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 Post subject: Re: And the Big News in Science This Weekend Was...
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2012 10:57 am 

Joined: Tue Mar 11, 2008 12:19 pm
Posts: 1778
Location: Ottawa, Canada
We are not temporary custodians of this planet. Earth has not been entrusted to us for our safekeeping, for us to safely deliver it to its eventual recipients.

This planet exists solely to facilitate our existence. It's here for us to use.

The Earth does not care what we do. We cannot kill the Earth. I assure you, the Earth will outlive mankind. No matter how badly we screw it up, even to the point of rendering ourselves extinct, in a few million years, you'll never even know we'd been here. Trust me, the Earth will be fine.

The only thing we need to be concerned about is keeping it in a condition that can continue to support us living here. And I maintain that the only real problem is that there are far too many of us suckling at the Earth's teats. There is simply not enough arable land and freshwater to sustain the current population.

This is one of the things that has always confused me about initiatives that seek to eliminate hunger in Africa and dramatically reduce the mortality rate there. Something like 25,000 people starve to death in Africa every day. EVERY DAY! What if we could successfully address that problem, such that all those people survived? Wouldn't that be great?

Well, actually, I'm not so sure it would be "great." What would we do with an extra 25,000 people PER DAY? How would we feed them? What would we do with their waste? If you believe there are already too many people on this planet (and as it happens, I do), then how does accelerating that growth improve our outlook going forward?


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 Post subject: Re: And the Big News in Science This Weekend Was...
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2012 11:02 am 
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brad wrote:
But I don't think you're getting it. You cannot live, even in the most eco-harmonious way imaginable, without having an impact on the environment. The only way to eliminate your impact is to commit suicide. Short of that, the best you can do is reduce your impact. You seem to assume that being "green" involves ditching all modern conveniences and luxuries. But you're just defining "reduce my impact" at an arbitrary, exaggerated level to support your contention that nobody really cares about the environment.


I don't interpret BF's comments to mean he doesn't care about the environment. But he can address that.

And, in my case, I admit to being ambivalent about it but that is partly because I don't see any viable solutions. You (brad) are clearly right that if everyone did a small part then we could make some headway. But the fraction of people that will do a small part is limited, and the more inconvenient it is for them the fewer people will do it.

Solar panels are still against many if not most HOA rules. A simple executive order or court decision banning such restrictions could eliminate that roadblock yet even the current president won't tackle that. We simply lack the will to do anything.

When it comes to the developing world they argue (and rightly so I believe) that we got where we are by exploiting resources and the fact that we used up much of them does not give us the right to tell them they can't pursue the same success in the same way.

So I don't know what the answer is but I think it has to lie in developing technology to produce as much energy as we need now while also pursuing more long term sustainable solution like nuclear fusion. I think approaches that rely on changing consumer behavior whether directly or stealthily, are too slow.

In any case, we have 300 years of coal, and the flooding from global warming is 100 years off except in a few island countries. We're going to face bigger problems from overpopulation long before global warming or lack of fossil fuels become a problem. Thirty years ago I had an engineering professor who had been a senior level executive for a major oil company before becoming an undersecretary working on energy policy. He made a convincing case that we'd be out of oil for most uses in 30 years. Well, we have far more proven reserves now than we did back then and the exhaustion point has moved out to about 50- 100 years from now. There are plenty of reasons to cut back and care about the environment. But I think they are becoming harder and harder to sell to the public.


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 Post subject: Re: And the Big News in Science This Weekend Was...
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2012 11:04 am 

Joined: Thu Apr 05, 2007 3:05 pm
Posts: 1356
kombat wrote:
Every living thing impacts the environment. For the millions of years before humans showed up, were all those animals all "negatively impacting" the environment?


You're probably familiar with the concept of ecological succession, in which (for example) bare rock is colonized by lichens, which eventually paves way for mosses, which eventually break down enough rock to form soil on which other plants can grow, which eventually give way to shrubs and then trees. As the populations of those plants grow, they make conditions less habitable for themselves and more habitable for other species. In some cases you could say they actually "pollute" their environment.

We're following the same path; the difference is that we're one of the few species, if not the only one, that can envision the ultimate consequences of our actions and try to do something to alter that path. I'm not sure we will succceed.

The concept of harmonious, balanced nature isn't really accurate; there are balances but they're dynamic balances that swing back and forth. Even thousands of years ago native populations were making big changes to their environment. I don't think reverting to a stone age society means we no longer will have negative effects on the planet.


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 Post subject: Re: And the Big News in Science This Weekend Was...
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2012 11:09 am 

Joined: Thu Apr 05, 2007 3:05 pm
Posts: 1356
kombat wrote:
Well, actually, I'm not so sure it would be "great." What would we do with an extra 25,000 people PER DAY? How would we feed them?


