Recovering; good reading; global warming causes people; a letter on education

View 811 Monday, February 17, 2014

President’s Day


“Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”

President Barack Obama, January 31, 2009

If a foreign government had imposed this system of education on the United States, we would rightfully consider it an act of war.

Glenn T. Seaborg, National Commission on Education, 1983


Still recovering. Ice packs then hot compress for the abrasions. Cleaning things up. I still won’t go out in public, but it mostly doesn’t hurt any more. Hard to sleep but I manage.

One thing, I’ve had time to read. Actually it’s re-reading, two books absolutely unconnected, or I would have thought so, but they aren’t. There are a number of reasons to read both more or less together.

The first is L. Sprague de Camp’s Lest Darkness Fall, a novel based on the 1939 novella in the December 1939 Unknown Magazine. The book is a masterpiece about a Twentieth Century archeologist standing in the courtyard of the Roman Pantheon suddenly taken back in time to exactly the same place in 6th Century Rome. He knows both Latin and Italian as well as English, which gives him some ability to communicate, and he has read a number of classical histories that include the age of Justinian. On the other hand he has nothing on him but the contents of his pockets, and he must not only make his way but transform history so that the Rome of his future is a better place to live than the Rome of our past.

I read this book in high school, about the time I was studying Latin, and it I loved it then, and I’ve reread it a few times since. By chance it turned up just now when I need some light reading distraction. I have the Ballantine paperback that sold for $2.50 new. There are others available including electronic editions.

The other book I’ve been reading again is one I read more recently. In fact I’d just finished it and was putting together not so much a review of the book as an essay on its subject matter. It’s called The Idealist: Jeffery Sachs and the Quest to End Poverty, by Nina Munk. There are both hard cover and Kindle editions. Mine is the hard cover because my habit is to make notes in a book like this and I’m used to doing that in colors. This is the story of The Millennium Project, an attempt to end human poverty in Africa, and the determination of Jeffrey Sachs to do that. The story ends before poverty is overcome, of course, and since its publication what has happened to the villages chosen for transformation has changed again and again, and there is some ambiguity about just what was accomplished. Several hundred million dollars can do a lot, but how much of that endures?

As you can see, the two books do have something in common, although it is not apparent at first look. I’ll have more to say on this when I’m doing a bit better. Meanwhile if you are looking for a good story and you don’t know Lest Darkness Fall you’re in for a treat; and if you are at all curious about the hard facts of foreign aid and what it can and perhaps cannot accomplish, Munk’s book is a good case study by an objective reporter who began as an enthusiast. She hasn’t lost her enthusiasm, but she has lost some naiveté.


Global Warming Causes People


Bottom line – with global warming humans can continue to eat.

An ice age will cause widespread devastation and human privation. Society can continue on a tropical Terra (thus global warming is not the great evil); it may not survive on an ice ball.

David Couvillon

Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, Retired.; Former Governor of Wasit Province, Iraq; Righter of Wrongs; Wrong most of the time; Distinguished Expert, TV remote control; Chef de Hot Dog Excellance; Avoider of Yard Work

Global Warming Causes People

By Randy Bissell

The “why” and the disclaimer.

Please read that title again, “Global Warming Causes People.” It is a little different than the rhetoric we’ve been hearing the last decade or so. In the following sentences, I will attempt to add insight to the association between human activity and the global temperature shift by flipping the relationship over and examining the correlation anew.

It is not my intention to deny or diminish the actuality of global climate change or the contribution to accelerating global warming by man’s use of fossil fuels and industrial production of “greenhouse gases.” However, I would suggest that many doomsayers might over-represent the certainty of their most pessimistic predictions. Likewise, it is unwise for the naysayers to ignore the impact that humans have on the climate without sober reflection on the costs and benefits of our technological, environmental, and population trajectories.

Here goes.

Instead of assuming that climate change is fundamentally caused by humans, I would assert that human technological advancements, cultural progress, and population increases have been caused by, or perhaps better said “facilitated by,” increases in global temperature over the last 12,000 years. Furthermore, I might assert that any recent human contribution to that temperature rise has a possibility of improving worldwide climatic conditions necessary for sustainable population growth and spurring technological progress.

