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The Delusional Premises of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

AOC has become part of a rich, grasping, intergenerational gang of parasites who build their careers and their bureaucratic empires by spouting racist, quasi-Marxist trash to keep down the people they claim to care about.

“Do we see largely that it’s the global south and communities of color that may be bearing the brunt of the initial havoc from climate change?—Without a doubt.—And in terms of that wealth, the people that are producing climate change, the folks that are responsible for the largest amount of emissions, or communities or corporations, they tend to be predominantly white, correct?—Yes, and every study backs that up.”

—Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Congressional Hearings on Climate and Race, October 2019

Welcome to yet another example of the nexus between climate change alarmism and a socialist redistribution agenda fueled by racial resentment. That may be old news to those of us paying attention, but thanks to birdbrained stooges like U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) the blatant race-baiting rhetoric is being turned up a notch.

And why not? If you’re a socialist, or a globalist, there is only upside to tagging nations of European heritage with guilt for the problems facing their “communities of color,” or the problems in the rest of the non-European world. It would be far too painful to consider the alternative explanation, which is that socialism, in all of its antecedents and derivatives, is the primary cause of the societal afflictions that plague “people of color” both in America and abroad.

Deconstructing Ocasio-Cortez’s convoluted logic isn’t hard intellectually, but the implications are hard indeed, at least for anyone who shares her delusional worldview.

Her arguments rest on three premises that build upon one another, and all of them are easily shattered by hard facts. Those premises are: 1) White racism is pervasive and explains income inequality; 2) climate change is an ongoing catastrophe that primarily harms “people of color”; 3) and socialism is the solution.

To get the most obviously flawed premise out of the way first, examine the plight of “communities of color” both locally and globally. The immediate fact that destroys this premise is the “communities of color” that are prosperous and thriving. Most of East Asia falls into that category. As for the “global south,” Singapore comes to mind. Sitting just one degree north of the equator, it is a sun-drenched, monsoon-swept city, situated in the absolute heart of the tropics.

Singapore’s success comes despite it being a multicultural nation overwhelmingly populated by “people of color,” coping with a supposedly hideous legacy of colonial oppression; its territory is a steaming jungle with no natural resources. Yet it is one of the wealthiest nations on Earth.

You can look to communities within America and make the same myth-busting observations. According to a 2018 Pew Research study, the richest ethnic group in the United States is Indian Americans, with a median household income of just over $100,000 a year. And U.S. Census Bureau data show “the median income for households led by someone of Nigerian ancestry . . . was $68,658 in 2018, compared with $61,937 for U.S. households overall.”

Why do some “communities of color” thrive, outpacing whites in education and income, while others do not? Could it be that the communities that are relatively unsuccessful are not victims of racism? After all, if that were true, why in America are people of Asian, East Indian, and Nigerian descent, along with many other “communities of color,” evidently exempt from the impact of racism?

Could it be that socialism, or its antecedents—welfare, unionized public education, affirmative action, leftist indoctrination, a victim mentality, and the pure, venal corruption that plagues big American cities run by Democrats—have combined to all but destroy these “communities of color?” Destroyed their families. Destroyed their work ethic. Destroyed their faith in themselves, their faith in their community, their faith in America itself? There is no “racism” in any of that.

Or to put it more precisely: in all these policies promoted by or associated with Democrats, there is none of the white, conservative, Republican sort of racism that seems to concern Ocasio- Cortez.

Ocasio-Cortez may look at her reflection in the mirror, and believe herself to be a crusader for social justice and a “green new deal,” but in fact she is becoming part of a rich, grasping, intergenerational gang of parasites who build their careers and their bureaucratic empires by spouting racist, quasi-Marxist trash to keep down the people they claim to care about. Ocasio- Cortez’s predecessors not only have created the poverty they claim they’re fighting, but they also need that poverty the way a virus needs a host.

Beware the Climate Bogeyman

The other flawed premise, fundamental to the socialist goal of global redistribution of wealth, is “climate change,” once known as global warming. The “climate crisis” is the boogeyman that Ocasio- Cortez hopes to ride into the White House with President-elect Joe Biden. Heading up his “climate task force,” she has made demagogic fearmongering in the name of the planet a big part of her act.

But the act is wearing thin. Unlike the far more convenient threat of imminent death from a global pandemic (however overhyped that may or may not be), anyone with an IQ north of room temperature realizes by now that the climate apocalypse deadlines have come and gone, and come and gone, and come and gone.

