Re: Bottled Up

1

You can't get soda from any faucet.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 5:54 PM
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Shearer 1, Becks 0.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 5:55 PM
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In Ashland Oregon, you can get mineral water from a faucet. It's got a really strange taste.

Also, Coke and Pepsi are implicated in the corn complex. I drink a lot of both, so I guess I am too. They taste better to me from a can.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 5:57 PM
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Bottled water looks particularly pointless since it is so similar to a product that comes freee from taps.

Like how in the Big Rock Candy Mountain, it's silly to actually pay money for stew or whiskey.

interesting article about a bottled water competition
I found one of those Bosnian waters at one of those Russian stores that sells mostly pierogies, tea and canned fish. It tasted like carbonated water, but with less taste, and less carbonation. I also tried "Radenska", from Slovenia. it was noticeably different. I liked it.


Posted by: Ardent reader | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 5:58 PM
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Soda hate is old news. Don't you remember the fad for Tab in recyclable paper bags?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:00 PM
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Part of the text of my link disappeared, but no important content words.


Posted by: Ardent reader | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:00 PM
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Also coke and pepsi sell a shitload of bottled water.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:01 PM
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I agree with becks. Sometimes I just want to have a lot of cold water.


Posted by: Lemmy Caution | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:01 PM
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One could argue that if the bottles are that evil, people should only drink fountain soda or, at a minimum, from 2 liters or cans.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:02 PM
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Shearer 1, Becks 0.

Shearer has been a bit on fire today. I think the actual count is Shearer 2, Becks 0, Ogged 0. First joke I can remember him making.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:03 PM
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"Mineral water" is the weirdest concept ever. The minearl(s) can be almost anything. We have well water here that tastes as though you dissolved a pinch of baking soda in it -- if you boil off a gallon of it, the last quarter inch will be murky. The mineral is ac arbonate, I presume, with no good or bad effects except a slightly bad taste. But some minerals are toxic.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:03 PM
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I actually hate the proliferation of 20 oz bottles as the standard size. I usually want more than a can's worth, but less than 20 oz. But often there's no choice.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:03 PM
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I'm such a horrible princess that I've stocked my office on campus with bottles of sparkling mineral water, so I think I've jettisoned all right to have an opinion on this one.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:05 PM
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They taste better to me from a can.

Very true.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:06 PM
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First joke I can remember him making.

No, he also didn't want to know if nickels were an unacceptable tip.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:06 PM
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Shearer's right.

Coke with corn syrup in it sucks.

The water in the well where shivbunny grew up smells of sulfur, which created much merriment after we went into some of the national parks where we learned that settlers thought that natural hot springs smelling of sulfur would cure syphillis. Sulfur-smelling water is very soft, and my hair has never looked better.



Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:07 PM
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"Mineral water" is the weirdest concept ever.

If you think of it as opposed to distilled water (which tastes kind of flat and blah), it's a little less weird, maybe. Some minerals are gross, and others are tasty, but any of them are different from no minerals.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:08 PM
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Coke with corn syrup in it sucks.

Aren't you talking about movie house Cokes? Those are the best. I like the extra syrup.

Kids today, I tell ya.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:08 PM
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I'm going to enhance my locally-produced, artisanal bottled water idea: reusable glass bottles (technically mason jars). Eh? Eh? $2.99 a bottle, I says.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:09 PM
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18: probably as opposed to coke with cane sugar, which is way better by all accounts.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:11 PM
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I was hoping for someone in the movie to call some of the weapons built in Iron Man artisanal.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:12 PM
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20: Mexican coke (ahem) and kosher for passover coke don't have corn syrup.

Hélas, I am with Foxytail here -- all of my eau, she is gazeuse. My neighbors growing up did have a seltzer spigot in their kitchen. We would make egg creams. Hooray for NJ suburbs where everyone's parents are from Brooklyn.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:17 PM
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Isn't Coke's bottled water basically Atlanta tap water?

The water in the well where shivbunny grew up smells of sulfur

I can't remember if you've mentioned exactly where shivbunny is from, but I remember the water in the Canadian prairies generally being pretty awful-tasting.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:18 PM
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Awful-tasting, but good for hair.

22: Canadian coke has sugar too, and the Dominican-run mini-mart has started stocking extra Mexican Coke recently because, um, it's been in their business interest to do so since he moved here.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:21 PM
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People, it's not just the plastic bottle that's the problem. The problem is that bottled water and soda are both a massive waste of water, and clean, potable water is becoming an increasingly scarce resource. So stop buying bottled water and soda, and cut back on meat while you're at it (or just go vegetarian).


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:37 PM
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25: if the water ends up consumed, a waste how?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:41 PM
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25: Apart from the bottle, how is bottled water a waste of water? I'm confused.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:42 PM
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If I've been a vegetarian forever can I keep my fizzy water?


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:43 PM
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NO YOU CANNOT YOU ARE SINGLEHANDEDLY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE DESTRUCTION OF THE ENVIRONMENT.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:45 PM
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28: if you drink it only from fountains and not bottles, and use reusable glass cups, then yes. Otherwise, no.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:46 PM
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Wow. I knew I was personally responsible for the agony of Christ, but now this!


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:46 PM
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if the water ends up consumed, a waste how?

