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Nevada Transhumanist Party Positions on 2016 Nevada Ballot Questions

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Categories: Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
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NTP-Logo-9-1-2015

The Nevada Transhumanist Party offers the following brief statements of position on the ballot questions currently before Nevada voters.

Summary
Question 1: No Position
Question 2: Support
Question 3: Support
Question 4: Support

Ballot Question 1 – The Nevada Transhumanist Party does not take a position on Ballot Question 1, the requirement for background checks on private-party transfers of firearms. Gun control is not a strictly transhumanist issue, and transhumanists hold varying positions on it. Vote your conscience on this ballot question.

[Personal Statement: I personally voted against Ballot Question 1, due to my concern regarding the creation of an additional category of crime that could increase the probability of hostile police/citizen confrontations and redirect police resources away from genuine violent crime – but other transhumanists may come to different conclusions from mine. Again, this is a not an area in which the Nevada Transhumanist Party generally takes official stances. ~ Gennady Stolyarov II]

Ballot Question 2 – The Nevada Transhumanist Party supports Ballot Question 2 to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Any structure of taxation and regulation is superior to the current prohibition enforced by overwhelming violence. While I have no personal interest in marijuana, the damage done by the war on drugs – particularly in the form of police militarization and the use of lethal force against nonviolent persons – threatens everyone. If we want a future of morphological freedom – the right of individuals to alter the appearance, composition, and prospects their organisms, as long as such changes do not harm others – then the first modest step is to stop jailing and killing people for consuming a plant or for simply living in a house falsely suspected of having such plants grown there.

Ballot Question 3 – The Nevada Transhumanist Party supports Ballot Question 3 to eliminate the coercive energy monopoly currently held by NV Energy and allow individuals to choose their utility and source of energy, much like they are able to choose which furniture or which cars to buy today. NV Energy has used its monopoly position to stifle and penalize the deployment of economical rooftop solar systems, which allow homeowners to autonomously generate their own electricity and even earn some money doing so. The suppression of such opportunities is a travesty of justice and needs to be reversed.

Ballot Question 4 – The Nevada Transhumanist Party supports Ballot Question 4 to exempt durable medical equipment from sales and use tax. These taxes can often run into the thousands of dollars for sick and dying patients and could compromise the quality of their care. We support any measure that helps make medical equipment affordable and more widespread.

Mr. Stolyarov is the Chief Executive of the Nevada Transhumanist Party.
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This post may be freely reproduced using the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike International 4.0 License, which requires that credit be given to the author, G. Stolyarov II. Find out about Mr. Stolyarov here.

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Unsustainable: Little Ways Environmentalists Waste the Ultimate Resource – Article by Timothy D. Terrell

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Categories: Economics, Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatTimothy D. Terrell
June 23, 2015
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The memo told me to get rid of my printer — or the college would confiscate it.

The sustainability director — let’s call him Kermit — is an enthusiastic and otherwise likable fellow whose office is next door to mine. Kermit had decided it would be better if the centralized network printers in each department were used for all print jobs. He believed that the environment was going to benefit from this printer impoundment.

Some sustainability advocates object to printers because little plastic ink cartridges sometimes wind up in landfills — but I saw no effort at the college to promote cartridge recycling; the sustainability policy had skipped persuasion and gone straight to confiscation.

Certainly the IT people didn’t want to maintain the wide variety of desktop printers or supply them with cartridges — but the printer on my desk was not college-supplied or maintained, and I provided all my own cartridges. Personal printers were now verboten. Period. The driver behind the policy, apparently, was the rectangular transformer box plugged into the wall, which consumed a trickle of a few watts of electricity 24/7.

A typical household inkjet printer draws about 12 watts when printing, and when it’s not, it draws about 5 watts. At 5 watts per hour, then, with a few minutes a week burning 12 watts, my lightly used inkjet would use around 46 kWh a year, which at the commercial average rate of 11 cents per kilowatt-hour translates to an annual cost of $5.06. There may be side effects, or externalities, to use a term from economics. A 2011 study in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences that renewable energy advocates often cite estimates that the side effects of coal-produced electricity cost about 18 cents per kWh, so assuming that all the electricity saved would have been produced by burning coal (nationwide, it’s actually less than 40 percent), that brings the total annual cost to $13.34.

