• James Riley
    2.9k
    Assume we have needs on the left: Space, air, water, food, and to a variable extent, clothing, shelter and society. On the right we have wants. Assume there is something everyone wants. Call it X. Assume the creation of X results in an unavoidably necessary byproduct called Y. Let’s say Y is universally understood as bad.

    Now, let’s say the most cost-effective way of getting rid of Y is to drip it into the food supply at rates that seems to be relatively harmless. The jury is still out (especially on long-term impacts to needs), but all the scientific evidence points to a relatively innocuous impact of the most cost-effective method of disposal. The greater the consuming population, the greater the dilution, the less harmful Y becomes, and the more cost-effective the method is.

    Some people think the cost/benefit analysis makes it worthwhile to keep creating X. Others (who also want X) don’t think it is worth the costs. They forego X.

    Should any accommodation be made for those who decline to avail themselves of X in defense of needs?
  • T Clark
    10.2k
    Assume we have needs on the left: Space, air, water, food, and to a variable extent, clothing, shelter and society. On the right we have wants. Assume there is something everyone wants. Call it X. Assume the creation of X results in an unavoidably necessary byproduct called Y. Let’s say Y is universally understood as bad.James Riley

    In general, diluting chemical substances to meet toxicity standards is not allowed under US environmental law. I assume that's similar in most other countries. Requirements are even more stringent when it comes to putting something into food. I can't imagine a situation where putting toxic substances into the food supply would be acceptable. Right now it is common to discharge chemicals, after treatment, into the air and water. There are rigorous laws and regulations that would be applicable. That would be a natural way of dealing with the material.

    Getting back to dilution - although you can't usually use dilution to meet standards, those standards themselves often take dilution into account along with other mitigation mechanisms such as chemical or biological degradation in the environment, absorption onto soil, and others.

    As for "cost-effective," just being cheaper doesn't make it cost effective. You have to take into account the effective part too. As I noted, any technology that required discharge of toxic substances into the environment at concentrations above standards developed based on risk to humans would not be considered effective.
  • Caldwell
    1k
    Should any accommodation be made for those who decline to avail themselves of X in defense of needs?James Riley
    Yes.
  • Bitter Crank
    11.2k
    Dilution is the perfect solution to pollution when we live next to an infinitely long river. Unfortunately for us, the finite river into which we dilute our waste is always upstream from us. And 9 times out of 10, we draw our drinking water from the insufficiently diluting river. Whatever it is, polyfluoroalkyl, polychlorinated biphenyls, or just plain chickenshit, "the diluting stream" is too short, to shallow, and too slow. So--the oceans are also finite--we can't dilute our way out of pollution.

    There is no chance that we will stop polluting; it's a question of what kind of pollution we will produce. Maybe we should stop producing "forever chemicals like polyfluoroalkyl. Maybe we should stop losing so much nitrogen fertilizer through field runoff. (Stopping wasteful field runoff is not rocket science.)
  • boagie
    224
    The solution to world pollution is reducing human population.
  • 180 Proof
    10.2k
    IME, the most efficient "dissolution of pollution" would be a global transition to a (spaceship systems-like) circular economy.
  • bert1
    1.2k
    This OP badly needs an example
  • dclements
    493
    IME, the most efficient "dissolution of pollution" would be a global transition to a (spaceship systems-like)180 Proof

    I was about to say the same thing but I was thinking of building a space-elevator since sending anything into space with today's technology is both very cost/energy prohibited way of getting anything up there without a space elevator.



    Space elevator
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_elevator

    Or if that isn't feasible, build a thermal bore hole (again another idea from Alpha Centauri) and stuff any crap we don't want below the crust's surface. Of course there would be an issue with how to transport certain waste to either the space elevator or to a thermal bore hole to get rid of it, but that would be an issue with almost any way we have of getting rid of it.
  • James Riley
    2.9k


    I know, right? I was thinking more from a sociological/morality standpoint but the thread title I used was not very helpful. However, I've noticed these threads can "morph around" to different ideas and tracks, so I'm just reading and learning.
  • T Clark
    10.2k
    Assume we have needs on the left: Space, air, water, food, and to a variable extent, clothing, shelter and society. On the right we have wants. Assume there is something everyone wants. Call it X. Assume the creation of X results in an unavoidably necessary byproduct called Y. Let’s say Y is universally understood as bad.James Riley

