April Fool

from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3403674/

April the first 2014 is the  release date for 10 Billion, a film written by Stephen Emmott, starring Stephen Emmott, and directed by Peter Webber. It’s shot on location in London, and the full cast is: Stephen Emmott, playing himself.

Here’s the plot summary:

Ten Billion is a film about us. It’s a film about you, your children, your parents, your friends. It’s about every one of us. It’s about our failure: failure as individuals, the failure of business, and the failure of our politicians. It is about an unprecedented planetary emergency. It’s about the future of us.

Meanwhile, while you’re waiting, you can buy the t shirt from


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or you can read a substantial proportion of the book of the film at the blog of Penguin Random House’s Joe Muscolino.

http://www.politico.com/bookshelf/blog/read-excerpt-ten-billion-stephen-emmott/ Joe says:

“Ten Billion is just the book to help you tweak your worldview in a refreshing way.

Ten Billion is the kind of book that makes you feel small. Not just “small” in the way you feel after reading some expansive history book, wondering what will ever come of your own life in the shadows of giants. No, this book is bigger, instilling a gaze-at-the-night-sky sense of smallness, where you start pondering the epic scale of size, distance, and unknowns in the cosmos.

And now imagine that the cosmos, against all laws of physics, begins to collapse under the weight of itself. That’s Ten Billion. It’s main premise seeks to draw attention to the incredibly rapid ascent and growth of the human race, and what that spells for the future of physical space, global relationships, and human resources. In 1800 there were one billion humans, 1960 three billion, and now there are over seven billion.

So while the book dwarfs us and our sense of self-importance, reading it also has a converse effect…” 

[That’s right. Joe has hit on an important point here. It’s a short book, but “…bigger, instilling a gaze-at-the-night-sky sense of smallness”. A book so minimal, so weirdly bad, so stuffed full of nonsense, that it can only increase our sense of self-importance.]

Here’s the extract:

Ten Million [sic] by Stephen Emmott

This is a book about us.

It’s a book about you, your children, your parents, your friends. It’s about every one of us. It’s about our failure: failure as individuals, the failure of business, and the failure of our politicians.

It’s about the unprecedented planetary emergency we’ve created.

It’s about the future of us.

Earth is home to millions of species.

Just one dominates it. Us.

Our cleverness, our inventiveness, and our activities have modified almost every part of our planet. In fact, we are having a profound impact on it.

Indeed, our cleverness, our inventiveness, and our activities are now the drivers of every global problem we face.

And every one of these problems is accelerating as we continue to grow toward a population of ten billion.

In fact, I believe we can rightly call the situation we’re in right now an emergency—an unprecedented planetary emergency.

This is the reason I have written this book.

I am a scientist.

I lead a lab, in Cambridge, England, which is home to a unique collection of amazing young scientists. We conduct research into complex systems, including the climate system and ecosystems, as well as the impact of us humans on the earth.

Science is ultimately about understanding. And this is what we try to do: to understand the earth’s climate, and the behavior of the earth’s terrestrial and marine ecosystems—from its microbial communities to its forests—and to predict how these vital planetary systems will respond to change.

Change caused by us.

We humans emerged as a species about 200,000 years ago. In geological time, that is really incredibly recent.

Just over 10,000 years ago, there were one million of us.

By 1800, just over two hundred years ago, there were one billion of us.

By 1960, fifty years ago, there were three billion of us.

There are now over seven billion of us.

By 2050, your children, or your children’s children, will be living on a planet with at least nine billion other people.

Sometime toward the end of this century, there will be at least ten billion of us. Possibly more.

How did we get to where we are now?

We got to where we are now through a number of civilization- and society-shaping “events”; most notably, the agricultural revolution, the scientific revolution, and—in the West—the public-health revolution.

These events have fundamentally shaped how we live, and have fundamentally shaped our planet. Their legacy will continue to shape our future. So we need to look at our growth and activities through the lens of these developments.

By 1800 the global population had reached one billion.