Kermit must have calculated that confiscating printers would collectively generate several hundred dollars a year of savings for the college — and allow the college to put another line on its sustainability brag sheet.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with trying to save electricity. But Kermit had forgotten the value of an important natural resource: human time.

Time is a valuable resource: labor costs are a large chunk of most businesses’ costs. The college basically wanted to save electricity by wasting my time — and everyone else’s.

Here’s how that works. Suppose I want to print out a recommendation letter and envelope on college letterhead. Using the network printer involves the following steps:

  1. Walk down hall with letterhead and insert letterhead in single-feed tray.
  2. Return to office.
  3. Hit Enter and walk back to printer.
  4. Discover that page was oriented the wrong way and printed upside down.
  5. Return to office.
  6. Walk back to printer with new letterhead page.
  7. Return to office.
  8. Hit Enter and walk back to printer.
  9. Discover that someone else had sent a job to the printer while I was in transit and printed his test on my letterhead.
  10. Return to office.
  11. Walk back to printer with new letterhead page.
  12. Wait for other guy’s print job to finish.
  13. Insert letterhead, properly oriented.
  14. Run back to office to reduce chances of letterhead being turned into another test.
  15. Hit Enter and walk back to printer.
  16. Pick up successfully printed letter.
  17. Walk back to office, quietly weeping at the thought of repeating the process to print the envelope.

This “savings” turns into more than 12 trips to and from the communal printer, plus any time spent waiting for another print job. The environmentalist may bemoan the two wasted sheets of paper, but he would quickly remember that there’s a recycling bin beside the printer. The more significant cost of this little fiasco is human time.

Let’s suppose that’s a total of six minutes. Of course, I’ve learned the right way to orient paper and envelopes after a mistake or two, and printer congestion is rarely a problem. And I never did higher-volume print jobs, such as tests for classes, on my own inkjet anyway, so the lost time in trotting back and forth would apply mainly to one- or two-sheet print jobs, envelopes, and scanning. Suppose the confiscation of my inkjet means, conservatively, five additional minutes a week during the school year. That’s about three hours a year sucked out of my life, absorbed in walking back and forth.

Suppose, again to be conservative, my time is worth what fast food restaurant workers in Seattle are getting paid right now — $15 per hour. So the university is wasting $45 of my salary to save $13.34 in utilities. Does that sound like the diligent stewardship of precious resources?

(I will assume that any health benefits from the additional walking are canceled out by the additional stress caused by sheer aggravation.)

I am pleased to say that the desktop printer kerfuffle ended with the sustainability director backing down. We were all allowed to keep our printers, and I thereby kept three hours a year to do more productive work. Kermit and I remained on good terms, though he never took me up on my offer to provide an economist’s voice on the sustainability committee.

But we must make the most of small victories, for college and university sustainability proponents march on undeterred. If anything, the boldness and scale (and the waste) of campus initiatives has only increased. The National Association of Scholars (NAS) recently released a report showing that colleges trying to reduce their environmental impact have spent huge amounts of money on sustainability programs for little to no gain.

The unintended consequences of these programs abound. And though each initiative may destroy only a small amount of human time, the collective impact of these microregulations is a death by a thousand cuts.

Many college cafeterias are now “trayless,” in the hopes of reducing dish use and wasted food. But students must manage unwieldy loads of dishes, leading to inevitable spills, or make multiple trips (and student time is valuable, too). One study mentioned in the NAS report found that “students without trays tend to run out of hands and to skip extra dishes — usually healthy dishes such as salads — in order to better carry their entrée and dessert. This leads to students consuming relatively fewer greens and more sweets.”

A college’s “carbon footprint” has also become the object of campus policy. Middlebury College, for example, pledged in 2006 that it would be “carbon neutral” by 2016. So it has spent almost $5 million a year (over $2,000 per student) on things like a biomass energy plant, organic food for the dining hall, and staff and faculty tasked with improving sustainability. All of this has cost the college about $543 per ton of CO2 reduction. So even if one accepts the $39 per ton figure the Obama administration has stated as the value of reducing carbon dioxide emissions (and I, for one, am skeptical), Middlebury has greatly overpaid.