    This OP badly needs an examplebert1

    The US has a complex system of laws and regulations that deals with treatment and disposal of wastes from industrial operations. The goal is to force the inclusion of the waste management costs in the overall cost of the item. The whole need/want distinction doesn't apply. Whether it should is a different question.
  • James Riley
    2.9k
    The US has a complex system of laws and regulations that deals with treatment and disposal of wastes from industrial operations. The goal is to force the inclusion of the waste management costs in the overall cost of the item.T Clark

    Yes, this was part of my forte back in the day. When I first started out, I was naïve enough to think that "cradle to grave" for hazardous waste actually meant generation of the product to disposal. (I think that was RCRA, not sure any more). But, turns out, cradle is when the waste is created. Thus, the manufacturer of the product is not liable for how the product he makes is actually used, nor for the by-product of the use (waste). The manufacturer of the product gets to take the money and wash his hands of the whole thing. The generation of waste is on the user. So you get a user buying a product cheaper than the real cost, using it, and ending up with 55 gallons of waste that must be legally disposed of at a cost greater than what he paid for the product in the first place, or greater than his profits from sale of what he made with it.

    The cost of legal disposal is so great that the barrel can be attached to the bottom of a semi-tractor trailer and dripped out, drip by drip, on an intra-continental trip. Or dumped in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Or at sea. Or run through RVs into RV park dump stations. It's called "midnight dumping."

    But what if some "legit" company goes to the science lab and has their scientists dream up a "legitimate" "use" for the waste. Say the waste slows bacterial or mold growth on bread. So they repackage it and sell it to bread companies as an ingredient, on the label. And, because they are huge, and legit, everyone looks the other way, pretends, or is actually as naïve as I was? (As a side issue, they then PR with how they "reduce, recycle and reuse" like a good green company, per RCRA.)

    We might say that if the costs cannot be legitimately internalized, then the generator does not have a viable business model and should not be in business. But what if we all *want* what he produces? Think of all the employees, blah blah blah. We end up with the open conspiracy where a "good" person is squeezed out of doing the right thing.
  • Caldwell
    1k
    This OP badly needs an examplebert1
    Oil extraction by hexane. Canola oil.

    Does this count?
  • TheMadFool
    13.9k


    Is dilution the solution to pollution? — James Riley

    :clap: :100:

    All I know is that it's a scientifically valid method. If not homeopathy is legit. See :point: homeopathic dilutions.

    Since water & air are the most voluminous diluents available, they seem to be the obvious choices. I wonder though whether some toxins are so potent that they're still harmful at even homeopathic dilutions. The late James Randi in a TED talk claims that the concentration of the active ingredient in homeopathic "medicines" is 1 atom in a volume of water the size of our solar system! I believe the relevant paramater is median lethal dose or . Check out Wikipedia for more on that.

  • T Clark
    10.2k
    Thus, the manufacturer of the product is not liable for how the product he makes is actually used, nor for the by-product of the use (waste).James Riley

    The party that generates the waste is responsible for managing it. The product manufactured is not waste. A material doesn't become waste until it is thrown away. That seems like a reasonable way to handle it.

    There is no doubt in the world that RCRA is a clunky, complicated set of laws and regulations, but it has made a difference in how chemical wastes are managed. When I was a cabinetmaker, we used to dump used solvent out on the railroad tracks behind our shop. I'm sure there are plenty of small companies that still do things like that, but DuPont and Monsanto generally don't.

    The cost of legal disposal is so great that the barrel can be attached to the bottom of a semi-tractor trailer and dripped out, drip by drip, on an intra-continental trip. Or dumped in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Or at sea. Or run through RVs into RV park dump stations. It's called "midnight dumping."James Riley

    Sure, it can, but it doesn't. At least not in the great majority of cases. If you're looking for a perfect set of laws and regulations with perfect enforcement, RCRA definitely isn't one although, as I've noted, it's made a big difference.

