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Why I'm So Much Smarter Than Everyone Else

Earlier this week, Kevin posted a story about a massive cyclone bearing down on Bangladesh. About 650,000 people were being evacuated, but officials still feared that the death toll could end up rivaling 1991, when another cyclone killed over 100,000 people.

Well, the storm hit, and the current death toll is almost 800 -- and sure to rise.

People have been dying in massive numbers in Bangladesh as long as I can remember. It seems every few years, there's some new catastrophe with a six-figure death toll. Yet soon it passes from public attention, forgotten just in time for the next cataclysm.

Yet the Bangladeshis go on going on.

At some point, you have to ask yourself "why the hell do the people stay there?"

I know why, because I'm so much smarter than you are. Because I own (and recently re-read) P. J. O'Rourke's book "All the Trouble in the World: The Lighter Side of Overpopulation, Famine, Ecological Disaster, Ethnic Hatred, Plague, and Poverty."

(I fear I'm becoming too dependent on P. J., but dammit, the man has written so much about so many things, it's hard to find something going on that he hasn't commented upon. And, as is his wont, it's almost guaranteed to be something so insightful and humorous and so eminently quotable that I find I can't resist.)

Chapter 2 is entitled "Overpopulation: Just Enough Of Me, Too Many Of You," and in it he makes a thorough case study of Bangladesh. And he not only asks the question, he answers it:

What first attracted humans to this place and made them, in Neolithic terms, well-to-do when they got here was the astounding fertility of the land. Bangladesh was formed by the confluence of three of the largest rivers on the Indian subcontinent -- the Ganges, teh Brahmaputra, and the Meghna. These meander, bifurcate, twine, and join in some seven hundred distinct watercourses, forming what is traditionally called "the mouth of the Ganges." From the air Bangladesh looks like blood capillaries or nerve ganglia or com other C- lab report thing that had to be viewed through a biology-class microscope. Runty hill rise in the east and northeast but nine-tenths of Bangladesh is no higher above the ocean than a fourth-floor beachfront condominium. This is he largest estuarine delta in the world, an enormous alluvial plain, a great big mudflat. At the turn of the last century, before modern agricultural improvements had even been applied in Bengal, some areas were known to support as many as nine hundred people per square mile by farming alone. Each person was obtaining his livelihood from the cultivation of a plot 175 feet square, smaller than many suburban house lots. And this assumes they all slept standing up, leaning against the tomato stakes.

As real estate, it has its downside. One of hte oldest stone inscriptions found in Bengal urged people to store food in preparation for future floods, and a fourteenth-century Moroccan traveler, Ibn-Batauta, said the Bengalis themselves called the place "a hell crammed with blessings." But the soil is is so perfectly dark and rich that you think it must have come from the plant store in little bags. The ground is moist and friable and possessed of the dark, mellow, sweet-and-sour bumper-crop smell I remember from a childhood of getting my face shoved in Ohio loam while playing football. It is the stuff compost heaps are supposed to turn into, into the stinky slime they do. Plant a foot on the dirt of Bangladesh and you'll grow more toes.

"A hell crammed with blessings." That centuries-old turn of phrase is so widely applicable, and should be remembered whenever certain areas are afflicted with disasters. California is prone to wildfires and earthquakes and moonbats and mudslides, but it is still the most populous state in the union. People keep moving there, keep building homes in places where they can be destroyed by a capricious Nature in a variety of telegenic fashions at a moment's notice, and the rest of the nation tches as we flip the channels and watch our fellow Americans' dreams go up in smoke or down the hill. We shrug at the people of New Orleans and say "what can you expect when you build a coastal city below sea level?," but don't pause to remember that the port of New Orleans is arguably the single most important waterway in the United States. We need that port. Ports need workers. A port that size needs a lot of workers. And that many workers need a city, with all its attendant infrastructure. Hence we end up with a major city built largely below sea level.

Here in New Hampshire, we aren't prone to many major disasters. We've had blizzards and ice storms, and we're long overdue for a major earthquake. On the other hand, we aren't overwhelmed with natural blessings, either. We have the smallest seacoast of all the states that have seacoasts. Farming is good, but not great. Part of the reason we call ourselves "The Granite State" is because we're very rocky -- we have hills and mountains and, thanks to our climate and the freezing/thawing cycle, fields seem to sprout rocks as regularly as they push up corn and other crops. And despite being the ninth state, with a history dating back almost 400 years (2023 will mark the quadricentennial of colonial settlement of New Hampshire), we're still one of the smaller states -- 44th in land area, 41st in population. and less than 138 poeple per square mile. California, on the other hand, wasn't really colonized until 1697 (74 years after New Hampshire) and didn't really begin in earnest until 1765, but now has over 217 people per square mile.

Nature, it seems, has a sense of balance. Great blessings come with great risks. Moderate blessings are coupled with moderate risks. Those who would seek Heaven must risk finding Hell.

