Recently, regarding the untaxed $17 trillion sitting offshore and the 17% real US unemployment rate, I wrote
In the short-term, the economic system is working as planned for the 91,000 people that own half of those trillions. And working well for me, too. As the song says, “I got more than I can eat, A life that can’t be beat“.
But for most of us, human and non-human, already living and yet to be born, times are tough.
Who knows? Maybe revving up this system to full employment would just hurl us faster into the abyss. But we need to devise some way of living that works for all stakeholders, not just the 91,000 and people like me.
and here I moaned
If you’re not doing something truly useful, you’re a loser, no matter how much money you’re grabbing, no matter how many prizes and degrees the world flatters you with. No amount of nothing can fill that hole where the real winners keep their souls.
The closest thing to truly useful I’ve been doing is trying to ring the alarm bell about the urgency of stopping global warming and the destruction of our natural environment. But that’s still very far away from being truly useful, so judged against the standard in my previous paragraph, I’m a loser. That’s just not good enough.
Following is a collection of links to my blog entries on sustainability and the environment.
“If you believe in the garbage island that you’ve never seen, why don’t you believe in manmade global warming?”
A huge flood hit California in 1861-1862. Because of unrestrained global warming, the likelihood of a similar event is increasing. If it does, it will cost us $725 billion in damages. And those won’t be damages on paper, like a stock market crash, that the government can print more money to bail out, but real damages to power, water, sewer, and property.
There’s still time to be heroes for future generations instead of being cursed by them. But not much.
HVAC wastes a huge amount of energy because most buildings have no energy use monitoring and their HVAC is not evaluated by a third party to find the ways it’s not working up to spec. (Like profiling and quality assurance of software.)
“Global warming is sneaky. For more than a century it has been hiding large amounts of excess heat in the world’s deep seas. Now that heat is coming to the surface again in one of the worst possible places: Antarctica.”
A carbon tax would be good for the economy. Making polluters pay for the damage they cause seems common sense. It should be politically popular with the majority of voters. But powerful corporations apparently think it would eat into their profits.
“By 2030, we could replace all of the world’s oil with ethanol from sugar palm.” Spreading the green word about the virtues of the arenga sugar palm.
According to Dan Miller, “Humans respond best to threats that are immediate, visible, simple, personal, have historical precedent, and are caused by another ‘tribe’ (think Al-Qaeda). Unfortunately, climate change, has none of these characteristics and this may partially explain why so little is being done to address the biggest threat mankind has ever faced.”
If the society is not willing to change its rules than its alleged concerns about the environment are just sham poses for the camera, pious hopes and empty promises, irrelevant.
Microscopic life crucial to the marine food chain is dying out. The cause is global warming
“Archimede is the first plant in the world to use molten salts not just to store heat but also to collect it from the sun in the first place.”
“Algae and bacteria are the two most important biofuel technologies of the twenty-first century. As a replacement for oil, algae is extremely practical, utilizes mostly cheap and abundant resources like saltwater and wasteland, and has the potential to reduce global carbon-dioxide output tremendously.”
Our devouring of the Earth far predates the beginnings of capitalism. But we need a new economic system that, unlike capitalism, fights that tendency — not embraces it.
Growth — the human tendency to devour the Earth and “get it before the hoarders do” — has become enshrined in modern economics as the key metric of economic health. It’s as if medical doctors saw their central mission as trying to increase the incidence of cancer or pituitary gigantism.
Climate change denial blogs have been effective in cultivating doubt about science.
A classic photo saved by the one and only Superbomba.
Food miles are a distraction from the very real and serious issues that affect energy consumption, the environmental impact of modern food production, and the affordability of food.
“The loss of the chestnut, in terms of the sheer number of trees killed, the size of its range before the blight, and the variety of habitats affected by its demise, is unrivaled in the history of human-wrought ecological disasters …”
Growth simply cannot go on forever if it means consuming ever more of a finite world. Is there an alternate economic system that would incorporate markets, competition, free trade and all the other things economists love, but which would not depend on the growth of material consumption?
“There is one way we could save ourselves and that is through the massive burial of charcoal. It would mean farmers turning all their agricultural waste – which contains carbon that the plants have spent the summer sequestering – into non-biodegradable charcoal, and burying it in the soil. Then you can start shifting really hefty quantities of carbon out of the system and pull the CO2 down quite fast.”
Each year, the nation ’s supermarkets, restaurants and convenience stores toss out approximately 27 million tons of edible food worth $30 billion. And, on average, households waste 14 percent of their food purchases. Fifteen percent of that includes products still within their expiration date but never opened.
“In the 1920s automaker General Motors (GM) began a covert campaign to undermine the popular rail-based public transit systems that were ubiquitous in and around the country ’s bustling urban areas. With help from Standard Oil, Firestone Tire, Mack Truck and Phillips Petroleum, they succeeded in decimating the nation’s trolley system.”
Two-thirds of the energy used by the electrical generation and distribution system never reaches the end user.
“Ambient information tries to combat data overload by moving information off computer screens and into the world around us. We’re more likely to act on a subtle but continuously present message than an intermittent one.”
Leaving behind us a degraded sewer world.
We could save the world’s ecosystem if we really wanted to. Consider how one civil servant organized the villagers of India’s poorest state to reforest, including planting almost a billion trees in one day.
We need to find a way to let the big guys stay on top, but for them to see self-interest in making protecting the Earth part of their racket, too.
“As Harvard’s Martin Weitzman has argued in several influential papers, if there is a significant chance of utter catastrophe, that chance — rather than what is most likely to happen — should dominate cost-benefit calculations.”
“Like the entire planet, Nauru’s fate was sealed by greed, corruption, and short-sightedness.”
“We are forcing future generations to retroactively subsidize our decision not to increase energy efficiency and move to cleaner fuels.”
What does it mean for a citizen to be “productive”. Is a tobacco farmer productive? Or the CEO of a too-big-to-fail bank?
It’s said that a typical wooden pencil can write for 35 miles. According to a back-of-the-envelope calculation, the thickness of a pencil line is to the length of the pencil as 10,000 years are to the age of multicellular life on Earth.
“If we stay anywhere near our current emissions path, we are facing incalculable catastrophes.”
Global warming and Warren Buffett’s bottom line.
“America’s aging electrical transmission system is renewable energy’s Achilles heel, and unless a broad policy consensus to upgrade our electrical grid is forged soon, the potential of wind and solar power will be vastly diminished.”
“Climate change really means Mother Nature is preparing to rid herself of humans. If we are to survive, we can no longer worship her, we must fight back with smart weapons.”
“Information […] can never be wealth in precisely the same basic way that oysters and cream, or wheat and water, are wealth in themselves.”
“Now that I know how many people share this vision, I am more confident than ever that we can bring about this transition. And now that I’ve seen the viciousness of the resistance firsthand, I see more clearly the structural and cultural obstacles we’ll face.”
Fish could vanish from huge stretches of the ocean for tens of thousands of years.
US carbon footprints are much larger than those of a developing country, but US population growth is as large as that of a developing country. Improving education and access to contraception in US should be green priorities.
CO2 pollution is not just about global warming, it’s also about ocean acidification.