threegenerationsleft

human activity and the destruction of the planet


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“Planet of the Humans” removed from youtube

This controversial film, produced by Michael Moore, argues that green energy sources, including biomass energy, wind power, and solar energy, are not truly renewable or sustainable. The film has been criticized as outdated and misleading. The film was removed from YouTube on 25 May 2020.

Here is a critique of the film by George Monbiot and published in The Guardian, 8th May 2020:

“How did the radical film maker Michael Moore become a hero of the far right?”

Denial never dies; it just goes quiet and waits. Today, after years of irrelevance, the climate science deniers are triumphant. Long after their last, desperate claims had collapsed, when they had traction only on alt-right conspiracy sites, a hero of the left turns up and gives them more than they could have dreamt of.

Planet of the Humans, whose executive producer and promoter is Michael Moore, has now been watched 6 million times on YouTube. The film does not deny climate science. But it promotes the discredited myths that deniers have used for years to justify their position. It claims that environmentalism is a self-seeking scam, doing immense harm to the living world while enriching a group of con artists. This has long been the most effective means by which denial – most of which has been funded by the fossil fuel industry – has been spread. Everyone hates a scammer.

And yes, there are scammers. There are real issues and real conflicts to be explored in seeking to prevent the collapse of our life support systems. But they are handled so clumsily and incoherently by this film that watching it is like watching someone starting a drunken brawl over a spilled pint, then lamping his friends when they try to restrain him. It stumbles so blindly into toxic issues that Michael Moore, former champion of the underdog, unwittingly aligns himself with white supremacists and the extreme right.

Occasionally, the film lands a punch on the right nose. It is right to attack the burning of trees to make electricity. But when the presenter and director, Jeff Gibbs, claims that “I found only one environmental leader willing to reject biomass and biofuels”, he can’t have been looking very far. Some of us have been speaking out against them ever since they became a serious proposition (since 2004 in my case). Almost every environmental leader I know opposes the burning of fresh materials to generate power.

There are also some genuine and difficult problems with renewable energy, particularly the mining of the necessary materials. But the film’s attacks on solar and wind power rely on a series of blatant falsehoods. It claims that, in producing electricity from renewables, “You use more fossil fuels to do this than you’re getting benefit from it. You would have been better off just burning fossil fuels in the first place”. This is flat wrong. On average, a solar panel generates 26 units of solar energy for every unit of fossil energy required to build and install it. For wind turbines the ratio is 44 to 1.

Planet of the Humans also claims that you can’t reduce fossil fuel use through renewable energy: coal is instead being replaced by gas. Well, in the third quarter of 2019, renewables in the UK generated more electricity than coal, oil and gas plants put together. As a result of the switch to renewables in this country, the amount of fossil fuel used for power generation has halved since 2010. By 2025, the government forecasts, roughly half our electricity will come from renewables, while gas burning will drop by a further 40%. To hammer home its point, the film shows footage of a “large terminal to import natural gas from the United States” that “Germany just built”. Germany has no such terminal. The footage was shot in Turkey.

There is also a real story to be told about the co-option and capture of some environmental groups by the industries they should hold to account. A remarkable number of large conservation organisations take money from fossil fuel companies. This is a disgrace. But rather than pinning the blame where it lies, Planet of the Humans concentrates its attacks on Bill McKibben, the co-founder of 350.org, who takes no money from any of his campaigning work. It’s an almost comic exercise in misdirection, but unfortunately it has horrible, real-world consequences, as McKibben now faces even more threats and attacks than he confronted before.

But this is by no means the worst of it. The film offers only one concrete solution to our predicament: the most toxic of all possible answers. “We really have got to start dealing with the issue of population … without seeing some sort of major die off in population, there’s no turning back.”

Yes, population growth does contribute to the pressures on the natural world. But while the global population is rising by 1% a year, consumption, until the pandemic, was rising at a steady 3%. High consumption is concentrated in countries where population growth is low. Where population growth is highest, consumption tends to be extremely low. Almost all the growth in numbers is in poor countries largely inhabited by black and brown people. When very rich people, such as Michael Moore and Jeff Gibbs, point to this issue without the necessary caveats, they are saying, in effect, “it’s not us consuming, it’s Them breeding.” It’s not hard to see why the alt-right loves this film.

Population is where you go when you haven’t thought it through. Population is where you go when you don’t have the guts to face the structural, systemic causes of our predicament: inequality, oligarchic power, capitalism. Population is where you go when you want to kick down.

We have been here many times before. Dozens of films have spread falsehoods about  environmental activists and ripped into green technologies, while letting fossil fuels off the hook. But never before have these attacks come from a famous campaigner for social justice, rubbing our faces in the dirt.”

www.monbiot.com



 


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Birmingham couple become model for living a low-carbon life

There are many people across the country who have already cut their carbon emissions down to near zero.  Some of them are featured in an Observer article this week:

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/may/04/carbon-cutting-zero-emissions-eco-warriors-damaged-world

Among them are Chris and Harriet Martin from Birmingham,UK.

