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  1. #1
    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    The Road to Enviro-Economic Ruin?

    So two things that have passed by me via the internet recently... Both passed on by multiple people who are reasonably reputable sources and who do not normally pass these sorts of things around -- including people from within the academic community and professionals in directly related industries/services. If anyone cares to look, this could make for an interesting discussion.

    Money as Debt. (~45 minutes)

    Story of Stuff. (~20 minutes)

    These two video essays confirm some of what I already feel about the current state of the world. I'm aware that this confirmation makes it suspect, yet the simplicity of the logic in recognizing the "wrongness" of what these realities entail seems so gobsmackingly obvious that I'm constantly surprised that no one else is outraged.

    That being said, the problems these two videos illustrate are ones that are extremely difficult to envision solutions for, and are perhaps too ingrained into who we are to see past.

    So, what do y'all think? Is this anything worth getting in an uproar about? Is this just the same ****, different day? Is action demanded? Is the "science" problematic? Is there a solution? What does this do to your moral compass? What, if any, are the ethical imperatives here?

  2. #2
    Just Another Philistine Hereford Eye's Avatar
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    Watched Money as Debt. Will get to Stuff. Thanks for the links. Led me to want to ask questions of people not on this board. Decided to ask some of those on another board since politics is not something sffworld really wants to host.
    Ethical? Moral? Concerned citizen?
    Somewhere in between, I think, but as I've described myself elsewhere: definitely curious.

  3. #3
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    If you think I'm going to watch an hour and a half of video just to have a conversation with you, you're off your Foo philosophy rocker. Summarize the things, please.

    As for politics, we allow discussion of religion and politics in Gary's forum. He loves the stuff.

  4. #4
    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    Alrighty

    Money As Debt: Director Paul Grignon presents a synopsis of the history of money -- where it came from, how it's changed, and what it is now. Along the way he highlights issues surrounding money related to education, government, and the concept of sustainability. He provides quotations from prominent bankers, government officials (including Presidents and Prime Ministers), and notable academics on the shortcomings of the concept of money.

    Money, he says, began with a basic barter system that evolved into a form of symbolic representation. The system was voluntary and organic, and it operated so long as everyone agreed that, whatever the symbolic form, it represented something of a specific value (value defined as time in the form of labour/services, or representative of an amount of certain product). Eventually, using precious metals became the established norm for the symbolism because it was itself perceived as valuable.

    Along the way, gold lenders came to be important in the establishment of the concept of money. At first, the gold lender would distribute portions of his gold to others on the promise of repayment. Interest didn't exist, and was known at the time as usury. Usury is written into the texts of every major religion as a form of sin.

    Over time, gold lenders came to represent security and began to rent out shelf space in their vaults. The practice of lending evolved from the actual lending of physical gold to the lending of promissory notes, essentially IOUs, which became the paper money we know today. At some point, people began trading the notes themselves instead of the gold.

    Further along, the lenders got a bad rap for one reason or another and those storing their money with the lenders came to take their gold (bank run). This crippled the lenders and all but destroyed the note system as there was no longer a centralized core of actual wealth to represent the bank notes in circulation (think Somalia as of the news today).

    Rather than outlaw the practice of lending via notes, governments legislated National Reserve Banks to provide actual wealth to banks in the event of a run. In doing so, the original concept of lending "fake money" (aka Debt) began, at a 2:1 ratio. A bank could lend twice the amount of actual money it held in the form of debt notes.

    Around the same time, governments decided to produce their own national form of legal tender. Originally it was designed to be traded against the actual wealth it represented. That eventually changed to the point where governments -- rather than print their own money free of interest -- began lending based on the valueless symbol money that banks were producing.

    Thus, the switch to what money used to be and what it is today. Over time, the practice has evolved to the point that the ratio between actual wealth and imaginary wealth is between 9:1 and 30:1 (and in some cases X:0, where there is no actual wealth at the core of the lending practice).

    Grignon then goes on the describe how this monetary system produces money to account for interest -- the banks simply invent more fake money. To pay interest you have to get more debt to pay interest. So the cycle is locked. He then describes how this system is part and parcel of the modern consumerist model which requires the use of resources to be measured against the rate of inflation. That is, for every dollar created, the 9:1 ration must run backwards to the "actual" value -- natural resources.

