by lizard

This is serious. I’m afraid if exposed to dangerous propaganda, like Dr. Seuss’s Anti-Business-Commie-Tree-Hugger character, the Lorax, our children could be turned into little eco-terrorists.

(I hope Bob Duringer is aware of this threat, and acts accordingly).

Exhibit A is a 6 minute clip in which Severn Cullis-Suzuki, at the age of 12, addresses the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The clip is called “The Girl Who Silenced the World for 6 Minutes”. I watched it for the first time today. If this doesn’t get you, then you’re hopeless.

Rolling Stone put out this pieces by Jeff Goodell in September. Here’s how it opens:

When Barack Obama won the Democratic nomination for president in 2008, he declared that future generations would remember it as “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal. More than three years later, the oceans are still rising and our planet has done more howling – in the form of extreme weather – than healing. In fact, the current political climate is actually headed in the wrong direction: The most heated talk in Washington right now is not about reducing carbon pollution or expanding renewable energy, but whether to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency.

Yeah, and here in Missoula, the heated talk is how people with concerns about UM’s proposed biomass boiler affecting air quality in this inversion-prone valley are low-level eco-terrorists.

It would appear that in the face of substantive opposition, both the Obama administration and the UM administration decided to take the same coward’s path of stalling with more studies to minimize the threat to an aquifer and our local air quality.

As a 12 year old in 1992, Severn cut through all the bullshit and publicly indicted the adult world for, essentially, criminal malfeasance.

19 years later, the resonance of her speech has only intensified.

  1. d.g.

    One person in this town of 80-some-thousand has challenged Morgan Valliant, Conservation Lands Manager, on his plan to absolutely eradicate (his term) the Norway maple trees—arguably the single most carbon-sequestering species in the valley. Citing “biodiversity” (appropriate to wilderness but not high-density urban areas) and the maple trees’ threat thereto, Mr. Valliant refuses to address the fact that, with pine bark beetle, increased automobile traffic and decreased wooded areas, these oxygen-producing trees are vital to our oxygen-rich air. Most Missoulians believe our air arrives in organic burlap sacks from the Oregon coast, is received at the Good Food Store and released in a celebration of goodwill at the farmers’ markets. One person in a town of 80-some-thousand has questioned the wisdom of creating a forty-year deficit in the urban forests’ ability to process CO2 simply because a maple was found growing in the gully above the International School. It seems we should not only be protecting our air from the potential pollution of a biomass burner but also be protecting the oxygen component of that same air by leaving mature trees in place.

  2. Ingemar Johansson

    I wouldn’t be selling the beach house yet.

    “But if there is one scientist who knows more about sea levels than anyone else in the world it is the Swedish geologist and physicist Nils-Axel Mörner, formerly chairman of the INQUA International Commission on Sea Level Change. And the uncompromising verdict of Dr Mörner, who for 35 years has been using every known scientific method to study sea levels all over the globe, is that all this talk about the sea rising is nothing but a colossal scare story.

    Despite fluctuations down as well as up, “the sea is not rising,” he says. “It hasn’t risen in 50 years.” If there is any rise this century it will “not be more than 10cm (four inches), with an uncertainty of plus or minus 10cm”. And quite apart from examining the hard evidence, he says, the elementary laws of physics (latent heat needed to melt ice) tell us that the apocalypse conjured up by
    Al Gore and Co could not possibly come about.

    The reason why Dr Mörner, formerly a Stockholm professor, is so certain that these claims about sea level rise are 100 per cent wrong is that they are all based on computer model predictions, whereas his findings are based on “going into the field to observe what is actually happening in the real world”.”

  3. I guess I’m a hopeless son-of-a-bitch, then. I see almost no value in the opinions of a 13 year old kid who barely has had the time to learn how to chew her food properly. She’s not a voice, she’s a prop.

    There is merit to environmental arguments. There’s no merit in an appeal to emotion spoon fed to a kid who really hasn’t had time to learn enough to even think about the complexities of the world.

  4. JC

    Dave, you might want to look into Severn Suzuki before you lambast her. She’s 32, and that video of her at 12 was just the beginning of what looks to be a distinguished career. Go take a look at her portfolio at YouTube.

    Hardly what I’d call the work of “a prop.” You’ve got kids, Dave. Don’t you celebrate their accomplishments?

    • I’m glad she followed her ideals. That still doesn’t make the opinion of the 13 year old any more valuable. She was a prop then and she used that celebrity to develop a reputation.