And for those of us who prefer our dramas more man-made, there are places like New Hampshire.


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Comments (25)

" Great blessings come with... (Below threshold)

" Great blessings come with great risks. Moderate blessings are coupled with moderate risks."

Good point, but how do you explain the Great Plains of the Midwest, with all the constant wind, no coastline, no mountains, and monstrous tornados?

We thought about moving there because we think the Midwest has the cheapest land in the country and in general is the most well-balanced portion of the country in the political sense. But the odds of having your town wiped off the map by a tornado are certainly greater than negligible.

Well, we do have great bles... (Below threshold)
CGHill Author Profile Page:

Well, we do have great blessings here on the Plains: decent-quality air (Oklahoma City is still considered by the EPA to be an attainment zone for ozone, despite 1.2 million people in and around town), all manner of agriculture, world-class sunsets, and land that isn't all that flat (except in Kansas).

If you do move here, we'd love to have you. And I speak as a person who went outside to watch the biggest tornado in US history, which missed my front door by about 600 yards.

And knowing how they have l... (Below threshold)
Spurwing Plover:

And knowing how they have lied through the years the enviromentalists wackos and AL GORE will blame his on GLOBAL WARMING and want various industries blamed for this knowing what a bunch of liars and crooks they are just like the way they tried to blame global warming for HURRICANE KATRINA

Just to be picky, New Orlea... (Below threshold)

Just to be picky, New Orleans was not below sea level when it was built. But that sort of mud-flat land slowly sinks. It still is sinking.

In its natural condition floods keep adding more soil, but once we added levees and flood protection, then New Orleans was eventually doomed.

It's funny how one grows accustomed to ones local disasters. In San Francisco we don't lose sleep worrying about earthquakes, but the thought of twisters gives us heeby-jeebies when we visit the midwest.

but don't pause to... (Below threshold)
but don't pause to remember that the port of New Orleans is arguably the single most important waterway in the United States. We need that port. Ports need workers. A port that size needs a lot of workers. And that many workers need a city, with all its attendant infrastructure. Hence we end up with a major city built largely below sea level.
I agree with the port part. I agree with preserving the historic district, which wouldn't be as difficult to protect as it is more or less the highground.

However, does Anne Rice really need to live in New Orleans at the expense of the US taxpayer? Does someone on welfare need to live in NO?

There's a vested interest in keeping NO going as a Port and some other Geographically linked activity, and the taxpayers see a return. But taxpayers shouldn't be paying for anyone's nice view or love of NO's atmosphere. That should be coming out of that person's own pocket. The "I love to live in N.O. but have no real reason to be living there tax."

Excuse me while I encase myself in duct tape and bubble wrap while Paul gets out the 2x4 in the trunk of his car.

SpurwingAre you re... (Below threshold)
Civil behavior:


Are you really that dense or do you just pretend to be?

I know that you "intelligent design types" have a ridiculously low level of tolerance for science but c'mon now, you can't possibly believe that 6 billion people of which our own population is 4% and uses 25% of the worlds resources with China and India gaining fast are contributing nothing to the carbon buildup in the atmosphere? You couldn't possibly be that stupid.

There are scientists worldwide that have come together in multi disciplinary venues who have tested the theory and all come up with he same results.

Climatologists and paleontologists particularly are matching ice and rock records and within the past two years (2005/2006) have come up with startling discoveries as to the link between mass extinctions and carbon measures.

Don't they have a library in the town you live?

I suggest you go and visit it. There are several good books out by some of the most respected scientists in the field, Flannery, Weart, and Ward to name a few. You might learn something as scary as that seems.
Get reading and stop listening to the quacks whose sole goal is to make as much as they can off the dimwits of this world.

Science has been used effectively for thousands of years for small little things like medicines and machines but now we are talking BIG. BIG as in whole world. Wrap your head around it. Study it. Then start to make a difference. Your life depends upon it.

Tsunamis, Earthquakes, Floo... (Below threshold)

Tsunamis, Earthquakes, Floods, Forest Fires, Volcanic Eruptions, Lava Flows, Winter Storms with winds to gust over 100 mph that don't have a horrible name like cyclone or typhoon, serial killers (only State where its legal to kill unborn AND grandpa), and a devastating pandemic of post 60's hippy-itis, secondary Bush Derangement Syndrome, and reefer addiction = these are but a few of the local attractions that keep Californians, Idahoans, Montanans, and Michiganders immigrating in waves. Even though we we surround a communist state (the People's Republic of Portland) that constantly plots to expand its borders, we're peace loving folk, as long as you don't mess with our crab pots, spike our trees or drive with California plates. And we thank our non-denominational (in a private and non-offensive to atheists way) higher power every day we don't have hurricanes or tornados.

