I read essays by Henry Louis Mencken when I was an undergraduate, and indeed he died while I was a student. He was very funny, and the sharpest cutter of pretentiousness I think I have ever read. Certainly he was the most concise. He defined puritanism as ‘the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy’, and that ‘the older I grow the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom’. I agree with both.

Mencken was a journalist and editor who lived virtually all his life in Baltimore, Maryland. Global warming and ‘climate change’ he knew not, but I’m prepared to bet a brass razoo or two that he would have turned his mind and wit on to their proponents. ‘It is the dull man who is always sure,’ he said, ‘and the sure man who is always dull.’ There — I can think of quite a few of the orthodox who fit that description.

At the end of the Great War he penned the following, and you will probably have seen at least the last clause:

Civilization, in fact, grows more and more maudlin and hysterical; especially under democracy it tends to degenerate into a mere combat of crazes; the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.

There is no doubt that governments search for problems, if not hobgoblins, that will remind the populace that it has a wise and competent government there to deal with whatever it is. The classic one, of course, is an external enemy when the country is divided internally. The most recent hobgoblin has been dear old ‘climate change’, which had the great advantage that Science was on side, and proclaimed that the threat was deadly serious, even if you couldn’t see it.

It’ll take a while for ‘climate change’ to move right off the stage, and what will replace it? Short of a real or possible war, my guess is that the environmental movement will find a replacement, and one writer has already identified it: water or, more accurately, the possible future shortage of clean, fresh water. The writer is Dr Tim Ball, a properly credentially climate scientist, though not in the orthodox camp, who lives and works in Canada. You can read his whole essay here. He reminds us that water is inexhaustible: ‘Water is not lost, only taken out of the Water Cycle … in one place and returned elsewhere’.

His view is that the Malthusian preoccupation with over-population will continue to be the underlying theme, but that ‘water’ will be the next target. There is even a ‘Water Footprint’ set out in the UN’s Agenda 21:  The Water Footprint of a product is the volume of freshwater appropriated to produce the product, taking into account the volumes of water consumed and polluted in the different steps of the supply chain. Ball comments, ‘Like the Carbon Footprint it is a totally contrived and meaningless measure, but allows environmental guilt finger pointing.’

Agenda 21 devotes a separate category to water: The widespread scarcity, gradual destruction and aggravated pollution of freshwater resources in many world regions, along with the progressive encroachment of incompatible activities, demand integrated water resources planning and management. The last phrase, with its ‘demand’ verb, sounds quite a lot like global warming, doesn’t it. The problem is global, so it needs a global solution. I mean, rain is generated here but falls there, so there is obviously inequity, and who better than the United Nations to sort it out and fix the problem.

Ball doesn’t have a lot to go on, but there is something there, and we in Australia are probably more fixated on water than anyone else, given that ours is the driest inhabited contingent (Antarctic beats us for the Grand Prize.) I’m not as suspicious as he is, but his last paragraph (slightly edited by me) made me stop and think.

‘…CO2, through the UN, particularly the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) … gave the IPCC effective control of national weather agencies and therefore national policy. Global warming seemed like an easy control agenda until nature took over. Instead of acknowledging their science was wrong the UNEP, IPCC and national environment agencies simply moved the goalposts to ‘climate change’ and more recently to ‘climate crisis’. Now that is failing, a move to a new goalpost, water, is underway to pursue the real objective – total control. As always it is cloaked in righteousness (green). Who could oppose a desire for clean air or water?’

As I’ve written more than once before, I’m a nation-state person, and see the UN’s best goal being to make sure that there are more and more peaceful and prosperous nation states living in harmony with one another — not to produce a system of world government with the nations as essentially powerless and all humanity united as one. That is a utopian dream, way beyond our existing reality. But I do agree that we are likely to have another environmental scare, and water does seem an obvious candidate.

Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • PeterE says:

    Thanks, I agree not only with the probability of ‘the next big scare’ but with the importance of the nation-state as the essential organisation to protect government of the people, by and for the people. Others, who believe they know better, are working day and night to do away with the nation-state, not least those writing our national curriculum. The results have been seen in the late unlamented Soviet system but are present in the fashionable European community folly. Let us perfect Australia first and then help others to find good governance.

  • Lysander says:

    I’m scared already. 🙂

  • David says:

    A bit off topic,…
    I think politically and economically, people who believe in AGW should have to “prove” their case before we start to change our society in a major way. But scientifically you can never prove anything, all you can do is present evidence consistent with a hypotheses. So IPCC presents a literature review with 10,000
    articles, which support the hypothesis of AGW. And people can decide for themselves if the buy their argument and are willing to make the sorts of changes implied.

    However, scientifically it is only ever possible to disprove a theory. For example if
    they ever find the fossil of a rabbit in precambrian rock then theory
    of evolution will be disproved. So from a scientific perspective the onus is on
    denialists to disprove AGW. They have had 100 years to disprove AGW
    but have made no headway.

    We know this because if they had, you would be a denialist instead of an
    agnostic towards AGW. Correct?

  • David says:


    When I enter Tim Ball’s name in Google Scholar I got two hits.

    Eighteenth-century naturalists of Hudson Bay
    S Houston, T Ball, M Houston – 2003

    A dramatic change in the general circulation on the west coast of Hudson Bay in 1760 AD: Synoptic evidence based on historic records

    These references have been cited 11 and 7 times respectively. Ball’s contribution to academe appears pretty anaemic, to me.

    • Don Aitkin says:

      Look him up on his website and Wikipedia. He was a civil servant for much of his working life, in charge of water matters in Manitoba, as I remember. I didn’t say he was an academic, only that he was credentialled.

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