What a 19th Century Philosopher can tell us about energy conservation

Posted July 11th, 2011 by The Environment Site with No Comments

Back in the 19th century, philosopher William Hazlitt stated we are only “imaginatively connected” to our future self whereas we are naturally connected to our past and present self. But what does a deep thinker like Hazlitt have to tell us about today’s energy debate?

It has something to do with the fact we unconsciously believe that our future self is someone else, not us; that our grasp on the future is tenuous at best and our motivations are totally rooted in the present: My gas bill is going up by 20 per cent so I am going to switch provider rather than save energy; I have just had a new lawn laid so will use as much tap water as I need to make sure it survives despite the ridiculously dry spring we have just experienced.

Our present self finds it hard to make decisions based on anything other than our immediate needs and wants. In Australia, scientists receive death threats because they advocate a carbon tax; China threatens financial retaliation if the EU includes foreign airlines in its Emissions Trading Scheme…countries, not just individuals, find it hard to look beyond the immediate.

Monday Morning
It is the classic Monday Morning Syndrome: I know I should have ironed a shirt on Sunday evening as I have a busy start to the week, I had plenty of time but couldn’t be bothered. Future Me will deal with the problem. On Monday morning I rush around dealing with the issue, making myself late cursing my lack of attention to the problem on Sunday night.

We are collectively leaving the problems on climate change to our future selves. That is bad enough, but we are also leaving them to future generations. Saving a few pounds now to meet the build budget, stores up problems for the future when the building rapidly becomes unfit for purpose. We know what will happen, but leave Future Self to deal with it.
A plumber leaves out an 80p isolating valve and a few years later his successor has to spend three hours trying to isolate the water supply in order to change the washer on a dripping tap. Everything we do now has consequences in the future and those consequences are increasingly frightening.

Germany has announced it will abandon nuclear power and go all out for renewables…but in the meantime that is bound to lead to a significant increase in gas consumption. The UK is decommissioning its nuclear capacity, but nimbyism means every proposed wind or solar farm gets held up by planning red tape.

If you don’t want nuclear; or wind; or to pay more; and you don’t want the hassle…what do you want? You can’t leave everything to Future You and expect to keep the lights on.

David Frise is head of sustainability at the HVCA whose members are committed to delivering high quality, responsible and sustainable building services solutions. dfrise@hvca.org.uk

Read more at www.hvca.org.uk

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Have you joined us on Facebook yet?

Posted July 5th, 2011 by The Environment Site with No Comments

TheEnvironmentSite.org is growing and we are growing on all fronts.

Today I wanted to let you know that we are on Facebook as well. Why not check out the latest jobs and other interesting discussions.

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On the proper way to limit overpopulation 2

Posted April 19th, 2011 by The Environment Site with No Comments

In a previous article of mine, I discussed how to limit overpopulation in the proper way if we speak about evolutionary time. My conclusion was something like the following: we should limit the number of the births, and we should do this by not allowing some people to reproduce – at least until they get richer – while encouraging others – the more useful for the community – to have as many children as they can. I based this position on the want of peace, and on the supposition that in these times biological evolution favors those who want children, and in a one-child-policy state those would multiply who beget triplets, which has to be avoided. But let’s refresh our thinking with new ideas, let everyone think on this important issue, and I give fuel to the thinking process by this new article.

I already got severe feedback and criticism for my previous article, and I think they liked the overpopulation topic but they didn’t like my actual solution. Someone thought it may be unjust to favor the rich or to determine the reproduction rights by human judgement, and someone thought my solution may be impossible to be realized in practice, at least in these times. I consider these criticism right, but I have to say that my solution would be better than nothing, and faith in the cause might make wonders. At the same time, I admit that a more realistic alternative should be given than my suggestion, moreover I criticize my previous suggestion further.

At first, we should examine the suppositions on which I based my suggestion. The first such is that biological evolution favours triplets. This isn’t necessarily true if biological mutations are not random and the world is governed by a good spirit. The works of such a spirit could drive evolution in an entirely different way than darwinian evolution predicts. Moreover, in our times even humans could intervene by technology to prevent the multiplication of triplet-begetters. (By the way, I don’t think that it would be beautiful.)

