Thoughts on recent environmental news: melting sea ice, Jevons paradox, and Earth’s disappearing lakes

March 5, 2018 by Joshua
in Nature

drying lakes

On “Bering Sea loses half its sea ice over two weeks

The meaningful question is what you, the person reading these words, will do about it.

Most will think something like “I want to help, but if I act and no one else does it won’t make a difference” or “they should pass laws to stop people from doing what causes this and after they do I’ll act.” To act against your values to follow others is the opposite of leadership.

Some will realize that their actions can make a difference, that they are responsible for the results of their actions — flying, overheating or overcooling their homes, dietary choices, etc — and they will choose to hurt others less.

One of my biggest discoveries is that making those choices improved my life. I thought they would feel like sacrifice, and they did in the short term, but in the long term they improved my life. My diet is more delicious for avoiding packaged food and eating from local farms. My life has more adventure and cultural exchange for not flying.

It’s not what you stop doing, but what you replace it with.

In other words, there is no dichotomy between polluting less and improving your life.

On Jevons paradox:

People view technology as a deus ex machina that will enable them to keep doing what they’re doing but magically it won’t pollute any more.

For example, many think that solar-powered planes will enable flying without pollution, which somehow justifies their current flying. The “logic” doesn’t work, but they just want a story to help them sleep at night while they read that the arctic is 45 degrees above normal, knowing somewhere in the backs of their minds that the jet fuel they paid to burn to move their share of a plane around the world and back contributed more to that climate change than nearly anyone in hundreds of thousands of years of human existence.

Technology has helped humanity out of many problems, as have markets and economic growth. Now we’re facing problems that technology, markets, and growth are causing (extinctions, resource depletion, pollution, litter, climate change, etc), Jevon’s paradox contributing significantly (the tragedy of the commons and principle agent problem being others) and people haven’t realized that applying more of what solved other problems isn’t helping but exacerbating current problems.

Technology can buy us time, but systems change generally requires changing the goals and beliefs driving the system, which are social and emotional issues, not technological.

On Some of the World’s Biggest Lakes Are Drying Up. Here’s Why,

You can look for causes all you want. They all lead to human population growth.

Talking about it could lead to finding something to do about it, which would mean deliberately lowering the birth rate. How? I don’t know, but the alternatives are 1) hoping we get lucky and don’t overshoot Earth’s carrying capacity or 2) letting nature lower our population for us.

Regarding option 1, everyone knows population growth rates in many places (not everywhere) are declining, but the rates have nothing to do with Earth’s carrying capacity, so it would only be luck if we stabilized below the carrying capacity. If we’ve already overshot it, lowering rates won’t prevent option 2.

Option 2 means people dying prematurely from disease, famine, war, pestilence, etc.

Are there meaningful third options? Going to space or Mars doesn’t lower the population here, and it presupposes that people could manage population growth on the spacecraft and early colonies. If we can there, we can elsewhere.

So however challenging figuring out how to lower the birth rate is, it seems the best option of the three. It seems like talking to you kids about birth control. It’s easier not to talk about it, but the parents who don’t do it end up with grandchildren sooner than they expect, and less cohesive families since they were chosen by circumstance, not deliberate choice.

On How Protein Conquered America (more diet than climate),

> Once the niche elixir of powerlifting bros … about one gram per pound of bodyweight is the bro’s rule of thumb

> The company is currently focused on drawing in women, in large part because they are the primary drivers of lifestyle fitness.

Am I the only one who sees the term “bro” as disparaging? If not, why disparage men who lift by calling them “bros” but women who keep fit “women”? If the article called women “babes” or some “bro” equivalent, people would take the writer to task.

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