17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
A fascinating self-portrait of conspiracy theory,
Amazon Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Shiva's Rainbow (Paperback)Peter Taylor is the author of "Chill, A Reassessment of Global Warming Theory: Does Climate Change Mean the World is Cooling, and If So What Should We Do About It?", currently Amazon UK's no. 3 bestseller on climate change contrarianism. Much of what Taylor aspires towards for a better world in "Chill" - principles such as community and resilience - I strongly agree with, and he says it well. My problem in that book, as I have explored in my separate Amazon review of it, is with his trenchant bottom line that "Man-made global warming is exactly what it says on the label - a fabrication! It is an illusion borne of a particular way of looking at the world" (p. 360).
In this Taylor sets himself up as a David against the Goliaths of hard science. Fair enough, but who do we believe: Taylor, or the peer-reviewed consensus of bodies like the UN's IPCC, the Royal Society, and the UK Met Office? In such a situation I find myself asking not just what a writer claims to know about science, but: what is their approach, and what are their credentials for what they say?
Taylor has come to my notice because I've several times recently been asked an opinion on his views. He stands out from most other contrarians because he is a former Greenpeace advisor, claiming kudos for the high-level connections that this once gave him, and is counted as a "climate scientist" by the Daily Express as well as achieving wide coverage internationally, including with Al-Jazeera which has wide Middle-East coverage.
I therefore read Shiva's Rainbow - self-published through his own landscape consultancy firm - to seek some answers about Taylor's credentials. It is not good enough with climate science simply to say, "let the arguments speak for themselves." The arguments can only be understood fully when compiled by interdisciplinary panels of specialists - meteorologists, oceanographers, astronomers, paleogeologists, etc.. That is why climate change demands "consensus" science, and why individual takes that run contrary to these do not merit equal weight - though they might usefully challenge us all, and the panels, as to how we think.
"Shiva's Rainbow" turns out to be a riveting autobiography - a conspiratorial "Celestine Prophecy" sort of page-turner, thus my 4 star rating. It profiles his life through the lens of 1984 when he was scientific advisor to Greenpeace UK. Taylor tells how to get a place as an undergraduate at Oxford University Taylor, "I had lied my way into the system". His main interest in being there, perhaps not unreasonably at that age, "was women" (p. 6). He gets his first job with IBM thanks to "a little stretch" of his credentials in physics, earned as part of an environmental degree (p. 12). But more disturbing in terms of his relationship to truth is when he looks back on his Greenpeace time and confesses: "In truth, in the scientific realms in which I worked, and gained by now, some standing, I was an imposter... My scientific degrees were linguistic exercises in critical review. My performances on television, in public inquiries, on tribunals and commissions, those of an extremely well-briefed lawyer, the ultimate actor" (pp. 146-7).
Unbeknown to the Greenpeace board, Taylor and his two brothers augmented their activist research into toxic dumping by using informants who claimed to be adept at ... "astral surveillance". Information ostensibly procured from out-of-the-body experiences and channelling from Pan factored in to protest planning and supposed real-time remote observation of toxic dumping at sea. However, the only information that Taylor tells us was subsequently verified was the underwhelming disclosure that a lift at Big Ben had space on top where a protestor could sit to prevent police from using it to thwart a planned action.
The merely barmy elevates to the positively wacko when Taylor has a confrontation with his separated wife. In the centrepiece drama of the book, he tells us how a disincarnate guru sends him a vision that she and the children are in danger of being chopped to pieces in a Masonic conspiracy by a crazed Ninja warrior aimed at framing Taylor at the behest of the nuclear industry (p. 132).
One night, convinced that the attack is imminent, he he goes round to where she lives and wakes her up by throwing stones at the bedroom window. He presses himself upon the family, insisting that it is to provide protection. Alarmed, she calls the police. He lets them arrive, somehow thinking that their being made aware of his fears will be the perfect alibi against the impending frame-up. But instead, the police suggest that perhaps Taylor is using them as an alibi to distract from what he himself might be thinking of doing. Outraged by this suggestion and a remark that suggests that they know about his work, Taylor concludes that these could not have been ordinary constables: it's all further proof of the Masonic stitch-up (p. 166-70).
Taylor feels defeated. He goes to see his Greenpeace boss, Pete Wilkinson, and says he must resign his nuclear remit: "I did not have to go into details. He knew little of the psychic world. I told him that I had had threats to my family that I believed were real" (p. 171).
During this time Taylor claims to have been grossing in more than £30,000 per annum. He spends what he doesn't need on art and alternative therapies. He had also developed a taste for finely-cut suits, a Volvo, flying Club Class and attending a plethora of positive-thinking and wealth-inducing workshops.
Meanwhile, Taylor's ministrations to Greenpeace seem to have continued notwithstanding the Ninja Masonic scare, but to have became more and more strained. His colleagues were clearly embarrassed by his propensity to represent them at key international scientific and political meetings dressed, at the instigation of a discarnate guru called Babaji, variously shaven-headed and all-in-white, or wearing beads and all-in-black (p. 117). In Madrid, "a centre of ancient Masonic influence," he gets called "to test my manhood" in a street fight. This led to making a "bizarre entrance" at a meeting of scientists and diplomats the next day ... sporting an eye patch (p. 207) - the eccentricity of which he clearly relished and was not the least embarassed by.
Eventually Alan Thornton, a new broom at Greenpeace, takes Taylor and his brothers aside and tells them he considers they've all been duped. He has reason to believe there was an MI5 plot to exploit their New Age gullibility and thereby discredit Greenpeace. However, to his credit, brother Ron did succeed in scaling Big Ben and famously draped it with the banner, "Time to Stop Nuclear Testing". As for proof that conspiracies really were in the air, the French secret service blew up the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland harbour in 1985 and their spy chief and his political associates, Taylor assures us, were Masons of the highest order. So, now we know!