Here's an answer:

http://www.givingwhatwecan.org/resources/myths-about-aid.php#3


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 Post subject: Re: And the Big News in Science This Weekend Was...
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2012 11:16 am 
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kombat wrote:
We are not temporary custodians of this planet....


Great post kombat!

Humankind can't even agree what the problem is. Maybe if the problem is that there are too damn many people burning oil and making CO2 that heats up the earth. So let's get rid of a few billion people. Let's ban antibiotics, hand out cigarettes to everyone to drive up the cancer rate, and implement 1700s sanitation systems to restore the infant mortality rate to its natural level. Because, if we only have 2-3 billion people on the planet we'll reduce our collective impact, be able to feed ourselves, and will have enough oil for centuries.

But, I suspect most people would cringe at that solution. That tells me they don't really want to address the fundamental problem. They just want to treat the symptoms.


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 Post subject: Re: And the Big News in Science This Weekend Was...
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2012 11:27 am 
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brad wrote:
kombat wrote:
Well, actually, I'm not so sure it would be "great." What would we do with an extra 25,000 people PER DAY? How would we feed them?


Here's an answer:

http://www.givingwhatwecan.org/resources/myths-about-aid.php#3


I read that link. While it makes a few good points, there is one glaring issue that is not addressed. The demographic transition happened fast in the countries that are now considered "developed." Anecdotally, having about 10 kids was not that unusual in the US or Europe as recently as 1 century ago. By the 1960s it became very uncommon as the death rate fell in the 1930-1950s. China responded with a more direct government-ordered approach but was similarly successful in making the demographic transition happen.

But it's NOT happening in Africa. They've had lowered mortality for decades and are simply not responding. They've also had war and conflict, which usually slow population growth, and have not responded to that. So I think the argument falls apart in that case.

I'm NOT saying we should pull out and let everyone die (at least not seriously) but I also think the problem is much more complex than it is approached by many organizations.


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 Post subject: Re: And the Big News in Science This Weekend Was...
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2012 11:40 am 

Joined: Fri May 04, 2012 2:23 pm
Posts: 810
should we not do the things which have the biggest impact? the handful of "small" things which I do can not have a larger impact than turning off my AC for the entire summer.

There's usually a tradeoff between convenience and saving mother earth. At least that is how it is often framed. And I think that framing is generally accurate. To truly save us from the doom and gloom which is prophesied, we must make sacrifices. Either that, or this whole ordeal is blown way out of proportion. So, can we have our cake and eat it too? Are we satisfied with just half a cake? That is what I would like to know. But, I am skeptical anyone can give us a concrete answer.

Back to the fundamental question: So, if there is evidence of human induced global warning (I guess we call it climate change now to cover all the bases), what are you going to do about it? Very few make lifestyle changes. Which leads me to conclude, most are just full of hot air.

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"If you only have 1 year to live, move to Penn...as it will seem like an eternity."


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 Post subject: Re: And the Big News in Science This Weekend Was...
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2012 11:45 am 
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Bichon Frise wrote:
most are just full of hot air.


And letting all that hot air out while talking is a major contributor to global warming I am convinced.


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 Post subject: Re: And the Big News in Science This Weekend Was...
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2012 11:59 am 

Joined: Tue Mar 11, 2008 12:19 pm
Posts: 1778
Location: Ottawa, Canada
Bichon Frise wrote:
So, if there is evidence of human induced global warning (I guess we call it climate change now to cover all the bases), what are you going to do about it? Very few make lifestyle changes. Which leads me to conclude, most are just full of hot air.


I can only speak for myself, but allow me to attempt to explain my resistance to meaningful behavioural changes.

I've made no secret of my belief that the Baby Boomers built their success on the backs of their children. I've ranted in other threads about how they created massive jobs programs building large scale infrastructure projects using borrowed money. In doing so, they churned up the frothiest and longest-sustained runup in the stock market in its history. And they did it under far more relaxed environmental regulations.

Now, Generation X and successive generations are left to clean up the mess. Many of those infrastructure projects are aging and crumbling, and need to be replaced. But they haven't even been paid for yet. So we (the Boomers' children) must not only pay for the old, crumbling system, but we must somehow pay for the replacement, too. And we must do it without creating too much CO2. And we must save for our own retirement, in the boundaries of a decade of stagnant financial markets and collapsing home values.

What does any of this have to do with "living green?"

As a Gen-X'er, I resent having to pay for both the new system, and the old system, while watching my parents "move the goal line" for retirement by doing things like raising the eligibility age for Social Security from 65 to 67. Being expected to pay far more for energy that doesn't fit someone's definition of being "green" enough just feels like rubbing salt in our wounds.