Why don’t conservatives challenge the scientific theory that anthropogenic CO2 is causing catastrophic climate change? Because the “science is settled” and “science” is sacred? “Science” has become so sacred, in fact, it’s become like an Aztec god that must be appeased. Cut a beating human heart out on the altar of Huītzilōpōchtli. Or throw a human sacrifice into the cauldron of Pele. Or bash in someone’s skull and bury them in a Polynesian pit. The God of Science must never be questioned, and Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez is a high priestess.

This preposterous paradox remains more or less unexamined, that “science” has become weaponized by a gang of green theocrats. But science is no longer science when it is “settled” and is instead used to stifle scientific inquiry, debate, and healthy skepticism.

Just as “racism” does not explain disparate outcomes for people of varying ethnicities, “climate change” is not conclusively demonstrated to be associated with the burning of fossil fuel, and what climate change we do observe is not demonstrated to be catastrophic. In fact, the net effect of increased concentrations of CO2 may be mostly positiveboth for humans and ecosystems.

Climate change policies, misguided and misanthropic, have lowered the credibility of environmentalists at the same time as they have flattened the trajectory of solutions to genuine environmental challenges. Clean up the filthy air in New Delhi, for example. The unhealthy air pollution has nothing to do with CO2, and everything to do with high-sulfur fuel and inadequate exhaust controls. Quit incinerating rainforests to monocrop ethanol from sugar cane and diesel fuel from palm oil. Quit asphyxiating women across the global south who have to cook with wood because natural gas is not “carbon neutral.” Quit pouring finite resources into crony green corporate boondoggles.

Socialism’s Dangerous Deceptions

Finally, to shatter the core premise of the Left: socialism obviously is not the cure for racism, nor is it the cure for economic inequality. Ocasio-Cortez is invited to identify one nation or society, today or throughout history, where socialism delivered freedom, prosperity and social justice. She’ll find instead a hideous legacy of tyranny, poverty, and murder. Those wonderful Scandinavian economies, held up as examples, do not qualify. They are mixed capitalist economies with (until recently) culturally homogeneous populations. They don’t count. They’re not socialist.

Capitalism, despite its flaws, and requiring judicious regulation, is the only system that can provide anything like equal opportunity. But it cannot provide equal outcomes, nor should it. Because without private property, which is guaranteed in a capitalist system, nobody tries, nobody cares, competence doesn’t matter, effort and ability don’t matter; all that matters is who you know and who you bribe. Socialism, at its core, nurtures resentment, cynicism, corruption, dissipation, decay, despair, and despotism. It is a seductive illusion, promising everything in exchange for nothing. Its adherents are a perilous mixture of the evil and the naive.

Alexandria Ocasio Cortez is not evil. She is an ignorant, mostly unwitting demagogue, and she is a puppet. The premises that underlie the world view she promotes—pertaining to racism, socialism, and climate “science”—are dangerous deceptions. They will deliver the most harm to the people their rhetoric says they aim to help the most. All three of these premises must be challenged without apology, without rest, without quarter.

Great America

Plastic Bags and the Recycling and Reuse Scam

Americans are correct to recognize the perils of reusable grocery “tote bags” during this time of heightened disease risk. May they also realize the entire concept of reusable grocery bags is flawed, along with most recycling programs, and adapt accordingly.

Back in 2014, the California Legislature passed Senate Bill 207, which banned grocery stores from offering customers “single-use” carryout bags. Permanent implementation was delayed by a November 2016 voter referendum, Proposition 67, which unsuccessfully attempted to repeal the measure. Today it is well-established law.

The only way SB 207 was sold to the grocery industry was through an incentive that permitted them to keep the 10 cents per “reusable” bag that they would be required to charge customers.

California’s pioneering ban is touted by environmentalists as an example for the nation, and progressive cities and states have enacted similar laws. But in reality, it is a misguided policy that does more harm than good.

Today, instead of reusing the free single-use bags to line their trash cans and dispose of their cat litter, Californians now pay 10 cents every time they exercise that privilege. And how does this help the environment, when reusable plastic bags have 11 to 14 times the mass of disposable plastic bags, and hardly anyone reuses them that many times?

Further evidence of the absurdity of laws banning single-use plastic bags is found in a study commissioned by the United Kingdom’s Environmental Agency, which estimated reusable grocery bags made of cotton fabric to have 131 times greater “global warming potential” than conventional disposable plastic bags.

And now consumers have fewer reasons than ever to reuse their reusable bags, because it turns out they’re germ carriers.

This isn’t new information. Common sense would dictate that when consumers purchase grocery items, and allow them to knock around inside a plastic bag, pathogens will be transferred from the surfaces of the grocery items onto the surface of the bag.

