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Living Car Free Do you live car free or car light? Do you prefer to use alternative transportation (bicycles, walking, other human-powered or public transportation) for everyday activities whenever possible? Discuss your lifestyle here.

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Old 02-05-08, 01:54 PM   #1
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An article that it would do several people on this board good to read.

http://depletedcranium.com/?p=368

I hope that any responses here won't descend to the level of vitriol as the ones over there did.

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Old 02-05-08, 02:10 PM   #2
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I find it to be a good article overall. I have a laboratory session to attend in 40 minutes and can't sort through it, but the gist of it reads out well, particularly the idea that change should be offered as a comfortable alternative, not pressed on the masses with the looming presence of a decreased quality of life.

Edit: actually, now that i've read through some more of it, its quite patchy and presumptive. It really finger-waggles quite a bit, without providing any solid information to back up the wording.

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Old 02-05-08, 05:57 PM   #3
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In general, interesting suggestions.

While I agree with going for the bang for the buck items. I also agree with Greenpeach actions that are mostly designed to raise attention rather than achieve maximum environmental benefit. You have to keep people aware that the environment needs caring, that requires pushing media hot buttons.

The writer was wise in knowing that the hoi polloi will demand their bread and circuses. They will not be put out of their rut unless something better will come along or civilization will collapse denying them their b & c. So you want to have something better to offer them.
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Old 02-05-08, 06:36 PM   #4
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1. Sacrificing the needs of an economy for the environment will destroy both. - This is overall and far and away one thing which environmentalists seem to entirely lack any understanding of. There are a lot of claims that sacrifices must be made economically or that “the price of damaging the environment cannot be measured in dollars. We need to consider that cheap power has hidden costs to earth.”
I still cannot figure this one out, although I hear it a lot.

Here's my thought: if you destroy your environment, what are the chances you will have an economy left? A good example are societies that have deforested their countryside. A great many of these nations suffered terrible soil erosion as a direct result. When you have no soil left... guess what? You economy is in the toilet!

So... whoever wrote the above gem of wisdom, please explain!
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Old 02-05-08, 07:29 PM   #5
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I still cannot figure this one out, although I hear it a lot.

Here's my thought: if you destroy your environment, what are the chances you will have an economy left? A good example are societies that have deforested their countryside. A great many of these nations suffered terrible soil erosion as a direct result. When you have no soil left... guess what? You economy is in the toilet!

So... whoever wrote the above gem of wisdom, please explain!
This is based upon the authors notation in point 4 (4. It is unreasonable to expect the general public will accept major reductions in living standards or comfort and convenience. Simply put, it won’t happen)

Of course, now that I look at it again - its flawed to me. Not to say that he's outright wrong, as its a good point - but the end result isn't likely to be what he says.

Based upon rule #4 which is of course typical human nature, economic slumps caused by environmental efforts would simply cause a negative feedback loop, rather than the downfall of both, as the human behaviour outlined in point #4 would lead to corrective measures (so long as this point held up. In the event that it wouldn't, the cause would likely be a society so desperate for a livable environment that they would allow the economy to decline, without attempting to sacrifice environmental measures despite).

Something irreversible would need to occur on one end of the scale or the other in order to have the aforementioned scenario proposed by the author to occur.
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Old 02-05-08, 07:40 PM   #6
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Actually, I have to make notes on some of the other things he says now, after having more time to read over it again.

"2. Every little bit does not help."

Every little bit does help. Metaphorically, I don't know where he gets the idea that -5 is not -5. It isn't -5000, no, but the notion that -5 is somehow 0 is wrong. Solar and wind applications can (in the right context!) return quite a bit more energy from their production than what is used in their conception. Similarly, houses designed with functional improvements in energy efficiency, in tandem with efficiently used renewable grid projects (utilizing 100% of the output being produced by the device, as close to 100% of the time as possible) can provide a staggering reduction. In addition, these technologies gradually improve every year and their balance of output over cost becomes increasingly more attractive.

