• Mongrel
    3k
    I do react badly to broad criticism of 'the green movement'. It isn't a mega-anything. Most green movers I know are just people in their spare time trying to draw attention to stuff that people obsessed by economic growth and so forth are not paying sufficient attention to. They get irritated with the egoism of a bloke like Lomborg - who does like the look of his own profile, let's face it - perhaps because many of them agree with him in private that much bigger steps are required sooner, but they in public carry on arguing for Kyoto/Paris-type agreements because they think something is better than nothing, and major symbolic acts can shift the mindset of the powerful. Trump leaving the Paris accord is a major symbolic act, so to speak only of its detailed effects is to miss the point.

    Certainly green people I know believe in small is beautiful - like Lomborg in a sense - smaller, targeted work is what's needed. Both he and David Archer think we have to work at technological solutions, which will happen if we work hard enough at them. Well, maybe if they make their voices heard in the right places such things will happen but I see no sign of it yet. Whenever I've supported such stuff in the UK for instance - as when the Conservatives got in in 2010 saying they would be the greenest government ever - their support for green research and business rapidly fell by the wayside and someone like me feels a fool for ever trusting the bastards. The Tories did the dirty on nascent solar industry companies, for example, and have ditched the Green Development Bank - which I'm now pledging money to, in its newly privatised state, 'cause I believe in these small-scale initiatives writ large a thousand times over. I'm the sort of chump who owns a share in a local wind turbine. That's why I don't take well to feeling I'm being criticised in comparison to a chap like Lomborg (who has his scientific critics), who has some sparky ideas and also has some tropes that he knows will play well with parts of the media.

    I don't think, incidentally, that Archer thinks we shouldn't cut down on emissions. My learning from him from way back when is that the effects are already longer-term than the populace thinks, and that only really drastic policies might have an effect now, including carbon capture storage and use. I personally agree with that, but I don't think it's a good reason not to buy into the next local turbine, or press for a Green economic policy, or make a hundred small changes locally to our river systems to mitigate the wave of floods we're experiencing where I live. In that sense I think Lomborg is a dangerous bloke because he waves at other policy initiatives that are purportedly better alternatives: this is not serious politics, it's wiseguyness, because for many people it's an excuse for more apathy.
    mcdoodle

    Definitely worth pondering Mcdoodle's take because it's a thoughtful greenness. Couple of questions:

    1. Why is a small approach better? How about nuclear power?

    2. You talk about an "excuse for apathy." I think this points again to the need for a centralized and large scale approach. Don't you agree that if the troops are lined up and disciplined, apathy is less of a problem? Which is more important: freedom or environmentalism?

    3. Archer makes the point that North American coal reserves are so large that it's a load of CO2 that will significantly impact the final outcome. But those reserves probably won't be mined and burned until sometime in the next century. Does this factor into your view? Or not?
  • Bitter Crank
    9.1k
    I think this points again to the need for a centralized and large scale approach.Mongrel

    I agree. The transition away from petroleum and coal is a very large scale process involving individual actions--yes, but millions and millions of individual actions--and very large macro-economic actions. Amory Lovins, co-founder and chief scientist, Rocky Mountain Institute, notes that industrial change can occur very rapidly because investors will shift from old industries to new industries before the rank-and-file consumer does.

    The impression one would get from some media is that nothing is happening. Not true. In the state of Minnesota, for instance (and we are not an outlier) renewable energy now produces from 20% - 25% of electricity used in the state--mostly wind, some solar. That's up from a little over zero maybe 15 years ago

    Granted, we are no further along than any other state in diminishing private auto use. Most heat is produced by fossil fuels (gas and coal). Agriculture practices in corn, soybeans, and canned crops (corn, peas, tomatoes, squash, etc.) could be substantially improved.

    Small is beautiful (small car rather than a land barge) and more efficient is even better -- mass transit over the small, individually owned, individually driven car, no matter how small better still. car sharing and more car-on-demand services could help end the gross over-production of vehicles. Far fewer cars, more intensively and efficiently used...
  • Wayfarer
    10.9k
    It's worth remembering that 'small is beautiful' was a book, and a damned fine one, by the economist E F Schumacher, who for some time was (perhaps ironically) an adviser to the UK Coal Board. Small is Beautiful sold millions of copies in the 1970's and 80's and advocated a kind of decentralised, localised network approach to economics. The Schumacher Centre for New Economics is here.