My second supposition was that begetting triplets and twins should not be common. Here comes the question: why? Is it not good to have brothers or sisters? The only drawback of begetting triplets or twins is that it is in conflict with the one-child-policy. But in these times the one-child-policy can be applied, and the triplet-begetters are not a huge obstacle to it. So my new suggestion is that in these times we should apply the one-child-policy, and allow begetting triplets and twins, but if the triplet-begetters proliferate in the uncertain future, the people should choose my original solution.

So my new conclusion is that we should apply the one-child-policy in these times in the countries which are overpopulated, but I have not yet discussed what is the proper way to apply that. My main argument is that the one-child-policy should be made more liberal, allowing the fortunate ones to have as many children as they can. This way everyone could hope that one day he or she will be allowed to have more children. Thus everyone should be allowed to have one child or to give one multiple birth, but everything beyond that should be governed by ever changing state laws, depending on the current population, which should make it possible for the very rich, and maybe for the generally rich to have as many children as they can, provided that they support the state with their money. This would be very similar to the one-child-policy laws already living in China.

Written by Arpad Fekete, this article is in the public domain just like the article it refers to.

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The End of Thinking Ahead

Posted March 31st, 2011 by The Environment Site with No Comments

We, as a species, have definitely lost something. We have lost the ability to plan ahead. All we seem to be able to do anymore is immediate and short term thinking . We have reached the point where five years is an eternity to us and anything farther down the road is a miracle. Do not even pretend to think about something 20 years or 40 years down the road. We are definitely living in the NOW era of human evolution and it is costing us gravely.

In our history we have built some of the greatest projects seen by humanity. In the distant past we find Stonehenge, the pyramids and the Great Wall of China. In the more recent past we find the Panama Canal and the Hoover Damn. All of these projects took long term planning and concentrated effort. Of course, many things such as the Great Wall and the Pyramids cost a lot in terms of life and human suffering but, the immensity of their longevity is incredible.

Things are much different now. If you try to talk to someone about global warming or climate change they simply cannot, or will, not look at something that far into the future.  All you hear is now, now and once again, now. If you try to discuss the phasing out of fossil fuels they will tell you that it cannot work because it will not work now. If you talk to them about the degradation of the aquifers they will tell you that it doesn’t matter because they are not empty today. These kinds of discussions are beyond most people today.
Any discussion you have about energy will run into this problem.

The problems with petroleum products are well known but if you try to suggest alternate methods the answer will always be some version of that will not work because everything we do NOW uses petroleum. Those who will argue against you will insist that any problem with oil is not immediate because there is enough and there has been enough. They cannot look down the road of time and see what will happen with projected usage.

Coal is the current magic bullet of the anti-environmental crowd.  The power is produced immediately and the supply seems plentiful. What they do not see, and will not see, is the pile of toxins and waste left behind. We produce a massive amount of coal ash. In 2009 we produced about 75,000,000 tons of coal ash and guess what we did with it. We dumped it into collection ponds for someone else to deal with later. This means we have produced about two pounds of coal ash for every man, woman and child in the United States for every single day of the year. So much for the solution to all our energy demands.

There is a sad flip-side to this inability to think ahead. The ugly and opposite face is the ability of people to put off dealing with something to later generations. Many people are perfectly willing to keep creating waste and leaving for our descendant to deal with. They are willing to do this with coal by-products, greenhouse gases and nuclear waste. Every landfill is a testament to this ability. Do not worry about it. They want to stick it in the ground somewhere and let someone else deal with it later. We do this with our household trash. We do this with our coal waste and we are willing to do this with our nuclear waste, too. How is that for an ability to delay reality and delay answers for later?

 

Further References

Stonehenge
Great Pyramids
Great Wall of China
Secret Costs Of Coal
Sourcewatch: Existing U.S. Coal Plants

 

Dee Neely is a freelance writer, avid technologist and a member of The Zeitgeist Movement.