I imagine that the author has images of urban hippies charging their iPods with little foldout solar panels in the park, not of wind/solar arrays linked to provide constant auxiliary or primary output.

The trick here, is to inform people of what is efficient and meaningful usage, and whats just waste.
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Old 02-05-08, 07:45 PM   #7
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This seems like BS to me check out this critisicm of the list--

Just look at number 10.

http://www.cloggie.org/wissewords/in...mentalists.txt

Unlike Charlie Stross I was less than impressed with this article on The Top Ten Things Environmentalists Need to Learn. Perhaps that is because it reminded me too much of the sort of thing Jerry Pournelle used to write in his science columns for semi-obscure science fiction magazines back in the late seventies. It pays some lip service to the idea that "maintaining the environment is a critical issue" but then argues in bad faith, more interested in attacking environmentalists than in contributing to solutions. Take for example, the first thing "environmentalists need to learn":

10. Go after pollution sources with the highest benefit/cost ratio, not those which are most noticeable - If you are attempting to make a difference in the world, you should start with the largest problems with the simplest solutions and the least cost in remedying.

For example, underground coal fires produce as much CO2 as all the light cars and trucks in North America and most of those in Europe. The cost of developing a method of fighting such fires and implementing it is likely very low compared to the benefit especially in the context of the amount of effort which has gone into reducing the pollution from cars and trucks.

Now that coal fire example makes me suspicious, as it's just the kind of pat factiod that appeals to the inner contrarian in all of us. What's stated here is that coal fires are as big a problem as CO2 emitted by cars, what's implied is that those silly enivronmentalists are not doing anything about the former but are only concerned with the latter, hence they are hypocrites and can be ignored. Unspoken is the assumption that as long as these coal fires are going on, limiting CO2 emission from traffic is pointless.

But is it actually true that underground coal fires contribute as much CO2 as "all the light cars and trucks in North America and most of those in Europe"? No figures or references are given, which doesn't strengthen the author's case. The Encyclopedia of Earth article on carbon dioxide says 24% of manmade CO2 emissions is attributable to transport worldwide, while its coal fires article says that "according to most recent estimations coal fires in China contribute about 0.1% to 0.2% of the annual human induced CO2 emissions globally". There seems to be some sort of mismatch then, though of course the figure of 0.2% is only for China (the world's largest coal user) while the 24% of transport worldwide needs to be broken down to "all the light cars and trucks in North America and most of those in Europe" to be able to truly compared the two figures. Nevertheless, a case can be made for the author having overstated the contribution of coal fires to manmade CO2 emissions...

But even if the figure was comparable, does this mean tackling underground coal fires is more cost effective than limiting the emissions put out by cars? Not necessarily. Underground coal fires are partially a natural phenomenon, with some having been burning for thousands of years, while the most famous manmade fire, in Centralia, Pennsylvania, has been burning for some 45 years. By any measures they're hard and costly to put out, requiring huge investments; according to an article in The Smithsonian putting out the fire in Centralia would've cost as much as 660 million dollars.

Producing more fuel-efficient cars suddenly looks a lot more affordable compared to those numbers, especially since a lot can be done without requiring new, exotic technology. Just switching from using inefficient types of car (the infamous Chelsea tractor, or SUV) to existing, more energy efficient cars would help. More and better public transport as an alternative to car use is another obvious measure to limit CO2 emissions. And of course, it's perfectly possible to both invest in fighting underground coal fires, as is actually already happening (see the Smithonian article) and more fuel efficient cars.

So yeah, if the first bullet point in this essay is already this dishonest, I'm skeptical about the rest of the article, especially int he context of the rest of the blog, which seems largely dedicated to showing how silly and stupid environmentalists are.

I liked this one too, concerning the number one "problem"

http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/20...387/235/449289

Sacrificing the needs of an economy for the environment will destroy both.

sacrificing the environment for the economy is business as usual and currently destroying both.

