How Do Environmentalists Reconcile Poverty and Energy Needs with Climate Change?

sustainable-development

There was a fascinating New York Times article that lays bare the dilemma we will face as the needs of climate change reforms run square into the notion of developing economies and the inequity in the world.

The question is how will developing nations that will require large amounts of energy to achieve American and European living standards generate that energy in a world where climate change is a threat to the future?

As the Times puts it, “The average citizen of Nepal consumes about 100 kilowatt-hours of electricity in a year. Cambodians make do with 160. Bangladeshis are better off, consuming, on average, 260. Then there is the fridge in your kitchen. A typical 20-cubic-foot refrigerator — Energy Star-certified, to fit our environmentally conscious times — runs through 300 to 600 kilowatt-hours a year.”

Dozens of nations such as Nepal, Cambodia, and Bangladesh “have flocked to join China’s new infrastructure investment bank, a potential rival to the World Bank and other financial institutions backed by the United States.” As the Times explains, “The reason for the defiance is not hard to find: The West’s environmental priorities are blocking their access to energy.”

The problem is development and inequity. An American consumes about 13,000 kw/hr of electricity per year. “The citizens of poor countries — including Nepalis, Cambodians and Bangladeshis — may not aspire to that level of use, which includes a great deal of waste. But they would appreciate assistance from developed nations, and the financial institutions they control, to build up the kind of energy infrastructure that could deliver the comfort and abundance that Americans and Europeans enjoy.”

The US and its allies have often said no, even as they rely on coal, natural gas, hydroelectric and nuclear power for 95 percent of its energy, yet as Todd Moss, from the Center for Global Development says, “Yet we place major restrictions on financing all four of these sources of power overseas.”

The Times notes, “Of far greater consequence is the way the West’s environmental agenda undermines the very goals it professes to achieve and threatens to advance devastating climate change rather than retard it.”

“It is about pragmatism, about trade-offs,” said Barry Brook, professor of environmental sustainability at the University of Tasmania in Australia. “Most societies will not follow low-energy, low-development paths, regardless of whether they work or not to protect the environment.”

The Times writes, “If billions of impoverished humans are not offered a shot at genuine development, the environment will not be saved. And that requires not just help in financing low-carbon energy sources, but also a lot of new energy, period. Offering a solar panel for every thatched roof is not going to cut it.”

They argue changing the conversation will not be easy. “Our world of seven billion people — expected to reach 11 billion by the end of the century — will require an entirely different environmental paradigm.”

A group of scholars involved in the environmental debate, which includes Professor Brook, as well as Joyashree Roy of Jadavpur University, Ruth DeFries of Columbia University, and Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus of the Breakthrough Institute in Oakland, issued their “Eco-modernist Manifesto.”

It is, “A manifesto to use humanity’s extraordinary powers in service of creating a good Anthropocene.” They write, “We offer this statement in the belief that both human prosperity and an ecologically vibrant planet are not only possible, but also inseparable. By committing to the real processes, already underway, that have begun to decouple human well-being from environmental destruction, we believe that such a future might be achieved. As such, we embrace an optimistic view toward human capacities and the future.”

“Natural systems will not, as a general rule, be protected or enhanced by the expansion of humankind’s dependence upon them for sustenance and well-being,” they wrote.

To mitigate climate change, spare nature and address global poverty requires nothing less, they argue, than “intensifying many human activities — particularly farming, energy extraction, forestry and settlement — so that they use less land and interfere less with the natural world.”

The Times notes, “This new framework favors a very different set of policies than those now in vogue. Eating the bounty of small-scale, local farming, for example, may be fine for denizens of Berkeley and Brooklyn. But using it to feed a world of nine billion people would consume every acre of the world’s surface. Big Agriculture, using synthetic fertilizers and modern production techniques, could feed many more people using much less land and water.”

“As the manifesto notes, as much as three-quarters of all deforestation globally occurred before the Industrial Revolution, when humanity was supposedly in harmony with Mother Nature. Over the last half century, the amount of land required for growing crops and animal feed per average person declined by half.”

“If we want the developing world to reach even half our level of development we can’t do it without strategies to intensify production,” said Harvard’s David Keith.

“We need to intensify agriculture in places that we have already developed rather than develop new places,” Australian conservationist William Laurance said. “What is happening today is much more chaotic.”

The Times writes, “Development would allow people in the world’s poorest countries to move into cities — as they did decades ago in rich nations — and get better educations and jobs. Urban living would accelerate demographic transitions, lowering infant mortality rates and allowing fertility rates to decline, taking further pressure off the planet.”

“By understanding and promoting these emergent processes, humans have the opportunity to re-wild and re-green the Earth — even as developing countries achieve modern living standards, and material poverty ends,” the manifesto argues.

“Decoupling of human welfare from environmental impacts will require a sustained commitment to technological progress and the continuing evolution of social, economic, and political institutions alongside those changes,” says the manifesto.

“There are enormous energy demands,” Professor DeFries noted. “It will be some time before we can fulfill them with wind and solar energy. It is only realistic that there will be a lot of coal and gas along the way.”

The Times writes, “Until they are developed, poor countries will require access to other forms of energy — including hydroelectric power from dams, natural gas, perhaps even coal.”

They continue, “For all the environment-related objections one could pose to these paths, the alternative seems indefensible: Let the poor of the world burn dung and wood, further degrading the world’s forests. Or put solar panels on their huts so they can recharge their cellphones.”

This is the real question as we ponder how to save the planet from human energy consumption – how do we do that without forcing billions to remain in dire poverty? This is a question that many environmentalists have never really pondered or addressed.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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60 Comments

  1. Frankly

    Good topic.  Valid topic.  Really the top-level topic related to climate change.  Too bad the left and environmental extremists didn’t figure this out earlier and maybe have kept their platform from going off the rails.