Because it takes more water to produce a single bottle of bottled water than is actually contained in that bottle.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:48 PM
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Completely OT:

Today I biked behind a black SUV with the following written on the back window in some kind of brown greasepaint?

DEAR OBAMA ABORTION IS THE NUMBER ONE KILLER OF BLACK BABIES IN AMERICA.

I tried *so hard* to catch up with the driver at the light so I could signal to him to roll down his window and yell at him, but alas, I failed.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:48 PM
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Stras, did you know that by using a computer you're contributing to the genocide in Darfur?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:50 PM
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Fuck, I mean rape in the Congo.

So, so racist.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:51 PM
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Here's more on the cost of manufacturing bottled water.

The cost of manufacturing soda in terms of water usage is even higher, if I recall correctly.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:52 PM
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32: but that's because of the bottle, right? So, contra 25, it is just the plastic bottle that's the problem. I think.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:52 PM
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29, 34: Defensive much?


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:54 PM
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but that's because of the bottle, right? So, contra 25, it is just the plastic bottle that's the problem. I think.

No, it's also the transportation and manufacturing itself. If the bottles were made out of glass, you'd still have an international supply chain wasting lots of water and fossil fuels at the expense of relatively impoverished countries like Fiji. The lack of plastic would make it slightly better for the atmosphere, but not any better for the people whose water is getting poached.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:58 PM
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Stras, inefficient agricultural practices waste far more water than households anyway. If we're interested in preserving fresh water, that's the place to start. Changes in household consumption just aren't that big a deal, relatively speaking. That's why I leave my faucets running 24/7.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 6:59 PM
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People, it's best to come to terms with it: soda is a lousy beverage. It's an okay dessert, if you treat it like dessert (ingest in small quantities infrequently), but tap water is what you should be drinking.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 7:01 PM
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Oh, I didn't realize the stress you were placing on "plastic". Yes, I understand the bottle itself is the problem, no matter what it's made of. And I was including manufacturing within the scope of "the problem is the bottle itself".


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 7:01 PM
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I filter my tap water. Is that bad too?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 7:02 PM
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40: You're right that agriculture wastes a lot more water. And littering doesn't look like such a big deal in the face of mountaintop removal. But just because Bad Thing X is worse than Bad Thing Y doesn't mean you should ignore Y.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 7:03 PM
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I filter my tap water too, but that's only because of the peer pressure.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 7:06 PM
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17: Some minerals are gross, and others are tasty, but any of them are different from no minerals.

Trying to knock down tautologies is a bitch.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 7:07 PM
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Doesn't NYC have the best (urban) water in the country? I wouldn't think you would need to filter that. Boston water consistently fails every test the EPA offers. But I still feel bad filtering it.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 7:08 PM
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38: I don't drink bottled water, so no, not particularly.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 7:09 PM
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Stras is right, people.

And yet, my car is littered with half empty bottles of water.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 7:10 PM
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If you really cared about the environment B, you would not only not drink bottled water, you would scold people who do.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 7:10 PM
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I completely doubt that soda and bottled water waste any significant quantity of water. Agriculture, lawns, golf courses, industry, carwashes, and wasteful household use all have to rank ahead by an order of magnitude or more.

Maybe not carwashes.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 7:11 PM
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That said, I'd feel stupid paying money for water. I also never drink water, just beer and coffee. But I make coffee from carbonate-rich well water from the tap.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 7:13 PM
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50: And here I thought scolding Ogged for being sexist was enough to get me into heaven.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 7:20 PM
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SF has really spectacular water. That said, the only bottled water I drink is bottled locally so there's no trans-pacific nonsense, and I also feel compelled to point out that cooling a power plant does not require fresh water nor necessarily consume it.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 7:22 PM
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If people in SoCal really cared about the environment they wouldn't drink water at all. Just think of the harm to the environment in the delta or in Owens Valley. The aqueduct just encourages folks to live a non-sustainable lifestyle. Now here in DC, we drink water processed by those nature boys, the Army Corps of Engineers.

Yours in Goalposts and Conjugations.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 7:24 PM
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I don't generally drink bottled water, but it really does seem like a relatively minor environmental crime. And anyhow, Nalgene bottles are super lame and get disgusting in a hurry.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 7:26 PM
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On the other hand, PK did make me stop the bike today so he could pick up a styrofoam cup and throw it in the trash can where it belonged.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 7:26 PM
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If people in SoCal really cared about the environment they wouldn't have cities there.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 7:27 PM
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Your urine can be reprocessed the way astronauts do. lot of them developed a taste for it and continued to drink reprocessed urine after they returned to earth.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 7:29 PM
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it really does seem like a relatively minor environmental crime

I have no idea, but in terms of unnecessary stupidity it really is kind of an obvious no-brainer.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 7:29 PM
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I BUILT LOS ANGELES WITH MY OWN TWO HANDS.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 7:30 PM
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Opinionated Academic!

Good for PK and you. Plus bikes are great.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 7:37 PM
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On the other hand, PK did make me stop the bike today so he could pick up a styrofoam cup and throw it in the trash can where it belonged.

Well, technically it belonged in the recycling bin... But seriously, good for PK.

I filter my tap water too, but that's only because of the peer pressure.

Wait, filtering your water is bad? It never even occurred to me to feel guilty about that!


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 7:44 PM
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I buy bottled ice cubes. Then I grind them up and throw them into the ceiling fan and cheer, "It's snowing in May!"