Similarly, when consumers set those bags down, such as on the seat or floor of a bus or subway car, or in a shopping cart that someone else is about to use, any pathogens on that surface or on that bag will transfer back and forth—presumably over and over.

And even among those who reuse these bags more than 11 times, or 14 times, or 131 times, how many people disinfect them, every single time?

A recent article entitled “Greening Our Way to Infection” appearing in City Journal, provides an excellent summary of the disease risks attendant to reusable grocery bags. John Tierney exposes the absurd denial of public health authorities, both before and since the COVID-19 outbreak, to the risks of using reusable grocery bags. He writes:

A headline on the website of the New York Department of Health calls reusable grocery bags a “Smart Choice”—bizarre advice, considering all the elaborate cautions underneath that headline. The department advises grocery shoppers to segregate different foods in different bags; to package meat and fish and poultry in small disposable plastic bags inside their tote bags; to wash and dry their tote bags carefully; to store the tote bags in a cool, dry place; and never to reuse the grocery tote bags for anything but food.

This is the world the green extremists want us to live in. Not only shall we reuse our reusable plastic bags more than eleven times, just to break even on the “carbon footprint” vs. a disposable plastic bag, but we shall “segregate different foods in different bags; to package meat and fish and poultry in small disposable plastic bags inside the tote bags; to wash and dry tote bags carefully; to store tote bags in a cool, dry place; and never to reuse tote bags for anything but food.” And cat litter.

The Irrational Extremes of Recycling and Reuse

While recycling is both profitable and green in certain cases such as with newsprint and aluminum, for most garbage it is neither. Plastics, bags and all, are a compelling example of this. For starters, there is no factual basis for the argument that plastic must be recycled because we may eventually run out of petroleum. This is easily documented.

According to OilPrice.com, in 2012 “plastics production accounted for about 4 percent of global oil production.” Four percent. According to the BP Statistical Review of Global Energy, over the past 20 years, proven oil reserves increased faster than consumption. In 2018, there were 1.7 trillion barrels of proven oil reserves worldwide, up from 1.1 trillion barrels in 1998. Plastic, which can also be made out of natural gas or coal, will never run out of the raw materials required for its manufacture.

As for plastics accumulating in the environment, the ocean in particular, much of it comes from fishing nets. One of the largest accumulations of ocean plastic is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a collection of concentrations of marine debris in the North Pacific Ocean created by ocean currents. According to Sea Shepherd Global, nearly half of the plastic in these areas come from discarded fishing nets, and “more than 70% of marine animal entanglements involve abandoned plastic fishing nets.”

As for the source of ocean plastic coming from sources on land, a report in USA Today cites a study published in the journal Science that estimates 242 million pounds of plastic waste are discharged by Americans into the oceans each year, and that the total discharge of plastic waste into the oceans, worldwide, is between 8 to 12 million tons.

A quick, somewhat innumerate read of those numbers might incline one to believe that America is the prime offender, but that would be wrong. Once pounds are converted into tons, it turns out that plastic waste from America, at most, constitutes only 1.5 percent of the plastic trash currently going into the world’s oceans.

This is where it becomes problematic to focus on recycling and reuse, rather than containment in landfills. Because even in America, it is a costly indulgence to recycle most of the waste stream. To emphasize recycling in developing nations is futility. The scarce economic resources of developing nations in Africa and Asia would instead be much better used to develop landfills.

There is No Shortage of Landfill Capacity

One of the earliest serious intellectual revolts against the modern recycling industry came in an in-depth 1996 essay in the New York Times Magazine entitled “Recycling is Garbage.” Authored by the same John Tierney who recently joined City Journal after more than two decades as a reporter and columnist with the New York Times, it exposes how misguided environmentalism and government subsidies corrupted the waste management industry.

In his 1996 essay, Tierney described how environmentalist journalists and activists convinced the nation that if something wasn’t done, and soon, Americans were destined to be “buried alive” under the mountain of trash they were creating. He explained that most materials in garbage are not worth recycling, but that politicians are now afraid to oppose recycling. He explained that modern landfills are now required by federal law to be “lined with clay and plastic, equipped with drainage and gas-collection systems, covered daily with soil and monitored regularly for underground leaks,” but the perception remains that opening new landfills will poison the local populace.

Nearly 25 years later, for most Americans, all of these misconceptions still constitute conventional wisdom. The biggest misconception of all is the claim that there is no room left in America’s landfills. Today more than ever, there are plenty of alarmist reports making that claim.