    But this also misses the needed conversation about industrialized countries.  Are the people in those countries supposed to dial back their standards of living?

    How much is enough?  This question is the singularity of drive, challenge and failure for left ideology.  Somebody has too much.  Somebody does not have enough.  Real or perceived differences are really the primary energy source of the liberal pursuit.  With respect to inequity and unfairness, they tell us they know it when they see it… which means they really don’t know as much as they feel.

    Decoupling of human welfare from environmental impacts will require a sustained commitment to technological progress and the continuing evolution of social, economic, and political institutions alongside those changes,” says the manifesto.

    The first part of this is the 80% solution.  The second part is the 20% solution.

    But the political left put all their eggs in the 20% “progress government power and policy” basket.

    This “government can and should lead the change” approach is both a lie and a general failure.  It is a lie because most of the social and economic progress made in the world has been driven by enterprise outside of government.  It is more often when government decides to get out of the way – partnering as an enabler instead of a controller – when we have great strides in improving the human condition.  It is a failure… because we see a history of failures from government attempting to take over.

    Science says without a doubt that climate will continue to change.  So the focus should be adaption.  And it will take a partnership between government and private industry to optimize our progress to adapt.  But that partnership should be led by private industry.   Free enterprise and the pursuit of profit will save the day again.  And some people will become fabulously wealthy with their efforts and risk taking to develop and sell the adaptive solutions.  That is unless the government, liberals and environmental extremists (all seemingly connected these days) insert themselves into the efforts and attempt to control it in an egalitarian fit.   If that happens we will all loose.  But they there will be more equality and I suppose that will make us feel better by comparison.

    1. darelldd

      Aaagh! This is where your comment goes off the rails before it even gets started. I can’t even keep reading when this is the premise.

      Too bad the left and environmental extremists didn’t figure this out earlier and maybe have kept their platform from going off the rails.

      Without even reading beyond this sentence, I’m going to go way out on a limb and guess that this post contains the word “extreme” or “extremist.” Maybe even multiple times. Until we can begin a reasonable conversation, we remain mired in the petty generalizing, labeling and blame of anybody who holds a differing opinion.

       

      1. Frankly

        darelldd – I am partisan on this because the evidence and ongoing risk that the political left, with lots of help with a brain-dead left-tilted media, has semi-succeeded in controlling the narrative on global warming and has/is leveraging it for ideological pursuits.

        And from a global perspective, many other countries push the anti-industrialism doctrine but from a false environmental basis to hide their motivation to cripple more successful industrialized countries only to eliminate the competition.

        Had Al Gore not made this into a political battle and had not the political left continued attempting to leverage it for political and ideological gains, we would be simply debating the science.  But clearly the primary issue here is the politics of global warming.  What is the basis for the Obama veto/rejection of the Keystone Pipeline?

        Because – science does not know… if man is causing it, or if it has stopped or slowed for the long-term.

        What science does agree with, is that man will have no impact in slowing it based on their models.

        So we should have been talking about adaption from day one.  We should have been investing in MORE industry rather than killing and constraining economic activity to appease the environmental extremists.  Because it is industry that solves the adaption problems.   It was politics of the left that screwed this up and set up down the wrong path.  Hence my partisan tone.

         

         

        1. Barack Palin

          Funny how if you come at things from the conservative viewpoint one often gets called a troll on this website.  Believe me Dave Hart, there are leftist leaning trolls that post here too.

          ‘Just sayin’, even though I hate that ‘sayin’.

    2. Robb Davis

      So I got this really cool “Frankly translation” machine that takes Frankly’s comments and turns them into the polar opposite of what he is writing (for the sake of “balance”).  Given the Manichean universe he inhabits, I am sure he will find this “black” to his “white” useful: 😉

      Good topic.  Valid topic.  Really the top-level topic related to climate change.  Too bad the right and corporate extremists didn’t figure this out earlier and maybe have kept their platform from going off the rails. But this also misses the needed conversation about industrialized countries.  Are the people in those countries supposed to dial back their standards of living?

      How much is enough?  This is the question that those with a right wing, extract-everything, externalize-all-costs/internalize-all-benefits, corporate welfare agenda simply will not answer.  Hell, they refuse to even ask it.  Somebody has too much.  Somebody does not have enough.  Maintaining ill-gotten benefits and unearned privilege while blaming those with little as those responsible for trashing the planet is the primary energy source of the radical right-wing corporatist pursuit.  With respect to inequity and unfairness, they tell us that this is the natural state of the world and that everyone just needs to get over it.

      Decoupling of human welfare from environmental impacts will require a sustained commitment to technological progress, says the neoliberal project subscribed to by politicians on the right and left and their corporate overlords.  This is the faith-based approach of said project and the unstated religious belief system of those writing the manifesto.

      They believe that inevitable technological “advancement” (technique really) will save us and that the state has a role as long it allows the true powers of the transnational military-industrial-entertainment complex to make all the calls. Domination is the end of technological prowess, thereby assuring more of the same for the same.

      And the radical right has put all their eggs in the basket of domination by any and all means, assuring the penury of the billions for the benefit of the few.  They sell the poor of the planet on their need for all manner of wasteful consumption and then crassly withhold the means for them to obtain it. 

      This “market can and should lead the change” approach is both a lie and a general failure.  It is a lie because most of the social and economic progress made in the world has been driven by people organizing for the good of their local communities.  It is more often when the worst abuses of feudalism is tossed aside and people are given the chance to use their gifts for the betterment of the many rather than having them harnessed by the power of a few when we have great strides in improving the human condition.  Failure comes when human and social capital are subsumed by the whims of self-proclaimed royalty and their lackeys who slay the powerless in the service of the mighty.

