6 votes

Clean energy is about having more, not less

17 comments

  1. [14]
    OswaldTheCatfish
    Link
    I have... mixed feelings on things like this. On the one hand, it is good to remind people that the goal of environmentalist movements isn't to have us living in caves and eating raw fish, but on...

    I have... mixed feelings on things like this.

    On the one hand, it is good to remind people that the goal of environmentalist movements isn't to have us living in caves and eating raw fish, but on the other it completely ignores the fact that energy isn't the only resource we use, and how we use those resources has massive effects on the ecosystem.

    In order to use more energy we have to extract and use more resources. That resource extraction damages ecosystems. Great, we've replaced ICE cars with electric cars. Now we have vast amounts of land destroyed from lithium mines and battery disposal, cities still designed to be hostile to humans, and the hydrology of the landscape still completely destroyed from concrete. If we continue to live our lives completely unchanged aside from replacing fossil fuels, the ecosystems we rely on will still be on the decline.

    I understand this is an 8 minute video and I shouldn't expect it to cover all these things, but I feel like it just highlights the liberal non commitment to making any meaningful change. Environmentalism is inherently incompatible with capitalism, and while getting rid of fossil fuels is good, that is the first step. We have to entirely reevaluate what we believe a 'good quality of life' is from a worldview not plagued by advertising which screams at you to simply purchase more products whenever you feel that something just isn't right. If you live in a 'developed' nation, your lifestyle is unsustainable, fossil fuels or not. We've screamed from the rooftops that this is the life that everyone should want to live because its what props up sales for our economy of limitless growth and now we apparently can't fathom a world where that isn't the goal.

    At this point I'm just rambling so I'll just end it here before I get too off topic.

    11 votes
    1. [13]
      skybrian
      Link Parent
      It seems hard to talk about solutions to these things at such a high level of generality. It seems like there might be a lot of room for improvement, though. For example, what's the state of car...

      It seems hard to talk about solutions to these things at such a high level of generality. It seems like there might be a lot of room for improvement, though.

      For example, what's the state of car battery recycling? How much is getting recycled now? How much can it be improved? Can we get to the point where little new material goes into "new" electric cars?

      4 votes
      1. [11]
        OswaldTheCatfish
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        Sadly, before we talk about resource recycling we have to talk about resource extraction, because without that then we don't have any resources to recycle. Since I'm US based I'll look at US...

        Sadly, before we talk about resource recycling we have to talk about resource extraction, because without that then we don't have any resources to recycle. Since I'm US based I'll look at US numbers I got from wikipedia: In 2012 there were about 255 million street vehicles registered, which includes more than just passenger vehicles. As of December of last year, 2.3 million electric cars were sold to the US public since 2010. Of course these numbers are for different ranges of vehicles, but it still paints the same picture: we aren't at the stage where even perfect recycling would meet demand. If we want to maintain our current lifestyle, even fossil fuel free, we still have to extract resources from the planet, which cannot be done without harm.

        Don't get me wrong, I think electric vehicles can be a good thing but without talking about the big picture I find it easy to lose the point that climate change isn't the only threat.

        edit: To get a bit more to your actual point, it still comes down to that problem of resource extraction and the inherent harm caused by it. The world has 8 billion people and if everyone is going to live like Americans or Europeans then we need to pull a lot more resources out of the ground.

        3 votes
        1. [10]
          Loire
          Link Parent
          Look I don't want to get into a prolonged debate on this but: There is no way around resource extraction. It's an inevitability for human civilization. Society is a resource intensive construct...

          Look I don't want to get into a prolonged debate on this but: There is no way around resource extraction. It's an inevitability for human civilization. Society is a resource intensive construct and there is no going backwards short of collapse.

          The only reason we are even considering fossil fuel elimination is because it's so rapidly making the planet uninhabitable. If it wasn't for global warming there would be no debate on whether or not we continue to burn fossil fuels despite the other damages they cause.

          I hope I'm not strawmanning your point but there is no perfect world where human civilization lives in harmony with nature. We will continue to leave giant holes in the ground because by doing so we not only make human life comfortable for a greater number of people but we also advance our civilization to greater heights.

          Hoping that we go back to a "more natural state" is deluded. There's nowhere to go but forward for human civilization and until the population stops growing resource extraction will be an inevitability no matter how efficient the recycling. The best we can hope for is to move resource extraction (and the majority of the human population) off planet and turn Earth into a nature preserve.

          5 votes
          1. [9]
            vord
            (edited )
            Link Parent
            It's kind of a disengenuous arguement though. Sure, we'll always need to source new resources. But we need to source them a hell of a lot faster when vehicles and phones are fashion statements and...

            There is no way around resource extraction. It's an inevitability for human civilization. Society is a resource intensive construct and there is no going backwards short of collapse.