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 7:47 PM
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"It's snowing in May!"

Despoiler.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 7:48 PM
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iltering your water is bad? It never even occurred to me to feel guilty about that!

Rory's going to have lots of cavities, and it's ALL YOUR FAULT.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 7:49 PM
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Isn't Coke's bottled water basically Atlanta tap water?

It's tap water from wherever the local bottling facility is located, tarted up with some baking soda and salt so that it tastes the same nationwide. The incredible thing is that they have begun to market it as an environmentally friendly product, since the water is not shipped long distances and the packaging is lighter, both of which are true as far as they go, but sort of pale before the alternative of drinking your local tap water.

Some minerals are gross, and others are tasty, but any of them are different from no minerals.
Trying to knock down tautologies is a bitch.

Water bereft of minerals tastes funny, or more precisely, it tastes like nothing, which is a wierd sensation. Try drinking distilled water sometime. It's not terribly enjoyable. A little bit of assorted carbonates and chlorides makes all the difference.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 7:50 PM
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Ah well. Drilling builds character. At least she won't have [whatever the bad thing was that fluoride is supposed to do to kids].


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 7:52 PM
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OK, but if your typology is mineral water vs. distilled water, it's an incredibly crude one. Minerals can be good, bad, or indifferent, and usually "mineral water" means LOTS of random minerals.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 7:54 PM
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Communism.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 7:55 PM
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At least she won't have [whatever the bad thing was that fluoride is supposed to do to kids].

Autism. Or maybe the loss of her bodily essence, I forget which.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 7:55 PM
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Lewdness.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 7:56 PM
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*Purity* of essence. Dammit.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 7:56 PM
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That's the fluoride, B. Fucking with your brain.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 7:58 PM
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The water in the well where shivbunny grew up smells of sulfur, which created much merriment after we went into some of the national parks where we learned that settlers thought that natural hot springs smelling of sulfur would cure syphillis.

The tour guides at this place like to boast about how presidents, senators, and captains of industry used to visit the spa for the healing effects of its sulfur waters, but they dance around the issue of exactly what ailments were being treated.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:00 PM
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That's not all it did to B.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:00 PM
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There's also the "why do we allow industrial concerns to dump their waste product in our drinking water" question. My fiancee, the dentist's daughter, always comes back to that one.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:00 PM
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In the XIXc healing waters were a cult in Europe. Boredom, depression and horniness seem to have been among the ailments treated at the baths.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:02 PM
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They were no less a cult in the U.S., John.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:03 PM
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I wouldn't limit it to XIXc. Baths, spas, Baden Baden Powell, Preparation H2O.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:05 PM
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77: I worked for a company in 1975 which was still famous three decades because of its successful attempts to get around water-purity laws. fair means or foul. It was a mom-n-pop electroplating/polishing plant run by a quaint old German couple.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:05 PM
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cooling a power plant does not require fresh water nor necessarily consume it.
Not necessarily, but using salt water increases maintenance costs.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:05 PM
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Bottled water is terrible. I do occasionally buy it, usually when I'm out and about in the city and convenience stores that sell bottled water are infinitely easier to find than a water fountain (What the *&&*&^*&^ is up with that?). Home is strictly tap water, which tastes great. We have a filter pitcher in the fridge, but it's really just an excuse to keep it colder; the filter is ancient and could probably be removed and it would be a year before anybody noticed.

I do worry about the water consumption when I make beer, though - lots of rinsing of things, and a lot of cold water for chilling. But hey, homemade beer!


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:06 PM
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And the Wife of Bath.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:06 PM
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Here's the hit song about healing mineral-water tourist traps that's burning up the charts on the AAA radio stations.


Posted by: Ardent reader | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:06 PM
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Her too!


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:07 PM
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I completely doubt that soda and bottled water waste any significant quantity of water.

It's not just sheer quantity; it's also the effect that an imported water industry is having on third world sources of water, which are now being exported to America and Europe with predictably deleterious effects.

And B, it's pretty fucking hypocritical of you to complain that I'm being a scold here.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:07 PM
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And B, it's pretty fucking hypocritical of you to complain that I'm being a scold here.

Consumerism's different. She likes it. Commie.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:10 PM
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And B, it's pretty fucking hypocritical of you to complain that I'm being a scold here.

In environmentalism as well as feminism, we all know that one person's decisions can have no effect on society, so it's silly to be concerned with other people's attitudes.


Posted by: Auto-banned | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:12 PM
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My point was that the sheer quantity was tiny. Drinking water altogether is a tiny proportion of even household water use.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:12 PM
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I usually just filter tap water. It ends up tasting better, but I'm not sure if it's because my local water is bad tasting or that I'm still used to the tap water in my hometown, which was very yummy.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:13 PM
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87, see 53.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:13 PM
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cooling a power plant does not require fresh water nor necessarily consume it

They do tend to dump a lot of heat pollution into their water sources. The water that comes out of the cooling tower is several degrees warmer than what goes in, and the ecology of rivers downstream from power plants is notably different from upstream, in some cases. It's not the most significant environmental concern out there, but it's not nothing, either.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:15 PM
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B's fluoridated scold soul is destined for lewd heaven.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:16 PM
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90: Yes, the sheer quantity is small, but the effect it's having on the places where that water is coming from isn't small at all.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:17 PM
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83: I am pretty convinced that the single greatest determinant of water flavor is coldest. Colder tastes better, warmer tastes weird.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:19 PM
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My point was that the sheer quantity was tiny. Drinking water altogether is a tiny proportion of even household water use.

