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Author Topic: What is environmentalism, really?  (Read 7633 times)
FirstAscent
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July 28, 2012, 04:36:12 PM
 #1

This thread arose out of a discussion between TheBitcoinChemist and myself. It's so we can continue our discussion, with the participation of others, regarding what it means to be green, how people perceive environmentalism, what the benefits of it are, how it should be implemented, whether it's important, why it fails or succeeds, the character of those who embrace it or call it foolishness, and the science behind it.

I could begin by explaining what the point of contention between TheBitcoinChemist and me was, but I'd like to get a fresh start. I'll let BitcoinChemist begin, unless I choose to write a second post before he gets to it. Also, anybody else can jump in right now if they wish.
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Taz
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July 28, 2012, 05:03:41 PM
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There is a lot of hypocrisy involved,
expecting everyone else to make measures we're not always wiiling to make ourselves.
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July 28, 2012, 05:12:36 PM
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There is a lot of hypocrisy involved,
expecting everyone else to make measures we're not always wiiling to make ourselves.

Do you mean at the individual level, or at the level of a business, or at the level of one nation vs. another?
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July 28, 2012, 05:14:48 PM
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There is a lot of hypocrisy involved,
expecting everyone else to make measures we're not always wiiling to make ourselves.
If society as a whole takes measures, humanity will continue its Golden Age.

If too many individuals are not willing to take measures themselves, we will likely witness a collapse akin to the fall of Rome.

I believe that Environmentalism represents the idea that the society as a whole is more important than individuals, but individuals make up society as a whole. The Green movement aims to extend the lifetime of exploited resources of our environment.
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July 28, 2012, 05:46:49 PM
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Do you mean at the individual level, or at the level of a business, or at the level of one nation vs. another?
I think on all of those levels, we hold others to a higher standard than ourselves.

Individuals blame the government, government blames the idividuals.
Business doesn't give a shit, if they are forced by law or expectation to adopt new measures the can always use it as good publicity that they do so.

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The Green movement aims to extend the lifetime of exploited resources of our environment.
Wow, never thought of it that way.
FirstAscent
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July 28, 2012, 05:53:54 PM
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I would contend that environmentalism begins with understanding the basic ecosystem services provided by the ecosystem naturally to us.

As long as we don't disrupt natural ecosystems, they will provide everything listed below:

- Freshwater supply and flood control
- Generation and maintenance of soils
- Ocean flood protection
- Natural pest control
- Amelioration of the weather
- The cycling of nutrients
- Pollination of plants

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, published in 2005, breaks it down like this:

Supporting Services:

- Nutrient cycling
- Soil formation
- Primary production
- Preservation of genetic resources

Regulating services:

- Climate amelioration
- Flood control
- Agricultural pest control
- Water purification

Provisioning services:

- Food
- Timber and fiber
- Fresh water
- Fuel

Cultural services:

- Esthetic
- Spiritual
- Educational
- Recreational

What disrupts the above?

Reduction in the number of top level predators. Top level predators, such as raptors, wolves, cats, etc. regulate the ecosystem by preventing overgrazing of vegetation, which plays a role in providing habitat to the smaller organisms, all the way down to the microscopic level, which in turn plays a role in nutrient cycling, water purification, soil formation, etc. In other words, top level predators ultimately affect the health of the entire ecosystem.

Edge effects. See this thread: https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=92952.0. The fracturing of an ecosystem disrupts its viability, by inhibiting migration, reducing territorial area needed by top level predators (see above), and this ultimately reduces biodiversity, which reduces genetic information, a resource required for medicine, material science, engineering, computer science, etc.

Other disruptive effects to the ecosystem services enumerated above include harvesting resources (collateral damage), toxic waste, atmospheric pollution, garbage waste, over harvesting (fish), pesticides, noise, etc.

I could go into much greater detail, and I hope to, but I have little time right now.
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July 28, 2012, 06:05:31 PM
 #7

Ever heard of the Spotted Owl and the controversy surrounding it? What was all that about?

The Spotted Owl is a top level predator in the northwest. It was declared an umbrella species (otherwise known as a keystone or flagship species), and listed as endangered. The timber industry had an issue with this. Here's why. The purpose of listing the Spotted Owl as an umbrella species was because in order to preserve the Spotted Owl population, the old growth forests in the northwest would have to be preserved as well. That meant the timber industry would not be allowed to harvest existing old growth forests.

Why are old growth forests important? Because they offer all the ecosystem services outlined in my last post. Secondary growth forests do not offer all those ecosystem services, nor at the same level that the old growth forests do. And that's it in a nutshell. It has been demonstrated that the Spotted Owl can live in secondary growth forests, but it cannot viably breed in secondary growth forests.

