September 27, 2014
An open letter to people attending the “Global March Against Chemtrails”
Dear concerned citizen,
If you are among the small portion of the public who believe in some form of a “chemtrail” conspiracy theory, I’ve got some great news for you: it’s not true. Planes are not spraying dangerous chemicals from the sky to control your mind, or for any other reason. You can cross it off your list of things to worry about, leave any related groups, and get some sleep instead of staying up all hours reading the comment sections on dodgy websites. Most importantly, you can skip the upcoming protest and avoid future embarrassment.
You probably need some convincing. Which is why I wrote this.
According to the chemtrail conspiracy theory, long-lasting trails left in the sky by high-flying aircraft are chemical or biological agents deliberately sprayed for various sinister purposes, totally undisclosed to the general public.
What you’re actually seeing in the sky are just normal contrails (short for condensation trail), formed by moisture moisture from engine exhaust hitting the atmosphere, freezing and forming ice crystals. They dissipate at different rates, sometimes forming clouds, the size and duration determined by the level of moisture, and if there is a growing prevalence of them it’s possibly due to global warming.
“Chemtrails” should not be confused with cloud seeding (a well-studied form of weather modification which has been used for decades). And let’s not conflate them with geo-engineering (a blanket term that includes various proposals designed to curb global warming). These proposals have yet to be tested, let alone put into effect (they're still being sketched out on the back of napkins).
“There are no known large-scale climate engineering projects… almost all research has consisted of computer modeling or laboratory tests, and attempts to move to real-world experimentation have proved controversial.”
I could go into more detail with all this, but that would be long and boring. Besides: many, many people much better at this have already done it, and there are entire web sites devoted to the exhaustive debunking of every claim floated by theorists. Instead, I’ll use basic logic and reason to show that these theories are nothing more than paranoid fantasies.
The top four reasons you should stop believing that “chemtrails” are a thing:
1. There is no evidence
This theory has been around since 1999, probably earlier. It’s been introduced into the public consciousness multiple times. It was seven years ago that Beck wrote a trippy song about it. Government agencies have repeatedly had to respond to the claims (and have repeatedly provided reasonable explanations). You would think that a conspiracy that’s been around so long would have some good evidence to show for it, but no. Not a single reputable scientist in the field has ever come forward. And not a single respectable journalist has broken this supposedly big story. Wouldn’t the media have caught wind of it by now?
“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” – Carl Sagan
All of the “evidence” amounts to this: an endless supply of pictures and videos (of what look like normal contrails), various poorly-done tests of air samples (collected from who-knows-where), an assortment of bizarre charges (most of which betray a misunderstanding of the science), and plenty of anecdotes (remember the skies when you were a kid?). Add to that a lot of wild speculation, and the occasional battle cry of “Look up, sheeple!” Most of you seem to think that every time you look to the sky, your fears are confirmed. But that’s not evidence – it’s confirmation bias.
2. It would be impossible to get away with
Most conspiracy theories can be debunked with four words: people can’t keep secrets. The Secret Service can’t even keep their prostitutes secret. Sources within administrations are talking to the press on a daily basis. Major media outlets, independent journalists, public institutions, private investigators, watchdog groups, citizen activists, whistle-blowers, document-leakers, government task forces, international spying agencies – all chomping at the bit for a story this big.
It’s a conspiracy so grand as to require virtually all of the world’s governments, including our buddies in North Korea and Iran, to be on board and agreeing to the spraying of “chemtrails” over their own populace, along with their family and friends. And all scientific documentation of any anomalous chemical presences in the atmosphere would have to be suppressed, everywhere in the world, without anybody noticing. Infinitely harder to keep secret than prostitutes.
Technology that we’ve had since the 1950’s like the humble spectrometer could detect these things easily. Air sampling became so refined during the Cold War that scientists could pick up traces of a nuclear test thousands of miles away and “analyze them finely enough to reconstruct the design of the device”. There is simply no way chemicals of any significant quantity could be dropped from the sky without being detected. That alone should end the debate, but apparently not. Look up!
3. It wouldn’t work anyway
Pesticides are sprayed on crops from thirty feet. Mosquito spraying is done from 150 feet. “Chemtrails” are supposedly released at 30,000 feet or higher, where the winds would blow them around in unpredictable directions. Not only that, but some particles wouldn’t survive the atmosphere, and others wouldn’t drop to the ground immediately from ten miles in the air. Take it from a pilot:
“Assuming these biological agents survived the hostile environment, they would tend to have a very slow rate of descent back to earth due to their microscopic size. (Microscopic dust from volcanoes is known to remain in the upper atmosphere for years after an eruption.) In all likelihood, atmospheric disturbances would scatter them and they wouldn’t even land in the area they were released.”
If someone wanted to distribute chemicals, spraying from high-altitudes would be stupid. There’s much better ways of doing this kind of thing – if someone was doing this kind of thing. As RationalWiki points out:
“…it would be simpler and more effective to put them in the water supply (seewater fluoridation), or the food supply; or if inhalation were necessary, to release them from ground-based vehicles — have you seen the smoke coming suspiciously out of some cars?”
The physics just don't work. To drop chemicals accurately, pilots couldn't do it from the stratosphere. They would have to fly so low to the ground they have to watch out for power lines. Seriously, pilot in the photo: watch out for those power lines!
4. None of it makes any sense
As far as conspiracy theories go, this one ranks high on the silly meter. Somewhere between the moon landing being a hoax and secret control of the world by evil reptilian overlords. Let’s put it this way: people who claim to be anally probed by aliens think you’re delusional. Mention the words “chemtrails” or “mind control” and watch as people slowly back away. You’re in the same category as the lady who yells at clouds and sprays vinegar into the air.
Ask ten different Chemtrailers why it’s happening and you get thirty to forty different answers. Psychological manipulation, human population control, weather modification, solar radiation management, biological or chemical warfare, these trails do it all. They cause respiratory illnesses, autism, and various other health problems like turning your kids gay. It’s all powerful and insidious, yet oddly vague.
Also, like most conspiracy theories, it’s deeply cynical. We live in a time when we are more connected to each other than we ever have been. To believe there is a massive conspiracy with tens of thousands of people are “in on it” takes a profound distrust of the government, your fellow human beings, and science itself. Luckily for all of us, its not true. And the general public isn’t buying it. Because none of it makes any sense.
Hope that helps,
Your Visible Friends