Sunday, November 13, 2011
I like to harp and attack but I thought it would be relatively mature to deposit some ideas to solving some of the things that I rant about. The series Lost I observed seemed to have this trend where each new episode would open up all these new plot threads. My college roommates would continually watch, clinging and hoping for some type of closure to help alleviate the suspense that the hit series had built up in them (I for one felt I was too weak willed to watch as I have an addictive personality). However, the show continued to open up more problems then it could reasonably solve and thus frustrated some viewers including some of my roommates.
This might have no relation to anything that is going on, or it might mean everything. I guess what I'm trying to say is I'll try to offer some solvency to all the many problems I bring up as thats nice to do. Reading Collapse by Jared Diamond was similar to this. It left me wanting a stiff drink to alleviate my fear of an impending doom that would be occurring and thus was just basically a downer. I thought his solutions to be fickle and weak compared to his analysis of the problems that he elaborated on. He shared his thoughts which I thought to be very well researched and I'll continually try to impress people at parties by talking about how the british brought rabbits and coyotes to Australia as they wanted familiar fauna and it was one of the many things they did that devastated the ecology of the continent. So I liked his main thesis and his main points and learned many things, but boy, was it depressing which from Louve's perspective is more likely to occur again because I probably had that nature deficit growing as I was playing Goldeye too frequently rather then constructing forts in the woods with my peers and thus am depressed more. I don't want to be just a downer (and at least my incoherency will protect all of you from feeling too down).
When thinking about Climate Change, I will often rant to my older family members how they can't even begin to grasp this deal. Sure they grew up with fears of a Cold War Nuclear Holocaust, but this was something that could be concretely stopped by not doing something. Sure, it was very tense, but it didn't seem inevitable. It also might have prevented some level of major war between because each side could have destroyed one another so easily. This was the idea of Mutually Assured Destruction.
Climate change seems inevitable. There is still a considerable amount of attitude that it's not caused by human activity. It's already occuring in some ways. I don't know if we're sure about how much we can stave off its effects at this point. I haven't read enough about it since I started caring somewhat about it (and by caring about I mean thinking about it in between bouts of Halo 3 and the hit game from my childhood Dungeon Keeper).
We gotta remember though how little we know (I'm a dumb 20 year old or something/ rather that thinks I know all) and that just because we can't conceptualize a solution to something, others in our 7 billion person world can.
In comes this Steward Brand guy. This cats legit and lives in a tug boat in the bay area. Maybe I should too. Whole Earth Discipline, one of my favorite reads as of recent, Brand states that there are three big things that he thinks will save the world that environmentalists (including himself back in the 70's) typically oppose. These three things are living in Cities, Nuclear Power, and Genetically Modified Foods.
The guy loves cities so he actually had two chapters on them. We typically think of cities as polluted and congested (which often they are), but we need to realize that as a species cities are a way that we can take up drastically lesss space. This is important for many reasons. He discusses the prarie states where youngsters have typically been leaving more rural areas and moved into cities like Fargo. As a result, many rural towns have literally been disappearing and the land to some degree "returns to nature" if you want to talk all hippied and all. This has a brought a return of buffallo or bison or something big and mammaley that we killed off once real good. There is more natural spaces.
He goes on to say services that we expect such as trash removal, water, internet, cable are much more efficiently deliverable if we cover less physical area and our populace is more concentrated. It means less towers AT&T have to build to provide reception to rural vermont, less garbage trucks that need to go out to random places in New Hampshire and things become much more economical in that sense. Less money is needed to be spent on workers, gas, time, electrical cables, towers etc. You get the cut of my jib.
Brand is such a legend that he even props up the city slums that we often think of as miserable, terrible, diseases ridden, and abominations that nobody would want to live in. I think he discusses that all of these might be traits, but overall, in developing countries people would prefer to live in cities then in the rural areas. Cities (and very much so including slums) provide a lot of economic opportunity that the rural areas don't have.
There are massive informal economies in these areas (such as Mumbai in India) where people can set up stands, participate in markets, develop social capital and sometimes work their way out of slums. Informal shelters are setup developing efficiently like a bee hive. There are no schools, but there are individuals who informally act as teachers. There are repair shops, literacy centers, markets and many other things you might see in a shopping mall that are present in a somewhat decrepit market form. Cell phones are actually much more afforable then they are here and individuals in these slums use them vigorously. Money can be transferred on these cell phones. Banking can be done. Cell Phones allow people in these areas to have some type of an "office".