Also, I don't have kids, and don't plan on having kids, so being expected to spend all this money on expensive, unproven "renewable energy" in the name of greening up the planet for your kids seems a little insulting to me. Why should I use less oil, to make sure I leave enough for your grandkids?

I think at least some of the ambivalence toward "green" initiatives is rooted in such thinking.


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 Post subject: Re: And the Big News in Science This Weekend Was...
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2012 12:05 pm 

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Bichon Frise wrote:
should we not do the things which have the biggest impact?


Because our individual actions don't make a huge difference, why make enormous sacrifices when most of the others around us aren't doing anything? This is the "free rider" problem.

I have made a lot of small and not so small changes that have reduced my annual greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50 percent (see my original response), none of which involved significant sacrifice and all of which contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions while we wait for our leaders to be leaders and make the changes that need to be made. And those changes will take many decades to implement so there's no point sitting on our hands in the meantime. But I don't think we need to be martyrs about it, because let's face it, 99% of the population doesn't really care and won't do anything even if we do everything we can. Better to take "no regrets" actions that have immediate tangle benefits (e.g. financial) as well as long-term environmental benefits.

Bichon Frise wrote:
To truly save us from the doom and gloom which is prophesied, we must make sacrifices. Either that, or this whole ordeal is blown way out of proportion.


We can't "save ourselves" at this point: we're already committed to a certain amount of climate change. Even if we brought our emissions back to 1990 levels tomorrow the world would continue to warm for hundreds of years. Even if we stablized the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere at today's level, the climate would continue to warm because the oceans store heat and take a long time to respond to changes in greenhouse gas concentrations.

At this point we're really just talking about minimizing the damage, or as the saying goes, "adapt to manage the unavoidable and reduce emissions to avoid the unmanageable."


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 Post subject: Re: And the Big News in Science This Weekend Was...
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2012 12:38 pm 
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kombat wrote:
I can only speak for myself, but allow me to attempt to explain my resistance to meaningful behavioural changes.

I've made no secret of my belief that the Baby Boomers built their success on the backs of their children. I've ranted in other threads about how they created massive jobs programs building large scale infrastructure projects using borrowed money. In doing so, they churned up the frothiest and longest-sustained runup in the stock market in its history. And they did it under far more relaxed environmental regulations.

Now, Generation X and successive generations are left to clean up the mess. Many of those infrastructure projects are aging and crumbling, and need to be replaced. But they haven't even been paid for yet. So we (the Boomers' children) must not only pay for the old, crumbling system, but we must somehow pay for the replacement, too. And we must do it without creating too much CO2. And we must save for our own retirement, in the boundaries of a decade of stagnant financial markets and collapsing home values.

What does any of this have to do with "living green?"

As a Gen-X'er, I resent having to pay for both the new system, and the old system, while watching my parents "move the goal line" for retirement by doing things like raising the eligibility age for Social Security from 65 to 67. Being expected to pay far more for energy that doesn't fit someone's definition of being "green" enough just feels like rubbing salt in our wounds.

Also, I don't have kids, and don't plan on having kids, so being expected to spend all this money on expensive, unproven "renewable energy" in the name of greening up the planet for your kids seems a little insulting to me. Why should I use less oil, to make sure I leave enough for your grandkids?

I think at least some of the ambivalence toward "green" initiatives is rooted in such thinking.


I don't have kids and don't plan to either. But I can still "get on board" with not destroying the planet. (I'm not saying you can't kombat...I'm basically agreeing with you in this post!).

My issue is with finding ACTUAL solutions rather than "feel good" behaviors that have little impact. I'd happily pay extra in taxes to pay for a big scale program that was likely to succeed (think space program scale here). But, I have a few accent lights in my house that come on automatically and have no intention of turning them off to save a few thousand joules a year that cost me less than $10.

As far as what the Baby Boomers left us, I'm also less resentful. At least in the US, a lot of the debt after WWII was racked up building infrastructure to stimulate the economy, create jobs, and provide for growth. I think it was good, and it has largely been paid for. But then, the politicians got addicted to spending money and we find ourselves in the terrible situation we're in now. We've got to spend like crazy to get us out of this bad economy while also convincing the public that we need to be fiscally responsible. But we've cut back on schools so much that most of the public is too stupid to understand that those concepts can be entirely consistent.

Social Security is another situation. People like me have paid into it all of our lives with the promise that we'll get something out. I didn't actually believe that 20 years ago but now I do because I know that the chances of getting politicians with the political will to stop kicking the can down the road is slim. Plus, we've done a good job of keeping the younger generation ignorant when it comes to money so we'll be able to pull the wool over their eyes for many decades to come. So, until the economy finally breaks and foreign countries refuse to accept USD as payment, we'll be fine. (And you're not even in that situation in Canada so you have even less to worry about).

I actually see a way out - higher taxes. There is also the possibility of default followed by isolationism.