Thus, species such as the Spotted Owl are declared umbrella species to act as a protective umbrella for their respective environments as a way to protect those environments in perpetuity, because once they're all gone, the possibility of regaining all those ecosystem services that those ecosystems provide is pretty much nil.
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July 28, 2012, 07:46:55 PM
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The Green movement aims to extend the lifetime of exploited resources of our environment.
Wow, never thought of it that way.

It's also not true, at least not in any practial sense.  In my own experience, those who "wish to be green" and are willing to use government to compell others to also do as they would wish are religious zealots, not scientists.  They, as a rule, are impervious to new facts or data that may not have been available (or not widely available) at the time of their religious conversion.  I'm no less committed to the environment than I ever have been, I've just come to the conclusion that most of the actions that are proposed by the Green movement are ineffective at best, and terriblely counterproductive otherwise.  Even one of the founders of Greenpeace has done an about face concerning civil nuclear power, and nuclear power was one of the scientific issues that started me down my alternate path.  I love watching "Stossel" on Fox Business Network each thursday, and this past one had a bit on the EPA that I agree with compeletly.  Stossel (himself a well known former liberal turned libertarian) stated the issue well for myself, by saying that when the EPA was founded, there was much need for it, but since all of the low hanging fruit has been dealt with over the past 40 years, all remaining gains are economicly very costly and thus result in job losses.  I also agree with his libertarian position that, although it's true that in a libertarian world the public could class action sue major industrial polluters, in practice our justice system is too screwed up for that to be a practial solution.  Thus the EPA must continue to exist as a reflection of our society's collective desire to restrict pollution to the economicly necessary minimum possible but no further.  My greatest complaint about the EPA is that they have no authority over the greatest pollutors within the USA, namely government institutions themselves (particularly the US Military), so further gains from federal actions cannot be expected.
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July 28, 2012, 07:53:22 PM
 #9

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The Green movement aims to extend the lifetime of exploited resources of our environment.
Wow, never thought of it that way.

It's also not true, at least not in any practial sense.  In my own experience, those who "wish to be green" and are willing to use government to compell others to also do as they would wish are religious zealots, not scientists.  They, as a rule, are impervious to new facts or data that may not have been available (or not widely available) at the time of their religious conversion.  I'm no less committed to the environment than I ever have been, I've just come to the conclusion that most of the actions that are proposed by the Green movement are ineffective at best, and terriblely counterproductive otherwise.  Even one of the founders of Greenpeace has done an about face concerning civil nuclear power, and nuclear power was one of the scientific issues that started me down my alternate path.  I love watching "Stosseld" on Fox Business Network each thursday, and this past one had a bit on the EPA that I agree with compeletly.  Stossel (himself a well known former liberal turned libertarian) stated the issue well for myself, by saying that when the EPA was founded, there was much need for it, but since all of the low hanging fruit has been dealt with over the past 40 years, all remaining gains are economicly very costly and thus result in job losses.  I also agree with his libertarian position that, although it's true that in a libertarian world the public could class action sue major industrial polluters, in practice our justice system is too screwed up for that to be a practial solution.  Thus the EPA must continue to exist as a reflection of our society's collective desire to restrict pollution to the economicly necessary minimum possible but no further.  My greatest complaint about the EPA is that they have no authority over the greatest pollutors within the USA, namely government institutions themselves (particularly the US Military), so further gains from federal actions cannot be expected.
I'm of the opinion that job losses cannot result from doing something, and the government simply uses it as an excuse to continue its useless propaganda campaign. We don't need a government or a Greenpeace to run the green movement, and I oppose both parties. I believe that the only Green movement that can succeed is the collective cooperation of individuals, not the fascist regulations or harmful acts of terrorism. The true Green movement involves people who care, not organizations concerned more about self-preservation and conflict.
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July 28, 2012, 08:53:58 PM
 #10

I'll bring in another point of discussion. here is an insightful piece on environmentalism in general that I found a few months back:

Quote
Checking out at Tesco, the young cashier suggested to the older woman that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren't good for the environment.

The woman apologised and explained, "We didn't have this green thing back in my earlier days."

The assistant responded, "That's our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations."

She was right – our generation didn't have the green thing in its day.

Back then, we returned milk bottles, soft drink bottles and beer bottles to the shop. The shop sent them back to the plant to be washed, sterilised and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled. But we didn't have the green thing back in our day.

We walked up stairs because we didn't have a lift or escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocers and didn't climb into a 200-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks. But she was right. We didn't have the green thing in our day.

Back then, we washed the baby's nappies because we didn't have the throw-away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 2,000 watts – wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back then. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But that young lady is right. We didn't have the green thing back in our day.

Back then, we had one TV or radio in the house – not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief, not a screen the size of Yorkshire. In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn't have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the post, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn't fire up an engine and burn petrol just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working, so we didn't need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. But she's right. We didn't have the green thing back then.

