Globalisation and Climate Change

I tend to be suspicious of those who seem to have nothing but criticism for all things “pro-environment” (i.e. solar, wind, electric this or that). It’s easy to think that they are merely registering their card-carrying identity with (or rather against) a certain tribe they’ve already decided they dislike for reasons quite unrelated to any material they actually present as their public face.

But despite my suspicions of all that, I’m not naive enough to think that no criticism is ever warranted of many major environmental initiatives. This BBC article seems to have a fairly level-headed critical approach of just such things, without (it seems to me) being motivated by tribal games or opaque anti-environmentalism. Our seemingly unlimited faith in technology and globalisation to deliver us from the very problem brought to us (in large part) by these very things does warrant a good critical discussion even if it is one none of us like to have.

Any thoughts, reactions, or discussion of Alf Hornborg’s observations?

Interesting read. I think I agree with his assessment of technology. We all want to save the world, but we want to do it without making any major changes to our lifestyles or energy consumption. But I’m afraid that greater localization will lead to more inequality. And if it does, will our values shift to value equality less?

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That’s a good question. And one of our wishful presumptions about equality is that everybody below ‘me’ would be able to rise up to ‘my’ level (conveniently making it unnecessary for me to change any of my own behaviors.) And the ‘me’ thinking like this often has a lifestyle that is far too carbon consuming to accomplish any mitigation whatsoever. In short, nobody ever wants to work toward equality by giving up anything. We indulge our fantasies instead that all boats should rise to where we are.

The result? well… boats sure are rising. Literally.

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Does it continue to strike anyone else (in depressing ways) as we listen to the news that affluent societies are hopelessly conflicted (and that only in their better moments!) by motivational cross purposes?

What I mean by that is this. We are conditioned to want and celebrate good economics. Low unemployment, rising levels of wealth, anything that wards off or prevents the all-dreaded recession. And yet if I was purely motivated only toward carbon footprint reduction, I am forced in that environmentally conscious mindset to see ominous and damaging implications in all those same things that I moments before was celebrating. An economy that is ramping up and “getting busy” as it were means more of all the damaging things that sells away our environmental future.

Of course large corporate institutions turn an understandable blind eye to all that since they can only know and worship one mantra: grow or die. It’s the only life approach that has sustained them (if indeed they are among the survivors) for these last centuries. Mere sustainability = death in their minds (and with some justification). Nobody is in business to get smaller (or even stay the same apparently). Hence the need for governments to break up big monopolies - a battle that government has been soundly and roundly losing by any possible perspective. We don’t have any way in any of our economic models to shrink in any non-catastrophic ways. For all of our study of economics and all the experts out there on these things, how could such a gaping hole in our knowledge persist for so long? [It would be a bit like struggling up a mountain, and only later learning from your great height that no controlled descent is possible. Your only way to get back down is by falling off cliffs - walking down is deemed impossible.]

I know. Nobody is supposed to talk like this. It’s fighting against that god-word: progress. And nobody, I repeat nobody is ever against that!

There, my smiley face is pasted back on, and brain turned back off again so that I can resume the idiotic corporate intravenous drip-feed that we’re all so addicted to as we use it to talk to each other here. :grinning:

Have a great day everybody!
-Your daily pick-me-up from Merv

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In my opinion, Hornberg is right that the technology of energy consumption is tightly coupled to the rest of the economy.

However, I do question some of his assumptions. For example, much residential electricity can be generated from currently unused rooftops by solar tiles. The cost of solar technology has dropped quite a bit, so the rest of the world is not going to pay the same price Morocco paid a decade ago to build a solar farm. If we can shift ground transportation to renewable-powered electricity and reduce meat consumption and eliminate beef consumption, then we might be able to use bio-fuels to power ships and maybe even airplanes.

The economy I am envisioning is indeed significantly different than the existing economy, but not radically.so. Personally, I have altered my lifestyle by driving a gas-sipping Prius and sharply reducing my consumption of meat and dairy. When solar rooftiles become available, I will put them on my roof. And the electricity it generates will power my next car, an electric vehicle.

Best,
Chris

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I applaud and aspire to follow such practices myself - knowing full well it’s nothing close to enough; but becoming less of a problem still trumps remaining a bigger problem - every place, every time. Which is why I have little patience for naysayers who pretend the only two options are “saving the planet” (a nonsensical caricature from its inception) or “then just forget about it all - eat, drink, and be merry then.”

So what do you think of the author’s charge that the only reason solar will be (is) getting cheaper is because of carbon-costly outsourcing of such manufacturing to China? It would be interesting to see if a typical (now cheaper) manufactured solar panel today is able to make up for its manufacturing and shipping carbon footprint by the energy it then displaces away from fossil fuel electricity production over the expected lifetime of the panel. I’m sure somebody has probably researched that.

Good job on the fuel-sippage car! I’m about to use my “snack-sipping” bicycle for my run into town this morning.

[I’ve got this (or a similarly messaged one like it) posted on my wall in my classroom at school…]
image

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The charge is not entirely true. Much of the cost reduction comes from improved manufacturing and materials technology. The carbon cost of shipping the panels is vastly outweighed by the carbon savings they generate.

Best,
Chris

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