    I guess the important point for me in relation to this particular discussion is that, when your Substance Y is generated as waste, it will likely be managed under solid or hazardous waste laws and regulations that already exist. There won't be a new policy. If you want to talk about the inadequacies of existing policy, that seems to me to be a different subject.
  • James Riley
    2.9k
    The party that generates the waste is responsible for managing it. The product manufactured is not waste. A material doesn't become waste until it is thrown away. That seems like a reasonable way to handle it.T Clark

    I have to be careful here, because that is exactly how I feel about guns. So yes, maybe the manufacturer is not liable for how his product is used. But, that end user needs to burn to the ground if he externalizes the costs by spreading the waste around to those who did not agree to carry those costs; especially those who didn't even avail themselves of the user's product from which the byproduct resulted. Putting a warning in the fine print of a food label has all the morality of a "By using this software you agree to get fucked without Astroglide" clause in an online access click.

    Anyway, I now recognize I failed in my OP. I think back to "what was I thinking" when I wrote "Is dilution the solution to pollution?" I must have been trying to be cute or something. I really didn't want to discuss RCRA or specifics. I was trying to get at the idea of society, needs, wants, cost externalization, who bears, who should bear, who (if anyone) should not bear? Should loss be compensated? Should compensation, if any, be off set by some perceived benefit? Is this all worked out with, or lost in election of representatives to make the calls? I think of our resident libertarians. Is society making conscious decisions regarding cost-effectiveness? Is society just looking the other way in open conspiracy? If society is spreading a burden, shouldn't it at least say "Okay, we know this is bad, but we are going to do it anyway because we think the benefits outweigh the costs." Is it just a matter of "There are going to be winners and losers" without actually addressing the losers?

    Are we all just a bunch of children let loose in a mall, without supervision? Or are we adults? Or is there no such think as "adult."

    Anyway, I accept full responsibility for the failed articulation of the OP. Maybe I'll try again some other day.
  • T Clark
    10.2k
    spreading the waste around to those who did not agree to carry those costs; especially those who didn't even avail themselves of the user's product from which the byproduct resulted.James Riley

    There aren't many who "didn't even avail themselves." Almost everything we use in our technological society generates waste, some more toxic than others. Our food is grown with chemicals. We drive our cars using gasoline. Electronic stuff uses all sorts of toxic materials. Nobody really gets off the hook. I grew up in a Dupont family - Better things for better living through chemistry.

    really didn't want to discuss RCRA or specifics. I was trying to get at the idea of society, needs, wants, cost externalization, who bears, who should bear, who (if anyone) should not bear? Should loss be compensated? Should compensation, if any, be off set by some perceived benefit?James Riley

    I recognized that you had a broader question in mind. I wasn't trying to be difficult in my response. I guess I was bothered by how simplistic you had made it by ignoring our society as it now exists. The hazardous waste management system was exactly set up to deal with "who bears, who should bear, who (if anyone) should not bear." You can say it doesn't do it very well and I won't disagree. The idea of including all the costs, even indirect ones, into the cost of products is controversial. People don't like it when you make it harder to make money.

    If society is spreading a burden, shouldn't it at least say "Okay, we know this is bad, but we are going to do it anyway because we think the benefits outweigh the costs."James Riley

    Again, I guess I think it already does do that; perhaps badly, unfairly, even corruptly; with our environmental laws. You have had the misfortune to get involved in a discussion of environmental issues with a retired environmental engineer who hasn't had a chance to be a smarty-pants for a while.
  • James Riley
    2.9k
    There aren't many who "didn't even avail themselves." Almost everything we use in our technological society generates waste, some more toxic than others. Our food is grown with chemicals. We drive our cars using gasoline. Electronic stuff uses all sorts of toxic materials. Nobody really gets off the hook. I grew up in a Dupont family - Better things for better living through chemistry.T Clark

    I've often made the argument against NOS and libertarians that there is no hypocrisy in doing X if to not do X actually works at cross-purposes to the goal (if I save a gallon of gas, I increase supply, reducing price, stimulating demand, encouraging a person with a low mileage vehicle to pollute my air while I walk). I make this argument when they say Gretta Thunberg or Al Gore are hypocrites for flying instead of swimming across the ocean to fight for their cause. The guy who wants to kill Saddam Hussein is not a hypocrite for backing a U.S. war instead of flying over there and trying to hunt Saddam down by himself. Some things need collective action to do. In other words, I find the universal blame argument to be BS. It's not like anyone has a choice.

    We have been deprived of choice. But my question is, by who? By society, thinking consciously, after an honest and open discussion of the costs and benefits? Or by Dupont and the private-for-profit corporations buying legislatures, and everyone looking the other way while dangerous chemicals are placed into the stream of commerce?

