About Dr. Tim Ball

A Review of My Philosophical Evolution: How I Got Here From There

Robert Fulghum said, “All I really need to know I learned in Kindergarten.” Essentially, once you reach the age of 11 or 12 what you learn requires life experience for context. They say youth is wasted on the young; in truth history is wasted on the young. How can 100 years of history be relevant to young people who consider a week a long time? Even at 18 most people are still learning who they are and yet are expected to have a career path. I used to tell confused and worried students to ask as many 40+ people as possible if they could have predicted at 18 where they are now.

To say something is purely academic means it is irrelevant to the real world. How different would academic thought and approach be if all faculties were required to serve on committees and commissions? What if they had to work for at least 5 years before they could teach and research? Too many are never outside of education from the time they enter kindergarten until they retire as faculty. Somebody purportedly said universities are the only truly incestuous systems in our society. Everyone teaching or researching in them is a graduate and only academics are appointed as deans and presidents.

My education path was not the same that most follow. I was fortunate to have a very strict formal education as a child including Latin and Greek. I then essentially dropped out of the system, only returning when I was in my late 20s. This meant I went back on my terms, knowing a little more about life and who I was. My long-term career goal changed as progress was better than expected, but the central theme remained.

Many things formed the theme, but three events were pivotal. One was the privilege of extensive flying over and visiting the vast and magnificent landscapes of Canada, especially the Arctic. Another was the almost complete lack of evidence of humans throughout most of the areas. The third was the awareness that humans were not considered as an agent of change to the landscape among the general population until the 1960s.

Vast Unoccupied Areas

There is no doubt humans alter the world; however, it is far less than depicted in environmentalist reports and documentaries. The world map shows vast areas virtually unoccupied. Years ago, while on a search in northern Canada for a missing US private airplane, the brother of a missing passenger flew as a spotter. By noon he angrily accused us of flying in circles. We had actually covered most of Wood Buffalo National Park (Figure 1), which is three times larger than Connecticut. It all looked the same with no evidence of humans at all. We flew him back to Fort Chipewyan along the Peace River letting him follow on a map. His only comment on landing was, “I will never worry about overpopulation again.”Fort Chipewyan (Google Maps)

Figure 1
‘A’ marks Fort Chipewyan.
Adjacent green area is Wood Buffalo Park.
Source: Google Maps

Most of the world is essentially unoccupied and populations are confined to coastal plains and deltas. Major questions include “how much and how detrimental are the impacts of human activity?” and “why are human impacts considered unnatural?” The answers are complicated by an underlying assumption of the new religion of environmentalism that humans shouldn’t be here, so anything they do is wrong. The other is that the ‘damage’ is irredeemable. It is complicated by political exploitation from the Club of Rome through to the IPCC.

A huge deficiency in the debate is the lack of detailed reconstruction of natural conditions before human impact. We still have extremely limited information and understanding about nature and natural mechanisms. This is especially true about climate.

Measuring Human Impacts

An undergraduate course on Soils spurred my interests. The formula for soil-forming factors included parent material (rock), weather, and the letter “O” for organic that included everything except humans. Why? Which animal has had a wider impact? Early German geography recognized the impact by distinguishing between Landschaft (the natural landscape) and Kulturschaft (the human modified landscape). However there were few measures of the difference over time. I knew about George Perkins Marsh work Man and Nature (1864), but it was William L Thomas’ 1956 publication Man’s Role in Changing the Face of the Earth that gave me a theme for my major research interests.

An Honours thesis titled Some Philosophical Considerations of Humans as a Source of Change tried to put the issue in a historical and intellectual context. Although human population numbers were low through most of history they could have quite extensive impact, especially through use of fire. Before World War II, the debate was about humans being environmentally and climatically determined; passive products of the environment. During and after the War intellectual interest was driven away from those ideas by Nazi use of climatic determinism to promote racial superiority. After the war the shift to considering human as an active agent really expanded along with the new paradigm of environmentalism.