    It's interesting to reflect on the link between environmentalism and alternative cultural movements that are often associated with 'green politics'. I think it's an area where the counterculture has had a large influence. That said, I have actually handed out How to Vote cards for the Australian Greens, but then I stopped supporting them because of their policies on social issues other than environmentalism. To be 'green left' is apparently to automatically support identity politics and the like, which are not associated with environmental policy at all, but which you're then simply assumed to be in agreement with.

    The other major fault with the Australian greens (and I think this is characteristic of many green movements) is that they torpedoed many attempts at compromise on emissions policy and ultimately contributed to poisoning the debate such that Australia first introduced, and then rescinded, one of the only, and best, carbon emissions pricing schemes in the world. (Although the fault for that should mainly be sheeted home to the conservatives in the Australian Liberal party, who are all climate-change deniers to this day.)

    The other political point I have noticed is a strong correlation between intelligent design and climate-change denial. The main ID website, Uncommon Descent, routinely ridicules any suggestion of human-induced climate change. To me, that shows up their basic inability to correctly interpret scientifically-established facts, or to confuse the same with matters of faith.

    Here in Australia, there was a major discussion paper released last Friday on energy future. I haven't digested it at all, but it factors in emissions reduction as part of the plan. But I think Australian energy policy is currently in a pretty bad state for a great many reasons.
  • mcdoodle
    1k
    Definitely worth pondering Mcdoodle's take because it's a thoughtful greenness. Couple of questions:

    1. Why is a small approach better? How about nuclear power?

    2. You talk about an "excuse for apathy." I think this points again to the need for a centralized and large scale approach. Don't you agree that if the troops are lined up and disciplined, apathy is less of a problem? Which is more important: freedom or environmentalism?

    3. Archer makes the point that North American coal reserves are so large that it's a load of CO2 that will significantly impact the final outcome. But those reserves probably won't be mined and burned until sometime in the next century. Does this factor into your view? Or not?
    Mongrel
    Thanks for the thread :) Last night I sang at a gig where the guest of our choir (the hosts) sang five of his agreed four numbers, so I suppose it's fair enough that 'a couple' becomes three :)

    1. As BC and Wayfarer speak, so I too was deeply affected by E F Schumacher, whom I heard speak in the 1970's. 'Small is beautiful' was the title of his book. It's an approach to technology that argues for the most appropriate technical solution to a problem, not the largest and most exciting. My former partner, for instance, worked in I.T. consultancy, and large clients constantly wanted Bright New Systems to meet their every need - when the sensible solution was usually to bolt together existing sub-systems that were already proven to work.

    I think the problem of nuclear waste fundamentally rules out nuclear power. After 60 years we have no idea how to deal with it. My brother was a high-level civil servant whose last big job was in assessing a nuclear waste storage repository, and what he told me convinced me of this. It's an old question about risk: the risk of a problem is small in each particular case, but the consequences of a small problem are enormous.

    2. There has to be a large-scale approach. I think anyone who thinks about green issues is then on the horns of a dilemma. I suspect without knowing the details that the Aus Greens 'scuppered' earlier proposals for the very reasons your David Archer and jamalrob's mate Lomborg put forward against various levels of energy action: that the proposals didn't go far enough.

    3. If I were in charge of policy, we wouldn't 'mine and burn' the remaining reserves in the next century.
  • mcdoodle
    1k
    ...green politics...Wayfarer

    I don't know quite why 'identity politics' is regarded as Green, but one general thing is that if you think about the implications of 'environmental' policy, they go well beyond the environment and you end up with a wider political critique. For instance, I believe in aiming for no-growth (on average, over the course of an economic cycle), because it's the assumption that we must seek economic growth - which actually has weak reasoning behind it other than that it's become normative - which fuels the over-use of natural resources. So you end up as a Green - well I do - arguing for a basic income for all, because you have to face the consequences of no growth, and growth in liberal social democracies (including the USA) is generally put forward as needed because a rising tide raises all ships, and the poor will get richer as a result.
  • mcdoodle
    1k
    The impression one would get from some media is that nothing is happening. Not true.Bitter Crank

    That interests me too. Among the UK Tories, for instance, there's a lot of anti-renewables rhetoric. No windfarms here, sort of thing. And yet in their period of power 2010-17 they've promoted a big programme of offshore windfarming.
  • Wosret
    3.2k
    I read small is beautiful a few years ago on Banno's recommendation. T'was good.
  • Sivad
    143
    What we need is heavy direct investment by government in infrastructure and green tech R&D.

