Tag Archives: Netherlands

Joe Bastardi – The Message or the Medium?

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Joe Bastardi is a weatherman.  He works for Weatherbell, a US-based forecaster, that provides global weather reports and forecasts through its website, http://www.weatherbell.com/.  Joe also has a number of corporate clients, for whom he prepares specific detailed forecasts tailored to their weather information needs.

If one judges a weatherman by the success rate of his seasonal forecasts, then Joe is a super-weatherman.

When my wife and I came from New Zealand to live in the Haarlem in the Netherlands in 2008, we needed local weather information.  My Dutch language skills were non-existent, so I went looking in the internet for English-language reports on current conditions and forecasts.  The most accurate forecasts for Haarlem at the time were on the website of Accuweather, another global weather forecasting company, at http://www.accuweather.com/en-gb/nl/north-holland/haarlem/quick-look.aspx.

I had long been interested in the Anthropogenic Global Warming debate, which had wide publicity in New Zealand.  My interest (and suspicions) had been aroused by the way in which every weather event was described as evidence of human-influenced global warming.  However, the concept behind the idea seemed worthy of investigation, so I was interested in finding out more.

A Dutch television channel showed a film called “An Inconvenient Truth” featuring Al Gore showing a PowerPoint presentation which presented Michael Mann’s hockey-stick graph and argued in apocalyptic terms that the earth was in danger of a runaway greenhouse effect, caused by human beings, and specifically, the CO2 that we produce.

That film was a tipping-point for me.  “An Inconvenient Truth” was far from being a reasoned, scientifically-based presentation.  It was full of half-truths and special pleading, presented by a salesman.  For the first time, I began to suspect that the AGW scare was a textbook real-life example of the behaviour illustrated by the classic fable of Chicken Little.

One of the blog links on the Accuweather site that caught my attention was also hosted by Accuweather.  Joe Bastardi’s European Weather blog.  Bastardi is no Shakespeare, but his postings were always entertaining and well-argued.

Now Joe Bastardi has left Accuweather, and resurfaced at the Weatherbell site.  Inexplicably, his blog posts are behind a paywall – they are in the premium section of Weatherbell.  That is tragic.  One expects to pay for premium services – after all, they are a big part of the income of a web-based service.  But to pay for blog-posts?

Bloggers blog to be read.  They blog to communicate, to give their ideas the widest possible coverage.  Including pensioners who cannot afford the premium subscriptions. I am over sixty-five years old, and at the end of this month, I too shall be a pensioner.

So long, Joe.  I shall miss your posts.

Why is Cycling so dangerous in New Zealand?

Filed under Netherlands, Random Grumps & Raves, Rights and Responsibility
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There are some unbelievable comments in made in the “New Zealand Herald” about the recent tragic spate of fatal accidents involving bicycles and motor vehicles.  Some suggest licensing and WOFs for bicycles, as if that would make cycling less hazardous!   Another comment says there is  “no space for cyclists on the road – they need their own lane they are the biggest hazard, they put themselves in a lot of danger by being on the road.”  The cyclists didn’t die on motorways that are restricted to motorised traffic – they were killed on ordinary roads.

Sadly, the comments above were representative of the tone of a significant proportion of the comments about the Herlad reports.  Comments that illustrate what is wrong with the attitude of too many NZ motorists.

One comment from a man named Rhys has it right – NZ should use the Dutch approach.

The Dutch approach is twofold – it addresses the safety of the roads, and it addresses the attitudes and behaviour of motorists.   The Netherlands invests heavily in bike lanes to reduce the likelihood of accidents.  Real bike lanes – not a half-share of a footpath.  These run parallel to all major roads, and cross the countryside.

But of course, even in the Netherlands, not all roads have bike lanes.  Dutch road laws and behaviours are based on the premise that roads are for all users – pedestrians, cyclists and motor vehicles.  The only roads on which motor vehicles “rule” are motorways.  On all other roads, cyclists and pedestrians rule.  Motor vehicles use them as a convenience, not as an unfettered right.  The legal onus is on the motorist to avoid collisions with people and cyclists, without exception.