    For Dupont to say we all benefit, and look at all the employment, and taxes paid, good things coming to life, etc. presupposes a conscious decision; not by Dupont, but by society. Did the markets get in on the decision making? Did Dupont insure? Or did they get statutory limits on liability? Did they bond? Or did they shrug it off on the purchaser? Did they accept returns, like a can or a bottle? Or did they obstruct incentive to return?

    I'm not denying the way things are. I am asking if they are the way they are after a knowing, informed, arm's length, conscious decision by the parties (i.e. the public), or did they become the way they are through private-for-profit cost externalization? Think big tobacco.

    (That brings to mind alcohol: That is one case where it seems to me the public actually hashed it all out and decided honestly to bear the costs in return for the benefits. Was that done for anything else?)

    I guess I was bothered by how simplistic you had made it by ignoring our society as it now exists.T Clark

    I did not ignore how our society exist. Quite the contrary. My purposefully oblique OP (notwithstanding the unfortunate title) was specifically designed to get a discussion going on whether our society should exist as it does, did it come about intentionally, and who's intention was it? The public's? Or some other entity? Who should bear costs? Should there be any accommodation for those who don't participate? Or don't want to participate? I tried to make that clear with the distinction between needs and wants, and the threat of wants to needs. See also the concluding question.

    The hazardous waste management system was exactly set up to deal with "who bears, who should bear, who (if anyone) should not bear." You can say it doesn't do it very well and I won't disagree. The idea of including all the costs, even indirect ones, into the cost of products is controversial. People don't like it when you make it harder to make money.T Clark

    I know the SARA, RCRA, etc. I know what is. My question is about whether the public knew, and if an opportunity was offered to not pay the cost. The fact that people don't like it when you make it harder to make money is a comment that actually gets to my OP. Thanks. So, did those people get their way through free market forces? After the public was honestly and openly informed? Or are our politicians part of the market, to be bought? Should there be compensation for bearing costs? Are taxes paid to help pick up the mess? Is Superfund part of that? Is that adequate for the kid with growths on his brain?

    Again, I guess I think it already does do that; perhaps badly, unfairly, even corruptly; with our environmental laws. You have had the misfortune to get involved in a discussion of environmental issues with a retired environmental engineer who hasn't had a chance to be a smarty-pants for a while.T Clark

    To the extent it does do it badly, unfairly, or even corruptly, why is that? Can it be done better? Should it be done better? You've had the misfortune to get involved in a discussion of environment issues with a former environmental lawyer who starved when he wore a white hat and made a killing wearing a black hat for one of (actually the) largest ag corporations in the U.S.

    But I really didn't want to get into any of those specifics. Going back to my OP, I'm wondering if anyone here has any ideas, not about where we are (which we all know) but how we got here and where we might go from here. Not on an individual statutory basis, but generally, from a societal, social, government angle. Specifically, how should our needs stack up to our wants? Is it capitalism's goal to take a need, which is free and abundant, and reduce it to a point where it can be sold for profit? (water, air, space) All by catering to wants? And without informed consent of the public?

    Anyway, I missed the target.
  • T Clark
    10.2k
    Some things need collective action to do. In other words, I find the universal blame argument to be BS.James Riley

    I didn't see my response as blaming anyone, it's just not as simple as you make it out to be. I have a lot of respect for our environmental laws and the effort it has taken to pass, implement, and enforce them. This is especially true given the knee-jerk resistance from industry and their political friends. It's made a big difference. I've seen first hand how clunky the system is, but it has worked. It has made things better. That is collective action.

    Or by Dupont and the private-for-profit corporations buying legislatures, and everyone looking the other way while dangerous chemicals are placed into the stream of commerce?James Riley

    Dangerous chemicals were placed in the stream of commerce from the beginning of humanity. People have been shitting in the river upstream from their neighbors since Og met Eep. It took thousands of years for restrictions to even try to catch up. The world used to be big enough you could dump stuff and nobody would notice. That doesn't work any more. It has also turned out that the hidden out of the way places we've been dumping stuff - wetlands, rivers, oceans - are just about the worst places to dump stuff.

    So, did those people get their way through free market forces? After the public was honestly and openly informed? Or are our politicians part of the market, to be bought?James Riley

    The answer here is the same as for all other cases where there is conflict between what's right for people and what's right for them what's got. Sometimes the good guys win. Sometimes they lose. Usually a little bit of both.

