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Derrick Jensen "personal change vs. political change"

 
steward
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Erica Wisner wrote:So poor people and old money know how to save money.  
So who tries to prove they are rich by spending extra money?  Insecure people.  Doing it constantly is pretty adolescent behavior.  
But we do have a pretty adolescent culture, don't we?

Unfortunately, adolescent insecurities don't take kindly to being told they're acting juvenile.

-Erica



Whoo boy!  This seems doubly true today.  We have a pretty adolescent culture.
 
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I have been negligent to my brothers and sisters at Permies. I have been spread too thin.  Big LUV  gals and guys. Hi, Nicole and friends

The reason I am here. This is one of the post responses I had hoped would eventually disappear. Too honest words spoken in haste. I'm not always brave. It depends on the day. I'm only an occasional super hero.

But I am surprised I keep getting notices of thumbs up on my comment. Three years ago and it keeps coming.

A lot has changed in three years. I suppose an update is due.

Trump happened. Also...Extinction Rebellion happened. It peaked my interest. Simply because they said two important words I was waiting to hear. "Extinction" and "Rebellion". Even still....  See my previous post... and this https://internationalman.com/articles/the-peasants-revolt/

Its not what people want to hear. I said, "I wont fight a war that I cant win". That was only a half truth. I was being coy. A lot has happened in three years. Time to fill you in on the rest of that quote.

C5 rule of survival- Never pick a fight that you cant win by simply showing up.

After the last three years...... ............. .............. ............... consideration and contemplation is reasonable to be on your mind. Take that as you will.

Am I brave enough to press Submit. I believe the answer is yes.....

 
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Dan Boone wrote:

Alder Burns wrote:What is more, we are a radically de-skilled culture where so many no longer know how to live frugally.



Not just de-skilled, but also de-tooled.  An awful lot of "do for yourself" and frugality undertakings require a minimum of tools.  Tools cost money, and are mostly consumerist crap that breaks almost as fast as you can get it out of the store.  Good tools -- like the kind my grandpa had in his toolbox -- are brutally expensive, and knowing how to find them is another one of those missing skills.



Quoting myself a second time, because I find that my perspective has changed a bit after three years:

Dan Boone wrote:GoodTools -- like the kind my grandpa had in his toolbox -- are brutally expensive...



Good tools have always been expensive.  What's changed is the return to labor.  The piece of the pie that one gets for working with tools. Personal tools are the original means of production, and the immiseration of the working person to the point where useful tools seem impossibly expensive is not something that "just happens" accidentally.

We are, as the kids say optimistically, in late-stage capitalism.  I say they say it "optimistically" because they think it's going to collapse and be replaced by some sort of more humane economic arrangements.  More permies, I suspect, agree it's late-stage, but attributing this to the idea that it's simply unsustainable. That makes many of us less sanguine about what comes after.  There's nothing humane about subsistence agriculture in a feudal collapsarian world of escalating environmental disasters -- an outcome that is by no means certain but is definitely on the menu of possibilities.  

In the here and now, though, there's still a lot of unrecognized and unappreciated wealth left over from the last 100 years, in the form of fine tools that have been neglected by not destroyed by time.  Every time I attend an estate sale, I think how many barns and garages are full of dusty rusty treasures.  My point is that scrounging those treasures, refurbishing them, teaching yourself to use them, sharing them with others, teaching others to use them -- it's a political act.  In a very real way, you're seizing the means of production.  Just a few, a small part, some radicals would say a trivial and insignificant fraction.  But I say it's very deliberate that these sorts of good tools aren't readily available at prices that a working person can afford -- or, to put it another raw way, that a working person no longer commands a wage that makes good tools reasonable to purchase.

(I am aware that there remain a few trades where this isn't true -- where workers do routinely buy top-quality tools and get paid enough to make it rational.  But in most cases, not so much.  And don't ask me how many auto mechanics I know who have $10,000 worth of fine wrenches in a pretty red steel chest and a miserable garnish on their paycheck due to a SnapOn debt they can't afford to pay off.  I have more than one of these in my extended family!)  
 
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I attended a climate change meeting a year ago, and I noticed that the "scientist" was being dodgy about numbers and with the mathematics. So when I got home, I looked up the science regarding how much carbon dioxide is derived from natural sources, and how much is man made.