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Scarcity: The Big Lie

Posted March 25th, 2011 by The Environment Site with No Comments

The entire economic system has its basis in scarcity, which is the idea that there simply are not enough of  things to go around.  Scarcity is defined by Investopedia as “The basic economic problem that arises because people have unlimited wants but resources are limited. Because of scarcity, various economic decisions must be made to allocate resources efficiently” There was a time when this was true but the scarcity which we see today is mostly an artificial construct. The problem is that with the increased ability of humanity to produce items through technology, the only way to effectively maintain scarcity is through manipulation.
We are told constantly that there isn’t enough energy to go around, but what this really means is that the companies which control the energy don’t want to lose control. While there are multiple means to provide energy the  arguments are all centered on cost; we are told that the cost of switching to renewable and accessible energy is simply too high. Of course, this is not true. There was a recent plan to remake the roads of America into solar power collectors. The critics answered that the thirty-five trillion dollars it would cost was prohibitive. How much do the transportation departments around the nation spend to maintain the roads we have? Forty trillion dollars every year.
The supply of crude oil is most definitely an example of manipulated scarcity. What does OPEC do when the price of oil goes too low? They cut back production and cause an artificial scarcity so they can keep their profit margins up. If you can keep the production up and you can cut it back to increase profits that is a direct manipulation of the market. This artificial method affects multiple other areas of supposed scarcity such as food.
The availability of food is manipulated all the time. In the United States we even pay farmers to maintain a scarcity of certain foodstuffs to keep from glutting the market and driving the price down.  In addition, the manipulation of fossil fuels leaves its mark on prices, for as the price of oil and energy is raised, the price of production and distribution goes up.  The price and availability of fossil fuels are also changing the availability of food in another way: in an attempt to find something to replace oil countries have turned to Ethanol. The main source of Ethanol is corn and as more corn goes towards replacing oil, the price and availability of many foods are affected.
However, none of this is really necessary because we have experienced an explosion of science and technology in the last century. Our machines are more efficient and we have the means to create limitless amounts of energy. We simply don’t. We don’t because the profit mongers and power brokers don’t want us to. It is up to us to force them to change their ways.

Further References:
Investopedia: Scarcity
Solar Roadways: A fantastic but, futile idea
OPEC Will Increase Oil Production
Wikipedia: OPEC : Economics
Wikipedia: Agricultural Subsidies
Wikipedia: Corn Ethanol

Picture Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rmgimages/4881843809

 

Dee Neely is a freelance writer, avid technologist and a member of The Zeitgeist Movement.

Technology. Good or Bad?

Posted March 24th, 2011 by The Environment Site with No Comments

It is a common attitude in the environmental movement that technology is something to be avoided. I have read posts and articles by multiple people that advocate the throwing away of technology, but the truth remains that we are tool making creatures. We have close animal relatives who use tools to this day and they still manage to live in harmony with nature while using appropriate technology. Primates use sticks and rocks, birds use sticks and otters use rocks. When we observe this in nature we can conclude that using tools and technology is neither good nor bad. It is the use to which they are put along, with the way they are implemented, that makes their impact good or bad. However some people think we should just to get rid of it all.

Unless we want to return to the trees it is impossible to remove all technology. The fire we use for heat, the shoes we wear on our feet, and the clothes that cover our bodies are all examples of technology. The use of tools is a part of our existence as human beings. They have been a piece of our lives ever since our ancestors started their first intentional fire. Technology flows through our history like the golden threads of a beautiful tapestry. We have let the tapestry get dirty and now it needs cleaning up.

The dirt on our tapestry is the result of technologies use by humans. When we were a young species we didn’t know how to clean up the messes we were leaving behind. We didn’t understand that pouring stuff in the water would kill us later. We didn’t understand that planting the same crop in the same place each year affected the quality. We certainly didn’t know that burning wood was putting pollution into the air. However we have learned better. But, in the course of learning, we let people take control who didn’t care. They used the methods and products for their own selfish needs and didn’t care about the effect on other people.

