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Environment Climate Change, Pollution, Endangered Species, Industrial Agriculture, Degrading Habitats & Renewable Energy.

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  #11  
Old May 11th 2011, 10:02 AM
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Default Re: Enviropessimism

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Originally Posted by Daktoria View Post
"System" is subjective because it depends upon interpretation which is a subjective action. Otherwise, even breathing, walking, and talking would be polluting actions.
No. Ecosystem is not subjective. Breathing, walking, talking, etc. are not polluting in an ecosystem. There are a lot of people who study this. They are called scientists.

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Yes you can.

The only reasons you don't are (you believe) 1) there's someone who's willing to beat you up who doesn't like it, or 2) someone you care about doesn't like it.
Oh. I'm sorry, perhaps I wasn't clear. I should have said:

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I can't dump toxic waste on my half acre and then say, "but hey, I'm only polluting that which I have sovereignty over," without being absolutely full of shit.
Dumping toxic waste is not a contained act. If I own 4 square feet of land, and dump toxic waste all over it, it will affect other people's land. Because we live in a non-subjective ecosystem.

For these purposes, I'm not terribly interested in your meta-physical ramblings. Pollution is a real thing, not some moral concept.
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  #12  
Old May 11th 2011, 12:47 PM
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Default Re: Enviropessimism

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Originally Posted by Michael View Post
The more I read about all the incredibly complex and interconnected problems facing the world today, I can't help but to admit to a feeling of being overwhelmed. Or rather, I can't stop being pessimistic about our chances to keep this modern world humming along for anything more than another dozen years before the 'proverbial shit' really starts to hit the fan.

I despair of the ability of modern society to actually respond to any of the major challenges facing the world today, let alone succeed. The size and scale of the problems facing modern society are just too large to admit solutions, and even if any reasonable solution is possible, I fear that human inertia, hubris and laziness will prevent the implementation of that solution in time to impact the problem in any positive way.

The energy crisis has been with us for forty years now. Our addiction to oil - and all the ugly vulnerabilities this opens us up to - has been widely known and studied since the early 1970s. And all of the brilliance of science and capitalism has been able to do in all that time is to improve the efficiency of the fossil fuel engine so that we can all drive bigger, safer and more luxurious cars/trucks.

Likewise with the roofs over our heads. All that we have learned about energy efficiency has been applied to making windows and doors more effective air-seals, and furnaces and air-conditioning systems to produce many times more powerful outputs for slightly reduced energy consumption - all of which has just enabled us to build larger sprawling suburbs filled with ever bigger houses (that are warmer in winter and cooler in summer - and costs less too!).

I recently moved to a new job at larger company. On my first day, I had can of Coke from a machine. I wondered where the recycle bin was... I asked... there wasn't one. You see, paper recycling is a big thing in offices and easy to do. Everyone has a blue/green bin and all paper goes in them and the cleaners make it all disappear into large recycle paper bins out back that get serviced by paper recycling companies. And of course, everyone has curbside blue/green bin recycling programs at home for almost all metals/glass/plastic items. But companies don't get that service given to them. They have to pay someone to do that and in my experience, most just don't bother. At my old employer, one of the employees would take a big bag of recycling material home with her and dump it in her own bin at home on a regular basis. But we were a small company, so that worked easily enough. But the bottom line is, most people only engage in recycling when it is easy and convenient to do so. And this is just recycling. The whole idea of 'reduce and reuse' seems to be lost entirely.

In other words, absolutely nothing has changed in forty years. Global climate change, fossil fuel depletion, environmental destruction, species loss, etc, all continue unabated over time. We've known about all of these problems now for forty years and yet virtually nothing has been done about any of them and still most people don't take the topic seriously.

So is anyone else getting pessimistic about our chances to keep modern society going in anything remotely resembling the 'American Dream' on into the medium term future?
Not particularly. You talk about society at large knowing that the problem has existed for the last 40 years and not doing anything about it, which is true enough. But, I'd suggest that there hasn't been adequate motivation, by and large.

Over the last 40 years, I'd say that the motivation to be environmentally conscious for most people has been a combination of guilt and uneasiness. The guilt portion comes from the environmentally conscious and their ability to instill in people a sense of duty to the environment and furthermore to make the cause noble seeming. We feel guilty if we drive a gas guzzler or toss an aluminum can in the garbage because those are the social rules at the moment. We also have a vague sense that some environmental calamity is in the cards, though the nature of that calamity shifts in Orwellian fashion from global cooling/new ice age to ozone layer vanishing to the world being overrun by landfills to global warming/oceans rising to destroyed rain forests to "climate change".

The reason I list all of those things (which at one time or another, in my life, were explained to me as the inevitable punishment for my environmental sins) is to explain why the fear motivation is not particularly effective. From the perspective of an individual who is more or less environment agnostic, the people predicting all of these things and fluidly changing the predictions seem like the people who are always claiming that The Rapture and End of Days are coming soon to a year near me. Each time it turns out not to be true, they revise the prediction for the year, undaunted.