Likewise, if one accepts that a recently warming globe in geologic terms has contributed to the habitability of the planet by homo sapiens (us), then we might also consider that any significant decrease in average global temperature or a reversal of sea level due to polar ice cap expansion would result in a human catastrophe of much greater proportion than the projected increases in temperature and rising sea level.

Finding a level sea?

The geologic strata on our planet record innumerable oscillations in sea level through time. The magnitude and scale of these events are reflected in continental geomorphology. This is not simply a scientist’s perspective. Biblical creationists must also account for the “gatherings of water and ground” and Noah’s flood from Genesis. Evolutionists and creationists may disagree on everything else scientific, and likewise, everything sacred. But everyone can agree there is little precedent in science or Holy Scripture for a belief wherein sea level remains constant beyond the span of a few hundreds or thousands of years.

So, our circumstance is sea level rising or sea level falling. It is a ridiculous position that we expect sea level to remain constant. No matter the cause, sea level never stays at any level very long. “Sea level” as a permanent datum is actually a silly notion.

Getting a bigger tank.

Now, let’s consider the guppies multiplying in my fish tank for a moment. I have always heard that a fish tank can support 1 inch of fishes for every gallon of tank. Using that reasoning, my 20 gallon tank should support 20 inches of guppies, nose-to-tail. That’d be about 40 adult fish. To sustain a population above that, I’d need a bigger tank.

When I was recently in New York City, I showed my family the glacially striated outcrops in Central Park. I pointed out to my elderly aunt that there was, but just a few thousand years ago, hundreds of feet of glacial ice covering New York – a polar ice cap extensive across the North American continent and terminating in the northern tier of the United States. Today 1.6 million people live on Manhattan Island. Could that number of people have been living there 12,000 years ago on top of that ice? Could there be a New York City? Toronto? Chicago? That would seem impossible with all that ice at those locations!

A Summer Day in North America 12,000 Years Ago

Where is New York? Chicago? Washington? Toronto?

(figure source:

Global warming causes people.

Yes, the idea is that simple. Global warming has given us a bigger tank or, in our case, more land mass to work with. With the reduction of the area of the northern polar ice cap we end up with more land mass in climatic bands that are advantageous to the proliferation of homo sapiens. Growing wheat in the northern plain states and Canada would have been impossible when the ground was frozen-solid year around or under a mile of ice. The migration of the temperate climate bands northward over centuries have opened up arable lands for important

food crops and livestock. In step, man has perfected agriculture and livestock production. The inverted wedge-shape and the distribution of the largest landmasses in the Northern Hemisphere have increased the potential areas for cultivation and habitation. Bottom line: more land, better climate to sustain more people.

Let’s cool things down.

I am old enough to remember how everyone reacted when we experienced the North American cold snap in the 1970’s. To save us from cooling climate change, scientists have proposed spreading coal dust on the polar ice caps to help melt the ice and warm the Earth. Are we smart enough to meddle with the key factors that hold Earth within the narrow envelope of habitability? Tampering with the earth’s climatic controls is like my guppies trying to manipulate the temperature of their tank. They have contributed to conditions, yes, but they have little control and even less understanding of their “climate.”

But what if we woke up tomorrow and the sea reversed its rise? I think we’ve already established that there is no precedent for a stable sea level. It’s either going up or going down. So, what are the implications of a falling sea level, a cooling climate, and growing ice caps? What happens when fresh water gets pulled from the atmosphere to build glaciers and polar ice caps – remembering too that cool air carries less rain-making moisture? What happens to ocean ports and coastlines and reefs? How could a cooling trend be stopped?

When things cool down, what happens to the northern plains as the breadbasket of the world? What’s going to happen with less bread? Or with less land to cultivate or inhabit? What if I took 20% of the water from my fish tank? Or fed my fish with 20% less food? I’ll tell you what would happen — fewer guppies.

Who benefits?