You're missing the point, Emerson. Inconvenience and privation are their own reward, when it comes to salving the conscience of the Western consumer. In commiting yourself to painful, but meaningless sacrifices, you absolve yourself of the obligation to change your behavior in more meaningful ways. It's like autoflagellation, or walking up the steps at Rocamadour on your knees.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:19 PM
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And B, I really don't see what your point is. "Humorless scold" is an epithet typically flung at feminists as often as it is at environmentalists, and it's done specifically to avoid having to confront important and pervasive problems. If someone reacted to you the way you've reacted to my fairly unoffensive, on-topic comments upthread, you'd be justifiably irritated.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:20 PM
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"Coldness", Sifu. We speak English here.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:22 PM
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I save more water per year than the whole bunch of you busy-do-gooder-bodies by peeing in the sink instead of the toilet.


Posted by: Ardent reader | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:22 PM
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100: Oh yeah?

(NSFWUYApo)


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:23 PM
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97: And here we go with the "recycling is just another kind of self-flagellation" meme. Half this thread's comments could've been culled from Megan McArdle outtakes.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:23 PM
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They do tend to dump a lot of heat pollution into their water sources. The water that comes out of the cooling tower is several degrees warmer than what goes in, and the ecology of rivers downstream from power plants is notably different from upstream, in some cases. It's not the most significant environmental concern out there, but it's not nothing, either.

Oh, absolutely. But when someone says "the world is running out of fresh water, and drinking bottled water is scandalous because it consumes 6 times as much water as you actually drink so stop it right now", it's reasonable to say "let's look at this in a bit more detail."


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:24 PM
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98: Oh please, SJ. First, the "school a feminist about feminism" move is so incredibly tired in leftier-than-thou circles, and second, at least when I bitch at people, it's to actually disagree with them.

That plus nagging people about eating meat is soooo 90s.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:27 PM
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But when someone says "the world is running out of fresh water, and drinking bottled water is scandalous because it consumes 6 times as much water as you actually drink so stop it right now", it's reasonable to say "let's look at this in a bit more detail."

Do you actually dispute that drinking bottled water consumes several times more water than you actually drink? And if not, then why shouldn't we stop drinking bottled water?


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:27 PM
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58: If people in SoCal really cared about the environment they'dwouldn't have cities there. all wear my newest line of artisanal stillsuits.


Posted by: Muad'Dib | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:27 PM
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And that's why they don't call him bottled water moccasin.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:27 PM
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leftier-than-thou

I get the distinct impression that it doesn't take much of a lefty to be leftier than thou. Or, for that matter, much of a feminist to be more feminist than thou.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:28 PM
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100: Or you could go ahead and pee in the toilet and just not flush every time.

105: Has anyone in this thread other than Oudemia--the wastrel!--said they drink bottled water, Stras?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:29 PM
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108: Gosh, Stras, I guess you've really told me.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:31 PM
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I don't think that the waterfilters leech out flouride; I certainly hope not, anyway. The main reasons I've succumbed to peer pressure and gotten a filter-pitcher is because there's that slight cloudiness (hard water) that the filter gets rid of, because I don't quite trust my stoner landlord to have de-leaded pipes, and lastly, because I get kind of embarrassed not to have one in front of guests. Oh, and because hard water totally fries the electric tea-kettle.

Stras is completely right in this thread, btw. Hooray, there's two of us!


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:32 PM
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That plus nagging people about eating meat is soooo 90s.

So nineties? This isn't "stop hurting the poor animals" territory here. You are aware that meat consumption on the scale that Americans engage in is a massive contributor to, among other things, topsoil erosion, water depletion and global warming? The notion that humans are going to have to eat a lot less meat in the future isn't some radical fringe view limited to the likes of PETA; it's pretty much taken for granted in environmental circles.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:33 PM
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Completely right, that is, until 108, which isn't going to make any friends.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:33 PM
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I eat meat because it's fucking delicious. I try to eat less beef, and less mass market beef, but at a point, I could help the planet by not eating, and I won't do that: so. Individual steps do matter, of course, but it is absolutely correct that there is a point at which the politicization of the personal ends up being the no-fun league, and why not strive for policy solutions before we get to that.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:34 PM
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Sifu is completely right.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:35 PM
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But but NYC's water is famously soft.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:36 PM
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I second 115.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:36 PM
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111: I don't think the filters take out fluoride.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:36 PM
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I second 115. she said while tossing bottled ice cubes into the fan.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:37 PM
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Only the really super expensive water filters remove fluouride. (Like, $1,000+). It's really hard to get out of water.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:37 PM
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Has anyone in this thread other than Oudemia--the wastrel!--said they drink bottled water, Stras?

Which is what makes your reaction kind of mystifying. What, exactly, are you getting so irritated at? The fact that you'd like to reserve the theoretical right to waste resources? The fact that you just don't like seeing anyone say that consumer culture might have negative consequences, ever?


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:39 PM
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114 actually should have been "less mass-market meat", not just beef.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:39 PM
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119: Please. I take them out of the bottles first.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:39 PM
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But but NYC's water is famously soft.