From Waste Business Journal: “Time is Running Out: The U.S. Landfill Capacity Crisis.” From Global Citizen: “Where Will The Trash Go When All the US Landfills Are Full?” Perhaps the biggest scare story of all appears on the website “How Stuff Works,” where they visualize what America’s roughly 258 million tons of municipal solid waste each year would look like if it was dumped onto one pile, year after year for 100 years. The estimate takes into account a doubling of the U.S. population over this hypothetical century, apparently assuming the annual waste flow would also double during that period as well.

If you keep filling up this landfill for 100 years, and if you assume that during this time the population of the United States doubles, then the landfill will cover about 160,000 acres, or 250 or so square miles, with trash 400 feet deep. Here’s another way to think about it. The Great Pyramid in Egypt is 756 feet by 756 feet at the base and is 481 feet tall, and anyone who has seen it in real life knows that it’s a huge thing—one of the biggest things ever built by man. If you took all the trash that the United States would generate in 100 years and piled it up in the shape of the Great Pyramid, it would be about 32 times bigger. So the base of this trash pyramid would be about 4.5 miles by 4.5 miles, and the pyramid would rise almost 3 miles high.

That sounds like an awful lot of garbage, and an awful burden on the land and the people. But it isn’t. Compared to the size of the lower 48 states, compared to the size of America’s urban areas, compared to the area of America’s reservoirs, or mines, or the footprint of its freeways; compared to pretty much any other major category of American infrastructure, it is negligible. To counter the scope insensitivity of the average American journalist, here are some calculations:

A “trash pyramid” 4.5 miles by 4.5 miles, rising three miles high, if it were to be poured into America’s roughly 2,000 active landfills, would require each of those landfills to accommodate 100 vertical feet of garbage, over a surface area of 341 acres. Altogether, these 2,000 landfills would consume about 1,066 square miles of land. Notwithstanding the fact that some landfills are designed to accommodate up to 500 vertical feet of trash, or the fact that parks and other amenities are often built on the top of landfills once they reach capacity, 1,066 miles is a trivial amount of land compared to other impacts of human civilization.

For example, America’s lower 48 states occupy 3.1 million square miles. This means that if by 2120, 650 million Americans were still producing the same per-capita quantities of garbage that they produce in today’s throw-away society, those 1,066 square miles of landfills would only occupy 0.03 percent of the available land. America’s urban areas consume just over 100,000 square miles; these hypothetical landfills only increase that by one percent.

Just America’s 10 largest reservoirs occupy 2,670 square miles; the entirety of America’s reservoir inventory would occupy a far larger area. America’s open pit and surface mines occupy thousands of square miles as well, and if America is to innovate its way into the electric age, rare earth mining will increase that footprint. As for America’s 46,000 miles of interstate highways, even at a conservative estimated average width of 300 feet, taking into account all interchanges and not counting all the other national and local roads, these interstates consume 2,600 square miles.

Civilization Requires Tough Choices

The evidence supporting containment in landfills versus recycling is unambiguous. Last month in National Review, Kyle Smith pointed out not only the excessive cost of recycling but reminded us that it’s a good time for a fundamental reassessment of our waste management policies.

“It costs $300 more to recycle a ton of trash than it would to put it in a landfill,” Smith wrote. “When the next budget crunch hits New York—and that’s due approximately ten seconds after the next stock-market crash—recycling would be an excellent program to cut.”

That budget crunch has arrived. And even if the markets and the economy come roaring back, New York City taxpayers have better ways to spend their money than supporting a parasitic industry that does nothing, absolutely nothing, to help the environment.

But the moral argument doesn’t end there. Americans who support environmentalist policies need to think about the example they’re setting for the rest of the world.

The message that needs to go out to developing nations—along with “develop clean fossil fuel and quit poisoning your air with genuinely harmful pollutants”—is build landfills and sequester your solid waste. Americans need to show by example how modern landfills are built, not how to painstakingly “recycle” everything regardless of its utility or affordability.

Eventually, just as eventually American innovators will commercialize fusion power, American innovators will commercialize plasma waste converters, turning solid waste into valuable feedstock to generate energy and building materials. When that day comes, not only will waste management no longer leave an expanding footprint, however trivial it may be, but we can mine the landfills if we wish.