They aren't good places to live from our point of view (in terms of general measures of quality of life) but for those living in developing areas they are preferable to the rural. City slums offer opportunity (with some creativity) to have a better quality of life especially for women.
My friend said to me last night "your writing will probably get you laid off and/or fired from all jobs that you could possibly ever have. Use spellcheck". Perhaps he was right.
I digress. Brand goes on to say that Nuclear Power is important. He himself protested it during the 60's and 70's (but who wasn't protesting nuclear power back then, I probably even was) but thinks it's actually very important now largely due to climate issues. Nuclear Power provides a lot of energy. It doesn't take up as much space as solar panels or wind farms might. By the time we have to deal seriously with the issue of waste, the technology that we'll have at that point will more then likely be able to handle it.
Basically Nuclear is almost renewable (very little metals are needed to generate lots of power) they can be built in a lot of places providing a lot of CO2 free energy. Typical green energy (wind and solar) simply don't provide enough energy (I doubt he dislikes them, but I think he's mostly comparing it to Nuclear). He goes on to say that a lot of the negative ramifications of nuclear radiation are overrated. Chernobyl has actually become a delightful wildlife sanctuary. Some radiation might be good for us like broccolli is. It innoculates us in some way. Things like that I think. This should be generally what he expressed in his writing. Do let me know if I have gotten these analyses wrong and mixed them up with the words to an Eminem song.
I aggree with Brand, and so should you. Thats arrogant, apologies. It would be interesting to see his reaction to the Japanese Tsunami and meltdown. My thought would be to not build nuclear reactors in fault zones. However, much of our population lie in areas that have significant geological activity and/or have extreme climate. This might be one of the limiting factors needed for consideration with nuclear power. One could find out these things and such.
To further continue this entry at a much later date and to further tear apart the work of this fine author in trying to summarize his wonderful findings I will start off on his views on GMOs. The guy likes them. Genetically Modified Organisms are key to the worlds survival he states. What stands out to me are his defenses (which I probably don't fully comprehend) of GMO's and his overall necessity. We have the potential, through GMO's to greatly enhance our food supply, and we already do this, and this is incredibly crucial for our population. He cites how India was able to develop Wheat that was more resistant to being blown over in the wind "Dwarf Wheat" or something. This allowed India to drastically improve it's yields and everything was suddenly perfect! Not true but it was an amazing feat.
We have enough food to feed our populations, and part of this success has been do to GMO's. With the onset of climate changes, changing our food supplies will be crucial. Brand states that we can potentially develop more crops that are easier or more replenishing of topsoil, that resist drought better. We can even make some type of soy product that makes us fart less as that will reduce our greenhouse emission (alright he lost some point with this example).
Regardless, we've been able to do some amazing things with GMO's. Now there are total cons to GMO's and there are sketchy things that we do with it. Brand says the process of modifying our food is generally more precises then doing what farmers have done for thousands of years in crossbreeding them or what nature can do naturally. We're only crossbreeding a couple of genes when we genetically modify them.
He goes on to say that's it a tool that get's a bad rap partially due to the regulations that make it so it's difficult for anything but large scale companies to engage in this practice. This has led to the rise of some the activities that Monsanto and such have engaged in that people don't like no good such as generally have a uniform food surplus, taking such drastic steps to own a crop of food, charging farmers if some crop naturally lands in their field etc.
I fully don't begin to comprehend this issue but Brand takes a stance that the reality is we need to deal with the huge population. We want it to come down, not through collapse, or catastrophe, but gradually. We do however, need to acknowledge the current carrying capacity needs of our planet. GMO's especially are a tool. We might not want to hate them outright or ban them. We want to think consciously about how we use them. They have a lot of potentialy, but then I hear something about them killing honey bees real good and if anyone touches that vital bee I'll punch them in the face real good. I really like the honey bee and so should you. I digress. GMO's are a tool. We should and need to use them well.
