Included on the 2016 butcher’s bill was our friend from the literary world, Richard Adams, and thusly I’d like to say a few words here regarding Watership Down as it relates to our present situation:
Of Woodbridge and Hedgely is first and foremost a literary examination of the phenomenon of science denial, superimposing the mechanics of climate change denial onto science subjects from the early eighteen hundreds, which, like the former at present, perhaps were a bit fuzzy or unfamiliar to the largely science illiterate public, and as a function of such, allowed opportunistic detractors to hold an undeserved level of perceived credibility then, as they do now. We in the climate communications and advocacy community like to focus on these detractors because it’s rather simple to do so – there’s little effort in scapegoating the fellow with the horns singing, ’Ba-ha-ha!’ at the top of their lungs; they are indeed a credible goat to scape.
However, as we enjoy demonizing, say Exxon for funding climate denial and doubt, we are, in the end, the voluntary users of its product – all it does is facilitate the transaction. We tend to forget about the collective actions of all human animals, whether they be – figuratively – goats, chicks, burrows, or rabbits, that too create an excessive paw-print upon the planet when such needn’t be so with but the smallest self reflection. Most of us purchase cars, appliances, homes, and other energy and resource consumables with little thought concerning the efficiency of their use, even though it would be financially wise to do so, both personally and regarding the system as a whole: The market is full of ill advised consumers making irrational choices secondary to large advertisement campaigns, as well as cultural cues. We are indeed that gluttonous rabbit warren in Watership Down, that lived in the hutch near their morbid Garden of Eden.
And just like that warren of content over-consumers we too embrace the tacit agreement that from time to time one of us will be randomly knocked on the head and eaten to pay for the sins of the group. Sometimes it’s a climate related storm, flood or famine that presents as the snare; other times it comes in the form of poisoned freshwater, or destroyed property values and maple syrup small businesses as the oil and gasman comes for one’s land; in the long run it will be an insatiably hungry taxman as the cost of running modern society soars in the face of climate disasters and resource depletion.
There’s a section in the novel where the wandering rabbits chance upon a particular society who are all well fed and seemingly content. But the price to pay for that luxury was that every once in a while a member gets snared and eaten by the farmer whose food they gorge on. There is a tacit agreement in place that the luxury of over consumption will be randomly paid by members in catastrophic fashion. No one knows who’s next but they know the probability of it being them is low. This low probability randomness is the key feature to such an agreement.
So our society’s tacit agreement thus far goes something like: OK, you got hit by a flood; glad it wasn’t me; look at all the ways mass consumption makes life better. OK, you got hit by a drought; glad it wasn’t me; look at all the way mass consumption makes life better.
Except, because of the interconnectedness of society (further enhanced by globalization), as the frequencies of these events go up, the cost burden we all have to pay goes up, and such is no longer assigned to the sole random rabbit here and there.
And in closing let us briefly mention Fiver and his role of keeping his companions from getting knocked on the head in the face of environmental destruction. We too have our visionaries in science – those able to create a model, test it, and then make future predictions based upon it – indeed a core tenant of science. Our visionaries too paint a grim environmental picture and it would be wise for our particular warren to follow their instruction. Thankee, Mr. Adams – thankee sir.
Ahoy readers! There is not a moment to lose, and thusly let’s clap on directly to the plum in the pudding here:
One of the themes of the novel – the manifestation of the effects of propaganda on society – has come to mind as of recent, upon observing the several variants of reported news and related divisiveness concerning such, nebulous to the 2016 US presidential election and party primaries. Let us see if we may spot a morsel of prescience in Of Woodbridge and Hedgely by the rousing out of some parallel features concerning these current events and that which was said on the subject during my scribbling of the book.
In the middle of the fifth episode we do indeed find the lower rungs of society suffering from one part of such having been molested by the ill hands of disinformation – this generating an apparently chronic series of intra-class altercations, physical in nature, with the Hedgely’s tribally seeking blood from their brothers, the Woodbridge’s – and the subsequent legal adjudications regarding these, presided over by the elder Mr. Moore – the two towns’ squire and community leader:
The corn harvesting in Woodbridge and Hedgely had come a bit late in the year, and as most farmers in the region were of a mixedhusbandry sort, their post-gathering schedules had been affected, so that there were still a significant number of deciduous laborers hanging about, quite willing to make themselves drunk and sociable when such could be afforded, and who were positively beastly in comparison to their more permanent brethren of the towns. Nevertheless the former’s itinerate qualities, they did possess a fierce loyalty to their employers, especially in the cases of the steadily returning hires, and by default were sympathetic, if not in total agreement, with their master’s religion and politics, that those in Baptist Hedgely’s camp thought rather poorly of Jonathan Moore’s scientific sermons, and on intoxicated occasion had made such known in the presence of their cohorts in the Woodbridge camp.
A few men from each of these respective sets who were unrepentant brawlers had indeed engaged each other over philosophical conflicts similar to those apparently illuminated in The Balanced Scale – the unusual periodical which did of recent plague the Moore’s so, and whose contents had been generously passed down and along by those that could read the material, framing such as a radical attack on Christian orthodoxy and the soul’s path to preservation. Little attention was paid to their initial excursion, as those nebulous to such had presumptively considered it an individual event, but as more material concerning the age of the earth, that of the fossils, and the nature of animal forms and kinds trickled down upon, and circulated around these pawns, such fueled a steady supply of minor violence that was eventually deemed fit for reconcile, and brought to the attention of the area’s lay magistrate: George Moore.
Mr. Moore’s Michaelmas session had already occurred and it was not yet time for the winter Epiphany, but the squire saw fit to address the issue in an unofficial capacity with the tacit understanding by the offenders that such could convert to a Petty Offence were they not to come to an agreeable conclusion with him. He was tolerant of a drunken brawl, provided no chronic harm was done to any participant – and indeed there was but a small a number of those to be had over a credible length of time in their small community – yet this particular situation was starting to escalate into an ongoing feud, placing the towns’ reputations one notch closer to the butcher’s block. Thusly he sat at his desk with the Hedgely lot before him, just as he had done with the Woodbridge’s a few days prior:
‘Please to explain sir – your initial objections with the men of the other party’, he asked of one of the more rational members.
