Published on 20 Jun 2018
Published on 20 Jun 2018
In the last month alone, major players within the fossil fuel industry – “big oil” – have made some big announcements regarding climate change. BP revealed plans to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by acquiring additional renewable energy companies. Royal Dutch Shell defended its US$1-US$2 billion green energy annual budget. Even ExxonMobil, until recently relatively dismissive of the basic science behind climate change, included a section dedicated to reducing emissions in its yearly outlook for energy report.
But this idea of a “green” oil company producing “clean” fossil fuels is one that I would call a dangerous myth. Such myths obscure the irreconcilability between burning fossil fuels and environmental protection – yet they continue to be perpetuated to the detriment of our planet.
Myth 1: Climate change can be solved with the same thinking that created it
Measures put in place now to address climate change must be sustainable in the long run. A hasty, sticking plaster approach based on quick fixes and repurposed ideas will not suffice. Yet this is precisely what some fossil fuel companies intend to do. To address climate change, major oil and gas companies are mostly doing what they have historically excelled at – more technology, more efficiency, and producing more fossil fuels.
But like the irresponsible gambler that cannot stop doubling down during a losing streak, the industry’s bet on more, more, more only means more ecological destruction. Irrespective of how efficient fossil fuel production becomes, that the industry’s core product can be 100% environmentally sustainable is an illusion.
A potential glimmer of hope is carbon capture and storage (CCS), a process that sucks carbon out of the air and sends it back underground. But despite being praised by big oil as a silver bullet solution for climate change, CCS is yet another sticking plaster approach. Even CCS advocates suggest that it cannot currently be employed on a global, mass scale.
Myth 2: Climate change won’t spell the end of the fossil fuel industry
According to a recent report, climate change is one factor among several that has resulted in the end of big oil’s golden years – a time when oil was plenty, money quick, and the men at the top celebrated as cowboy capitalists.
Now, to ensure we do not surpass the dangerous 2°C threshold, we must realise that there is simply no place for “producers” of fossil fuels. After all, as scientists, financial experts, and activists have warned, if we want to avoid dangerous climate change, the proven reserves of the world’s biggest fossil fuel companies cannot be consumed.
Myth 3: Renewables investment means oil companies are seriously tackling climate change
Compared to overall capital expenditures, oil companies renewables’ investment is a miniscule drop in the barrel. Even then, as companies such as BP have demonstrated before, they will divest from renewables as soon as market conditions change.
Big oil companies’ green investments only produce tiny reductions in their overall greenhouse gas emissions. BP calls these effects “real sustainable reductions” – but they accounted for only 0.3% of their total emissions reductions in 2016, 0.1% in 2015, 0.1% in 2014, and so on.
Myth 4: Hard climate regulation is not an option
One of the oil industry’s biggest fears regarding climate change is regulation. It is of such importance that BP recently hinted at big oil’s exodus from the EU if climate regulation took effect. Let’s be clear, we are talking about “command-and-control” regulation here, such as pollution limits, and not business-friendly tools such as carbon pricing or market-based quota systems.
There are many commercial reasons why the fossil fuel industry would prefer the latter over the former. Notably, regulation may result in a direct impact on the bottom line of fossil fuel companies given incurred costs. But climate regulation is – in combination with market-based mechanisms – required to address climate change. This is a widely accepted proposition advocated by mainstream economists, NGOs and most governments.
Myth 5: Without cheap fossil fuels, the developing world will stop
Total’s ex-CEO, the late Christoph de Margerie, once remarked: “Without access to energy, there is no development.” Although this is probably true, that this energy must come from fossil fuels is not. Consider, for example, how for 300 days last year Costa Rica relied entirely on renewable energy for its electricity needs. Even China, the world’s biggest polluter, is simultaneously the biggest investor in domestic renewables projects.
As the World Bank has highlighted, in contrast to big oil’s claims about producing more fossil fuels to end poverty, the sad truth is that by burning even the current fossil fuel stockpile, climate change will place millions of people back into poverty. The UN concurs, signalling that climate change will result in reduced crop yields, more waterborne diseases, higher food prices and greater civil unrest in developing parts of the world.
