26 votes

Wind turbine blades can’t be recycled, so they’re piling up in landfills - Companies are searching for ways to deal with the tens of thousands of blades that have reached the end of their lives

40 comments

  1. [30]
    vord
    Link
    This is ultimately why eliminating capitalism is key to eliminating waste. The article even shows there is a company who has a method to break down and reuse the materials. The problem is, that if...

    This is ultimately why eliminating capitalism is key to eliminating waste.

    The article even shows there is a company who has a method to break down and reuse the materials.

    The problem is, that if this company is more expensive than dumping the blades in the ground, nobody will use it, the company will go under, and blades will pile in landfills indefinitely.

    Removal of the profit motive means that the safer and less wasteful options can be prioritized, because cutting costs is not a concern anymore.

    15 votes
    1. stephen
      Link Parent
      Agreed. Moreover, this goes to show that limiting our discussion on sustainability to just carbon dioxide with a heavy emphasis on the energy sector is not going to save us from the collapse of...

      Agreed. Moreover, this goes to show that limiting our discussion on sustainability to just carbon dioxide with a heavy emphasis on the energy sector is not going to save us from the collapse of the biosphere.

      The living earth is like an organism. Right now it is presenting symptoms of impending massive organ failure, it's body is choked by pollutants, and there are countless problems in the lower orders of it's systems. Yet, we are choosing to focus on the fever it's been running.

      The problem is, doctors can't just pick one ailment to heal when you're that unhealthy. There needs to complex (as opposed to complicated), holistic remedy. The cascading of knock-on effects and the complex interaction of parts makes anything else impossible.

      We can't afford to keep attempting simple solutions to complex problems. Wind turbines alone won't save us. We also need to social and technical infrastructure to refurbish and/or recycle the assemblies, components, and materials to save energy and prevent waste. We need to reduce demand for energy. Doctors can't save a person by treating symptoms when the disease is their lifestyle. We need to change our lifestyle in complex ways at all levels of society.

      Humanity won't save itself by meeting skyrocketing energy demands with an approaching-infinite number of soon-to-be-garbage wind farms.

      9 votes
    2. [2]
      JamesTeaKirk
      Link Parent
      Would you say that capable regulatory bodies are not a sufficient solution to this sort of problem? I feel a bit disingenuous asking the question as you could argue that we've tried and failed to...

      Would you say that capable regulatory bodies are not a sufficient solution to this sort of problem? I feel a bit disingenuous asking the question as you could argue that we've tried and failed to do this in the states, but nevertheless; Do you think there is a feasible way to have a society that benefits from the spoils of capitalism while stepping in to limit the profit motive in times when it threatens to cause harm to the greater good?

      I guess my other big question gets to Vegai's point. Once you remove the profit motive, what will replace the purpose it fulfills?

      8 votes
      1. vord
        Link Parent
        So long as capital accumulates, it will be a threat to dismantling the regulatory bodies. In the states, look at the gutting of the FCC, trust-busting, and environmental regulations for examples....

        Would you say that capable regulatory bodies are not a sufficient solution to this sort of problem?

        So long as capital accumulates, it will be a threat to dismantling the regulatory bodies. In the states, look at the gutting of the FCC, trust-busting, and environmental regulations for examples.

        Do you think there is a feasible way to have a society that benefits from the spoils of capitalism while stepping in to limit the profit motive in times when it threatens to cause harm to the greater good?

        Fundamentally, no. Capitalism grew exclusively out of slaving and imperialist societies. Profit motive is inherently exploitative, as the very foundation relies on paying the workers less than the value they produce.

        Innovation is not tied to capitalism. In fact, it could be argued that capitalists will frequently suppress innovative technology that competes with what makes them profitable.

        I do love reminding people: The USSR thrived for decades, and was an economic and innovation powerhouse...to the point that economists at the time were debating if capitalism was obsolete.
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_Russian_innovation#Soviet_Russia_and_Soviet_Union

        That is not to say the Soviet model was not without incredible flaws, but I would argue that after the substantial growing pains (Civil War, WWI, Stalin, and WW2 in rapid succession) and recovery from those, the next 30+ years showed tremendous growth and progress.

        That's a long enough time to suggest that socialism and planned economies are not nonviable economic models, it was just that the largest initial try of them had flaws and failed. Perhaps those flaws would have been easier to rectify if the USA was less hostile towards the USSR, and fewer resources would have been needed to be spent on war machines.

        I also like to point out, even in the USA, many of our innovations come from publicly funded, not profit-driven institutions.

        6 votes
    3. [3]
      KapteinB
      Link Parent
      If I'm reading the article correctly, Casper gets paid $675,000 to store 870 windmill blades: ~$776 per blade. If the recycling company can match that price, they should do fine.

      Built to withstand hurricane-force winds, the blades can’t easily be crushed, recycled or repurposed. That’s created an urgent search for alternatives in places that lack wide-open prairies. In the U.S., they go to the handful of landfills that accept them, in Lake Mills, Iowa; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; and Casper, where they will be interred in stacks that reach 30 feet under.

      If I'm reading the article correctly, Casper gets paid $675,000 to store 870 windmill blades: ~$776 per blade. If the recycling company can match that price, they should do fine.

      2 votes
      1. [2]
        vord
        Link Parent
        But what if they can't? What if it costs $1000 or more to recycle, and the output of which can only be sold for $200? Then the recycling company goes defunct, everyone dumps them in landfills and...

        If the recycling company can match that price, they should do fine.

        But what if they can't? What if it costs $1000 or more to recycle, and the output of which can only be sold for $200?