Hm. And hm again. I, uh, I don't know about that. Christ, that's the last time I listen to my loopy English former-roommate about science issues.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:39 PM
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121: sir, your manners are just shocking, and absolutely inappropriate for a forum as high-minded and decorous as this one. Why, the fainting couches have filled clean up.

Were it not for your distasteful breaches of gentlemen's etiquette I have no doubt we'd be celebrating a fine post-prandia with grass-fed cigars and fair trade cognac right now.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:42 PM
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111, 118, 120: So I am not destroying my child's teeth? Yay!! One thing I have not screwed up!


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:42 PM
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I eat meat because it's fucking delicious.

Yes, meat is delicious. But I tell people not to eat it much, or at all, anyway, because the way that meat is produced and consumed is wildly unsustainable, and because short of a massive policy change at the federal level that radically raises the price of meat and reduces the amount of meat produced in this country, personal changes are all we've got. And because the more people commit to that personal change, the more likely it is that policy change will become politically possible.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:42 PM
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121: YES! I love consumer culture and waste. And I had NO IDEA that meat production was wasteful! More plastic for me, please.

Sifu's right, but let me add that if you're going to try to scold people for being wasteful and get them to change their personal habits, you might *at least* scold them about (1) things they actually do; (2) things they actually don't already know.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:43 PM
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83: I am pretty convinced that the single greatest determinant of water flavor is coldest. Colder tastes better, warmer tastes weird.

Too cold hurrrrts in the gullet.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:44 PM
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you might *at least* scold them about (1) things they actually do; (2) things they actually don't already know

Says the glass-house-dweller. Which of your responses could not have been delivered to any of your comments in any of the feminism threads?


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:45 PM
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You know what, the boys have gone out to see a movie tonight. I think I'll order a big plate o' ribs from the rib place that actually delivers.

I'll see if I can give 'em a wrong address, too, so they have to drive around a while before they call me to find out where I live. Then I'll have to heat the ribs up in the oven because they'll have gotten cold!


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:45 PM
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I concede, Stras. You are a much, much better feminist and human being than I am.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:46 PM
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I'd enjoy cold water more if they didn't keep the AC in restaurants set to mega-extreme.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:47 PM
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I just ate my third or fourth meal from last week's "small chicken"! Beautiful soup (celery, squash, cilantro, onion, sweet potato) with a base of beautiful chicken stock, and I have another quart in the freezer. Another quart of both the soup and the stock, I mean.

So, if the Nazis occupy and bomb my city and I have to stretch meager food rations, I'll do okay as long as the electricity still works, which I suppose is a dubious assumption. Hm.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:47 PM
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I'll cop to drinking bottled water.

My office gets Deer Park (yes, deer shit in the water). The building has water fountains and sinks. The building's water also tastes ungood. Not horrible, but a off. Not much we can do as the building is being rehabbed and we are already in a rehabbed section. Heck, we can't get the HVAC to work right either. Your tax dollars at work.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:48 PM
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Okay, let me get this straight. I'm getting chewed out for responding on-topic to a post about bottled water and why it's considered bad.

When I talk about why bottled water is viewed in a negative light - not just by me but by pretty much everyone who writes about the environment - everyone acts like I've run over their dog. What the fuck, people?


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:48 PM
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25 wasn't all that scoldy, as scoldiness goes. Not that I really give a shit. Buying bottled water for me is a tax on stupidity for not filling up my water bottle before I left the house, though I have to find something to replace my Nalgene bottle since they're supposed to be bad now.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:49 PM
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Half this thread's comments could've been culled from Megan McArdle outtakes.

"Could've been"? Have been. It's called recycling. Try it. You might like it.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:50 PM
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Nazis in NY? Jackmormon will just reach back to her Yukon roots. She's a survivor born of survivors. (OK , so we all are. But she's got the talent.)


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:50 PM
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Do you actually dispute that drinking bottled water consumes several times more water than you actually drink? And if not, then why shouldn't we stop drinking bottled water?

I do dispute the several times assertion, or at least assert my skepticism. The vast majority of the water usage the linked post claims comes from their plastic production, and I believe that the vast majority of this goes for process cooling, which does not "use" water in the sense they are trying to assert.

Does using bottled water have costs? Yes. Does it have benefits? Yes. If I have a limited desire to care about stuff, should I devote it to agitating for more water fountains and less bottled water? Doubtful.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:50 PM
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It wasn't the criticism of bottled water, Stras; it was the merest suggestion that you might move into criticizing meat-consumption. These are some defensive meat-eaters around here.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:51 PM
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134: Isn't that fun? We've been doing that here. Roast chicken one night, and leftovers and a carcass that I can turn into great homemade broth.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:51 PM
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And looking back, it took me two comments to send B flying off the deep end, and these two comments are here and here. I've said before that I've tried to change the tone of my comments around here to not clash as much with other commenters, but it's pretty clear that I've no idea what sets you people off.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:54 PM
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Has anyone in this thread other than Oudemia--the wastrel!--said they drink bottled water, Stras?