It is this lack of caring that lies at the core of our environmental problems. So many of our problems from war to racism to abuse to crime find fertile ground here. It is fed by the economic system which encourages the amassing of personal profit at the expense of others. In order to prevent further environmental degradation we need to change this. Only when we have truly modified our mentality and approach to life can lasting changes be made. Any changes we make in the meantime will certainly suffer from that short-sighted approach to life. Technology will always be a part of us but we have to approach it in a rational and compassionate way.

This post has been written by Dee Neely, a member of our discussion forum.

Further References:

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We are looking for more bloggers – Apply today

Posted March 16th, 2011 by The Environment Site with No Comments

We need more bloggers as TheEnvironmentSite.org is moving into its next development phase. Over the next few weeks we are planning to increase our coverage of environmental, sustainability and reponsible business (CSR) topics from across the globe.

So are you interested in blogging about these topics on a site that has thousands of daily visits and a thriving online community?

If so why not get in touch and start or continue your blogging career with us. Just fill out the form below and we will be in touch shortly.

On the proper way to limit overpopulation

Posted February 22nd, 2011 by The Environment Site with No Comments

There are people who say that there is no overpopulation, and there are people who say that there is overpopulation but we shouldn’t do anything about it. I say that there is overpopulation and we should do something about it, but this article of mine is not about convincing people of this approach. I search for the answer to this question instead: how to limit population size in the proper way if we want to? I share my best current thoughts about the topic, allowing you to evaluate and rethink them.

Overpopulation was not a big problem in the ancient times, because wars, famine and diseases kept population size in its natural limits. The rise of civilizations and technology seems to have changed this situation, because we can feed many of the hungry in Africa, and we can cure most of the diseases, and we do it, because we are humane. Even wars cannot control population growth properly now, because we should not risk a nuclear war. If these three things – war, famine and disease – are not available to control population size, what other options do we have?

Some thinkers may come up with the advice „Go back to nature”, which would mean we should force mankind back to a state similar to the one which was prior to civilization. There are two problems with this approach. The first is that most of us don’t want to lose the advantages of civilization, for example comfort, security, power and information. The second problem is that the „Go back to nature” principle cannot be brought into effect in practice. At least it cannot be brought into practice in our times.

We can see one thing in common in war, famine and disease: all control overpopulation by increasing the number of deaths. As we don’t want this, we have only two options: the first is to find another planets to live, the other is to limit the number of births. As finding another planets to live seems to be a hard-to-believe option, we have to think on the possibility about limiting the number of births. After a so long introduction we can continue with the main thoughts of my writing.

The question is how we could limit the number of births in a sustainable, liberal and ethical manner. If some people may voluntarily choose not to have children, or to have less children, because of environmental thinking, then it is probable that in evolutionary time those would proliferate who don’t care for the environment as much and cannot control their instincts. Thus this solution wouldn’t be sustainable in evolutionary time, and it wouldn’t be just either. We have to compete for the rights of reproduction, because this is the law of natural selection.

There are some laws which control the way how we compete for reproduction, for example the law which says „Do not kill” or the one which says „Do not steal”. Other laws may be created to limit birth rates, like the one-child-policy in China. I can see two problems with the one-child-policy: firstly, it’s not liberal, and secondly, it doesn’t seem to be sustainable in evolutionary time, because those would proliferate who beget triplets. The conclusion from this is that birth control laws should work as evolution works.

We have come to the conclusion which we may call the principle of birth control: The more able, the more useful and the more fit for life should be encouraged to reproduce, and the less able, the less useful and the less fit for life should not reproduce or should have only one child. Implementations of this principle may differ in time and place, whether is should be measured by money or something else, how liberal it should be, whether punishment is necessary or is reward enough for the children of the compliers, and whether or not those may be encouraged to have a sexual relationship who should not beget children. After all, the principle remains the same, unless we can go to another planets to live. This principle would make the lives of the children better, because they would get the wealth they need. This principle would also help to reduce the monetary differences between people, because the money which would be inherited would be distributed between the children.

Until now, I couldn’t find a better solution than this, so I encourage people to start thinking about how to implement it.