Myth 6: Big oil must be involved in climate policy-making
Fossil fuel companies insist that their involvement in climate policy-making is necessary, so much so that they have become part of the wallpaper at international environmental conferences. This neglects that fossil fuels are, in fact, a pretty large part of the problem. Big oil attends international environmental conferences for two reasons: lobbying and self-promotion.
Some UN organisations already recognise the risk of corporations hijacking the policy-making process. The World Health Organisation, for instance, forbids the tobacco industry from attending its conferences. The UN’s climate change arm, the UNFCCC, should take note.
Myth 7: Nature can and must be “tamed” to address climate change
If you mess with mother nature, she bites back. As scientists reiterate, natural systems are complex, unpredictable, and even hostile when disrupted. Climate change is a prime example. Small changes in the chemical makeup of the atmosphere may have drastic implications for Earth’s inhabitants.
Fossil fuel companies reject that natural systems are fragile – as evidenced by their expansive operations in ecologically vulnerable areas such as the Arctic. The “wild” aspect of nature is considered something to be controlled and dominated. This myth merely serves as a way to boost egos. As independent scientist James Lovelock wrote, “The idea that humans are yet intelligent enough to serve as stewards of the Earth is among the most hubristic ever.”
Right now, it’s Bitcoin. But in the past we’ve had dotcom stocks, the 1929 crash, 19th-century railways and the South Sea Bubble of 1720. All these were compared by contemporaries to “tulip mania”, the Dutch financial craze for tulip bulbs in the 1630s. Bitcoin, according some sceptics, is “tulip mania 2.0”.
Why this lasting fixation on tulip mania? It certainly makes an exciting story, one that has become a byword for insanity in the markets. The same aspects of it are constantly repeated, whether by casual tweeters or in widely read economics textbooks by luminaries such as John Kenneth Galbraith.
Tulip mania was irrational, the story goes. Tulip mania was a frenzy. Everyone in the Netherlands was involved, from chimney-sweeps to aristocrats. The same tulip bulb, or rather tulip future, was traded sometimes 10 times a day. No one wanted the bulbs, only the profits – it was a phenomenon of pure greed. Tulips were sold for crazy prices – the price of houses – and fortunes were won and lost. It was the foolishness of newcomers to the market that set off the crash in February 1637. Desperate bankrupts threw themselves in canals. The government finally stepped in and ceased the trade, but not before the economy of Holland was ruined.
Yes, it makes an exciting story. The trouble is, most of it is untrue.
My years of research in Dutch archives while working on a book, Tulipmania: Money, Honor and Knowledge in the Dutch Golden Age, told me a different story. It was just as illuminating, but it was different.
Tulip mania wasn’t irrational. Tulips were a newish luxury product in a country rapidly expanding its wealth and trade networks. Many more people could afford luxuries – and tulips were seen as beautiful, exotic, and redolent of the good taste and learning displayed by well-educated members of the merchant class. Many of those who bought tulips also bought paintings or collected rarities like shells.
Prices rose, because tulips were hard to cultivate in a way that brought out the popular striped or speckled petals, and they were still rare. But it wasn’t irrational to pay a high price for something that was generally considered valuable, and for which the next person might pay even more.
Tulip mania wasn’t a frenzy, either. In fact, for much of the period trading was relatively calm, located in taverns and neighbourhoods rather than on the stock exchange. It also became increasingly organised, with companies set up in various towns to grow, buy, and sell, and committees of experts emerged to oversee the trade. Far from bulbs being traded hundreds of times, I never found a chain of buyers longer than five, and most were far shorter.
And what of the much-vaunted effect of the plague on tulip mania, supposedly making people with nothing to lose gamble their all? Again, this seems not to have existed. Despite an epidemic going on during 1636, the biggest price rises occurred in January 1637, when plague (mainly a summer disease) was on the wane. Perhaps some people inheriting money had a bit more in their pockets to spend on bulbs.