It isn't my intention to equate environmental science with nutters predicting religious Armageddon, but rather to explain how all of these calamitous circumstances start to blur together and become hard to take seriously. My entire life, I've been told that my actions are a blight on the Earth and I will reap what I've sown in the form of an ever-shifting scorched Earth scenario. But, none of those scenarios have actually happened, so the fear kind of evaporates.

So, back to why I don't think the situation is as bleak as you do. For 40 years, we have known that we have a problem, but the general tone for the average person of that admission is less "holy shit, we're going to die unless we do something" and more "alright, alright, hippie, here's my soda can for recycling - will you stop yelling at me now?" By and large, the various doomsday scenarios have been too hypothetical and abstract to have any real, actual impact on most people's lives.

But, as things start getting more serious, the changes and problems will start hitting us in the pocketbook and where we live, so to speak. At that point, the motivation-factor will shift from vague and half-hearted to immediate and
desperate. And, I think that humanity has a tendency to do its best inventing and fixing in the face of immediate and desperate.
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  #13  
Old May 11th 2011, 04:36 PM
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Default Re: Enviropessimism

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Originally Posted by Donkey View Post
No. Ecosystem is not subjective. Breathing, walking, talking, etc. are not polluting in an ecosystem. There are a lot of people who study this. They are called scientists.
Even the most rudimentary actions move particles. The only way you can define a certain action as polluting is if it compromises the identity of the system as you interpret it.

Also, if you want to take a naturalist scientific look on things, 99.99....% of the planets in the universe don't have life on them as far as we know it. If anything, that shows how unnatural life really is.

Oh and...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Problem_of_induction

The scientific method is always susceptible to that.

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Dumping toxic waste is not a contained act. If I own 4 square feet of land, and dump toxic waste all over it, it will affect other people's land. Because we live in a non-subjective ecosystem.

For these purposes, I'm not terribly interested in your meta-physical ramblings. Pollution is a real thing, not some moral concept.
W/e. If you're not interested in metaphysics, then you're not interested in rights.

The fact of the matter is dumping toxic waste on a restricted space does not spread the toxic waste beyond that restricted space by itself. The problem you're having is ignoring the pragmatism involved with restriction (in your definition of "4 square feet"). You can dump all you want. The only question is whether or not you let your dumping get out of control.

If you do, then you have a problem. That's why we use containers for storing toxic waste - to control the dumping.

Last edited by Daktoria; May 11th 2011 at 04:41 PM.
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  #14  
Old May 11th 2011, 04:40 PM
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Default Re: Enviropessimism

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Originally Posted by Daktoria View Post
Even the most rudimentary actions move particles. The only way you can define a certain action as polluting is if it compromises the identity of the system as you interpret it.
No. Sorry. Me breathing does not compromise the ecosystem. It is part of the ecosystem. Do you know what an ecosystem is?

Quote:
Also, if you want to take a naturalist scientific look on things, 99.99....% of the planets in the universe don't have life on them as far as we know it. If anything, that shows how unnatural life really is.
Illogical. Non sequitur.

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W/e. If you're not interested in metaphysics, then you're not interested in rights.
I believe we were talking about the realities of pollution, not our right to do it.

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The fact of the matter is dumping toxic waste on a restricted space does not spread the toxic waste beyond that restricted space by itself. The problem you're having is ignoring the pragmatism involved with restriction. You can dump all you want. The only question is whether or not you let your dumping get out of control.

If you do, then you have a problem. That's why we use containers for storing toxic waste - to control the dumping.
Moving the goal posts much?



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  #15  
Old May 11th 2011, 04:44 PM
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Default Re: Enviropessimism

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Originally Posted by Daktoria View Post
Why is the environment relevant?

Yes, that is a serious question.

If your goal is to perpetually preserve the environment, then you're stepping on freedom of association as a matter of letting market participants self-determine their rates and styles of consumption.

On the other hand, if self-determination doesn't exist, then even the decision to preserve or not the environment is an illusion.

The only environmentalism that matters is in making sure people don't pollute the environment of others. The holistic alternative makes it immoral to so much as breathe, walk, or speak.

Push a particle, go to jail. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.
The "environment" is the collection of earth processes that makes life possible and able to persist. How could it not be relevant?

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Old May 11th 2011, 04:52 PM
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Default Re: Enviropessimism

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So is anyone else getting pessimistic about our chances to keep modern society going in anything remotely resembling the 'American Dream' on into the medium term future?
Yes. Especially after painfully watching an election campaign that did not get anywhere close to any of these issues at all.

The entire subject seem politically taboo. Most people just cannot bear the thought, so they literally just pretend these things will be solved by some sort of new invention that is always just around the corner. All the while not realizing that any new "invention" really only results in more consumption.

Andrew
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Old May 11th 2011, 04:53 PM
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Default Re: Enviropessimism

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No. Ecosystem is not subjective. Breathing, walking, talking, etc. are not polluting in an ecosystem.
I'm not sure how you can definitively say this. If I go tramping around in a system with lots of delicate flora that has no heavy animals otherwise, I think some would certainly argue that I am polluting it. I think what you're saying here is a lot more based in philosophy than you're acknowledging -- the wiki site itself says that ecosystems may be 'permanent' (this seems a little misleading) or temporary. Adopting that latter categorization, one could argue that anything that introduces an external influence, including pollution could be nothing more than ending one temporary ecosystem and creating another.

