inkwell.vue.223 : Another World is Here
permalink #76 of 200: Cliff Figallo (fig) Wed 1 Sep 04 11:08
Someone asked Longman about life expectancy and he pointed out that in
many cases the longer life expectancy of a population segment is not
necessarily an indication of more people living older, but of fewer
people dying younger. As vaccinations, for example, reduce childhood
mortality, the *average* lifetime of the population goes up.

You can see how this would skew the numbers when families that had
lost half of their kids by age 2 are now seeing all their kids survive
to age 20. And having fewer kids to take care of would also be expected
to decrease infant mortality.
inkwell.vue.223 : Another World is Here
permalink #77 of 200: Alex Steffen (alexsteffen) Wed 1 Sep 04 11:42
Good points! But I'm not so sure anymore that immortality pills come
into play here. You don't need any dramatic (perhaps implausible)
medical breakthroughs to get very long lifespans.

It's worth remembering that the greatest life-extension technologies
we have now involves simply not dying young. That sounds trite, but
when you realize how much easier it is today to live through what were
once mortal perils -- childbirth, childhood diseases like the measles
and polio, severe accidents, even cancer -- it becomes easier to
understand why a huge percentage of the people alive today are alive
simply because they've survived what probably would have killed them
200 years ago.

That decreased mortality, combined with better and better
understandings of preventive care and health/wellbeing maintenance,
could easily get us to lifespans of 100, 110, 120 across much of the
world (barring a collapse in the food supply or runaway
vaccine-resistant flu or something) without anything but incremental
medical progress. I'm not at all convinced that it's *possible* to live
beyond 140. But living routinely to 100 is something I expect to see
in the next decade or two. 

That said. there's this enormous wave of children and young adults
surging towards the future, larger than the entire world population
when I was born. The choices they make will have far more lasting
impact, I suspect, than these issues.

(Cliff, you just slipped in saying essentially the same thing. Oh
well, let's make it a chorus!)
inkwell.vue.223 : Another World is Here
permalink #78 of 200: Jamais Cascio, WorldChanger (cascio) Wed 1 Sep 04 11:56
The question of whether radical life extension is possible (with future
biotechnology -- it's definitely not possible at the present) is one of the
areas where Alex and I politely agree to disagree. We could make a bet on
whether or not it will be possible down the road a ways, but it would be
somewhat one-sided: if I won the bet, he'd have to pay up, but if he won the
bet... well, one or the other of us wouldn't be around for him to collect
his winnings!
inkwell.vue.223 : Another World is Here
permalink #79 of 200: Alex Steffen (alexsteffen) Wed 1 Sep 04 12:14
Yeah, heh.

I guess I should clarify: it's not that I think radical life-extension
(multiple centuries) impossible in a theoretical sense. It's just that
I doubt it's a question we're going to be grappling with before, say,
2050 at the earliest. And 45 years is a long, long, long time these
inkwell.vue.223 : Another World is Here
permalink #80 of 200: Jamais Cascio, WorldChanger (cascio) Wed 1 Sep 04 12:28
The reason I think it will happen sooner is that I think the US Baby Boom
generation will be pushing really, really hard for life/health-extension in
the next few decades. Not all of them (cf, my earlier post), but enough of
them to drive the research. Couple that with the acceleration of bio
research from improved information technology, and radical leaps seem to me
to be a lot closer than 2050.

But Alex 100% right when he says that 45 years is a long, long, long time.
inkwell.vue.223 : Another World is Here
permalink #81 of 200: Cliff Figallo (fig) Wed 1 Sep 04 14:58
I sure don't want to live for 30 years longer, feeling like shit every
day. So here's to long life and death with dignity.
inkwell.vue.223 : Another World is Here
permalink #82 of 200: Jamais Cascio, WorldChanger (cascio) Wed 1 Sep 04 15:27
That's why I refer to it as life/health-extension (sometimes I shorten it
to "youth-extension," but that has implications I don't intend). I don't think 
anybody but the most hardcore "uploading is just around the corner" extropians 
would want to be kept alive for several more decades if it meant continued 
decrepitude. I much prefer the "hyper-geezer" scenario.
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permalink #83 of 200: from VINAY GUPTA (tnf) Wed 1 Sep 04 19:43

Vinay Gupta writes:

This is kind of an old SF trope, but doesn't it stand to reason that health
extension / life extension / looking good at 90 will be, well, *expensive* if
it possibly can be? Consider AIDS drugs. I don't know how much protease
inhibitors really cost to make, but I have a feeling it's on the order of
hundreds or thousands of dollars per kilogram, not 30,000 for a year's
supply. A geriatric population may well be willing to pay nearly anything for
access to the fountain of youth.