‘Well sir, I believe ‘twas the night o’ the social meet at the inn, which we were mind’n our own, next t’ the lot which was mind’n their own, whenst one o’ our fellas here says t’ one o’ theirs, “Praise be t’ God mate – our day o’ rest!”’, as we all o’ us were fixed t’ make ourselves drunk – sorry, sir. ‘twas then that the man gave us joy, but followed with that he was very sorry t’ tell our fellas that there was no day o’ rest, ‘cause God made the earth not in one day, but in a great many ten-fold-a-thousand years, having it on good authority by his parson that that be true.’
‘I see’, said George Moore, who noted a certain reluctance in the voice of the laborer, who was indeed bashful to insult the ‘good authority’ – he of course being the brother of the justice before him. ‘Go on then sir’, he commanded in as fair a voice as he could intonate, not wishing the man to be the least bit shy on any detail of his case.
‘Yes sir, which I then told the man that we was attentive that that was being told to folk ‘round our village, but it did not signify ‘cause the Bible says otherwise, and there were a right many learned chaps – like the Cuvier fellow their good parson was obliged to – who were just as clever as that ol’ Hutton lad, which knew it t’ be true by their own philosophizin’. Then I cautioned their lot not t’ dig into every bone a learned man had for ‘em, ‘specially if they was – excuse me, sir – pay’n ‘em in supper t’ believe ‘em, for those university gents are returned even better than that by the thought, no matter was it ill or not, just as long as it be plausible t’ their audience – and half of ‘em atheists at any rate’.
The Baptist laborer further explained that the Anglican lot had then accused them of ‘biting into their own ill plausibilities, for ‘twas the recent hand o’ man that penned the Creation date o’ four thousand and four years before the birth o’ the Savior onto the start o’ the Holy Book’, to which the Hedgely’s hastily countered that were God not to have had it so, he would have smote the hand of the amender, which put them in an anxious position regarding their masters’ reverence of traditionalism. This had then grown a bushel of disagreements, including the laborers’ stand that volcanoes were greatly exaggerated things – mere coal seam fires – and surely not evidence of some deep earthen furnace that motivated change from the Lord’s original intentions:
‘“The learned’s lust for boasting a catastrophic strength of a but gently puffing mountain is founded in a latent desire for tragic playwritin’ and self importance”, I says t’ ‘em, directly from the mouth of my master, which such a thing riled ‘em up so, that after an exchange o’ more impolite notions we took t’ the street t’ pink each other’s cheeks a bit more than the grog had done’.
Incidentally the phrase ‘framing such as a radical attack on Christian orthodoxy’, with regard to the work of the propaganda rag, The Balanced Scale, in the novel, brings to mind ‘Fair and Balanced’ Fox News’ War On Christmas theme (and variants of such) that is drummed up at this time of year. Readers should also note that in the last quoted paragraph, there lies a bit of satire regarding modern climate denial propaganda which seeks to belittle those that are concerned with the long term costs of unregulated carbon pollution, often qualifying them as ‘Chicken Little’s with their radical notion of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming who seek popular attention and the money brought with it’, authored by those that consider short term reactions to problems to be more valuable than long term prophylaxis; they having not put much thought into the weight of this particular problem or suffer that it will not affect them personally to any significant degree. However we will stray directly back to the goose we are chasing:
Firstly we will note that were we to place these fictional characters on our own history’s timeline, little has changed in the last two hundred years with regard to stoking the fire of tribalism in the lower classes for the purposes of political leverage; and the general effect of such is too preserved. There was plenty of bruising to be had this year engendered by the enthusiasms shared by the Hilary’s and the Trump’s, secondary to the primarily negative messaging that was volleyed at and around each camp, naturally so concerning strategy, considering these were two of the most disliked politicians in recent history (or perhaps not so recent). Some of this occurred at rallies, some of it presented but randomly in the regular goings-on of the American day-to-day, and we had one anomalous case exemplifying how embellished and nuanced an ill sentiment can grow, where an armed man showed up at a local District of Columbia pizza shop with the intention of getting at the plum of a pedophile ring that Hillary was supposedly administrating there; this story fabricated not by the masters of mankind, but by the pawns themselves, thusly exemplifying the archetypal notion that there is little which cannot be presented as plausible to the ignorant, by the skillful sophistrist and storyteller, especially in the presence of a particular grudge.
Indeed in the last chapter of Of Woodbridge and Hedgely we have men than have become so attached to the propaganda they were initially fed (not unlike the Drain the Swamp/Brick & Mortar Mexican Wall proponents or their Russia Cost Hillary the Election counterparts), that they continue to both embrace and self generate ridiculous bits of fiction, in an effort to continue to preserve their flawed belief systems, even after adequate information has become available that definitively unmakes such. Here is one explaining how all the town’s farmland is to be converted to greenhouses so that their political rival, Mr. Winter, can indirectly benefit from the money generated from the taxing of glazed windows – a feature of the tax policy at that particular time in England:
‘Sir, you know it to be true: In ten year’s time, there will be glasshouses all up and down the fields and the Moore’s and Winter’s will have lined their coffers with tax money from Cheltenham to Cirencester!’, cried one of the old fellows, uncommonly proud of his distrust of the said parties and the tax collector. And though the lass was a bit less trusting of this man – the counterarguments against him having always been more well thought out than his repetitive snippets of debate – she nodded her head affirmatively at the idea of glasshouses as far as the eye could see.
And one should observe as the conversation continues, the man continuously has to invent new flawed rationals to support the old ones, creating an exponential rise in ridiculousness upon every new level of support for such:
‘Oh Lord, here we are again; and again I will ask of you: Who would pay for such a thing?; ‘cause ain’t none of it cheap!’, returned another from the more sensible camp across the table.
‘Oh the parties in question will pay, for the taxes are just that compelling! Look at ‘em trying to bleed the ground out of a few more bushels of wheat! That’s a rich man’s greed for ya! And not only that, but there will be one in every cottage’s back yard that their tenants may garden all year ‘round; which’ll put all our right farmers out of work!’, the man insisted in as gushing a voice as could be exhibited without him being asked to move along by Mrs. Bagley or one of her men employed at the inn. His proposal was, by any reasonable man’s part, entirely fictional – indeed it conflicted within itself in that the first part required farmers, whilst the second destroyed them – yet it afforded him an ill temper as were it not, but something credibly to be worried upon; and such then did cause his opponent too to become more animated:
‘Unreasonable, sir! Our farmers provide for all the county and more, and one backyard glasshouse per cottage here could scarcely keep enough corn to make half of a loaf of bread a year for its tenant and their family, much the less that for all of Cheltenham or Gloucester!’