    Obviously, such a system is designed only to increase and never stabilize. Money is no longer symbolic of value but is now symbolic of debt. As such, it is not a sustainable system.

    The Story of Stuff: Annie Leonard goes over the model of consumer production as it exists in today's society, illustrating statistics on the rate of production vs. consumption vs. waste. As with the above, the rate of waste production far outstrips the rate of generation of actual wealth in terms of the resources that are used to make the "stuff" that we buy.

    She goes over the energy and monetary values associated with each step of the modern consumerist model pointing out where governments and corporations collide and where the servitude lies. Specifically she points out how the means of production shifted toward a deliberate consumerist model which expressly and openly states that in order to drive the economy, the populous must be convinced to buy the same products over and over again based on a false ideal that new products are necessary.

    This is the concept of planned obsolescence -- where consumer products are designed to require replacement after a set amount time. This results in the current situation where (something like) 90% of everything we buy winds up in the garbage within 6 months of our acquiring it.

    As with the above, such a system is unsustainable because the earth is effectively a closed economic system. There are only so many resources and so much space, so a system based on consumption creates a massive discrepancy between the amount of actual resources which exist and the used resources we toss into landfills (which we're running out of places to put). She also questions how such a system can possibly meet with the concept of sustainability.

    -----

    Both pieces are set up to engender questions -- specifically questions for authority to explain how this is going to go in the future.

    This seems particularly relevant to me with the current economic depression hitting the US, particularly in the housing market. The rate of foreclosures is at an all time high, which tied directly to the consumerist model and the money=debt model. The economic impacts form the US are hitting Canada by driving housing development companies north and creating a false boom in the Canadian economy. Our money is not worth more -- everyone else's is simply worth less.

    The US's national debt is at an all time high, as is the debt of most of the nations of the world. Bono wants to wipe out the debt of poor country's, but under the present system if there is no debt, there is no money. The answer for ailing countries may be to increase their debt, not decrease it.

    The social element -- that complicity is made to be voluntary through the concept of democracy. Grignon presents the situation of money (which is really debt) as control. Because the system is voluntary, but we're raised to perceive as involuntary, governments and banks can effectively control everything by shifting the distribution of wealth/debt. Perhaps scariest, even the wealthy who are (under the definition of the present monetary system) without debt are technically carrying around the false wealth of IOU notes which has no correlation to "actual value" -- wealth is just another form of debt.

    Recent Stats Canada figures released last week show that the average income of the largest group in Canada -- the middle class -- has remained unchanged since 1950s, despite a perception that we are at our wealthiest period ever in history. The debt, in the meantime, has skyrocketed. The average person in the 20-30 age range is over $30,000 in debt, with the debt increasing per decade up to over $200,000 for the home "owners."

    The States, the UK, the EU, etc, are all in the same boat. We are under the illusion of "progress" -- a word without definition in the existing system. Add to the this the false notion of technological progress and "the information age" -- Those same stats indicate that the average person knows less about everything, yet has a higher rated degree, than at any other time in history.

    Books/ideas I'm specifically thinking about that relate to all this: Brave New World, 1984, Handmaid's Tale, Bentham's panopticon system, Lord of the Rings (expansionism vs. sustainability), More's Utopia, Bank's Culture...

    I'm also particularly interested in the idea that the science fiction ideal of space travel as an extension of the expansionist/consumerist system which will allow the system to continue indefinitely.

    All signs point to an imminent crash in the world economy based on the discrepancy between actual value and perceived value. So what, if anything, are we to do?

  5. #5
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Well, your belief that anyone is going to do long-term planning is very sweet.

    I don't think we're going to have a crash of the world's economy. I think we will have changes. I'm more worried about environmental stuff, and how half-assed everyone is going about it, from the government to the corporations to the environmental activists.

    The real estate crash is exactly like the tech crash back in 2000. It's a hot area of the economy that grows as a "bubble" with that area of the economy becoming quickly overvalued. They know that the bubble is going to burst going in -- they've been saying the real estate bubble was going to crash for the last five years -- but they don't do anything about it because they are making money (or imaginary money, I guess you'd argue.) Then the bubble bursts and most of them lose money, we all lose money, the economy goes into the toilet for awhile, maybe a long while, and the formerly hot sector gets a new set of regulations, then the economy chuggs upward again, and a new sector becomes the hot one that expands into a bubble. Like I said, they're not good on that long-term planning thing. The U.S.' debt is at an all time high because of the wars, and much of that "debt" is imaginary, just like some of the money that goes to finance the wars.

