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     Invitation: Join the Review Call.
          Become part of the movement to conserve our prime symbols          
atmosphere, carbon, climate change,, conserve,  cooling, electricity, energy, energy efficiency, exponential, greenhouse,  information,, power,, science, trace, the conservation principle  of  energy, and warming   



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Sustainability Principle of Energy


Link here

 for examples of the application of Sustainability Principle. 
(List of symbol uses that promote acceptance/denial of stewardship amidst change.)

Link here
 for deeper discussion of key symbols - including

energy energy efficiency
global warming

Peak Oil
Exponential change







last update April 2010

Welcome to the fun.

Please join the call for a global review of how we symbolise the nature of energy and how our climate works. Why? There is a simple reason: every society that failed to embrace the fundamental principles of physics has self-destructed. We are not exempt from the wisdom of those principles and there are many signs* that our current uses of our prime symbols lack science and put us at grave peril.  

Knowing how to conserve our prime symbols can help you avoid experiencing needless deprivation and misery while enabling  you to enjoy a much richer and more sustaining life.

*Signs for concern?

  • Witness how our economies are imploding into misery as they spiral in vortices of hopeless debt, inflation, deflation and stagflation – in 2010 New Zealand’s 4 million people go further into debt by a quarter of a billion dollars every week. [1]
  • Witness the associated vortices of increasing under-employment and poverty. [2]
  • Witness the delusional state of our media, politicians and business leaders who call mineral oil “energy” [3] and talk of the psychopathic construct they call The Market as though it is some all-knowing God. [4]
  • Witness how caring folk argue in distressed circles about what caused the “Copenhagen fiasco” [5] and are stunned numb as they realise climate gurus can lack science on scale too. [6]
  • Witness how many people believe money generates wealth and are unable to comprehend that we have converted our real wealth into pollution. [7] 
  • And witness how our politicians and business leaders proclaim that greater numeracy and literacy generates wealth [8] even as statistics indicate the most literate and numerate people are by far the most unsustainable users of Earth’s resources and destroyers of our real wealth. [9a]  [9b] [9c] [9d] 

Witness of this reality can easily lead to despair. This call for a review of our vision is born of hope. It is made in the knowledge that when we enjoy the state of being called science then our awareness of physics invigorates and sustains us. This includes all people, no matter their literacy and numeracy. It includes your own good self. Despite what our schools may have taught you, the fact remains you too enjoy the state of being called science. You are equally capable of understanding the great Principles of Physics as anyone, for our appreciation of them most essentially involves our spirit. Intellect is but a trace element of the spirit. 

To refresh your spirit: 

We have the Conservation Principle of Energy, the nearest we have to a natural law. Its fundamental messages are that energy is so bounteous it can usefully be considered a constant (it cannot be created or destroyed) and it continually transforms (all is constant change). The Conservation Principle has never been faulted, despite being subjected to millennia of the most intense and ingenious scrutiny human beings are capable of. The human form remains as mortal as any other of the myriad forms in the universe(s) and no one has ever created a perpetual motion machine. 

We can understand the nature of energy from many perspectives, including thermal, electrical, gravitational and other potentials.  Each is just another way of describing change, including change that could occur. For instance the fundamental insights of thermodynamics are that thermal energy continually moves from warmer to cooler regions and that all forms, whether they be atoms, human beings, planets or galaxies are constantly warming as they are cooling. If the balance between warming and cooling ceases to exist then so does the form. This is the way of our universe(s). 

We have the Uncertainty Principle of Energy and again we are surrounded by proof of its truth, not the least being our TVs, computers, nuclear fission devices etc. It is your spirit rather than your intellect that enables you to embrace the Uncertainty Principle, including its implications that all is interconnected and that we are each stewards of our actions amidst the flux. 

In brief the great principles of physics suggests that reality involves an immense potential involving perhaps multiple universes in which continual transformation occurs. All is change and somehow we each need act as stewards of our actions within the flux if we are to survive and enjoy harmony with the flows and balances that sustain us. The review will explore and take into account the insights afforded by contemporary research in physics and psychology. A proposed framework for the review includes the following objectives.