      Yes, I have kids and grandkids. If I ever spoon feed them libertarian ideals and put them in public please shoot me.

      • JC

        “she used that celebrity to develop a reputation”

        Isn’t that at the heart of american (or canadian) entrepreneurism? Does it make any difference if it is a 13 year-old?

        ANd I don’t really think we know that she was spoon fed the material in her speech. Maybe she just was just a bright and motivated student doing her research?

        As to spoon feeding our kids, is it ok to spoon feed them our ideologies, even if we don’t put them in public places? And at what age is it appropriate for kids to make public their thoughts?

        fwiw, I’m always wondering how, and surprised that, my kids grew up and dealt with my ideologies. I just hope no one shoots me for what they may eventually come to say…

        • Look, I have no idea how she came to her conclusions but I’ll bet you any amount you want she didn’t figure out her positions by rigorous study of science and economics. Someone, a parent, a teacher, and older sibling, embeded in her those beliefs. There was not one single idea in her speech that couldn’t have been found elsewhere. She was afforded her celebrity because, at most, she could construct a speech using the ideas of others and was poised at and early age to deliver it. I can’t find any genius in that nor any reason to expect it has any value in providing solutions.

          As for her exploiting her celebrity, more power to her. I’m simply not not going to feed the monkey.

          As for spoon feeding our kids, I’m sure I’m as guilty as anyone except that I don’t give lessons to my kids on my ideology unless A) they ask or B) I have to disabuse them of some horseshit that comes out of their mouths. And I’m pretty careful to put up what I consider the more legitimate arguments that are contrary to my ideology in order to let them know where I might be wrong. But for whatever libertarian ideals they’ve gotten from me they’ve most liked gotten through osmosis from having a father radical enough that my contempt for authority isn’t an opinion but a lifestyle.

  5. Ingemar Johansson

    Obama going to change the world.

  6. ladybug


    Shoot the messenger. What about the message?

    Applying your criteria — rigorous study of science and economics — still places this girl head and shoulders above most adult Americans spewing public opinions about most any topic imaginable. If she isn’t speaking truth, well, I’d like to hear about that. Attacking her age is an irrelevant distraction.

    • Seems to me that is a double standard. She is being celebrated because of her age and not that her message is special in the context of the debate.

      I’m not shooting the messenger. I’m saying there is no new message in what she says and, somehow, the message is validated because of her age. That’s nonsense.

  7. Matthew Koehler

    A bit of good news for those who value clean air in Missoula and are opposed to wasting taxpayer dollars.

    UM biomass project on hold as natural gas prices dip

    For the first time since natural gas prices began to dip, the fate of the University of Montana’s proposed woody-biomass gasification plant is clear: the project is on hold.

    “It’s not financially viable at this time,” said Rosi Keller, UM associate vice president for administration and finance. “We won’t move forward until it is.”

  8. lizard19

    her age is important, because it’s a main feature of her indictment of the adults who are making the decisions that will affect her future and her children’s future.

    and it’s brilliant, because rhetorically she’s using the lessons we try to teach our children to show how hypocritical adults are.

    and it got me thinking that maybe we, as parents, are doing a disservice to our children by teaching them to share, or to say sorry when you hurt someone, or tell them not to lie, or steal.

    if we want to prepare them for “the real world” we may need to change the lessons.

    let’s start telling our kids that getting ahead and doing the right thing are incompatible. let’s tell them people in our country are more important than other people, like Pakistani soldiers, and if we accidently kill a dozen of them, apologizing would just be a sign of weakness.

    let’s tell them how important popularity contests are (elections), and it’s okay to lie in order to win, because winning is everything.

    is that what we should be teaching our kids?

    • Whatever straw man you want to march out, I just don’t buy that she wasn’t promoted to be a sympathetic shill. We’ll just have to agree to disagree.

    • And, please, don’t get me wrong here. Whenever I see someone on the right march out “conservative” high school kids and laud their wisdom I have the same the reaction. I find it little more than showbiz.

      • lizard19

        i don’t disagree with you. our kids shouldn’t pretend they have original thoughts, because they don’t. they’re just little robots parroting the crap we feed their heads.

        maybe our kids should stop wasting their time with how things should be, or could be. they might as well start dealing with the world as it is; full of death, hatred, and misery.

        • And full of love, opportunity and plenty.

          You Malthusians are just so depressing. I recommend you spend some time reading Julian Simon. He may be wrong too but at least it will give you some balance as you despair over the pending end of mankind.