‘Oh?; and are you so naïve that you suppose they would stop building once the limits of our towns were achieved?’, the fellow queried, as if all there was to the art of argument was to continue to rabidly answer with ever more cynical and conspiratorial sentiments. Indeed perceived truth and cynicism had so passionately embraced within him that he gloated in having brought – by his own consideration – such cleverness to their table.
Secondly, of course there are several distinctions between the propaganda of current events and that occurring in the novel, namely the latter is concerned with misinformation designed to confound acceptance of scientific truths/facts, authored by men in fear of what they perceived as an existential threat facilitated by these (paralleling the current attack on climate science by the fossil industry), whilst the former has more to do with two rival sides manufacturing untruths for political gain (sometimes targeting each other, sometimes targeting middle class wealth and livelihood on behalf of the establishment), exacerbated by disinformation agents whose living depends on creating outrageous headlines and content to opportunistically prey upon those inflicted with emotionally driven partisanism. On another incidental note, regarding these arbiters of so called ‘fake news’ (as were the ‘real news’ that much cleaner), the presence of child or teen related rape propaganda directed at and redistributed by both factions does indeed work as a proxy measure for the present level of smoldering anger in the country.
And in closing (apologies on the abbreviated posting) we must always keep to mind that there is a lighthouse in this tempered sea of low quality information – the scientific method. I will let Sir Humphry Davy close this day’s missive with the selfsame words he did in the novel concerning the effect of enlightenment in the pursuit of rigorous science:
There are sufficient motives connected with both pleasure and profit, to encourage ingenius men to pursue this new path of investigation. Science cannot long be despised by any persons as the mere speculation of theorists; but must soon be considered by all ranks of men in its true point of view, as the refinement of common sense, guided by experience, gradually substituting sound and rational principles, for vague popular prejudices…
Of Woodbridge and Hedgely contains several satirical moments that poke fun at the modern anti-science crowd, which may be lost one folks not intimately acquainted with the propaganda currently being generated by climate denialists and anti-clean energy associations funded by those with stakes in the fossil fuel industry. Luckily, I’m here to help:
In Episode 6th of the novel, we find the engineer, Thomas Winter, committing to his journal a recount of the obstruction the novel’s antagonists have served out regarding his recently installed water pumps (see previous blog post on water wheel pumps) which will be used to deliver water to a set of small fields to be mixed with a primitive nitrogen fertilizer he’s experimenting with. He writes the following:
‘…George Moore has naturally taken some complaints concerning my engineering endeavors – firstly against my pools, for as soon as my hires had presented to the fields the ridiculous notion that I was to glaze over the land and take backdoor payments on tax collections sprung up again, causing time to be wasted on the part of all involved. And as quick as the howling of these dogs quieted down after having been satisfied in our suffering of time, they started up again upon the recent deployment of my water wheel pumps: Claims that they were a blight on the countryside, ruining its continuity and picturesque quality, became a pounding point by this same set of men at the latest Society meeting. No doubt they further authored the misinformation that the pumps would be uncommon loud, like steam pumps when they ran at full capacity, and that the noise and vibration would cause those proximal to suffer “headaches, dyspepsia, shortened tempers, and any other manner of nervous attitude putting them and their offspring in the way of infectious sequelae”, those specifically mentioned being pox, influenza, measles, whooping cough and even the nefarious marthambles. I’m now obliged to dispel these charges through demonstrations, again dampening my schedule whilst these few wag their tales and salivate at having further antagonized me.’
The satire is revealed when one realizes all the loathsome tactics the antagonists use to slow the progress of Mr. Winter’s experiment are the selfsame tactics currently being used by anti-wind groups (as in wind turbines – renewable energy). The waterwheel pumps indeed act as a satirical proxy for modern wind turbines. I’m sure a significant amount of readers have heard, through the media, some of the anti-wind propaganda – they muck up the countryside, they’re loud, &c. – so I needn’t explain these grievances further. But the ‘plum in the pudding’, as is colloquially stated throughout the novel, is the notion that these contraptions cause those nearby to suffer illnesses they otherwise wouldn’t have. Enter the mischief of modern propagandists and activists:
‘ANTI–WIND farm activists around the world have created a silent bogeyman they claim can cause everything from sickness and headaches to herpes, kidney damage and cancers.
This “infrasound” exists at frequencies too low for the human ear to detect but is present almost everywhere from offices and roadsides to waves tumbling on ocean beaches. These low frequencies can crawl menacingly from the back of your kitchen fridge or from your heart beating.
Despite the ubiquitous nature of infrasound, anti-wind farm groups such as Australia’s Waubra Foundation like people to think that it’s only inaudible infrasound from wind turbines which might send residents to their sick beds.
But two new studies suggest the cause of health complaints by people living near wind farms could in fact be down to the scare campaign of the anti-wind groups and reports about such scares in the media.
The researchers from the University of Auckland in New Zealand wanted to find out if simply exposing people to warnings that turbines might make you ill was enough to cause them to report typical symptoms such as headaches and nausea.
Using 54 people, the researchers showed half the group five minutes of footage of people complaining that wind farms had made them ill. Some of the footage was taken from this Australian Broadcasting Corporation report (watch it here) into “Waubra disease” where residents were filmed complaining about a wind farm at Waubra in Victoria. Footage was also taken from this CTV Network report from Canada about a wind farm in Ontario.
This group was called the “high expectancy group” because the information they were given had led them to expect they might experience certain symptoms if exposed to infrasound. The other half of the group was shown interviews with experts stating that the science showed infrasound could not directly cause health problems.
The researchers then told each person they were going to be exposed to two 10-minute periods of infrasound in a special acoustic room when, in fact, for one of those periods they would be exposed to no sound at all, or “sham infrasound” as the researchers describe it. So what happened?
The response from the “high expectancy” group was to report that the “infrasound” had caused them to experience more symptoms which were more intense. This was the case whether they were exposed to sham infrasound or genuine infrasound. The report explains that “the number of symptoms reported and the intensity of the symptom experienced during listening sessions were not affected by exposure to infrasound but were influenced by expectancy group allocation.”
In the low expectancy group, the infrasound and sham infrasound had little to no effect. In other words, the study found that if a person is told that wind turbines will make them ill then they are likely to report symptoms, regardless of whether they are exposed to infrasound or not.