One of the principal reasons for this growth was the invention of agriculture. The “agricultural revolution” enabled us to go from being hunter-gatherers to highly organized producers of food, and allowed our population to grow.

A useful way to think of the development and importance of agriculture is in terms of at least three agricultural “revolutions.” The first took place over 10,000 years ago. This was the domestication of animals and the cultivation of plant types.

The second agricultural revolution was between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries. This was a revolution in agricultural productivity and the mechanization of food production.

The third happened between the 1950s and 2000s; the so-called “green revolution.”

But there’s another story here: the start of a fundamental transformation—of land use—by humans.

One hundred and thirty years later, we had grown to two billion.

 It was 1930. The impact of another revolution—the industrial revolution—was being felt. The world was being transformed by manufacturing, technological innovation, new industrial processes, and transportation.

The continuing expansion of agriculture and the revolution in public health enabled us to continue to grow—rapidly.

But there’s another story here too: the start of our lethal addiction to coal, oil, and gas as our principal sources of energy.

Thirty years later, we had grown to three billion.

It was 1960, and we were in the middle of a food revolution. There were more of us. Far more of us. We needed more food. Far more food. More than the established agricultural system could provide.

What became known as the green revolution provided this extra food.

It did so through:

The industrial-scale use of chemical pesticides, chemical herbicides, and chemical fertilizers;

an unprecedented expansion of land use;

and the wholesale industrialization of the entire food production system. This included the industrialization of raising and harvesting animals for food, from the rise of industrial-scale “factory fishing” fleets to battery farming of pigs, poultry, and beef.

This revolution came at a huge cost to the environment, in terms of:

loss of habitat;



It also set in motion an unprecedented decline of species and the start of the degradation of entire ecosystems.

By 1980, twenty years later, there were four billion of us on the planet.

The green revolution had produced much more food. That made food cheaper.

In turn, that meant we had more money to spend. And we had started to spend it on “stuff”: televisions, video recorders, Walkmans, hair dryers, cars, and clothes. And we also started to spend it on vacations. Far more vacations.

At the center of this spending spree was the astonishing growth of transportation.

In 1960 there were 100 million cars on the world’s roads—by 1980 there were 300 million.

With this came a massive expansion of road net- works—carving up entire countries, further increasing loss of habitat for other species.

In 1960 we flew 62 billion passenger miles. In 1980 we flew 620 billion passenger miles.

Global shipping grew at a similarly astonishing rate. All of the stuff we were buying, plus all of the food we were consuming, plus all the raw materials and resources required to make everything was being shipped around the world.

Just ten years later, in 1990, there were five billion of us.

By this point, initial signs of the consequences of our growth were starting to show.

Not the least of these was on water.

Our demand for water—not just the water we drank, but the water we needed for food production and to make all the stuff we were consuming— was going through the roof.

But something was starting to happen to water. Back in 1984, journalists reported from Ethiopia about a famine of biblical proportions caused by widespread drought.

That, it seemed, was “over there,” in Africa. Except that it wasn’t just happening “over there,” in Africa. Unusual drought, and unusual flooding, was increasing everywhere: Australia, Asia, Europe, the United States.

Water, a vital resource we had thought of as abundant, was now suddenly something that had the potential to be scarce.

By the year 2000, there were six billion of us.

 By this point it was becoming clear to the world’s scientific community that the accumulation of CO2, methane, and other green- house gases in the atmosphere—as a result of agriculture, land use, and the production, processing, and transportation of everything we were consuming—was changing the climate. And that, as a result, we had a serious problem on our hands.

Joe works for Penguin Random House.

Puffing their books on his blog.

And he can’t even get the title of the book he’s quoting right.

In fact, he’s out by a factor of a thousand.

Just like Emmott.

