The scams that keep us from solving our environmental problems

June 17, 2021 by Joshua
in Models, Nature

The greenhouse effect was front page news in the 1980s and known long before. Plus plastic, mercury, deforestation, extinctions, and you’ve read the front page. You know the problems.

We don’t just not act. We tell ourselves lies that we’ll solve the problem. We’ve told ourselves lie after lie, scam after scam, to keep from changing our behavior.

The Scams

The following are all scams that delay acting. None of them will solve our environmental problems. When you hear them, someone or some industry is benefiting from the current polluting system and wants to maintain it. Only changing the system will change the system, not changing parts.

  • The hydrogen economy
  • Telling ourselves “Future generations will solve what we messed up”
  • Recycling
  • The closed loop economy
  • Green growth
  • “Here’s how we’ll feed 10 billion people by 2050”
  • Net zero
  • Carbon neutral
  • Electrify everything
  • Mars
  • Fission
  • Fusion
  • Decoupling
  • Demographic transition
  • Carbon offsets
  • Lab-grown meat
  • Geoengineering

They all sound like they’ll work. Asbestos worked. So did leaded gasoline and marketing cigarettes to children. Then we learned they killed people and we stopped them. To clarify: several of these actions could work as tactics within a strategy of lowering birth rate and consumption, but not as strategies themselves.

You knew that carbon offsets were too good to be true. When you look at the systemic effects, they increase the problem. Same with fusion and all the others. I have a PhD in physics, an MBA, and I’ve studied this stuff. Nobody wishes they worked more than I. I expected they would work as much as anyone. But they all accelerate the problems.

Nature doesn’t react to our fantasies of electric planes and decoupling. It reacts to our behavior.

[EDIT: The more I research wind and solar, the less sustainable they look. They seem to require fossil fuels at most steps, pollute more than I thought, and don’t solve many problems, like things that need liquid fuel with densities like oil. We have to remember, though, that we don’t need things that need liquid fuel for health and happiness if we don’t overpopulate.

I’m beginning to conclude that they were great ideas with potential, and can buy us time, but Norman Borlaug taught us that buying time only helps if we also stop and reverse growth in consumption and population. We’re not doing either. On the contrary, we’re using these scams to continue each.]

What works

Here’s what works:

  • Buy less
  • Don’t do what causes pollution
  • Have fewer kids
  • Lead others
  • Teach people to lead others

Worried life will be nasty and short without doing polluting activities? Think of role models like Jesus, Buddha, Laozi, Aristotle, Shakespeare, Aurelius, Marco Polo, and billions of others who lived without plastic, flying, or factory farming.

What nobody tells you

Nobody tells you that you’ll prefer living more simply. Activities that don’t pollute bring people together and create community. Polluting activities separate us.

What works more

One person’s one-time actions don’t add up to much. The point is not to act once and stop.

Act, find the joy, act more, and lead others. Then your effect multiplies.

Read my weekly newsletter

On initiative, leadership, the environment, and burpees

We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit

3 responses on “The scams that keep us from solving our environmental problems

  1. Pingback: Renewables are less renewable than we thought. That’s the starting point. » Joshua Spodek

Leave a Reply

Sign up for my weekly newsletter