Clearly, this points the finger at anti-wind farm campaigns as a potential cause of people’s symptoms, rather than “infrasound” from turbines. The research added: “The importance of findings in this study is that symptom expectations were created by viewing TV material readily available on the Internet, indicating the potential for such expectations to be created outside of the laboratory in real-world settings.”
The findings indicate that negative health information readily available to people living in the vicinity of wind farms has the potential to create symptom expectations, providing a possible pathway for symptoms attributed to operating wind turbines. This may have wide-reaching implications. If symptom expectations are the root cause of symptom reporting, answering calls to increase minimum wind-farm set back distances is likely to do little to assuage health complaints.
Reading some news reports (such as those offered by The Australian newspaper’s environment editor Graham Lloyd or anti-wind activist and UK anti-wind columnist James Delingpole) and material from anti-wind farm groups, it might seem that health complaints are common among people living near turbines.
But an as yet unpublished study (and therefore not peer-reviewed) just released by Simon Chapman, the Professor of Public Health at the University of Sydney, suggests only a tiny proportion of people living near turbines do actually complain and, when they do, the complaints coincide with campaigning from anti-wind groups.
Chapman looked at health complaints made by residents living within 5 kilometres of all 49 wind farms operating in Australia between 1993 and 2012. After reviewing media reports, public inquiries and complaints to wind companies themselves, Chapman found evidence of only 120 individuals having actually complained – representing about 1 in 272 people living near wind farms.
But significantly, Chapman found that 81 of those 120 residents were living beside just five wind farms “which have been heavily targeted by anti wind farm groups”. What’s more, some 82 per cent of all the complaints had occured since 2009 when Chapman says anti-wind farm groups began to push the health scare as part of their opposition to turbines.
Some 31 of the 49 wind farms studied had never been subjected to a complaint either about noise or health.
“The 31 farms with no histories of complaints, and which today have some 21,530 residents within 5km of their turbines have operated for a cumulative total of 256 years,” says Chapman’s report. In Chapman’s research, he says that anxiety among residents increases as media reports spread the stories of health concerns and as researchers start investigating.
One down side to this research is, of course, that it tells anti-wind farm groups that by concentrating on unproven health concerns, their campaigns can illicit a steady flow of complaints and negative sentiment from communities.’
And aside from plums in puddings, the cherry on top of my satire is that the antagonists’ scare tactics concerning illnesses contains the ‘nefarious marthambles’. You see the marthambles was a fictional disease authored to sell snake oil health remedies in the 18th century.
And now you may ever so slightly raise one corner of your mouth and blink once in appreciation of the subtleness of the humor.
Of Woodbridge and Hedgely is a satire on the phenomenon of science denial, born from my observations and interactions with climate change deniers and propagandists. Indeed, though the novel focuses on early natural history and agricultural science, I’ve included several allusions to climate security and climate change throughout it. Below, I’ve posted several extracts from the book to highlight some of my satire and science commentary, so that reviewers may form an opinion on the merit of such. I’ve included brief explanations on the context of each, but I’m sure most of the climate science communication community, already familiar enough with the mechanics of denial, will get the gist of it. I invite you to scroll down through the post and examine these summaries marked in bold, and pick out a few to review the text underneath.
The Historical Lens
I’ve given the book an early 19th century setting, creating a historical lens designed to sharpen the reader’s examination of the subject, as it allows my antagonists to take anti-science positions on topics that are very much settled today, starkly revealing their absurdity. For example, there was a debate in the late 18th century on whether or not igneous rock, like granite, could be continually formed, because some thought only the Christian God could create this ‘primordial’ rock. Some people dismissed volcanic activity as merely coal seam fires that had gotten out of control and melted a little ‘primordial’ rock. James Hutton tried to put the notion to rest by his examples of molten injections of rock and minerals into older material, the most famous of these being his Glen Tilt set, where pink granite had been injected into metamorphic sandstone, near the joining of two large waterways:
Grammar and Dialectal Artifacts
Grammar Trigger Warning – The book’s dialect and prose are mildly variant from modern English in order to place the reader back into the early 19th century. Also, I constantly use the word ‘that’ in place of the phrase ‘so that’, to give a ‘biblical’ or ‘Shakespearean’ effect to the prose. For example: ‘He grabbed a pen from his desk, so that he could write a note,’ becomes, ‘He grabbed a pen from his desk, that he could write a note’. [There is also a vocabulary section on the last two pages of the book in order to help the non-Austen or non-Regency readers.]
Satirical Moments and Scientific Commentary
Pg. 24 – 25 (agricultural rotation and importance of ecological diversity):
His thoughts ran upon ancient times well before Christ, when it was found that a monoculture crop planted continuously from one growing season to the next would exhaust the soil of its liveliness and promote the chronic lingering of disease, that farmers eventually adopted yearly or seasonal pauses which diminished these phenomena; during which their crops were grown on alternate sections of land. By the time of Charlemagne such had transformed into a three-field rotation, where one section of land was designated for wheat or rye during the autumn planting, whilst another was spring planted with legumes – peas, lentils, beans, or the like – and a third section was left fallow. Variants upon this and manuring followed as man strived further to impress upon the land that it should produce even greater yields that he, his brethren, and his animals may be better nourished.
But the forest needed no such attention: the thirsty Willow arranged itself by water courses; the autumn leaves and the offerings of the birds, squirrels, and every other creature present manured the soil and enlivened it, that there were no areas fallow or need be so. Pestilence was held in check, Mr. Winter rationalized, as function of the rich variation of flora and fauna of the wood, for just as agrarian fields were less susceptible to disease as their contents became more varied season by season through the introduction of rotation, such manifested exponentially here, though he admitted that the mechanics of this were still partly a mystery. And acts of man, be they structures, paths, or otherwise, if left in want of attention would be reclaimed by the forest, similar to the body’s reaction to a minor cut or wound. It was as if the wood was a great perpetual clock having hundreds to thousands of working parts which were self-righting and self-tinkering, that all gave and received from each other purpose.
Pg. 79 (on how a theory may be robust, without every last, miniscule detail of it being known):
Impressed by his audience at this, he further gave an example of how a thing can be known generally, even as what is known of the details is limited: In fair, summer weather it may take a carriage traveling from Edinburgh to London a good ten days to accomplish its route, he argued; and in poor winter weather it may take twenty days or longer; so it may be known that such a venture could take between ten and twenty days or longer, though for any one particular trip, it cannot be known – the precise time of arrival; such being dependent upon the weather, the vitality of horses and carriage wheels, the health of the passengers, etcetera. Again, this was well taken, which prompted him further toward the meat of his lecture.