Here's the summary in graphical form... Basically, what I concluded, is that anything humans are doing is a drop in the bucket compared to what mother is doing. Remember that scary chart in the original post of this thread. Here's putting it into perspective.

CO2-life-vs-human.png
[Thumbnail for CO2-life-vs-human.png]
Comparing human activity to mother's carbon dioxide respiration.
 
Dan Boone
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Interesting, Joseph.  I'm really curious to hear, if you don't mind sharing: what did you conclude that mother has been doing differently since about 1950, to drive atmospheric CO2 levels to levels that were not seen in the 400,000 years before we started dropping our drops into the bucket?

Source of chart: NASA

 
Joseph Lofthouse
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When I look at that chart, I conclude that it was made for the purposes of telling a particular story in a particular way...

For example, carbon-dioxide levels started rising dramatically around 20,000 years ago. Long before industrialized humans came along. 19,900 years before fossil fuels started being burned in significant quantities. The graph shows that carbon-dioxide levels have a pattern of gradual decline for 100,000 years, and then experience dramatic rises in a short period of time.

The y-scale on the graph doesn't display about half of the range of the data set that it purports to cover.

The x-scale on the graph doesn't display a huge swath of the earth's history, including relatively recent periods when carbon-dioxide levels were 5 times what they are today. (The graph conveniently stops at 400,000 years ago.)

I don't care about the science. What I do care about is the narrative: how the story is being told, and who benefits from telling this particular story in this particular way.  

My take away from this, is that there are forces involved that are far larger than puny human could ever hope to control.
co2.png
[Thumbnail for co2.png]
modifying a graph to tell a different story....
 
pollinator
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To a certain extent, does it matter? Regardless of whether it's entirely man-made or not, it will make the planet uninhabitable for humans, and whether or not one cares is a separate issue. Goodness knows I'm not a people person, and in all likelihood the planet will survive even if humanity does not, but I'm still going to do things to help, not hurt, that's just who I am.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Why would humans go extinct just cause the temperature of the planet changes? Since people have existed, they have lived in areas that are much hotter than where I live, and much colder than where I live. People survived the last ice age. Then they survived a dramatic rise in temperatures. The sea rose hundreds of feet. People managed to flee ahead of the sea-level rise. Heck, I survive a 30 degree change in temperature every day, and a 120 F change in temperature every year.

 
Dan Boone
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote: (The graph conveniently stops at 400,000 years ago.)



Per Wikipedia, Homo Sapiens is about 350,000 years old.  So this strikes me as an eminently reasonable choice of graphical baseline.  Call me a human chauvinist if you must.


Joseph Lofthouse wrote:I don't care about the science. What I do care about is the narrative: how the story is being told, and who benefits from telling this particular story in this particular way.  



I do care very much about the science.  The narratives are ephemeral; the greenhouse gas in the atmosphere is not expected to be.  To me, the runaway escalation of atmospheric CO2 above a peak that's never been exceeded before in the history of our species is not something we can neglect to concern ourselves with, just because various people tell different stories about it.

I'm still interested in more details of the story it seemed like you were offering to tell about it.  It sounded as if you were offering a new-to-me story about the causes of the runaway escalation.  But if not, I'm sorry I wasted your time.
 
Stacy Witscher
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Joseph - I would say the issue for me is the number of people that will suffer or die. The population is such that everybody can't/won't just move. And while some of humanity might survive, the suffering, of particularly the vulnerable, pains me. Like I said I'm not a people person, I describe myself as a theoretical humanitarian, I don't like people but I care deeply for them. But to each their own.
 
Dan Boone
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Stacy Witscher wrote:To a certain extent, does it matter? Regardless of whether it's entirely man-made or not, it will make the planet uninhabitable for humans, and whether or not one cares is a separate issue. Goodness knows I'm not a people person, and in all likelihood the planet will survive even if humanity does not, but I'm still going to do things to help, not hurt, that's just who I am.



I agree with Joseph in a narrow sense; I have boundless faith in the ability of Homo Sapiens to hang on in the face of outrageous climate adversity.  I don't think our species survival is seriously threatened by the climate apocalypse.  