        Then the recycling company goes defunct, everyone dumps them in landfills and the problem is ignored perpetually until we're in a WALL-E type situation.

        3 votes
        1. stephen
          Link Parent
          The real issue here is that things are mostly designed not to be remanufactured, refurbished, or reclaimed. We manufacture untold amounts of stuff with absolutely no plan for their decomissioning...

          The real issue here is that things are mostly designed not to be remanufactured, refurbished, or reclaimed. We manufacture untold amounts of stuff with absolutely no plan for their decomissioning besides "uhh duhhhh I uhh guess we'll uhh just put it in a uhhh hole in the uhhh the ground I guess..."

          Recycling is great but it, in the world of sustainable product manufacture, should be the second to last resort. Taking a high-value-added finished product and reducing it down to raw materials is great. But it (under capitalism) has the lowest potential for creating a valuable commodity.

          If there is ever going to be an end to landfilling, manufacturers need to put 10,000% more emphasis on ensuring the maximum amount of value can be retained in products at end-of-life.

          1 vote
    4. [14]
      NaraVara
      Link Parent
      Removal of profit motive might also have meant nobody bothers inventing the separation process in the first place. The profit is pricing in the opportunity costs of using that money. You don't...

      Removal of the profit motive means that the safer and less wasteful options can be prioritized, because cutting costs is not a concern anymore.

      Removal of profit motive might also have meant nobody bothers inventing the separation process in the first place.

      The profit is pricing in the opportunity costs of using that money. You don't know yourself whether chemically breaking down these turbine blades is the most optimal allocation of resources, even from a purely environmental standpoint. How do you know that a person-hour spent doing this wouldn't have yielded better environmental results researching a carbon sequestration plan instead?

      2 votes
      1. [8]
        vord
        Link Parent
        Because it's not an either-or proposition? You have R&D teams researching better options, meanwhile you have the current best option being used exclusively (to minimize damage otherwise)....

        How do you know that a person-hour spent doing this wouldn't have yielded better environmental results researching a carbon sequestration plan instead?

        Because it's not an either-or proposition? You have R&D teams researching better options, meanwhile you have the current best option being used exclusively (to minimize damage otherwise).

        Removal of profit motive might also have meant nobody bothers inventing the separation process in the first place.

        Or....instead of money being the motivating factor, social status is. Tie fame and celebrity tied to advancing society, reducing waste, and making peoples lives better.

        Capitalism has produced many "innovations" that should not exist. My favorite is disposable battery chargers that are intentionally crippled..

        6 votes
        1. [7]
          NaraVara
          Link Parent
          How are you deciding how many resources to allocate to one versus another? How are you deciding what the better R&D options are? Money converts to food at a predictable and agreed upon rate....

          Because it's not an either-or proposition? You have R&D teams researching better options, meanwhile you have the current best option being used exclusively (to minimize damage otherwise).

          How are you deciding how many resources to allocate to one versus another? How are you deciding what the better R&D options are?

          Or....instead of money being the motivating factor, social status is

          Money converts to food at a predictable and agreed upon rate. What's the rate with which you convert social status to anything? This starts to look a bit like people working "for exposure." What's more social status gets tied to a lot of things that are completely independent of output. As a Brown man, my contributions will always yield me lower status than an equivalent White man. Is that fair?

          Capitalism has produced many "innovations" that should not exist. My favorite is disposable battery chargers that are intentionally crippled..

          During the Great Leap Forward, Mao's central planning regime had farmers melting down perfectly good steel ploughs into useless pig iron in backyard forges to meet arbitrarily assigned steel production quotas. It led to widespread famine. Whole forests were clear cut to feed those clunky furnaces. So unless your capitalism alternative has some kind of process to abolish bad decisions, I don't see price signals or profit motive as the root cause here.

          2 votes
          1. [4]
            vord
            Link Parent
            So what I'm hearing is: The problem wasn't the quotas in general, it was that they were arbitrary and easily fulfilled by loopholes. Everyone is quick to dismiss the entirety of every alternative...

            During the Great Leap Forward, Mao's central planning regime had farmers melting down perfectly good steel ploughs into useless pig iron in backyard forges to meet arbitrarily assigned steel production quotas

            So what I'm hearing is: The problem wasn't the quotas in general, it was that they were arbitrary and easily fulfilled by loopholes.

            Everyone is quick to dismiss the entirety of every alternative to capitalism that has ever cropped up based on its failures, but will also readily dismiss any failure of the capitalist systems as "well that was a fluke."

            There's another aspect at play here: In the case of our current industrialized society, at this point it's more important to forcibly reduce outputs in fields such as oil drilling and plastic production.

            3 votes
            1. [3]
              NaraVara
              Link Parent
              Everything is ultimately arbitrary and easily beaten by loopholes if you mismanage it. But not mismanaging high-stakes things is the central challenge of governance. You don’t get to beg that...

              So what I'm hearing is: The problem wasn't the quotas in general, it was that they were arbitrary and easily fulfilled by loopholes.

              Everything is ultimately arbitrary and easily beaten by loopholes if you mismanage it. But not mismanaging high-stakes things is the central challenge of governance. You don’t get to beg that question away by just assuming a highly competent and fair manager.

              Everyone is quick to dismiss the entirety of every alternative to capitalism that has ever cropped up based on its failures, but will also readily dismiss any failure of the capitalist systems as "well that was a fluke."

              No. I’m quite critical of the shortcomings of unfettered capitalism. But I don’t think “anti-capitalists” get to beg away every actual interesting question about how to fulfill and manage an economy in ways that don’t replicate the bad anti-patterns we’ve seen.