A Masters thesis titled The Significance of Grain Size and Heavy Minerals Volume percentage as Indicators of Environmental Character, Grand Beach, Manitoba developed understanding of the relationship between energy inputs and how they shape the environment. It was a pure science study necessary to enhance those skills required for measuring and quantifying nature.

My doctoral thesis was designed to address the growing schism between arts and science. A research paper on the relationship between climate and history introduced me to the work of Hubert Lamb and Reid Bryson. It underscored the lack of long detailed weather records and that became the focus of a doctoral thesis. In his autobiography, Hubert Lamb said he founded the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) in 1972 because

it was clear that the first and greatest need was to establish the facts of the past record of the natural climate in times before any side effects of human activities could well be important.

The situation is worse now, sadly due to people at the CRU and government weather agencies.

A proposal to produce a long record using the Meteorological, Daily, and Ships journals of the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) that covered from 1714 to 1952, was initially rejected. The Committee said this was simply producing data and what was needed was a new theory. The second proposal was to produce daily weather maps, based primarily on wind directions to reconstruct isobars, for the decade from 1740 to 1751 for a large area of Central Canada. The idea was rejected because they said there were insufficient stations for the size of the area. They were not amused to learn there were more recording stations than are used for the modern weather maps. Eventually the conflict was resolved with a thesis that recreated long weather records that challenged the problem of blending historic records with instrumental records.

The HBC records also provide the most detailed descriptions and maps of a vast land area prior to the Industrial Revolution. They offer an opportunity to determine the pattern and rhythms of a natural landscape so that we can compare it with today’s conditions. It is an invaluable project if we are to bring calm and scientific reason to the debate about human existence and impact on the landscape.

I quickly learned firsthand how wide the schism was between arts and science. An application for funding went to the Canadian agency set up to fund science at arm’s length from government. My research area was historical climatology – that is, producing data from historical records. It was rejected because they said it was arts, not science. When I asked the arts funding agency, they rejected me, saying climate was science. I was very fortunate that the National Museum of Canada, which deals with human history in the natural world, understood the problem.

When I started my academic career in climatology the general view was the world was in a cooling trend and it would continue. Climate variation and its impact on history and the human condition was a fascinating area with no political conflicts or clear exploitation. However, the Club of Rome was already pursuing the idea that the world was over-populated and could not support the demands on resources that were to evolve into the destruction of the environment, especially through climate change. The adaptation of environment and climate as a political vehicle to push their anti-capitalism, anti-development, and in extremes anti-humanity, were already under way. Unknowingly, I was to run headlong into their agenda.

…The blackest billingsgate, the most ungentlemanly insolence, the most yahooish brutality is patiently endured, countenanced, propagated, and applauded. But touch a solemn truth in collision with a dogma of a sect, though capable of the clearest proof, and you will soon find you have disturbed a nest, and the hornets will swarm about your legs and hands, and fly into your face and eyes. John Adams

Adams is talking about people who challenge prevailing opinion. He sees them as a positive force in society, but the high priests of the status quo don’t. Now those pushing the myth that humans are causing warming or climate change want society to think it is a negative force. As Adams notes, in order to create a negative perception of these people, they are subjected to nasty attacks. They are accused of not caring about the environment, the planet, the children, or the future.

This is part of the claim to the moral high ground by environmental groups and extremists. Only they care. They hold that others don’t care as demonstrated by their actions or their failure to speak out. Silence is not an acceptable option. They believe that every change is caused by human activity and it is always negative and unnatural. This underlines the assumptions and structures and research objectives for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) claim that the increase in atmospheric CO2 is due to humans and is almost the sole cause of global warming since the 1950s. The reality is the claim is not proven except in their computer models and cannot be proven until we understand how much climate varies naturally. The inverse of that is how much change is due to humans.

They attacked contrarians as Adam’s predicted, but they distorted and distracted from the real question and measurement of how much things change without human activity. Resolution is almost impossible until we have adequate long-term records. As Alexis Carrel wrote,

A few observations and much reasoning lead to error; many observations and a little reasoning to truth.