(1)            Define “symbol”.
Example: A symbol is a quantum of shared crystallised information.

(2)            Define “information”.
Information as a concept has many meanings. The concept of information is closely related to notions of constraint, communication, control, data, form, instruction, knowledge, meaning, mental stimulus, pattern, perception, and representation. In its most restricted technical meaning, information is an ordered sequence of symbols.

(3)            Establish the probability that information is physical.


(4)            Explore the implications of the notion of “mirror neuron systems”.
Example: It is possible that a range of symbol forms (visual, sound, smell etc ) can generate an identical image.

(5)            Explore contemporary fMRI insights into the role of the hidden or subconscious brain.       

(7)            Establish the probability that the Conservation and Uncertainty Principles are sustained.

(8)            Draw these insights into a principle that can form a practical guide to sustainable uses of symbols.
Example: The Sustainable Principle of EnergyWhen a symbol use works to deny change it will materially alter the potential of the universe (energy) in a way that results in a reduction in the capacity of the symbol user to mirror reality. When a symbol use works for the acceptance of change it will increase the capacity of the symbol user to mirror reality.”


 Prime Symbols for Review 
(Sample list)

  atmosphere, carbon, climate change, conserve, conservation principle of energy, cooling, electricity, energy, energy efficiency, exponential, greenhouse, information, power, science, trace and warming.


Potential Benefits of Review 

The potential benefits of conserving the fuller potential of our prime symbols are enormous. The following short list offers only a trace glimpse of the wonderful transformation that can occur in our lives.

  • We are each born with a considerable capacity to enjoy the state of science and currently this tends to be diminished by our education institutions. The active conservation of our prime symbols works to sustain and enhance this wonderful capacity throughout our lives.
  • As the state of science flourishes in individuals and their communities so the arts, language, civics and democracy are able to flourish.
  • We become more sentient of the dynamism of our universe(s) and are better able to live in harmony with the flows and balances that sustain humanity.
  • As we are opened to a far greater array of phenomena and can better comprehend the myriad transformations possible we are more able to realise a far more sustaining potential.
  • Our sensations of fear and deprivation will tend to be replaced with sensations of richness and bounty.
  • We will be inclined to enjoy peace and harmony with all.


Form of Review.

I have no idea what the ideal form of such a review is. I do know an immense wisdom and associated capacity for action resides in the billions of human beings that inhabit this planet. I also know that, as ever, word-of-mouth is an incredibly potent means of communication and the Internet can enhance this potential. This wisdom and communication potential can combine to form a very sustainable force in our lives. 

Such a force can have many manifestations. Almost certainly they involve you as a citizen acting as steward or conservator of the potential of our prime symbols in your communities. These might include communities formed around your role as a politician, an editor, an educator, a parent, an Internet forum member, an academic, a craft, a trade or other role.  

The central question of the conservator is, “How can I best conserve the potential of our prime symbols so they work to sustain me and enable me to enjoy maximal harmony with all?”  

A secondary motivating question is, “Are my current uses of our prime symbols truly sustaining me?” 

If you conclude the answer is no then use all your means to activate your communities to review these uses. Write to your local politician calling for a review and question your local school board of trustees about how it teaches the nature of energy and climate processes. Encourage your journalists or policy writers to embrace the state of science and ask open questions about our use of our prime symbols. Debate and review the teaching materials provided for your classroom, your library and the media. Create websites rating your local media, universities and other institutions according to their "energy gobbledygook", "climate confusion" and their conservation and care of our prime symbols.

Above all be mindful in your daily use of these symbols and conserve their vast potential.

I sustain this work by working as a school janitor and my failing eyesight makes reading difficult. I welcome your insights even if I cannot respond in detail. You are welcome to join with me at davemcarthur1at  You may be wondering how one begins such a profound review. I provide a prototype template in the form of the Sustainability Principle of Energy (see my latest essay- Enjoying the bliss, which is energy) and a sample index of symbol uses at  
I am certain both the wording of the Sustainability Principle and the index of its application can be improved. I will post responses to this review call below.