About Geoff Chambers

Retired illustrator (children's magazines, religious education textbooks, an Encyclopaedia of Christianity, gay contact and female fitness magazines, pornographic strip cartoons etc.) Retired lecturer in English and History of Art in a French University; ardent blogger on climate hysteria, banned five times from the Guardian and twice from the Conversation. Now blogging at Cliscep.com
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33 Responses to April Fool

  1. TinyCO2 says:

    Geoff, you do realise that your observation of this loser constitutes an increase in his audience of a hundred fold 😉

    I predict another warmist flop. The places where this will be shown will have to employ people to prod the sparse audience of Guardianistas awake at the end.

  2. manicbeancounter says:

    Geoff, is that it?
    Most of this is amazingly good news. Agricultural revolutions have enabled a huge population growth.
    Yet that growth is – without any interventions from a global government – slowing down and reaching a peak. Look at the numbers
    From 1 to 3 billion took 160 years
    From 3 to 5 billion took 30 years
    From 5 to 7 billion took 20 years
    From 7 to 9 billion will take 40 years.
    The population will add another billion and top out at 10 billion in another 40 years.
    (He leaves out the industrial and medical revolutions that are just as important. Also that without the use of fossil fuels for energy this these revolutions would not have happened. Or the increase in life expectancy or the disappearance of absolute poverty from most of the world).
    Even the awful famine in Ethiopia in 1984 should be put in context. About 0.01% of the global population died. Since then global population has grown by over 50%. Yet he can’t think of no more recent examples? Unfortunately there have been much worse examples before and since, but none that captured the media spotlight in the same way.
    The failure to analyse basic numbers, understand the basic causes of population growth, and even to use a reference like Wikipedia to check the worst famines, is not the work of a crack team from one of the World’s leading universities. It is more of a first year undergraduate who has missed most of the crucial lectures.

  3. Lewis Deane says:

    I couldn’t get past the gag in my throat of “It’s about you!” Who, me? In my mean coldness, my stupid lack of heat or lack of being. Trembling with desire and hoping someone will desire with me? Though the trembling is probably cold. These bourgeois cunts!

  4. Lewis Deane says:

    They all mean well. They are very nice. They are not c@nts!

  5. Lewis Deane says:

    I was thinking, Geoff, if we suddenly, miraculously, were able to decide which way history went in 1989 would we decide this way? Where thousands, nay, millions have had to lose there soul just to keep alive? Where millions have been killed or destroyed for this fabled ‘Western Freedom’ – think of Chechnya? What was that for, apart from Yeltsin and Putin’s wank fest? Look at the poor men and the women that every day must lose their dignity just to earn a crust? Or much worse because they are forced into it? Do you know 25 years ago these people were ‘guaranteed’ dignity? It was only shit’s like us that insisted they should be ‘free’? What Freedom, what Dignity! Fuck Vaclav Havel and damn him him to hell!

  6. Lewis Deane says:

    But, of course, one can’t do much about history (‘besides the wench is dead’) but one has a couple of moments of agonized irony, a kind of ‘klaus’ of ironies. After Vaclav Klaus. A poet can only write when the world is either unfree or free under the law. There is no law. No rationality. What are the rules? Without rules I forget what to dance to. When people say its cold because its hot and its hot because its cold, well, I got a fever.

  7. Lewis Deane says:

    We should have got inside the ‘Wall’!?

  8. Lewis Deane says:

    I am dying but no matter – the whale that spewed me
    on the beach is beached up somewhere and the God
    He did it to keeps silent. I cut out the whale blubber from my whale
    And sing sing silly songs to a God that echos in his belly.

  9. Lewis Deane
    Sorry about your fever. I’ve got one too, but it’s only a cold. I think Chechnya was about terrorism.

    The Royal Court show was packed out, apparently because of word of mouth recommendations. The book got just one bad review. It should be compared with the works of Ehrlich, Commoner and the Club of Rome forty years ago. They went over the same ground and spouted the same nonsense, but in coherent, connected up prose. There’s an audience for this stuff, and it includes the kind of intelligent, cultivated people who go to the Royal Court.