The rich live forever, the poor die at forty. Not, when you think about it,
so different from today: have you looked at global life expectancy figures
recently? They're pretty sobering.

To steer this back a little closer to home, let me raise a question about
access to tools. Coca-Cola and, say, Polio Vaccines have a few basic
requirements in common: they should be sterile and they should be kept cold.
Now, a vaccine has to be cold all the time, and will require a person to
administer it (probably) but I think we can agree that the requirements are
kinda-sorta similar.

Why can a person buy a coke almost anywhere on the planet, but they have to
wait for a health worker to come round with a vaccine? What does WHO need to
learn from Coca-Cola, Inc. about distributing first world technologies like
vaccines or soft drinks?
inkwell.vue.223 : Another World is Here
permalink #84 of 200: virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Wed 1 Sep 04 20:03
I really like the lists <inkwell.vue.223.68> and <inkwell.vue.223.70>. When
I put them together with some of the other strands here, though, I get the
feeling that building sustainability has to involve "tricking" masses of
people into acting against what they might otherwise take to be their
interests -- for instance making them want the "Nike swoosh" of
sustainability because it's cool.

How do the scenarios convince globally about sustainability without
moralizing about economic justice, loving each other, et cetera?
inkwell.vue.223 : Another World is Here
permalink #85 of 200: Jamais Cascio, WorldChanger (cascio) Wed 1 Sep 04 20:32
I don't think of it as "tricking" anyone, <bumbaugh> -- at least, not any
more than any other kind of marketing. It's memetic engineering. Getting
people to believe that they *want* the artifacts of sustainability doesn't 
mean tricking them, it means convincing them. If the best path to that appears 
to be making sustainability "cool," that's what will be used.

Ultimately, people will adopt these technologies and practices because they 
will be clearly in their best (economic, community, survival) interest to do 
so. Better to start making them appealing now.
inkwell.vue.223 : Another World is Here
permalink #86 of 200: Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Wed 1 Sep 04 21:05

So, it's kind of like "teaching" people to appreciate modern design objects,
or enjoy yoga, or eat less fat?
inkwell.vue.223 : Another World is Here
permalink #87 of 200: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 1 Sep 04 21:21
If I can get Shiraz thru one vein and Dr. Pepper through another, I can
live forever...!

Seriously, we do keep extending life span, but quality of life is another 
matter, and I think it's quality, not duration, that we want to extend. 
And how meaningful is either extension, if we spend those later years 
playing golf or bridge and hanging out? Then again, who's to say what has 

It could be that the way we extend and improve our lives is by passing on 
better and more resilient DNA - and by ensuring tha the planetary 
environment has integrity?
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permalink #88 of 200: Cliff Figallo (fig) Thu 2 Sep 04 10:05
I wonder where the Toyota Prius stands as an example of "cool
sustainability." Will its popularity spread beyond our own snooty
intellectual coastal cultures to the great stubborn American heartland?
(No, I don't really think we're snooty.)

This is another way of asking how resistance to sustainable change is
deeply entrenched in peoples' identities and perceived traditions.
Cheney, for example, is an outdoorsman and a rancher, but he is hardly
a wilderness conservationist. And if half the voting public believes
more in defending America's right to use up resources however it feels
good, rather than adjust lifestyles to be more sustainable, we run up
against that old need for "changing consciousness."

September 11 certainly changed consciousness, but I don't think the
important message was really received by most Americans. We are no less
dependent on foreign oil, for example, and we're not doing much to
reach that status.

It seems like imaginative technology (e.g the Prius) helps, but unless
imaginative politics works, the stubborn will limit the future.
inkwell.vue.223 : Another World is Here
permalink #89 of 200: Taran Rampersad (taranrampersad) Thu 2 Sep 04 10:42
As I write this from St. Lucia, killing time until my flight back to
Trinidad and Tobago - and after being a part of a really super-cool
conference ( ) - I have to make a few comments.