In 1996, in his essay for the New York Times about recycling, Tierney arrived at the ultimate reason for its persistence as policy despite its negative economic impact and despite being of dubious environmental benefit. He wrote:

The leaders of the recycling movement derive psychic and financial rewards from recycling. Environmental groups raise money and attract new members through their campaigns to outlaw ‘waste’ and prevent landfills from opening. They get financing from public and private sources (including the recycling industry) to research and promote recycling. By turning garbage into a political issue, environmentalists have created jobs for themselves as lawyers, lobbyists, researchers, educators and moral guardians.

Doesn’t that sound familiar? It’s as true today as it was in 1996, and it applies to so many issues of public policy where environmentalists have formed an alliance with powerful financial special interests. It is wonderful when one may reward his psyche and his pocketbook at the same time, but when delusion and corruption are the prerequisites for such rewards, society loses.

Americans are correct to recognize the perils of reusable grocery “tote bags” during this time of heightened disease risk. May they also realize the entire concept of reusable grocery bags is flawed, along with most recycling programs, and adapt accordingly.

Aerial view of Hong Kong Downtown, Republic of China. Financial district and business centers in smart city in Asia. Top view of skyscraper and high-rise buildings
Great America

Toward Sustainable Megacities

If we have a sustainability challenge, it is not to preserve open spaces.

Modern urban centers around the world now have neighborhoods that house well over 100,000 people per square mile. The Choa Chu Kang district in Singapore, defined by boulevards lined with 10 to 12 story mid-rise residential buildings, has a population density of more than 125,000 people per square mile. The entire borough of Manhattan has an average population density of more than 70,000 people per square mile, with far higher densities in areas of midtown and lower Manhattan.

According to a 2018 report released by the United Nations, today 55 percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas, a proportion that is estimated to increase to 68 percent by 2050. At the same time, the United Nations projects the global population to increase from 7.8 billion today to 9.7 billion by 2050. These projections lead to a surprising calculation: the absolute number of people living in rural areas is expected to decline, from 3.5 billion today to only 3.1 billion in 2050.

What should not be surprising by now is that people around the world, voluntarily and inexorably, are migrating from rural areas to cities. But the corollary effect is relatively unheralded; that around the world, open land is slowly depopulating. For the most part, this is happening absent government coercion. It flies in the face of the conventional wisdom—heard endlessly in the United States—that we are running out of open space. We aren’t.

If we have a sustainability challenge, it is not to preserve open space—not only because the world’s population is already moving into cities faster than the world’s population is increasing, but because the absolute urban footprint on the planet is relatively insignificant.

This reality was explored at great depth in “The Density Delusion,” and can be distilled down to this: If 10 billion people were all to live in four-person households that were each on quarter-acre lots and everyone had an equivalent amount of space allotted for commercial and industrial use, that would equate to a population density of 5,210 people per square mile, and at that density would only consume 3.8 percent of all land area on earth. Actual estimates of worldwide urbanization as of 2018 are only 2.7 percent of global land area excluding Antarctica, and some analysts believe this estimate is grossly overstated.

But not everyone wants to live in a home with a yard that big. Most people would be content living on a smaller lot, and a large proportion of the population prefers to live in homes with no yard at all. Billions of people, for that matter, apparently prefer to live in high-rise apartments. It is not suburban sprawl that constitutes the prevailing sustainability challenge to humanity, it is building megacities that are resilient to environmental and economic threats, and constitute an inviting destination for migrants from rural areas.

Cheap Energy Is Vital 

The consequences of environmentalists making “climate change” their central focus instead of population growth are epic. Two factors, more than anything else, induce people to voluntarily limit the size of their families: prosperity and urbanization. Both of these require cheap and abundant energy.

It is estimated that as of 2020 there are 38 “megacities” on earth, defined as a metropolitan area with over 10 million inhabitants. Of these, only six—Tokyo, Seoul, New York, Los Angeles, Paris, and London—are located within high-income nations. Moreover, nearly all the forecast growth of megacities will be in developing nations, in places like Jakarta, Dhaka, Mumbai, Kolkata, Karachi, Lahore, Lagos, and Kinshasa.

So what innovations being pioneered today will enable megacities in the future to provide a high quality of life, and how will cities of such size and density reduce their vulnerability to economic or physical disruptions?

The biggest variable governing the success or failure of megacities is energy. Abundant, affordable, and reliable energy is not only a nonnegotiable prerequisite for prosperity around the world, but it is also the only way megacities are feasible. Environmentalists typically observe, correctly, that per capita energy consumption is lower in cities, but they ignore the converse—if you make energy too expensive by curtailing the use of fossil fuels, you prevent people from vacating rural areas where they can forage for energy—unsustainable, dirty, and free—by stripping the biosphere.