    Those same stats indicate that the average person knows less about everything, yet has a higher rated degree, than at any other time in history.
    Those stats are wrong. They've been giving us the same stats for fifty years. They present as negative the fact that knowledge specializes as the resources and needs of the population are better met, they ignore that illiteracy was the state of most of the populace for decades, that global awareness is an incredibly recent thing and that we have more of it now, not less, etc. The "good old days" were brutish, nasty and short. You lived in your hometown and you died there, frequently killed off by the company you worked for, and you didn't pay that much attention about the world. You could fix a machine and make candles, but you didn't know who your governor was and you weren't going to be inventing a way to fight off cancer.

    Part of the U.S. and Canada population still lives that way, and because the population is larger, it's still a large number. But literacy and knowledge of the world have increased, even though most people still can't tell you who their governor is unless he's a former movie star, and are more likely to know how to put together a YouTube video than how to fix their car. We know stuff. There is a lot more stuff to know, and the ability of any one person to absorb it and remember it all has to by logic be limited. But the population is living in less filth, ignorance, and slavery than before. It isn't gone and it needs to be tackled and I don't know if we'll do it.

    But I am sick of the crap of being told that I was better off as a kid in the 1960's. I grew up through those decades; they were not better, even though I was a well-educated, upper middle class white kid. They were worse, a lot worse. As a woman, I am extremely aware that they were worse and that people were stupider, and that minorities and immigrants were even more shafted and deprived of knowledge than they are now.

    So if the apocalypse is coming, it's not going to be because we know less. It's because we know more and still didn't care.

  6. #6
    Just Another Philistine Hereford Eye's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KatG
    ...and still didn't care.
    There's the issue. I often complain that we, the poeple, are too comfortable and pity help anyone who wishes to disrupt that comfort. That, for me, explains why no one pays any attention to our wars, why no one cares about the Kyoto Concordance, space exploration, commericalizing the national park system, airport security, and a hundred other ought-to-be-issues.
    Maybe, though, just maybe I'm wrong...again. Our son sent us this op-ed piece this morning.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/04/op...=1&oref=slogin

    So, what does it mean to care?

  7. #7
    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KatG View Post
    Well, your belief that anyone is going to do long-term planning is very sweet.
    Oh, I doubt anything more than half-assed measures will ever occur. Such is the nature of democracy. Watering it all down...

    I'm more worried about environmental stuff, and how half-assed everyone is going about it, from the government to the corporations to the environmental activists.
    That's sorta the thing here -- environmental policy is economic policy. There's this false conception of humanity and human inventions as somehow being divorced from environmentalism, as if the two can co-exist without being wholly dependent on one another. If you're concerned about the environment, you absolutely must be concerned about the economy because the reality is that they are one and the same.

    There is nothing at all that you use (including the computer screen in front of you, the hair on your head and the product you wash it with) that is not both environmental and economic. To relate this to your closing statement -- that to know better and not do anything is the great unforgivable sin -- this is exactly what you're saying here. There is no division where you can care about one and not the other. To care about one is to care about the other.

    That's part of why I posted this -- to a get a sense of what people think about the correlation between economy and environment. It makes total sense to me that they're the same. I could be wrong, but I don't think I am. Unless someone can prove me wrong....

    ...Then the bubble bursts and most of them lose money, we all lose money, the economy goes into the toilet for awhile, maybe a long while, and the formerly hot sector gets a new set of regulations, then the economy chuggs upward again, and a new sector becomes the hot one that expands into a bubble.
    Isn't it possible that environmentalism is also a bubble? If you look at the corporate response to the "green" ideology, how many new "green" products do you see? All of them... everything new coming out is tacked onto the new "green" wagon. Environmentalism is being shaped into a commodity. The consumerist commodity system is fickle and based on a 5-year lifespan. So environmentalism will be hot for a few more years and then...? What?

    This is the very illusion of change. As you say, the housing boom was doomed. We all know it instinctively. Nothing lasts forever except the cold November rain...

    So with that in mind, what do we do to try to take environmentalism back from the corporations -- who are incidentally the ones who control the economy, who are incidentally beholden to the banks. What do we do?