We can all appreciate the desire to be good stewards of the resources entrusted to us. But this doesn’t mean that every environmental sustainability initiative makes sense. Overpaying to reduce CO2 emissions, as with Middlebury, means that the product of hours of our work is needlessly consumed, and we have fewer resources for other valuable pursuits.

Sustainability advocates need to remember that resources include more than electricity, water, plastic, paper, and the like. Humans have value, too, here and now. Chipping away at our lives with little directives to expend several hours saving a bit of electricity, water, or some other resource, is to ignore the value of human life and to waste what Julian Simon called “the ultimate resource.”

Timothy Terrell is associate professor of economics at Wofford College in South Carolina.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

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The Costs of Hysteria: How Economists are Misleading the Public on Climate-Change Policy – Article by Robert P. Murphy

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The New Renaissance Hat
Robert P. Murphy
May 5, 2015
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Suppose the “scientific consensus” on climate change is right. Let’s also stipulate, for the sake of argument, that the computer projections used by the United Nations and the US government are correct, and that economists are able to translate those data into meaningful projections about costs and benefits to people living in the future with climate change.

Despite what the public has been led to believe, the situation is not a crisis at all — and certainly not something that demands drastic government actions to avert serious damage to the environment. In fact, implementing the wrong policy can cause far more damage than it can prevent.

It’s understandable that the public has no idea of the real state of the literature on climate change policy, because even professional economists use utterly misleading rhetoric in this arena. To show what I mean, first, let’s quote from a recent Noah Smith Bloomberg article, which urges left-liberals to support the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal:

One of the bigger economic issues under debate right now is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the multilateral trade deal that would include most countries in the Asia-Pacific region as well as the US. Many people both here and abroad are suspicious of trade deals, while economists usually support them. This time around, however, the dynamic is a little bit different — the TPP is getting some pushback from left-leaning economists such as Paul Krugman.

Krugman’s point is that since US trade is already pretty liberalized … the effect of further liberalization will be small.… I’m usually more of a free-trade skeptic than the average economist.… But in this case, I’m strongly on the pro-TPP side. There are just too many good arguments in favor.

University of California-Berkeley economist Brad DeLong does some quick back-of-the-envelope calculations, and estimates that the TPP would increase the world’s wealth by a total of $3 trillion. Though that’s not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, it’s one of the best reforms that’s feasible in the current polarized political situation. (emphasis added)

To summarize the flavor of Smith’s discussion, he thinks the TPP is “one of the bigger economic issues” today, and that its potential windfall to humanity of $3 trillion is “not a big deal in the grand scheme of things” but certainly worth pursuing if attainable. Krugman disagrees with Smith’s assessment, but their differences are clearly quibbles over numbers and strategies; it’s not as if Smith thinks Krugman is a “Ricardo denier” or accuses Krugman of hating poor Asians by opposing the trade deal.

We get a much different tone if instead we look at Smith discussing climate-change policy. For example, in June 2014, Smith wrote a Bloomberg piece on five ways to fight global warming. In the interest of brevity, let me simply quote Smith’s concluding paragraph:

If we do these five things, then the US can still save the world from global warming, even though we’re no longer the main cause of the problem. And the short-run cost to our economy will be very moderate. Saving the world on the cheap sounds like a good idea to me. (emphasis added)

Clearly, there is a chasm in the rhetoric between Smith’s two Bloomberg pieces. When discussing the TPP, it’s an honest disagreement between experts over a trade agreement that Smith thinks is definitely worthwhile, but in the grand scheme is not that big a deal. In contrast, government policies concerning climate change literally involve the fate of the planet.

At this point, most readers would wonder what the problem is. After all, isn’t man-made climate change a global crisis? Why shouldn’t Smith use much stronger rhetoric when describing it?

I am making this comparison because according to one of the pioneers in climate-change economics, William Nordhaus, even if all governments around the world implemented the textbook-perfect carbon tax, the net gain to humanity would be … drumroll please … $3 trillion. In other words, one of the world’s experts on the economics of climate change estimates that the difference to humanity between (a) implementing the perfect carbon-tax policy solution and (b) doing absolutely nothing was about the same difference as DeLong estimated when it comes to the TPP.