In conclusion: I do not know the ideal form of the review – that is for you to decide. Your action will eventually be aggregated with many others to form national and global reviews. I am concluding we can make far more sustainable uses of our prime symbols based in deep psycho-physics. The rewards do not just include our survival as a species. They also include the experience of inspiring insights and a sense of marvel of our existence. Welcome to the fun.  

William Blake Dream


Background Links to Signs of Concern













New Zealanders destroy on average 14 barrels per capita per anum The global average per capita is 4.5 barrels.

“Unless we learn the lessons, that markets are inherently unstable and that stability needs to the objective of public policy, we are facing a yet larger bubble.
“We have added to the leverage by replacing private credit with sovereign credit and increasing national debt by a significant amount." George Soros

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More on the Sustainability Principle of Energy

Link here  for examples of the application of Sustainability Principle. 
(List of symbol uses that promote acceptance/denial of stewardship amidst change.)


Return to Update Page

Return to the Welcome Page

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The following list is random in that it reflects my reading patterns and my locality in Wellington, the Capital City of New Zealand. It is also random in that it reflects my limited capacity to communicate with individuals.



George Moniot 



Bill McKibben  Founder 350, author Eaarth


The Sustainable Energy Forum


Radio New Zealand National - Afternoons



Radio New Zealand National - Nights


Radio New Zealand National -Saturday Morning


Radio New Zealand National - Sunday Morning


Shankar Vedantam Washington Post author "The Hidden Brain".


Anthony Hubbard Editorial Writer Sunday Star Times


Editors - Grist e-Magazine


Tod Brilliant - Communications and Strategy - Post Carbon Institute 


Jan Wright -NZ Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment - letter to PCE here


EElist (NZ Environmental Educators forum)


Ailun Yang Greenpeace China



Radio New Zealand National -Mediawatch, Ideas



Ralph Chapman -Associate Professor, Director Environmental Studies Victoria University NZ


Google Incorp - Letter here



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Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment
Dr Jan Wright

12 May 2010

Dear Jan

I have just listened to a Radio NZ interview with your predecessor, Dr Morgan Williams in which he emphasised the role of education in the promotion of sustainable behaviour and the need for care with how we frame “environmental” issues. This morning I have also just read George Monbiot’s latest article “Money’s Hunger” in which he writes:

“So the Dark Mountain project, whose ideas are spreading rapidly through the environment movement, is worth examining. It contends that “capitalism has absorbed the greens”(6). Instead of seeking to protect the natural world from the impact of humans, the project claims that environmentalists now work on “sustaining human civilisation at the comfort level which the world’s rich people – us – feel is their right.”(7)

Today’s greens, it charges, seek to sustain the culture that knackers the planet, demanding only that we replace old, polluting technologies with new ones - wind farms, solar arrays, wave machines - that wreck even more of the world’s wild places. They have lost their feelings for nature, reducing the problem to an engineering challenge. They’ve forgotten that they are supposed to be defending the biosphere: instead they are trying to save industrial civilisation.

That task, Paul Kingsnorth, co-founder of Dark Mountain, believes, is futile…”


I had never heard of the Dark Mountain project before. However my own work involving the sustainable use of our prime symbols also indicates that the work of “environmental activists” and the Green Movement may well be very counterproductive. Indeed it indicates that as a group we may pose the greatest risk to humanity. This is because “environmental educators” are in the forefront of generating unsustainable uses of our prime symbols in our schools and communities.  

A possible explanation for this behaviour is that “environmental activists” are especially vulnerable because they experience enhanced awareness of their impacts on the global balances and flows that sustain humanity. The dissonance between this sentience and their actions is thus a much more intense experience. This heightened intensity is manifest in their adoption of more extreme uses of symbols used in denial of stewardship/change. 

With this possibility in mind I am writing to you in your capacity of Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment to invite you to join in a call for a national review of how we use our prime symbols. These are the ones that express and shape our worldview such as energy, power, electricity, greenhouse, market, conserve, carbon, science, energy efficiency, warming, cooling, etc. Typically they are used in the popular discourse of how our universe works in general and how our climate systems work in particular. There are also vital symbols such as trace, use, exponential, conservation principle of energy and atmospheric that are rarely used in the discourse. 