    What’s weird about Emmott is the silent support he’s getting. It takes big money to make a film with a big name director, even if it’s filmed in a studio with a cast of one. The Royal Court show came from a chance meeting with director Katie Mitchell and was financed by the European Union. The Penguin / Random House book was rushed out a few months ahead of schedule because of Danny Dorling’s spoiler. Sensible people at some of the world’s biggest publishing houses in Britain, the US, Germany and Italy must have known that it was drivel, even if the editors of the Guardian and Observer couldn’t see it.
    You’re a bit unfair on first year undergraduates. They don’t write one sentence to the page. With no verbs.
    Emmott is currently getting quite a lot of coverage in Germany. I’d appreciate some help with translation.

  10. Lewis Deane says:

    Sorry for my foul language, Geoff. I must control these late morning bouts. I suppose, at the moment, I’m trying to work through a kind of political despair by living it, thoroughly, in the sense in which Diogenes lived his philosophy. ‘History is difficult’ to twist a quote from the Cantos. I think politics should be like what Nietzsche said about his philosophy: (I paraphrase from memory) “You look out of your window at that passing coach, when you philosophise – but I am in the coach – in fact, I am the coach!” Ie, it is no good merely thinking about these questions, one must really be them. Perhaps I have read to deeply into history (the very opposite of Jim Jones!) to be even approximate to what someone once called ‘infamous optimism’. There is often no corners, whether ‘left’ or ‘right’, down these long roads of an unknown ‘destination’. One takes consolation in what was or has only just recently past. For what one notes, now, is the “West’, having allegedly defeated the “Beasts of Ideology”, is creating anew the fetters of a new Ideology – ‘climate change’ is only it’s most obvious, therefore superficial manifestation – to bind us once again. However this ideology is not ‘ideology’ for only those who oppose it are ‘ideological’. It has that hated smugness of a naked king. Inevitably on the side of history but only in the sense of Shelley’s Triumph Of Life, grinding us all down. What ‘sweet reason’ shall oppose it? That I must discover.


    One Sunday I ventured out:
    The street was the same shabby bin
    Of flowering tin and copulent flies.
    I discovered the polluted sea
    As I had discovered her before:
    From the strand and at a distance,
    Reflecting a sapien backside,
    Resigned, as passive as a slave,
    To complexions blare. And so,
    Seeing the mutual indifference
    Of man and water, I did not protest,
    I certainly was not shocked,
    I retreated back to my door:
    Another forty days vigil
    In the barrel of my bed,
    Expecting Alexander
    With a preprepared, laconic tongue
    So to list instructions
    Confused but tolerable.

    One consoles oneself with the good things, like Eusébio da Silva Ferreira (25 January 1942 – 5 January 2014), rest in peace genius.

  11. Lewis Deane says:

    Reading back that comment I realise, with a golden laughter of crazy irony, it could be read by ‘both’ sides as supporting their ‘position’ and, therefore, their ‘despair’! It is like the mistake people make of assuming that I, and I believe this goes for you, am on their ‘side’. Someone on Bishop Hill asked for a Marxist critique of the ideology of ‘climate change’ (I think it was either sHx or in reply to him) – well, what the hell has Ben Pile and climate-resistance been doing for these past several years?! Though, I am not on his ‘side’, either. I prefer your whimsicality!

  12. Lewis Deane says:

    The minimal that is required is to love.
    But only one without love could make such a statement,
    Be conscious of such a requirement. Innocent of heart
    But dead. I am Lazarus come back to tell you all
    Or Jonah, spewed upon a beach, refusing still
    Those words that came from God. Or being
    In the belly of the whale, drumming his indigestion,
    With the oil cans, the plastic bags, the half eaten fish,
    The etc detritus of being human, I, inhuman,
    Wallow in this strange, submarine defeat.
    I like it down here. How’s it up there?