          • lizard19

            Dave, I posted that clip of this young girl because despite my cynical posturing, I do have hope that our kids are capable of becoming better human beings than those who are in positions of power, making the self-serving decisions that are perpetuating death, hatred, and misery.

            this girl may be getting used as a prop, I agree with that, but that doesn’t invalidate the message.

          • I never said it did. And I too want our kids to grow up to be thinking, responsible and contributing members of society.

            I don’t see how anything I’ve said here has anything to do with that.

            • lizard19

              you assigned “almost no value in the opinions of a 13 year old kid who barely has had the time to learn how to chew her food properly.

              you are making major assumptions based on nothing but you’re own arrogant speculation on what this young girl has done to arrive at this moment in her life back in 1992.

              I’m curious Dave, at what point does a young person become a thinking, responsible and contributing member of society?

            • When I hear something that has actual insight.

  9. ladybug

    Thanks for adding some relevance and substance to this mostly vapid dialogue. UM may come to its senses yet.

    Putting age aside for a moment, what do you think of the message? I am open to all economic and scientific support you can muster. And please, leave Simon’s academic views on “free-market environmentalism” out of this. I find his arbitrary exclusion of the cost of “externalities” a glaring flaw in his theses. These accounting errors indeed avoid real monetary and non-commodity social and fiscal government costs when its time for taxpayers to pick up tha tab for remediation and cleanup. My examples would be Libby and Butte. In the case cited above, Missoula is expected to ignore UM’s pollution and associated health risk so the jiggered numbers can justify switching from natural gas to wood.

  10. Well, seems to me you’re simply changing the subject.

    But, I would say that, from a libertarian perspective, a mechanism to manage the commons is both appropriate and necessary insofar as ownership of the commons cannot be fairly divided for private ownership. The problem, of course, is the way in which the usage of common goods is determined. (BTW, I’m not nearly as interested in Simon’s environmental thinking as I am his resource utilization thinking.) I’m most intrigued by the work of last years economics Nobel winner, Elinor Ostrom, on stakehold participation on issues of managing public goods and I think we need to think more about Coase Theory as well.

    The remedy for situations like Libby and Butte should be available in a robust tort system. You’ll not hear libertarians call for tort limitations as a general rule and operating companies should be held to account for damage to the commons.

    As far as Missoula is concerned I generally agree that the switch to wood fuel is bad. I’m with you on it.

    But at the end of the day I’m no expert and, as always, I could be wrong.

    • JC

      This sort of reasoning for switching to biomass is insane:

      “It’s much less controversial among the student body than with the community,” said Zach Brown, a 21-year-old environmental studies major.

      Brown wants to see power generated locally, which is why he supports UM’s proposal to burn upward of 16,000 tons of biomass trucked in from local forests. UM currently imports natural gas, which means the side effects of drilling and hydraulic fracturing are left for others to clean up.

      While switching to biomass in some cases would increase emissions in Missoula’s air shed above the level of natural gas, Brown thinks forcing consumers to have to deal with these issues may change their habits.

      “If those side effects were in our faces, we may question our level of energy consumption,” he said.

      So: let’s make the air dirtier, so that hopefully people would start figuring out they have to use less energy. I guess if you’re a student who’s only going to be in MIssoula for a few years, that may be a fun attitude to take. But for those who have to breath it as long as they choose to live in town, that’s the stoopidest thing I’ve heard coming from a UM student in a long time. ANd an EVST student at that!

      Guess old Zach Brown hasn’t had a chance to listen to Severin Suzuki yet…

  11. ladybug

    most While punitive tort awards may prevent some future damages, it is more often an after-the-fact, partial remedy. Unfortunately, polluters causing the most damage today have successfully insulated themselves from standards enforcement with legislative exemptions, or through rampant agency bias and indifference. Today most bureaucrats fear each and every U.S. Senator, most of whom love nothing more than micro-managing budgets and programs in their respective states. I am guessing these “market distortions” alone are big enough to make Coase Theory, and Free-Market Environmentalism pretty hard to apply in real-world applications.

    Thank you for your thoughts.

  12. But don’t we see that, in some cases, the regulatory regime sets standards by which polluters can avoid paying damages. For example, there are far more examples of drug companies being held harmless because their tests were “up to regulatory standards”?

    I think we have to consider that poorly designed regulation is also an externality that prevents more efficient cost distribution through the courts.