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Old 02-05-08, 08:32 PM   #8
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Well, when the foundation of your argument is that people will not accept change, you've doomed yourself to a bleak outcome.
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Old 02-05-08, 11:06 PM   #9
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Well, when the foundation of your argument is that people will not accept change, you've doomed yourself to a bleak outcome.
Yeah, especially when change is inevitable. The only way to prevent change in lifestyle is to live sustainably, which is physically impossible when one's lifestyle is dependent on finite resources.

Top Five Things Non-Environmentalists Need to Learn
1) We have to change, be it now or later, whether we like it or not. Non-acceptance of this fact simply isn't an option.

2) It takes energy to change. Namely, implementing alternative sources of energy; all methods of energy production require an initial energy investment.

3) It will be much easier and less expensive to change now, while the energy infrastructure is reasonably stable, than later when the energy infrastructure is chaotic, rendering alternative sources of energy much more difficult and expensive to implement.

4) Much of the economy is contingent on the environment being in good order. Polluted water, soil erosion, reduced soil quality, flooding, pollution-induced illness, extreme weather etc. all harm the economy.

5) Untold billions have been spent fighting over oil supplies necessary to support the current Western energy infrastructure. (oh yeah, and many lives have been lost too)

Those who argue that environmental conservation "destroys the economy" are myopic to the extreme. Environmental conservation actually benefits the economy in the long-term. The first nation to become mass producers of alternative energy production equipment will have a competitive advantage in the global marketplace when these things become more necessary - which they will. Continuing to put off the inevitable change to the energy infrastructure may keep the economy relatively stable for now, but will eventually lead to serious problems.
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Old 02-05-08, 11:16 PM   #10
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"1. Sacrificing the needs of an economy for the environment will destroy both. I still cannot figure this one out, although I hear it a lot.

Here's my thought: if you destroy your environment, what are the chances you will have an economy left?"

I didn't write it, but it seems to make sense. The point he is making is that if you have a bad economy, you're not going to accomplish anything for the environment. He doesn't say you should ignore the environment and therefore the economy will be good. But rather take care of both.
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Old 02-06-08, 11:26 AM   #11
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To refute most of what this story says about people not changing
all one has to do is study how people react during a war.

They adjust very fast when the need is front and center.
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Old 02-06-08, 12:47 PM   #12
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I didn't write it, but it seems to make sense. The point he is making is that if you have a bad economy, you're not going to accomplish anything for the environment. He doesn't say you should ignore the environment and therefore the economy will be good. But rather take care of both.
Some of the worst environmental offenders are third world countries. They see taking care of the environment as a "luxury."
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Old 02-06-08, 12:48 PM   #13
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To refute most of what this story says about people not changing
all one has to do is study how people react during a war.

They adjust very fast when the need is front and center.
True, but as soon as the War is over they go back to the old ways.
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Old 02-06-08, 01:44 PM   #14
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I take exception to most of what I read in that piece, especially the "every little bit does not help" bit. Instead of accepting an otherwise unacceptable status quo, we should choose to, as Gandhi said, "be the change [we] want to see in the world."

