quaint.

  8. 8
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    What? How was that a defence? In any way? “Higher order ecosystems”? “Higher order beings”? What is this bollocks?

    He seems to be labouring under three delusions;

    1- the strange pseudo-biological belief that there is such a thing as “Higher order beings”, that some animals are more “highly evolved” than others. This is clearly bollocks. Animals evolve in response to external pressures which result in them eventually reaching a state best suited to survival in their habitat; not to edge slowly closer to some arbitrary definition of perfection as defined by some some arrogant human-centric twonk.

    2- that the presence of these “higher order beings” somehow results in a “higher order ecosystem”, whatever that is, and this is good because reasons.

    3- Smothering the desert in solar panels will “work with nature” to create a “higher order ecosystem” because the planet (or “Gaia” *vomit*) can’t absorb sunlight on it’s own… or something.

    What on Earth is this plonker smoking?

  9. 9
    Argle Bargle

    Shorter who-ever-it-is: Woo woo woo.

  10. 10
    mudpuddles

    I read through that Peapodlife article. What a wonderful display of appalling arrogance and pig-ignorance, all nicely presented in a shimmery coating of woo.

    What they propose as an “ecosystems approach” is in fact entirely contrary to the ecosystem approach. And “higher order” vs. “lower order”? So this muppet is equipped with the amazing insight and all-knowing intellect to be able to place his / her values above everyone elses? That’s what they are proposing – making a choice as to what ecosystems are most beneficial to people. They know what aspects of biodiversity everyone is supposed to cherish and value, so never mind what the science says, or what choices individual societies make. Do what Savory says, he knows best. Fucking… AWESOME. I need never think about nature again, Savory and his crew will do that for me.

    In their utterly nonsensical approach to conserving biodiversity, they aim to reduce biodiversity for fairly contradictory utilitarian reasons. They assume that greening a desert and filling it with wildlife is the same as increasing biodiversity, completely disregarding that the species introduced are essentially invasive and already exist elsewhere, while the species, genetic resources, habitats and ecosystems they will thrash may be locally unique and found only in deserts, and will likely be lost. So, in the interest of helping humanity they will reduce biodiversity and degrade important ecosystem services provided by deserts, because they are “lower order” or something, thereby negatively impacting on society. Winning!

    I know the US is not a party to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, but the nonsense that Savory and this Peapod muppet are proposing would breach many central tenets of the CBD. Therefore any of the 193 CBD countries trying to implement this approach on a grand scale would quite likely be breaching international environmental agreements – including commitments to prevent the loss of biodiversity, protecting dryland habitats, in situ conservation, , . Not to mention the principles of the ecosystem approach which the CBD has endorsed.

  11. 11
    Gregory Greenwood

    The question is, are these habitats low-order ecosystems or a high-order ecosystems? What is best for the planet as a whole? When we consider the transformation of solar energy into plant tissue, herbivore, carnivore and human, logic dictates that the evolution of high-order animals and ecosystems took place for the sake of the global ecosystem (called by many names, “Gaia,” Mother Earth, etc.)

    Even as a self confessed scientific layman, I can see that this paragraph makes not a whit of sense. High versus low order ecosystems? By what metric?

    As for what they think ‘logic dictates’ – it certainly doesn’t ‘dictate’ unevidenced, nonsensical earth mother woo.

    Logic; you’re doing it wrong.

    Human beings require high-order ecosystems to thrive. As does the planet as a whole. We cannot subsist on desert plants and animals, nice though they may be, and the planet needs us, along with other high-order organisms, to do our part in the transformation of solar energy into ever more subtle forms before they can be absorbed by the planet body (which it cannot do directly).

    Wait a second; ‘the planet’ – stated as if it is a being with personal agency – needs us in order to absorb solar energy into the ‘planet body’*?

    I never realised that humanity was the anthropormorphic equivalent of gut flora for a planetary superorganism.

    Also, I seem to remember hearing about this period of time – lasting some billions of years – during which no ‘high order’ (as Peapodlife would define such things) organisms existed on Earth, and yet the planet seemed to get by just fine. Is this dependency on ‘high order’ symbiotes a ‘late planetary life’ kind of deal? First your climate begins to go funny, then your tectonic plates start to ache, and before you know it you need humans just to spoon feed you your solar energy?

    This is the point Savory’s detractors are missing. He is not talking about stealing desert habitat away from nature. He is talking about cooperating with nature. He is advocating a biomimetic approach to assisting nature in reversing the adverse effects of short-sighted behavior of human civilizations past (and present).

