The pollutants spread by planes are a major issue. They make a significant contribution to global warming, yet they are excluded from international negotiations, such as the conference taking place in Paris. As a result, aviation’s expansion is unchecked by concerns about climate change.
…This exclusion is ridiculous, not least because aircraft emissions have a particular role in heating the planet, due to the height at which they are released, and the multiplying impacts of the water vapour and other gases the planes produce. Gases that sometimes form contrails in the sky.
…The most vocal people protesting against aviation emissions have no interest in their contribution to global warming. Quite the opposite. Many of those now denouncing the pollution of the skies see climate science as part of the problem: a conspiracy by corporations, military planners and other nefarious interests to control the skies.
…So on one hand we have a real threat, measurable and attestable, that is caused by an identifiable industry and persists as a result of the indifference and short-termism of the world’s governments. On the other, we have a conspiracy, attributed to forces unknown and interests unspecified, so powerful and pervasive that it extends from Mark Zuckerberg to the Paris terrorists. Why does it seem to be harder to generate interest in the real issue than the improbable one?
The real issue – global warming caused by aircraft emissions – calls on us to act. Reducing our impacts means flying less; something that few people are prepared to do. It involves an exhausting battle against a powerful industry and unresponsive governments. It means reading boring papers, attending boring meetings and engaging with a level of political and technical complexity that many people find repulsive. There’s plenty of grind and precious little glory.
…onspiracy theories. They make sense of what can sometimes feel like a senseless world. They tell you that you are among the elect: aware of a grand scheme that other people (or sheeple or sleeple as the conspiracy sites often like to call them) are unable or unwilling to see. It tells you that you are a lonely crusader fighting evil of the kind that’s otherwise encountered only in films about superheroes.
And if hardly anyone reads your website, it only goes to prove how important you are: why else would the authorities go to such lengths to limit your followers?
It also absolves you of the responsibility to act. Sure, you might feel moved to create a website, take some photos, perhaps sign the odd petition or even attend one or two noisy demonstrations. But you don’t have to change anything, because somewhere, buried deep in the forebrain, is the knowledge that there’s not really anything to change. You get the glory without the grind.
Perhaps such movements are also a response to a sense of helplessness. In a world so complex, chaotic and badly governed that its most dangerous predicaments often seem intractable, it is paradoxically comforting to believe that godlike powers are in control, even if those powers are malign.
It has been reported that a major merchant ship goes down somewhere in the world every two or three days; most are ships sailing under flags of convenience, with underpaid crews and poor safety records.
…Captain Lawrence? Captain Davidson. Thursday morning, 0700. We have a navigational incident. I’ll keep it short. A scuttle popped open on two-deck and we were having some free communication of water go down the three-hold. Have a pretty good list. I want to just touch—contact you verbally here. Everybody’s safe, but I want to talk to you.
…“I have a marine emergency and I would like to speak to a Q.I.[Qualified Individual] We had a hull breach—a scuttle blew open during a storm. We have water down in three-hold with a heavy list. We’ve lost the main propulsion unit. The engineers cannot get it going. Can I speak to a Q.I., please?”
…[Ship’s Captain Davidson] did not know the wind speeds because the ship’s anemometer was in disrepair and had been for weeks; it is now believed that the winds were sustained at 115 m.p.h., with higher gusts. As for the waves, Davidson appears to have underreported them, perhaps as a matter of professional style. El Faro was in fact struggling to endure steep breaking waves 30 to 40 feet high, and was occasionally encountering waves still higher. These monsters were smashing over the ship, knocking containers overboard, and boiling across a lower second deck that by design was watertight below but open to the sea. That second deck was the location of the scuttle that had been opened. Three-hold was a cavernous two-deck space below it, just aft of midship.
Lawrence asked for a measure of the list. Davidson said, “Betcha it’s all of 15—15 degrees.” Fifteen degrees is steep.
…The ship was found resting upright on a sandy plain 15,400 feet beneath the surface, and the recorder—a circuit board barely 2.5 inches long—was eventually retrieved. It contained the final 26 hours of conversations among nine doomed people on the bridge. The audio quality was poor, but a technical team was able to extract most of the spoken words and produce a 496-page transcript, by far the longest in the N.T.S.B.’s history. The transcript is a remarkable document—an unadorned record of nothing more than the sounds on the bridge. The people involved are identified in the transcript only by their shipboard ranks, but the names of the officers are part of the public record, and in the time since the tragedy other names have been revealed. It is now possible to know with reasonable certainty what occurred.
…[Captain Davidson] was a by-the-book mariner with a reputation for being unusually competent and organized. By training and temperament he was a safety-first man.
…At the time, TOTE was busy blaming Davidson by insisting that all routing and weather decisions were his alone to make, but here Davidson appeared to be asking permission for the Old Bahama Channel run. To make matters worse, it was answered by one of the cc’d managers, the director of ship management, Jim Fisker-Andersen, who was in San Francisco at the time. Fisker-Andersen wrote, “Captain Mike, diversion request heads up through Old Bahama Channel understood and authorized. Thank you for the heads up. Kind regards.”
…As is usually the case, the catastrophe was unfolding because of a combination of factors that had aligned, which included: Davidson’s caution with the home office; his decision to take a straight-line course; the subtle pressures to stick to the schedule; the systematic failure of the forecasts; the persuasiveness of the B.V.S. graphics; the lack of a functioning anemometer; the failure by some to challenge Davidson’s thinking more vigorously; the initial attribution of the ship’s list entirely to the winds; and finally a certain mental inertia that had overcome all of them. This is the stuff of tragedy that can never be completely explained.
At one point, the coal magnate handed Perry a document containing his “Action Plan for reliable and low cost electricity in America and to assist in the survival of our Country’s coal industry.” Edelman snapped a closeup. Afterward, he said, he heard Perry tell Murray, “I think we can help you with this.”
…Perry proposed that all coal plants in certain areas, including many that do business with Murray Energy, be required to keep a ninety-day supply of coal onsite to provide “fuel-secure” power. Edelman was alarmed: the language in Perry’s letter clearly echoed Murray’s “action plan.” Moreover, only a month earlier, a report by Perry’s own staff had concluded that “reliability is adequate today,” raising the question of why the rule was necessary.