Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Everglades in Danger?—This Time Don’t Blame the United Nations

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced he wants Everglades National Park to be re-inscribed to the List of World Heritage in Danger saying “…when we achieve restoration, we can remove the park from the list of sites that [are] in danger.”

Many people have argued over the years that being on the World Heritage List somehow puts the United Nations in charge of United States property and impinges on private property rights. I am very familiar with the World Heritage Convention, the World Heritage Committee, its Operating Guidelines, and the Rules of Procedure and I disagree with those who believe the U.S. surrenders it sovereignty and that property rights are violated. I base my conclusion on knowledge acquired while serving as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks and leading the U.S. Delegation to the World Heritage Committee for five years.

However, when the Clinton Administration talked the World Heritage Committee into putting both Yellowstone and the Everglades on the List of World Heritage in Danger in the early 1990s, the flames of fear and loathing against the United Nations and UNESCO, which runs the World Heritage Program, were fanned into a conflagration.

Neither park should be considered “in danger.” The List of World Heritage in Danger is a tool the World Heritage Committee uses to gain the attention of the owner of a World Heritage Site when its conservation is “threatened by serious and specific dangers.” Putting a site on the In-Danger List achieves two ends. It is designed to encourage the country in which the site is located to take action or actions necessary to ensure the site’s conservation and it makes international assistance (technical and monetary) available to the property owner for such conservation actions. A country or private owner of a World Heritage Site is under no obligation to take any action requested by the World Heritage Committee. Under the World Heritage Convention conservation only occurs through “cooperation and assistance.” If in the final analysis a property loses its Outstanding Universal Value for which it was inscribed as a World Heritage Site, the Committee may then vote to remove the site from the List of World Heritage.

The World Heritage Committee removed Everglades National Park from the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2007. Many people cried foul blaming the Bush Administration for advancing the idea of removing the site from the In-Danger List before the restoration is complete. Here are the facts. The World Heritage Committee has been monitoring Everglades for nearly two decades and they have been continuously awe struck at both the dollars spent and efforts taken by the U.S., the State of Florida, and others to restore this site. Taking action is all the Committee ever wants to see. They do not expect restoration to be complete before taking a site off the List of World Heritage in Danger, especially when the restoration of the Everglades is likely to be a 20-40 year process. The Committee expressed a desire to remove the Everglades from the In-Danger List at every meeting where I represented the U.S. from 2002 to 2006. In 2007, they had seen enough and they asked Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, Todd Willens, to make a motion to remove the site form the List of World Heritage in Danger. He did, and though the Committee usually does not vote, but seeks consensus, no member of the Committee or any one else present spoke against the motion.

The United States should not seek to re-inscribe Everglades to the List of World Heritage in Danger. Instead, Americans should be proud that the international community recognizes our significant and costly efforts to undertake the largest ecosystem restoration project the world has ever known. The restoration is far from complete and nothing should deter the ongoing commitment and efforts to restore and conserve this unique and valuable marsh land habitat. Unfortunately, some environmental groups cannot stand success. Success apparently does not sell enough memberships and does not perpetuate their power base. Too bad, because the United States does more for conservation than any other nation in the world and we should welcome the international recognition of our leadership in this area and the well-deserved pat on the back for doing the right thing for Everglades National Park and the South Florida Ecosystem.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Research Suggests Winds Dying Down

A recent story by AP Science Writer, Seth Borenstein, says researchers believe winds in the United States are dying down, especially east of the Mississippi River. Obviously, this research was not conducted in Washington, DC, where the wind bags continue at hurricane force.

“The idea that winds may be slowing is still a speculative one, and scientists disagree on whether that is happening,” the article says. And, the cause, of course, may be global warming.

After four years of college and a degree in economics and biology, the only thing I can say with certainty is, “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” This principle has its roots in physics, “Energy or matter can neither be created nor destroyed.” In policy making, it becomes, “There are no solutions—only trade offs.”

With all the buzz about renewable energy and non-carbon-emitting sources of energy, I have been patiently waiting for the other shoe to drop and the reality of physics to set in. You see, it takes energy to create the energy we most often use—electricity. In fact, because of inefficiencies and physical principles such as friction, it takes more energy to produce electricity than you get back out of the electrical energy.

For instance fuels cells, which burn hydrogen and oxygen with only water vapor for emissions, require a supply of pure hydrogen. That hydrogen is usually separated from water (H2O) or methane (CH4) and the physical fact of the matter is that it takes more energy to make hydrogen fuel than you get back from burning the same hydrogen.

If you generate electricity from solar panels then you are using solar energy that normally would be absorbed by the earth, the atmosphere, or its various life forms. Sooner or later, that energy loss to the earth’s system will have some effect on life forms or the climate.

And wind power converts wind energy to electricity. When the power of wind is used to run a turbine, the result is less wind because the wind energy has been converted to electricity.

When will some scientist point out that wind and solar power generation could have an impact the climate. A small impact you say. Well, as the environmentalists are so wont to say, all small impacts result in cumulative impacts. Many scientists are skeptical that human-caused carbon dioxide emissions have a significant impact on the climate, so it only follows that some would say wind and solar power will have no effect on the climate.

However, if the global warmists have one ounce of intellectual integrity, they would readily admit that all forms of energy production could have some impact on our climate, no matter how insignificant. The question is whether our impacts are meaningful or significant, and if they are, then it would appear that the only solution is for mankind to be removed from the system. But, then that is what the extremists want, isn’t it?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Oh My Gosh, We Could All Freeze in the Dark

On March 1, 2009, one foot of snow fell on top of a freezing rain here in the Southside of Virginia. At our house, the power was out for three days and the low one morning was zero degrees Fahrenheit.