    The U.S.' debt is at an all time high because of the wars, and much of that "debt" is imaginary, just like some of the money that goes to finance the wars.
    Or it's at an all time high because the response to terrorism was "go shopping." Spending money with credit cards creates interests, creates more money, which means the creation of more debt. Couple that with the war effort which was actually quite sensibly designed to be mostly self-sufficient, but failed because the demand for fuel at home went up faster than expected because people were out shopping and moving further and further away from where they work into homes they can't afford with unrealistic interest rates that further increase the debt....

    The "good old days" were brutish, nasty and short.
    I didn't say they were good! But 200 years ago the majority of humanity would probably survive a total meltdown of society because they would know how to do things... like forage and farm and purify water without needing chlorine tablets. Nowadays people struggle even to build themselves a suitable shelter or a fire on "Survivor." Pioneers would laugh at their progeny, methinks. Then become horribly depressed...

    You lived in your hometown and you died there, frequently killed off by the company you worked for...
    The world's been running for much longer and with greater variety of lifestyles than the post-industrial Western world...

    Who says moving away from your hometown is good? NAFTA has pushed the need for low education homebodies to Mexico. We don't stay at home anymore because there's no need for us to do so. But is that good? If the future environmental predictions are at all accurate, our mobility will become limited again. Food will have to be local because there won't be enough power to move it around. And then what? Staying home will seem like oppression, but is it?

    Isn't any surprise that the consumerist society pushes the idea of leaving home? It creates mobility and disposability in the market and stimulates the economy. Staying at home does not. Consumer society has a vested interest in encouraging mobility. But consumer society is killing the environment. So mobility is....? What?

    But literacy and knowledge of the world have increased
    C'mon... Going to the Outback versus seeing it on the internet is a totally different thing. Seeing New York on TV versus walking its streets and feeling it rhythm is something else again. Reading about worlds that don't exist won't help you survive when the power goes out. The world is going paperless, and there will be nothing to read when the power goes out. Literacy and false worldliness are not the be all and end all of knowledge. What value do they have?

    But the population is living in less filth, ignorance, and slavery than before. It isn't gone and it needs to be tackled and I don't know if we'll do it.
    I feel like a slave most days. I have virtually insurmountable debt and only more debt on the horizon. As the song says "Buy this car to drive to work; Drive to work to pay for this car."

    Is that not just a different kind of slavery? Debt is perhaps voluntary slavery? The lack of filth is weakening our immune systems. People drink bottled water that's killing them, laced with ozone to make it taste better when ozone is a poison. People drink distilled water and think floating particulate is gross when its the particulate that we actually drink the water for. We wash our hands with antibacterial soaps that are encouraging the growth of resistant bacteria. Our methods of preservation may be causing autism and hermaphrodism with mercury and bisephanol-A. The amount of defective genes in the genepool is rising because our medicine now allows us to save the lives of those who would die otherwise.

    Are we so sure this cleanliness is good? Are we so sure that this "freedom" is really free? Do we know it actually has value? Or is it just something that consumer society needs us to believe so we keep the consumer system alive?

    As a woman, I am extremely aware that they were worse and that people were stupider, and that minorities and immigrants were even more shafted and deprived of knowledge than they are now.
    In the 60's, they released the stat that a woman made ~.86 cents to the man's dollar. Today, that number has dropped to ~.67 cents. Immigrants have dropped from around the same stat as women to ~.54 cents. Is it really better? Or is it just more invisible? What does that say about our actual values versus our perceived values?

    So if the apocalypse is coming, it's not going to be because we know less. It's because we know more and still didn't care.
    I hear you. But we have this tendency to view all these problems as disparate and unconnected. The reality may be that the injustice is endemic, and that the considerable knowledge we have is valueless, not functional, dare I say decadent. Is our knowledge actually valuable? Maybe we don't care to acknowledge the problems because in our hearts we know that what we're doing is valueless? And we've made the mistake of thinking that if what we have now only has value if we give it value holds true across the board?

    Is it possible that environmentalism has an intrinsic value to basic human survival that proves all our cultural relativism and self-made values totally and utterly false? That it's exposing the cracks? Pacifism is valueless and idiotic when your tormentor is threatening the rape of you and your children, is it not?

  8. #8
    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    Nice article, HE.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hereford Eye View Post
    So, what does it mean to care?
    That's it, isn't it? Assuming environmentalists are even somewhat correct, I can't not care. But I've also been educated into believing that poorly conceived action and action which creates upheaval and unrest are huge negatives. In some cases caring enough is even called terrorism.