I am reminded of an account in Martin Dugard’s great book, The Last Voyage of Columbus, of how shipwrecked Christopher Columbus manipulated the natives of Jamaica into giving his crew food by telling them that he, Columbus, would have his god blot out the moon as their punishment for neglecting their guests. You see, Columbus was an experienced astronomer and he was quite familiar with the upcoming predicted eclipse of the moon. Having demonstrated the consequences of their sins at the height of the eclipse, the chiefs swore their continued allegiance to Columbus and began delivering food that night. To show his god’s power and grace, the moon was restored.

When I speak with regular folks, many students and friends, about heady and interesting things such as sea level variations and the history of the earth, it comes as a surprise to the non-scientific that the sea is more characteristically rising or falling rather than remaining constant. With a little patient explanation, it is easy to convince them that sea level variation is the norm and the rise we’re experiencing has been occurring for millennia. Sea level today is nowhere near its historical maximum. Sadly, the study of earth science is often neglected in

our high schools. It would thus seem that an absence of basic scientific knowledge amongst our general population serves its nefarious purposes.

Could it be that commonplace ignorance of relevant earth history serves those who might manipulate others into paying tributes based in fear? Just like Columbus, could I profit or become powerful by convincing the natives that they have caused a natural calamity that is, in fact, simply a natural phenomenon? Are there people doing that today?


1) Before any meaningful discussions and suggestions of remedies for our present state of accelerated warming, we must consider the longer view of history. The crucible of human existence, planet Earth, is delicately balanced in orbit, chemistry, and energy (and geologic history) which results in a complex system called “climate.” Tampering with any key element of our condition may jeopardize the narrow envelope of our existence. Some might argue that human release of CO2 in the last 150 years is tampering with the system. Others might say that we should recognize the brevity of our perspective, as we are the guppies in the tank or as the comedian George Carlin said, “fleas” on the “dog.”

2) Our misguided “solutions” might have unintended and woeful consequences. Some solutions may even be proposed simply to exploit the situation to enrich and empower the few. Every suggested fix has some climatic, social, economic, and environmental impact. Remember that exploitation of power and control is a pretty big part of our human nature.

3) Without global warming, fewer of us would have been born (my friends, my wife, and my children). If the climate had not warmed over these last 12,000 years or if this warming cycle had ended early, we wouldn’t be here. I didn’t get to pick when I was born. But I am glad I was born and lived in an age when the climate is warming. You and I are products of this age – of this longstanding process. I feel fortunate and blessed to be alive in this time – to see, to learn, to love, to think, to drive my car.

4) Global warming causes people. Without global warming these many centuries, I believe the few humans might all still be huddled in their cave, gnawing mammoth bones, wondering why they have to walk everywhere, and grunting about why Uncle Ned has such a prominent brow.

*Randy Bissell is an amateur philosopher and professional geologist experiencing the rising sea level and warming climate in Corpus Christi, Texas. Feedback, comments, and criticisms regarding this essay can be directed to  – Please subject emails: Global Warming Causes People

Other Sources and Inspirations:

Christian, David, 2011, The History of our World in 18 Minutes, 

Carlin, George, 2009, George Carlin on the Environment,  

Dugard, Martin, 2005, The Last Voyage of Columbus: Being the Epic Tale of the Great Captain’s Fourth Expedition, Including Accounts of Swordfight, Mutiny, Shipwreck, Gold, War, Hurricane, and Discovery, Little Brown and Company. 320 p.

I certainly agree that I would rather live in a warmer land with higher seas than in a renewed Ice Age. I would also like some choices about how warm it may get.

I am still searching for precise definitions of the means for getting local temperatures and the weights given to each of those measures in computing the global hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, and annual average temperatures. That is: clearly the ocean temperatures are important; but what is the temperature of the ocean? How much weight is given to ocean temperature as opposed to land temperature? We know the ratio of ocean surface area to the total surface area of the planet: is that what is used? But the oceans hold a large volume, and the temperature varies by depth, sometimes by quite a lot. If we are using surface temperatures is that a reasonable thing to do when estimating the temperature of 80% of the planet surface? Do we take the water temperature or the air temperature at the surface? Justify your answer.