First and foremost, there is a world outside of the United States -
and the United States appears to be very introspective as a culture
after September 11th - but as Cliff and others have pointed out a few
times, the introspection has not really come to concrete results.

Perhaps it's time to become extraspective.

We Americans (for I am one, and a dual citizen, my perspective dances
between foreign and domestic) have a tendency to only accept our own
opinions on many topics because we are, in fact, experts on many of the
topics. After all, we created them. But this tendency creates
unnecessary friction with the rest of the world. 

It was common to hear at this conference that there is a lot of
American culture being beamed into the Caribbean by satellite, but -
does the presence of the Caribbean's culture itself make any impact on
the people of the United States other than providing exotic
destinations where you can lie in the sun, enjoy the ocean and have
little drinks with umbrellas in them?

The answer is that the Caribbean does have an impact on the United
States other than tourism, but the average American does not know - or
seem to care. This works well for the tourist trade in the Caribbean,
but it also alienates the cultures in many ways. Perhaps it is time for
the United States to do more listening than talking in this regard. 

Will it solve anything? No, but it may help find out what the problems
actually are. As it is, there is a perception of the United States
that it is a lumbering giant that cannot hear, cannot see, but
certainly has a lot to say in a voice that cannot whisper. I suppose
that if this is the perception that the United States wants, perhaps it
is on the right route.

On the point of making 'good things attractive' - I agree. But there
are contexts to good, and it requires knowledge of a culture to use the
right context. Marketing information is probably the best tool for
this, but marketing information itself is not passive. 

I wonder, if you had a commercial of the Swedish Bikini team going to
visit a man because of the size of his solar panels, we might have
something. Why isn't it cool to be efficient? Because efficiency too is
relative, and a sports car is efficient for getting places fast.
That's the priority.

What is the new priority of the world? What should it be? I have
ideas, but I'd like to hear what others have to say.
inkwell.vue.223 : Another World is Here
permalink #90 of 200: Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Thu 2 Sep 04 11:01
Yeah, those are thorny issues.  In my experience, hunters are often
some of the most knowledgeble people about a given area or species, and
can be very insightful and outspoken about conservation.  I have seen
environmental groups successfully ally with hunting groups, but also
totally alienate them--or just reject them outright.  

There might be class issues at work there--one understanding on the
green side that began to emerge in the mid'90s, as the PNW timber wars
seemed to abate, was that there had been huge missed opportunities for
coalition building in not approaching timber communities for solidarity
and support, trying to educate and organize about the economics of big

By the time some people started to make these connections and reach
out (I knew forest activists, but presumably there were/are folks in
the timber communities figuring these things out as well), the
situation was so polarized.

And even now, there is a no-compromise stance that impedes
transformation of understanding. I was interviewing an activist earlier
in the summer about the proposed Biscuit Logging Project in the
Kalmiopsis Wilderness.  I was trying to tease something out of him
about what kind of logging WOULD he find appropriate, compared to the
truly horrendous plan proposed for the area.  And the answer seemed to
be: none at all.

It shouldn't be wholly on the shoulders of "our" side to make these
cases and connections, but we are the side trying to adjust the
standard operating procedure...
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permalink #91 of 200: Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Thu 2 Sep 04 11:12
Ooops, Taran slipped in while I was responding to fig.

>First and foremost, there is a world outside of the United States -
and the United States appears to be very introspective as a culture
after September 11th - but as Cliff and others have pointed out a few
times, the introspection has not really come to concrete results.

Perhaps it's time to become extraspective.

I agree with this 100%, but I think it's important to keep a few
things in mind about America's sheer weight in the world: the amount of
carbon it produces, but also the amount of wilderness, biodiversity,
fresh water and top soil within U.S. borders.  

Frankly, I would be quite comforted by a dimming of America's military
and cultural might in the world, but I am not ready to write all that

I would love to see other people around the world take a stake in the
preservation of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness, say, the way Americans lobby
on behalf of African game preserves.
inkwell.vue.223 : Another World is Here
permalink #92 of 200: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 2 Sep 04 16:32
Introspective isn't the word I would've used. We're in crisis. We have a 
50-50 philosophical division, and a civil war fought not with bullets, but 
with information.