              3 votes
              1. [2]
                vord
                Link Parent
                We don't. There is extensive literature to consume if you're willing to look, on many different proposals for new economic models. Part of the issue is that it is hard to distill said literature...

                But I don't think "anti-capitalists" get to beg away every actual interesting question about how to fulfill and manage an economy in ways that don't replicate the bad anti-patterns we've seen.

                We don't. There is extensive literature to consume if you're willing to look, on many different proposals for new economic models. Part of the issue is that it is hard to distill said literature into short internet comments.

                Here's one possible, brief overview of a solution. There's a ton of more details, but I'm short on time.

                1. We evaluate all current production capabilities in terms of labor costs.
                2. We convert all capitalist hierarchical systems into democratic worker-owned co-operatives.
                3. We abolish money in favor of labor tokens. Prices of goods then reflect the true labor cost of the products being made.
                4. Resource allocation is then mostly done via labor credits, based on current costs and adjusted slowly over time.
                5. Technological progress can then favor technologies that reduce human labor and reduce waste, rather than what is most profitable.
                1 vote
                1. NaraVara
                  (edited )
                  Link Parent
                  I've looked. And you're not going to solve empirical problems with theoretical solutions. Many of these things you listed have been tried and had serious challenges in practice. For example: The...

                  We don't. There is extensive literature to consume if you're willing to look, on many different proposals for new economic models. Part of the issue is that it is hard to distill said literature into short internet comments.

                  I've looked. And you're not going to solve empirical problems with theoretical solutions. Many of these things you listed have been tried and had serious challenges in practice. For example:

                  We evaluate all current production capabilities in terms of labor costs.

                  The labor theory of value is grossly inadequate. It was grossly inadequate for the agrarian economy for which it was coined, it was inadequate for the industrial economy that Marxists derive it from, and it's heinously inadequate for the fuzzy, subjective, "knowledge" or "information" economy we deal with now.

                  One of the main problems is that it assumes "labor" is fungible in the short term (freely exchangeable from one use to another) and that "labor" can be divided into discrete, countable units. Is an hour of a yoga teacher's time the same as an hour of a Zumba instructor's? Who is deciding the exchange rates there? Who decides how much labor it takes to do things? If we determine that a steel ingot costs X labor tokens, and I develop some process innovation that does it in a third of some specific input, do you continue providing me X labor tokens or do you only give me X-(X*.3)? Does it seem fair that I get compensated less for doing things more efficiently? Now I suppose you could argue in a perfect system you would recognize those process innovations and generalize them throughout the economy, but what's the process by which this happens? This ties into your next point:

                  We convert all capitalist hierarchical systems into democratic worker-owned co-operatives.

                  So I mentioned there are challenges with generalizing our routinizing innovations, but not everything is painless to generalize and some people are hurt by the process innovation. How do you manage this? For example, I'm really good with computers. I type fast, I use the mouse with speed and precision, and I have a good head for remembering complex sequences of shortcuts. This makes me a fucking beast at managing spreadsheets because my misspent youth playing Starcraft gives me a a really high APM. So my basic speed lets me spreadsheet like a boss, and much of my early career involved me pulling off spreadsheet feats that were simple and quick for me, but completely impossible for Donna, the older lady, without my technical acumen who had been doing this for years.

                  If my new process is so much better, the generalization process is going to involve replacing people like Donna with people like me. Is that fair to Donna who, despite her decade or so of loyal service, just doesn't have the ability or desire to learn new tricks? Now if we have a "non-hierarchical worker-owner cooperative, who do you think wins the argument about how we do things from now on? Is it going to be the organization that's had 10 years of hiring Donnas to do things, or is it going to be me? The uppity, ungrateful punk who thinks he can just come in here and tell everyone how to do things?

                  And that's not even the only problem. What happens to my ownership stake if I want to change jobs? Am I just supposed to have no residual say or emotional attachment to the fruits of my prior labor? How do we make sure equity stakes remain as fair for new people in the company versus old? What happens if the sales-people accrue outsized political influence within the organization and start to treat the custodial staff like shit? What happens to the poor, beleaguered project managers who have to actually control scope?

                  In other words, a worker-owned co-op may be better on some metrics, but I don't really see it as a cure-all for ALL the ills associated with being at work. If you don't have a formal governance structure, you're just going to replicate all the ills of high-school cliquey bullshit. (This is a great essay on the topic from an anarchist organizer). But if you do have a governance structure then you, well, have a governance structure with all the problems of bureaucracy and leadership that can be corrupted that a capitalist system has.

                  And what about jobs where the needs of the workers actually should take a back seat to the needs of the consumer? How would a worker owned coal company be relied on to care about the environmental impacts of the coal? How about a "worker owned" police force that's insulated from the decisions of the political office holders or broader community?

                  We abolish money in favor of labor tokens. Prices of goods then reflect the true labor cost of the products being made.

                  The Soviet Union functionally did this with the Ruble. It didn't go that well because of many of the issues I cited above about how hard it is to centrally define how everything must relate to everything else. That's basically infinite numbers of interrelationships that your central planner needs to define. It's one of the big reasons they were never really able to get anywhere near adequate amounts of food production.

                  Technological progress can then favor technologies that reduce human labor and reduce waste, rather than what is most profitable.

                  Who decides this though? And whose labor are we going to prioritize reducing? Again, labor isn't just a big lump. It's millions of people all with individual desires and skills. Their needs are always going to be in tension with each other. The hard part of answering economic questions isn't how do you steer these big, reified concepts around. It's that these big reified concepts are actually a cognitive shorthand to help us talk about very complicated human relationships. Things that help or benefit one within a group can harm others. It's not so simple when you have to actually do any of it.