Civil behavior...You... (Below threshold)

Civil behavior...
You can vigoriously apply a high sheen to that fecal dollop all you want...But it's still just a shinny turd.

Wrap your head around the s... (Below threshold)

Wrap your head around the size of our oceans, the most important part of atmospheric gas balanc,e cb. The fished-out areas now with huge dead zones, the massive pollution and disruption of the most important ecosystem of our planet, that's where the real man-made threat to global climate is. Outside of the radiant energy of the sun, the oceans are the major driver of climate for this planet. They'd have the capacity to process all the human and natural release of CO2 if they were healthy. Changes in ocean ecology have driven major climate change since they were first formed. And will continue to.

Now as to whether we're experiencing GLOBAL warming, or global redistribution of energy (warmer northern and colder southern hemispheres), and just how much man's impact on our oceans is affecting the climate, that's a conundrm that is not scientifically clear yet.

DoninFL,<p... (Below threshold)
civil behavior:


You remind me of those uneducated rednecks I've been baiting for sport here in Florida.

The word is s.h.i.n.y.


Got degree?

Epador, I'll be... (Below threshold)
civil behavior:


I'll be the first person to wrap my head around the ocean. You are correct in stating that the oceans are the major driver for the climate.

Having lived on Puget Sound for many years we watched as the fishing grounds went from spare to none. We watched as Exxon polluted some of the best grounds on earth and never paid a penny to the men whose livelihood was destroyed.

As for the conundrum of how much man's contribution to global warming and its resultant effect on the oceans I suggest the following two links and then one of the explosive new books that ties the fossil records into the ice core and climate modeling so as to draw a large picture that is unavoidably prescient if you are willing to connect the dots.

Under a Green Sky by Peter Ward

By the way. much of the more forward thinking science is actually taking place in your neck of the woods and its a good thing too. Without the West Coast universitites and the few outstanding climate and oceanographic institutes like Wood's Hole, Max Planck etc we would be having to depend solely on political ideological reporting.

No thanks, I prefer to make my deciisons based on a broad consensus rather than corporate pablum. So should you.



If you look at the past 300... (Below threshold)

If you look at the past 300 million years or so, without the help of man, we've had major climatic changes, most orchestrated if not modified by oceanic changes. I still see only poor bedraggled attempts at science to show that industrial release of carbon dioxide is the major driver for current climate trends. There are even poorer efforts to show that altering CO2 production will have an important impact on the current evolution of our climate. Yet the oceanic changes (and I'm not talking about the ol' melting arctic ice obliterating the Gulf Stream) that man has effected seem to take little notice. No mention in Kyoto of efforts to save the oceans biosphere. So CB, I still don't find much weight in your argument. One or two good volcanic blows outstrip industrial gas and particulate pollution in global effects. How you gonna stop that by riding your bike or driving a Golf Cart?

CB:"No thanks,... (Below threshold)


"No thanks, I prefer to make my deciisons [sic] based on a broad consensus rather than corporate pablum. So should you."

Then you should reject the IPCC without argument:

The common perception of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is one of an impartial organization that thoroughly reviews the state of climate science and produces reports which are clear, accurate, comprehensive, well substantiated and without bias.

The only needs examine some of its procedural documents, its reports and its dealings with reviewers of the report drafts to discover how wrong this impression is.

The IPCC is not and never has been an organisation that examines all aspects of climate change in a neutral and impartial manner. Its internal procedures reinforce that bias; it makes no attempts to clarify its misleading and ambiguous statements. It is very selective about the material included in its reports; its fundamental claims lack evidence. And most importantly, its actions have skewed the entire field of climate science.

Over the last 20 years and despite its dominance and manipulation of climate science, the IPCC has failed to provide concrete evidence of a significant human influence on climate.

It's time to call a halt to its activities and here are ten reasons for doing so.

1. The IPCC charter emphasises a human influence on climate, not climate in general
2. Its participants are not impartial towards a possible human influence on climate
3. The IPCC promotes a self-sustaining hypothesis of man-made warming
4. The IPCC's misuse of the concept of consensus
5. Many IPCC report authors have vested interests
6. The IPCC report authors are often also reviewers
7. IPPC gives a misleading impression of the extent of review and support for its claims.
8. IPCC advances a very weak argument for a significant human influence on climate
9. Its primary conclusion was probably pre-determined
10. Ethics and professionalism

CB"Having live... (Below threshold)


"Having lived on Puget Sound for many years we watched as the fishing grounds went from spare to none. We watched as Exxon polluted some of the best grounds on earth and never paid a penny to the men whose livelihood was destroyed."

CB at best your being disingenuous, at worst your an ill-informed liar.

To lay any degradation of the Puget Sound fishing grounds all at the feet of Exxon is ludicrous and ignores the blatant over fishing and Harvest Management in the area.