      Science says without a doubt that climate will continue to change.  So the focus should be adaptation and creating resilience.  And it will take a partnership between government, non-profits and private industry to optimize our progress to adapt.  That partnership must be a true partnership, the leadership of which is shared by those with a concern for human thriving whether they be in private industry or representatives of the state.   Free enterprise and the pursuit of profit cannot save the day.  A variety of efforts and risk taking from all sectors—all actions taken for the common good—will help create the adaptive solutions.  That is unless the corporations, mindless libertarians, and socially autistic extremists (all seemingly connected these days) insert themselves into the efforts and attempt to control it for the narrow benefit of a few.   If that happens we will all lose.  But there will be more inequality and I suppose that will make those who have maintained their hold on power feel better by comparison.

      1. Frankly

        Very well played, but I think I should get some royalty! 😉

        This is the polar opposite except where we are saying the same things.

        Reading a good book right now on 1927.  In 1925 and 1926 the US experienced the most bizarre weather on record.  Thousand year floods where floods don’t tend to happen, tornadoes where tornadoes don’t go, hurricanes, record hot, record cold… then the 1930s dust bowl.

        Too bad Al Gore wasn’t around then or he could have helped liberals exploit it all in the media for political gain.

        You see we all know that it is those successful industrialists that cause bad weather.  And since they cause that bad weather and take all that wealth and horde it from the struggling and huddled masses, our anger at them is justified.  Tyranny of the majority needs to develop to take them down.  We should take their wealth and distribute it to all the have notes.  To shut down their factories so they can no longer foul the air, earth and water and we can stop changing the climate.

        But then…

        And it will take a partnership between government, non-profits and private industry to optimize our progress to adapt.

        This is interesting because I work in what I thought was an industry that is a public-private partnership.  But recently it was made clear that we are NOT partners, I, the private side of the arrangement am a subordinate.  We are overseen by, not in partnership with, the overlords of government.  Government by the people, for the people?  Apparently not.

        So, on the one hand I agree that we would be well-served with a strong public-private partnership.  But this covers it all:

        But there will be more inequality and I suppose that will make those who have maintained their hold on power feel better by comparison.

        It is that “hold on power” that is the source of the real debate here.  All the other costs and benefits are just PR talking points and emotive fodder.  If I own a business and am successful and my success buys me power and influence, if you too want power and influence equal to mine you can also start and grow and business to do the same.

        Or you can take the less difficult shortcut and get a job as a powerful government bureaucrat or politician and use that power to take mine away.

        Until and unless the former path is unavailable to you, the only glaring inequality is the inequality of expectation relative to effort.  And I would also take it to a moral inequality in many cases.  The morality of actually earning rather than taking.

        And I think this difference of pursuit of power and money is what drives much of the anti-capitalist and anti-industrialist movement.  Climate change is just a proxy.

        Everybody wants more.

        How much is enough?

        Michael Phelps has won 22 Olympic medals.   Is that enough or too much?

        FDR was elected for three terms.  Is that enough or too much?

        Robb Davis rides hundreds of miles on his bike every month (week?)  Is that enough or too much?

        I am working on another business start-up.  If it is successful and I increase my earnings and wealth, is that going to be enough or too much?

        Who decides?   Why do we have to decide?

        The best thing we can do to adapt is to honor and support free enterprise and industrialism to develop the new solutions we will need going forward.

        And if you want to continue to argue about the need for public-private collaboration to make it real… I point you to nuclear power.

        1. Tia Will

          Until and unless the former path is unavailable to you, the only glaring inequality is the inequality of expectation relative to effort.”

          Except that this is just factually not true. What do you mean by “effort” ? Do you believe that the construction worker or the farm laborer puts in less “effort” than I do. I disagree. Their effort is physical where as mine has been intellectual.  I would say that the service that they provide, feeding and housing us is at least as valuable as the medical care that I provide, yet I make many times what they do. Why have we chosen to arbitrarily honor and reward one  necessary servicd above the other. Do you believe that personalities such as the Kardashians, or even the talented such as Tina Fey or John Stewart put in “more effort” ?

        2. Frankly

          This is that maternal view of the world… that everyone deserves a trophy just for showing up and jumping and running with the other kids.

          Let’s talk this view over to the arts.  So the actor that works just as hard as another deserves equal pay?

          Do all sculptors and painters deserve the same pay for their art if they just put in the same effort?

          Do the athletes that work as hard all deserve the same pay and endorsements?

          The doctor that works just as hard as another deserves equal pay?

          Is it just about hard work, or is it something else?

          How do we value effort and work in Tia’s world?  Do we just set some fairness rules in government like in old Soviet Russia?  How did that work out?

          You don’t like the system that rewards value derived from the market simply because you don’t value the type of interest, skills and drive that earns the higher reward.  But society as a whole values it.  US society as a whole is much, much, much better off today than it would have been had it adopted your utopian model of paying people for level of effort no matter what job they do.

          The US system as designed in an imperfect system… but it is far better than all the rest.

  2. Davis Progressive

    “Too bad the left and environmental extremists didn’t figure this out earlier and maybe have kept their platform from going off the rails.”

     

    In my opinion, this is where your lack of true insight really hurts your analysis. There is no “the left”. There are different groups of people on the left who have different perspectives. The development community and the environmentalists are not of one mind.

  3. Davis Progressive

    more interesting to me is the question as to how we solve the two problems simultaneously – development/ anti-poverty/ inequality with the reality of climate change.

  4. DavisBurns

    We cannot maintain the current levels of energy consumption in developed countries. Why should we encourage underdeveloped countries to develop an unsustainable system that is outdated? They will need distributed energy systems not huge centralized networks like we have that are now aging and vulnerable to large scale outages. The concept that other countries should follow the same path we have taken is deeply flawed and shows a lack of imagination and vision for the future.