                  3 votes
          2. [2]
            vord
            Link Parent
            Does it really though? Could you provide some substantial evidence to back this statement up? Because what I see on my end is that food is mostly subject to the same levels of arbitrary "what the...

            Money converts to food at a predictable and agreed upon rate

            Does it really though? Could you provide some substantial evidence to back this statement up?

            Because what I see on my end is that food is mostly subject to the same levels of arbitrary "what the market will bear" nonsense that results in the poorer eating lower quality food or going hungry because they can't afford better options.

            As a Brown man, my contributions will always yield me lower status than an equivalent White man. Is that fair?

            But you must ask yourself: Why is it that your contributions are yielding lower status than a White man?

            Is it because the system in which we live is formed from societies where royalty were deemed genetically superior to the common folk? Because this mentality was used to justify the imperialism and slavery that came before capitalism. Modern capitalism still functions on much of the same principles: Labor outsourced to a "cheaper" country doesn't mean less labor is required to do these things...the companies just decided that the other country's citizens don't deserve the same level of pay for the same work.

            Is it not a continuation of discriminatory thinking to say "We don't need to pay the people of <insert country here> as much as <our country>?"

            In a hypothetical future world, status would not confer material wealth. It would be treated much the same the way academic status works today: Your status is conferred based on your contributions to the field. If you are able to mathematically disprove a widely held convention, you would be lauded as a hero.

            Some of these advancements are contingent on also eliminating the systemic racism and classism in our society. One example is providing free and equal schooling opportunities for everyone. Expand schooling to include learning trade skills and not just academia. Abolish private schools, who by definition provide "better" education to those who can afford to pay.

            3 votes
            1. NaraVara
              Link Parent
              Go to the grocery store. Notice how everything has a tag that defines exactly what you need to give to get it? Seems pretty predictable and quantifiable to me doesn't it? Some retailers try to...

              Does it really though? Could you provide some substantial evidence to back this statement up?

              Go to the grocery store. Notice how everything has a tag that defines exactly what you need to give to get it? Seems pretty predictable and quantifiable to me doesn't it? Some retailers try to hack you by hiding fees or pretending things are cheaper by pricing at .99 cents instead of a full dollar and stuff, but all that is actually a good example of how transparent pricing actually is a good way to help people make these decisions. The fact that swindlers try to make them non-transparent and disguise pricing kind of implies that pricing, as a concept, is a fairly honest way to broker trade, a protection against dishonest vendors. In contrast, consider what it's like shopping in places where haggling is commonplace. People end up not trusting each other, accusing each other of being cheats, and on and on.

              Why is it that your contributions are yielding lower status than a White man?

              That's a very complicated and multi-causal explanation that the reductive answers you have below don't do justice.

              Is it because the system in which we live is formed from societies where royalty were deemed genetically superior to the common folk?

              Differential distribution of status was a thing long before the concept of royalty or genetics existed. Even in tiny villages with no formal hierarchies, you have some people who are just plain more popular than others. And association with those popular people confers status on the people who associate with them.

              In a hypothetical future world, status would not confer material wealth.

              You can't just wish away currently existing problems. If you want to hypothesize a future world, you need an actual plan for how we get from here to there. Otherwise this is just wishes and dreams.

              Your status is conferred based on your contributions to the field. If you are able to mathematically disprove a widely held convention, you would be lauded as a hero.

              Who gets to decide what contributions are laudatory? Why does my mellifluous singing voice deserve greater status than Donkey Lips' ability to belch the alphabet? Why does a mathematical proof deserve more heroic praise than a really avant-garde fashion designer?

              Abolish private schools, who by definition provide "better" education to those who can afford to pay.

              Plenty of private schools arguably provide worse education. People send their kids there because they want their kids to be raised in a Catholic environment, or because they think they would benefit from some military discipline, or because they feel like their local community is bigoted and intolerant towards them and wish to shelter their kids from it. You may value educational attainment very highly, but that doesn't mean everyone does.

              And therein lies the problem. If your solution depends on the assumption that either you or some idealized philosopher king in charge would know the right system of values, the right priorities, the right distributions of things, etc. But humanity is diverse and heterogenous. A workable system needs to leave space for a panoply of value systems and beliefs and conceptions of what a virtuous or good life is. It's hard to accept an argument that replacing one that confers undue dominance to people with money with one that confers similar dominance to specific types of social science nerds or bureaucrats is objectively any better. At best, it's the same system with the stacks rearranged.

              2 votes
      2. [5]
        Happy_Shredder
        Link Parent
        I'm not convinced the profit motive's so important in innovation. Sure, if you want to make something you need initial capital; this can self funded, bank loans, government grants, or private...

        I'm not convinced the profit motive's so important in innovation. Sure, if you want to make something you need initial capital; this can self funded, bank loans, government grants, or private investment. Only in the last case is the profit motive important: rich people invest some of their wealth in a startup in the hope of making more money (and there's a whole complicated apparatus supporting this) .

        But the profit motive has also given us the climate crisis, every oil spill, Bopal, enormous amounts of plastic waste, and so on. 1 There's a litany of human and environmental cost, arising essentially because companies have to make money, to pay off debts, to pay shareholders, to profit their investors, and for personal gain. Given this cost I see real motivation trying to find another way to run society.

        The world is full of people doing interesting things for no profit (artists, scientists, hobbyists...). There's all sorts of reasons outside of profit someone might start a small business: to develop an interesting idea, dignity in work, freedom in work etc.