And of course we can ask many of the same questions about the land areas: are we interested in the temperature of the land itself, which stores a lot of heat one way or another, or of the air temperature at the surface? Looking at the way the measures seem to be taken, apparently it is the air temperature in the shade at about 2 meters above the surface: that is, that seems to be what I see when I look at a temperature measurement station. Of course the temperature in the sun may be considerably higher than that in the box in which the thermometer is kept – and at night exposure to the night sky will lower the temperature measured. Which do we use, and why? I confess that the more I think about it, the more questions I have about even the average temperature of Los Angeles, much less the entire earth.


Subject: Letter from Karen R. Hammond-Nash

I applaud you for your nice response to her letter.

A parent is responsible for their child’s education, not a public school or a private school. If neither of those two institutions are getting it done, then you have to step in to either supplement it or replace it with your own learning environment.

My daughter entered Kindergarten this year. I am monitoring the level of instruction to see how she is doing. When I was in Kindergarten (1980), we had 1/2 a day of instruction and at the end of the year the main goals were identifying primary/secondary colors, letters and sounds, the calendar, seasons, and being able to follow instructions.

My daughter is subjected to a full day of instruction. It includes all of what I had as a child, plus reading, adding, and subtracting. They really stress reading. So much so, that I wonder if they are turning off kids who are not ready for reading. Thankfully, they don’t use whole word reading. The teacher spends a lot of time each day corralling the boys. If I was a boy that age, I’d have a hard time sitting still for the whole day.

We’ll see how it plays out. I survived public education, but I was bored a lot. My daughter is bored as well and has mastered the goals for the year already. Hopefully she will find positive avenues for her boredom, as I did when I attended school.

As always, thanks for the interesting dialog you have on your site.

Best Regards,

Andy Gross

I will post part of this because I want to make an important point: There is no such thing as reading readiness after 4 years of age. Every kid of normal or dull normal intelligence, and most of the rest, can be taught to read at 5 or 6, and most at 4. For centuries in England children were taught to read in nursery by nannies, in the upper and middle classes that could afford nannies, and those kids were no better protoplasm than contemporary children. But before kids can be taught to read you have to believe they can learn, and the official education policy of the US Dept. of Education is that the reason kids don’t learn to read in first grade is because they are not ready.

Once kids can read they can read anything including nonsense words like deaming and walaplooty and monochromhydride. Some will be tough because that’s a lot of syllables to put together, but it can also be a game.

If your daughter can read — meaning that she can read words she has never seen before — then just give her lots of interesting stuff to read. Let her choose what she wants to read. And you will want to look into things like a child’s history of the world, and a lot of nursery rhymes (which are fun) and stuff like that. As to what to read, anything she likes within reason.

Jerry Pournelle

Chaos Manor

I do agree with your point regarding the reading readiness. My only point of reference is my own education, and that is what I use to gauge my daughter’s progress. Things have changed considerably since 1980.

My daughter showed interest in reading for herself at the age of four. She has made considerable progress over the past 6 months. As I listen to her read, I am reminded of the oddity of the English language.

I appreciate your suggestions on reading materials. She would probably like the history books. She brought home a book on all of the first ladies last week and we’ve been working through that. We spent a good bit of time on Mary Todd Lincoln…. Endless questions. Inquisitive children are refreshing…..

Best regards,



I am pleased to announce that in the next week or so we will release the California Sixth Grade Reader, a collection of stories and poems that everyone in the California school system read in sixth grade from about 1910 until the 1930’s (with some adjustments and changes of course, but not very many). They are good stories, interesting, well written, with a useful vocabulary. We’ll be announcing its availability in the near future.


‘The Navy plans to deploy its first laser on a ship later this year, and it intends to test an electromagnetic rail gun prototype aboard a vessel within two years.’



Roland Dobbins

A nuclear carrier has an enormous power source, a lot of room for projectiles, and considerable space to mount rail guns…


Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.




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