Prices could be high, but mostly they weren’t. Although it’s true that the most expensive tulips of all cost around 5,000 guilders (the price of a well-appointed house), I was able to identify only 37 people who spent more than 300 guilders on bulbs, around the yearly wage of a master craftsman. Many tulips were far cheaper. With one or two exceptions, these top buyers came from the wealthy merchant class and were well able to afford the bulbs. Far from every chimneysweep or weaver being involved in the trade, the numbers were relatively small, mainly from the merchant and skilled artisan class – and many of the buyers and sellers were connected to each other by family, religion, or neighbourhood. Sellers mainly sold to people they knew.
When the crash came, it was not because of naive and uninformed people entering the market, but probably through fears of oversupply and the unsustainability of the great price rise in the first five weeks of 1637. None of the bulbs were actually available – they were all planted in the ground – and no money would be exchanged until the bulbs could be handed over in May or June. So those who lost money in the February crash did so only notionally: they might not get paid later. Anyone who had both bought and sold a tulip on paper since the summer of 1636 had lost nothing. Only those waiting for payment were in trouble, and they were people able to bear the loss.
No one drowned themselves in canals. I found not a single bankrupt in these years who could be identified as someone dealt the fatal financial blow by tulip mania. If tulip buyers and sellers appear in the bankruptcy records, it’s because they were buying houses and goods of other people who had gone bankrupt for some reason – they still had plenty of money to spend. The Dutch economy was left completely unaffected. The “government” (not a very useful term for the federal Dutch Republic) did not shut down the trade, and indeed reacted slowly and hesitantly to demands from some traders and city councils to resolve disputes. The provincial court of Holland suggested that people talk it out among themselves and try to stay out of the courts: no government regulation here.
Why have these myths persisted? We can blame a few authors and the fact they were bestsellers. In 1637, after the crash, the Dutch tradition of satirical songs kicked in, and pamphlets were sold making fun of traders. These were picked up by writers later in the 17th century, and then by a late 18th-century German writer of a history of inventions, which had huge success and was translated into English. This book was in turn plundered by Charles Mackay, whose Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds of 1841 has had huge and undeserved success. Much of what Mackay says about tulip mania comes straight from the satirical songs of 1637 – and it is repeated endlessly on financial websites, in blogs, on Twitter, and in popular finance books like A Random Walk down Wall Street. But what we are hearing are the fears of 17th-century people about a 17th-century situation.
It was not actually the case that newcomers to the market caused the crash, or that foolishness and greed overtook those who traded in tulips. But this, and the possible social and cultural changes stemming from massive shifts in the distribution of wealth, were fears then and are fears now. Tulip mania gets brought up again and again, as a warning to investors not to be stupid, or to stay away from what some might call a good thing. But tulip mania was a historical event in a historical context, and whatever it is, Bitcoin is not tulip mania 2.0.
With permission from
Sept 1, 2017
The ceremony of vaccination is a rite of passage for the child.
Jon Rappoport, Guest
In many past articles, I’ve taken apart the so-called science of vaccines and shown how deceptive it is. Here I take another approach: examining the archetypes and symbols that surround vaccination and give it occult power.
Begun as a crude version of homeopathy (“treat like with like”), in which a mild injected version of a disease would supposedly protect against the actual disease, vaccination soon developed into a military outpost, with the commander ordering the appearance of his scouts: antibodies. “Line up men, now hunt!”
Today, as a revival of ancient symbology, vaccination is a conferred seal, a sign of moral righteousness. It’s a mark on the arm, signifying tribal inclusion. No tribe member is left out. Inclusion by vaccination protects against invisible spirits (viruses).
The notion of the tribe is enforced by dire predictions of pandemics: the spirits of other tribes (from previously unknown hot zones in jungles) are attacking the good tribe, our tribe.
Mothers, the keepers of the children, are given a way to celebrate their esteemed, symbolic, animal role as “lionesses”: confer the seal on their offspring through vaccination. Protect the future of the tribe. Speak out and defame and curse the mothers who don’t vaccinate their children. Excommunicate them from the tribe.