  13. Peter S says:

    Utopias invariably involve some notion of a ‘merger’. That is to say, the person hankering after one will be motivated by a wish to somehow merge the outside world into himself and thereby get rid of otherness and the disruptive demands it places upon him. One hypothesis of this common yearning places its origin in the blissful existence of our very early years – a time in which all things were experienced as nothing more than merged parts of the ‘self’, merely willed into being.

    From this very same period belongs temper tantrums… a militant resistance to the eventual pressing realities of otherness and, along with it, the need to modify one’s own position in relation to it. The crisis presented with each new tantrum is in its being unprecedented (historically), all-encompassing (as a state), and critical (as a demand). The purpose of these eruptions is to win a battle of wills.

    Should utopias and tantrums be so inextricably linked, it might be worth wondering how they could reappear, in tandem, in later life… say, for an adult who never really lost a battle of wills way back when it was crucial that he did so. The dumping of his subjectivity in preference for complicity (“we, us, our”, etc) might provide one clue. But his response in the face of noncompliance perhaps provides another. For example, an “unprecedented planetary emergency” – as a threat issued to noncompliant others – contains all three components of a classic tantrum – its sheer size, its sheer scope and its absolute urgency.

    Let’s put this view to the test by acting as editor to the first part of Stephen Emmott’s book extract. Here, we keep the exact underlying meaning of what he wishes to communicate but tweak a few words to make them more biographical – and internalise some descriptions to give them a subjectivity for him:

    This is a book all about me.

    It’s a book of my views of you, your children, your parents, your friends. It’s about every one of you. It’s about your failure: failure as individuals, the failure of your business, and the failure of your politicians.

    It’s about the all-consuming tantrum you’ve made me have.

    It’s about the future of me.

    Earth is home to millions of species.

    Just one dominates it. You.

    Your cleverness, your inventiveness, and your activities have disrupted almost every part of my world. In fact, you are having a profound impact on it.

    Indeed, your cleverness, your inventiveness, and your activities are the drivers of the massive dilemma I face.

    And every one of my massive dilemmas accelerate as you continue to grow toward a population of ten billion.

    In fact, I believe I can rightly call the situation I’m in right now an all-consuming tantrum.

    This is the motivation behind me writing this book.

  14. Geoff,
    Thanks for the reply to my comments. I do not find it so strange that Emmott should be getting so much support. From the perspective of the mainstream intellectual alarmist tendency it ticks all the right boxes. It is a tad more extreme than that mainstream, holds the similar values, and is by a Professor who heads a team at one of the world’s leading universities. To actual read the stuff, still less to compare and contrast with alternative views or check the facts, is not the current way. This is why the bogus opinion polls of another Professor Stephen are viewed so highly by the same group. It saves people from the hard work of actually understanding the issues, or from the considerable discomfort of having their beliefs challenged.

    I looked up on Amazon both Emmott’s and Danny Dorling’s books. Both have “look inside” pages. Emmott’s must be the shortest in terms of words of any non-picture books for above 8 year-old reading levels. By the way Dorling recognizes that the population will top out at 10 billion, and the rate of increase is decelerating. He excuses Emmott’s extremism as being a reaction to Matt Ridley’s “Rational Optimist” approach. At least on word count, Dorling is far better value, particularly if you suffer from insomnia.

  15. TinyCO2 says:

    Just because the luvvies luv it doesn’t translate into bums on seats. Age of Stupid, Greedy Lying Bastards and Gasland (1 and 2) have all been flops.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Peter S,

    Very good!

    I was wondering, just as an aside, as a person ‘versed’ in the ‘ways of the mind’ (and for my own Vanity’s sake!) the very naive symbolism of my Jonah fixation? The ‘belly of the whale’ is not a wish to return but a preconsciousness of being in the belly and of being aware of it and of my mothers Despair at the time (and my wish not to leave for the reasons that created that Despair)? Hence, when I ‘came out’ (if that is not to ‘disgusting’?), I was notoriously (among my family) passive and silent for my first four years. “A stilled, stunned silent thing” as I once put it in a lost poem. I mention this not because I think my personal experiences are important but because I hypothesis that it is emblematic of a fact not realized: that the world into which we are thrown has already conditioned us to it’s reception. If the above is understandable, I would be interested in your comments.