    If the market offered consumers homes where we could see the energy we use real time and offered us the ability to time shift when we use energy, consumers would have the opportunity to significantly reduce household energy consumption.  The concept of on-demand energy is a construct of the current free market (promote the highest consumption in order to generate the highest profits) and in no way represents what should be our energy goals–promote the least energy consumption per household.  As long as we think inside that tired old box we won’t solve any problems. As long as we use profit as our motivation, we will encourage more and more consumption of scarce resources.  We need to look at the resources with the goal of using them in most efficient manner for the greatest good and take profit out of the equation.

    and finally we do not have the resources to feed 11billion people.  The earth will not support those numbers and all the planners in the world can’t make that scenario work.  I can only think the people who throw that into their plans for the future (always at the end of the discussion) must really be saying, I’ll be dead when that happens and it will be someone else’s problem.  I have yet to find a real study of where we would expect them to live, how they would get fed, what resources would be necessary…what I have read is we need two and one half earths to support the current world population.

    1. Frankly

      For those of you that want to meet someone that fits into the “leveraging the scientific theories of climate change for ideological pursuits”, I introduce you to DavisBurns.

      1. Tia Will

        And for those of you that want to meet someone that fits into the “ignoring the scientific theories of climate change for ideologic pursuits”, I introduce you to Frankly.

        Overstating and ignoring are opposite sides of the same coin of ideologic game playing. However, I think it is much simper than that. We have only to look at the waste that is generated by our society to see that adopting our model of material excess is not in the best interest of the developing world. A less materialistic model of society that values contribution over possessions would be a good place to start. When humans are valued for their contributions to their community over how many luxuries and toys they have managed to accumulate, we will start to see a sustainable model of development. I doubt that I will live to see it, but I sincerely hope my children will.

         

    2. tribeUSA

      Meat will likely be affordable only by the 1%-ers, with the 99% getting their protein from soy and other vegetable sources. The grain freed up from livestock feed will help with human feed (or help feed transportation thru ethanol conversion); additionally algae and insects (the next food fad), mass-produced, will be affordable by the poor.

      Recently, world population projections have been revised upward–a dream for the captains of capitalism, with an ever-growing labor force competing for fewer jobs, and ever-more internationalized, centralized and efficient mechanisms of funneling wealth to consolidation by the very few.

      We need statesmen who can draft and sell mechanisms of a new worldwide social contract, whereby we acknowledge some sacrifice is needed now to attain a better world for our great-grandchildren, by mutually agreeing to limit the number of children we produce (to 2 per couple, perhaps 3 in some situations). China has demonstrated that such a program is do-able, perhaps less coercive means to do this in other countries; other incentives. Otherwise we are left with more brutal Darwinian options; including the likely prospect of increasing malnutrition and famine, mass epidemics, and wars that may include use of WMDs as peoples in the world grow more mad and desperate for survival and find enemies to target.

  5. paul Brady

     

     

     
    I have not seen any response to the fact that warming has stalled for the past 17 or so years according to satellite and ground data?  At most, the warming in the last 20 years has been only about 10% of that predicted by the climate models.  CO2 emissions during this period have been the largest ever, with atmospheric CO2 levels rising almost 10%!  How can one trust the models’ predictions for the next 50-100 years? 

     

    Are the climate people aware of the predictions that CO2 emissions will begin to decline in 20- 25 years: energywatchgroup.org; ExxonMobil: The Outlook for Energy, etc.  This is despite large population and energy-use increases.  This decline is due to energy conservation and efficiencies and [ mainly] to the global switch from coal to natural gas, and  also to the increase in “renewables” such as solar, wind power, etc., as well as increased contributions from nuclear and possibly hydro power.

     

    If one looks closely at the rising [atmospheric] CO2, the Keeling curve, as first measured by Prof, Keeling near the top of the volcano on the Island of Hawaii, it shows a yearly cycle or wiggle with approximately a spring maximum and fall minimum averaging about 8%.  [Most green growth is in the northern hemisphere of the Earth and this cycle nearly vanishes near the equator, and is largest in Northern Alaska.]  

    Most plausibly, this cycle is due to the net absorption of carbon – more being  take in during summer than is released in winter.  This suggests that when CO2 emissions begin to decline, so will levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, and their contributions to global warming.  In this scenario a global warming crisis is unlikely.

    Of course, the oceans also take up ~30% of CO2 , which is much more soluble in cold water.  So a diffusion gradient drives most absorbed CO2 to the deep, cold ocean. A small fraction hydrolyzes to lower the pH.

     

     My brother in Canada tells me that the Canadian prairies have already experienced higher  temperature rises in the past 50 years, and higher average summer and winter temperatures [+1.7 and 2.5 C] which are similar to global values  predicted for decades close to 2100.  Of course, these have been beneficial for the expansion of crop-land and crop-yields in Canada, as well as a more moderate climate for all. The north is colder and drier with less water vapor, the dominant GHG, so CO2 becomes relatively more important.  IPCC models show this.

     Prairie lake pHs have declined more than the ~ -0.1 in going from 8.2 to about 8.1 as measured in the oceans, but many mining smelters have SO2{?} getting past their stack scrubbers [recall acid rain?], so more study is  needed to separate these and CO2 effects.

     
     
     
     
     
     

    1. Davis Progressive

      paul – you haven’t read the literature on climate change then because the so-called paused is largely an artifact of the oceans heating up more slowly than land masses and absorbing most of the added heat energy.

      also i’m not sure where you come up with the peak of co2 emissions, but even if they peak in 20 to 25 years, it will probably be too late to reverse global warming.  remember there is a feedback loop at play – the more heat that gets trapped, the more added heat will continue to drive the temperature upwards.