    And you may be right about Coase Theory – which is why I said that we need to consider it more.

  13. JC

    “You’ll not hear libertarians call for tort limitations as a general rule”

    Sure Dave. But I guess when libertarians have a self-interest in tort reform, they’ll make exceptions. Like Rand Paul, the doctor Rand Paul that is, calling for tort reform and caps on medical liability lawsuits:

    “Enacting real tort reform so that trial lawyers don’t continue to drive up healthcare costs.”

    Guess he didn’t get the memo.

    • Wow, you have a gotcha moment! Is Rand Paul the voice of libertarian ideology? The folks at Reason, Cato, Independence Institute, The Pacific Institute all object to tort limits. I don’t think we have to give a shit about Rand Paul as a great libertarian thinker.

      • JC

        How many libertarians are in the senate, Dave? Paul pushed his libertarian leanings to gain support from that base in order to get elected.

        As I said, when self interest becomes involved, even the most ardent libertarian may engage in protective behavior. Or do you guys reject that you have a libertarian voice in the senate because it isn’t “pure” according to the think tanks?

        And I never said that Paul was either a great thinker or the voice of libertarian ideology. Just a case in point where self interest can trump ideology.

        • No, I think we’ll take all the help we can get. But we also know the difference between good thinkers and convenient allies. All I’m saying is that on this issue Rand Paul contradicts conventional libertarian theory. Thus, your attempt to discredit the ideology by holding a politician as the voice of an ideology isn’t convincing that libertarians change their principles with their economic interests.

          • JC

            I wasn’t attempting to discredit the ideology. Just showing that human ambition or necessity can trump any ideology.

          • I don’t think you can assume that of Paul’s position. What if he’s just wrong on the issue?

            But let me see your bet and raise you that not only are tort limits anti-libertarian. federal tort limits are also anti-federalist. This issue is getting a lot of push back from both libertarians and conservative (icluding Rob Natelson) and has been termed by leading libertarian Constitutional scholar Randy Barnett as “Fair Weather Federalism.” For what ever support there now is for tort limits they are at the State level by the conservative elite and the Federal issue is, I think DOA. And I hope the libertarians drown the notion in the bath tub. But I’m not holding my breath.

  14. ladybug

    Right, Dave. “Regulatory capture” is rampant in most agencies, which is why I tend to rail against lobbyists less than government bureaucrats trapped between politicians and lobbyists who fund their very existence. Weak standards seldom suffer from insufficient scientific knowledge, but can usually be traced directly back to political interference, or special-interest ideology, or both.

    Rand Paul is a Republican, and quite the authoriarian based on what he has said publicly. I don’t see the libertarian connection. Rep. Ron Paul, another Republican, has expressed some pretty solid libertarian views on the Fed, and American foreign policy.

    • We have no dispute that the problems of regulatory capture are manifold but I think we fail to look at how that inculcates against the proper distribution of justice through the courts. We really hear very little discussion on that point – which I think is huge. But I don’t think you disagree. I just wanted to make the point more specifically.

  15. Matthew Koehler

    Last fall, when news broke that the University of Montana was planning to construct a $16 million wood-burning biomass plant on campus, the WildWest Institute got together with some retired UM professors and University neighborhood homeowners and began researching the proposal.

    It quickly became apparent that many important questions and concerns were going unanswered by UM officials, some of whom seemed to favor running a PR campaign over a transparent, open public process. So, to get to the bottom of what was really happening, we conducted an open records search of UM’s biomass project file, which included pouring over hundreds of electronic communications between UM officials and biomass company executives.

    What became so clear and so very troubling is that much of what we discovered in these internal documents turned out to be the exact opposite of what UM officials were telling the public.

    For example, we turned up documents showing that the wood-burning biomass plant would actual increase emissions, pollution and particulate matter over the existing natural gas system. In fact, as was later reported in the Missoulian, UM’s wood-burning biomass plant would release the emissions equivalent of roughly 130 woodstoves burning on campus.

    Anyone living in Missoula knows all too well about our poor air quality and fragile airshed. The American Lung Association has regularly given Missoula County an F-grade in their annual “State of the Air” report, although this spring we were upgraded to a grade of D. An improvement yes, but still nothing to gloat about.

    Especially vulnerable to increased air pollution and particulates are children, the elderly and those living with asthma and reduced respiratory function. This is especially true during the winter months, when nasty inversions and air quality alerts are common in our valley. So think for a moment what a UM biomass plant pumping out the emissions equivalent of 130 woodstoves on campus would look like.