  17. Anonymous says:

    The Whale And Parrot

    For Anna
    “All the cod is gone! “
    B.B.C. World Service.


    A big fish eat me
    But there are no fish in the sea
    And God will tell you who is right and who is wrong.
    A big fish eat me but there are no fish in the sea
    And the world will tell you who is right and who is wrong.
    Jonah died, was born again, lived back to tell
    Who was right and who was wrong.
    And the world, did it end, did it begin?
    A big fish eat me but there are no fish in the sea.

  18. Lewis Deane says:

    That ‘Anonymous’ was me!

  19. Lewis Deane says:

    The children have drunk in a separate room
    The proverbial Kool Aid.
    We have walked into that house
    And discovered our strangeness.
    The lights were on but the people have gone.
    Each child must remember each crime we commit.
    It is only our crimes that are remembered.

  20. Lewis Deane says:

    People who not even the wit to fashion a forgery!

  21. bullocky says:

    People who take themselves so uber-seriously are frequently funny. Emmott is front and centre in this category.
    The take home message of his beseeching pap is that the lunatics are in charge of the asylum…..
    …… and he’s (unwittingly) presenting himself as evidence.
    The po faced climate change retinue will lap it up, of course. Which completes the farce.

    p.s. – Peter S and Kevin Marshall ………. AAA rated posts (IMhO)

  22. Lewis Deane
    It’s nice to have a variety of comments, but you”re getting a bit off-topic, I think.

    Peter S
    Thanks for your always perceptive comments. While I accept wholeheartedly the insights of psychoanalysis, it’s vital to avoid reductionism. Even if we could form a perfect psychological profile of Emmott – which shouldn’t be difficult, given his self description as someone who works seventeen hours a day, and takes the car out once a week to go to Waitrose (and back) – it wouldn’t explain how his peculiar views have gained such a hold in our society. Lots of people think that “it’s all about me”. Society has ways of keeping them in check, most of the time.
    Perhaps this explains our tendency to want to compare envionmentalism to fascism. On a purely historical level, the comparison is clearly absurd. Perhaps we sense, without really understanding why, that on a psychological level there are parallels to be drawn.

    Kevin, TinyCO2, bullocky
    I feel I’m still no nearer to explain the Emmott phenomenon. There was a tiny sign of embarrassment from the environmentalists when the Guardian published a second, critical review of the book. And his launch at the Science Museum was never put on the internet. But how did it get published by the science and philosophy section at Penguin? Anyone the least bit eduated can see it’s rubbish. Is it cynicism, plus a complete lack of shame, that makes editors, journalists, museum curators, theatre directors, behave like fairground hucksters?

  23. Peter S says:

    Geoff, I’m not at all sure how you view my comments on Emmott as ‘reducing’ the things he has to say when, in fact, I’ve sought to expand them. Indeed, if anyone I knew came to me in a sorry old state, claiming to be convinced the world was about to end and that it was all the fault of those horrid, horrid people outside, I would (if I cared enough) ask him to elaborate in the hope that his doing so might lead to some alleviation of whatever ideas were so tormenting him. As Emmott is not around, we can but note the state he is in is not at all an uncommon one (to a greater or lesser degree) and reflect upon why people choose to get so stuck with it.

    As for ‘forming psychological profiles’… I haven’t a clue what a psychological profile is, never mind how one might go about forming one.