But the default condition of humanity for most of its history has been to live very simply with wood and stone tools in small villages of no more than a few hundred people, wracked by regular famine, disease, and high infant mortality.  The path from where we are now to a new baseline closer to that historical default is paved with horrors: large wars, genocides, very large famines and epidemics, huge refugee crises, and broadly unpleasant cultural collapses.  Utterly without regard to the details of who put the greenhouse gasses in the air or whether we humans have seen this movie before, if the earth warms too quickly, we cannot adapt rapidly enough to the extra heat in our weather systems and things will get indescribably ugly in dynamic, chaotic, and unpredictable ways.

I think that is very much worth caring about.  

I also don't think it can be stopped, now.  But how quickly it arrives, how hard it hits, and how bad it gets all yet remain within our power to affect -- both individually and collectively.  

The burden of empathy for the victims of what is coming weighs on me heavily.  I am baffled, I am uncomprehending, I am blank with confusion, when people suggest to me that we should not care about any of that because people survived various climate catastrophes in the past.  Sure, humanity survived, but lots of individual people suffered.  When the event is just a random geological accident (Boom, volcano!) I guess there's no moral weight to that suffering, but when our choices are implicated in its causation and/or we have numerous clear paths to its prevention, reduction, or mitigation, then as moral animals I feel like we do have to care.  

Think of it this way: if we were menaced by a civilization-killing asteroid strike and were arguing about sending a mission to deflect the asteroid, how impressed would we be by the argument that our ancestors survived the last one just fine?  Wouldn't there be a noisy "Yeah, but we have the power to do something this time" coming from every throat?
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I love you Dan. Corresponding with you is never a waste of my time....

The story that I'm telling, is that global warming started 20,000 years ago, and that the amount of carbon dioxide that people are contributing to the ecosystem is minuscule when compared to the huge quantities that mother generates. It takes a good degree of hubris to believe that humanity is responsible for a trend that started in the stone age.

In any case, my personal responsibility is something like a ten billionth of humanity's influence.  My neighbors will be unlikely to start living within their solar budget until it's forced on them by population overshoot. It's just as unlikely that I will, so I'm not judging or pointing fingers, just feeling fatalistic.

My basic outlook on the world, is that life lives, and will find a way to keep on living despite anything that puny humans do or don't do.

 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I have lived a life of sorrow and grief. Everyone I know has either died, or is certain to die. Many of those deaths have been lingering or gruesome. That is the nature of the human condition. I don't see it being much different if the world is a few degrees warmer or colder. I love that there are people that have lived charmed lives, but I've tended towards living among people that haven't.

My personal ecosystem benefits from warmer temperatures and more carbon-dioxide. We get more rain, and my crops are more productive both because of the higher temperatures and because carbon dioxide is a fertilizer.

I figure that I made my contribution to humanity's well being by only siring one child.  Seems to me, like it's impossible to have infinite growth on a finite planet, and the only workable solution is population reduction. If we can't do it by choice, then the laws of physics will cause it to happen involuntarily.

 
Dan Boone
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:I love you Dan. Corresponding with you is never a waste of my time....



I feel the same way.  I often wish we were neighbors!

Joseph Lofthouse wrote:The story that I'm telling, is that global warming started 20,000 years ago, and that the amount of carbon dioxide that people are contributing to the ecosystem is minuscule when compared to the huge quantities that mother generates.



We don't dabble much, here on Permies, with earnest speech at one another about truth.  But we are two men of good faith who, having grasped at  the same elephant, are not close to agreement on what manner of beast it is.

Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
In any case, my personal responsibility is something like a ten billionth of humanities influence.  My neighbors will be unlikely to start living within their solar budget until it's forced on them by population overshoot. It's just as unlikely that I will, so I'm not judging or pointing fingers, just feeling fatalistic.

My basic outlook on the world, is that life lives, and will find a way to keep on living despite anything that puny humans do or don't do.