To be more specific, the $3 trillion Nordhaus estimate comes from the 2008 calibration of his Dynamic Integrated Climate-Economy (DICE) model. (The numbers have gone up since then, but I studied his 2008 calibration in great detail.) Note that this isn’t some “denier” computer simulation, rejected by the serious scientists. On the contrary, Nordhaus’s DICE model was one of only three chosen by the Obama administration when it set up a working group to estimate the monetary damages of carbon dioxide emissions. To help the reader understand the trade-offs humanity faces when it comes to climate change, let me reproduce table 4 from my Independent Review article that critically evaluated Nordhaus’s model:    

The table shows Nordhaus’s estimates (made in 2008 based on the “consensus” scientific assessments of the time) of the net benefits of various possible governmental climate policy approaches. The first row shows what happens if governments do nothing. There will be $22.55 trillion (in present value terms, and quoted in 2005 dollars) of environmental damage, but virtually no economic costs of complying with regulations, for a total harm of $22.59 trillion.

In contrast, if governments around the world implemented Nordhaus’s recommended “optimal” carbon tax, the world would be spared a little more than $5 trillion in future environmental damage, while future economic output would be $2.2 trillion lower due to complying with the carbon tax. Adding it all up, humanity would suffer total harms of $19.52 trillion, meaning the world would be $3.07 trillion wealthier with the optimal, global carbon tax (because $22.59 − $19.52 = $3.07).

Central to the economic way of thinking is the concept of trade-offs. Every possible policy — including a policy of doing nothing — comes with costs. But the public tends to hear about only one set of costs, not the full array. For example, as the earlier table shows, the wrong climate policy can be much, much worse than doing nothing. Nordhaus evaluated Al Gore’s suggestion to cut emissions by 90 percent, and estimated that it would make humanity some $21 trillion poorer compared to the do-nothing baseline — a net harm seven times greater than the net benefits of the textbook-optimal approach.

My point here is not to trumpet Nordhaus’s numbers as being gospel. (My Independent Review article was a full-blown critique of his model.) Rather, I am pointing out that even one of the leading models that underpins the so-called consensus on climate-change activism shows that this is hardly the planetary crisis that the rhetoric of Smith and others would suggest. The actual numbers are in the same ballpark as those of trade deals — and nobody thinks the fate of the planet hangs on the passage of a trade deal.

More generally, what even most economists have failed to convey to the public is that climate-change policies at best will affect things on the margin. Nordhaus’s table beautifully illustrates this. The optimal carbon tax doesn’t eliminate the climate-change damage that his computer simulations predict. On the contrary, the carbon tax only reduces it from about $23 trillion down to $17 billion. The reason it doesn’t make sense to enact a more aggressive carbon tax is that the (marginal) harm to the conventional economy would exceed the (marginal) environmental benefit. There are several policies in the table that reduce environmental damage below the $17 trillion mark, but they hurt the economy so much more that, on net, they are inferior approaches.

It is understandable that noneconomists would fail to employ marginal analysis and would engage in overblown rhetoric when discussing something as controversial as climate-change policy. However, too many professional economists have also fallen into this bad habit, including not just Smith but also Krugman and many others.

Robert P. Murphy has a PhD in economics from NYU. He is the author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Capitalism and The Politically Incorrect Guide to The Great Depression and the New Deal.

This article was originally published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

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Are We Destroying the Earth? – Article by Sanford Ikeda

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The New Renaissance Hat
Sanford Ikeda
October 3, 2012
Recommend this page.
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People often complain that mankind is destroying the earth: that insatiable consumption and relentless production have laid waste to irreplaceable swaths of our planet, and that these activities have to stop or someday it will all be gone.

Which raises the question: What does it means to “destroy” something?

When you burn a log, the log is destroyed but heat, light, smoke, and ashes remain.  It’s in that sense that physics tells us that matter is neither created nor destroyed.  Similarly, cutting down a forest destroys the forest but in its place are houses and furniture and suburbs.

The real question is: Is it worth it?

Value Can Be Both Created and Destroyed

What people usually mean when they say mankind is destroying the earth is that human action causes a change they don’t like.  It sounds odd to say that my wife, by eating a piece of toast for breakfast, is “destroying” the toast.  But if I wanted that toast for myself, I might well regard her action as destructive.  Same action, but the interpretation depends on purpose and context.