Pg. 105 (use of fake science experts):
‘My word! Our man said he read several passages of the Comte, professing the seventy five thousand years as were he immersed in the Bible at quarter to noon on Sunday. It appears he has not represented the author at all on the matter – oh, such sharp practice!’, cried Mr. Edwards as he looked over his new hire: Mr. Princep was something of a fading grey dandy, haggard but well shaved, and missing a hand’s area of hair his junior self did once possess atop his forehead. More importantly to his company though, was that he was a natural philosopher and Fellow of the Royal Society of London – the title everything to their wants – and it was neither here nor there that he was a most unproductive member, having contributed no articles to the Philosophical Transactions along his tenure.
Pg. 101 – 102 (commentary on free market practice and climate):
‘By the by, when was the last time you limed any of your land, Mr. Arnold?’
‘Sir I’ve never done so: I’ve never had the need’, the farmer said, then after a moment’s hesitation, he added, ‘There was a young man I used to let the western part of my property to, who did attempt some like improvement in the poverty year by way of the set of wicked quarry men, which I’m sure your Mr. Parkinson would have a few descriptions for…’
‘Yes’, said Mr. Winter, recalling his first evening at the Agricultural Society, ‘The laissez-faire men who could not defeat the climate’.
‘Those exact! Well, considering them, and considering the number of instances here and about where no real benefit has come of it…’
Pg. 108 (on the implementation of propaganda, Bernays’s style):
‘Mr. Princep, I believe we understand each other well enough’, said Mr. Edwards when their conversational zeal began to ebb. ‘Please allow me to elaborate more upon the subject I put in my original calling: We have decided that appealing to the town through my person alone would not be efficacious, for it is too coincidental with that of a simple, personal contest between two local men. We thus find it more attractive were a seemingly unattached third party with some measure of authority, as you have – being of the Royal Society – to intervene in a discrete format, which would allow our town’s members to perceive that they were active participants in the countering of Mr. Winter’s and Mr. Moore’s nonsense. We propose a pamphlet series to be that very format, which may be sold at our local bookstore, that our brethren could read and decide for themselves what is right, true and just, profess it to others among their circles, and perhaps be brave enough to contradict these men’s followers when proper circumstances call to do so.
Pg. 112 (‘It’s the sun; not us’ crock; and Bill O’Reily’s ‘Tide goes in, tide goes out; you can’t explain that’ comment):
‘Mr. Langly’s fields have all to do with the work o’ the sun and little else, sir! All the like, sloped grounds don’t see it well and thusly suffer production!’, Mr. Weston griped in a tone confident he had smoked the trouble as easy as kiss his hand. Indeed he was ecstatic that Winter had not, being the ‘philosophical flat’ which he and his brethren now took him for; this notion ringing clearly with the quick lesson, that his colleagues’ mouths were instantly wetted in hopes that their fellow would deliver more of his superior knowledge down onto the man.
‘Amen – hear him!’, cried his lackey, Mr. Smith. ‘The sun alone does giveth and taketh, like the river’s tide and ocean’s ebb and flow; and not a mortal to explain it!’
Pg. 113 (on cherry picking and pulling scientists words out of context, Lord Monckton style):
The explanation did little to calm the gentlemen. Indeed it seemed to rouse his antagonists further, as another stood up and coarsely injected, ‘The gentleman praises Sir Humphrey Davy’s book often enough that we may allow him well versed. Why then does he pay no mind to the professor’s follies or those in the many anecdotes that mark the lectures? Let me provide the room with a taste:
‘On page two hundred and eighty three, Davy does state:
‘Quicklime in its pure state, whether in powder or dissolved in water is injurious to plants. – I have in several instances killed grass by watering it with lime water!
‘Whilst on page two hundred and eighty nine, the man confesses:
‘I took four portions of the same soil: with one I mixed a fraction of its weight with caustic magnesia; barley was sown into it. In this soil containing this magnesia, it rose very feeble and looked yellow and sickly!
‘On the selfsame page he – I venture a little mad – admits to repeating the same procedure with the expected result, finally concluding, as he had previously on page two eighty eight, that magnesian lime is poison – the very stuff that you, sir, have offered as one of your remedies to Mr. Arnold!’
Mr. Winter motioned to object, for Davy’s words had been partially disassembled from their context, confounding the perception of the chemist’s abilities. Whether the cause was insincerity or ineptitude, he couldn’t tell at present, but he did note that the man was reading from a thin, printed parchment, and not from the author’s official publication. And before he did scarcely breath in to issue a proper return, he was cut short; the farmer crescendoing his voice preemptively:
Pg. 117 (birth of an anti-science conspiracy in which the scientist is accused of a tax money grab; reinforcing nature of rightwing bubble, regarding talking points):
I am a great marauder of farmland whose prime desire is to cover its fields completely with iron and glass that I may take part in the tax money incurred by such extravagance, my father of course adjudicating deal, and with the secondary benefit that it confuses its laborers: ‘that not a ploughman may plough, a tiller may till, a roller may roll, or a wife may gavel the corn’. At least this is how I am thought of in lower Hedgely, its constituents having been unilaterally poisoned by such a supposition; this – among other absurdities discovered at last Sunday’s Society meeting – seemingly producing a social return inside this set as each player reinforced the notion to the group.
[In 1820’s England, there was a window property tax based on the number of windows a building had. The protagonist speaking has erected a greenhouse to run botany experiments, naturally full of windows in his backyard – one of just a handful in England at the time – which gives rise to the antagonists’ tax mythology.]
Pg. 171 (comment on food scarcity and the climate):
The protraction of winter had in fact so encroached upon the spring that Mr. Winter, sitting at his writing desk, mused upon the elasticity of the seasons which distinguished such from the strictness of the calendar, and the utter dependency the industrious quality of a farmer’s existence was upon the climate.