We also have no balance of power: executive and legislative (and, to some
extent, judicial) branches are dominated by a particular world-view, and
that world-view is dismissive of other nations and other cultures.

We could do with more guys like Ethan Zuckerman (interviewed recently by 
Alex), who is particularly focused on developing nations and concerned 
with nurturing their evolution. That concern, that focus is not widespread 
in the USA; perhaps part of the WorldChanging charter is to make it so.

BTW I was thinking how the various Point/Whole Earth publications were so 
influential with a few but not with many, and wondering how we might make 
WorldChanging more visible? 
inkwell.vue.223 : Another World is Here
permalink #93 of 200: Michael C. Berch (mcb) Thu 2 Sep 04 17:59
John, I think to some extent the "balance of power" is to be found the
larger world outside of the government. There is a dynamic tension
between the government-mediated, regulated, "civic" world, and the
market-mediated, unregulated, "agora" world.  Both world-views, or
organizing principles if you will, have their good and bad points, but 
my own bit of world-changing is to try to move things from the former
to the latter -- that is, away from Big Brother and toward freedom of
choice.  There is tremendous power outside the government, both here
in the U.S. and elsewhere in world. The trick is to be able to channel
that market-mediated power into good things instead of bad ones. 
inkwell.vue.223 : Another World is Here
permalink #94 of 200: Vinay Gupta (vinaygupta) Thu 2 Sep 04 19:37
Fig, the priority is what it always has been: survival on one's own

We're hardwired through millions of years of accrued instinct to breed
like rabbits when the resources are available and our offspring appear
to be in danger of death. We accumulate things we do not need for a
complex combination of psychological factors that might just resolve
into "store useful things in holes in the ground like squrrels, only
our holes are called basements". We are happy mammals with the power of
small gods. To survive we need a new balance between our desires and
our powers: either to restrict our desires (or their fulfillment) to
sustainable levels, or to increase our powers to be able to satisfy our
desires without ecological harm. I'm betting on horse number two there
because I don't believe in moral revolution on that scale.

I've mentioned ecostalinism before, and it (quite rightly) upsets
people. It's frightening to think that China cut it's net environmental
impact as a nation by 25% through One Child Family and brutal
enforcement was part of the package. It's frightening to think about
government power being wielded to take things that people want away
from them for the welfare of the planet. It's precisely because it's
frightening that it's important: how much personal freedom would *YOU*
personally sacrifice to protect Gaia?

How much personal freedom would *YOU* give up to help make the planet
safe? Think about that.

That's a calculus nobody is happy with. But we should start thinking
about it because if this wizzy new technology doesn't manage to rein in
The Consumer it might become a job for Uncle Sam.

This is the "civic world" Michael mentioned in it's darkest form. A
world where everybody gets carbon credits to spend from their
government and all activity is monitored so we don't go over the
limits. The rich buy energy tokens from the poor to run their
ultra-bright light bulbs, the new tokens of wealth.

We've seen this in China. It works. The tokens weren't for carbon,
they were for life - the right to reproduce. This is not science
fiction: one child family was *effective* because it really deal with
reality - there were going to be too many Chinese so the government
stepped in and stopped a lot of them from being born.

Completely real and largely effective. The missing 250 million chinese
are a testament to the Chinese Government's willingness to take
effetive action on poverty and environmental issues.

I really want people to deal with this as a fact. Get over the "icky"
factor, get over the ideologies of freedom and see it for what it is: a
potential future we could all wind up in if we don't find better ways
to restrain human ecological devastation. When the "agora world" wants
pathological things, government power is what steps in to stop it. A
government which actually *forced* Americans to live a sustainable
lifestyle *would* be a fascism because that lifestyle is so far from
what the Average American wants.

I don't mean "sustainable lifestyle" in the sense of "we have three CF
bulbs" - I mean sustainable lifestyle in the sense of "actually living
within renewable energy constraints, groundwater constraints, zero
emissions of long-life toxic compounds, zero carbon emissions." and so
on. If the government forced us all to live to that standard, we'd call
it a fascism.

