Monday, August 1, 2011


If China criticised Sweden over Human Rights would you believe them?

Today, 1st of August, there has been a lot of talk about acidification in Sweden. Acid lakes was identified as an environmental problem in the 60's and in the early eighties the Swedish state started bombing lakes with lime, in order to increase their pH.

In the 7.00 morning news, the national radio reported that researchers at the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency had found that pH levels had improved, but still are far from good, in spite of less acid pollution from industries. The study found that lime bombing will have to continue far into the future, in spite of being the most expensive environmental campaign ever in Sweden, the total cost since 1977 is about 400 million EUR.

That must sound scary in libertarian ears, and quite predictably - in the 19.30 news Rapport, the most viewed TV news, reported that researchers from SLU (the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences) had found that a) the natural acidity of our lakes has been undervalued, b) the role of pollution has been over rated c) that lime bombing is unnecessary, or might actually harm some lakes, by bringing their pH level to above normal. "We do not want all lakes to look the same", a long haired fellow explained to the reporter.

In his long hair he looked like the traditional lefty environmentalist, but such a statement is pretty hard to swallow when it comes from an institution that uses state money to propagate for agribusiness. It is an institution that has argued that agribusiness does NOT emit more nitrogen and phosphorous than ecological farming. And that Santa Claus exists... If you look at the kind of agriculture SLU prefers over organic, it consists of large harmful monocultures. For sure, I don't want our lakes to be overly alkalic, but that problem is a very minor one in the context of biodiversity loss.

The situation is a little like if China would criticise Sweden about human rights. No matter where we live, of course, there are things to criticise, Sweden for example has not signed a number of international treaties about the rights of native populations. If such criticism came from Amnesty international, we would take it seriously. But if it came from someone who breaks human rights every day at home, we would expect that something else lies behind. When SLU speaks about biodiversity, you should be equally suspicious.

If you have spent some time reading debates about climate change, you know the script. A scientific truth - that our akes are still acid, is encountered with some study of a minor detail - we have a lacking understanding of the historical acidity in our lakes, that comes with a politically pleasant conclusion - we should not spend money on lime bombing.

It is amazing how the libertarians, who are so critical of post modernism, feminism and queer theories in humanities, have so totally embraced post modernism in science. Theirs is a world where truth exists only in the eye of the beholder, and the perspective can be changed until a politically pleasant truth appears. Outside of the beholders eye is chaos.

But maybe the world is like that? Maybe there are no all encompassing truths to believe in? In some sense there is not, but in cases like these there are two ways to realize whom to believe, the one who argues for lime bombing or the one who argues against.

The first one is to using high school science. An 8th grader should be able to see the flaw in SLU's argument. Acidity is a natural process, that is greatly boosted buy humans burning fossil fuels. As long as we burn fossil fuels, we will have acid lakes. We have managed to limit the impact, but not to prevent it. Which is what was reported in the morning news.

The second way to see who is lying is to look if they put their money where their mouth is. Since money is the measure of all things in this world, those who care about the environment will also be those who propose to spend money on it. Those who argue against such spending care for something else.

So why did the topic of acidification suddenly get so interesting in Sweden? It must be wonderful for the government to have such an institution as SLU. Now they can propose to cut money for lime bombing, and refer to sound science. Whatever the their own Environmental Protection Agency says.

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