After the power was restored, my family concluded that we do not want to freeze to death in the dark, but that is the slippery slope Congress may take us down if they pass a cap and trade bill.

I don’t care what Al Gore says. I don’t care what some Federal Judge says. I don’t care what the EPA says. Carbon Dioxide is not a pollutant! For crying out loud, we breath it in and out every day with no harmful side effects. Our bodies produce it and plants thrive on it. To treat it the same as dioxin or DDT or Sulphur Dioxide is absolutely ridiculous.

Will a cap and trade reduce greenhouse gases and thus stop global warming? An emphatic “No” is the answer. Even the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports that if all human-caused CO2 emissions went to zero tomorrow, it would only delay by 10 years the projected rise in global average temperature supposed to occur 100 years from now.

Global Warming or Climate Change is voodoo science. Read what a joint National Science Foundation and U.S. Geological Survey brochure about the National Ice Core Laboratory in Denver says about past data and projections (emphasis added).

“Information from ice studies represents pieces of the puzzle of understanding climate. It complements data from study of pollen, tree rings, coral, and lake and sea floor sediments. Through studies of ice, extreme climate swings have been identified in Earth's past; some have occurred remarkably quickly (in less than a decade).”

“Mathematicians and modelers use the ice core data to create Global Climate Models, which are theoretical extensions of Earth's past climate conditions to what could happen in the future. Once the past can be explained, possible future events may be identified and their rapidity and effects predicted with at least some confidence and accuracy.”

There are an awful lot of qualifying modifiers and less than certain language is used in this statement. If a “Warmist” heard someone recite this statement verbatim, they would call the reader a “Holocaust Denier.”

Cap and trade will not reduce carbon emissions. It will be a regressive tax on ordinary citizens. It will cost jobs at a time when we can least afford to impair our economy. And, it will result in more American jobs going offshore. Global Warming and greenhouse gas reductions are to modern elitist what “Let them eat cake” was to Joan of Arc. I don’t know about you, but I don’t look forward to eating their cake or freezing in the dark.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Third Culture Kids and the Fork in the Road of Life

A recent post on the British Telegraph website by Gerald Warner referred to President Obama as “President Pantywaist.” Coincidently, I was reading my wife’s newsletter from the Alumni Association of the American Community School at Beirut. In that newsletter, there was a reprint of a January 31, 2009, post on The Daily Beast blog and the article describes the psychological phenomena called Third Culture Kids.

Third Culture Kids are people who spent some portion of their formative years living in a foreign country. The argument is that people who do part of their growing up outside their “passport country” have a global perspective, are socially adaptable and intellectually flexible. They are quick to think outside the box and can appreciate and reconcile different points of view. At the same time, Third Culture Kids (TCK) can demonstrate a certain sense of detachment and feel rootless. Barack Obama, the article goes on to say, is a textbook example TCK and this is highlighted in his book, Dreams of My Father, where he searches for self-definition. Obama’s Harvard Law Review colleagues observed his excellent negotiation skills as well as his “aloofness” or “above-it-all” attitude. The article goes on to talk about how the Obama Administration is staffed by a number of TCKs and how that affects their vision of the world and the Administration’s approach to international issues.

My wife is a TCK. At the age of 12 she lived for a couple of years in Maricaibo, Venezuela, and when she was a high school sophomore in the seventies, her family moved to Beirut, Lebanon. They witnessed the beginning of Lebanon’s civil war and were in Beirut up until all Americans were evacuated. Living in an apartment between the Black September and PLO camps with bullets and mortar rounds flying over head can and usually does impact your life and perspective. Such an experience during your formative years either matures you well beyond your years or it can reduce you to a shell-shocked hull of your former self. My wife came home from Lebanon a mature adult who demonstrated some of the classic traits of a TCK—adversity that does not kill you makes you stronger. I always likened her to being an Army Brat except that her father worked in the oil industry, not the armed services.

I believe there is a lot of merit to the description of the TCK profile and their approach to life. However, every TCK comes to a fork in the road of life and their choices are come home proud of your passport country or come home apologizing to everyone for some perceived shame of your homeland. It seems to me that most Americans who spend any time overseas, especially in third-world countries, come home with a much greater appreciation for America and what it represents to the rest of the world. Returning American ex-patriots often kiss the ground when they get back to the Land of the Free. There is a deeper understanding of the values this country holds dear and the quality of life it provides: freedom to move about the USA, lack of military or police harassment, habeas corpus and a trial by your peers instead of life sentences for trumped up charges and kangaroos courts, free speech, safe drinking water and cleaner air, and a cheeseburger along with all the other benefits of living in the most advanced society on earth where the poorest of the poor are often better off than the middle class of other countries.

I usually feel sorry for those who come home to America ashamed of what we do and who we are. But, now, we have a TCK President who has chosen to go around the world apologizing for America. He apparently took what I believe is the wrong fork in the road of life and at his core he is ashamed to be an American. His wife expressed similar emotions when she said, after Obama secured the Democratic nomination, that it was the first time she was proud to be an American.

I believe that greater understanding of other cultures is a strength. I believe when you grow up in the minority where the majority holds all the power and speaks a different language that you will come away with the kind of negotiation skills that will be of value throughout your life. I believe any American TCK should have, as a result of their foreign experience, recognized and gained greater appreciation for the values America represents and the good that Americans do. They should be proud to be an American. In my opinion, if an American TCK takes the wrong fork in the road and is ashamed of America and what it represents—which is their right as an American citizen, a right many other nations do not confer upon their citizens—then maybe they should not be President of the United States of America and I am fairly certain that they don’t speak for the majority of Americans.