  24. Peter S
    I didn’t mean to suggest that you attempt to “reduce” Emmott’s thoughts in any way. I was using the word “reductionism” in the normal philosophical sense to make the point that sociology (the study of societies) cannot be explained entirely in terms of psychology (the study of the human psyche) any more than psychology can be explained entirely in terms of biochemistry, and so on.
    Even if we had a complete knowledge of what’s going on in Emmott’s mind (“psychological profile” – call it what you will) we would be no nearer to understanding the peculiar appeal of his ideas. For that we need a different kind of analysis.
    Anti-reductionism implies using the highest (most superficial) level of analysis that works. The appropriate level for Emmott’s oeuvre would be the book review in the cultural supplement of the Sunday papers. A nice put down there would make the name of the critic. Alex Cull and I wrote such a put down in a couple of afternoons. Anyone googling “Emmott + Ten Billion” will find it.
    Why did no critic make a name for himself by announcing loud and clear that Microsoft, the universities of Cambridge Oxford and London, reputable publishers in Britain, the U.S., Germany and Italy, the Royal Court Theatre; the United Nations, the Science Museum, the scientific review “Nature”, the European Union, and now some unknown film financier, are all making fools of themselves by lending authority and financial support to a proven idiot, who can’t draw a graph, can’t form a sentence, and can’t think straight, yet claims to be creating a “new kind of science”? There are pop stars and fashion designers who make more sense than Emmott.
    In the absence of literary criticism, psychology is the obvious next place to look for explanations. Once one has analysed the state he is in (and I find your analysis most convincing) and determined that “the state he is in is not at all an uncommon one” the real work must begin. We can do nothing about the inner workings of Emmott’s mind. Perhaps we can do something about the world in which his ideas resonate?

  25. bullocky says:

    For the life of me, I can’t excise the image of the late, great Ronnie Barker delivering the ’10 Billion’ sermon. Perhaps with a shortish preamble re. Emmott’s Intelligent Rubbish Bin for context.

    One of Ronnie Barker’s wonderful comedic skills was to be able to say the most outrageously ridiculous things with a ‘dead pan’ serious face.
    For his sake alone, I hope that Emmott can do the same.

  26. Peter S says:

    Geoff – “Even if we had a complete knowledge of what’s going on in Emmott’s mind (“psychological profile” – call it what you will) we would be no nearer to understanding the peculiar appeal of his ideas.”

    I wasn’t seeking a ‘complete knowledge of what’s going on in Emmott’s mind’ – I outlined a hypothesis concerning what drives humans… our frustrations and fulfilments, the desires which bring us to collaborate and how some such collaborations can seemingly have ulterior motives.

    When the ‘peculiar appeal of an idea’ is peculiar because it is held to in the knowledge of there being very little to justify it, we might wonder if the appeal lies not in the idea itself – but in a felt need it is being used in an effort to legitimise and meet. Similarly, we might question the usefulness of repeatedly falsifying the idea (in every detail) when doing so only results in a peculiar refusal to listen.

    Being human, of course, is to transform what is peculiar into what is knowledge. When successful, things like ‘peculiar appeals’ become ‘identifiable drives’ and can be incorporated into an understanding of – and an effective response to – their demands upon society.

  27. alexjc38 says:

    Looking at the abundance of white space in Ten Billion (empty pages, abundant gaps between the tiny paragraphs, the pregnant pause that comes after each ominous, detached phrase), it’s almost as if a large part of the book is a blank screen, onto which readers are invited to project their own worst fears.

    In that sense, the purpose of the book seems to tie in with what you were writing, Geoff, in today’s post about the emphasis on feelings, as opposed to thought.

    Some of the pictures in the book appear designed to evoke certain feelings, without an explicit connection to anything specific in the text. There’s a photo of the vast, now-abandoned Mirny diamond mine in Russia. Why is the picture there? Of course, it’s a photo of a place where minerals were extracted from the earth on a large scale, and the preceding text is indeed partly about mining minerals.

    However, the reader has to fill in the blanks with something. but is not invited to look into the history of the diamond trade, for example, or Soviet mining techniques, any more than someone listening to Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song” on the radio is meant to seriously try and find an answer to the question “What about crying whales?” Emmott is inviting us to emote.