    How is destroying unique habitat and biodiversity ‘cooperating with nature’? Leaving aside the bonkers idea presented again here that ‘nature’ has some kind of personal conscious agency, does this mean that the deforestation of rainforests is simply logging companies ‘cooperating with nature’ in order to convert rainforest into (admitedly monoculture, but let’s not quibble over minor details) grasslands, and so we need not worry?

    Well, that’s quite the relief then.

    And the massive oil spill of the US coast a few years ago was just BP ‘cooperating with nature’ in order to introduce a little crude oil into coastal habitats. Perhaps new colonies of chemosynthetic life would have developed there over the next few million years if only the US governmernt and local people hadn’t been so unreasonable as to demand a cleanup operation…

    All the scientists and naturalists out there crying foul on behalf of the desert need to hang their intellects up for a moment and spend some time in their hearts for a while.

    Well, clearly the author succeeded in hanging up their intellect some time ago. Unfortunately, they didn’t think to put any moth balls in there with it and now it seems to have gotten a little nibbled around the edges.

    ———————————————————————————————————————-

    * As an aside, does anyone have any clue what is meant by ‘planet body’ in this context? I’m pretty sure the magma mantle and inner core of the Earth is not all that dependent on sun light.

  12. 12
    w00dview

    Chris, I’m curious. Is Gaia a common belief among any environmentalists you know or have met over the years? I admit I have never heard it espoused by any environmentally minded folks in my social circle but I would be interested whether this woo is common in the environmental movement as a whole? I personally detest the notion, nature is incredible enough without resorting it to some wooish anthropomorphism as Gaia.

    As to the drivel about high order beings and high order ecosystems, thumper1990 and Gregory Greenwood have done a fine job dismantling why this annoyingly persistent notion of higher vs lower in regards to evolution is so wrong.

  13. 13
    Gregory Greenwood

    danielrutter @ 4;

    So apparently if super-advanced aliens ever visit us, “logic dictates” that even if they for some perverse reason do not want to eat us, we must persuade them to do so.

    Got it.

    Now I am imagining a Xenomorph/Heinlein Bug/*insert preferred slimy, carapacy and/or betentacled man-eating alien critter* bursting out of the shadows to munch on some terrified humans, only to find themselves met by a maître d’…

    “Would sir care to sit? Will sir want to see our wine list? I would recommend a white wine to go with fresh human. Perhaps an aperitif while our chef finishes preparing the babies? Here is sir’s entertainment… ah, I see that sir has chosen to eat the band rather than listen to them – an excellent choice.”

    Or maybe a refined, advanced species of alien that keeps trying to explain that they don’t want to eat us, but find the humans hard to convince

    Alien Leader; *Speaking through an advanced translation device* “We are explorers. We come in peace to understand your culture and exchang…”

    Human; “Wow – a real alien species! This is a great day for all of humanity… so, who are you going to eat first?”

    Alien Leader; *To their second in command* “The omni-translator must be malfunctioning again – I’m sure this curious being asked us which of its kind we wanted to eat first.

    Human; “I would be so honoured if it was me! Oh – to think that I would be the first human ever eaten by a member of a higher order alien civilisation!”

    Alien Leader; *Somewhat confused* “Thank you for your.. err… kind offer, but we have not come here to eat anyone. Now, if you wouldn’t mind taking us to your leader…”

    Human; “Go on – you know you want to. I’d be good for you. I’m athletic – low fat, high protein, just what you need after a long journey.”

    Alien Leader; *Increasingly disturbed* “My civilisation considers it unethical to consume any sapient life form. Besides, the proteins my species’ biochemistry is based on are incompatible with that of your species. Even if I were inclined to eat you, trying to do so would likely kill me…”

    Human; “Nonsense! You are a higher order life form than me. For the good of the planet, I must insist that you eat me!”

    Alien Leader; *Speaking to his landing party out of the corner of one of his vocal orifices* “Okay… back onto the ship everybody. No sudden moves. Inform command that this planet probably needs to be quarantined for the good of its inhabitants. It is just as well we aren’t the Vakeshi – they would have taken this hairless ape up on its offer…

  14. 14
    Rob Grigjanis

    danielrutter @4:

    even if they for some perverse reason do not want to eat us, we must persuade them to do so.

    Serve us!

    Actually, this modest proposal makes more sense than the “higher-order” rubbish. For the sake of the global ecosystem.

  15. 15
    Kagato

    Hey, it’s Dan! Hi Dan!

    It’s always a nice surprise to see one of your favourite bloggers pop up on another of your favourite blogs.

    Excuse the derail, carry on!

  16. 16
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    @ Gregory, #13 then #11

    “To Serve Man” -

    Mr. Greenwood, don’t get on that internet! The rest of the book To Serve Man, it’s… it’s a cook-blog!

    [Even worse! It's also a Tedx Talk!]