Global prosperity and peace, glorious destination megacities, abundant water and food, voluntary population stabilization, and plenty of open land for those who still want to live under a big sky—all of this could be just around the corner.

If the energy challenge is addressed realistically, meaning an “all of the above” energy strategy is adopted worldwide, all the other building blocks of megacities can be assembled. But this means that the legal and financial obstacles that are preventing developing nations from exploiting their oil and gas reserves and building nuclear power plants will have to be lifted.

With abundant energy, for example, the challenge of creating water abundance is manageable. This is because for nearly every type of water infrastructure, the biggest single operating cost is energy. Investing in 100 percent reuse of wastewater, augmented by desalination of seawater, offers nearly every megacity on earth the opportunity to never experience water scarcity. Closely related to this is the rapidly maturing technology for indoor agriculture, including high rise agriculture.

Making Cities Self Sufficient Food Producers

Since a megacity, by definition, is an epicenter of human habitation, then by definition, it is also antithetical to the notion of being “off-grid.” But on the other hand, the megacity needs to be as self-sufficient as possible, since having 50,000 or even 100,000 people per square mile means that any resource that needs to be imported, stored, or removed is going to have to be handled in very high volumes.

Energy efficiency, waste management, as well as energy and water harvesting and treatment are technologies that are extremely important to the megacity—along with smart systems to interconnect all of them. Fortunately, water supply and treatment can be synergistic with indoor agriculture.

Indoor urban agriculture makes a lot of sense. It is possible that using hydroponics, aeroponics, and aquaponics, industrial agriculture operations sited within urban areas can produce enough food to feed the inhabitants, reducing the need to import food from farming regions. These facilities would also be able process wastewater from elsewhere on the utility grid—using it to water the plants and to reuse as drinking water.

Here’s how: The grey water extracted from sewage would be subjected to biological and mechanical filtration, then it would be used to water the plants. The plants, in turn, would transpirate heavily in the indoor environment, and dehumidifiers would harvest this water as pristine drinking water, able to be pumped back upstairs or into the utility grid for reuse.

This concept of using transpiration from plants in a commercial high-rise agricultural operation to provide the last mile of greywater purification in the urban environment is revolutionary. Along with the surprisingly low—and dropping—cost of desalination and advances being made in primary sewage treatment, this innovation could help solve the issues of potential water scarcity in the urban environment.

The quantity of food that a high-rise farm might produce is also surprising. Because the plants are grown in optimal conditions—optimized light and water, and no pests—they can yield three to four crops per year instead of one, and each crop may require only a few vertical feet of space. This means each story of high-rise space occupying an area of one acre, for example, could produce several times as much food per year as an acre of ordinary farmland.

This multiple order-of-magnitude increase in potential productivity per unit of land, combined with the proximity to market, means high-rise farming is merely waiting for economic and political conditions to align in its favor. The technology for high-rise farming continues to commercialize and it will be available when we need it to feed the burgeoning megacities of this world.

Building Up, Out, and Down

It is common for the smart growth crowd to say “build up, not out,” but this ignores the fact that building out as well as up increases the overall supply of dwellings, making them more affordable, and reduces the pressure to increase density in suburban areas where the people living there want to preserve their way of life. But what about building down as well?

It isn’t as if building down hasn’t been tried with success already. The New York City subway system. The London Underground. The Paris Metro. What about Boston’s “Big Dig?” Mistakes were made, to put it mildly. But today, anyone who tries to get to Logan Airport from downtown Boston during rush hour will have nothing but good things to say about the much-maligned project. It’s too bad we don’t have more big digs—in the heart of urban centers we could put freeways and rail underground, our cities could reach for the sky, and there would never be traffic jams.

Tunneling on a grand scale may seem mundane, but the industry is rapidly innovating—incorporating new technology across multiple disciplines as fast as it becomes available. From GPS systems that allow a tunneling machine always to know precisely where it is beneath the earth, to better cutting bits, to debris removal conveyances, to mechanical conveyances that simultaneously bring forward shoring material, to worker shelter and control rooms, modern tunneling machines can exceed a mile in length and cost billions to acquire and operate. The global leader in tunneling systems is Herrenknecht AG. An emerging and very disruptive new competitor is Elon Musk’s The Boring Company.

Tunneling, like blasting payloads into low earth orbit, is extremely expensive. But The Boring Company claims tunneling costs can be dramatically reduced. The Boring Company proposes five innovations on its FAQ page: 1) Triple the power output of the tunnel boring machine’s cutting unit; 2) Continuously tunnel instead of alternating between boring and installing supporting walls; 3) Automate the tunnel boring machine, eliminating most human operators; 4) Go electric; 5) Engage in tunneling research and development, “the construction industry is one of the only sectors in our economy that has not improved its productivity in the last 50 years.”