Secondly if by saying "Exxon polluted some of the best grounds on earth and never paid a penny" you mean the process has been tied up in the courts to this day your would be right.

If you mean something else your being your idiotic self. As usual.

Shiny or Shinny...it's sti... (Below threshold)

Shiny or Shinny...it's still a TURD....asswipe.

DominFla,Why bother?... (Below threshold)

Why bother? The moron has typos throughout his screeds, and can't even capitalize his own handle in a consistent way.
He's just trying to make him self feel better by trying to put someone else down.

Science is repeate... (Below threshold)
Civil behavior:

Science is repeated observations, verified observations, and reproducible experiments. On global warming, the argument among honest scientists who deal in in the tools of science, hypothesis, test, verify, and reproduce tests to produce results, there is simply no debate left. Those who claim there is ignore the truth, and ignore the facts.

Record warmth in any one year is not in itself highly significant. What is noteworthy, however, is that global average temperatures experienced a net rise over the twentieth century, and the average rate of this rise has been increasing.

When scientists attempt to reproduce these twentieth century trends in their climate models, they are only able to do so when including human-produced heat-trapping emissions in addition to natural causes.


I was going to castigate ci... (Below threshold)

I was going to castigate civil behavior for going off-topic, but then I realized he was embodying the title of the piece. But where I meant it in a self-mocking sense, he's sincere: he's so much smarter than the rest of us, he simply has to say something and it's "Fact." He doesn't need to cite any greater authority, provide any links, offer a single shred of evidence, show any conclusive studies -- he's simply RIGHT and anyone who would dispute it is not just a fool, but a heretic and a criminal and must be punished.

Hmm... "C. B." "civil behavior" or "cultish bully?"


JayWizbang could go ... (Below threshold)

Wizbang could go all medevial on him
and disemvowel him.

Tempting, Maggie, but I pre... (Below threshold)

Tempting, Maggie, but I prefer to reserve that for those who truly go across the line -- outrageous personal attacks, legally-actionable comments, utterly off-topic rants, and the like.

Oh, and spurwing's illiterate gibberish. I swear I can feel brain cells dying every time I see one of his comments. I disemvowel him on a purely instinctive level, out of pure self-defense.

CB serves a purpose -- he not only demonstrates our openness and tolerance, but he tends to discredit whatever position he champions. He embodies the old saying "everyone in life has a purpose, if only to be a bad example."


Sometimes open mindedness, ... (Below threshold)

Sometimes open mindedness, and tolerance
is a headache. But I concur.

Hmm, meybe I should be awar... (Below threshold)

Hmm, meybe I should be awarding pluses for those making excellent bad examples, or meybe we need a new category for such?

New Orleans is doomed anywa... (Below threshold)
Bill Author Profile Page:

New Orleans is doomed anyway. The Mississippi river has been trying to change its course to the Gulf for decades. Its new outlet to the Gulf would be the Atchafalaya River. The Old River Dam Project is preventing this course change so far.

Or maybe the real purpose... (Below threshold)
Civil behavior:

Or maybe the real purpose would serve to awaken those who refuse to see humanity and the planet on which it lives in a different light other than as a vehicle to whip into submission. The kind of order you seem to want seeks to serve the most wealthy and its most consumptive members of society and those who prefer destroying most anything that crosses its path that does not comply with its preconceived notion of territorial brinksmanship of the white male species.

I for one, am not interested in the prerequisite dues for joining your club. Count me out, way out. I will till the day I die defend your right to say what you believe but not your own facts as to what the issue at argument is.

God forbid we don't begin to accept our own contribution to the excesses of that which is destroying the very nest in which we take refuge. Those who do not act responsibly knowing the facts and the trend are committing a most henious crime. A crime against humanity.

But then you knew that and still don't have the self discipline to carry the torch for that which is right and just, according to natural law framed in a democracy.

And of course I knew that too, it is one of the only reasons I care to come on here and try to move some of your hardheaded intrasigent readers to some sort of more aware space.

Wherein lies the problem. If you are unwilling to believe the facts then what would one suppose could have enough veracity for you to move to stop you from diminishing the gravity about such a critical situation? If the smartest among you actually need more information that links you to the quality of scientific endeavors concerning our climate crisis then I can only wonder the depth and breadth of your reading assignements you give yourself. The "facts" are there, avail yourselves.

Nature is a harsh mistress, fooling around with her balance will only get you burned.

cb, you could NOT have give... (Below threshold)

cb, you could NOT have given me a better lead-in to my 11:00 a.m. Sunday piece (that I just finished writing, apart from one last review). Come back in about an hour and a half, and try not to let your head explode too much -- we just finished cleaning up the last such mess.

And I STILL wonder what the hell your frothings have to do with the situation in Bangladesh... there are some presumptive, tenuous ties that could be made, but you certainly haven't invested any effort in making them.







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