        Do you think the profit motive is really that important? Is the human and environmental cost justified? Can you imagine other ways to fund startups?

        1 There's a whole extra discussion here about whether markets really do provide the most efficient distribution of resources. And also how socialist ideas fit in; can we make the market work better for people?

        1. [4]
          NaraVara
          Link Parent
          You also need a reason for people to want to spend their time doing it rather than, say playing video games or doing something else that does turn a profit. Your alternative incentives are either...

          I'm not convinced the profit motive's so important in innovation. Sure, if you want to make something you need initial capital; this can self funded, bank loans, government grants, or private investment. Only in the last case is the profit motive important:

          You also need a reason for people to want to spend their time doing it rather than, say playing video games or doing something else that does turn a profit. Your alternative incentives are either out of some sense of social obligation, because it's a fun problem to work on, or because someone's got a gun to your head and is forcing you to do it.

          If you just assume the situation we have right now, where a scientist has gotten educated and trained, become employed in this field, developed an interest in this specific problem or area of study, etc. and just remove profit motive you might get a similar outcome. But there is an entire winding path to get there that was driven by amorphous profit motives the whole way. It's not at all clear you get that. It's kind of like saying "Gender is a false narrative, if men could give birth we wouldn't have all these gender roles." It's like. . . sure but that's like saying if everything was different, everything was different. It's almost tautological.

          The world is full of people doing interesting things for no profit

          Interesting =/= socially beneficial. The profit motive is how vast scales of resources get into the hands of people who can work on them. Even the stuff that's not directly focused on profit, like NASA projects, you still need to pay your scientists. And you need to convince everyone involved in all the functions that NASA needs to do it's thing, like the dirty work of mining aluminum and stuff, that it's worth putting their aluminum into THIS and not THAT.

          I don't think it is at all obvious that this hypothetical "non-profit" motivation is going to yield better outcomes than the profit motive does.

          1 vote
          1. [3]
            Happy_Shredder
            Link Parent
            For profit =/= socially beneficial either. Slavery is profitable. Burning down forests is profitable. The fossil fuel industry is profitable. Surveillance is profitable. And so on; in our current...

            For profit =/= socially beneficial either. Slavery is profitable. Burning down forests is profitable. The fossil fuel industry is profitable. Surveillance is profitable. And so on; in our current system all life is subordinate to profit. We can throw environmental and worker protection regulations around (and we should, it's better than laissez-faire) but laws are reactionary and specific. I'd rather try and fix the problem at the fundamentals.

            Yes, in transitioning to a new system we still have to pay people. I'd like to see progress towards universal guaranteed survival, so people don't have to work to survive. There's enough food and land to share.

            So what if some people don't want to work? There's more people than there is work anyway, and the disparity gets worse as more menial labour is automated away. And social obligations are powerful; a fairly standard approach for dealing with getting dirty work done in a community is to have everyone do it. And if you persistently refuse, well then you're not welcome in the community anymore.

            1. [2]
              NaraVara
              Link Parent
              What is "socially beneficial" is a political decision and you're probably not going to agree with whoever ends up getting to decide. What's more is all of the things you listed above have been...

              For profit =/= socially beneficial either. Slavery is profitable. Burning down forests is profitable. The fossil fuel industry is profitable.

              What is "socially beneficial" is a political decision and you're probably not going to agree with whoever ends up getting to decide. What's more is all of the things you listed above have been facets of non-capitalist and not-especially profit motivated societies as well. See my example about China clear cutting its forests. Saying "Abolish the profit motive" isn't fixing anything at the fundamentals any more than ripping off a leaky roof. You need an actual roof that works better.

              Also it's debatable to what extent everything we do is done for profit. More often than not that's just a popular frame to create rationalizations for decisions, but just take a look at the debacle around G/O Media where they're clearly in some kind of management dick-measuring contest with the staff. They're clearly taking steps that are NOT profit motivated and, in fact, destroying massive amounts of shareholder value to satisfy ego.

              So what if some people don't want to work?

              It's not about "work" as in having any job. It's about doing any specific kind of work that needs to be done, and get all the training and practice and education one needs to do that job.

              And if you persistently refuse, well then you're not welcome in the community anymore.

              I hope you realize that this gets real dark real fast.

              1 vote
              1. Happy_Shredder
                Link Parent
                I think several different ideas are getting conflated here (I don't want to talk about communalism i.e. how do you get everyone to help and share work is a whole thing on its own). Let me try and...

                I think several different ideas are getting conflated here (I don't want to talk about communalism i.e. how do you get everyone to help and share work is a whole thing on its own). Let me try and tease them apart, and bring it back to how dealing with the profit motive can help reduce environmental costs without effecting innovation or production (apologies, this might be a bit long).

                First, consider a socialist critique of capitalism:

                • All businesses, whether sole trader, small, company, or corporate, must be profitable. (Profit here is tangible i.e. capital).
                • All businesses must have enough income to cover the cost of doing business. This includes various goods and services (e.g. raw materials and legal), general costs (e.g. stationary), and wages & salaries.
                • All businesses must make a profit above this to cover debts, and, in the case of publically tradeable businesses, generate profit for shareholders.
                • Some businesses may try and generate profit beyond this, because under capitalist idealogy accumulation of personal wealth is associated with personal value and morality (i.e. some people just want to be millionaires).
                • The pursuit of profit is not the same thing public good. Almost anything can be profitable, especially if you have a monopoly, or capture the market in some fashion. Optimal allocation and public good are ill-defined because they depend on some value system.
                • Hence, we expect to see (and do indeed see) some humanitarian and environmental cost in the process of seeking profit. Standard examples include the exploitation of workers and pollution.1
                • By rearranging society so people don't have to seek profit these humanitarian and environmental effects go away. (Strictly speaking, the effects caused by profit seeking go away. They can still arise from other mechanisms; there is no utopia, no panacea, no easy solutions. Any proposed socialist system which still encourages e.g. exploitation and pollution is a failed solution). 2