    So I don't know... not only what does it mean to care, but how are we supposed to show that we care?



    I'm curious if Gary has any insight into the economic element of this based on his day job factoring.

  9. #9
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    I watched the first one. Not sure I have a real problem with it. Don't we arbitrarily put value on all kinds of objects in our world? Diamonds, gold. oil, art. Fung, we spent so much time talking about the subjectivity of art. How is this any different? We trade value and increase value on items by virtue of supply and demand, among other things. Supply and demand is real. I want something and you want something. We both can't have it because the supply is limited, so we price it up. I bid, you bid.

    We leverage all kinds of things in our lives. The difference with money is that banks create it and then use it to make more.

    The bottom line for me is that all of our systems of value are houses of cards. Buy a famous painting. Buy a bracelet of gemstones. What it costs and what it's worth are relative.

    Credit crunchers evaluate risk and react.

    I've got to watch the other one now.

  10. #10
    Just Another Philistine Hereford Eye's Avatar
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    Most of the population now lives in cities. Lots of folks have opined that cities destroy our ability to care about one another. Maybe the Kitty Genovese case is more symptomatic of what living in cities has done to us than GW's habitat for humanity effort would indicate.
    On the street where I live, we neighbors are separated by acres of land That's why I moved here, for the illusion of privacy. I am no more in touch with my neighbors now than when I lived in the big city. Now, though, I have an excuse.

  11. #11
    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Wassner View Post
    I've got to watch the other one now.
    Let me know when you're done and then I'll respond

  12. #12
    >:|Angry Beaver|:< Fung Koo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hereford Eye View Post
    Most of the population now lives in cities. Lots of folks have opined that cities destroy our ability to care about one another.
    There's a great essay on the compartmentalization of nature by John Berger that talks about population alienation.

    One of my favourite city things is "Apartments" -- aren't they really "Togetherments"? Of course, they really are apart because each one is made to seem self sufficient. I'd love to run an experiment where an entire 50 story apartment building was put onto a sustainability ratio. The building only get so much power and so much water, so if everyone has the lights on then your individual light level is low. Everyone uses the shower and no one gets enough water. Force people to make concessions to those they share space with and are dependent upon. Then track the social cohesion of the apartment dwellers. I'd expect a lot more strife, but also a lot more awareness of neighbours.

    The apartment I live in now has shared heat and electricity with the unit below (there's only the two units). I don't have control over the thermostat. As a result, I'm much closer and friendlier with my neighbours then I've been with any other neighbours I've ever had in any other apartment. I borrow eggs, we babysit her dogs. It's kinda great, actually, despite the occasional inconvenience. And because we don't want to piss each other off, we're both highly conscious of our utility usage, which has resulted in the lowest energy bills I've ever had despite living in one of the most expensive cities in Canada.

    Consumer society clearly influences people to move toward cities -- Do you think consumer society thus encourages social alienation, or is it just incidental? Are the environmental effects of consumer life in cities better or worse than those in rural areas?

    According to EPA stats, the average New Yorker produces less pollution per capita than the environmentally rural citizen. The Manhattanite doesn't even need to be environmentally conscious in order to produce less pollution. They just do. But New York is an extreme example -- few cities are so geographically locked. Comparably sized cities with expansion area produce more pollution in the 'burbs than they do in the Central Business Districts. So maybe we need to fight for a stop to border expansion in cities?

    On the street where I live, we neighbors are separated by acres of land That's why I moved here, for the illusion of privacy. I am no more in touch with my neighbors now than when I lived in the big city. Now, though, I have an excuse.
    That sounds idyllic! Effin' people...

  13. #13
    Just Another Philistine Hereford Eye's Avatar
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    According to the AAAS, in 1970, 37% of the world’s population lived in cities. The AAAS prediction in 2000 was that by 2030 61% of the world’s population will be living in cities. With the 2030 estimated population at 7 billion, some 4.2 billion will be living in cities. Since the graph shows a standard rise, somewhere around of 3 billion people are living in cities today. * That is an awful lot of togetherness.
    Japan learned to deal with population density evolving a social system dedicated to maintaining everyone's privacy despite the pressures against that privacy. Folk living in North American cities today seem to me to be evolving the same kinds of etiquette, first and foremost of which is to mind one's own business.