The ceremony of vaccination is a rite of passage for the child. He/she is now more than the offspring of the parents. The child is in the village. The child is property of the village. As the years pass, periodic booster shots reconfirm this status.
Some ancient rituals presented dangers. The child, on his way to becoming a man, would be sent out to live alone in the forest for a brief period and survive. Vaccination symbolizes this in a passive way: the injection of disease-viruses which might be harmful are transmuted into protective spirits in the body. The injection of toxic chemicals is a passageway into immunity. If a child is damaged in the process, the parents and the tribe consider it a tragic but acceptable risk, because on the whole the tribe and the village are protected against the evil spirits (viruses).
The psychological and occult and archetypal impact of vaccination is key: modern parents are given the opportunity to feel, on a subconscious level, a return to older times, when life was more bracing and immediate and vital. That is the mythology. Modern life, for basic consumers, has fewer dimensions—but vaccination awakens sleeping memories of an age when ritual and ceremony were essential to the future of the group. No one would defect from these moments. Refusal was unthinkable. Survival was All. The mandate was powerful. On a deep level, parents today can experience that power. It is satisfying.
The doctor giving the injections is, of course, the priest of the tribe, the medicine man, the holder of secrets. He is the spiritual source of, and connection to, “unseen realms” where opposing spirits carry out warfare and struggle for supremacy. Without the medicine man, the tribe would disintegrate.
The medicine man is permitted to say and do anything. He can tell lies if lies serve a noble purpose and effect greater strength of the tribe. He can manipulate language and truth and meaning. He can turn day into night. He can present paradox and contradiction. No one can question his pronouncements.
Loyalty to the medicine man is absolute. In this regard, a rebel is exiled or destroyed.
People living today in industrial and technological societies are relatively numb. Their options and choices seem confined to a range of products they can buy. They yearn for absolutes. They want a command that taps into the adrenaline-stimulating need for, and risk to, survival. The ritual of vaccination, along with the ever-present threat of illness and outbreak and pandemic, awakens that need and risk.
Modern parents need archetypes and symbols of demon spirits. Viruses. Ebola, Zika, West Nile, SARS, Swine Flu. These spirits are unseen. They could attack. They do attack.
“We must go the medicine man for the ritual. He will put the seal of protection on us and our children. We must never question or challenge the medicine man. That is forbidden. He is proud and powerful and he could bring down curses on us.”
Then there are the shameful marks, which are to be avoided in every way possible. A child who shows the rashes and swellings of illnesses is highly suspect. Did he not participate in the protective ritual? Are his parents evil? Are they possessed? Should the child and his parents be shunned? Will the medicine man help them or lay an irreversible curse on them for defecting?
Subconsciously and archetypally, the “modern science of vaccination” is doctrine. It is alchemy. It is magic. Going against the magic is tantamount to trying to overturn the very basis of life in the tribe.
In the extreme view, rebels are carriers of evil spirits (viruses). They are infectors. They transmit evil spirits throughout the tribe and the village. They cause people to fall ill and die. Yes, the medicine man is doing all he can to protect his people (through vaccination), but this is war. Nothing is guaranteed. The evil spirits are arrayed against the medicine man. We must help him and bolster his power and advantage. We have our role to play. He is the hero. Cling to the hero. Praise him.
In the fullness of time, do whatever we can to increase his glory. He is engaged in an occult struggle on levels we cannot hope to fathom. On our behalf. In the tribe.
His many remedies (incomprehensible to us) are walking a fine line. Because of their power, they have risks (side effects). These risks are numerous. Every night in collective meetings (television ads), we are told of the numerous problems that could arise (ask your doctor if X is right for you). But the impact of hearing these warnings is extremely positive, because we feel the danger, and feeling the danger is what we need and want, because, again, we are in a war against the evil spirits—and the sensation of risk is preferable to feeling nothing. Give us more warnings, and let us experience a return to ancient days when we lived on the edge of extinction and knew the blood coursing through our veins was alive.
It takes a village. We are the tribe. We are the warriors.
The needle is the magic transmitter. The plunger of the syringe is the force. The fluid in the syringe is the alchemical transformer. Be silent in their presence. Accept their mysterious grace.