                In considering socialist realisations, one needs to consider timescales. We can imagine post-scarcity societies e.g. The Culture, The Federation, but these are technologically unattainable in the near future. It's easy to state a goal i.e. we want a free and fair and equal society, with no exploitation and no pollution and so on. But figuring out the specifics of these hypothetical societies is essentially impossible because (1) we don't have the prerequisite technology and (2) people and systems are complicated; it's difficult to accurately predict the consequences of some change, and to theorise in detail on how to transition from one system to another. The idea "society would be better without profit" (as per above) is an aspirational idea. It's not an idea that can be interrogated in detail, it's too vague. Maybe it's possible, maybe it's not.

                Instead, it's more useful to consider what we can do right here and now that respects the vision, and moves us towards the goal. I personally reject revolution, and instead am interested in evolutionary changes. Each change should be atomic i.e. helpful in its own right, but when taken together could change society significantly.

                Now, while the above critique in principle applies to all businesses, in practice most of the humanitarian and environmental cost comes from large businesses and in particular corporations.3 Because of the scale and scope of e.g. Rio Tinto, Coca Cola, Facebook these sort of companies can inflict massive amounts of damage, far beyond say, your local fish and chippery.4 So I'm interested in (1) limiting the power of large corporations and (2) improving the quality of communities and the agency of individuals.

                Consider, for example:

                • the controlled shutdown of the fossil fuel industry
                • wealth taxes
                • limiting the number of employees + contractors
                • limiting mergers and aquisitions of other businesses
                • limiting executive pay + bonuses
                • transitioning to worker owned businesses (e.g. start by mandating 30% of workers on the board, increase this over several years; introduce worker owned business structures and give tax incentives to register as such, then slowly phase out the corporate structure)
                • actually enforcing taxes
                • weighting fines by wealth (for both individuals and corporations)
                • meaningful enforcement of environmental regulations
                • heavy investment in distributed power production
                • heavy investment in urban, suburban, and community farming
                • phasing out complicated welfare systems in favour if some style of UBI (e.g. one payment+extras for kids, initially income tested, then transition for everyone)
                • expanding available government startup funds
                • a federal ICAC

                And so on. I don't want to talk about any of these in detail, they are all huge topics in their own right.

                Anyway, bringing this back to profit, consider that the claim 'profit is good for society' is really several claims:

                • profit is the best way to encourage workers
                • profit is the best way to encourage starting businesses
                • profit is just in general the best motivation (or more strongly, capital profit is the only motivation)
                • profit is the best way to allocate resources (i.e. the market is the best way to allocate resources) 5
                • profit is the best way to make decisions

                We've discussed aspects of this; hopefully I've been able to suggest that we don't necessarily have to rely on profit for motivation, nor is profit really related to the best decisions for society (and yes, horrible things can happen without the profit motive). Further, and I don't know how to argue this more clearly, I don't think that good ideas or innovations have anything to do with profit directly, simply because the world is full of people making interesting things and sharing interesting ideas without directly making a profit. And so maybe the full radical vision is possible. For the moment, we are stuck with a market and any practical socialist proposal needs to work with this. There's no way to instantly change society, there must be a transitional period. I think it's quite reasonable to wind down the profit motive a bit at a time, particularly at scale. 6 Transitioning away from the profit motive doesn't mean instantly dropping wages and salaries. 7

                To conclude, consider a hypothetical wind turbine manufacturer. They're worker owned, minimising worker exploitation. They're privately held, with a strict tiered wage structure (like in academia), so don't need to pursue tremendous profits or growth.8 They have a government contract, so have a guaranteed demand. They have a legal mandate to produce minimal waste, and so engineer in an environmentally friendly way, as best they can. Similarly, they are buying resources from other businesses arranged in a similar fashion. So resources move around, wages get paid, and the cost to the planet is minimised; they are free to innovate as interested or otherwise motivated. 9

                1 Pursuit of endless growth is a significant issue too; it's entirely unsustainable (assuming nonasymptotic growth).
                2 The environmental cost comes from direct profit seeking, not indirect.
                3 Of course, if your local businesses are using slavery, or burning down forests for land, this is problematic and could be dealt with. There's always exceptions when it comes to people!
                4 There are other issues related to the nature of the corporate structure, and the share system.
                5 Arguably, the market doesn't know what the most optimal allocation of resources is. Whether or not researching carbon sequestration is more profitable than recycling turbine blades is kind of irrelevant because optimal allocation isn't necessarily well defined. What the market does is make a decision, and likely much more rapidly than some central planning comittee. Consider too that most R&D comes from universities and government labs; good ideas will still arise without profit (but may need to be developed by private industry).
                6 I'd like to argue the transition should be as fast as possible, before we run out of planet.
                7 Dropping wages and salaries implies some post-scarcity AGI run society.
                8 We don't need billion dollar companies; arguably any organisation that big should be community or government run (and not-for-profit!).
                9 To reiterate: because this hypothetical business cannot grow endlessly and cannot seek enormous profits, they don't need to cut costs or try and produce as cheaply as possible or heavily market utter crap or whatever. The standard sorts of environmental and humanitarian costs go away. Researching better recycling and carbon sequestration (or whatever) is still going to happen in the public sector, and can still be developed in the private. It becomes a matter of (a) is there funding, (b) is it interesting, (c) is it useful, (d) are there rewards, (e) are there tax breaks, (f) does it make the world a better place, (g) do we have to, to meet government environmental requirements (consider waste credits; if you produce x waste you need to make up for it with y innovations), (h) will this help us pivot, and so on. There are so many more motivations than just profit.