This confirms and restates the Mark Twain quote placed under my picture:

There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.


A Passionate Environmentalist
& Former Public Speaker

Dr. Tim Ball


Date of Birth: 5 November 1938Citizenship: Canadian

Post-Secondary Education
B.A., (Honours), Gold Medal Winner, University of Winnipeg, 1970 M.A., University of Manitoba, 1971 Ph.D. (Doctor of Science), Queen Mary College, University of London (England), 1982
1996 – Environmentalist, Public Speaker, Consultant, Author, columnist.
1988-96 Professor, University of Winnipeg 1984-88 Associate Professor, University of Winnipeg 1982-84 Assistant Professor, University of Winnipeg 1977-78 Acting Dean of Students 1972-82 Lecturer, Department of Geography, University of Winnipeg 1971-72 Instructor, Geography Department, University of Winnipeg 1964-68 Air Crew and Operations Officer, Search and Rescue, Arctic and
Western Canada, Winnipeg, Manitoba 1962-64 Operations Officer, OTU, 429 Squadron, Summerside, P.E.I. 1960-62 Air Crew, Navigation, Electronics, 415 Squadron, Summerside,
Special Academic or Professional Honours
Gold Medal, Honours Geography, University of Winnipeg Twice Runner-Up for the Clifford Robson Award for Teaching Excellence Atchison Award for Community Service Graduate Fellowship, University of Manitoba Humboldt Award, Geography Department, University of Winnipeg Research Fellow George Morris Centre Paul Harris Fellow Rotary Canada
Professional Activities Outside the University
Founder and Director, Rupert’s Land Research Centre 1980 – 1996 Member, Manitoba Water Commission 1980 – 1996 Past President, Manitoba Social Science Teachers Association Past Editor, Manitoba Social Science Teachers Journal Past Chairman, Canadian Committee on Climatic Fluctuation and Man

Member, Social Science Curriculum Advisory Committee, Department of Education Former Board Member, The Forks Development Heritage Advisory Board Former Board Member, Urban Ideas Centre Former Board Member, Western Canada Pictorial Index Former Chair, City of Winnipeg’s Advisory Committee on Hazardous Waste Technical Advisor to the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association Former Chair Assiniboine River Management Advisory Board Former Board Member of British Columbia Agriculture in the Classroom

Significant Publications
“The Nitty Gritty of Winnipeg Air,”Prairie Forum, Fall 1977, pp. 32-47

“Comparative Air Quality in Urban and Suburban Environments of Winnipeg,” Manitoba Environmental Research Council Annual Publication, Project #33, 1975, p. 15

“An Assessment of the Urban Heat Island as a Potential Energy,” Manitoba Environmental Research Council Annual Publication, Project #34, 1975, p. 12

“As Cold As Ever I Knew It. Manitoba Climate for the Last 200 Years” Historical and Scientific Society of Manitoba Transactions, Series III, Number 33, 1976-77, pp. 61-66

“Analysis of Historical Evidence of Climatic Change in Western and Northern Canada,” Syllogeus, Climatic Change in Canada 2, Editor, C.R. Harington, National Museum of Natural Sciences, Ottawa, 1981, Vol. 33, pp. 78-96

Climatic Change in Central Canada: A Preliminary Analysis of Weather Information from Hudson’s Bay Company Forts at York Factory and Churchill Factory, 1714-1850, unpublished Ph.D. Thesis, University of London, England, p. 480

“The Migration of Geese as an Indicator of Climate Change in the Southern Hudson Bay Region Between 1715 and 1851,” Climatic Change, Vol. 5, No. 1, 1983a, pp. 83-93

“Climate and History: A Connection that Cannot be Ignored,”History and Social Science Teacher, Vol. 19, No. 4, May 1984, pp. 205-214