    * From what I can tell, most of them are in Phoenix.

  14. #14
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Environment: My problem right now is not the corporations. I want them putting out green products. I don't care if some of them are sort of shams. Corporations don't move unless there is pressure and profit. So the demand for eco products and the rising price of gasoline are about the only way we're going to get corporations and the government to actually do anything about it. The car people, for instance. They'll put out Hummers and SUV's if people buy them and want power over gas mileage. Gas price goes up, people want hybrids, the car people put out hybrids.

    And they put them out for reasonable prices. Right now, the cost of environmental cleaners and such are going down, after being unfairly elevated for years. Environmentalism becomes profitable, polluting companies have more to lose image-wise and improve their safety protocols to avoid bad publicity. Environmentalism becomes profitable, then the products stop becoming luxury indulgences for the well-heeled and actually start having wide-spread use.

    So let them run wild. It could become an investment bubble, but it's hard for the environment to be a bubble because it's an on-going necessity -- food and water. We may overvalue some of the companies doing products, but probably not enough to have a bust. Oddly enough, manufacturing and foreign currency might be the next bubbles, because China, strangely, is having a massive labor shortage. Also a woman shortage, a deforestation problem, etc. So everything made in China isn't going to work anymore, and the multi-nationals that are turning here and there for the manufacturing may create the next bubble. Or it might go back to investment stocks. Or it might just be agriculture, because they were idiots about ethanol. See what Warren Buffet says.

    My problem with the rampant environmentalism is that the scientists, activists and government agencies are being idiots about it. They're refusing to acknowledge that environmentalism has been a luxury of the well-off and brow-beating people for not being more green while providing little in the way of resources, information and funding, with the government -- especially our current conservative North American ones -- giving mostly lip service.

    They keep predicting the apocalypse, and while I understand the logic of this to motivate people, get the media to pay attention and to increase badly-needed funding, they don't give people much advice on what to do except tell them to spend money being green in ways that don't solve the major problems.

    Take recycling. Recycling is voluntary and works best when the government makes it easy and widely available. It's hard for low income folk to recycle, especially if there's no pick-up, if they have to buy the bins. Where we used to live, there was no recycling pick-up. We had to take them to a for-profit recycling center licensed with the city, and those folks decided there wasn't any real profit in clear glass and so wouldn't take it. We were the only people on our street to bother to go to the recycling center.

    Where we are now, they're planning to outlaw filament bulbs by 2010 and make everybody replace them with the power-saving twisty bulbs. But there are numerous problems with this: 1) they're way more expensive and have been overpriced, so low-income people can't afford them; 2) older lamps can't take them; 3) the companies that make them say they can't make enough to meet that much increase in demand; 4) they give some people seizures; 5) they contain poisonous mercury, so they can't be recycled and you're not supposed to throw them in the trash. You're supposed to take them to the hazardous waste collections, which in my burg occur twice a year. What's going to happen? Most people will throw the spent bulbs in the trash, and the mercury goes into the landfills and the ground water and soil.

    The handy article in my newspaper about recycling do's and don'ts offers the tip that I should not recycle pizza boxes because greasy cardboard can't be recycled. I am instead supposed to cut the pizza box up and put the greasy part in the trash and the rest in the recycling. Most people again are just going to throw the whole box in the trash. What they need to do is hire more people at the recycling plant and tell the public they can throw in those pizza boxes. They want to phase out plastic shopping bags too, because people don't recycle them. People then have to buy expensive tote bags -- yeah, that will work.

    We're getting yelled at for using phosphate dishwasher soaps. But most dishwasher soaps are already phosphate free at this point. The phosphate pollution that is creating blue-green algae isn't coming from consumers, whose water waste is treated, but from farmers using fertilizer that runs off into the waterways. Are we fixing this? No. We are ordering consumers to buy organic produce, which in most places is hard to get and extremely expensive, and local produce, which can have as many environmental costs as stuff that's shipped in.

    If smart, green houses are the way to go, how do we get the poor people in them? It's the same problem we have with first versus third world environmental issues. We have to come up with solutions to make it easier. Not hector people that they are killing the planet and that they are doomed with no hope of escape.