    5. [9]
      vegai
      Link Parent
      Replacing capitalism is easy, kinda. Replacing it with something better is not.

      Replacing capitalism is easy, kinda. Replacing it with something better is not.

      7 votes
      1. [8]
        vord
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        This comment explains it better than I ever could. First we must agree that capitalism must be replaced. Then we can worry about specifics.

        This comment explains it better than I ever could.

        First we must agree that capitalism must be replaced. Then we can worry about specifics.

        1 vote
        1. [2]
          Loire
          Link Parent
          Which is the reason capitalism continues to proliferate. You can't get a large enough group of humans to agree on anything. I hope one day that will no longer be the case and we just do things...

          Which is the reason capitalism continues to proliferate. You can't get a large enough group of humans to agree on anything. I hope one day that will no longer be the case and we just do things because they are the right thing to do.

          2 votes
          1. vord
            Link Parent
            Well, in hopes of getting more to agree, I think this is a decent foundation for the basis of modern planned economy: http://ricardo.ecn.wfu.edu/~cottrell/socialism_book/

            Well, in hopes of getting more to agree, I think this is a decent foundation for the basis of modern planned economy:

            http://ricardo.ecn.wfu.edu/~cottrell/socialism_book/

        2. [4]
          NaraVara
          Link Parent
          This was Dubya's plan for Iraq. Get rid of Saddam and then worry about what comes after. We saw how well that turned out. Power vacuums rarely yield good results.

          First we must agree that capitalism must be replaced. Then we can worry about specifics.

          This was Dubya's plan for Iraq. Get rid of Saddam and then worry about what comes after. We saw how well that turned out. Power vacuums rarely yield good results.

          1 vote
          1. [4]
            Comment deleted by author
            Link Parent
            1. [3]
              NaraVara
              Link Parent
              The problem is “capitalism” is a weasel word that doesn’t have a precise definition. The concept itself was basically a straw man description of the industrial production economy defined by Marx...

              They didn't say get rid of capitalism and then figure it out, but that there must be a consensus that capitalism must be replaced so that we can worry about specifics.

              The problem is “capitalism” is a weasel word that doesn’t have a precise definition. The concept itself was basically a straw man description of the industrial production economy defined by Marx in Das Kapital. It’s an open question as to whether we even live in a capitalist system or what a “capitalist” system even is. Are we just talking any use of pricing mechanisms? The existence of profit motives? The influence of financial interests on governance decisions? What?

              This is the problem with reifying around what are supposed to be descriptive terms. You start to lose sight of the system itself and fixate on the labels instead. It becomes unmoored from practical reality.

              2 votes
              1. [2]
                vord
                Link Parent
                On the contrary, capitalism has a very specific definition, and Wikipedia has a pretty good wording: Capitalism is an economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production and...

                On the contrary, capitalism has a very specific definition, and Wikipedia has a pretty good wording:
                Capitalism is an economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profit.

                What the terms in that statement mean:

                • private ownership: Individuals may own things such as land, homes they do not live in, or machines they do not operate themselves, otherwise known as "capital."
                • means of production: Extraction of resources from the ground and turning those resources into stuff
                • for profit: the economic surplus from the means of production gets accumulated by those who provide the capital, not the labor.

                The root of dismantling capitalism is about eliminating the concepts of private property and profit.

                Elimination of private property means transitioning ownership to the workers and/or a proper democratic government. Elimination of profit entails producing to better the society as a whole, not to enrich the pockets of those with capital.

                Note that markets are not mentioned anywhere in that. Markets are not incompatible with socialism...they merely aren't operated for the sake of profit.

                2 votes
                1. NaraVara
                  (edited )
                  Link Parent
                  None of these definitions are orthodox economic ones. Private property is distinguished from public property, which is the commons. Capital isn’t defined as “things you own but don’t use...

                  On the contrary, capitalism has a very specific definition, and Wikipedia has a pretty good wording:
                  Capitalism is an economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profit.

                  None of these definitions are orthodox economic ones. Private property is distinguished from public property, which is the commons. Capital isn’t defined as “things you own but don’t use yourself.” It’s any implement that amplified the effect of labor. In the simplest form, a man is labor. A shovel is capital. A man with a shovel is the two together. The shovel doesn’t magically become capital by virtue of whether the man has ownership rights over it.

                  Means of production goes beyond simply extraction of raw material, it is literally the means (methods by which one does something) of production. It’s equipment, but it’s also logistics, processes and procedures, managerial structures, infrastructure that supports things, etc.

                  And your definition of profit is way way off. Profit refers to the returns to production in excess of the inputs of production. The profit exists regardless of who that surplus accrues to.

                  So there you still have no concrete definition of what capitalism entails aside from a very broad conception that there is private ownership (an amorphous concept) over the ways in which we produce things (another amorphous concept) for the sake of gaining something for doing work (in contrast to what? Doing work when it’s against your best interests?)

                  Like, how is “private property” meaningfully any different in China where you can’t “own” land but the state will give you a 99 year inheritable, transferable, and renewable lease on it? The only difference between that an a title deed that the American government can eminent domain away from you “for the public benefit” is the order of operations.