Pg. 174 (epiphany that agricultural land is in an artificial, destructive state; epiphany of modern artificial fertilization):
What I will instead employ my pen to reveal are thoughts incidental to such I’ve formulated over the winter’s recess: that the most prime state of farming may exist by affording a piece of land more manure than it can indeed produce, and not by merely reimbursing that land with what our poor powers perceive as having been taken. In accepting this one must concede that mankind is disruptive to the land he tends: he pars and burns woodland – which is in a harmonious state of cyclical nutriment that it may exist to infinitum as long as providence, the earth’s mechanical forces, or the climate are willing – in order to produce a plot whose nutriment is a delicate function of the tireless work he does upon it. And in not mistaking farmland as existing in a natural state, one can accept that enriching a land past what nature could provide may be beneficial to his industry.
Pg. 179 (integrating the ‘wind turbines cause disease’ crock, alongside the repetitive nature of the anti-science propaganda):
George Moore has naturally taken some complaints concerning my engineering endeavors – firstly against my pools, for as soon as my hires had presented to the fields the ridiculous notion that I was to glaze over the land and take backdoor payments on tax collections sprung up again, causing time to be wasted on the part of all involved. And as quick as the howling of these dogs quieted down after having been satisfied in our suffering of time, they started up again upon the recent deployment of my water wheel pumps: Claims that they were a blight on the countryside, ruining its continuity and picturesque quality, became a pounding point by this same set of men at the latest Society meeting. No doubt they further authored the misinformation that the pumps would be uncommon loud, like steam pumps when they ran at full capacity, and that the noise and vibration would cause those proximal to suffer “headaches, dyspepsia, shortened tempers, and any other manner of nervous attitude putting them and their offspring in the way of infectious sequelae”, those specifically mentioned being pox, influenza, measles, whooping cough and even the nefarious marthambles. I’m now obliged to dispel these charges through demonstrations, again dampening my schedule whilst these few wag their tales and salivate at having further antagonized me. [Note: the marthambles, was a mythological disease from the early 19th century.]
Pg. 189 (science deniers ignorant views on the progress of energy technology):
‘And certainly it is not just the material philosopher that suffers: The coal gas the chemical philosophers implement in London and our larger towns can only be made to burn so bright before the flame becomes injurious to the contents of a dwelling it is supposed to illuminate, or the material on which it is delivered; again an unsatisfactory limitation in comparison to that which already exists – in this case a fine set of candles or a whale lamp. The coal supply itself will surely be expended at some point, and if not that, then the other chemicals used to wash it, that it be less noxious to its users.
‘But the argument then is further solidified as we turn to those that are mere theorists who offer no practical implements in their art. Here lies the realm of transmutation and old earths with molten innards, which are at best, silly curiosities for university dandies to ponder upon but do little with…’ [Here, the character fails to anticipate geothermal energy, as he denies a fundamental aspect of modern geology.]
Pg. 191 (on science deniers’ debating and propaganda techniques):
‘Whilst I know not of any one piece of philosophical information that can comprehensively break their entire lot, we must however constantly strive to create the perception that such can be done, or has already been done. Indeed in a contradistinguishing fashion to one sole, all-smiting stroke, we, to the greatest effect, thus work in the realm gratuitous rhetoric, the like to a London barrister weaving a case by multiple strands, the greater of these appealing to an audience not necessarily on any logical ground, but in a manner rhetorical, political, emotive, or otherwise. To be sure, we will have our moments for a given strand: we may find a careless error in our adversary’s argument and work to turn such into a very great thing indeed. But the better part must be attractive enough, even in cases of broken reason, that it remains effective; in fact it’s probably most efficacious not to subject any strand to the focus on first principles or evidence. By this style of argument, several strands may buckle or break, but if the majority stay intact then we give ourselves the finest cause to be the victors. And for every strand our adversary produces, we need only continuously produce two against it to legitimize our stand against him’…
…‘For the material that is relevant to your particular country towns sirs, sharp wit is not our instrument; rather the opposite: We must solicit the admiration of dullards that hold the way of the world, not in long drawn out passages, but in quick bites of ‘truths’ that are easily clapped onto: casual observances that work more times than not, even if but near half of those, yet which they will grasp onto most angrily on all occasion as a function of they being so readily understood, and by their holder’s frailty of mind in the presence of the unfamiliar, or that which is troublesome to smoke…’
Pg. 201 (illustrating uneducated farmhands’ unprogressive social stance with regard to race in 1821 (and beyond; these men representing modern ‘country’ conservatives), and also giving a hat tip to Potholer54 and his golden crock-a-duck award):
‘I heard ‘ems was of a rather strange physique and colour, but on account o’ their savagery an’ not more. Oh, oh, oh!’, the Hedgely cried in alarm as he pointed over the heads of the Woodbridge’s at their table, causing them to turn around only to find the keep with their scrumpy. ‘My apologies, sirs: I reckoned it were a winged boar or a crocodilian-duck! Ha, ha, ha!’
Pg. 201 (an appeal to scientific authority, when its practitioners adhere to the scientific method):
‘Sir, does it not occur that when you have a swing at us, you’re not in the least injuring Mr. Darwin or Mr. Moore?; that whilst there are those among us which concede that the gentleman could well be onto something beyond our poor minds, we do not erect his every notion to gospel with which to populate our standards, falling any variant? We only commit that there are men more expert upon these scientific notions than us or you, and when they provide credible work sufficient for their peers, such must be respected; and no amount of words nor bruises does tear it’.
Pg. 232 (on sustainability and finiteness of earth’s resources):
Yet as one member casually looked back, over his shoulder, at the Hedgely fields south of Mr. Arnold’s, he was reminded of those that felt stewardship entailed taking from the land with no notion of return – convictions that could only be held in the short interval, for by the application of deep time – rather the depth felt on man’s generational scale – such perceptions of morality and principle are overruled by the ungovernable work of reality and its finiteness.
‘Never mind the Baptists’, called out Mr. Winter at the man, having caught him looking rather thoughtful at the other fields kept by such men. ‘For sure as they presently find folly and ridicule in our practice, as its benefits come to fruition and build in magnitude with successive rotations, it will come to pass that they will bestow upon it virtues it certainly does not keep, they but existing, naturally, in a perpetual state of error; and I will indeed have to then caution them against injurious applications of marle and the like. But let them continue to apply their stable dung and urine to their acidic plots for the present…’
Pg. 241 (on witch hunting, religious or otherwise):
‘…Further, I kept little doubt – as did we all, I believe – that from its detail of our labors, there were retained a few local loyalists whose initial reporting perhaps accelerated into the witch hunt we’ve thusly suffered. Such is not an uncommon tool held by some of these fanatical groups, in that it secures their positions, rallies their brethren in number, and perhaps justifies the endogenous perceptions of their existence: that they are moral warriors crusading against evil, salivating at its collapse from the abstract to a worldly embodiment that they may prick with their swords or the like’.