That does not mean that there are no road rules for cyclists.  Of course there are.  Cyclists can be prosecuted for dangerous behaviour or for failing to give way, and police will act when cyclists break the rules.  But being in the right does not prevent prosecution of a motorist who collides with a bicycle.  It is extremely rare for a motorist to be cleared after a collision with a bicycle.  If the motorist does not have incontrovertible proof that he/she could not have possibly avoided the accident, even when the cyclist was flagrantly in the wrong, the motorist will be found guilty, and the punishment is severe.  The same goes for accidents with pedestrians.  The result is that motorists are very careful of cyclists and pedestrians, very patient when cyclists are on the road (even two or three abreast), and very courteous toward pedestrians.

The Netherlands is the safest place in the world for a cyclist or pedestrian.  And traffic still flows, quite happily.

Conservation and Climate Change – The State of the Birds

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On March 14 2010, Sciam (Scientific American) tweeted a report called “Climate Change – State of the Birds 2010 Report”.  A link is in the Reference section at the end of this post.

My wife and I are a lifelong conservationists with a special place in our hearts for birds.  In our home country, New Zealand, we gardened organically, without pesticides or artificial fertilisers, and planted native trees in the garden of every house we have owned, to attract, feed and encourage the NZ and exotic birds back into our lives.  People change landscapes, and we feel strongly that we should provide the means for the native wildlife to survive those changes.  So we do just that, and are rewarded by the tuis, wood pigeons, fantails, wax-eyes, goldfinches, starlings, sparrows and other birds that swarm in our garden.  They are so comfortable with us that they pick for food at our feet when we sit on the garden deck.  They will do so again when we return.

Here during our sojourn in the Netherlands, our greatest delight is the splendid variety of birds that grace the trees in our tiny lane in Haarlem, and fill the polders, reserves and wetlands.  We put out seeds, nuts, fat balls and insect blocks this winter, because it has been the harshest for forty years.  No doubt we have assisted the great tits, blue tits, jays, tree-creepers and robins that are outside the window, ten feet from me, right now.  And now that spring quickens the trees and the temperature is finally back above zero, we shall once more roam the cycle lanes in the reserves, among the swans, ducks, herons and magpies.

So how does a Grumpy Old Conservationist react to the report?  By grumping – it is shameless advocacy.  A load of self-serving twaddle riding the coat-tails of the highly exaggerated predictions of anthropogenic catastrophic global warming.  Prediction after prediction in the IPCC report is being exposed as nonsense.  Himalayan glaciers, African crop yields, Amazon rain-forest health are three examples.  These are not small errors – they are critical for the IPCC’s advocacy.  It will not be long before their predicted six-degree Celsius global temperature rise for the twenty-first century is similarly nailed, and nailed conclusively.  Already, scientific analyses of the various bases on which that prediction was based are showing them to be doubtful at best, and suggest that some of them have been shamelessly manipulated.  The leaked emails of the Climategate incident add weight to that suggestion.

Audubon and the other conservation agencies have done a great conservation job of maintaining, recovering and protecting wildlife populations, and will continue to do so.  It is important work, mitigating the environmental consequences of the actions of humankind.  It enriches all of life.  They should keep it up.

It saddens me to see that work, and the agencies who perform it, hooked up in the advocacy of the AGW group.  The predictions of the AGW camp will be shown to be about as accurate as the Jehovah’s Witnesses predictions of the end of the world in 1914, 1915, 1918, 1920, 1925, 1941, 1975 and 1994.  IPCC and all of those who have promoted AGW will be utterly discredited.  An angry world may well discredit all conservationist groups along with them.

That would be a very great shame.


2010 State of the Birds:  http://www.stateofthebirds.org/habitats

Postscript: Scientific American is diminished.  It used to be great magazine that reported science.  Now it is an avenue for advocacy.