    High versus low order ecosystems? By what metric?

    bigger is better, obviously. If the biomass is bigger b/c of bigger plants eaten by bigger animals, gaia wins!

    Obviously, the goal for the Mojave is quite clear:

    1. plant redwoods
    2. bring in some blue whales
    3. ????
    4. solar-transformation-into-high-order-eco-PROFITT!!!!

    I concede that hosting blue whales eating cattle that derive their sustenance from giant monkey-pod trees would also appear to be a victory for the desert. However, A. Monkey pod trees are a bit smaller than sequoia, though still gargantuan. B. [and far worse] humans feed cattle the fruit of monkey-pod trees.

    B should be clear evidence that the monkey-pod route is bad for the planet, since it involves doing something humans already think is good [at least in Central America]. Clearly what we want is a plan that involves no human thinking whatsoever.
    As peapodlife said:

    scientists and naturalists out there crying foul on behalf of the desert need to hang their intellects up

    That’s the sheer brilliance of Savory’s plan!

  17. 17
    Gregory Greenwood

    Crip Dyke, MQ, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden @ 16;

    “To Serve Man”

    With parsely and a white wine sauce. Always.

    Serving women, on the other hand, requires a different recipe with more citrus flavours.

    ;-P

    Obviously, the goal for the Mojave is quite clear:

    1. plant redwoods
    2. bring in some blue whales
    3. ????
    4. solar-transformation-into-high-order-eco-PROFITT!!!!

    This rendered me incapacitated through laughter for so long that I started to attract some decidedly odd looks. Also, you now offically owe me one new keyboard (leica rangefinder optional.

  18. 18
    The Mellow Monkey

    Thank you all for giving me a gigglefit to start the day. The comedy in the comments is nearly enough to stop the gaping “WTF” I got from the link in the OP.

  19. 19
    Chris Clarke

    1. plant redwoods
    2. bring in some blue whales
    3. ????
    4. solar-transformation-into-high-order-eco-PROFITT!!!!

    That’s genius!!!6!

  20. 20
    Chris Clarke

    Chris, I’m curious. Is Gaia a common belief among any environmentalists you know or have met over the years? I admit I have never heard it espoused by any environmentally minded folks in my social circle but I would be interested whether this woo is common in the environmental movement as a whole? I personally detest the notion, nature is incredible enough without resorting it to some wooish anthropomorphism as Gaia.

    It’s fairly common, though I think the number of people in my circles who actually believe in an entity named Gaia, as opposed to using Gaia as a personified metaphor for theorized vaguely complex self-correcting systems a la Lovelock, is relatively small. Or at least I hope so.

  21. 21
    Chris Clarke

    My response on that site (and there are a couple good ones):

    What is best for the planet as a whole? Does Peapod determine this? And if so, what distinguishes Peapod from the parking lot developers? Because they can come up with flimsy, scientifically unsupported rationales for how their strip mall benefits the larger world as well.

    By the way: I spend time in my heart just fine. Those desert plants and critters Peapod finds “nice” but ultimately inferior to Hereford steers? I love them. And I am angered when ignorant people like Peapod or charlatans like Savory denigrate them.

    But those overly intellectual scientists inform us that the heart is part of the circulatory system, not the digestive system, and thus if you want to spend time in your heart, you won’t get there by sticking your head up your ass. Just a thought.

  22. 22
    moarscienceplz

    We cannot subsist on desert plants and animals, nice though they may be

    Hmmm, I can think of quite a few Indian tribes in Arizona who might have a difference of opinion about that little gem.

  23. 23
    w00dview

    @Chris:

    Fair enough. I think the fact that people refer to the natural world as mother nature or Gaia in a metaphorical way is vastly different than literally believing in some earth mother. That does not stop wingnuts from thinking that they are one and the same and that environmentalists “worship the earth”.

    Your comment over at peapod was great by the way. Particularly this line:

    But those overly intellectual scientists inform us that the heart is part of the circulatory system, not the digestive system, and thus if you want to spend time in your heart, you won’t get there by sticking your head up your ass.

    I can see why PZ chose you to write for Pharyngula.

  24. 24
    unclefrogy

    just another developer with a different approach, rational then houses or some such.
    He is just an advocate of transformation not in protection of anything.
    Every thing has a purpose a use.
    nothing is itself. It nice to see a demonstration of what happens when you shut off your intellect and become a fool.
    I could only read a little of that dreck before I got lost in fiction.
    uncle frogy

  25. 25
    David Marjanović

    But those overly intellectual scientists inform us that the heart is part of the circulatory system, not the digestive system, and thus if you want to spend time in your heart, you won’t get there by sticking your head up your ass. Just a thought.

    Thread won. Just a thought.

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