No, I do too -- fizzy water. At least they're big bottles, and glass, but it's definitely a net ill. I also don't let Snark put in as many compact fluorescents in the house as he'd do if he had his druthers, and a number of other wasteful things. I buy stuff at Whole Foods, too, and travel by air a fair amount. I'm quite ideologically impure in my habits, though I try not to be too hideous about it.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:55 PM
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But I tell people not to eat it much, or at all, anyway, because the way that meat is produced and consumed is wildly unsustainable, and because short of a massive policy change at the federal level that radically raises the price of meat and reduces the amount of meat produced in this country, personal changes are all we've got.

Cheer up, Stras: thanks to inflation and the skyrocketing cost of grain, soon people won't be able to eat as much beef as they want anyway, and then the polar caps will melt and we'll all be shark food. (JM has it in 141.)


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:55 PM
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it was the merest completely gratuitous and irrelevant but incredibly cliched suggestion that you might move into criticizing meat-consumption.

Look, I thought it was funny, so I made fun. I'M SO SORRY I'LL NEVER MOCK VEGETARIANS AGAIN.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:55 PM
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I really don't understand why B is crawling up Stras's ass in this thread. He may be humorlessly scolding, but he's right, and the reaction to it seems needlessly defensive.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:56 PM
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Mock vegetarian soup is delicious.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:57 PM
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I've no idea what sets you people off.

Racist!


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:57 PM
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Hey now, the criticism of bottled water does not merely rest on actual water consumption. Nor is the harm of bottled water limited to the costs of producing the bottles or attempting to recycle the bottles. (I am seriously skeptical about the efficiency of most plastics recycling; sure, I sort my plastics and do my best, but what I've read isn't encouraging.)

In re bottled water I'm mostly worried about 1) transportation costs, and 2) the gradual erosion of political support for the fucking kick-ass municipal water systems. Watersheds! Aquaducts! Reservoirs! Pipes! Treatment Centers! And then you turn on the tap in your kitchen and clean water comes out! This is a modern marvel, a wonderful, astonishing beautiful thing! And you suggest I should drink water from a sealed jug like a refugee? I think not.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 8:58 PM
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146: Gratuitous my ass. I was talking about water usage, and one of the biggest uses of water goes into the production of meat. If people want to conserve water, they should look into eating less meat.

Get a fucking grip, B. You don't flip out this much on Ogged when he starts feminist-baiting.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:00 PM
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People, up through comment 92 I was being funny. In fact, comment 92 specifically pointed to me making fun of . . . myself!

I then went badly wrong by trying to respond to Stras seriously, which I knew was a bad idea at the time. Mea culpa.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:01 PM
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I drink fizzy water. The kind with essense 'o lime. And for that matter, I bought a bottle of water with electrolytes in it because I was at the store and I was fucking thirsty. Part and parcel of my unsustainable American lifestyle? Yes. And there we are.

People often try to do their best, to then be scolded for their best not being good enough seems petty, and rankles. The only way any of us could do enough, really, would be to move to a place where we could live sustainably, except the only places like that are unspoiled wilderness, and then what? We live in America, we are ipso facto guilty of using way more than our share. We should think, as a nation, about this. But in the meantime here we are.

Anyhow stras I thought you figured we were all doomed anyhow.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:01 PM
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152: Fuck you.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:02 PM
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In re bottled water I'm mostly worried about 1) transportation costs, and 2) the gradual erosion of political support for the fucking kick-ass municipal water systems. Watersheds! Aquaducts! Reservoirs! Pipes! Treatment Centers! And then you turn on the tap in your kitchen and clean water comes out! This is a modern marvel, a wonderful, astonishing beautiful thing! And you suggest I should drink water from a sealed jug like a refugee? I think not.

There was a pretty biting letter by some Major or Colonel or whatever who was bitching about the inanity of having this huge logistics tail to move bottled water around in Iraq, when the Army had spent lots of money on water purification systems and water tankers and whatnot. I also don't like the trend in restaurants away from serving tap water in a glass.

But I'll be damned if I'm not going to keep a couple of bottles of water in my van in case I end up thirsty somewhere.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:02 PM
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Seriously, B, why are you being such an asshole in this thread?

As far as I can tell, 152 consists of "I was just joking! Gawwwwwwwwwwd!" followed by another snipe. Why?


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:03 PM
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Now I'm wondering whether Obama and Clinton have positions on bottled water, and if we need to ask Obama to denounce and reject Aquafina, and if we say Clinton is 'all wet' we're being sexist.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:03 PM
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I bought a bottle of water with electrolytes in it

THE THIRST MUTILATOR


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:03 PM
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Anyhow stras I thought you figured we were all doomed anyhow.

I think we're doomed precisely because we're too stupid and short-sighted to give up stuff like bottled water and cheap meat in order to save the future of the human race.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:04 PM
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In re bottled water I'm mostly worried about 1) transportation costs, and 2) the gradual erosion of political support for the fucking kick-ass municipal water systems.

2, exactly. I worry that the expectation that tap water is potable is being lost, and that water systems will deteriorate as a result.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:04 PM
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151.2: That's because Ogged also loves consumer culture and red meat. Plus, as a fellow Californian, he's helping destroy the water table, so I can't hate him *too* much.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:04 PM
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JM, I know people are kind of down on it fifteen years later, but the "Mulholland's Dream" section of the Cadillac Desert documentary is pretty stunning.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:06 PM
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156: Because I'm mean, remember?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:07 PM
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But I'll be damned if I'm not going to keep a couple of bottles of water in my van in case I end up thirsty somewhere.