Skeptics may consider the fact that Musk’s Space X brought the price of delivering cargo into orbit down from $26,000 per kilogram in 1995 to $1,800 per kilogram by 2017, courtesy of the 100 percent reusable Falcon 9 rocket. The Falcon Heavy promises to drop that cost by another 50 percent within the next few years.

As the megacities of the future are built, tunneling machines will play an integral part in endowing these cities with efficient transportation systems. Tunneling underground to create upgraded, higher capacity, and smarter utility conduits to transport water and energy will also be necessary in cities of ultra-high density. Using the volume of underground space to host much of the physical plant of megacities will make the surface areas less congested and more pleasant.

The implications of building upwards and downwards as well as employing novel technologies ranging from enhanced geothermal systems to high-rise farming hold forth not only the oft wished-for promise of attracting humanity’s billions off the land and into densely populated megacities, but also the promise of cities that live nearly off the grid—cities that may, despite their magnitude, require very little from the rest of the world.

This is the optimistic scenario that is altogether feasible. A planet of megacities that might actually export power and food, along with culture and technology, in exchange for raw materials. There are many paths from here to there, but none of them are easy even with abundant and clean fossil fuel remaining an unhindered and major part of global energy supply until replacement energy technologies are fully competitive at scale.

Global prosperity and peace, glorious destination megacities, abundant water and food, voluntary population stabilization, asteroid mining, restored wilderness, and plenty of open land for those who still want to live under a big sky—all of this could be just around the corner.

 

Great America

The Hidden Agenda Behind the Roundup Lawsuit Campaign

Eliminating glyphosate would drastically reduce feed crop yields, prompting a major rise in food costs, especially meat. It would green-light more bad science and enrich more bottom-feeding lawyers while punishing farmers and consumers.

A Virginia lawyer arrested earlier this month for extortion should bring much-needed attention to one of the biggest legal, scientific, and environmental scams in recent memory: The case against Roundup, a weedkiller used on farms and open spaces in more than 160 countries around the world.

Timothy Litzenburg, a Charlottesville attorney, has been charged with threatening an unnamed company unless it paid his $200 million shakedown. The unidentified company, according to the federal indictment, manufactures glyphosate, the active chemical in Roundup.

Litzenburg warned he would use “media and other means to find plaintiffs to sue” the company if it didn’t pay up. “In exchange for the $200 million, Litzenburg allegedly indicated that he would not tell any existing or future clients about Company 1 or its purported role in manufacturing the product,” federal prosecutors said in a press release.

Litzenburg is one of hundreds of attorneys seeking to profit from alleged damages caused by the popular weedkiller. If you own a television, you’ve seen the commercials: Lawyers trolling for sufferers of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma who’ve used Roundup. The ads warn that glyphosate contained in the Roundup formula is linked to the deadly cancer.

This year alone, law firms have spent more than $60 million on advertisements seeking alleged glyphosate victims to join lawsuits filed against the makers of Roundup. Their main target is Monsanto, the company that invented and sold the product for years. (Monsanto was acquired by Bayer in 2018. It is not the unnamed company in the federal indictment.)

Litzenburg figured his ransom note would work. After all, massive verdicts against the company have started to roll in. An Alameda County jury in May awarded more than $2 billion in damages to a California couple stricken with the disease; both had applied Roundup to their property for decades. (A judge later reduced the sum to $87 million.)

Litzenburg represented the first winning plaintiff in a glyphosate lawsuit when a California groundskeeper won a $289 million judgment against Monsanto in 2018.

The eye-popping verdicts, however, reward all the wrong people and not just corrupt, fame-seeking attorneys.

The Bête Noire of Green Bullies

The onslaught is the culmination of long-time collaboration between radical environmentalists, activist scientists, anti-corporate zealots and socialist politicians—including French President Emmanuel Macron and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders—who want to destroy the company and ban the ubiquitous herbicide. The cause even has drawn endorsements from celebrities such as Mark Ruffalo and Bette Midler.

The reason is that Monsanto—now Bayer—has been the bête noire of green bullies who organize an international March Against Monsanto each year to protest the company for representing everything allegedly wrong with American agribusiness. They insist the company is a greedy behemoth fueling the mass production of chemical-doused commodity crops at the expense of the planet.