    2. tribeUSA

      PB–yes, there has still been a net radiation imbalance (more short wave solar energy absorbed by earth/atmosphere system than long-wave emitted by earth/atmosphere system), so the planet has continued to absorb more energy than it gives off–more and more evidence has been accumulating that this excess energy is being absorbed by the oceans–the ocean has a much larger heat capacity than the atmosphere, so this ocean warming has been slight, not much larger than the margins of uncertainty in estimating worldwide volumetric average ocean temperature. The ocean currents are not strictly steady-state, not only are there El Nino/La Nina oscillations of a few years, but there is the Pacific decadal oscillation (typical period several decades), and other oscillations in the Atlantic (and possibly Indian and Antarctic Oceans). These phases of the ocean currents affect the transfer/exchange of heat energy between the atmosphere and ocean, and from the surface waters to deeper waters, at rates and in ways that are currently under intense investigation.

      Also remember your CO2 chemistry–CO2 combines with water to form H2CO3; the pK for the first proton to dissociate is over 9 in ocean water (if I remember correctly), so at ocean pH near 8.0 will get HCO3- + H+; the second proton (maybe the one you are thinking about) has a pK of about 6.5. So consider add 1 proton to ocean water for each molecule of CO2 added to ocean water.

  6. Dave Hart

    Unlike most of us here on this blog, I am no energy development expert.  I do believe that a non-centralized energy production system is where we should all be headed.  When I look at the photo in this article and consider the small amount of electricity that people use as cited in the article, I think about a solar panel or two on every rooftop as a local solution in those impoverished economies.

    That works for us here in the U.S. as well.  Even if it has to be financed by governments as a step toward energy independence.  Overpopulation is and always has been a relative term.  Poverty is the real problem and can be solved if we abandon the idea of unlimited financial concentration into the hands of fewer and fewer people and corporate entities.  This is not an anti-capitalist idea, rather it is consistent with propping up capitalism and keeping it going for a few more decades.

    If we put solar panels on everyone’s roofs, we would lower the cash flow out of every household for electricity consumption and that would free up the cash in every household for other uses.  PG&E would hate it.  Big fossil fuel companies would see a decline in sales and would hate it.  But other businesses would gain from it and the benefit to the economy in general would be buoyed far beyond what currently exists.

    1. DavisBurns

      David Hart, WHY should we prop up capitalism for a few more decades? The goal of capitalism is to increase consumption, maximize private profit by developing our shared natural resources without regard to the needs of future generations, and create demands for crap we don’t need while failing to provide solutions for the present (not future) conditions that require we ask the questions SHOULD we do this instead of can we do this? What will be the long term consequences of our actions? And since we have made such a mess of things doing whatever we want with minimal regulation or oversite of the minimal regulations maybe it’s time to adopt the precautionary principal and ensure our actions won’t cause harm before we act.

      does anybody believe we have unlimited resources? That we can continue to grow exponentially on a planet with finite resources?  Come on Frankly, paint a rosy picture of the year 2100 with 11 billion people.

      1. Frankly

        Come on Frankly, paint a rosy picture of the year 2100 with 11 billion people.

        DB – this glass half empty concern has been delivered at every population milestone.  We don’t know what the sustainable human capacity of the earth is.  We don’t know that we get to 11 billion… the way Russia is behaving, the way the Mideast is going and the way liberals and doves demand we cut defense spending so we can fund more social programs and the way Obama is making more global enemies that friends… it is also possible that a sizable part of the global population will end up vaporized in a nuclear war… and the climate will be impacted in ways that the hand-wringing environmentalist cannot even fathom.

        We don’t know if that Yellowstone Super Volcano will pop and block sunlight for the globe for years and snuff out a bunch of life.   There are reports that the earth’s magnetic poles have shifted greatly over the last several years… and it may be a sign of a coming pole reversal that has happens every 200,000 years or so.  That would make the Y2K fear party look like a walk in the park.

        Lastly, going against capitalism and industrialism does nothing to combat population growth… unless you are ok with more people starving to death and freezing to death.   Even then it is those poor hot places that tend to crank out the kids in great numbers.  If you want to reduce population it would be better that more countries were industrialized like the West because it tend to reduce population growth… in fact, if you look at the birth rates of the industrialized West, without immigration the population growth would by unsustainable… we are basically choosing to control population because we are higher up the hierarchy of human needs and can make better decisions about how we protect a better human condition.

        I appreciate your posts because you help demonstrate my point that there are people that see climate change as a justification to pursue their anti-capitalist, anti-industrial ideology.   And so the debate has to cover that tendency.

      2. Topcat

        … it is also possible that a sizable part of the global population will end up vaporized in a nuclear war… and the climate will be impacted in ways that the hand-wringing environmentalist cannot even fathom.

        We don’t know if that Yellowstone Super Volcano will pop and block sunlight for the globe for years and snuff out a bunch of life.   There are reports that the earth’s magnetic poles have shifted greatly over the last several years… and it may be a sign of a coming pole reversal that has happens every 200,000 years or so.

        You forgot to mention the possibility that an asteroid like the one that wiped out the dinosaurs could take out the human race 🙂

      3. Dave Hart

        DB:  I only wanted to point out that government subsidy of a dispersed energy system is not a socialist plot.  I’m trying to get people like Frankly to be supporters of big government programs to free us from the petroleum industry slavery.

        Ooops!  I spilled the beans.  Guess he won’t go for it now, even if he knows that such a plan would be good for the poor and the not-so-poor like us while also not destroying capitalism any faster than it is destroying itself.

        1. DavisBurns

          im with you. Frankly diverts the conversation on this blog with his constant imposition of his world view on every topic. I can’t waste my time responding. There are topics of interest but I have no interest in the pages and pages of arguing with frankly. I am interested in other points of view but not endless arguing. The is no sense arguing with the voice of Fox News.

        2. Frankly

          Petroleum industry slavery (especially one that has led to a precipitous drop in the price of oil) does not worry me at all compared to the tyrannical freedom-killing tendency of big government.

          I find it fascinating how leftists double down on their ideological rhetoric in the face of so much evidence it is absolutely wrong.  The IRS going after people for political reasons isn’t a concern, but the petroleum industry is of great concern.  Right, I get it.

      1. Topcat

        climate action got out of vogue once the low hanging fruit gave way to reality.