But banning stuff works. It's how the EPA polices: quotas and bans. If
China's example is "ecostalinism" our own government is pretty darn
"ecosocialist." Much as Bush has weakened all kinds of environmental
legislations, it's still illegal to dump dioxins and mercury into the
water supply, and you still can't buy a 10 MPG car (only a "light

I really am modeling this as government power being able to protect
the environment from the will of the people as aggregated in their
collective purchasing power. You're smart people. Take a look at that.
Tell me that it doesn't make sense as one potential future.

So what are the alternatives?

1> Drive the Planet into Ecological Collapse, Then Change Our Ways
- this is the current default, the approach we are taking as a
species. Afterwards we'll try something new. What?

2> Ecostalinism
- just for completeness. I've beaten that to death, by now, I hope.

3> New Spartanism
- some minor genetic tweak to the upcoming generations will make them
decide that living on 14 watts each is their moral imperative, and
they'll all co-exist on brown rice and a staple diet at around 1400
calories. Meat eating will be a thing of the past, and cars will be
owned one-per-town. Ecological stability will have been achieved by
resource use falling to a *genuinely* sustainable level. And, at my
guess, this is what a genuinely sustainable level looks like. Take
net-sustainable-harvers of the earth, divide by population, and divvy
up. You tell me what you get before you tell me the above scenario is
unrealistically spartan.

4> Ultra High Tech Post Industrial Civilization
- great honking space based power arrays which ship their totally
clean energy down the beanstalk on equally giant recycled gyroscopes
which then power the international grid, etc. etc. etc. We all know
what environmentalism looks like if we get those kinds of tools: it
looks a lot like the Industrial Revolution only what gets reduced isn't
labor but ecological impact. Wonderful stuff. This is, I think, a
somewhat long-range version of the Bright Green idea. This might be
where Bright Green is going, or where Bright Green is. Perhaps it'll be
nano-scale rather than mega-scale, but it'll be the stuff of science
fiction, which is always a safe bet as long as there are young children
to inspire into PhD's working on things they dreamed of as babes.

5> Massive Population Reductioni
- The remaining 100 million people live much as first world citizens
do today, and there are few enough of them that it doesn't make any
real difference to the biosphere. Many of them become nomadic to reduce
their impact even further. Continents lie fallow.

I really want to encourage hard nosed, no-bullshit thinking about the
real limits we're faced with as a species and what it would take to
abolish them. I'm *FIRMLY* in the Ultra High Tech camp. In fact, I
think it's the only meaningful hope we've got. The Backup Plan is
ecosocialism - governments with their carbon credit vouchers buying us
time while the Boffins work on making our 200 pounds of carbon per
person cover all of our needs while the new 90% panels are being

I'm really interested in how people approach the whole problem: the
fact that most people are still living on under a dollar a day, that
one in six of us doesn't have clean water, and that America is probably
ten times over it's actual environmental impact budget.

Efficient cars and light bulbs aren't enough. Even with huge
consciousness raising, the available technologies are woefully
inadaquate to the task of giving every human on earth a sustainable and
pleasant life.

Am I wrong? Is there something I don't know? Am I missing something
obvious? I can't stare away from this paradox: we just don't have the
technology, even if we had the will. 

Talk to me about how you see this, please!
inkwell.vue.223 : Another World is Here
permalink #95 of 200: virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Thu 2 Sep 04 19:46
Good points, fig. What's the Honda analogue of the Prius? Name escapes me at
the moment, but (*here's* the relevant bit) very many of those I've seen are
a sharp red color. Y'know, like *cool sports cars*, Ferraris and such.

(And welcome aboard to <vinaygupta>!)
inkwell.vue.223 : Another World is Here
permalink #96 of 200: Dennis Wilen (the-voidmstr) Thu 2 Sep 04 20:29
We need more carrot and less stick, <vinatgupta>.
inkwell.vue.223 : Another World is Here
permalink #97 of 200: Mmmmm... carrots. (alexsteffen) Thu 2 Sep 04 20:55
I don't think that ecostalinism can work. I think that it is nearly a
law of human nature that the less free a society becomes, the more
quickly its governing mechanisms go askew. Democracy may be a pretty
messy and inefficient process, but look at how efficiently Hitler,
Stalin and the Japanese generals laid waste to not only their neighbors
but themselves. Oppression removes dissent, and dissent is an
essential feedback loop.