    Equally as troubling was what we uncovered regarding the economics of this project. To put it mildly, it’s been difficult to get an accurate assessment from UM of the biomass plant’s up-front and long-term costs, something all Montana taxpayers deserve. For starters, we noticed in the project file that the cost of the project went from $10 million in April 2010 to $16 million by the end of the year.

    When we carefully combed through UM’s financial pro forma, we also noticed that the biomass plant would need nearly $27 million for additional operation and maintenance expenses over the existing natural gas system during just the first 40 years of operation.

    The pro forma was also troubling in other aspects. It over-estimated the cost of natural gas, while under-estimating the cost of wood fuel trucked to campus. As natural gas prices continued to drop sharply over the past year, UM refused to change their economic analysis to reflect this reality, despite numerous and repeated requests from the public.

    So too, when UM’s attempted to secure bids for wood fuel from timber suppliers this summer, the deadline came and went without a single timber company responding to UM’s request because they could not match UM’s significantly rosy wood fuel cost projections. Again, UM refused to change their economic analysis to reflect this reality.

    Well, yesterday, Christmas came earlier for those who value clean air and not wasting taxpayer dollars in tight economic times. UM President Royce Engstrom took to the podium in Turner Hall to announce that the University of Montana has suspended their wood-burning biomass plant indefinitely.

    President Engstrom cited a number of reasons for suspending the biomass project, which I must point out, are the same issues and concerns that have continually been raised over the past year by WildWest Institute, Alliance for Wild Rockies and a handful of concerned citizens.

    President Engstrom also offered a public apology for the recent statement made by UM Vice President Bob Duringer, in which Mr. Duringer claimed that those of us concerned with aspects of the biomass project were engaged in a “lower level of eco-terrorism.”

    Finally, during the press conference it was also revealed that the University paid over half a million dollars – $541,000 to be exact – to an out-of-state consulting firm for the planning costs associated with this now suspended biomass project. Too bad the University couldn’t turn by the clock and put that half a million dollars towards some tried and true methods of reducing carbon footprints focused on conservation and energy efficiency.

    As a University of Montana alum I’m pleased that UM finally pulled the plug on this wood-burning biomass plant, even if the planning process over the past year involved some unnecessary frustrations, headaches and $541,000.

    At the end of the day, Missoula’s air quality – and Montana taxpayer wallets – were protected. And those are things that are worth standing up for all day, every day.

  16. mr benson

    “which included pouring over hundreds of electronic communications”

    In this context the word should be pore. The usual idiom is “to pore over.” Although “pore through” is also accepted.

    Good thing for writers to “no”.

    “Let’s run off this cliff! It’ll be good for the environment”

    Missoula, students at UM, and taxpayers probably owe you a big “thank you”. I don’t know, I’ve only read your side, and lived in Missoula when all the big mills were going full “steam” (and “smoke”).

    Just one thing. To reduce carbon to levels called for by the Mayors’ Climate change agreements, growing cities either have to reduce our economic level to that of Iran or North Korea, or, we must develop carbon neutral power sources. That is the conundrum. “Tried and true” methods don’t get cities down to the magic number. Not even Boulder got it done, which is why they’re seizing the power company. Some countries or cities with huge hydro or geothermal can have been able to do it, but in America, it’s a tough row to hoe.

    Think of me as Satan, whispering “good job” in your ear.

  17. Chuck

    I want to thank Matthew as well as John S for their huge efforts to stop this grant chasing boondoggle by McKinstry and the U.

  18. ladybug

    A Citizen’s Info link for the groups fighting for Missoula’s air quality would be a nice addition. Thanks for covering this hot potato.

  19. lizard19

    here’s a a humorous comment from “castigate” I read at the Missoulian that mentions us armchair activists here at 4&20:

    Hell, the Grand Irony of this whole soap opera is that Ben Schmidt, Ellen Lehy and some other non-functional, non-entities in the “Greenhouse Gases” committee would have signed on to burning dirty diapers (as long as Schmidt could spin the particulate reports.) Missoula’s environmental advocacy ranges from these aforementioned pretenders (happily depositing their checks two times a month) to our armchair activists (like the group at blogsite 420 Blackbirds) who mouth the lingo to the du-jour litany of consciousness but never actually pick up a placard and protest something as senseless as the eradication of our inner-city maple forests. Sycophants in search of society, all.

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