I'm really not that pessimistic but I think you are 100% right that the next generation is getting a raw deal. I think we have a couple of more decades of very slow growth, increasing debt, higher taxes, and declining infrastructure ahead.

My plan is to find a beach, a kayak, and a steady source of rum even if I have to make my own.


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 Post subject: Re: And the Big News in Science This Weekend Was...
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2012 12:42 pm 

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DoingHomework wrote:
My plan is to find a beach, a kayak, and a steady source of rum even if I have to make my own.


That sounds fabulous - I'd love to join in 20 years or so.


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 Post subject: Re: And the Big News in Science This Weekend Was...
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2012 12:46 pm 
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ambition wrote:
DoingHomework wrote:
My plan is to find a beach, a kayak, and a steady source of rum even if I have to make my own.


That sounds fabulous - I'd love to join in 20 years or so.


'tis only 4 years away for me...

And the best part is, if global sea level rises, I just don't have to walk so far to the water.


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 Post subject: Re: And the Big News in Science This Weekend Was...
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2012 1:00 pm 

Joined: Fri May 04, 2007 8:14 pm
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kombat wrote:
I've made no secret of my belief that the Baby Boomers built their success on the backs of their children. I've ranted in other threads about how they created massive jobs programs building large scale infrastructure projects using borrowed money. In doing so, they churned up the frothiest and longest-sustained runup in the stock market in its history. And they did it under far more relaxed environmental regulations.

That's a nice little speech Kombat, except that your facts are all screwed up. I don't know enough of Canadian history to use that as an example, so I'll confine my comments to US history.

As seen in the graph of US debt to GDP in another thread, Federal debt exploded during World War II to over 120 percent of GDP, and then began a decline that bottomed out at 32 percent of GDP in 1974. Federal debt almost doubled in the 1980s, reaching 60 percent of GDP in 1990 and peaking at 66 percent of GDP in 1996, before declining to 56 percent in 2001. Federal debt started increasing again in the 2000s, reaching 70 percent of GDP in 2008. Then it exploded in the aftermath of the Crash of 2008, reaching 102 percent of GDP in 2011.

Federal debt has breached 100 percent of GDP twice since 1900: during World War II and in the aftermath of the Crash of 2008.

So with the exception of the Reagan/Bush 1, Bush 2 and Obama years, Federal debt had been declining since WW2. Looks a lot like the Boomers were responsible for a sizable amount of debt reduction.

And what did we get for that? Oh, just stuff like the Interstate Highway System, the Internet, the end of polio, the space program (which paved the way for other stuff like satellite communications), small stuff like that. The list goes on and on. So basically the life you lead is built on the backs of what Boomers labored for. Not to mention that these things, aside from making modern life possible, created huge amounts of wealth and prosperity.

As for the stock market, there have always been booms and busts, from the tulip craze in Holland, the Great Depression, the crashes in the early 70s and the problems we have today. Seriously, you think this boom and bust cycle is new and unique to Boomers?

kombat wrote:
Now, Generation X and successive generations are left to clean up the mess. Many of those infrastructure projects are aging and crumbling, and need to be replaced. But they haven't even been paid for yet. So we (the Boomers' children) must not only pay for the old, crumbling system, but we must somehow pay for the replacement, too. And we must do it without creating too much CO2. And we must save for our own retirement, in the boundaries of a decade of stagnant financial markets and collapsing home values.

So build your own infrastructure and let the old stuff crumble. OR DO WITHOUT IT. Again, you use stuff another generation built, and now you resent having to pay for it's maintenance. Okaaay....

As for the environmental stuff, we know a lot more than we did then. Again, why pick on the Boomers? If you buy into the idea that global warming is caused by man, I think you need to go back to at least the start of the Industrial Revolution. Or maybe even the advent of slash and burn agriculture. The point is, things are what they are today. What do we do about it, besides whine?

kombat wrote:
As a Gen-X'er, I resent having to pay for both the new system, and the old system, while watching my parents "move the goal line" for retirement by doing things like raising the eligibility age for Social Security from 65 to 67. Being expected to pay far more for energy that doesn't fit someone's definition of being "green" enough just feels like rubbing salt in our wounds.

As I said above, try living without what the Boomers created. Join the Amish if you resent what they've done. My point is that you've profited handsomely in many ways from the Boomers' achievements. And yes, you're also suffering for it. Cry me a river.

Besides, plenty of Boomers are getting their just rewards. Some of them will never be able to retire. The years of living beyond their means has caught up with them. Their home values and portfolios have imploded. You have years left to recover and they don't. So what's your point?


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 Post subject: Re: And the Big News in Science This Weekend Was...
PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2012 2:47 pm 

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if we are beyond hope - eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die!

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"If you only have 1 year to live, move to Penn...as it will seem like an eternity."


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