At the end of the day, however, there is hope for the healing of the world, or rather, its self-healing, and it lies in ... homeopathy. This, he tells us, is difficult to prove scientifically because the symptoms under treatment often get worse before they get better. But, he assures us, "such scientific trials as have been performed in recent years, and I have not had time to pursue my interest in reviewing them, have demonstrated homeopathy's success..." (p. 206).
One can only hope that he reviewed his Greenpeace science better than that. But the reason why homeopathy's the answer is the homeopathic properties of ... now this is going to be hard to swallow ... plutonium! How? Because plutonium is named after Pluto, which astrologically represents upheaval and transformation.
And so to Taylor's bottom line on his last page. Plutonium, he says, is now: "distributed in homeopathic doses by the bomb tests, such that not a bone on the planet is free of it! Poisonous as it may be in the doses around Windscale, as with all homeopathic poisons, may it not also possess healing powers, borne of Plutonic dimension, a preparation for rebirth, an awakener to higher consciousness?" (p. 232)
As for global warming, "We fight so strongly against the global emissions of carbon dioxide, yet the quietest of questions surfaces: is Gaia, after all, a sentient mother protecting us from the next cooling?" (p. 232).
And that's it. If we want to know Taylor's scientific credentials, this is the context in which we might read Taylor's climate change contrarianism. I further note that "Chill" is published not by a scientifically reputable and relevant publisher but from a house that grew out of the Rudolph Steiner movement. That is not a criticism of Steiner, but it is to suggest that what his movement and way of thinking calls "science" exists in a different universe of discourse to what most physicists, chemists and biologists would call science.
In fairness to Taylor, however, it should be said that his work on nature conservation is well respected in the UK. It has been carried in journals like ECOS and Wild Land News, and he has a book published by the reputable scientific publisher Eathscan - Beyond Conservation: A Wildland Strategy. But here Taylor operates within the bounds of his qualifications, and his publishers have peer-review capacity within the conservationist field.
What troubles me most about "Shiva's Rainbow" apart from the light it sheds on Taylor as a publically perceived "climate scientist" is its confusion between wacky occultism and spirituality. I consider that we who are social and environmental activists we need spirituality to deepen and ground what we're doing. But to avoid going down the cultic road (though I concede that some would say that all spirituality is of that ilk) it is imperative to distinguish the real thing from varying degrees of what might be considered narcissistic delusion. As Paul Heelas concludes in his landmark study, The New Age Movement: Religion, Culture and Society in the Age of Postmodernity (Blackwell 1996), "there is much that is commendable" in this effort to throw off what had become moribund in mainstream religious life, but the shadow side is that it has been "only too easy for people to use the New Age, taking advantage of its provisions and its emphasis on freedom to satisfy their egos" (p. 221).
I recommend Shiva's Rainbow both as a page-turning read and for the study of cultic and conspiratorial thinking. I also recommend it to anybody who might be uncritical of Taylor's self-proclaimed credentials as a leading British climate change contrarian. I see that his website at Ethos-UK appears recently to have removed reference to the book. It should therefore be kept in mind that he may no longer hold the same views as he expressed six years ago. If so, the great thing about posting a review to Amazon, and the reason why I have chosen to do so in this case, is that it allows an author and his apologists full opportunity to respond using the "Comment" facility (at the bottom right of this review).
A final point is that "Shiva's Rainbow" leaves me with a rather alarming question about Greenpeace during the 1980s. Was Taylor really playing such an indispensible role in its scientific policy as he claims? If so, why did Greenpeace not monitor his style more carefully? 1984 was a heady time. It was the era of high Thatcherism and Cold War escalation. The prominent campaigner, later an MP, Des Wilson, wrote around then: "Community-based and `cause' pressure groups have become the real opposition to the government for many people for whom political parties have failed to deliver.... Pressure groups have, then, more than `a role to play' in our democratic process. They are essential to it."
Greenpeace was probably top of the international pressure group league at that time. Its brave campaigns made regular news headlines and were one of the few forces that gave hope in challenging the Reagan-Thatcher nexus. Could it be that determination to advance the cause led to the science being relegated to a background role? If so, we might view such instrumentalism as having been part of the environmental movement's learning curve, but not a place at which it could credibly have remained.
Similarly, the self-disclosure in "Shiva's Rainbow" might be viewed charitably as having been part of Taylor's learning curve. But for me it scarcely lends confidence in Taylor as a "climate scientist" whose guidance I would trust in taking on the peer-reviewed international scientific consensus.
Tracked by 1 customer
Sort: Oldest first | Newest first
Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 5 Aug 2011 11:49:43 BDT
Mr. C. Blyth says:
There may well be people who, quite justifiably after reading this review, decide that Mr Taylor may be a touch too bonkers to be trusted with regard to his views on the whole anthropogenic climate change debacle. In the interests of full disclosure, it may be useful for them to know that Mr Taylor has replied to this review (under his amazon name of Lefalcon) in the comments to Mr McIntosh's 4 star review of his other book "Chill". The two gentlemen in question have also gone on to debate this issue, which can be found by googling the website ECOS and searching for it there. Furthermore, it may also be useful to know that Mr McIntosh has also given an unfavourable review to another book on the climate change issue "The Hockey Stick Illusion" which, as it would seem Mr McIntosh is not without influence in this area, also prompted a firm rebuttal from it's author, Mr Montford.
My apologies for not providing direct links to the other relevant information I've mentiuoned here, but I'm given to understand that Amazon often delete comments that contain links.
‹ Previous 1 Next ›