‘I would venture further, Mr. Winter, and submit that some of the fellows with the swords at times have property or status to be gained or maintained by the puncturing of their antagonists. Did you at all smoke the loyalists then?’
Pg. 243 (propaganda meant to confuse people into inaction; and the use of biblical references to justify a person’s desired actions):
‘It is hard to say without having attended the men’s tables. Princep naturally had to author the counterarguments against Hutton, Davy, and Darwin, etcetera, by his own ingenuity, often having to summarize either side’s positions that the Hedgely’s could thus follow their own mischief. Yet he did state that he was commissioned to ‘but politely butcher’ us – to ‘broadcast doubt simply to the point of confused inaction’ concerning my manuring of the fields; Edward’s having the selfsame reservations about its efficacy as Smith and Weston openly did; indeed feeding them further in their convictions by the offering of apparently supportive scripture’.
Pg. 243 (again satire on people like Lindzen who are propped up by their professorship status as authorities):
‘The man’s greatest trick was that he was a Royal Society member, that readers of the instrument may bask in his authority, whilst those that sought to apply his guff to the towns could to such defer – never mind he hadn’t but even one article in the Philosophical Transactions, nor the Annals of Philosophy, nor any other scientific journal; I’ve confirmed it with the man himself – he is indeed the least successful natural philosopher in London; the irony being that Davy – the man he sought to diminish – has had three papers accepted to this year’s Transactions alone, and as of last November has been the elected president of the Royal Society. But beyond such, Mr. Princep seems to have only offered what Mr. Edwards was so sharp set to hear, despite the spoon feeding. You are having difficulty with Mr. Edward’s motive?’
Pg. 248 (Baptist holds a false belief that the 1816 ‘Year Without a Summer’, where the volcanic winter produced from the eruption of Mount Tambora caused food shortages in Europe, is a punishment from God for the wrongdoings of his Anglican rival, four years later, in 1820 and 21. He intends to shoot him in a pistol duel in order to make sure the climate doesn’t get any worse):
‘Sir, there are consequences from such utter abandonment, where He is not welcome upon our countryside, inside our towns, schools, and – heavens! – even in Woodbridge’s place of worship every other Sunday! Men of the lower cast perpetuate physical disagreements with one another; others of all stations wake from Spring with no design for revival of their spirits and stay but in their gardens on Sundays, in hope of avoiding like conflicts boiling up from the voids He has left; armed watchmen whom worship only the moon and the night take shots at good Christians that only wish to deliver them a pot of coffee and a crust of bread as they shepherd over their pagan contraptions and artificial fields of wheat. I will not go further, but further it goes.
‘It is my belief this was all foretold in the year eighteen sixteen with the failing of summer and our crops, that we suffered so over the following winter. Considering all which has come to pass, it cannot be reconciled otherwise, but that such was a providential message of warning and preemptive punishment for that now upon us, in which sir, you’ve performed an ample part. The winter was again this year cruel, and for good reason. I am sorry Parson Moore, but I do not wish to see a decade without a summer which I feel is upon us, were I not to do God’s bidding this morn’.
A long silent pause occurred where only the gurgling of the river and the calling of nocturnal birds was observed.
‘Mr. Edwards, have you considered that one man’s follies alone do not change the English climate? That if such a thing were possible, it would arise from concerted effort?’, asked Mr. Moore, yet the only answer he received was from the river.
Pg. 261 – 62 (notion of false balance in the media and that the rich are rarely held accountable for their mischief):
‘Oh Lord – Mr. Winter!’, cried Charlotte. ‘I’ve just smoked the significance! Oh cousin, forgive me! Forgive me; I did not know! That is to say I did not accept the servants’ opinions of him anymore than I did the ill talk of Mr. Winter that came up from Hedgely on occasion. My goodness – the irony: that it was he who caused such menacing to begin with, and by its existence, such eventually gentled his own character for my part, when the towns did turn on him, by way of our inherent desire for balance where none does truly exist! What may become of him, do you think?’
‘He is a well situated landowner. Were he not to suffer an uncommon many gross errors of business, then his rents will continue as they have done for his uncle; and whilst he’s in want of age and finds no sore neck or crackled bones by the ready use of his carriage, he will maintain his weekly place at the Edward’s dinner table; but were he at all to be called out on his recent delinquency, it would be in the most genial manner with no good friends won or lost on it, save the Moore’s I suppose, though I hesitate in elevating his status so at Woodbridge Manor. I suspect in time he will marry a lesser woman or an impoverished aristocrat, have many a dull child, and oblige them all to endure his evening reading’, said Harriet, regretting her final speculation, as it unmade the little improvement Charlotte had been taking as they longer conversed.
Pg. 268 – 69 (more on the notion of failure to adopt new technology for religious reasons):
From such concerns, and from thoughts on Mr. Winter’s ventures those last nine months, a broader notion too was tacitly born: Though Mr. Weston, and Mr. Smith beside him, did own their own land and could afford to produce two or three bushels of grain less per acre than the farmers who worked on let land, their companions in the latter situation could not, and were thusly obliged to struggle some day, would they continue to idolize these men in their practice. How long would they stubbornly refuse to marl or otherwise enrich their lands by artificial means, but instead place the entire responsibility onto God, and let His sun, rain, and providence alone define their yields? Such rigid ideology did not seem compatible with sustained survival on the generational time scale, nor even the decadal; indeed, they were yearly spared but from the tradition of animal husbandry and dung heaps they were born into; as well their forefather’s better care and smaller demand of the land, that they inherited in it credible reserves of nutriment. It was with such in mind, of those who had indeed recently adopted Mr. Winter’s more pragmatic approach to improvement after touring his fields, that there was a resuscitation of spirit when the man himself was called to the front of the room: for in his report there would be evidence that the Baptists could not so readily dismiss. Still his detractors clasped hard to their well worn disdain for him, and as he arose from his chair, made his way forward, and was observed to carry a set of parchment in his hand, such thusly triggered a set of loud, objectionable whispers:
Pg. 274 – 75 (Fox News’ ‘Some say’ line; and Dave Burton’s angle of incidence arguments on the Arctic ocean’s solar absorption conflated with Willie Soon’s ‘It’s the Sun’ argument):
Never heard o’ such a thing – doin’ the Lord’s work, waterin’ fields by ladle – the surplus waterin’ alone is what done it!’, a voice did state, cutting down the room’s ambient conversation that he would have undivided attention during his query. He then let fly his full throat, and in an accusatory tone asked, ‘What say you, sir – that some say your success at the Foster plots was on account o’ the steady waterin’, givin’ an advancement to the fields, durin’ last month’s dry spell, that other men did not have?’