    total R&D makes up just 3.6% of the US budget in 2015, and spending on renewable energy makes up less than 4% of that. That’s a little more than US$5 billion out of the total US$134.2 billion R&D expenditure. Compared to the effort and outlay to put a man on the moon, this is orders of magnitude smaller(NASA’s funding peaked in 1966 with the organisation employing 400,000 people and consuming more than 4% of the US federal budget).
    But the problem today is much bigger. Governments must be more proactive and, in line with recent research, we should use public money to direct millions of scientists and engineers towards solar power, electric transport or better batteries. It won’t deliver a “man on the moon” moment, but this investment is the only way to truly end our dependence on fossil fuels.

    Here's an idea, tax the shit out of the carbon intensive non-essential consumer goods and luxury items that make up like 50% of the economy. A 50% tax on luxury cars, designer clothes, fast food, infomercial gadgets, home furnishings beyond the essentials, etc. If we taxed consumerism, cut the military budget, and ended offshore tax havens we wouldn't need a carbon tax, we'd have more than enough to fully subsidize the transition to a green economy and boatloads left over for R&D on new green tech.
  • Mongrel
    3k
    I read small is beautiful a few years ago on Banno's recommendation. T'was good.Wosret

    But large is also beautiful. And sometimes it's not only the best way, it's the only way to get the job done. I'm not knockin' small stuff. It definitely has its place. Agree?
  • Cavacava
    2.4k


    Reminds me of Buckminster Fuller's 'less is more' which he called Ephemeralization:

    the ability of technological advancement to do "more and more with less and less until eventually you can do everything with nothing," that is, an accelerating increase in the efficiency of achieving the same or more output (products, services, information, etc.) while requiring less input (effort, time, resources, etc.).
    Wiki

    Almost like a pragmatic reinterpretation of Occam's Razor.
  • Wosret
    3.2k


    I'm not entirely sure of the context. In the case of living sustainable, I think that a smaller scale, and consumption of land and resources is always preferable, yes.
  • mcdoodle
    1k
    But large is also beautiful. And sometimes it's not only the best way, it's the only way to get the job done. I'm not knockin' small stuff. It definitely has its place. Agree?Mongrel

    I love big bold concrete buildings that insist on their concreteness, which I suppose is some sort of modernism in me! Big Green Things I would like to happen are experiments with tidal power, which need large investment but should have large returns if they work, and investment in storage of renewable power, which is technically quite easy but needs money put into it - people are always wittering about what to do when the wind isn't blowing, when I'm a David Archer about that, there's a technical solution waiting if we just put some faith and resources into it.

    The folly of Big Green Things begins for me as I've said with nuclear power. But there has also been some folly in failing to develop networks to link up existing investment - many wind turbines were built before the grid was ready for them. Electricity grids are one of the great modern miracles, aren't they? Leading the way to all sorts of other networks, where small, modest or mediumn-sized investment can be made large by judicious combination.
  • Mongrel
    3k


    Cool. I think your position is probably around 90% hope. You aren't proposing long term solutions, but rather you stand for thinking about and investing in solutions.
  • Mongrel
    3k
    I'm not entirely sure of the context. In the case of living sustainable, I think that a smaller scale, and consumption of land and resources is always preferable, yes.Wosret

    Because of the size of the human population relative to available resources?
  • Mongrel
    3k
    Reminds me of Buckminster Fuller's 'less is more' which he called Ephemeralization:

    the ability of technological advancement to do "more and more with less and less until eventually you can do everything with nothing," that is, an accelerating increase in the efficiency of achieving the same or more output (products, services, information, etc.) while requiring less input (effort, time, resources, etc.).
    Wiki

    Almost like a pragmatic reinterpretation of Occam's Razor.
    Cavacava
    That's definitely happened in electronics. But if you look at the industry required to make or repair a windmill, for instance, steel and glass still require about the same amount of energy today as ever.
  • mcdoodle
    1k
    Cool. I think your position is probably around 90% hope. You aren't proposing long term solutions, but rather you stand for thinking about and investing in solutions.Mongrel

    Yes, the thing with feathers :)
  • Mongrel
    3k
    Dickinson fan? I knew you were awesome!
  • mcdoodle
    1k
    Ample make this bed.
    Make this bed with awe;
    In it wait till judgment break
    Excellent and fair...
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