When a missile obliterates a building and kills the people in it, it may serve a political purpose even though the friends and family of those killed and the owners of the building are harmed.  The perpetrator’s gain is the victim’s loss.  In the political realm, one person’s gain is necessarily another person’s loss.  You rob Peter to pay Paul; you kill Jack to appease Jill.  It’s a “zero-sum game.”

In the economic realm, however, a thing is destroyed to the extent that it loses its usefulness to somebody for doing something.  Someone may want to bulldoze my lovely home just for fun.  If she pays me enough I may let her do it and be glad she did.  When not physically coerced, a trade won’t happen unless each side expects to gain.  If it does happen, and if the people who traded are right, then all do in fact gain.  Each is better off than before. The trade has created something–value.  If they are wrong they destroy value and suffer a loss, which gives them an incentive to avoid making mistakes.

Profits and Losses Help to Minimize the Destruction of Value

In free markets gains manifest themselves in profit, either monetary or psychic.  (In the short run, of course, you can sustain a monetary loss if you think there’s a worthwhile nonmonetary aspect to the trade that will preserve the profit.)  Now, the free market is not perfect, despite what some economics professors say about the benefits of so-called “perfect competition.”  People don’t have complete or perfect knowledge and so they make mistakes.  They trade when they shouldn’t, or they don’t trade when they should.  Fortunately, profits and losses serve as feedback to guide their decisions.

There’s another source of market imperfection.  People may be capable of making good decisions but they don’t trade, or trade too much, because the property rights to the things they would like to trade aren’t well-defined or aren’t effectively enforced.  In such cases their actions or inactions create costs they don’t bear or benefits they don’t receive.  The result is that their decisions end up destroying value.

If I free-ride off the oceans, if for example I don’t pay for dumping garbage into it, then the oceans will become more polluted than they should be.  If there is a cleaner, more efficient source of energy than fossil fuels, but no one can profitably use it because the national government prevents anyone from doing so (for example by prohibitions or excessive taxation), then again the value that would have been created will never appear.

Aesthetics or Economics?

Our esthetic sense of beauty is part of what makes us human.  If we wish to protect a lake or a valley from development because we think it beautiful, how do we do that?

To some extent it’s possible to do what the Nature Conservancy does, and purchase the land that we want to protect.  But that’s not always possible, especially when the land is controlled not by private persons but by the national government, which makes special deals with crony capitalists in so-called public-private developments.  In any case, even the free market is not perfect.  Economic development and material well-being mean that some beautiful landscapes and irreplaceable resources will be changed in ways not everyone will approve.

Remember, though, that economics teaches us that an action is always taken by someone for something.  There are no disembodied costs, benefits, and values.  In a world of scarcity, John believes saving rain forests is more important than saving the whales.  Mary believes the opposite.  If we are to get past disagreements on esthetics–essentially differences of opinion–that can turn into violent conflict, we need to find some way to settle our differences peacefully, some way to transform them into value-creating interactions.

Imperfect though it may be, the free market has so far been the most effective method we know of for doing that.

Sanford Ikeda is an associate professor of economics at Purchase College, SUNY, and the author of The Dynamics of the Mixed Economy: Toward a Theory of Interventionism.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution United States License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

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Anthropogenic Global Warming, Liberty, and Technology – Video by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: Economics, Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Mr. Stolyarov argues that, whether or not anthropogenic global warming is real, political interference is not the proper way to address it. The solution is maximum individual liberty and freedom for entrepreneurs to innovate and develop improved technologies.

Remember to LIKE, FAVORITE, and SHARE this video in order to spread rational discourse on this issue.

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Doing a Happy Jig Over the Sand Dune Lizard Decision – Article by Marita Noon

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Categories: Politics, Science, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Marita Noon
June 19, 2012
Recommend this page.
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The American public has awakened and is acutely aware of the damage environmentally driven policy is doing to America’s citizens and economy. The decision not to add the sand dune lizard to the list of species protected under the Endangered Species Act, announced Wednesday by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), was precipitated by public involvement as the citizens of Texas and New Mexico wrote the FWS, showed up at public rallies, and spoke up at official hearings in opposition to the listing. The listing of the sand dune lizard had the potential annual cost of more than $35 billion to the American economy due to lost oil production alone.