            It's kind of a disengenuous arguement though. Sure, we'll always need to source new resources. But we need to source them a hell of a lot faster when vehicles and phones are fashion statements and not utilitarian tools.

            Our insane focus on dropping manufacturing costs (largely by offshoring labor) has crippled the economic feasibility of repairing, upgrading and reusing existing goods. Did you know the primary difference between a heat pump and an air conditioner is a simple valve to allow the coolant to flow in reverse?

            But the engineering effort required to retrofit existing condensor coils to also provide super efficient heat is more expensive than chucking the nearly identical unit in the trash and installing a new one. So you're talking tons and tons of metal that at best gets reprocessed and at worst ends up back in the ground. Rinse/repeat for every cheap POS kitchen appliance and you've got huge mountains of waste. All of which replacements need extracted and we still haven't addressed how billions of other people don't even have access to these things yet.

            Mandate that all non-consumable goods must have minimum of a 20 year warantee, and I'll bet we stop manufacturing so much garbage, and start building more durable and repairable stuff instead.

            9 votes
            1. [6]
              Loire
              Link Parent
              I may have misunderstood the OP's meaning but the implication I recieved from their two posts was a complete reversal of the current trajectory of human civilization in order to eliminate further...

              I may have misunderstood the OP's meaning but the implication I recieved from their two posts was a complete reversal of the current trajectory of human civilization in order to eliminate further damage caused by resource extraction.

              I don't disagree with your points but there is still an implicit necessity for resource extraction even under the scenario you posit. Not to the same degree but there will still be steel mines, lithium mines, nickel mines, potassium mines etc leaving "damage" in their wake.

              3 votes
              1. [5]
                vord
                Link Parent
                My take on @OswaldTheCatfish's stance is that we don't necessarily need full regression, just need to stop endless progression/growth for the sake of growth. Planned growth, where it provides...

                My take on @OswaldTheCatfish's stance is that we don't necessarily need full regression, just need to stop endless progression/growth for the sake of growth. Planned growth, where it provides tangible benefit, and not just market differentiation that fosters a race to the bottom of quality.

                But, it's also fair to say that in doing so, we should be looking to reduce needless complexity where we can.

                A simple example: A french press makes better coffee than most fancy consumer coffee makers. Reverting to those would greatly reduce a huge amount of plastic and electronics waste with a minimal loss in convienience. Even if we only banned k-cups.

                Banning aggressive and pervasive marketing is one way to help, simply because if you're not being marketted to, you won't see a need to replace a perfectly fine french press for a single-use coffee machine.

                4 votes
                1. [4]
                  skybrian
                  (edited )
                  Link Parent
                  I'm increasingly of the opinion that debate about "growth" (for or against) is simply too abstract to be productive. People imagine different things when they think of growth. We could narrow it...

                  I'm increasingly of the opinion that debate about "growth" (for or against) is simply too abstract to be productive. People imagine different things when they think of growth.

                  We could narrow it down slightly by talking about industry sectors. For example, are you for or against "growth" in health care? Put in those terms, it's clear this is still too simplistic. We want to see new medicines, new vaccines, new diseases cured. We want everyone to have adequate health care. But we also don't like the costs, and we suspect there are large inefficiencies. Certainly, most medical research is wasted on failed attempts to find cures, drugs that won't work out, and the like. But some failures are going to happen along the way, right? What failure rate is "necessary" and how would you even define that?

                  Also, medicine generates enormous amounts of waste via things like one-time use of plastic syringes and other disposables, and this is done for good reasons around preventing infection. It should be clear that simply saying "don't use plastic" is simplistic; reducing medical waste seems like a difficult problem? This requires effort but it's about innovation, not simply a matter of will. In the meantime, it does seem like it's a necessary cost?

                  Of course it's easy to point to consumer goods that seem wasteful, since that's everyday stuff. But consumer products are only one part of what's meant by "growth" and other sectors like education and health care are huge.

                  6 votes
                  1. [3]
                    vord
                    Link Parent
                    I'm against what could broadly considered 'pointless growth'. Or perhaps 'pointless market diversification'. A distinction between innovation and merely increasing profits. Especially for older...

                    I'm against what could broadly considered 'pointless growth'. Or perhaps 'pointless market diversification'. A distinction between innovation and merely increasing profits.

                    Especially for older medicines, there should be no branding or marketing. You know what the difference between Z-Quil (non-addictive sleep aid) and Benadryl (an allergy medication)? Branding and price point. It's literally just marketing and packaging.

                    Innovation is inventing a new drug to solve a problem better. Innovation is not generally profitable, but rent-seeking "growth" is. Growth is jacking up the cost of insulin, or making trivial changes on a drug to renew its patent and charge 100x its cost for longer.