Jon Rappoport is the author of three explosive collections, THE MATRIX REVEALED, EXIT FROM THE MATRIX, and POWER OUTSIDE THE MATRIX, Jon was a candidate for a US Congressional seat in the 29th District of California. He maintains a consulting practice for private clients, the purpose of which is the expansion of personal creative power. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, he has worked as an investigative reporter for 30 years, writing articles on politics, medicine, and health for CBS Healthwatch, LA Weekly, Spin Magazine, Stern, and other newspapers and magazines in the US and Europe. Jon has delivered lectures and seminars on global politics, health, logic, and creative power to audiences around the world. You can sign up for his free emails at NoMoreFakeNews.com or OutsideTheRealityMachine.
A new report confirms how the rich become deluded about their talents, but also hints at a growing acknowledgement of inequality.
Halford Mackinder Professor of Geography, University of Oxford
May 5, 2017
The UK suffers from the highest levels of income inequality in Europe – partly because of the delusions of its rich. In countries where the rich have less, they tend to be less delusional, about themselves, about other people, about what is possible, and about why some become rich.
In the UK, it is unsurprising to read that an investment banker thinks £100m is a lot of money but “not a ridiculous amount of money”. In a report in The Guardian newspaper this week, we also heard that one particular banker is “fairly confident” that a driven and passionate individual could “start from zero and get to £100m within 20 years”.
However, there is hope. In the research report that kicked off this latest set of news stories, Katharina Hecht from the London School of Economics and Political Science found that one third of her sample of extremely rich people working in the City of London agreed that “the government should reduce income differences”. The sample is extremely small and this subset of the very rich has not been asked similar questions before, but what they say chimes with reports from the US last year which implied attitudes among the extremely wealthy are beginning to change.
In 2016 in New York, 50 millionaires wrote to the state’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, asking him to increase their taxes because they thought economic inequalities had grown too high. The group included Abigail Disney, granddaughter of Walt Disney, and Steven Rockefeller, a fourth-generation member of that very wealthy family. The offspring of the rich at least know they did not bring in their riches, let alone create them out of thin air.
In truth, no one creates wealth out of the ether as the mythic phrase “wealth creator” suggests. Most wealth is appropriated from others, not made. Wealth can grow but only when it is well shared, not corralled into the hands of a few. Wealth growth rates are highest in countries that are more equitable than their neighbours.
Four years after the great financial crash, Michael Lewis, one of the most successful people ever to write about the financial industry tried to explain to a group of Princeton University graduates why most of his own and his audience’s success would be down to luck. The author of The Big Short and Moneyball told them that the odds would just be tipped a little in their favour if they were born with a silver spoon in their mouth:
People really don’t like to hear success explained away as luck – especially successful people. As they age, and succeed, people feel their success was somehow inevitable. They don’t want to acknowledge the role played by accident in their lives. There is a reason for this: the world does not want to acknowledge it either.
The world Lewis was talking about was not the whole world, but the world as seen by the elites in unequal countries. By “world” he really meant “America”, and in particular he was talking about the “American Dream” – the idea that anyone can make it if they try hard enough and are talented enough, no matter how economically unequal the society is they are competing in.
The American dream is a myth, just like the London investment banker’s fantasy. Those who make money are often not very talented at all. They were just lucky at the right points in their lives. They might have worked hard and often are driven and greedy, but thousands of others will have worked as hard as them, been just as greedy as them, and not consistently struck it lucky. Most often, those who make money had money given to them in the first place, through inheritance that increased their chances; but it is always down to luck. Don’t believe the myth of the nice, kind, gifted, self-made entrepreneur.
We live in a world in which those who have got to the top have got there not out of great merit, but because they often had a few unfair advantages to start with, such as being born male, white and rich, because they had many lucky breaks on the way up, and often because they were willing to stamp on others’ chances as they rose. The human world does not consist of just a few superior beings able enough to do the key things that need doing, and a lumpen mass of inferior beings who could never do these things and so should be penalised appropriately.