At the very least, I'd say the notion of pollution generally relies on definition by convention and has some degree of aesthetics to it. An erupting volcano would certainly wreak havoc on a nearby ecosystem, but this is generally not considered to be pollution. I think the standard definition of pollution involves "something we did" by implication.
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Old May 11th 2011, 04:57 PM
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Default Re: Enviropessimism

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Originally Posted by drgoodtrips View Post
I'm not sure how you can definitively say this. If I go tramping around in a system with lots of delicate flora that has no heavy animals otherwise, I think some would certainly argue that I am polluting it. I think what you're saying here is a lot more based in philosophy than you're acknowledging -- the wiki site itself says that ecosystems may be 'permanent' (this seems a little misleading) or temporary. Adopting that latter categorization, one could argue that anything that introduces an external influence, including pollution could be nothing more than ending one temporary ecosystem and creating another.

At the very least, I'd say the notion of pollution generally relies on definition by convention and has some degree of aesthetics to it. An erupting volcano would certainly wreak havoc on a nearby ecosystem, but this is generally not considered to be pollution. I think the standard definition of pollution involves "something we did" by implication.
Those are fair points. I suppose a working definition of "pollution" would be in order.
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  #19  
Old May 11th 2011, 05:01 PM
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Default Re: Enviropessimism

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Not particularly. You talk about society at large knowing that the problem has existed for the last 40 years and not doing anything about it, which is true enough. But, I'd suggest that there hasn't been adequate motivation, by and large.

Over the last 40 years, I'd say that the motivation to be environmentally conscious for most people has been a combination of guilt and uneasiness. The guilt portion comes from the environmentally conscious and their ability to instill in people a sense of duty to the environment and furthermore to make the cause noble seeming. We feel guilty if we drive a gas guzzler or toss an aluminum can in the garbage because those are the social rules at the moment. We also have a vague sense that some environmental calamity is in the cards, though the nature of that calamity shifts in Orwellian fashion from global cooling/new ice age to ozone layer vanishing to the world being overrun by landfills to global warming/oceans rising to destroyed rain forests to "climate change".

The reason I list all of those things (which at one time or another, in my life, were explained to me as the inevitable punishment for my environmental sins) is to explain why the fear motivation is not particularly effective. From the perspective of an individual who is more or less environment agnostic, the people predicting all of these things and fluidly changing the predictions seem like the people who are always claiming that The Rapture and End of Days are coming soon to a year near me. Each time it turns out not to be true, they revise the prediction for the year, undaunted.

It isn't my intention to equate environmental science with nutters predicting religious Armageddon, but rather to explain how all of these calamitous circumstances start to blur together and become hard to take seriously. My entire life, I've been told that my actions are a blight on the Earth and I will reap what I've sown in the form of an ever-shifting scorched Earth scenario. But, none of those scenarios have actually happened, so the fear kind of evaporates.

So, back to why I don't think the situation is as bleak as you do. For 40 years, we have known that we have a problem, but the general tone for the average person of that admission is less "holy shit, we're going to die unless we do something" and more "alright, alright, hippie, here's my soda can for recycling - will you stop yelling at me now?" By and large, the various doomsday scenarios have been too hypothetical and abstract to have any real, actual impact on most people's lives.

But, as things start getting more serious, the changes and problems will start hitting us in the pocketbook and where we live, so to speak. At that point, the motivation-factor will shift from vague and half-hearted to immediate and
desperate. And, I think that humanity has a tendency to do its best inventing and fixing in the face of immediate and desperate.
Unfortunately for climate most of what we are doing is irreversible over the short term. So when things do start to get serious for those in the developed world who can potentially do something about it (it is already very serious for those in many non-developed countries) it is mostly too late.

Humanity has a tendency to invent and fix when it is about war or economic activity - we do not have a tendency to invent when there is nobody to kill or nothing to sell.

Andrew
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  #20  
Old May 11th 2011, 05:01 PM
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Those are fair points. I suppose a working definition of "pollution" would be in order.
And, by the way, I think that "something we did" is one form of valid definition. After all, it's much easier for humans to control human behavior than animal/plant behavior or natural disasters.

Also, in reading back through my posts here, I'm probably appearing more callous than I actually am. I like the idea of a minimized footprint for humans. I donate annually to the Wildlife Preservation fund and make a conscious effort not to upset my surroundings when I'm camping or hiking, which I like to do. For me, the difficulty becomes involved when I see the way other people treat places - leaving garbage everywhere and things like that. On the one hand, it would be gratifying if they were forced not to do that, but I have to step back and wonder whether what I'm advocating is enforcing my aesthetic preferences on others and their behavior.

In that scenario, the decision is generally taken out of my hands by the fact that it's already illegal to litter. Still, it would be nice if people could simply exhibit common courtesy and decency. I suspect that would render a lot of our collective rules and regulations unnecessary.
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