When we were thirsty, we drank from a tap instead of drinking from a plastic bottle of water shipped from the other side of the world. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor when the blade got dull. But we didn't have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their mums into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical socket in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn't need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest fish and chip shop.

But isn't it sad that the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn't have the green thing back then?

Please forward this on to another selfish, grumpy old git who needs a lesson in conservation from a smart-arse young person.

Remember: Don't make old people angry.

We don't like being old in the first place, so it doesn't take much to piss us off!!!

It seems like the environmentalist movement in general is biased toward activist solutions - implement wind and solar power, throw half our waste into a fancy recycling machine, buy the latest new electric car, and we're heavily promoting these types of solutions on both a governmental/economic (ie. subsidies) and cultural level. In the midst of all this, have we forgotten the art of, you know, actually not being wasteful?

Argumentum ad lunam: the fallacy that because Bitcoin's price is rising really fast the currency must be a speculative bubble and/or Ponzi scheme.
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July 28, 2012, 09:42:55 PM
 #11

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Back then, we washed the baby's nappies because we didn't have the throw-away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 2,000 watts – wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back then. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But that young lady is right. We didn't have the green thing back in our day.


My kids had fitted cloth diapers, hand made in Canada.  They weren't cheap, either.

The overall cost was cheaper though.

Quote

Back then, we had one TV or radio in the house – not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief, not a screen the size of Yorkshire.


I've never owned more than one television at a time, although my current one does have a screen the size of Yorkshire.  It also only uses 70 watts to do much more than what used to take 450 watts, so I'm okay with that.

Quote

In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn't have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the post, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.


I've never had a newspaper subscription, and I've never known a Millinial who did either, whether they were inclined to be green or not.

Quote

Back then, we didn't fire up an engine and burn petrol just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power.


Those are still made, BTW.  I've got two of them.  They actuall cost more than a cheap gas push mower, but last a decade longer at least.

Quote

We exercised by working, so we didn't need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. But she's right. We didn't have the green thing back then.


I have a Trek 7.1 that I commute 8 miles each way one whenever I can.  I did it exclusively for 3 years from May of 2008 to Aug. 2011; and I've had other jobs in the past that I commuted by bike too.  Over my working adult life, I'd say I've owened a car to commute with a bit over half the time.  Not owning the car at all is the money saver, as most of the costs of a car are maintaince & insurance, not fuel.

Quote

When we were thirsty, we drank from a tap instead of drinking from a plastic bottle of water shipped from the other side of the world.



They don't really come from the other side of the world, they come from a small bottling factory with an industrial reverse osmosis unit in your downtown district.  It's tap water, just read the label.

Quote
We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor when the blade got dull. But we didn't have the green thing back then.


This one's bullshit.  Very few people reused pens or razors unless they had too.

Quote

Back then, people took the bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their mums into a 24-hour taxi service.


You meet some really interesting people on public transit

Quote
We had one electrical socket in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances.


That changed for valid code & human safety reasons, not because people had more things to plug in.

Quote
And we didn't need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest fish and chip shop.


Wow, total ignorance about how cell phones work.  The only signal beamed from space is GPS, and every bit of that is solar powered.

Quote
Remember: Don't make old people angry.

We don't like being old in the first place, so it doesn't take much to piss us off!!!

You guys would do well to take this one to heart.
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July 29, 2012, 02:35:51 AM
 #12

It seems like the environmentalist movement in general is biased toward activist solutions - implement wind and solar power, throw half our waste into a fancy recycling machine, buy the latest new electric car, and we're heavily promoting these types of solutions on both a governmental/economic (ie. subsidies) and cultural level. In the midst of all this, have we forgotten the art of, you know, actually not being wasteful?

This is related to behavior. Paul Ehrlich addresses this issue in this speech he gave at The Long Now Foundation in San Francisco: http://longnow.org/seminars/02008/jun/27/dominant-animal-human-evolution-and-environment/

Consumption is also heavily dependent on media and advertising. What you've completely overlooked though is where environmentalism starts. It begins with the study of the biosphere, and I addressed that within my post about ecosystem services. In fact, I barely scratched the surface. Hopefully I will address this in more detail as the thread develops.
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July 29, 2012, 02:39:03 AM
 #13

I'm of the opinion that job losses cannot result from doing something, and the government simply uses it as an excuse to continue its useless propaganda campaign. We don't need a government or a Greenpeace to run the green movement, and I oppose both parties. I believe that the only Green movement that can succeed is the collective cooperation of individuals, not the fascist regulations or harmful acts of terrorism. The true Green movement involves people who care, not organizations concerned more about self-preservation and conflict.

I think you're largely wrong here. Yes, it's true that initiative at the individual level is important, but I'd say you're largely unaware of just how successful government programs have been. Most likely, you're confusing your perception of environmentalism with environmentalism in practice.
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July 29, 2012, 02:43:36 AM
 #14

Environmentalism is simply a ploy to destroy industrial capitalism, communism failed so they try something else.