This list of prime symbols is not exclusive but I cannot imagine how in New Zealand symbols such as God, love, compassion etc can be included in such a review. We would probably have to reassess our use of the science symbol first and question whether our current use of the ‘science’ symbol is sustainable and whether it adequately informs us of how the arts, language and civics best thrive. 

I have been emboldened to start this campaign after the broadcast of an interview with the author of “ The Hidden Mind” on Radio NZ Nights recently. As Shankar Vedantam points out, studies involving millions of people indicate that most of us are unable to acknowledge the relatively immense nature of the forces operating in our subconscious.  

Arguably thinking is a trace element of our psyche. Thus Des Cartes’ notion of “ I am thinking therefore I exist”, on which our current use of the science symbol is based, is less helpful than the notion “I am acting therefore I exist”. 

Advertisers (PR) have long known this reality and exploited both our more primal fears and our grand capacity for self-deceit. There exists considerable synergy between this exploitation and the activities of “environmental activists” with the latter being less aware of their roles in the relationship. 

Ten years ago I observed that much of the discourse of “energy” and “climate processes” is framed by widespread denial of the great principles of Physics and began exploring the phenomenon of cultural denial of reality. I believe I now have a clear idea of the process and have concluded that the above symbols are commonly used in ways that evidence major self-deceit. My concern is that the self-deceit is of such a magnitude that it puts humanity at grave risk.

For instance, observe how we now symbolise fossil fuels and Bulk-generated electrical products as energy and have based our global trading system on this delusion. This symbolisation enables us to use these finite resources as though they are as bounteous as energy and to exclude the atmosphere from the combustion equation.

For instance, observe the confusion and distress, which is the recent Copenhagen convention. It reflects the dissonance of all parties –especially that of the self-styled “climate change believers”. 

I have long wondered how I might communicate in a most humane and illuminating way the difficult topic of the grand capacity for self-deceit of human beings. I am very aware of the incredible ingenuity of our ego for both self-acceptance and self-deceit and how these states are manifest in our use of symbols. Many people experience any discussion of what our use of symbols might really represent as a personal attack. They react by either making personal attacks on those who question our current use of our prime symbols or by dismissing the discussion as irrelevant. 

I am hopeful that works such as “The Hidden Brain” by Shankar Vedantam with its insights from experiments using modern technology and techniques can now enhance the discussion.

I empathise with the defensive responses I have encountered and in an attempt to ameliorate this inclination to react with personal attack and outright dismissal I have sought to identify common behavioural drivers of our use of these prime symbols. I concluded people might be better able to accept their symbol use as part of the universal human condition if I could establish a general principle. I figured we need tools that enable us to transcend our ego and to draw on our most proven wisdom.  

The Conservation Principle of Energy is possibly the nearest we have to a universal law. Variations of it have existed for millennia and no other symbol has been subject to such intense and ingenious experiment. The overwhelming evidence is that all is change; energy is so bounteous it can be considered a constant; and all forms are very finite - we are mortal beings. There is also considerable evidence that the Uncertainty Principle of Energy holds. 

I have drawn on these principles of physics plus recent work in neurophysics, which indicates information is physical and that our brains are laced with mirror neuron systems, to propose an additional principle of energy. I am tentatively calling it The Sustainability Principle of Energy. It is primarily a tool for transcending our ego and establishing whether a symbol use will tend to generate sustainable outcomes. It can be used to reflect and evaluate the relative degree of acceptance and denial of stewardship/change a person or society is experiencing at the subconscious level. It can also be consciously used to generate more sustainable behaviour at all levels. 

My statement of the principle remains clumsy as I attempt to crystallise a range of insights into a sentence. However it is a very practical tool, as can be seen by the index of symbol uses that reflect/generate acceptance and denial of stewardship/change. If nothing else this index provides a prototype framework of how a national review might be initiated. The objective is to conserve the fullest potential of each symbol to evoke the variety and change of existence i.e. convey maximum meaning. 

Listening to the Radio NZ interview with Morgan I was mindful of the attempts I made to communicate the need for such a review during his decade as PCE. He never acknowledged receipt of my letters though his secretary did inform me that he had received and flagged them.  

