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People have nothing to fear from Chemtrails

Updated on December 2, 2013

“Chemtrails” take on a likeness of contrails but are made up of biological or chemical solutions sprayed at high altitudes for purposes undisclosed to the public. These Chemtrails are supposedly being puppeteered by concealed government departments whose motives are linked to climate control, weapons testing and population control (Fraser, 2009). NASA has been known to utilize harmful chemicals when observing atmospheric properties of jet streams but claim that their high-altitude release poses no threat (Hutchinson, 2012). Whilst most reports of chemtrails come from the United States, sightings of “oddly lingering plumes” are not confined to North American skies (Thomas, 2002).

The scientific theory behind the man-made clouds differs from what Chemtrail Theorists believe. When hydrocarbon fuel, the predominant fuel used in jet aircraft, is burned, it combines with oxygen; the oxygen and the hydrogen from the fuel yield water; and the water quickly freezes at high altitudes to create ice crystals, which, in turn, create the cirrus-like clouds that trail behind them (Reynolds, 2003). In addition to the contrails caused by jet aircraft, the process of cloud seeding endeavors aim to provide the nucleus to which water can bond and condense, ultimately leading to the production of cloud and rain (Mersereau, 2013). An abundance of institutions and governments across the globe have shown interest and experimented in the method of cloud seeding with intentions to stimulate clouds into producing rain or to prevent them from generating harsh weather. Earlier this year the New South Wales Government legislated for the Snowy Hydro cloud seeding trial to become permanent. The nine-year trial, which has shown the program to be effective in increasing snowfalls through in the NSW alpine region (Breen, 2013) will also potentially provide contributions to the hydro electricity scheme.

This paper will analyse the reasoning behind two major groups associated with the Chemtrail Conspiracy Theory. These two groups will be referred to as the believers of the theory, and the non-believers. They will also be contrasted against the four rationalities of The Grid (Schwarz & Thompson, 1990) in pursuit of recognizing their values and beliefs. The basis of this controversy can be predominantly stemmed back to the value that each group place on risk as well as their own perception of the extent of science’s potential effects on society. This controversy arises not from the parties involved, but the contradictory viewpoints that each of them holds.

The parties in belief of the Chemtrail Conspiracy Theory believe that cloud seeding is causing greater harm than good, the additional insufficiency of information in this field, obtainable from the government, leaves space for inductive and false cause arguments to gain momentum. From the belief that science holds the key to solve all ills, to a critique of it’s knowledge and actions (Kearnes, 2008), the supporters of the ‘Chemtrail Conspiracy Theory’ are more tuned to the inherent risks associated with environmental tampering. The trigger for these strong viewpoints can be reflected by the group’s partial loss of autonomy, where information in the early stages of cloud seeding experimentation has not been made public and radical claims are made to bridge the inconsistencies in knowledge to enable opinions to be formed. Supporters of the ‘Chemtrail Conspiracy Theory’ see the cloud seeding projects as unnatural and disruptive toward ecosystems, their heightened acknowledgement of the risk associated with altering the balance of nature encourages them to make connections between ‘chemtrails’ and ill health or environmental disaster. The flaw in the strength of such claims is that what one sees depends only in part on the immediate sensory experience but also upon expectation and past experiences (Richards, 1987) where some believers report immediate health effects upon sighting contrails (Reynolds, 2003). The observations that chemtrails cause ill health are preceded by theories. These are general statements that make claims about the properties or behavior of some aspect of the universe, however, refer to all events of a particular kind at all places and at all times (Chalmers, 1982). Succeeding the terrorist attacks on New York City on September 11th 2001, a mystery rash cursed schoolgirls across the United States. Initially, the rashes were thought to be caused by a virus, a terrorist attack, ‘chemtrails’ from planes, however, it became clear that the real cause was mass hysteria (Spencer, 2003).

The non-believers of the Chemtrail Conspiracy Theory include the likes of scientists and government agencies involved in cloud seeding projects. The beliefs of these scientists are influenced by the inherent global warming discussions, where renewable energy sources need to be implemented. In reference to the New South Wales Snowy Hydro Scheme, the scientists involved claim that there have been no negative environmental impacts through out their trials, however, spokesman of Snowy Hydro, David Hogan, says that monitoring will be continued to ensure the silver iodide seeding agent is not accumulating in ecosystems (Breen, 2013). As an example of utilitarianism, we believe that the groups involved are advocating the greatest good for the greatest number of people (Freegard, 2007), however, as the parties involved in the cloud seeding process are predominantly accountable to the public, we expect that the 9 year trial was enough to establish the safety of such a project. Questions can then be raised whether government funding provided pressure to ensure that this was the case prior to legislating its full operation.