                  The root of dismantling capitalism is about eliminating the concepts of private property and profit.

                  This clarified nothing. You’ve defined terms in ways that beg the question on accepting the labor theory of value, which even socialist economists don’t really take that seriously anymore.

                  Note that markets are not mentioned anywhere in that. Markets are not incompatible with socialism...they merely aren't operated for the sake of profit.

                  In a perfectly competitive market profits go to zero once opportunity costs are factored in, so technically it’s not operated that way in laissez faire capitalism either.

                  1 vote
        3. vegai
          Link Parent
          (Your link formatting is a bit broken) Hmm, I almost totally disagree. I mean I can agree that capitalism should probably go away in the long run. But replacing things without properly figuring...

          (Your link formatting is a bit broken)

          Hmm, I almost totally disagree. I mean I can agree that capitalism should probably go away in the long run. But replacing things without properly figuring out what to replace them with will end in disaster almost every time. Tearing down the current system means that several millions of people will starve. When several millions of people are starving, the system that was there before will be reinstated and fast, and all the people who tried to change the system will be murdered.

          I don't think we want that.

  2. [3]
    blitz
    Link
    Ultimately it doesn’t seem like a problem. We’re burying material that doesn’t decompose or leak, and we’ve got loads of space for these things. So, the waste generated by throwing away old blades...

    Ultimately it doesn’t seem like a problem. We’re burying material that doesn’t decompose or leak, and we’ve got loads of space for these things.

    “Wind turbine blades at the end of their operational life are landfill-safe, unlike the waste from some other energy sources, and represent a small fraction of overall U.S. municipal solid waste,” according to an emailed statement from the group. It pointed to an Electric Power Research Institute study that estimates all blade waste through 2050 would equal roughly .015% of all the municipal solid waste going to landfills in 2015 alone.

    So, the waste generated by throwing away old blades for over 50 years is a one-thousandth of the landfill waste of the country in one year. It hardly seems worth writing an article about. Perhaps there is lower hanging fruit?

    8 votes
    1. [2]
      KapteinB
      Link Parent
      This seems to be a follow-up of sorts to an article from last summer. On its own the article is kind of pointless, but if there really are lots of people out there who think windmills is a bad...

      It hardly seems worth writing an article about.

      This seems to be a follow-up of sorts to an article from last summer.

      On its own the article is kind of pointless, but if there really are lots of people out there who think windmills is a bad option because they fill up landfills, I think it's important that a few articles like this one are written to clear things up.

      4 votes
      1. blitz
        Link Parent
        Ok, but then the headline should be "Discarding old windmill blades is easy and safe, and it's likely they can be recycled" (or something, I'm not a journalist). Leading with one headline and then...

        Ok, but then the headline should be "Discarding old windmill blades is easy and safe, and it's likely they can be recycled" (or something, I'm not a journalist). Leading with one headline and then contradicting it in the article is a practice I'm growing increasingly frustrated by.

        3 votes
  3. [3]
    patience_limited
    Link
    I'm really surprised there's no one reusing the blade segments as structural materials. It's true they're not designed as rigid load-bearing elements, but fill them with foam, lap the edges, and...

    I'm really surprised there's no one reusing the blade segments as structural materials. It's true they're not designed as rigid load-bearing elements, but fill them with foam, lap the edges, and they'd be fine for walls or roofs on low-rise structures.

    6 votes
    1. [2]
      envy
      Link Parent
      Those things are mind boggingly huge.

      they'd be fine for walls or roofs on low-rise structures.

      Those things are mind boggingly huge.

      6 votes
      1. NaraVara
        Link Parent
        Yeah the first time I saw them being transported on a truck I was astonished. You don't get the sense of scale because they're always high up and far away when you see them, but just one blade is...

        Yeah the first time I saw them being transported on a truck I was astonished. You don't get the sense of scale because they're always high up and far away when you see them, but just one blade is at least one and a half times the length of your average shipping container.

        I have an idea though! What if we convince Trump to build his border wall out of them!?

        1 vote
  4. [2]
    Omnicrola
    Link
    This is surprising to me. I had unconsciously assumed that wind turbines where just big versions of the fans I have around my house. And the idea of the blades "wearing out" on my desk fan is so...

    This is surprising to me. I had unconsciously assumed that wind turbines where just big versions of the fans I have around my house. And the idea of the blades "wearing out" on my desk fan is so foreign it's absurd.

    While it's good that the waste is less than other forms of energy generation, it's way past time for us to take the entire lifecycle of a technology into consideration. Making something work should only be the first step in developing a product. Figuring out how to reduce it's waste and environmental impact far below what we've traditionally accepted should be a requisite part of it as well.

    4 votes
    1. KapteinB
      Link Parent
      I knew windmills have a limited lifespan, but I always assumed the blades were made of metal that could be recycled. Fiberglass is of course a lot harder to recycle.

      I knew windmills have a limited lifespan, but I always assumed the blades were made of metal that could be recycled. Fiberglass is of course a lot harder to recycle.

      3 votes
  5. [2]
    WendigoTulpa
    Link
    Imagine landing on an alien planet and finding these mass graves of metal "bones". Lots of imaginative opportunities here, though it really is a shame.

    Imagine landing on an alien planet and finding these mass graves of metal "bones".
    Lots of imaginative opportunities here, though it really is a shame.

    1 vote
    1. stephen
      Link Parent
      and furbies, and millions of weird plastic tubes full of goop, and dildos. All the dildos.

      finding these mass graves of metal "bones"

      and furbies, and millions of weird plastic tubes full of goop, and dildos. All the dildos.