During his tenure I attended lectures he gave and seminars he participated in. I have read his literature on education and on our use of our electrical and carbon potentials. As I analysed his symbol use I observed a powerful tendency for it to deny the change he called for. His symbol use perhaps reflected his lifestyle but it did not reflect reality and the world he publicly evoked.

I will provide a couple of examples. 

In his role as PCE Morgan gave consistent and powerful endorsement to both a national education programme called “Enviroschools” and its chief proponent –the NZ Association for Environmental Education. 

As the Enviroschools symbol suggests, this teaches our children about the care of their school environment. It has/had** two additional profound features: the resource makes no reference to the atmosphere and it associates the energy and power symbols with Bulk-generated electrical products. In other words its language is in direct denial of the Conservation Principle of Energy and is exclusive of, for instance, a wide range of electrical phenomena and small-scale generation of electrical products.

Its facilitators also commonly teach that humans can save and conserve energy. This too is a direct denial of the Conservation Principle and personal stewardship. 

In this context the PCE’s endorsement of Enviroschools was consistent with Government policy during his tenure. This deemed that stewardship of the atmosphere is not an individual responsibility and “The Market” (the ETS) will care for us. It deemed that stewardship of our local electrical potential is not an individual or community responsibility and “The Market” (The Electricity Industry Reform structure) will care for us. This policy has now been imbedded in the legislation and culture of New Zealand so thoroughly that, for instance, not one of the previous 60 communities representing all New Zealanders pre-1993 now owns its local electrical potential.  

Both commitments to “market driven solutions” (to use a phrased much beloved by long-time Minister of Energy and Climate Change –Hon Pete Hodgson) amount to a widespread disenfranchisement of New Zealanders and a profound destruction of our capacity to act as stewards of our resources. Morgan’s tenure as PCE began before the 1998 Electricity Industry Reform Act and he implicitly supported it throughout, despite being alerted to its fatal flaws.  

Towards the end of his tenure Morgan began arguing overtly for more small-scale (dwelling) generation of electrical products. However his language worked directly against this objective and he was unable to articulate to barriers formed by the Electricity Industry Reform legislation to this activity. He failed to comprehend that programmes such as Enviroschools, which he endorsed, taught directly against such activity and created a hostile atmosphere in our schools, universities and communities to dwelling-scale generation of products. 

In addition Morgan failed to acknowledge proven national education programmes such as Energy Action from the 1990s that taught our children how to calculate how their use of a resource affects their carbon pollution. He failed to support the revised version Energy Action 2008 that would have taught our children that energy efficiency is not about harmony, not deprivation (See EECA, Electricity Commission, Ministry for the Environment, Contact Energy et al), and that energy comes in a vast array of forms, including potentially useful forms. It would have taught there are many electrical phenomena and these offer a great array of potential sustainable uses.

Thus such programmes ceased for lack of funding in 2000. 

I would like to emphasise this commentary is not personal to any individual or institution. This is proven by the fact that I apply the same analysis to a range of similar “environmental” institutions – including Greenpeace, WWF, NZAEE, EECA, the Green Party, EDF, Consumer NZ, MfE-Climate Change Office, The Sustainable Energy Forum, Greater Wellington Regional Council, NIWA et al. They all evidence similar patterns of denial of stewardship/change.

The Office of the PCE under your administration has explicitly endorsed the ETS with its psychology of offsetting and trading away personal stewardship of our use of our carbon potential. The recent analysis of “smart” metering fails to differentiate between “smart” metering (which can easily be Fascist) and “intelligent” metering (which necessarily involves high levels of democracy). There is an implicit acceptance of the current legislation, which actively suppresses the nation’s capacity to make intelligent uses of our electrical potential.

This said, the Office of the PCE exhibits much less denial than some of the other institutions mentioned

I noted on several occasions that Morgan spoke of “humans and their environment”, which teaches directly against the notion that “humans are their environment”.

It is common for environmental educators to dismiss this observation as “petty semantics” – they argue there is little difference between “and” and “are”. (These same people might argue there is a huge difference between the statements “Human activities can affect climate balances” and “Human activities are affecting climate balances”.) 