Brand is also delightful in the tangents he goes off on from his main thesis. He has a delightful passage in which he describe how he arises before dawn often to go out and destroy various non-native invasive plants that are infecting the Bay Area. What I delightful activity! He talked about how jacked up he feels in doing so and that humans have a long history of being stewards of their environment, not, simply natural by standers and that what we view as the natural environment might have in some way always been tweaked by our ancestors. This is important he says and our proper actions can maintain biodiversity. I for one enjoy at least stepping on the ravenous Japanese Knotweed that is ever so pervasive.
*******TAKE A BREAK, LIFE YOUR LIFE, THIS ENTRY IS GOING ON TOO LONG*********
Think about these things real good. I think a lot of the ways in which environmental movements have gone about things could be done more effectively. Let's take the Lorax story, by Dr. Seuss which is clearly my most advanced exemplar. One of the main points of this wonderful childhood story was that we're all in trouble if we use up our planet's natural resources. Any corporation, no matter how heartless, will eventually screw themselves over if they continue to behave poorly and greedily.
If we do have a stand that many of the major institutions and corporations are heartless, we can at least realize this. Oil Companies that continue to use up too much of our supply of oil will obviously collapse when our oil is gone. Same thing with Coal, we do have a lot more coal, but if coal companies use that up they are in trouble. If agribusiness messes up all of our topsoil to create farms, they're not a feasible. If loggers use up all available forests, there industry will collapse. Take into account our financial sector. Generally, the recession that we are now in is bad for all major companies / corporations. If consumer spending is down, that's bad for Bank of America, for AT&T, for Wal Mart and especially the Sam Adams Beer Company as there is less disposable income that could be spent at these institutions.
If our businesses continue to behave badly, and all behave too greedily, they will certainly screw us over, but they will lose access to the resources that they need to survive (and I'll be cackling somewhere ironically with less teeth and various tools for foraging mushrooms which I'll have been living off of when things get really bad). If all the resources are gone, including consumers with disposable income, they will be ruined (much like that Onceler was when all those succulent Truffula Trees were cut down).
Vice versa, environmentalists need to take a stance where they acknowledge that there are 7 billion people on this planet, and there are realities to how we live. We absolutely need to change our behavior in how we individually consumer and dispose of resources, But many of us will drive. Many of us will use electricity. I'll take a shower with hot water and people in developing countries with developing economies want that too. Environmentalists need to realize that we need to be able to supply the level of resources that has societelly been determined as reasonable to ensure that humanity has a certain standard of living.
We thus need that power source that will feasibly and cleanly power a world of 7 billion. We need a food source that will be able to durably withstand drought and feed our world. We can't simply just reduce (though reducing is part of our toolbox). Brand takes a much needed stand in how to do deal with this his advocacy of Nuclear Power and GMO's. Many, including me, have advocated that with planning, we can find ways to humanely reduce our populations, maybe down to 1.5 billion. It would be wise, given the realities to reduce our populations humanely, but it should absolutely not happen through societal collapses, wars, famine or natural disaster. You wouldn't want that happening to you. Environmentalists need to realize that they need the resources provided by other sectors of society much as the power companies need to heed the lessons of environmentalists to be sustainable (who knows what I am beginning to say here). These groups have to not be fighting one another and realize that they have the same needs/ interests and are dependent on one another.
Mind you I'm naïve, dumb and 20. Collaboration has certainly been tried I am sure and with little effect in the past. Americans might not be as well set up for it as the Germans are (they love to discuss). Fighting might seem like the only option in many cases and as I was playing so much Halo King of the Hill missions with my roommates I was unaware.
However, when possible, the chance to discussion, compromise, to plan and work together when realizing joint interests and dependency on one another, discussion and collaboration is certainly the best option. E.O. Wilson whose just great and I've mentioned before narrates this process in his wonderful (and I think only) fictional tale of his called Ant Hill. (***SPOILER***) There is a major environmental victory in this novel, not due to protests and fighting, but due to the hard work, dedication, discussion and far superior planning of a concerned individual that joins forces with the very developers that are intent on destroying the tract of land that our protagonist is so beloved to. He wins and wins more efficiently, not by fighting them, but by out planning them, and building up their trust.
I'll leave it with this, happy thanksgiving and chew on how fat and unable to reproduce thanksgiving turkeys are when you chew on their flesh. My in law beheaded 22 of them apparently while working on a farm and I was nothing but impressed.