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Johan Knols
Blogger, safari specialist, professional wildlife guide (Woerden, Netherlands)

Johan Knols is the owner of the planyoursafari blog. He studied tourism in the Netherlands and has been working in the African tourism industry for nearly 15 years. Starting as lodge manager in the Serengeti in Tanzania, he eventually owned his own mobile safari company in Botswana. Johan received his professional wildlife- guides licence in 1998 and was awarded the title of Honorary Wildlife Officer with the Botswana Wildlife and National Parks authority in 2005. During his time in Africa he has managed upmarket safari lodges and has done overland trips in the luxury and semi-luxury sector. At the moment he is a full-time blogger giving tips and advices on everything related to African safaris.


The Limitations Of Our Knowledge

Published 13th August 2010 - 2 comments - 3355 views -

Deciding between a sandwich with cheese or one with peanut butter is fairly easy. After all you have learned through experience what cheese and peanut butter taste like, that both smell quite strong and that one of the two sticks terribly to your pallet. But you KNOW what choice to make.

Making a choice already becomes a bit more complicated when buying, let’s say, a vehicle. You KNOW the price and you know what it consumes. But you don’t know how comfortable the seats are and you don’t know how it feels to drive it. But no worries, the friendly sales person allows you to take it for a spin. After a ten minutes drive you have gained more knowledge about the car and making a choice has become a lot easier. Unless your partner wants another color of course…

But since you are a conscious consumer, you have yet to make more, and a lot more difficult, choices. Should you buy a vehicle because you don’t know what the impact of your vehicle and your driving on the environment is? It is bad, but how bad is it exactly? You don’t KNOW.

You will be using fuel, albeit a small quantity at a time. But there are millions of fuel users. And there is something you heard about ‘peak oil’. Something about the oil running out in coming years. Should you take this into account?

So you wait with buying that car and you decide to go home and gain knowledge about the ‘oil peak’ topic. Like I did..

But now you will encounter your worst problem. There are different opinions on whether oil is running out in the next thirty or so years. You don’t have the knowledge and the discrepancy between the experts is baffling. Instead of eliminating the limitations of your oil knowledge, the question marks only become bigger. Who of the experts should you believe so that YOU can make the right choice?

Expert #1

Richard Heinberg


Expert #2

Peter Huber 

The second expert is bringing us the ‘feeling good’ message. We don’t have to worry about oil running out, and we might as well buy that car and not feel bad about it. What he doesn’t say in the short interview is that the process of making those oil reserves (oil sands/tar sands) available, ten to forty five percent more greenhouse gases will be emitted into the atmosphere compared to the conventional crude oil process.

This is just one example of the contradiction on a very important subject. How about the loss of biodiversity? How fast is that going? Who can we believe?
How about the amount of poor people in the world? How can we tackle that issue?

So the most important question is: which experts can we trust? A tough one.

In the peak oil debate, I go for Richard. I have little knowledge about the topic, but I have a strong gut feeling that Peter is pulling our legs. To justify my choice of experts, I look at what Richard could gain from his story and what Peter could gain from his. Do you agree that Peter has a lot more to gain?

Related article: Arithmetic, Population and Energy.

Category: Crisis | Tags: energy, science, peak oil, peter huber,


  • Giedre Steikunaite on 13th August 2010:

    You ask all the right questions, Johan. It is indeed very difficult to know which experts to trust. Say, one is looking for some data and quotes on whatever issue, and finds a foundation or an organization which is dealing with it. It may well be that that institution is funded by some other institution with an agenda of its own (think World Bank, CIA, whatever), so naturally it will promote its own version of an issue.

    Experts are complicated. There are historians with degrees, professors in history who deny that the Holocaust ever happened. They are supposedly reasonable people, educated and so on, but they have these crazy ideas and what is worse, they tend to spread them much quicker than the really reasonable people.

    On another note - the second video is pure propaganda in favour of Canada’s tar sands. I’m planning a post about it. It’s unbelievable what kind of environmental disaster will happen once all the oil companies are allowed to fully put their hands on the tar sands. It might be the worst we’ve ever seen. However, I admit I couldn’t finish that video as I got really angry..

  • Johan Knols on 14th August 2010:

    Hi Giedre,

    There was some hoo-ha recently in Holland when the minister of Environment attacked scientists that made a small mistake in a report about our future with regards to climate change. She (the minister) acted as if those scientists were criminals for giving the wrong results. As if 1 cm more or less rising of the seawater levels is going to make a difference! We are, as often stated during this competition, creatures that don’t like to hear bad news, so when we can shoot the messenger, we are happy like pigs in shit. The question remains though: who has got the facts right and dares to speak the truth.
    I have come to the conclusion that I can trust nobody and nothing. Only the future will tell.

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