I will make a couple of quick observations about the use of the humans and the environment symbol.  

Environmental educators talk a lot about promoting a sense of inclusiveness and enhancing in students an appreciation of the interconnectedness of all things. The substitution of the and symbol destroys the paradox inherent in the statement “Humans are their environment”, this paradox reflecting the general paradoxical reality of our existence. In other words, they frame the environment symbol in exclusive and incoherent ways. 

The interview with Morgan mentioned your proposal that New Zealand should conduct audits of the quality of our environment. I agree. I have long argued councils should have to provide an annual audit of their urban solar generating capacity along with their finance accounts. Satellite surveillance increasingly has the capacity to provide audits of the carbon quality of our soils too. Reasonable audits of the state of electrical potentials are possible in democracies. 

However I suggest the most vital audit of all is the measure of how we are conserving the potential of our prime symbols and thus perhaps this invitation is timely with your proposal.

Also recent insights from quantum, computer, neural and other areas of physics provide increasing evidence that information is physical and thus we may well be able to improve our definition of what a symbol is. 

Currently I define a symbol as a quantum of crystallised, shared meaning. Symbols inherently contain information and they enable life forms to survive and procreate. For instance their ability to generate symbols has enabled our cells to sustain their form for a billion years through all manner of change. Meaning is retained in a crystallised form, which is organic and continually changes in response to universal changes. The sustainability of the symbol depends on how well it continues to reflect reality i.e. how well its meaning retains harmony with the flows and balances that sustain the users of the symbol. 

At the level of human consciousness a vast amount of meaning/knowledge is crystallised in the prime symbols listed above. Essentially each is a worldview and these worldviews tend to overlap in the meaning they communicate. And being part of the paradox of existence each symbol both reflects and generates the forms energy is manifest as. They transform our individual psyche even as we transform the universe(s). We are the universal change. 

Environmental Educators, Government policy makers and media who dismiss this consciousness of the power of symbols as “petty semantics” and “just semantics” deny stewardship/change. They fail to appreciate the interconnection of all, including human beings. They fail to realise that the image a symbol use generates in the brain is as physical as the concrete being poured to create a huge dam across a great river, the dairy cow effluent draining into a creek, the food we eat and the vibrations of our solar system. 

I will qualify the next paragraph by stating that it is probably beyond the human ken to know what begets what. We live in uncertainty.  

The huge dam, a symbol in itself, reflects and is generated by symbols reflecting our shared worldviews. The integrity of the construction of both the dam and the worldview from whence it came is subject to the same principles of physics. If either is flawed then we will tend to be at greater risk. In New Zealand we apply rigorous audits to the process by which the dam is constructed and operated. We apply extensive audits of the flora, fauna, landscape and water flows in the region of the dam. We apply no audit to the symbol uses that generated the dam in the first place. And if the Sustainability Principle of Energy holds then it is highly probable that the current symbol uses involved are fatally flawed. 

Indeed, in general the proposed principle indicates our current use of our prime symbols is a certain recipe for escalating misery for all. It suggests the framing of many of our major institutions and a considerable portion of recent education materials are very unsustainable and urgently require review.  

However the principle also indicates that such an escalation into misery is avoidable and such a review will be very helpful. Indeed the review I propose has the potential to bring much more joy, awe and fun to our lives. This is because the conservation of the potential of our prime symbols enables us to generate a far greater number of sustaining images. (If we do not have a symbol for an option then it cannot be manifest.) The active application of the Sustainability Principle promotes enhanced sentience of the myriad forms of energy that exist and thus we are awakened to a greater range of potential resources. In sensing more options we enjoy greater hope. We feel more alive and able. 

I hope you respond to the invite – you can see more details and links to the Sustainability Principle at

 One footnote: it is possible that the rationale for the Sustainability Principle of Energy and its application may seem very radical. The work has been described as “completely out of left field”. A possible explanation is that it is the most advanced work of its kind in the English-speaking world at least. It is also a product of a set of circumstances unlikely to occur in the current academic milieu. It is far in advance of the work of, for instance, the Potsdam Institute, the Institute for Public Policy Research and the Frameworks Institute.  