Selected Climatological Data from Hudson’s Bay Company Records for the Period 1718- 1939 at Churchill, Manitoba, Environment Canada, Downsview, Ontario, 1984, p. 132

Selected Climatological Data from Hudson’s Bay Company Records for the Period 1714- 1913 at York Factory, Manitoba,” Environment Canada, Downsview, Ontario, 1984, p. 174

“Report on a Colloquium Held at the University of Winnipeg,”Manitoba Culture and Heritage, Vol. 2, No. 2, Summer 1984, pp. 11-12

“A Dramatic Change in the General Circulation on the West Coast of Hudson Bay in 1760 A.D.: Synoptic Evidence Based on Historical Records,” Syllogeus Climatic Change in Canada 5: Critical Periods in the Quaternary Climatic History of Northern North America, Editor, C.R. Harington, National Museums of Canada, 1985, Vol. 55, pp. 219-229

“Preliminary Analysis of Early Instrumental Temperature Records from York Factory and Churchill Factory,” Syllogeus Climate Change in Canada 3 Project on Climatic Change in Canada During the Past 20,000 Years, Editor, C.R. Harington, National Museums of Canada, Vol. 49, 1983b, pp. 203-220

“The Hudson’s Bay Company Records as a Source of Climatic Information,” Rendezvous: Selected Papers of the Fourth Annual Fur Trade Conference, Minnesota Historical Society, Editor, Thomas C. Buckley, 1984, pp. 43-51

“Changes in the General Circulation of the Atmosphere in the 1760’s at Churchill and York Factory, Manitoba,” North Dakota Academy of Sciences Symposium Papers, Vol. 38, pp. 16-18

“Observations of the Transit of Venus at Prince of Wales Fort in 1769,” The Beaver Outfit 315:2, Autumn 1984, pp. 48-59

“Instrumental Temperature Records at Two Sites in Central Canada: 1768 to 1910” Climatic Change 1984, Vol. 6, pp. 39-56

“Historical Evidence and Climatic Implications of a Shift in the Boreal Forest Tundra Transition in Central Canada,” Climatic Change 1986, Vol. 7, pp. 218-229

“A Report to the Pearse Commission Federal Inquiry on Water Resources,” Manitoba Water Commission, October 1984, p. 13

“The Boreal-Tundra Transition” in Physical Geography, Editor, William Marsh, Harper and Rowe, New York, 1986, pp. 324-325

“An Early Energy Crisis: The Importance of Woodcutting at Churchill in the Early Years of the Fur Trade,” Horizon Canada, 1985, Vol. 5, No. 60, pp. 1436-1440.

“Measurement of Climate in Early Canada,” Horizon Canada, 1985, Vol. 3, No. 27, pp. 562-573

“Teaching Weather and Climate: Some Topics that Should be Covered,” Social Science Teachers Journal, Spring 1985, Vol. 12, No. 2, pp. 13-15

“The Climate of Antarctica,” Manitoba Social Science Teachers Journal, Spring 1986, Vol. 13, No. 1, pp. 28-31

“Long-term Climate Trends and Agriculture on the Prairies,” Proceedings of the First Ministers Conference on the Environment, Calgary, Alberta, 1986, pp. 17-26

“Evidence of Climate Change at Trengwainton Gardens, Cornwall, England,” Weather, June 1987, Vol. 42, No. 6, pp. 176-180

“Timber,” The Beaver, 1987, Vol. 67:2, pp. 45-57

“Fur Trade Gardens,” The Prairie Garden, 1987, Vol. 48, pp. 117-120

“Historical and Instrumental Evidence of Extreme Climatic Conditions in Central Canada: 1770-1820,” Annales Geophysicae, Proceedings of the Annual Geophysical Society General Assembly, Bologna, March 1988, p. 84

“Company Town,” The Beaver, June-July 1988, Vol. 68:3, pp. 43-52

Fundamentals of Physical Geography, Copp Clarke and Pitman, First Edition, Toronto, 1989, p. 594