    Should there be compensation for bearing costs? Are taxes paid to help pick up the mess? Is Superfund part of that? Is that adequate for the kid with growths on his brain?James Riley

    The cleanup laws; federal, state, local; are theoretically set up to make the one that benefitted from contaminating the world pay. As always, the process machinery is creaky and sometimes breaks down.

    To the extent it does do it badly, unfairly, or even corruptly, why is that?James Riley

    Because that's the way everything works. Laws and regulations are not a good substitute for good intentions, good neighbors, and stewardship of our world. This is especially true when the goals you are working for are controversial and cost money.

    I'm sorry if I took your discussion somewhere different from what you intended.
  • James Riley
    2.9k
    I didn't see my response as blaming anyone,T Clark

    I found these comments to sound in blame:

    There aren't many who "didn't even avail themselves.T Clark

    Nobody really gets off the hook.T Clark

    Maybe I shouldn't have said "blame."

    Dangerous chemicals were placed in the stream of commerce from the beginning of humanity. People have been shitting in the river upstream from their neighbors since Og met Eep. It took thousands of years for restrictions to even try to catch up. The world used to be big enough you could dump stuff and nobody would notice. That doesn't work any more. It has also turned out that the hidden out of the way places we've been dumping stuff - wetlands, rivers, oceans - are just about the worst places to dump stuff.T Clark

    Again, while I could dissect that (rocket scientists are still polluting outer-space, because they think it's too big?), it is basically a recitation of the way things are. Which I can stipulate to. I wasn't trying to get at the way things are in my OP. I'm trying to get people to talk about where we go from here and what we should know before making decisions.

    The answer here is the same as for all other cases where there is conflict between what's right for people and what's right for them what's got. Sometimes the good guys win. Sometimes they lose. Usually a little bit of both.T Clark

    Okay, so we shrug. Meh. Nothing to see here folks, move on.

    The cleanup laws; federal, state, local; are theoretically set up to make the one that benefitted from contaminating the world pay. As always, the process machinery is creaky and sometimes breaks down.T Clark

    And, we should . . . ?

    Because that's the way everything works. Laws and regulations are not a good substitute for good intentions, good neighbors, and stewardship of our world. This is especially true when the goals you are working for are controversial and cost money.T Clark

    Bonding? Insuring? Publication in more than the Federal Register and the CFRs? Or just keep the foot on the gas and let's roll!

    I'm sorry if I took your discussion somewhere different from what you intended.T Clark

    I honestly don't think it's your fault. As I've confessed, my OP was really lacking; especially the dumb title. The only real bite I got was:

    Should any accommodation be made for those who decline to avail themselves of X in defense of needs?
    — James Riley
    Yes.
    Caldwell

    I would have liked to have heard more on what the yes would entail, but I'd be happy to put a bullet in this thread. :lol:
  • James Riley
    2.9k


    P.S. As a little background, I'm always giving NOS shit about a lack of alternatives. We just have to suck it up whether we like it or not. But I wanted to dive a little deeper and see if there is a way to accommodate those who don't want to play. Especially if the game being played is inimical to wellbeing.
  • Caldwell
    1k
    I would have liked to have heard more on what the yes would entail, but I'd be happy to put a bullet in this thread. :lol:James Riley
    That's the answer you deserve. :cool:
  • James Riley
    2.9k
    That's the answer you deserve. :cool:Caldwell

    :up:
  • Caldwell
    1k
    :up:James Riley
    What's this? :confused:
  • James Riley
    2.9k
    What's this? :confused:Caldwell

    That's the answer you deserve. :cool:
  • Caldwell
    1k
    That's the answer you deserve. :cool:James Riley
    A pop-up error should have come up.
    A thread devoted to serious talk shouldn't have nonsense like that.

    Anyway, here's a serious answer:

    You said everyone wants X, but then for those who decline to avail themselves of X, should there be an accommodation? In terms of the pollution that X creates?
    I don't understand the OP I guess. If X is legal to produce, and disposal of wastes as a result of X is also legal, then the answer is no.
  • T Clark
    10.2k


    One more thought - If you want to know what we can do to make things better, the answer is simple and obvious - vote Democratic.
  • James Riley
    2.9k
    vote Democratic.T Clark

    :up: Agreed.
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