No, no, that makes perfect sense. Remember to switch them out every year, though. For a couple of years after 9/11 I stored emergency water, and then when the plumbing went out, I tried to drink it---gah.

And yes, if you're out of the house without water, and you're thirsty, you can buy some water, of course. If you realise that you're doing this every other day, you're spending too much money for being disorganised. Everything in moderation.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:08 PM
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Because I'm mean, remember?

Except that usually when you're mean, there's a reason, like someone's being a sexist ass. I dunno. I just think this knee-jerk defensiveness is beneath you.

It really shouldn't be controversial to say that an environmentally conscious American should try to avoid bottled water (and plastic bags, etc), should be aware of the environmental impact of meat production and adjust their consumption accordingly.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:10 PM
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158: and it was, too! Mmm, vaguely salty.

159: well, I guess all you can do is call people stupid and short-sighted one at a time.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:10 PM
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the expectation that tap water is potable is being lost

That's a big concern of mine too. Outside of work I drink local water and often enough get negative comments from friends. DC water isn't the greatest. Still it is OK. (Bubbling it is better.) But when someone like JM feels a social pressure to serve filtered water in a city that has some of the best municipal water, then we have troubles.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:10 PM
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160.---It's so similar to the public schools argument that I'm surprised more people (like, anyone) aren't talking it up.

162.---I don't know it!


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:10 PM
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167.---It's a Britta filter, if that mitigates anything? I used to drink tap water, unfiltered, in San Diego, so it really isn't that I'm too fastidious.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:12 PM
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I used to use a proper seltzer bottle! But I got tired of having to make special trips to get the cartridges.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:12 PM
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Ooh, a friend of mine got a proper seltzer bottle for his birthday, and now whenever I go over to his house, we get delicious fizzy drinks.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:15 PM
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170: Like a clown, when someone falls for a gag?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:16 PM
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I just think this knee-jerk defensiveness is beneath you.

Thanks for the rather condescending compliment. In fact, as I already said, I'm neither being nor feeling defensive, and 152 was really pretty straightforward.

You and Stras can enjoy ad-homing and pschoanalyzing me all you like, though. I'm actually in kind of a good mood tonnight and am unlikely to be annoyed by it. Go figure.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:16 PM
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167: Yeah, there's nothing wrong with the filter, but it's surprisingly common for people to view drinking unfiltered tap water as weird, and that worries me. (It's number 718 on the list.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:17 PM
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Oh, I don't think you are too fastidious. I'm certainly not pointing fingers. I just thought it was an interesting anecdote that illustrated a trend. Look at me. I'm a journalist!


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:18 PM
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170: A high-school friend had seltzer in syphons delivered by a service. I thought it was the coolest thing ever at the time. They were blue glass, and all old and scratched up on the outside.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:18 PM
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I have to find something to replace my Nalgene bottle since they're supposed to be bad now.

Only the polycarbonate bottels have BPA. If you want something that's hard and clear like polycarb, look for the Nalgenes, Camelbaks, etc. that are being made with Tritan.

http://www.rei.com/search?vcat=REI_SEARCH&query=tritan


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:18 PM
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162.---I don't know it!

Do you know the book? It's all about water policy in California -- I'm sure the good Megan has things to say about it, but IIRC people are kind of down on it now. The first third of the book is all about Mulholland's great water theft, as seen in Chinatown, and the amazing (and eventually disastrous) engineering feats that were involved and left Mulholland a broken, disgraced man. Seriously awesome in an "oh my God, what were people thinking?" two-fisted engineer way.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:18 PM
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If we've all just decided that this thread should be awkward, we could play How Much Is Your Monthly Energy Bill?.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:19 PM
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170: Like a clown, when someone falls for a gag?

Yes, just like! But the C02 charger cartridges aren't available at just any corner store, so it's a bit of a hassle. Also they don't actually hold much water, so you go through chargers really fast.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:19 PM
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A high-school friend had seltzer in syphons delivered by a service.

I would love this a lot.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:20 PM
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Megan told me that Cadillac Desert is not bad, but that the research in it is terribly outdated now. I think she's actually guardedly optimistic about CA's water situation (I could be completely wrong, but that's how I've read some of her comments over at EotAW).

My take on the book is that it's clearly polemic, but very interesting and apparently sound polemic. I liked it.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:20 PM
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You and Stras can enjoy ad-homing and pschoanalyzing

Can I make fun of your typing instead?


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:21 PM
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I never read the book, but the great water theft did have a way of getting talked about in Northern California, oh yep.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:21 PM
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179: Ours is paid by the landlord, because she doesn't want us to skimp on running the pump to keep the koi poind going.

177: If you *really* want to be environmentally conscious, you'll just re-use a plastic bottle from something else. Oh, and stop eating meat.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:22 PM
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the "Mulholland's Dream" section of the Cadillac Desert documentary is pretty stunning.

Can you give a clear summary of it? I had a hell of a time making head or tail of what happened amongst all the axe-grinding.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:22 PM
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183: Sure, knock yourself out. Apparently Ben's not around tonight, so someone has to.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:23 PM
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I grew up in the middle of that 1980s drought in California, so got used to taking two-inch-deep baths and skiing on gravel and that sort of thing. When I first went to Southern California, the sight of green lawns in the deserts made me violently angry.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:24 PM
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If you re-use a non-reusable plastic bottle, you'll end up spending more replacing them than you would on a $10 nalgene bottle.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:24 PM
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(It's number 718 on the list.)