The antagonist who set the stage for the current tort litigation is a corrupt agency under the purview of the World Health Organization. In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer used sketchy data to claim glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen based on “limited” evidence; non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma was the only cancer it identified as a potential side effect from using the chemical.

The IARC is populated with green activists with a grudge against Monsanto. One IARC advisor now is a paid legal expert for the plaintiffs in several Monsanto-glyphosate lawsuits. (For years, that scandal was under investigation by House Republicans and ended after Democrats took power.) As I wrote in 2017, “it is now obvious that this [IARC] report was prepared and promoted by dishonest activists to wage an international assault on a safe, necessary chemical just because they hate the company that makes it.”

Barack Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency propelled the drama by delaying the release of its own study that supported a large body of international scientific evidence concluding glyphosate poses no threat to human health. (In April, President Trump’s EPA finally issued the safety evaluation of the chemical, confirming “there are no risks to public health when glyphosate is used in accordance with its current label and that glyphosate is not a carcinogen.”)

So why has a weed killer that can be purchased at every hardware store and home improvement center become a flashpoint?

Because Monsanto not only manufactured Roundup, it also produced genetically engineered seeds designed to tolerate the weedkiller without destroying the plant. Two Monsanto inventions—“Roundup Ready” corn and soybeans—have resulted in yield increases of both crops over the past 20 years.

Nearly all of the corn and soybeans grown in the U.S. originate from these genetically engineered seeds that rely on the use of Roundup. Ultimately, about one-third of all corn and about 70 percent of all soybeans are converted into feed for chickens, pigs, and cattle.

And that’s where Democrats, climate activists and the strategy to litigate Roundup out of existence collide.

Enter the Green New Deal

Modern agriculture is a sworn enemy of climate change propagandists. From carbon-emitting farm machinery to nitrogen-emitting fertilizer to methane-emitting cow flatulence, the agriculture sector partially is to blame for anthropogenic global warming, climate alarmists allege, accounting for nine percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Any attempt to achieve the “net-zero carbon emissions” outlined in measures such as the Green New Deal would require a drastic and undoubtedly devastating reformation of the farming and ranching industries.

The Green New Deal, sponsored by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) earlier this year, outlined the harsh punishment that would be inflicted on American agriculture to halt the rise of global temperatures. The goal sounds innocent enough; the government promises to work “collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible.”

But, as you’d expect, there’s more to the story. Part of the scheme is to reduce the consumption of meat. As Americans turn away from decades of bad advice about avoiding animal fat for health purposes, and fashionable diets extol the benefits of bacon and burgers, environmentalists and their vegan soul sisters now warn that meat is a driver of climate change.

Ocasio-Cortez has encouraged school children to skip eating meat or dairy for one meal a day to combat climate change. In an interview in February, Ocasio-Cortez said Americans need to scrutinize factory farming and its impact on climate change:

And so it’s not to say you get rid of agriculture, it’s not to say we’re gonna force everybody to go vegan or anything crazy like that. But it’s to say, ‘Listen, we gotta address factory farming. Maybe we shouldn’t be eating a hamburger for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

This is the same woman who expressed shock that plants grow out of the ground after she joined a community garden in New York City.

Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.), a Democratic candidate for president and avowed vegan, often blames meat-eating for climate change.

“We’ve seen this massive increase in consumption of meat produced by the industrial animal agriculture industry,” Booker told VegNews earlier this year. “We see greenhouse producing gases produced; the devastating impact is just not practical. We will destroy our planet unless we start figuring out a better way forward when it comes to our climate change and our environment.”

Higher Costs, Fewer Freedoms

Cutting off the abundant food supply for farm animals is one way for climate activists to get their way; a ban on glyphosate here would be the quickest way to achieve their goal. And it’s not far-fetched. Vietnam just banned the importation of glyphosate and the European Union in 2017 narrowly defeated a proposal to ban the sale and use of the chemical.

If Democrats take the White House in 2020 and retain control of the House of Representatives, it’s very likely they will use the glyphosate judgments as justification to ban the chemical nationwide; some localities in the U.S. already prohibit its use and an ongoing battle between the state of California and the Trump Administration will eventually decide whether products will need to carry a glyphosate “warning” label.

Eliminating glyphosate would drastically reduce feed crop yields, prompting a major rise in food costs, especially meat. Further, it would green-light more bad science and enrich more bottom-feeding lawyers while punishing farmers and consumers.

But hucksters like Litzenburg are only getting started: Several trials will begin after the new year and the public demonization of a safe and necessary chemical will continue. So too, undoubtedly, will the legal shakedowns.