The latter, reputedly the most advanced cognitive-linguistic research centre in the USA, created the Climate Message Project.

Luminaries included George Lakoff and they concluded, for instance, that our current association of greenhouses with atmospheric processes does not work for most Americans. They recommended instead using the “CO2 blanket” or “heat trap” symbols instead.  

The Sustainability Principle suggests these recommendations are also flawed and that the Frameworks Institute does not have a profound rationale as that generated by the Sustainability Principle. The latter offers an explanation for the behaviour that is based in universal principles of physics and in deep psychology.  

Stop Press. Since writing this letter I attended an illustrated lecture at Victoria University last evening (13 May) on the topic of “Climate Spin –Denial in Media and Advertising”. The lecture, in part sponsored by our Royal Society, was by Judith Williamson, writer, Professor of Cultural History at the University for the Creative Arts in London. 

Judith began by stating she believed in the existence of “human-produced climate change”. She said that in any culture there are images that resonate widely and her duty is “to interpret them at the deepest level”. She then proceeded to show a series of slides of illustrations involving polar bears on icebergs, often with backgrounds of setting suns. Such illustrations have been used by “environmental groups” to create an association with “climate change”. She illustrated how the polar bear has such iconic value now that editors commonly resort to using a picture of a polar bear to symbolise “global warming”. She showed advertisements of ice scapes encouraging people to tour the polar bears before they are extinct, to buy technology that helps “fight global warming” and to see movies (The Day After Tomorrow). She emphasised how car advertisers in particular are “obsessed” with associating their products with snow/cold. 

Judith then asked the question, “What does it mean to see climate change through icescapes?” She suggested the Environmental Movement is fixated on markers such as melting ice etc, the icescapes make it hard to imagine what “climate change” means for the rest of the world and the great irony: the “polar” symbol is the complete opposite of what is really happening. She suggests the “cultural ubiquity of such ice scenes” is a denial of a level of imagination for both those who do and those who don’t “take climate change seriously”. The result is we have “a limited repertoire to signify climate change” and she points to Freud’s insight there is no such thing as a negative image – the absence of ice cannot be pictured without ice.  

She suggests our continual use of the polar bear-climate change icon means we are perpetually looking backwards rather than forwards” and identifies in this a “melancholic mode ..a constant sense of loss’, which was so prevalent in the poetry of the Romantics.  

Judith suggested this fixation on loss has locked us into a fear position that affects our response – including in those who do “accept climate change exists”. “The human imagination needs to run free forwards… all are facing a loss of known continuity both in “deniers and believers of climate change… denial and anxiety are part of the same dynamic – when a person cannot cope with it is suppressed and lives on in the subconscious… deniers of climate change say it is not happening and believers of climate change say it should not be happening… the very act of fighting it makes it difficult to accept…this links believers and deniers.. so we develop ways of deknowing by which we are knowing something but not actually seeing it”. 

Judith referred to Freud’s “Mourning and Melancholy” in which he suggests the ego identifies with things lost. She pointed out how children of this generation are surrounded by these “images of loss” and contrasted this with her own youth in the 1950s and 60s where children grew up surrounded by pictures of the futuristic, high tech, clean cities and landscapes of the future. Thus now whenever she comes across an illustration of a possible future she keeps them to give them to her young nephews so they can see ways of solving problems. 

I will keep my comments brief.

I found the presentation most helpful. Judith identifies several very important factors in our response to our potential impacts on the climate flows and balances that sustain us.  

She illustrates clearly that regardless of the reality of our impacts on the climate, the debate itself is transforming us in unsustainable ways.  

In discussing our ego she points to the powerful forces that operate at the subliminal levels of our psyches.
(It is no mistake there is a renewed interest in the work of Freud today. His training was as a neurologist and his work was founded in the lectures of Brucke who “set forth the radical view that the living organism is a dynamic system to which the laws of chemistry and physics apply.” -

Modern neurophysics allows us to explore our capacity for self-deceit in ways unimaginable to Freud’s contemporaries.) 