Martins

Harriet and Chris Martin in their back garden: behind them you can see solar panels on their pergola

Harriet Martin is quoted as saying, “My husband Chris and I are Quakers. Eleven years ago, we downsized to a semi-detached house in Bournville. To make our new home energy efficient, we insulated as much as we could – even under the floorboards. We installed double glazing and put solar panels on a pergola in the garden. In total, we’ve reduced our home’s carbon emissions by 85%. We open the house to show people what we’ve done.

Our diet is now 60% to 70% vegan, and the remainder vegetarian. We grow a lot of our fruit and vegetables on our allotment. We eat seasonally and I bake my own bread.

Even though we own a car, we rarely drive and try to walk as much as we can or take the bus. We avoid flying, preferring to travel by train. We mend our clothes and furniture. When I feel I need to buy something, I try to get it from a charity shop, borrow it from a neighbour or ask for it on Freecycle or Freegle, where people advertise things they want to get rid of.

We bank with Triodos Bank. It costs us a few pounds each month, but it means we know our money will be used for ethical and sustainable purposes, not fossil fuel exploration or companies.


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Solar Panels: the majority of the UK public want to install them

A survey, reported in The Guardian has shown that more than half of people in the UK would install solar panels on their homes, if there was Government support on the cost of installation.  62% said they wanted to fit solar panels and 60% said they would buy an energy storage device.  Many have made this decision because they want to break up the energy suppliers market dominance but less than 10% of those surveyed had already installed solar panels.

https://www.theguardian.com/money/2018/aug/20/majority-of-uk-public-want-to-install-solar-panels-poll-finds

The survey was commissioned by Client Earth, an environmental law group: https://www.clientearth.org/

The survey also found that solar is the most popular energy source, with coal the least popular.  Nuclear energy and gas were almost as unpopular as coal.

Further data and graphs are given in The Guardian article.

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India: new contract for 500 megawatt Bhadla solar park in Rajasthan

The Financial Times has outlined details of this project, which went up for auction in May.  The companies which won the bid have said that they can build the project for 2.44 rupees ($0.04) for every unit of electricity eventually generated. The article was written by Kiran Stacey from New Delhi and published on 1st November 2017.  See:

https://www.ft.com/content/4dca7f72-b31d-11e7-a398-73d59db9e3299?accessToken=zwAAAV-azb9Akc9Nyn9ysx0R59OjmHPVnbnjmQ.MEQCID3mnYDb7NVXzpn9wAPEMb7C6IwZUIHs5MHMvp8lsZK8AiBs5deHUvR6sQJI9vkbwoRdq_62CK-xxB3Zy7cuLTijAQ&sharetype=gift

This detailed and interesting article provides a number of facts about India’s place in the renewable energy field.

  1.  India’s solar power tariffs have reduced from over 8Rs/Kwh to 2.44Rs in the last six years.
  2. Solar power in India has grown at double digit rates over the last six years.
  3. There are plans to increase India’s solar capacity by 76% more in 2017 than in 2016, which will make India the third largest solar market globally. An interesting graph is included in the FT article, which shows that China is by far the leading solar industry around the world.  In second place is the USA, though their additional capacity has dropped in the last year.  The capacity of Japan and Germany is also dropping, which has enabled India to soar into third place.
  4. The price of Chinese-made solar panels has tumbled in recent years, due to over-production.
  5. At present, 60% of India’s energy is coal-powered, so there is still a long way to go, though the reducing price of solar panels makes the solar industry much more competitive.

The FT article mainly focuses on the economical effects of these changes and the risks associated with them.

However, it makes sense for this to happen, in view of the rising temperatures experienced in India in the last few years.

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Map of India showing high temperature areas during recent heat wave

And now, further details of the new solar development in Rajasthan have come to me, as follows:

The winning bid for the third and fourth phase development at Bhadla solar park in Rajasthan – a500-megawatt solar farm – was one of the lowest prices for solar power ever seen anywhere in the world. The companies — Acme Solar, an Indian developer, and SBG Cleantech, a joint venture whose shareholders include SoftBank of Japan — said they would build the project for a guaranteed price of just Rs2.44 ($0.04) for every unit of electricity they eventually sold – substantially cheaper than coal

The Bhadla auction confirmed that the country is undergoing a generational shift from coal-fuelled power to solar and wind and placed India at the centre of a global renewables revolution that is driving down the cost of green energy and which represents one of the biggest threats to fossil fuels.

As India is already the world’s third-biggest carbon emitter and plans to electrify even its most remote villages within two years, a rapid expansion in the country’s renewables sector would prove a huge boost for attempts to keep global temperature rises below 2C — the target set by the 2015 Paris climate accords. 

Further details can be found at:

https://chssachetan.wordpress.com/2017/12/30/indias-development-of-solar-energy-1/