Schwarz and Thompson's Grid

The redefinition of these two viewpoints against Schwarz and Thompson’s grid (1990) seeks to better define the rationalities associated with each group. The grid analyses two dimensions of sociality and allocates one of four rationalities namely, the fatalistic rationality, the procedural rationality, the substantive rationality and the critical rationality. Each rationality is also associated with a belief of nature; the fatalistic rationality holds a “nature capricious” attitude which appreciates a random world and copes with erratic events; the procedural rationality is suited to Schwarz and Thompson’s “nature perverse/tolerant” attitude in recognition that the world is forgiving of most events but is vulnerable to unusual occurrences; the substantive rationality holds the “nature benign” attitude that the world is entirely forgiving and will always overcome what it is faced with; and finally the critical rationality recognizes that the world is fragile and unforgiving, also known as “nature ephemeral”.

The believers of the Chemtrail Conspiracy Theory are best categorized under the critical rationality grouping where views are expressed as a collectivized group and without external restrictions or constraints. This explains the group’s attention toward the safety of the environment and it’s fragile balance, which could be easily disturbed, with cloud seeding. The ‘Egalitarians’ as this categorization is called, acknowledge that once the balance is upset, the effects are detrimental.

On the opposition, the non-believers are associated with the procedural rationality, which reflects the requirement to be structured in their approach toward environmental experimentation. This group is characterized by their constraints, as evident in the involvement of the government and their views expressed as a collectivized group. This group, the procedural rationalists, also referred to as ‘The Hierarchist” set out to provide balance between the radical viewpoints of the Egalitarian, and the Individualists who hold the nature benign belief and substantive rationality. Respectively, the two groups are the believers of the Chemtrail Conspiracy Theory who are in belief that no harm should be done to the environment and the parties who see issues that need to be remedied, however, do not believe in the same constraint that the government and scientists do. Therefore, it might be concluded that the scientists currently involved with the cloud seeding projects are avoiding radical behaviours of the opposite parties where the believers (the egalitarians) have the louder objections.

The Chemtrail Conspiracy Theory is an inchoate lack of knowledge, communication and common ground where the believers do not accept the basis for scientific project. The minimal communication provided to the believers proves insufficient in the cases where risk and lack of environmental safety is brought into account. The absence of an expressive opposing viewpoint to the believers of chemtrails also allows for an unbalanced interpretation of the issue. This controversy may be turned if there were not already current controversy responding to climate change on a global scale.

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Breen, J. (2013, Aug 19). Snowy hydro to ramp up cloud seeding after nsw government gives approval for permanent operation. ABC News. Retrieved from

Chalmers, A. F. (1982). What is this thing called science? St Lucia: University of Queensland Press. Chapter 1.

Fraser, S. (2009). Phantom menace?. Current Science, 94(14) 8.

Freegard, H. C. (2007). Ethics in a Nutshell. In: Ethical Practice for Health Professionals, ed. H.C. Freegard, 29-45. South Melbourne, Australia: Thomson.

Hutchinson, A. (2012). Government chemtrails (really!). Popular Mechanics, 189(7) 23.

Kearnes, M. (2008). Risk Society: Towards a new modernity, by Ulrich Beck. Geography 93: 122 -123.

Mersereau, D. (2013, August 16). Weather control conspiracy theories: scientifically unjustifiable. The Washington Post. Retrieved from

Reynolds, J. (2003). Voices. Earth Island Journal, 17(4) 48.

Richards, S (1987). Philosophy and sociology of science: an introduction. (Second edition). Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Pages 48-51.

Schwarz, Michael and Thompson, Michael (1990). Divided we stand: redefining politics, technology and social choice. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Chapter 1.

Spencer, P. (2003). Of witch crazes and health scares. Psychologist, 16(11) 596.

Thomas, W. (2002). Stolen skies: the chemtrail mystery. Earth Island Journal, 17(2) 34.


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    • scottcgruber profile image

      scottcgruber 3 years ago from USA

      "The absence of an expressive opposing viewpoint to the believers of chemtrails also allows for an unbalanced interpretation of the issue."

      How about the fact that there is zero evidence for the existence of "chemtrails?" Isn't that an expressive viewpoint?

    • Kim Stretch profile image

      Kimberly Cook 3 years ago from Perth, Australia

      For lack of a better word, expressive was used, but the fact that there is no evidence doesn't "prove" that they do not exist, it just means that the theory cannot be falsified.

      I'm not saying they do or they don't, as I haven't been exposed to this first hand (and this is a simple university assessment item).

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