There is no reason to conflate what environmentalism is with some ideology whose purpose is to defend or protect an economic paradigm. It's like stating there is a conspiracy to eliminate washing machines because new kinds of fabrics for clothing are being developed. Start with the basics. What are the environmental issues, and how are entities going about to address those issues.
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July 29, 2012, 02:48:34 AM
 #15

I'm of the opinion that job losses cannot result from doing something, and the government simply uses it as an excuse to continue its useless propaganda campaign. We don't need a government or a Greenpeace to run the green movement, and I oppose both parties. I believe that the only Green movement that can succeed is the collective cooperation of individuals, not the fascist regulations or harmful acts of terrorism. The true Green movement involves people who care, not organizations concerned more about self-preservation and conflict.

I think you're largely wrong here. Yes, it's true that initiative at the individual level is important, but I'd say you're largely unaware of just how successful government programs have been. Most likely, you're confusing your perception of environmentalism with environmentalism in practice.
I don't oppose government programs, no, not at all. Governments and organizations like Solar Energy International are crucial leaders in environmental change. But the government, one must admit, is not fully focused on environmentalism; after all, the richest party sponsors happen to be oil companies. Its regulations tend to hurt; they secretly drive alternative energy prices up by creating monopolies. Greenpeace has the opposite problem: they tend to focus on extremist campaigns that damage the reputation of the environmentalism.

I believe in societal environmentalism, and that involves action by people who care, through the collective cooperation of individuals. This can, of course, be bolstered by properly-run campaigns, not by parties interested more in self-preservation.

This thread arose out of a discussion between TheBitcoinChemist and myself. It's so we can continue our discussion, with the participation of others, regarding what it means to be green, how people perceive environmentalism, what the benefits of it are, how it should be implemented, whether it's important, why it fails or succeeds, the character of those who embrace it or call it foolishness, and the science behind it.

I could begin by explaining what the point of contention between TheBitcoinChemist and me was, but I'd like to get a fresh start. I'll let BitcoinChemist begin, unless I choose to write a second post before he gets to it. Also, anybody else can jump in right now if they wish.

Environmentalism is simply a ploy to destroy industrial capitalism, communism failed so they try something else.
There is no ploy to destroy industrial capitalism. In fact, a large portion of environmentalism requires "industrial capitalism": alternative energy, sustainable housing, etc.
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July 29, 2012, 08:27:07 AM
 #16

I don't think environmentalism has to be enforced top-down.

Quite the contrary, wars for oil and climate havoc is not possible in the first place without high authoritarian top-down organization like today's oil industries and the military industrial complex.

Renewable sources of energy are cheaper than fossil resources, especially when the latter become more and more scarce. Thus, in a free world, people would naturally prefer renewable resources.

Hemp is a great substitute for fossil oils and plastics, but largely outlawed (by whom...).

A German village already produces 321% more ("green") energy than it needs.

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July 29, 2012, 01:47:47 PM
 #17

This thread arose out of a discussion between TheBitcoinChemist and myself. It's so we can continue our discussion, with the participation of others, regarding what it means to be green, how people perceive environmentalism, what the benefits of it are, how it should be implemented, whether it's important, why it fails or succeeds, the character of those who embrace it or call it foolishness, and the science behind it.

I could begin by explaining what the point of contention between TheBitcoinChemist and me was, but I'd like to get a fresh start. I'll let BitcoinChemist begin, unless I choose to write a second post before he gets to it. Also, anybody else can jump in right now if they wish.

Environmentalism is simply a ploy to destroy industrial capitalism, communism failed so they try something else.


Well, you can't blame us for trying.


Cheesy
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July 29, 2012, 02:04:21 PM
 #18



Biggest environmental risk

population growth + energy requirements + traditional technology.

MIT's artificial leaf is ten times more efficient than the real thing
http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2011-03/28/artificial-leaf

MIT's Nocera outlines energy requirements 40+ years and advent of sustainable personal energy
http://vimeo.com/8194089
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July 29, 2012, 02:28:16 PM
 #19

Like most things in life, there is a wide range of people involved in environmentalism.  Trying to paint us all with a single brush just doesn't work.  For the most part, I want to be more self-reliant, which involves me producing as much of what I use as I reasonably can (currently working on learing food production).

Personally, I think a lot of environmentally sound practices will return and/or be developed regardless of what we do now, purely out of need.  And when it does, it is going to be very painful for everybody that doesn't have an eye to the future.  I am not sure exactly what form the future will take, but I believe it will involve less fossil fuels and more renewables, simply because it will become more expensive to obtain and extract as supplies get smaller.

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July 29, 2012, 04:29:29 PM
 #20

Biggest environmental risk

population growth + energy requirements + traditional technology.

These taken together, absolutely.
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