That said, how do we get from the greatly-improved-but-insufficient
best available technologies to truly bright green systems? That's one
of the questions upon which the fate of the planet hinges. That it can
be done, I'm certain. That we can do it, I believe. That we know how to
do it now, I'm not at all sure of. 

But I have my hunches...
inkwell.vue.223 : Another World is Here
permalink #98 of 200: Alex Steffen (alexsteffen) Thu 2 Sep 04 21:12
Jon sez: "We could do with more guys like Ethan Zuckerman (interviewed
recently by Alex), who is particularly focused on developing nations
and concerned with nurturing their evolution. That concern, that focus
is not widespread in the USA; perhaps part of the WorldChanging charter
is to make it so. BTW I was thinking how the various Point/Whole Earth
publications were so influential with a few but not with many, and
wondering how we might make WorldChanging more visible?"

I wholeheartedly agree that the world needs more Zuckermans. We need
thousands of them. We need distributed energy Zuckermans, green
building Zuckermans, agricultural Zuckermans, Zuckermans who are ready
to take the best available innovations from medicine, law, education,
journalism, forestry, ecological restoration, design, disaster relief,
public health, and the edges of the sciences and bring them to the
table with the peoples of the developing world, to let *them* pick and
choose and invent futures which will work for them.

But we also need to wire our Zuckermans together. They work better
when they're connected to one another -- when the information flows
back and forth, when the breakthroughs in various fields inform one
another, when they can find allies everywhere.

That's a big part of what I hope we're starting to do on

But while I'm thrilled to have so many cool people reading what we
write, we are most definitely still a niche affair. How do we expand to
connect to other networks, to include more conversations, to reach
more people and do more good? That's a question with which I'm really
inkwell.vue.223 : Another World is Here
permalink #99 of 200: Vinay Gupta (vinaygupta) Thu 2 Sep 04 21:49
Alex, I think the evidence is that ecostalinism *has* worked, at least
in China in this aspect. Their tree-replanting program (they're
reforesting something like 12% of their landmass to combat
desertification) is pretty impressive too. China is "only one country"
but it's also 1/6th of the Human Race, which is to say that "One Child
Family" cut the population of the globe by 4% and perhaps the
environmental impact of the human race as a whole by 1 or 2%.

If we want to talk about saving the planet, I think we need to look at
that seriously. It's an artificial, top-down change which actually
impacted the problems we have signficiantly. It's not much compared to
the natural tapering off of birth rates due to wealth, but it's still A
Big Deal. When we're discussing notions like actually observing
climate protocols which limit the CO2 emissions a nation is permitted,
we should carefully think through what enforcement is likely to look
like. The interplay between (climate) Security and Freedom always has
to be observed!


On the other front, incubating these Factor 10 and Factor 100 and
beyond breakthrough technologies seems to me to be the absolutely most
worthwhile possible investment of environmental energies. I don't mean
this in some Pollyannaish Transhumanist way, where I suggest that we
don't need to worry about climate change, we'll just alter our DNA to
like it.

But real technical and engineering breakthroughs, pushed to their
limit, can really make a dent. I'll give you an example: the Music
industry could become a zero-emissions, nearly-zero-atoms industry
almost overnight. Just stop shipping plastic objects to stores and do
the whole thing online. Emissions are reduced to recording studios,
company offices, and other incidentals which one can plant a thousand
acres to offset. Newspapers really should go too - I guess we're
waiting for decent e-paper for that, but it could be done. 

If we start just making entire industries zero-emissions how far could
we get? If the market won't drive it, what's the political model to
actually make these changes happen when they become technologically
possible, and how do we know that won't produce SUV-like backlash?

Here we're back to carrots and sticks. We *could* do this, but the
free market alone won't. The lag is likely to be twenty years before
the physical-object-in-box recording industry is dead. Is it right to
want to push it by legislative means? I don't know. Maybe!

Where do we put the energy? Behind adoption of the relatively minor
improvements available, hoping to push change one customer at a time,
and hoping that capitialism's innate feedback loop will push
innovation, or do we push for draconian-but-effective laws to do things
like limit carbon output, and spur innovation that way?