        What approach is in vogue now that “climate action” is out of vogue?

  7. debra

    Then there is the elephant in the room …population control. Most Environmental Groups will not address this topic as it would directly affect the level of donations they receive as would promoting vegetarian/vegan diet changes or helping the poverty stricken people of the world.

    1. DavisBurns

      debra, some years ago The Sierra Club did take a stand on population but it turned out many of the population control advocates were tainted with concurrent involvement with racists anti-immigration groups. And I found many if not most of the groups proporting to advocate for population control are primarily involved in opposing and blaming illegal immigration for our population increase.  It’s interesting to check out Southern Poverty Law for the population groups that they classify as hate groups.  The Sierra Club ousted the population contingent and has since refused to take a stance on population.  There are many groups that advocate population control but the reputable ones steer clear of immigration and their policies advocate for education and opportunities for women and available birth control as the solutions.  I recommend Growth Busters and howmany.org

      1. Tia Will

        The Sierra Club did take a stand on population but it turned out many of the population control advocates were tainted with concurrent involvement with racists anti-immigration groups.”

        I see this as an excellent argument for divorcing messages from who is conveying the message. Human problems and human solutions are complex. And yet, we continually hobble  ourselves by deciding that an idea does or does not have merit based on who is putting it forward. Our tendency to want to play “good guys vs bad guys” blinds us to our own fallacies and false assumptions while magnifying those of the “other side”.

        As humans we have no difficulty recognizing the harm caused by overpopulation of other organisms. Over growth of harmful bacteria we term infection and fully recognize that if we do not get the bacterial growth back into harmony with the overall ecosystem, it will destroy its host ( us ) and thus ultimately destroy its own environment. We do great work recognizing and trying to abate the overgrowth of insects we see as harmful such as mosquitos or animals that destroy our gardens and crops. We have no difficulty recognizing the hazards associated with cancer ( defined as uncontrolled, unregulated growth of our own cells) and use much of our medical resources to prevent and/or reverse this uncontrolled growth.

        And yet, we seem to be almost completely impervious to the idea that our species is a part of our ecosystem, and that it is completely possible for us to outstrip the ability of our planet to sustain our uncontrolled growth even when the evidence is completely clear.  One major difference between us and all of these other examples is that as humans, we are the only ones who have the ability to see this, comprehend it and alter our trajectory, and yet we are willfully choosing not to do so for short term comfort, luxury and material gain sometimes wrapped in a religious or ideologic trappings. Sometimes wrapped in a cloak of helplessness and inevitability.

        We currently have the technology and medical ability to turn this around. Again it is a matter of choice for us now. And yet we continue to dither and squabble over inconsequential short term alliances and enmities rather than actually facing the problem head on with the techniques that are readily available to those of us in the developed world if we would freely share them.

    2. Topcat

      Then there is the elephant in the room …population control.

      Yes, projections of world population show continued rapid growth at least through the end of this century.  The growth is unevenly spread, with slower growth in the developed countries and much faster growth in the developing countries, particularly in Africa, India, and Latin America.

      It’s curious that the population issue draws so little attention from environmentalists since it is going to play a big role in the ultimate survival (or non-survival?) of the human race.  It probably has to do with the short term thinking that we humans do.

      1. DavisBurns

        The population debate has been silenced for the most part by right wing hate groups. They poisoned to well, a tactic used control the conversation. It isn’t that environmentalist don’t care or don’t know its a problem. We have to figure out how to unpoison the well. When the right wing controls the topics of conversation, they are in control and they are quite effective not just on this topic but many others. Frankly does a fine job controlling the conversation on this blog. Look at how topics are diverted and directed responding to his world view.

    3. Dave Hart

      I think the population control issue is off base and counterproductive to arriving at good policy and good politics.  As DavisBurns mentioned, when the idea of population control arises, it is often associated with racist or anti-immigration groups.  Why these kind of groups?  Well, the idea of over-population has a built-in component of fear that appeal to these kind of organizations.  It is an old fear and goes back centuries when it was contemplated that even one billion people would completely overwhelm society and plunge the world into some kind of pillaging war of between the haves and have-nots.  The Malthusian theory, you can google it.  It never happened the way Malthus theorized for many reasons.

      But I suggest we look at the problem from another angle, the angle of poverty and lack of economic control of their own lives.  When people are impoverished, they tend to have much larger families to insure some kind of social security in old age.  I was reading just recently that Denmark’s birthrate (children per woman) is about 1.7 and the government there is now trying to lure people to have more children.  China’s birthrate (children per woman) is estimated at 1.55.  The U.S. is at 2.01, hardly what anyone would consider to be out of control.  Even India with widespread poverty but a growing economy is only at 2.55.  What can we conclude in general about birthrates?  They decline as people feel more secure about their future and can live a life based on being free to pursue career and adventure over a future dominated by family concerns.  Source:  http://1.usa.gov/196CdX0  Poverty is the real problem and solutions aimed at ending poverty are therefore good for the environment but not necessarily good for capitalist economic organization.

      Poverty is the real problem.   Capitalism impoverishes masses of people simultaneously as it enriches an ever-shrinking number of elites.  It isn’t a win-win system; it is a zero sum game over a long stretch of time.  Increasing concentration of wealth means that ultimately all of us will, all of us must lose so that an elite’s share of all wealth can continue to grow.  Capitalism makes it worse in places that are effectively economic colonies with little control over their resources and where resource extraction by developed countries and corporations dominates economic life.  We here in the U.S. could easily become self sufficient and far surpass our electrical energy needs with a dispersed solar energy system and we (our nation) have the means to do so.  All we lack is the political will because of widespread and well-funded political propaganda that asserts its “too expensive”, “socialistic”, “not market-based” or “infeasible” pumped out by the elite who don’t intend to undermine their position of economic and political power. Our choice, as Russell Brand suggests in his book, Revolution, is ditch capitalism and save the planet, or ditch the planet and save capitalism.