She identifies one of the great paradoxes of consciousness – we become aware of our mortality even as the notion of such transformation is abhorrent to our ego. Similarly we become aware of our capacity to transform even as the notion of responsibility and stewardship is inconvenient for our ego. 

She illustrates clearly our capacity for self-deceit and ability to deny the change we overtly call for – her example being the equation polar scapes = thermal build-up

She shows how our stewardship of our climate is framed in such a way that people at each extreme of the current debate actually have the same response. 

Her innovation of the deknowing symbol as in “knowing about something but not actually seeing it” may well be useful. It could perhaps help explain the process by which we can think and say one thing and actually do an entirely contrary thing. For example “climate carers” and “energy experts” drive cars and jet around the planet exhorting people to stop driving cars and using jets. 

All the above points are consistent with the insights afforded by the Sustainability Principle of Energy. However the principle also suggests Judith’s presentation is not as helpful as it could be. 

Judith did not define what she means when she uses the “image” symbol. She seemed to define it as pictures in the form of illustrations, photos and other visual media. A more profound use of the ‘image’ symbol is to employ it to describe the sensation a person experiences when he or she receives stimulus from any of our senses. The image created in the brain can be generated from a range of symbol forms – smell, oral, tactile, visual etc and the photo, cartoon, smell, word, drawing, sound etc of an object will tend to generate the same image in the mind.  

This might explain why Judith did not analyse the words in her illustrations. Indeed she appeared oblivious to the impact of her own choice of words. 

She made one reference to “human-produced climate change” at the beginning. Thereafter she continuously associated the “climate change” symbol with malevolence. (Reality: Climate change exists with or without the existence of human beings and enables life to exist.)  

The “global warming” symbol was associated with malevolence on multiple occasions and Judith failed to observe the profound denial of life this involves (Reality: Global warming enables life to exist on Earth and is a very different phenomena to a planetary thermal build-up. Without continual warming the planet would soon freeze.) 

Judith evoked the image of Earths atmosphere as a greenhouse. (Reality: Earth’s atmosphere is a very organic and dynamic structure with an enhanced capacity for thermal convection, the antithesis of rigid, man-made structures designed to suppress thermal convection). 

In brief: the same processes of denial of change/stewardship that Judith identified in the illustrations and photos are also evident in her own choice of word symbols. Such is our incredible and very funny capacity for self-deceit. Her lecture exposing the denial inherent in the current framing of climate issues is itself an exemplar of denial. Too easily we become the media spin we abhor. 

I too was brought up in the 1950-60s surrounded by pictures of gleaming cities set among pristine, orderly, verdant landscapes above which flowed glowing clean cars on sparkling motorways. Often these were in children’s books extolling how nuclear energy would provide us with unlimited resources. The images these generated in us enabled us to propagate from 2.5 billion to the current 6.8 billion human beings and use mineral oil/gas as though they are infinite resources.  

I am not sure these images from my youth were sustainable either. I suggest the greatest gift we can give our children is a sound knowledge of the great principles of physics. In order for this to happen we must first find ways to transcend the genius of our egos so our attempts are caring are underpinned by science. I submit that the Sustainability Principle of Energy provides us with a unique and practical guide that ten year olds can understand and embrace. We at least owe to them a review of what are clearly unsustainable uses of our prime symbols. And I reiterate that such a review can be a source of great fun and inspiration. 

I look forward to your response. My long-time offer to meet with members of your office to discuss our symbol use still stands. 

Dave McArthur 

Footnote** re Enviroschools. In 2006 Sir Jonathon Porritt came to NZ and observed in his keynote speech to the NZAEE national conference what I had been vilified for pointing out over the previous six years: the resource “did not make a single reference to the most overwhelming issue of our time – carbon…”.  

Subsequent to that I was approached to help revise the resource. I willingly donated hundreds of hours to this work but to this day I have never been shown the final result. I was informed I probably would not be happy with it, to which I responded that it does not matter if I am happy or unhappy with the revision. What matters is that the resource is in harmony with the great Principles of Energy. If it continues to be in dissonance it will tend to generate misery for our children.

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