                    The largest inefficiency of all is the scam that is the health insurance market. My solo-practice doctor has flat-out explained how he could easily reduce his billing from $200/hr to $80/hr if health insurance companies just didn't exist. He spends almost half of his working hours dealing with them, trying to get paid at his asking rate and not having his patient's coverage denied. He thus can't take on more patients and needs to charge existing ones higher to make up for it.

                    3 votes
                    1. [2]
                      DrStone
                      Link Parent
                      I would be careful simplifying medications this much. Even when two products have the exact same active ingredients in the exact same quantities, they may not be interchangeable in all cases. The...

                      Especially for older medicines, there should be no branding or marketing. You know what the difference between Z-Quil (non-addictive sleep aid) and Benadryl (an allergy medication)? Branding and price point. It's literally just marketing and packaging.

                      I would be careful simplifying medications this much. Even when two products have the exact same active ingredients in the exact same quantities, they may not be interchangeable in all cases. The form, the coatings, the filler composition, and more all play a role in how it works broadly and in individual cases. Sometimes people have no problem swapping a generic for a brand, or different brands, and vice versa. Other times it's necessary to stick with one (or perhaps try a swap to see if one is better than the other for that particular case).

                      2 votes
                      1. vord
                        Link Parent
                        I take a certain mental medicine that has been around for ages. The generic pill is powdery and one of the most awful things I've ever tasted. The branded pill is sugar coated. Generic pill costs...

                        I take a certain mental medicine that has been around for ages.

                        The generic pill is powdery and one of the most awful things I've ever tasted. The branded pill is sugar coated.

                        Generic pill costs me $0.18 for a 3 month supply. Brand name costs $15 a month.

                        I understand that I oversimplified my statement regarding drugs, but I still feel it holds, on average. The biggest exception would be instant release vs slow release. Otherwise I'd wager it's mostly placebo effect at work.

                        2 votes
            2. [2]
              vektor
              (edited )
              Link Parent
              Has anyone found a good way of starting that change by yourself? Miele, which is a high-end appliance company, offers 10 years for their extended warranty, the price of which rivals the price of...

              Mandate that all non-consumable goods must have minimum of a 20 year warantee, and I'll bet we stop manufacturing so much garbage, and start building more durable and repairable stuff instead.

              Has anyone found a good way of starting that change by yourself? Miele, which is a high-end appliance company, offers 10 years for their extended warranty, the price of which rivals the price of low-end devices themselves. But that's only 10 years, from a brand that people apparently buy for life - 10 years is good, but not good enough.

              3 votes
              1. vord
                (edited )
                Link Parent
                Only buying from the companies with the longest warantee you can find helps. As does purchasing the simplist tool which accomplishes a job, preferably one that has multiple uses. Like a good...

                Only buying from the companies with the longest warantee you can find helps. As does purchasing the simplist tool which accomplishes a job, preferably one that has multiple uses. Like a good kitvhen knife over a dozen kitchen gadgets.

                I try to puchase things which are easily end-user repairable, though this is harder nowadays.

                20 was kind of an arbitrary pick, but I think a great one to encourage providing replacement parts. Meilie does this, so 10 might be enough, but better than the status quo of 1-3.

                2 votes
      2. Amarok
        Link Parent
        The majority of our existing battery technologies won't remain competitive in the next couple of decades. They'll be replaced with various types of solid state batteries. This includes options...

        The majority of our existing battery technologies won't remain competitive in the next couple of decades. They'll be replaced with various types of solid state batteries. This includes options like a glass battery that don't include anything toxic, expensive, or rare, and have the potential to last for decades with little to no reduction in charge efficiency while providing at least double the energy density. There are literal billions being invested in this right now, this year, all over the world in a wide variety of energy and car companies. I don't think we can predict which of these types will make it into our devices, but there will be winners and they will replace lithium completely.

        The current state of batteries and their recycling issues will be irrelevant in a couple of decades. When we talk about the future we often make the mistake of assuming current technologies will still be there along with their problems. They won't be.

        2 votes
  2. [3]
    rosco
    Link
    Apart from the very valid critiques others raised in the video I'd like to highlight one point I thought the video did a good job addressing: the imbalance between rich/poor countries and the...

    Apart from the very valid critiques others raised in the video I'd like to highlight one point I thought the video did a good job addressing: the imbalance between rich/poor countries and the power dynamics between the two. Poorer countries are going to need more energy, period. The entire continent of Africa is responsible for 3.8% of global emissions, 3.8!

    Why does that matter? One of the loudest voices in the room at the moment is the call for population control in the face of limited resources. With a population boom on the horizon in Africa, many have turned their sights there. This isn't just in regressive or conservative spaces, it's a voice frequently heard at progressive and green events. "What about rising birth rates in Africa!?!" It's a rebranding of Hardin's Tragedy of the Commons and the racist, classist roots are still there. Well intended folks push contraceptive programs not for their benefits to local communities or individual mothers, but for their environmental beliefs.