And in these things, again we find agreement.  My only realistic hope is to help build some metaphorical lifeboats.  I do hope that something of my efforts may make the coming hard times less miserable for someone, but in truth I'm motivated at least as much by the statistically faint chance that something in what I do might make a biodiversity difference in deep time.  I think we are looking at a bunch of species bottlenecks and extinction events over the next couple of hundred years, from the top to the bottom of the food chain.  Is it likely that anything I do on my 40 acres flips a biological bit and turns an extinction event for one species into a bottleneck?  Not likely, no.  But if things get as bad as I think they may get, it's possible.  And hey, as hedges against the void go, it'll do.  
 
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I feel that it is impossible for anybody to know for certain.  The stuff we are talking about is invisible - therefore we depend on others to measure and report, and we hope they didn't make mistakes.  And the same goes for the historical and cause.   I put more weight on the words of the scientist that says "high probability" than the scientist that says "fact."

Setting that aside for a moment, the thing that bugs me is the solutions for reducing carbon footprint.   It bugs me so much i wrote a book.

When I was a teenybopper, I would hike into the mountains and live off of the fish I caught.  Now, those fish have such a high mercury content, that would be a terrible idea.   This issue is certainly man made.

Issues with drinking water?  Air pollution?  

It bugs me that interest in electric cars is huge while rocket mass heaters are getting less than 1% of the attention.   Don't get me wrong, I applaud the electric car.  I just think interest in stuff about our heat would be bigger.

 
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Going back to Joseph's graph of the relative impact of human activity to CO2 emissions and Dan's graph of the spike of emissions since the 1950s, is there any reason to believe both are not correct?  First of all, and the data might be out there without my understanding, Dan's graph ends in the present with the levels at an upward trajectory....not a plateau.  So we don't know where it ends.  Second, even if throughout time CO2 levels have spiked, even to quite high levels, without the influence of human activity, that does not negate the effects of the current context....of human activity that is *apparently* unprecedented on this planet.  So while human derived sources still *may* represent a small contribution to global CO2 emissions relative to non-human planetary forces, we cannot for certain, in the present context, conclude that the cycling of CO2 rise and fall will have the same trajectory as *estimated* to have occurred in the past.   So both viewpoints can be ..... 'true'----and prudence, I feel, is not an unwarranted stance to take in the matter.  I refer to another thread initiated recently on the forum, paraphrased as "Would you live a permies lifestyle if it was having no apparent impact?...".   My own answer would be "yes".....because I feel it to be the most harmonious one with the other entities of planet, irrespective of how my own personal experience comes up with a definition for 'harmonious'.  As a parallel thought experiment, if we either found a way or discovered a source of fresh, pure water that was unlimited in abundance, should we use it wantonly, even given that each will have a different idea of what constitutes 'wanton'?  There is a lot of personal and cultural psychology, rooted in personal and communal experiences, that comes into play in how each of us answers these questions and envisions the future.  Glad to have this forum for discussing such topics in a more measured way.
 
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I’ve been reading along, and I think every post has wonderful points and insights, with a pretty deep discussion developing, touching on science & data mixing with individuals beliefs and philosophies/ethics. I want to contribute something too, playing off of recent thread inputs.

I do believe that homosapiens will die off, at some point in time, and earth mother will continue along just fine without us. Over 99% of all species that have ever lived on Earth have gone extinct. In all likelihood, mankind will follow suit. It’s a bitter pill to swallow since we have large brains with consciousness and we can ponder theoretical possibilities and our own demise. I believe most, but possibly all, other creatures on this planet live to survive each day seeking food & shelter and reproduction, not concerned if their species will be in existence in a thousand years. Here’s a chart I want to share, and when I see it, it really puts into perspective what an unsustainable situation humanity has found itself in. If we could overlay it with the chart Dan shared, I think there is a relation between carbon dioxide increase and astronomical population growth. If they could be proven unrelated, it would be quite an uncanny coincidence. The spike in population growth, if it continues on its current trend, is unsustainable. Another member already noted that they thought infinite growth on a finite planet is impossible, and I agree. Humans can try as we might, but nature has a way of correcting imbalances, wether it’s species population growth or atmospheric gas spikes.