It's amazing... we've had this cheap oil for about 100 years, a remarkably tiny portion of human existence, yet so many people act like it'll be available forever.
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Old 02-06-08, 03:34 PM   #15
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10. Underground coal fires. Good point. In general, environmental activists focus on issues that visible gather momentum. Scientists are and or should be in the business of raising awareness to lesser known, yet important issues. That doesn't make the environmental activists wrong. It just makes them imperfect.
9. Work with existing technology legacy. Good point, but not always true. I'm not a fan of hydrogen, but if technology comes along fast enough as well as a renewable source, it may be worth the infrastructure investment (over electric).
8. "Natural" or "Organic" not always better. Very good point.
7. Plans for future should not be based on most optimistic prediction. Great point. This is also a compelling reason to start acting on environmental issues today.
6. Simply attacking an environmentally damaging activity is not effective unless a better alternative of similar or better economics and usefulness is presented: Maybe. In order to change, one needs an alternative. But all of the protesting prior to having a solution provides motivation.
5. Resource taxes are progressive: Too bad. If you care, then offset it with other progressive tax moves. This argument is so convenient for anti-environmentalists. It makes it look like they care about the poor, but the argument is false.
4. Unreasonable to expect people to accept reductions in living standards. Smaller but better built houses and communities need not be a reduction in living standard. It is a cultural change. We can change for the better or for the worse. Let's choose wisely.
3. Depending on continuous subsidies is not sustainable. Good point. Not sure exactly where the author is going, but this idea is true.
2. Every little bit does not help. Example: Putting a solar panel on your roof might make you feel good, but that is about all. That is simply not true. If you can put a big panel on your house in the southwest and replace your electric use, you will have a huge net positive environmental effect. In addition, the long term economic benefit will be large. (It does require a subsidy at the moment. It is not clear how long that will be the case.)
1. Sacrificing the economy for the environment will destroy both: Very true. It is also true that sacrificing the environment for the economy will destroy both. That is why the definition of sustainability is to weight these two equally.
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Old 02-06-08, 06:40 PM   #16
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Some of the worst environmental offenders are third world countries. They see taking care of the environment as a "luxury."
Do you include the US in this category?
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Old 02-06-08, 09:50 PM   #17
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Do you include the US in this category?
No, I'm thinking of certain countries in Latin America, Asia, and Africa. Our environmental regulations are, compared to many other countries, quite strict. Compare the air quality in (say) Mexico City with that in most US cities, for example.
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Old 02-06-08, 10:18 PM   #18
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No, I'm thinking of certain countries in Latin America, Asia, and Africa. Our environmental regulations are, compared to many other countries, quite strict. Compare the air quality in (say) Mexico City with that in most US cities, for example.
Here's an article that states that China has finally caught up with the US and now bears the distinction of being biggest producer of carbon dioxide. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environmen...9/china.usnews

However, remember that per-capita, Americans produce more CO2 than any nation on earth. So you might want to redirect your concerns domestically so to speak.

Another thing to remember is that a great number of "first world" countries like the US, Canada and Europe are able to create an aura of having cities with clean air because they have made a decision to import goods that are manufactured typically by highly polluting industries. So the environmental degradation happens elsewhere, but in service of "first world" countries.
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Old 02-07-08, 01:57 AM   #19
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I think a few points were spot-on. I particularly like these: cheaper interventions are sometimes more effective than high-profile, expensive ones; draconian regulation would affect the poor far more than the rich; it's best to present people with attractive alternatives before you threaten to take away their God-given right to consume resources at an unsustainable rate.

On the whole, though, I found the article to be, well, not quite idiotic, but very naive. Environmentalists have virtually no influence on natural resouce policy any more; China, though, with its 1.3 billion people yearning to live at least somewhat large, does. In the final analysis, it doesn't really matter if people like the fact that they have to give up the Escalade or not. There will be fewer resources available, whether it be oil, copper, or corn, and in the uncomfortably near future most of these things are going to be a lot more expensive. Unless you're very rich, you're going to have to come up with a way to use resources more wisely, or lower your standard of living. Being an American no longer protects you from physical reality.
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Old 02-07-08, 02:12 AM   #20
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No, I'm thinking of certain countries in Latin America, Asia, and Africa. Our environmental regulations are, compared to many other countries, quite strict. Compare the air quality in (say) Mexico City with that in most US cities, for example.
We down in Costa Rica are rank something like 6th best in the world environmentally - and up there in the USA I think you are ranked in the 20s or something - actually more like the other Latin American countries. It doesn't necessarily equate that third world equals poor environmental regulations. Compared to ours, yours are nearly non-existant.

