August 18, 2007

Some Environmental Issues

CAFE standards

In the Facebook comments on Global Stewardship, Sharon argues that the vehicle emissions problem is exacerbated by people too poor to buy efficient vehicles, rich people too unforgivably stupid to buy efficient vehicles, and corrupt regulators who fail to enforce government standards.

First, for the purpose of clarification, I would like to know what the it in "that's the way it is" is refering to. Sharon, were you referring to the CAFE standards (government coercion) or people to poor or stupid to buy the high mileage vehicles?

Second, as I pointed out before, CAFE kills. Of course, people die driving anyway, and a few more deaths really is a small price to pay to save humanity. However, if global warming is not a real problem, then the sacrifice purchases nothing. Given the evidence I have presented that global warming is not a real problem, I am inclined to conclude that CAFE is an unjustified and unproductive regulation with horrible consequences.

Human's can impact local environments

Humans have the ability to impact our planet in ways that no other species do. And disregarding history following the industrial revolution, most of the impacts were felt relatively quickly by the communities that caused them. You fish an area out, you don't get fish, and you bugger up the food chain. Etc. - Sharon

I definitely agree that there are many excellent examples of humans drastically changing and even harming local environments and ecosystems. It also does not seem that far-fetched to posit that at least at some point, humans may be able to significantly impact such systems globally was well. However, it seems to me that in the case of global warming the facts are at best inconclusive regarding a significant human influence, and even less convincing regarding the supposed consequences of global warming.

Year of Rest

Remember how the Jews were commanded to plant crops in an area for six years, and leave it fallow on the seventh? A perfect example of intelligent planning, on a local level. Now it'd probably take 50 years of farming to totally destroy that land of nutrients...but that is stupid. Plan now, don't get buggered later. I'd have to say that knowledge like that in the old testament is one of the strongest testaments to veracity of the bible, even though I do not believe in any sort of deity.

Agreed (except on the lack of God's existence). I think it is also important to remember that the rest was not only for the land, but for the people too. I often think that our society gets caught up in acquiring things and making money and often forgets to take a break and enjoy life.

Tragedy of the Commons

...we have to come up with that type of guidelines technologies...Common sense says so, religious sense (stewardship) says so, and the planet is even starting to tell us so... - Sharon

It seems to me that a lot of the real problems that we face here are really a problem of ownership. For example, consider over-fishing. There is not much incentive for fishermen to limit there catches because they know that most other fishermen won't. This leads to a lack of restraint in fishing because the fish are held in common, and the benefits go to the first one to catch them. Such a system also lacks incentive for anyone to restock supplies, because they would be unlikely to receive a significant return on their investment as other fishermen catch their fish.

For this reason, I support fish farming, which introduces ownership into the picture. It provides a more sustainable food supply based in fish.

Similarly with logging, when the logging lands are held in common, there is a great incentive to cut trees down before anyone else gets to them, and almost no incentive to replace them for someone else to cut down later. It seems to me that a better system for the production of lumber is tree farming.

Nuclear Power and Grey Magic

Cameron offered the following argument support of the point I made on using non-sustainable resources. He remarks:

there is no reason [not?] to use something just because it is "limited."...When it comes to limited items, say nuclear fuel, what other uses do they have? And why shouldn't we use them while they are a *better* option then what we have now, until we can actually do the right thing? Making incremental improvements? Easy. Change from gasoline and refineries to electric and nuclear and THEN to electric and . Everytime I see an argument, it seems completely along the lines "USE WHITE MAGIC", and ignoring the gray magic in between. - Cameron

Sharon and Remington seem to agree, for the most part. Especially on the issue of using nuclear power. Unfortunately, as Sharon points out:

People are afraid of nuclear power. That's about it. It's not rational, it just is. Nuclear power, imnsho,is one of the better options we have right now. - Sharon

I wish it weren't true, but I think Sharon is right about why the rate of replacing coal and oil powerplants in this country with cleaner nuclear power is so slow.

Hopefully that will change in the near future.

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