There’s a lot of discussion involving carbon dioxide, specifically atmospheric carbon dioxide, but I believe there are other factors in play. The planet has checks and balances and the oceans are absorbing carbon dioxide at an astonishing rate(1,2). We can reduce carbon dioxide emissions, great, but what if the global ocean conveyor is slowing from polar freshwater diluting heavier saltwater(3,4), or the ocean floor containing millions of tons of methane hydrate coverting to a gas and entering the waters, then atmosphere(5). There are also tons of carbon dioxide and methane trapped in permafrost, which are thawing and releasing gasses that affect the atmosphere(6). These topics seem to get little traction, with a media focus on direct human contributions such as burning coal and gasoline in automobiles, but are indeed happening and to contribute an effect on climate.

I hope I’m not being captain bringdown, but the climate is complicated and there’s a lot at play and I am unsure if all the rocket mass heaters and lifestyle change in the world can halt what’s been started. I can think and speculate about how humanity is circling the drain, but that makes me depressed, almost making me wonder “why bother”, but I'm an optimist so instead I focus on my little farm, incorporating permaculture, helping people on these forums on Permies and hoping, maybe, I do make a difference and inspire my neighbors, and the change snowballs. I do this because I do care, it's something within my power I am able to do, and I choose to believe I can make a difference.



1. https://www.co2.earth/carbon-in-the-ocean
2. https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/features/OceanCarbon
3. https://www.climatecentral.org/gallery/maps/global-conveyer-belt-ocean-current-slowing
4. https://e360.yale.edu/features/will_climate_change_jam_the_global_ocean_conveyor_belt
5. https://worldoceanreview.com/en/wor-1/ocean-chemistry/climate-change-and-methane-hydrates/
6. https://nsidc.org/cryosphere/frozenground/methane.html

 
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First, since Derrick's name is in the thread, I'll do the guy a favor and plug his recent book:
https://www.amazon.com/Myth-Human-Supremacy-Derrick-Jensen/dp/1609806786

Which I invite every human to read, it has some really interesting insights that most definitely pertain to the discussion here (human brain size and capacity is discussed on many pages of that book).

Secondly, a quick thought about Paul's quandry:

It bugs me that interest in electric cars is huge while rocket mass heaters are getting less than 1% of the attention.   Don't get me wrong, I applaud the electric car.  I just think interest in stuff about our heat would be bigger.



Derrick is in the final stages of a new book "Bright Green Lies" that addresses this very thing. The basic premise is that big-E Environmentalism in the past was all about conserving natural habitat and species. Now environmentalism has  essentially become the lobbying arm of a specific subset of industrial capitalism, the renewable energy sector. I believe that to be true, based on the limited awareness of public discourse on environmentalism I've experienced in my lifetime.  It's less about inhabiting a planet in some sort of harmony with other beings and more about buying renewable energy (or a myriad of other fake-eco solutions).

I think you might find your answer in there, expect that probably spring of next year.
https://www.facebook.com/BrightGreenLies/
https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/bright-green-lies-a-documentary-film#/

More on that:
https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/last-born-in-the-wilderness-2/e/53196303?fbclid=IwAR1Qg578cMGEY99ebx_cw6LzRu5AQaHatDBz5dsldWR4TMxjzqEyF-_8P9E

Finally,
The sensation I have watching this discussion is that
a) it's all about me.
b) it's all about humans.
c) we're totally fucked.

To blow all that up and get past that, I would also encourage everyone to acknowledge that humans have lived, on this earth, for thousands and thousands of years without messing it up. We've managed in about 200-500 years to gum up the works seriously. We as a species know what to do and we have done it. From our vantage point that might be a little hard to digest, but our imagined privilege as civilized human beings (but more importantly the energy and murder of the planet needed to sustain that privilege)  is exactly the problem.

If we could, for a moment, put ourselves in the position of other beings who are experiencing the haloscene in a much more dramatic way I think we would act and interact with each other differently.
If we could, for  a moment, imagine that this catastrophe was being forced upon us from alien beings, from the Talaban, from whatever imagined enemy, I think we would know how to act and we would behave much differently. The fact is that the main culprits for the destruction of the natural world are people with nice hair and expensive suits who drink champagne and attend social gatherings with important people and take expensive vacations on big yachts and who generally inhabit the Apex our our society. Oh yeah, and we generally live in a world where accountability is an anathema. Especially for quote "lesser" beings.