Most endangered species listings are proposed and then listed with little fanfare. The public is often totally unaware the listing is possible and the negative economic consequences on the local and national economy are not considered. But this time it was different. Armed with the history of the devastating impacts an endangered species listing can have on communities and economies—such as the spotted owl and the delta smelt—New Mexico Congressman Steve Pearce drew a line in the sand and stood up for the citizens who would be impacted most by the proposed listing of the sand dune lizard. Congressman Pearce’s efforts were augmented by Texas Congressman Mike Conaway and Texas Senator John Cornyn—each deserves plaudits from the people.

In December of 2010, the FWS announced the nomination of the sand dune lizard for listing as an endangered species—a move that was prompted by a petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and the Chihuahuan Desert Conservation Alliance.

Ben Shepperd, of the Permian Basin Petroleum Association, explains it this way: “The Endangered Species Act in current form is being exploited by activist groups that generate income for themselves while hiding behind a pretense of protecting the environment. Suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is a cottage industry for them. Regardless of the decision rendered in their manifold lawsuits, the groups receive legal fees—our taxpayer dollars—from the federal government.”

Throughout 2011, people came together. Community meetings were held and the stakeholders were engaged—even enraged. Large public rallies with hundreds in attendance took place in Roswell and Artesia, NM, and Midland, TX. News crews gave the issue national attention. Independent scientists gathered to examine the science behind the listing and found it full of flaws, assumptions, and erroneous conclusions—issuing a report, which was given to FWS.

In December 2011, when the Endangered Species Act required a “list,” “decline to list,” or “delay” decision, the FWS announced that it was exercising the “delay” option—which gave the agency six more months to study the newly presented evidence.

Concerned citizens and the oil and gas industry have been anxiously awaiting the decision.

Congressman Pearce called the decision a “huge victory for the people who have so tirelessly fought to save their jobs and their way of life.”

Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar praised the efforts of the oil and gas industry in working to preserve the lizard’s habitat through Candidate Conservation Agreements, saying they were “nothing short of historic.”

Meanwhile, environmental groups are claiming that the “Department of Interior sold out to big oil.”

The listing of the sand dune lizard had the potential to virtually shut down oil and gas development in the Permian Basin region of Southeastern New Mexico and West Texas—an area responsible for 20% of America’s domestic production. If the decision had come down on the side of listing the lizard, it may well have decimated the local economies and had the potential to raise gas prices nationwide due to reduced supply.

The publicity the proposed sand dune lizard listing attracted has, perhaps, gotten the attention of the Obama campaign—which may have influenced the outcome. After all, could he afford to hurt a major portion of the economy in a swing state just months before the election?

The sand dune lizard victory should be an example for concerned citizens everywhere—regardless of the issue. Wake up, show up, stand up, and speak up!

Celebrate while we can! The lesser prairie chicken and the jobs it may endanger are next. Without a looming election, we might not be so lucky. But then again, maybe the election will change everything.

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great, Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). Together they work to educate the public and influence policy makers regarding energy and its role in freedom and in the American way of life. Combining commentary on energy, news, politics, and, the environment through public events, speaking engagements, and media, the organizations’ combined efforts serve as America’s voice for energy.

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Commonsense Wisdom from African Farmers – Article by Kelvin Kemm

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The New Renaissance Hat
Kelvin Kemm
June 19, 2012
Recommend this page.
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If you want to learn what farmers think (and need), talk to African farmers – not to bureaucrats, environmental activists or politicos at the Rio+20 United Nations summit in Rio de Janeiro. You’ll get very different, far more honest and thoughtful perspectives.

The recent (May 24) Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network conference in Pretoria, South Africa brought together delegates from agricultural communities in many African countries. FANRPAN’s primary objective is to improve food security in Africa, by ensuring that small-scale farmers can become more productive. Their obvious enthusiasm and commonsense views were heartening.

FANRPAN chair Sindiso Ngwenya of Zambia gave an incisive presentation, pointing out that agriculture is the key to reducing poverty and ensuring food security in Africa. “We call upon the world to assist us,” he said, “not by treating us as beggars, but by treating us as equals.”