I think a lot of market-based environmentalism is a bit like
Libertarian social programs: largely theoretical. At the same time
we've discovered that capitialism really works better when confronted
with problems like AIDS than any other system, and generally frees up
much larger budgets for research and development than other forms of
government. America does something like 90% of the world's medical
research. Think about that.

Do we trust the market?

I'm really trying to challenge some fundamental assumptions here about
what Green looks like and about what Green is. There's a utopian
vision of civil rights, human liberties, equitable distribution of
wealth, gradual change and radically improved outcomes, and I wonder if
that's as far away as the story told by either Communism or Capitalism
about How It Is Going To Be. I think it lacks the realism of a Plan,
and right now, in this world, we need a plan. We need a model which
people can get behind and push into reality and one which - if it is
put into operation - will actually save us.

The first round of environmental thinking, which we now see around us
as anti-toxic laws and post-consumer recycling and alternative energy
systems was a success, but it more-or-less skipped demand-side
reduction because that was by-and-large impossible to see and to sell.
It just wasn't something that ever got the push.

But we could recycle 100% of post consumer waste and it would not put
a dent in our environmental impact. If we put that effort into
super-insulation and efficient air conditioners, if we put it into
painting roofs white in the sun belt, it could cut our national CO2
emissions by five or ten percent. Five or ten percent! At a profit!

But recycling was what got marketed, got pushed, became part of our
culture, and it was the wrong damn thing. Post-consumer recycling is
just a fairy tale (metals excepted). How do we make sure that our new
push, the new WorldChanging approach, doesn't wind up being the new
Recycling - a basket of great ideas which, if adopted, don't actually
touch the world's real problems.

I don't mean to be a hard ass, but I've been deeply inculcated with
the values of the Rocky Mountain Institute. I've helped out on two of
their books (Small is Profitable and the new book on oil policy) and I
can't stress enough how those texts brought home to me the vital
importance of really looking at the numbers, seeing where the problems
are, and asking the hard questions.

If we're going to put a dent in the real problems, we have to know
what they are, and I think we have that part down.

My suggestion is this: for the WorldChanging approach to really
succeed, it has to help act as an incubator for Factor 10+ changes in
the effiency of basic processes. Drawing attention and encouraging
adoption of technologies which step towards those goals is a great
start, but I'd like to suggest that we keep our eyes very tightly on
that ball. Ecosocial utopianism is not going to save us. Hard science
and briliant engineering have a better-than-even shot. But we have to
know at the outset that the change we're pushing is going to be
effective in hard-numbers, tons-of-CO2-never-emitted or we're falling
into the same way of thinking as the Pro-Recycling Greens of the 1970s:
"this seems like a good idea, let's go with it."

I'd love to see us really put focus on paths which might lead to those
Factor 10+ break throughs. If anything is going to save our collective
asses and allow all of humanity to live on this world in peace and
plenty, it's going to be a series of technological jumps of at least
that size. Everything else... well... I just don't believe it's going
to work, at a numerical and technical level. We need to put our focus
on the big jumps, not at the expense of the small ones, but as the long
term goal of supporting the small ones.

Sorry for thinking aloud at such length! I've really been trying to
put a firm intellectual and numerical foundation under my environmental
thinking for about two years and it's finally beginning to come
together for me on this forum. It sounds pat, but:

1> Small changes are useful if the lead to Factor 10+ changes later,
but otherwise are distractions.
2> Much environmental good is done by carefully applied outright bans,
and Ecostalinist approaches to severe problems are not inappropriate
(DDT, dioxins etc)
3> The Market works when we make it work, and the rest of the time is
an organ grinder's monkey. It can do the job, but we have to make it
work in the way we need through regulation.

That doesn't look like much, but it's about two years of work.

inkwell.vue.223 : Another World is Here
permalink #100 of 200: Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Fri 3 Sep 04 05:10

I believe that comprehension of possible negative outcomes--an authoritarian
approch to environmental and ecological policy, say--is implicit in striving
to create alternatives and conditions that allow them to succeed.  Saying
"the ecostalinists are coming!" is similar to yelling "the terrorists are
coming!" -- motivation for little but panic and intellectual, if not actual,


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