      1. Frankly

        Capitalism impoverishes masses of people simultaneously as it enriches an ever-shrinking number of elites.

        Good to see the Marxist / communist rhetoric in full color!

        Never mind that capitalist nations’ poor live better than 95% of the people on the globe.  Relative sadness is a sad thing indeed.

        1. Dave Hart

          Not so much Marxist/communist as science-based and common sense.  At least that’s how I think of myself.  You will note my source is the CIA which may be suspect as a source of information. And I’m not so sure about how “sad” the poorest are who live in capitalist nations compared to the poorest who don’t live in capitalist nations.  I’d like to see your happiness poll numbers 🙂

        2. Frankly

          The relative sadness I was referring to is envy.  One of the routine natural destructive emotions of humanity.

          See here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_anti-capitalist_and_communist_parties_with_national_parliamentary_representation

          Then see here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_average_wage

          It seems if you are more in love with a left-sided ideology while also being real about the human condition, you would opine for those democratic socialist countries like Germany, Norway, Finland, Denmark, etc.

          But in all cases it would mean a drop in disposable income level.

          It is really simple.  Allowing successful people to earn and retain more income and wealth in a more free democratic capitalist system lifts all boats but the people in them will be unhappy if they entertain envy because the gaps between well off and less well off will be be larger.

          Adopt a socialist, Marxist or communist model and everyone will have less but there will be less sadness from envy.

          In this country, the guy up the street in the bigger house does not impact your prosperity, but he can influence your envy.  The question is… is that his problem or your problem?  I say it is your problem, but with enough of “you” getting traction in political power then it will end up being his problem.  That is until you and others truly run out of other people’s money, then it will be everyone’s problem AGAIN!

        3. Tia Will

          Frankly

          Never mind that capitalist nations’ poor live better than 95% of the people on the globe.”

          Never mind that we do this by exploiting the labor of the uneducated, women and children in other countries where they remain hidden and those of us buying the cheap goods do not have to see how these goodies are produced.

          I will agree with you about “capitalism” the day you show me this accumulation of wealth being achieved without subsistence level wages somewhere on earth.

        4. Frankly

          Never mind that we do this by exploiting the labor of the uneducated, women and children in other countries where they remain hidden and those of us buying the cheap goods do not have to see how these goodies are produced.

          Tia – you consistently demonstrate a propensity to connect with human struggle and frame it using a victim mentality that references some nebulous benchmark of your making.  I think egalitarianism is a bit of a malady if not controlled for reality.  You say that US consumption is exploitative of uneducated women and children in other countries, yet 99% of those people are given better lives because of the work and pay provided them.   Reality requires a relative benchmark, not one that compares everyone to an average Davis lifestyle.

          I really don’t understand this thinking that consumption is a bad thing because it causes people in other countries to work producing the products consumed.  It franky (because I am) boggles the mind.

      2. Topcat

        When people are impoverished, they tend to have much larger families to insure some kind of social security in old age.

        Yes, many of the poorest countries also have the highest birth rates. It’s a bit of a “Chicken and egg” situation.  Do you try to improve people’s economic situation by encouraging them to have less children or do you try to improve economic situations and hope that people will start having less children?  The situation is further complicated by religious beliefs that large families and lots of children are a good thing and political beliefs that more people provide a political advantage.

        Different countries have taken different approaches. Interesting to note that China instituted their “One child” policy and they have been enjoying a rapid improvement in standard of living for many people.  It makes sense that reducing population growth is a reasonable approach to reducing poverty.

         

         

        1. Dave Hart

          I would suggest that you do both while being mindful that you cannot legislate socially desirable behavior.  It requires a sense of community and pulling together for a common good.  It also requires a kind of faith in each other and trust in leadership, something that is lacking in the current political climate.

      3. Tia Will

        DaveHart

        You are correct that the population issue did not play out as Malthus predicted. However, I believe that it is too simplistic to claim that only one factor is causal, namely poverty. Poverty and population are synergistic factors. For any population, be it cells, or bacteria or yeast, or other animal species the key is balance. A balance of space, resources, alliances ( whether intentional or incidental ) is required to optimize well being of both the individual and the species.

        In our case, you correctly correlate poverty with the perceived need to have more children so that at least one will survive. However, this overlooks the many other solutions that societies have developed for caring for their old given differing philosophies and values. A few examples:

        1. Some native American groups, recognizing death as a natural part of life, chose to end their own lives naturally when they realized that they could no longer contribute nor keep up with the group.

        2. Some societies choose to make the care of the old a natural societal function and maintain extended families to perform this function rather than making people pay for it.

        3. Some societies, those with enough wealth distributed broadly enough, will hire individuals lower on the economic ladder to come into the home to provide elder care just as is done for child care.

        There are many strategies for the care of humans who are unable to care for themselves. The strategy of producing ever more humans for this function whether driven by poverty, or by a declining number of citizens seems to me to be a very short sighted strategy at a time when readily available information and technology would allow us to devise better methods than over population.

        1. wdf1

          Tia Will:  However, I believe that it is too simplistic to claim that only one factor is causal, namely poverty.

          Acknowledging that there are additional factors, a big one is also education.  It is observed worldwide that women who attain higher levels of education are likelier to limit the number of children they have.

          A U.S. example of where this trend (educating women) holds is in the failure of “abstinence only” sex education.  In this case the lack of education is specifically education related to sex and reproductive health.

          “Abstinence only” meaning some close variation of “the only thing you need to know about sex is don’t have it and don’t worry about it until you get married.”  A far better strategy is a broader curriculum that includes discussions about relationships, what’s involved with pregnancy, baby care and parenting, sex, STI’s, contraception, even abortion.  I think teens, and especially young women (teens), will likelier make intelligent choices when the full context is provided.