Ngwenya criticised many First World attempts to use climate change, biodiversity and sustainable development arguments to prevent African agriculture from advancing. “If you are using implements that were there before Christ, how much chance do you have?” he wanted to know.

And why would anyone think these UN-EU-US issues are important to African farmers and families who are trying to feed their families and neighbors, and improve their living standards by exporting their products?

Africa does not need foreign aid in the form of handouts, Ngwenya emphasized. African farmers need modern technology and reliable, affordable electricity. They need the world to buy African produce. Instead, far too often, European and other First World countries impose rules or block African exports, using a multitude of excuses that can no longer be tolerated.

FANRPAN has decided to go “Africa-wide,” Ngwenya announced. Africa is huge –larger than the United States, China, India and Europe combined. And yet 60% of its arable land is not used at all. On the arable land that is used in most African countries, crop yields are typically a quarter of the norm in South Africa. What’s needed, he said, are modern farming methods, seeds, fertilizers and equipment –at the level of every individual farmer.

Referring to the 2011 COP-17 world environment congress in Durban, South Africa, Ngwenya pointed out that the FANRPAN slogan is “No agriculture, no deal.” However, agriculture, and particularly the advancement of rural African agriculture, was not included in past COP objectives. Many delegates criticised this, saying it reflected the First World’s hope that Africa and African agriculture will remain primitive and underdeveloped, so that rich countries can praise Africans for being “sustainable” and protecting the planet.

Africans are being told by First World activists, politicians and pressure groups to “stay in tune with nature,” delegates noted – when this attitude really reflects a well-fed First World’s maneuver to retard African agricultural improvements.

When it came to the eternal climate change saga, FRANRPAN delegates emphasized “climate-smart agriculture” and noted that Africa has always experienced dramatic weather and climate variations. What’s needed now, they stresse, is sensible, fact-based science, to predict and adapt to local and regional climate cycles and variations.

Equally impressive was learning that a group of small-scale farmers from Burkino Faso had paid their own way to attend a meeting in Windhoek, Namibia, nearly 3,000 miles (4,500 kilometers) away, to present a petition calling for the development of evidence-based policies, to replace what to now have been emotional, harmful and oppressive policies, rules and treaties.

The delegates said they were tired of the First World telling them what to do, based on First World interests and perceptions. They understand all too well that calls for “sustainable development,” “biodiversity” and climate change “prevention” really mean demands for policies and practices that ensure sustained poverty and malnutrition.

FRANRPAN CEO Dr. Lindiwe Sibanda emphasized that the real work is done on the ground, at the level of individual countries – and “policy comes from people.” Individual countries must come to their own conclusions about what works for them, and countries must align their policies to ensure food security for their people, she said. Modern methods and technologies are also required, to enhance intra-Africa food trade and enable countries to export what they are good at producing.

Her enthusiasm was praised by a farmer who spoke from the floor, with a strong French accent. “There’s a lack of resources for small farmers to come here,” he said, even for important meetings like this, but he was glad he had spent the time and money to be there. Certainly, those that did attend exhibited enough excitement and enthusiasm for the millions who could not join them.

Chairman Ngwenya wrapped up the proceedings by criticising the apparently intentional side-stepping of agricultural issues during COP-17. The First World must stop impeding African farmers and end “the paralysis by analysis,” he said. Absolutely right.

There is far too much First World smoke and mirrors, telling Africans they are saving the planet – when the real intention is to stop them from acquiring modern technology and electricity that would allow them to surge to middle class or even rich country status.

This FANRPAN conference serves notice to the United Nations Environment Programme, Rio+20 Sustainable Development Summit, Europe, United States and other obstructionists that Africa has caught on to what they are doing – and is no longer willing to play their game.

That’s good news for every African, Asian, Latin American and other poor family that wants to eat better, live better and have the freedom to pursue their dreams.

Dr Kelvin Kemm is a nuclear physicist and business strategy consultant in Pretoria, South Africa. He is a member of the International Board of Advisors of the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), based in Washington, DC (www.CFACT.org). Dr. Kemm received the prestigious Lifetime Achievers Award of the National Science and Technology Forum of South Africa.