    We're not going to have an apocalypse meltdown. (Well, okay, maybe if there's an asteroid hit.) Katrina was only a meltdown due to vast government incompetence and local racial prejudice. Much as I enjoy post-apoc SF, I have to admit that most of it is completely silly. It requires throwing out half of reality to get whatever post-apoc vision of irreversible breakdown on the planet that the author wants to play with off the ground.

    What we are going to have are large climate problems and battles over which technologies to use to deal with them. We have and will have massive population shifts -- and we'll have to see if we can put aside our tribalism and finally work to solve those problems, instead of trying to go back to being fascists, as the Italians are doing, on erroneous dreams of past glory. But despite numerous economic and environmental disasters over the years, history has shown that we don't go backwards. We will not become pioneers again. And the folks over at the University of Maryland, working with the database gathering my husband is working with, have confirmed what the stats have been showing for years -- that the planet is currently in the most peaceful time period we've had in the last forty, fifty years.

    So instead of worrying about the apocalypse and how well people are prepared for it, we need to work on a lot more practical issues -- like getting electricity, plumbing and education to Amerindian communities, like making all public schools have parity funding, educating people on the fact that organic gardening is actually easier and lets you neglect your garden more, training and hiring immigrant doctors, putting athletic programs back in schools if they're so worried about kid obesity and stop cutting funding every five minutes, investigating the potential environmental causes of increased autism rates, and after twenty years of idiocy -- stop dumping the mentally ill onto the streets to increase the homeless and criminal populations and fund resources for caring for them. We need to figure out ways to get looting tyrants out of power without always using costly wars, without letting China bow out, and without having supported them into power in the first place. We need to do something about Russia, which is going to be tricky. We need to let local populations in Africa and the Amazon have a say and the major role in solving their environmental problems, working with the governments and environmental groups.

    We need to do a lot of things. And if necessary, I do actually know how to make candles. But wailing about imminent ruin didn't help in the 1970's and it's not going to help now. I don't know if we can solve all the planet problems. I know that the Earth is working very hard to solve them, including lowering population rates of humans and reclaiming land through earthquakes and floods. But the Earth's solutions may not always be the best ones for us, as we do not always come up with the best ones for the Earth. But there's trying on both sides, no matter how short-term many folk and businesses and governments are, and we need to support those efforts, even if you think the world will die anyway.

    Who cares if our money is imaginary? It's what we use our imaginary money for that counts.

  15. #15
    Just Another Philistine Hereford Eye's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KatG
    ...including lowering population rates of humans
    I have here in front of me the AAAS Atlas of Population and Envuironment, 2000, which shows the developed countries beginning to decrase population growth somewhere around 2010 but developing countries continuing to experience population growth for a long time to come. The same source states that "many countries have seen steep declines in total fertility rates due to serious efforts to ensure access to family planning and other reproductive rights..." Then, it provides examples: Iraq - before the current war , Pakistan, Kenya, and the Dominican Republic.
    That doesn't seem to me be good ole Earth doing her thing to control populations. We seem to be well on course to hitting the 8 billion mark.

    Of course, what makes this all so intersting if not amusing is that the same book has this multi-color graph that shows resources steadily decining since 1900 hitting a lot steeper slope in the 1970s. Population goes up till around 2020-25 then steeply declines. Industrial output increases steeply from 1900 but escalates dramatically from the middle 50s on till it, too, peaks around 2010. Pollution has a much slower increase till peaking in the 2030s. Food production follows population till it peaks in 2010 and then falls dramatically. The source for the graph is: Beyond the Limits, Confronting Global Collapse, Envisioning a Sustainable Future, Meadows, Meadows, and Randers, Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 1993. I haven't read the book but I love the chart.

    In high school back in the 50s, we were introduced to a new ice age, the glaciers moving southward at @ 18 inches per year. I had this wonderful image of scientists living at glacier's edge and every year getting out their yardsticks to measure the glacier's progress. We were also introduced to Malthus and the notion of unsustainable population growth - which was followed in the 70s by ZPG. And we were introduced to the idea of diminishing resources as populations squatted on prime food producing lands. By 2000-something there would be too many people living on less and less available land with less and less food being produced. This, of course, gave us one of Charleton Heston's greatest movies: Soylent Green. <Actually, the best part of that movie was Edward G. Robinson's death scene. What a lovely way to go.>
    Anyway, what I surmised from that high school education is that people are going to die...one way or another. It's about time we adjusted to that fact.

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