  8. wdf1

    Republicans Understand Climate Change, But Only Behind Closed Doors

    Titley said his takeaway from this stroll was that not all Republicans were in “Senator Inhofe’s camp,” and that there was a reasonable middle searching for a way to talk about the issue without jeopardizing their jobs. “No one wants to be the next Bob Inglis,” he said, referencing the long-serving South Carolina congressman who acknowledged climate change and then lost the 2010 primaries to a Tea Party challenger. “They certainly understand where the politics are. But they’re not denying the science. They say of all the issues, this is not really, this is certainly not high in the constituency’s mind and what’s the upside for them getting far out on this issue.”

     

    All this suggests more than we already know about the Republican field: Every announced and expected presidential candidate might publicly deny climate change, but at least one of them has had a private tutorial on the basics of the science. He has no excuse. 

    1. Frankly

      Polls show most Americans believe in climate change, but give it low priority.

      http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/09/23/most-americans-believe-in-climate-change-but-give-it-low-priority/

      But there is a VERY large split between what Republicans say they believe and what Democrats say they believe.

      The reason is that the Democrats are pursuing it as a catalyst for their liberal ideological and environmental extreme agenda.  Democrats like it for this reason and so they say they believe it.  Republicans see it as a power play by the left and reject it for that reason.

      So if you are a GOP politician you have your constituents screaming at you to fight it at all costs because it is clearly not a scientific issue as much as it is a political tool being used by the left.

       

        1. Frankly

          The question is do they believe it is man made climate change.  Because if it is not man made, then the political remedies from the left are all useless.

        2. wdf1

          Frankly:  The question is do they believe it is man made climate change.

          The first step is to “admit that there is a problem” which in this case, global warming and related climate change.  The follow up question is, “why is this happening?”  The best explanation is human-connected activity.  It will take a little while, but in the absence of any other stronger alternative explanation, then human-connected activity will be it.

  9. DT Businessman

    Interesting.  This is the elephant that I see in this room:

     

    “To mitigate climate change, spare nature and address global poverty requires nothing less, they argue, than “intensifying many human activities — particularly farming, energy extraction, forestry and settlement — so that they use less land and interfere less with the natural world.””

     

    All the while we continue to practice unsustainable land use policies in California dominated by 1-story, hyper-inefficient (land/energy/water/transportation-infrastructure), suburban sprawl, both residential and commercial.

     

    -Michael

    1. Dave Hart

      Right you are, Michael, and to overcome this outmoded and inefficient, even wasteful form of development we also have to say that market forces shall not be allowed to be the sole determinant.  We have to intervene.  We, the citizenry, the voters, the people, the community or however it needs to be described.  It necessarily becomes a pitched battle between capitalism with profit-maximizing free market, no government intervention ideology and communities of people who are not setting maximized profit as the goal.  This is the same conflict over the water issues and drought declarations.  Agricultural (water as an economic commodity in a capitalist enterprise) versus residential (lifestyle, non-economic, quality of life value).  Climate forces, regardless of whether they are man-made or not are forcing the issue of resource use and allocation and to what extent a capitalist system of organizing our economy is more important than human and natural world (environmental) welfare.

        1. Dave Hart

          It would be an interesting exchange.  I would love to ask old Joe in person if what I said is not pertinent or untrue.  I think if he were true to his word, he would say “F*@k the environment you little communist prick!”

      1. DT Businessman

        It’s not clear to me how my land use comment was co-opted for use in this weird pro versus anti-capitalism thing going on here.  First of all, capitalism is not practiced in this country* so I don’t know why anyone is defending or bashing it.  What we’re witnessing here on the DV are two strawmen hacking away at each other.  Second of all, I don’t anyone who supports banishing land -use regulations.

         

        *There are no free markets in this country.  Both “capitalists” and non-capitalists in this country support regulated markets and both protagonists generally favor limiting competition.  “Capitalists” favor free markets and competition when they seek to enter markets.  Once they’re in the market, they seek every means to create barriers to competition while regulating the market to favor themselves.

         

        -Michael

        1. Dave Hart

          Your comment that started this discussion was:

          All the while we continue to practice unsustainable land use policies in California dominated by 1-story, hyper-inefficient (land/energy/water/transportation-infrastructure), suburban sprawl, both residential and commercial.

          Land developers, construction companies, suppliers of the equipment used in construction, etc., etc., are all capitalist enterprises.  They run businesses designed to make a profit on investment.  To the extent that markets aren’t “free” or that markets are constrained by public policy does not mean that capitalist relations have ended; rather it only describes a reformed version of capitalism that accepts these constraints as an aid to businesses like child labor laws.  But the question is definitely about the ability of businesses involved in land use development to make a profit and the circumstances posed by the market in real estate and public land use policy.  If businesses involved feel they are being treated unfairly or illegally, they go to court and let the legal system decide.  The courts are there to protect capitalist economic relations in ownership.  All of this is part of a capitalist system.  It sure as heck ain’t socialism.  It’s so integral to how we do business, many of us don’t even recognize it.  It’s not a straw argument any more than the question of whether the Governor can tell farmers what crops they can plant.

           

        2. Frankly

          It is democratic capitalism eroding toward democratic socialism.  The former is imperfect but more sustainable if honored.  The later is imperfect and unsustainable.  Those that obsessed with continually repeating attempts to try and fail again in a more collectivist model are giddy with glee over the global warming alarmist narrative because they can use it to claim that the former is unsustainable.

  10. DT Businessman

    Just to be sure no one here mistakes my position.  There are many avenues for promoting the common good.  It can be done through for-profits, non-profits, government, etc (all of which I actively participate in).  So in that sense, my views are aligned with those underlying Robb’s satirical post further above.

     

    -Michael

    1. Dave Hart

      Since I’m logged in under my real name, I agree with your position as well.  Promoting the common good and protecting any notion of the commons is my intent as well.

       

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