Mr. Winter squinted his eyes and wrinkled his nose in observing the man, and after a small pause did answer, ‘Sir, I believe it was you, was it not, that just a while ago, when I was moving toward the front of the room, whispered to your mate that I would surely take credit for the fine summer weather?’
The room turned on the man, insisting there was no dry spell to speak of and that fifty bushels per acre of wheat was no fool’s accident. And conceding defeat by the quick changing of the subject, Mr. Smith then took his turn:
‘Alright Mr. Winter, but what us right scientific husbandm’n do question is your Langley field, that slopes down at th’ river: When it was heavy dress’d in marle an’ dung, did this not change th’ plot to a less injurious angle for th’ sun to hit against? For, as we said all along, ‘twas the lack o’ sun that confound’d the field’.
Mr. Winter scrolled his eyes over the room, observing much too much desire in the red countenances cocked toward him and bodies leaning the selfsame direction, that he may answer the man with not a word lost from lack of attentiveness.
Pg 290 – 91 (on the nature of science disinformation and presentation of propaganda):
On and on it did go: The ill found nuggets of deception that Mr. Princep had long ago formulated were presented, and for every quarter minute it would take to recite one, it would take a quarter of an hour to push back on it with equal force. Counterarguments then followed, questioning everything that was not commonly understood or known in the plebian ranks, all of which too took an unproportional amount of time to dispel. Credible men unjustly suffered being stripped of their credibility, which had to be slowly rebuilt at the table. And when all possible avenues had been exhausted in exploding one particular subject, another was jumped upon in which the antagonist felt it was fair game to continue to use his formerly destroyed ideas as support of such. It was a war of attrition where patience was the commodity being targeted. The format of the debate – where a man may say anything he wished without the necessity of a reference to weight him down – also favored the men who sought not the truth, but instead only to win the argument. Indeed they took the greatest pleasure in a cheering onlooker or a passerby calling out to them that they were doing the Lord’s work.
As the conversational structures at the table gave way to blurry, chaotic chatter, the lass reviewed in her mind their previous thoughts on the glasshouses. It didn’t seem likely that her father would give up his trade to farm a row of glasshouse gardens, even if there were room out back of their cottage for such. And by now, most others in the towns too realized such rumors were merely that, and that they were derived from Mr. Wyatt’s malicious motives, and Mr. Edward’s benevolent fears of secularism and that his towns’ farmland could have been again subjected to the like of the nefarious quarryman’s actions of the year eighteen sixteen. Further, a fair amount had of recent read Mr. Princep’s words in The Country Anglican, and knew exactly what they implied.
Nevertheless, several pockets of men in Hedgely, like the two before her one table removed, kept a refractory attitude toward the myths, as were it their religion to do so. Such did spring from an amalgam of deficiencies in their characters which included proportions of misguided allegiance to Mr. Edwards, or perhaps even to Mr. Wyatt, and conflation of their uncommon beliefs and those of the local Particular Baptists; some general fear that other men might get the better on them, and thusly of over taxation; fear of change; of not being in the right, always; of loss of identity or habit of thought, and even fear of disease. Yet for all their insecurities and pettiness, they were in fact the most vicious of denialists, who ironically lacked the capacity of self examination, that they proudly rallied around the skeptic’s standard.
Pg. 291 (the repetitive pushing of lies, even long after they are debunked):
‘And what of these water pumps on Mr. Foster’s property?’, started the secondary antagonist at the table, referring to Mr. Winter’s pumps – another classical favorite in these men’s repertoire. ‘For just yesterday more ailments have been reported from the set of cottages on Lion’s Head Lane, quite near the vexing things: Another girl and her brother have taken to fevers most similar in nature to the few we had had word of from the place but last week. When for the children’s sake will it be recognized that the contraptions’ screeches and scrapings attract the more malignant of vapors that cause these feverish diseases, and weaken the constitutions of any such creature within earshot?’
Pg. 293 – 94 (hat tip to Climate Crocks and Skeptical Science):
‘One could imagine an article devoted solely to dissolving these claims concerning my water pumps’, continued Mr. Winter. ‘We might visit the doctor and beg for records that we may assemble illness rates about the towns, and compare them against the areas nebulous my pumps; further looking at rates before and after they were installed. If the doctor is not keen, then we shall take surveys’.
‘And we would not expect to find any differences?’
‘Just so – and thusly we give the towns fair proof of such during a particular week; and then the week after, we clap onto another nugget of disinformation; and then another the week after, etcetera, etcetera, until the men that presently take pleasure in stoking these notions are demoted to the rank of silly little girls in the eyes of the public’.
‘And these too shall be published in The Anglican, alongside our others?’
‘Indeed Mr. Princep, for I believe we’ve discussed the current cost of paper on a previous occasion, which Mr. Moore suffers to pay, that the towns may keep their news. It would be the most economic manner of presenting them. We would have it a regular column; perhaps call it Woodbridge’s Weekly Whitewash, or Woodbridge and Hedgely’s Sham of the Week, or The Skeptical Woodbridger, or something the like’.
Pg. 303 (Sir Humphry Davy’s Conclusion to his book Elements of Agricultural Chemistry which also acts as the conclusion of my book):
…I have now exhausted all the subjects of discussion which my experience or information have been able to supply on the connection of chemistry with agriculture. I venture to hope that some of the views brought forward may contribute to the improvement of the most important and useful of the arts. I trust that the enquiry will be pursued by others; and that in proportion, as chemical philosophy advances towards perfection, it will afford new aids to agriculture.
There are sufficient motives connected with both pleasure and profit, to encourage ingenius men to pursue this new path of investigation. Science cannot long be despised by any persons as the mere speculation of theorists; but must soon be considered by all ranks of men in its true point of view, as the refinement of common sense, guided by experience, gradually substituting sound and rational principles, for vague popular prejudices…