    It’s a vast hole in the earth, over a kilometre wide and half a kilometre deep. It looks big enough to take care of the EU’s landfill needs for several centuries and make much of our recycling efforts seem irrelevant (it would be interesting if someone actually ran the numbers, though – Bjorn Lomborg did this sort of thing in The Skeptical Environmentalist, I recall).

    But no – in the context of Ten Billion, it’s a symbol of our wilful greed and destructiveness – nothing but an ugly wound on the surface of the planet. We’re meant to feel appalled and sickened. Emmott doesn’t tell us this, explicitly – I’m just filling in the blanks.

    In the words of “Earth Song”: “What have we done to the world? Look what we’ve done…” The object is not to think about different possible answers to the question, though, the object is to reflect on our collective sins – and emote.

  28. Peter S.
    Point taken. Thanks for the clarification. As I’ve said often in comments at Climate Resistance, however enlightening I find your analyses, I don’t see how they can be used in argument with the people whose motivations you are analysing. Of course, you may find arguing with these people pointless because of their refusal to listen. But it’s precisely because of their refusal to listen that we mustn’t refuse to present our point of view. Otherwise we’ll be like the fairies in Peter Pan who die when children stop believing in them.

    Is Ronnie Barker dead? I thought he’d changed his name to Ban Ki-moon and taken up a new job recounting outrageous nonsense about global warming with a straight face at the UN.

  29. Alex
    That hole in Russia is very large, isn’t it? Like almost every other photo in the book, it’s taken from the air, and it’s not what you’d call “a nice view”. Does that matter? I wonder. After all, according to Emmott, we shouldn’t be up in the air anyway.
    And that pile of used tyres in California is pretty impressive. You could fill the Tate Modern up with that, easy. (Maybe someone has)

  30. Reading this post and Kevin’s comment reminded me that I had a half-written Amazon review of this magnum opus lying around in my filespace. So I tidied it up and submitted it and it’s now there as the most recent review.

    It is a bit depressing to see how many enthusiastic reviews thete are. The pnly decent one eas an early one titled ‘ten billion reasons not to buy this book’.

  31. Paul
    i’ve only just finished reading the book today, thanks to Alex, who sent me a PDF.
    I’ve been checking out the reviews at Amazon.de. They’re evenly divided about 20 5star and 20 one star and very few in between. My German is slow and laborious. I could resort to babel or google, but I’d still have to double check. When I google Emmott looking for recent mentions, about half the hits are in German, so he’s had some reaction there. If any German speaker would care to trawl through reactions there I’d be very grateful. Reviews in the serious press are always interesting.

  32. Peter S says:

    Geoff – “Of course, you may find arguing with these people pointless because of their refusal to listen. But it’s precisely because of their refusal to listen that we mustn’t refuse to present our point of view.”

    And, of course, they would say the very same thing. If ‘these people’ have no interest in what you have to say, the answer may be to find something more interesting to say to them. Their ‘peculiar refusal to listen’ might simply be down to a peculiar refusal to ask the right questions. As collusions go, it’s proving to be a pretty effective one.

  33. L says:

    Sorry, Goeff, but how’s this for ‘off-topic’ (think of the Hammer House of Horror!):

    7% illusion


    The cold is terrifying.
    It punishes the weak and the strong alike.
    Fingering your bones, it reaches to the heart.
    A creeping delusion.

    The assault happens every time, like a shock.
    Reviving the heart it wakes up the dead
    Only to immediately die, again.
    The smog of your own streets
    Lead nowhere. Signalled by breaths
    That discover you in back alleys of
    Secret sin, a kind of British folly.


    That ghastly gaslight of your own soul.
    A Jack the Ripper, a murder to be discovered.
    That East End of being Other. The clues abound,
    Leading back to something that must be a lie.

    The artful offal of death. Haruscipating
    Our victims. The abuse has become old.
    An Establishment Order that re-establishes itself.
    An Expertise that discovers no more than
    Is ordinarily suspected. Faster, when the blood
    Is still wet, I am the magnet to its iron.

    I gravitate toward the smiles that wickedness assumes.

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