“Water: The Resource Issue of the 21st Century in North America,” Canadian Dimensions, Fall 1988, Vol. 22, No. 6, pp. 8-14

“Manitoba Climate: Past, Present and Future,” Technical and Scientific Papers of the Conference for Agricultural Professionals, 1988, Manitoba Agri-Forum, Winnipeg, pp. 134-139

“Dauphin Lake, Manitoba: Death of a Prairie Lake?,” Manitoba Social Science Teachers Journal, Vol. 15:2, 1988, pp. 11-23″

“Lifeblood of a City,” Manitoba Social Science Teachers Journal, Vol. 15:2, 1988, pp. 28-43

“Manitoba Climate: Its Impact on Agriculture, Past, Present and Future,” in Proceedings 2nd Sol and Elsie Sinclair Farm Management Seminar Fund Series, 1988, Faculty of Agricultural Economics, University of Manitoba

“Agriculture in the Classroom – A Report,” Manitoba Social Science Teachers Journal Vol. 15:2, 1998, pp. 25-28

“Historical and Instrumental Evidence: Central Canada, 1714-1850” in Climate Since 1500 A.D., Editors, Philip Jones and Raymond Bradley, Climatic Research Centre, University of East Anglia

“Global Warming; The Need for Objectivity,” Bio-Joule, January 1990, Vol. 12.3, pp.

“Global Warming: Fact or Misinformation,” Canadian Dimension, April/May 1990, Vol. 24:3, pp. 22-26

“The Greenhouse Effect; the Need for Scientific and Social Responsibility,” Proceedings of the Canadian Committee on Climatic Fluctuation and Man Conference, National Museum of Natural Sciences, Ottawa, January 1990

“Stromness, Orkney Islands; A Town of the Fur Trade,” Highlander, Chicago, Illinois, May 1990, pp. 4-8

Geopolitics: Understanding GATT and Free Trade, Proceedings of the Conference on Managing Agriculture for Profit, Kananaskis, Alberta, 1991.

Climate and Agriculture: An Update, Proceedings of the Conference on Managing Agriculture for Profit, Kananaskis, Alberta, 1991.

The Impact of Climate Change on Sustainable Agriculture in Canada, 1991 Science Council of Canada, Queen’s Printers, Ottawa, 114 p.

“Climatic Change, Droughts and Their Social Impact: Central Canada, 1811-20, a classic example.” In C.R.Harington (ed) The Year Without a Summer? World Climate in 1816. 1992, National Museum of Natural Sciences, Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa

“The Year without a Summer: Its Impact on the Fur Trade and History of Western Canada.” In C.R.Harington (ed) The Year Without a Summer? World Climate in 1816. 1992, National Museum of Natural Sciences, Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa

Ball, T., Fossett, R., Dion, L., Marcotte, G.M., 1992, An Historical Overview of Aboriginal Lifestyles: The Churchill/Nelson Drainage Basin, Rupert’s Land Research Centre, Report for Manitoba Hydro. p. 307.

Briggs, Smithson and Ball., 1992 of Fundamentals of Physical Geography, Second Edition, Copp Clark and Pitman. Toronto. p. 604.

“An Iconoclast’s View of Climatic Change” Canadian Water Resources Journal, Vol. 17, No.2. 1992.

Ball and Houston, 18th Century Naturalists of Hudson Bay, Mcgill/ Queens University Press, 2004

M.G. Dyck, W. Soon,, R.K. Baydack, D.R. Legates, S. Baliunas, T.F. Ball and L.O. Hancock, Polar bears of western Hudson Bay and climate change: Are warming spring air temperatures the “ultimate” survival control factor? Ecological Complexity September 2007, p 73-84.

Ball., T.F., Johnson, C., Hertzberg.,M., Olson.,J.A., Siddons.,A., Anderson.,C., Schreuder.,H., and O’Sullivan.,J. Slaying the Sky Dragon:Death of the Greenhouse Gas Theory., Stairway Press, Mount Vernon Washington. February 2011.

Dr. Tim Ball