    So this is where I diverge from the opinion presented in the video and align with OswaldTheCatfish: To ensure that populations in poorer nations can have equitable access to energy and resources we need to start limiting our access/use in rich nations. But this doesn't have to be a negative thing, it can be a double win as smart zoning, infrastructure, housing, and design. Without even digging into the improvements we can make in low carbon energy, we can reduce the need for it with higher density, mixed use (commercial + residential) development with good public transportation. It drives me crazy that we have extensive data to develop places that make us happier and with fewer emissions and we just... don't.

    And that's how we end up with a video about increasing consumption and a comment section about the ways in which we'll do it.

    5 votes
    1. [2]
      EgoEimi
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      I think it's not racist but a harsh truth. We can have massive population growth while preserving the environment. But humans are humans, and we're never going to have that perfect scenario....

      It's a rebranding of Hardin's Tragedy of the Commons and the racist, classist roots are still there. Well intended folks push contraceptive programs not for their benefits to local communities or individual mothers, but for their environmental beliefs.

      I think it's not racist but a harsh truth. We can have massive population growth while preserving the environment. But humans are humans, and we're never going to have that perfect scenario.

      What's going to happen instead is massive environmental degradation: agricultural intensification and expansion of human activity into nature. Having many children degrades parents'—especially mothers'—ability to continue their own education, and strains national educational resources to educate so many children, reinforcing poverty. And then it's very difficult to convince poor people with few life opportunities in an overcrowded and consequently hyper-resource-competitive country to not cut their forests and grasslands—for the sake of some abstract concept like climate change that the wealthy outside world obsesses about—and set up farms to have a shot at a better life.

      In the past, the great western expansion of the United States was driven by poor Americans desperate for cheap or free land (conquered from the indigenous).

      In modern times, a very similar colonization program has been underway in Brazil's rainforests. The soil of the Amazon is notoriously poor for agriculture, but the allure of easy land and opportunity is irresistible to the poor.

      There's no realistic way of convincing the people of a poor, overpopulated, and (presumably) democratic country to not choose policies to plunder the environment for opportunities.

      1 vote
      1. rosco
        Link Parent
        Right, but at this point we've profited from raping the land and are now saying "hoooooold on, you can't just do that. Yes we did it but did we really know any better? Yes I know we made lots of...

        Right, but at this point we've profited from raping the land and are now saying "hoooooold on, you can't just do that. Yes we did it but did we really know any better? Yes I know we made lots of money and that enabled us to then ravage your lands as well but you can't. Well of course we can't really save our lands, we already raped them that's why we need yours. No you don't get to decide. Why? The elephants of course! Don't be so greedy."

        So now they don't get economic growth while we are doing almost nothing in terms of re-establishing wild areas in the western world/very little to provide financial subsidies to curb environmental degradation. We are however getting very behind that there just shouldn't be so many of them.

        It's also a question of agency. How many countries around the world are begging us to curb emissions while we flip them the double bird. Offloading responsibility onto these countries is a pretty good way to skirt onus for the situation we now find ourselves in.

        I think an apt parallel might be reducing the number of kids in poverty. One lever is to allow abortions and there will be fewer children, which is a viable option but not a catch all. I would hope that simultaneous to that would be programs to ensure food, education, healthcare, and housing for those kids. That second part is what we are largely ignoring. Investment in job diversification, infrastructure, small business loan programs, education are all things that would also relieve poaching/deforestation pressure on pristine ecosystems. We also need to reduce demand for illegally trafficked animals and animal products (which is also an issue in the global north).

        There's no realistic way of convincing the people of a poor, overpopulated, and (presumably) democratic country to not choose policies to plunder the environment for opportunities.

        My last point will be historically it isn't the folks in these countries that carry out the majority of environmental damages, it's foreign entities allowed to operate for a mint and then export goods internationally. Look at the collapse of the fisheries in Senegal or Ghana or the devastation of central African waterways. (That second link is a full belly laugh by the way as the company that carried out the majority of the environmental degradation/apartheid in the region, DeBeers, is now getting to co-develop the narrative with National Geographic).

        So to me we have said, no kids for you, you can't destroy your own land we'll do that for you, and we will blame you for increasing GHGs now because that might manifest at some point in the future.

        Edit:

        In modern times, a very similar colonization program has been underway in Brazil's rainforests.

        By and large the rainforest is being destroyed for cattle ranching and gold. Look at where the meat is actually being consumed. Limiting our own consumption will do more for the environment than suppressing population growth in these countries.

        2 votes