If I were to cut down certain trees without a permit I would end up in jail. I can't cut down most trees on a farm I own without submitting a report from a forestry engineer to the government to determine if I should.

There are lots of other rules as well. Enforcement of the rules are catching up as well.

The key is that Costa Rica values the environment and the environment itself is perceived as not something you can damage without care.
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Old 02-07-08, 02:18 AM   #21
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Oh, and our economy is thriving, our budget is balanced, we have government mandated healthcare and retirement, good education system and are at peace with our neighbors.

It is a lie that you can't protect the environment and have a good economy. I would actually say that destroying the environment is a sign that you don't have wise leaders (I am a USA citizen by the way) and that business is short sighted. What you have is a situation where people aren't calculating the full cost of goods and services - so they leave the damage and the raped resources for the people to deal with.

Which is like me coming into your home and taking all your stuff and having a garage sale with it and thinking, "Wow, that was easy". Then when the cops come and tell me I am breaking the law, I whine, "But, then I won't make any money!"

You aren't making money when you destroy a public resource (i.e. the world) - are you are doing is robbing future generations.
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Old 02-07-08, 09:47 AM   #22
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I liked that articel enough to bookmark it, thanks.
The author does make a lot of statement which need backing up. But assuming the statements are true, the logic is pretty sound.
My faves are points 10, 5, 4, and 2. Good take on human nature - history proves it.

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Old 02-07-08, 10:11 AM   #23
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We down in Costa Rica are rank something like 6th best in the world environmentally - and up there in the USA I think you are ranked in the 20s or something - actually more like the other Latin American countries. It doesn't necessarily equate that third world equals poor environmental regulations. Compared to ours, yours are nearly non-existant.
Yes, Costa Rica is a very progressive country as far as environmentalism goes. I didn't say all Latin American countries; I said some. Some /= all.
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Old 02-07-08, 06:48 PM   #24
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http://depletedcranium.com/?p=368

I hope that any responses here won't descend to the level of vitriol as the ones over there did.
This is a big problem I see a lot with people trying to promote cycling.

They tend to use big, nebulous justifications for it--like, "you're not causing foreign wars for oil" and "you're saving the environment". What if you told someone this, and then they asked you to point to the part of the environment that you had saved? You can't do it. In theory it's true, but in practical terms it's really rather meaningless.

I'd suspect that non-riding people would be more swayed by concrete, material reasons that pertain directly to advantages it offers for them: it's healthy, gas is getting more expensive, and (in applicable areas) you may be able to beat gridlocked traffic, and you don't have car-parking problems or costs.
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Old 02-08-08, 10:14 AM   #25
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...The key is that Costa Rica values the environment and the environment itself is perceived as not something you can damage without care.
How much of this is because Costa Rica depends to a large part on tourism as a major portion of its GDP? Wreck your enviornment and tank your entire economic system.

Other places do not have that incentive. I'm not trying to argue with you about CR, just pointing out that incentive is required for emphasis on environmental concerns to become policy.

I tend to agree with the comments when viewing them as a perspective, rather than absolutes. For example: Every little bit helps. It is true. Me riding my bike to work instead of my car really does nothing for the macro environment. True, I didn't burn gas to get here, and if lots of other people would do it the impact could be dramatic. But, I do not think we will ever see a situation where the majority of people ride their bikes as a means of transport, so in the grand scheme of things, what have I done to help? In that context it makes sense, even when on the face of it, me not driving does prevent me from burning a gallon of gas.

Basically, people will only change if they have a reason to change. Those reasons can be based on ethics, religion, finances, or mere survival [not all inclusive]. The priority placed on reasons to change depend on what they are. In order to successfully affect change on a large scale, we need to balance the reasons for people to change in such a way that we don't tip the scales so far that people no longer care about the environment because they simply need to survive. Since this point varies for all people, its a tricky prospect, and its why I think the change needs to be gradual, and based on incentive, rather than making the change punative.

My $.02
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