Written by Arpad Fekete, a member of TheEnvironmentSite.org

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Top Tips for a Green Valentine’s day

Posted February 11th, 2011 by The Environment Site with No Comments

1. Flowers:
Don’t just buy any flowers or bouquets that look nice! Go to your local florist and ask what the most eco-friendly option would be. If you don’t have a florist around you just look around for organic flowers. It should be pretty easy to find some in the big supermarkets. Actually, I think I spotted some in Waitrose last week.

2. Cards:
You surely must have heard how bad paper is for the environment. If you want to wish something to your loved one why don’t just say it? If you are a bit more creative and you want to write a poem why not sing it? If you are too shy and you want to stick with a card that is still fine. Just make sure it is made out of recycled paper or you can even create it yourself from used magazines.

3. Champagne and Chocolates:
Everyone loves champagne but the problem is that it comes with a bottle and that can’t be good. Do a bit of research before buying a bottle of champagne or wine and find out which is the one with the most eco-friendly packaging. Make sure you recycle the bottle afterwards. Chocolates shouldn’t cause you too much trouble. Just grab an organic chocolate bar from your local store. There are plenty of them and they taste just as good as regular chocolate bars, if not better.

4. Hand Made Gifts:
There are plenty of products in the shops that your partner might like but what about a little creativity coming from you? Very often during a house clearance, and especially during an office clearance, I come across things that could make the perfect gift. Just be a bit creative with your old stuff in the house and I guarantee you that the end result will be much more appreciated! After all it’s the thought that counts.

5. Going out
Go for a romantic walk in the park. If you want to go to a specific location that is a bit further, use your bike. If the place is too far for a bike ride and you need to get on a plane you can catch a green flight! There are a lot of airlines that are already considered to be eco-friendly and others that are still testing the technology.

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The Tobacco Strategy

Posted November 16th, 2010 by The Environment Site with No Comments

The scientific community has established that the burning of fossil fuels is significantly and negatively changing earth’s climate; however, the fossil fuel industry is challenging this in order to protect their profits. They are using a strategy which is not new and was previously used first by the tobacco industry and then by the chemical industries with regard to acid rain, the ozone hole and DDT. Since it was used for the first time by the Tobacco Industry, Naomi Oreskes coined the term “The Tobacco Strategy” in her book entitled “Merchants of Doubt”.

The Tobacco Strategy is predicated upon buying time by sowing doubt. Given enough time, the truth must prevail so it is impossible to win these battles and the Contrarians are fully aware of this. However, if the inevitable is delayed by several decades, that is several decades of profit in the coffers of the industries that sponsor this strategy. Thus, profit is the motive and “The Tobacco Strategy” has been shown to be a very profitable strategy.

Sowing doubt is extremely easy since there is always a lack of certainty in the scientific community. Scientists state hypotheses and develop evidence to support the hypotheses but can never state with 100% certainty that a hypothesis is true. However, even when the confidence expressed by the scientific community is established to be 98%, there remains a two percent uncertainty with which doubt can be sowed among the gullible public.

The scientific community itself is manipulated to sow doubt against itself. There are always elements in the scientific community on the fringes who oppose mainstream science and these scientists, oftentimes with legitimate scientific credentials, are recruited to write pseudoscientific articles and give lectures to the unwary. Sham institutions such as the CATO Institute and the Heartland Institute are created to give the pseudoscience a facade of legitimacy.

In addition to the scientists on the fringe that are recruited, there unfortunately are those that prostitute themselves for financial gain. The financial gain is significant since these scientists knowingly embark upon a cause which ensures them of a negative legacy.

As discussed earlier, the Tobacco strategy is not new and has been used several times in the past. There is thus a wealth of experience from which to draw upon and unfortunately it is being used by the Climate Change Contrarians with consummate perfection. Unfortunately, the consequences of using this strategy to argue against Climate Change will be far more serious than past “Tobacco Strategy” campaigns.

Robert J. Guercio, October 11, 2010

*The information and ideas for this blog come from the book “Merchants of Doubt” by Naomi Oreskes

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