As for the idea that global warming is natural and we can't do anything about it, all I can really contribute to that is...whatever. Humans are adept at one thing: justifying unreasonable behavior. Believe what you want to believe, the gazillion beings who die and struggle because of what's currently happening paint a completely different picture -- and as Paul mentions, it's not just global warming.

And what's absolutely astonishing is that it could be exactly the opposite: hello permaculture! hello Loess plateau! hello greening the desert! hello 100 million new trees in India just the other day!

Probably I'm like most of you saying  "Hells yeah! where do I sign up!" And that's one of the problems, nowhere to sign your name, do some (or many) hours of work, and produce real tangible change in the real world.

Which brings us back, in some ways, to "Personal vs. Political change".

All the best to everyone. hope you are well.
William










 
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A number of comments.

First I want to say I fully agree with Paul's statment about not understanding why heating isn't the big target here.  It is such a big piece of the pie.  But more importantly it is low hanging fruit.  We have dozens of answers that would let us take almost every home in the lower 48 to very low or zero CO2 to heat.  I have just lived all winter in northern WY without any auxiliary heat beyond using an electric heating pad in bed at night some nights when I came in cold.  And while this house is a mixture of passive and active solar I think the active part of this system could affordably added with solid benefit to any reasonably well insulated home with a basement.

That said I think we need to remember most people don't want to think, tend to be lazy about taking action, like their creature comforts and tend to follow the crowd.  If we don't recognize that, changing people will be at best difficult and more likely impossible.

Lets pick on me for example.  I have my flaws and places I don't want to change and yet I have done my homework and understand the issues.  For example I like long hot showers.  Both as a simple personal joy and as an occupational hazard.  I am a farm equipment mechanic and some of the time I come in wearing a full chemical factory of petroleum products etc.  The best way to get it off is soap and hot water.  Or take the clothes drier.  I know it is a huge energy waster.  But do I line dry everything.  NO WAY.  I hate ironing so dress shirts and pants are Horrors of horrors both permanent press and dried in the drier.  And I like my towels soft and fluffy.  So even if I line dry them I usually throw them in the drier for a bit to soften them.  And I dislike putting all the individual socks on the line so they are dried in the drier.  Now on the other hand my work clothes are line dried most of the time.  A washer load there is 6 or 7 pieces so hanging it up is fast and easy.  In the summer I even turn them into air conditioning for the house when I have the summer heat so the house is wide open at night.  Hang them up in the bathroom at night and they make about a 10 degree difference in the bathroom temp by morning and are nearly dry.  So if I who understands both the need and who is willing to work at it a bit am semi unwilling to make all the changes needed how can the general public be expected to make semi major sacrifices to accomplish the same thing?

Another part of the problem is lack of clear answers.  No 2 experts seem to agree.  Even simple stuff like Paul saying RMH and then saying not heating at all is the better answer.  People don't like to think so this superficial conundrum is another part of the problem.  Recognizing that each answer has its place is too much work for most people.

And not agreeing with the answers is part of my problem the institutional one size fits all forced approach.  Take for example the green new deal.  I agree with the goal but find the path they chose to be nearly completely wrong.  I think Savory is probably at least partially right and we can actually use grazing to improve the planet and buy us time.  If that is the case that means increased ruminants and increased grazing to feed more people and to generate natural fertilizer should be in the goals.  So forcing everyone to go vegan isn't the answer and is actually destroying an economic incentive to save the planet.  I also think that we need nuclear at least in the short term of 30 to 50 years because people don't like sacrifice and the only power source that is net zero carbon and capable of meeting all demands with current technology is nuclear.  And there are economic reasons why I object to its attack on the airline industry and on taking huge numbers of cars out of service before they are worn out.

Finally I have a bit of a problem with the negative carbon talk.  It only works as long as the practices that made it negative carbon continue to happen.  Some are easy.  Grow a forest, timber it, make furniture and the carbon is sequestered for the life of the furniture.  But build carbon in the soils is great but only lasts as long as the carbon in the soils last.  Pave the area over and make a parking lot and fairly shortly most of that carbon can be back out in the air.  I think we need to quit equating low carbon and zero carbon actions with negative carbon actions.  Negative carbon buys us time but over the long haul is not as good as zero carbon practices.


 
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