"Why Growth Can't be Green" -- Article

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stand@desk
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"Why Growth Can't be Green" -- Article

Post by stand@desk » Sun Sep 16, 2018 4:09 pm

Article submitted for discussion..
A very real and neutral article on how if economic growth is continued to happen, the further it takes the world away from biological sustainability.

So I suppose the world has a choice in the matter..but what an ideological shift it would be to no longer pursue growth in order to survive.

Jean
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Re: "Why Growth Can't be Green" -- Article

Post by Jean » Sun Sep 16, 2018 4:32 pm

I don't equate capitalisme with growth, but i agree on everything else. Ere is degrowing capitalism.

Toska2
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Re: "Why Growth Can't be Green" -- Article

Post by Toska2 » Sun Sep 16, 2018 6:17 pm

The mindset of saving humans over the earth means its always unsustainable. We have the capacity to create waste that will outlive us a species. So no matter our reduction it will pile upon us until we suffocate.

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7Wannabe5
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Re: "Why Growth Can't be Green" -- Article

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Mon Sep 17, 2018 5:27 am

The optimists would note that we are no longer worrying very much about running out of whale blubber, silkworm production, or the declining deer population in Michigan.

I am not an optimist, but I have sold a bag of diatomaceous earth to an individual who just immigrated from one of the most densely populated impoverished realms on the planet to inhabit a code-broken, paint-peeling, vermin infested house in one of the many post-apocalyptic rust belt urban scene neighborhoods in my neck of the woods.

There is a level of affluence or education associated with decline in birth-rate and there is another level of affluence of education associated with valuing maintenance of green belt around city of residence over production of new subdivision of McMansions or even new tech corridor, and when that level is achieved, the creative re-use of previously inhabited spaces and previously used materials comes back into play. IOW, loops begin to close tighter.

So, in my mind, the question has become how well can the level of affluence, educational attainment, and quality of life currently represented by approximately an average income of over $30,000/yr per capita (inclusive of children and disabled) be loop closed?

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vexed87
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Re: "Why Growth Can't be Green" -- Article

Post by vexed87 » Wed Oct 03, 2018 4:28 pm

While it's true that we are no longer worrying about whale blubber and wild fauna as a source of calories, it begs the question, what will be left to burn when the oil runs out? If civilisation is a heat engine, bound by the laws of thermodynamics, it's also a function of entropy, it needs to burn something or it just stops being. Well, we've got a lot of people, and a bit of wood, coal and gas but not much else, what gets thrown on the fire next? :evil: Me thinks it's people.

Capitalism gets a lot of hate, but itself is not the problem. It's the widespread practice of externalising (ignoring) costs to the environment and people. In it's current form, it is a social system which doesn't account for what nature provides us freely, in so far it isn't abused. If a value can be placed on the ecosphere, and accounted for appropriately (e.g. the cost of cleaning up pollution included in the end product) so much of our wasteful behaviours could be stopped in their tracks, or at the very least mitigated in a meaningful way. Because we don't value oil, the 10,000 man hours of energy in 1 gallon of petroleum can be sold at $3.00 and wasted accordingly, despite the fact that it is a finite resource and burning it does long standing damage to our environment and thus out ability to sustain civilisation in the long run. What makes economic sense, doesn't make sense through the lens of sustainability. Incorporating the cost of clean up, and thus ending externalisation of costs, will make much of what we do that is wasteful, cost-prohibitive, to some extent even for the rich. Sadly, I fear this is politically impossible, because no one wants to accept the reduction in living standards.

In a society where voluntary withdrawal of plastic straws at a minority of retailers and £0.05p charge on plastic bags is hailed as success, we are barely scratching the surface of what can be done. Which gives us some hope that there will be a trigger point and build up of momentum once the emperor (growth paradigm) is revealed to be wearing no clothes. I linked to this series of essays previously which discusses the degrowth philosophy. We desperately need to switch to a regenerative mode of production. Sadly, this is easier said than done when you are competing with others who continue to externalise their negative costs on the planet and it's future inhabitants. I think it will take systemic collapse to make degrowth viable, only once the alternatives are no longer socially acceptable. Sadly, there is a good chance we might not learn any lessons at all before it's too late to act. History tells us that, even if lessons are learnt in the short term, they will be forgotten again in the long run.

NPV
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Re: "Why Growth Can't be Green" -- Article

Post by NPV » Wed Oct 03, 2018 5:58 pm

vexed87 wrote:
Wed Oct 03, 2018 4:28 pm
While it's true that we are no longer worrying about whale blubber and wild fauna as a source of calories, it begs the question, what will be left to burn when the oil runs out? If civilisation is a heat engine, bound by the laws of thermodynamics, it's also a function of entropy, it needs to burn something or it just stops being. Well, we've got a lot of people, and a bit of wood, coal and gas but not much else, what gets thrown on the fire next? :evil: Me thinks it's people.
The good news: We don't need to burn anything. We just need energy. With solar and wind as cheap as it is and getting much cheaper fast, and storage costs set to decline by 70% in the next decade to help with intermittency, right now decarbonization is just a question of political will (e.g., putting a price on carbon as EU has kind-of-done but no one else has). Technology is there, and not that expensive. And in 10 years it should be so cheap that even political will will not really be needed - renewables will just be better business sense for majority of new energy investment (it already is in a bunch of sunny / windy places).

The bad news: Technology and costs won't be there in time to save us from climate change or extreme pollution. (Even if solar+storage or wind+storage is the cheapest LCOE everywhere 10 years from now, it will not be enough as it will have to be cheaper than coal on a marginal cost basis, or wait until existing coal plants run to end of life; and then there are equally important and even harder carbon and pollution sources such as plastics and other chemicals, agriculture, transport - there are technologies to solve all of these problems, and there is progress, but it is not fast and cheap enough to get us to sustainability in the next several decades.) This, as you are saying, will have to be reversed which will have to be paid for by some mix of us and future generations.

In a nutshell, my view would be that fears of energy or materials scarcity are very misplaced. Fears of food scarcity may become real (e.g., Jacob's discussion of crop failures, soil erosion, etc.) or may not (advances in synthetic biology, precision agriculture, "impossible foods" etc.). Fears of climate change and pollution are already materializing and will get worse before they get better.

NPV
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Re: "Why Growth Can't be Green" -- Article

Post by NPV » Thu Oct 04, 2018 9:57 pm

BTW, has anyone been able to locate the three studies he is referencing, especially the ones with "ultra optimistic" projections? Would be interesting to understand the methodology as from first principles it does not seem to make sense.

Of course "tons" are almost a useless proxy. A ton of iron has a vastly smaller environmental footprint than a ton of meat or a ton of rare earths.

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