This, I think, sums up my thoughts. Yes, important. Not as important as lots and lots of other things, unfortunately.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:24 PM
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If you *really* want to be environmentally conscious, you'll just re-use a plastic bottle from something else.

Ahem, obviously you wouldn't have one.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:24 PM
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150: JM, have you ever read Liquid Assets: A History of New York City's Water System? Something New York really did right back in the day.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:26 PM
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I grew up in the middle of that 1980s drought in California, so got used to taking two-inch-deep baths and skiing on gravel and that sort of thing.

In the 80's I was growing in up in L.A. swimming in a backyard pool. Tee hee.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:27 PM
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I dig my reused plastic bottles out of the neighbor's trash can.

188: Skiing? and baths? JM, for shame.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:28 PM
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192.---No, but I did spend a good deal of time researching the early nineteenth-century cholera epidemics around Europe and North America. I really apppreciate safe municipal water.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:28 PM
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It's pouring rain again. Oooh, a big flash of lightning!


Posted by: Napi | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:29 PM
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My sisters and I shared the bath water.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:29 PM
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I dig my reused plastic bottles out of the neighbor's trash can.

Now, now. If you were really conscientious, you wouldn't have neighbors with such trash.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:30 PM
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199

Can you give a clear summary of it?

The short version is that Mulholland drained Owens Lake dry, destroying the farmers of Owens Valley; further, he had deceived both the Angelenos and the Owensites about what was happening, having decided to use the water to irrigate San Fernando Valley instead of as a non-agricultural municipal water supply to enrich a bunch of his buddies. The Owens farmers flipped out, blew up some stuff, and started a brief shooting war. Jack Nicholson got his nose sliced up by Roman Polansky. Los Angeles won, because Los Angeles loves love and we are all going to Reseda to die, and the Owens farmers went the way of the dodo.

Then, a couple of years later, one of Mulholland's dams collapsed and killed 500 people. Whoops! Sorry about that.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:31 PM
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I carry drinking water in a horsehide bag. The horse was humanely treated during its long life, and died of old age.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:34 PM
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Sometimes the river behind my house strikes me as super wasteful, and I'm plagued by the notion that we should turn it off at night, when no one's using it. I swear to god. All this clear water just rushing by, just seems so wasteful.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:34 PM
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198: It's true, I've fallen down on the nagging-the-neighbors duty.

I think I agreed to be some kind of "neighborhood captain" to the Democratic party person who called yesterday, though, which she explained means I'm supposed to talk to them about voting Democratic, so I should be making an asshole of myself again soon enough.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:34 PM
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All this clear water just rushing by, just seems so wasteful.

This is so totally discussed in Cadillac Desert! The idea that river water needs to be USED.

In other words, Heebie, you're a capitalist pawn and you didn't even know it. All that bottled water has washed your brain.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:36 PM
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Hey, serious eco-question here:

What should I clean up my dog's crap with? I've always just used plastic grocery bags, because my efforts at avoiding bag-accumulation are inadequate (I'm pretty rigorous about bringing my own to groceries, but restaurant leftovers and other non-grocery purchases generally result in getting bags), and I feel stupid buying plastic baggies when they're giving them out free. Further, snack baggies may be smaller (and thus less useful for the task at hand), but (it seems to me) are probably as resource-intensive as shopping bags.*

So what to do (other than not have a dog, because it's wasteful and decadent, etc.)?

* They're heavier-gauge plastic, and I'm pretty sure the clear stuff is a lot higher on the resource totem pole** than the translucent stuff in grocery bags

** racist?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:37 PM
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The idea that river water needs to be USED.

No! That it needs to be saved!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:39 PM
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199: and the Owen's Valley is so heartbreakingly beautiful.

Daaaamnn yoooouuuu Mulholland!

On the other hand coming across these strange, massive water control apparati in weird corners of LA county can be a wonderfully weird experience. Doot dee doo, rounding a corner on the freeway: whoah! There's a massive dam, with no water behind it!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:39 PM
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People often try to do their best, to then be scolded for their best not being good enough seems petty, and rankles.

It would help if people didn't take every new piece of information as an unbearable restriction on their liberty imposed by a harsh and punishing authority. I mean, come on - to give up bottled water or to eat less meat is supposed to be comparable to autoflagellation? How fucking spoiled can a civilization get? "What? I have to change my light bulbs now? Well why don't you just castrate me!"

As a culture we have a shitload of bad habits. If Western civilization were a person, it'd be a chain-smoking heroin addict driving drunk over an icy bridge. That doesn't mean we have to scrap every city and turn into hunter-gatherers tomorrow, but it does mean it's going to take a while for the average person who thinks they're doing their best to adjust to what they actually have to do, and it also means they need to think differently about environmental "scolds." When your doctor tells you to give up smoking or to exercise more, it can sound like scolding if that's something you don't want to do. But the mature way to look at it is: this is information, and it's important information to have, because if you don't follow these guidelines your life will probably be worse. That's the spirit in which people should take information on how to live a sustainable life. To see environmentalists as "scolds" assumes an antagonistic relationship between ourselves and the information we need to survive, and ultimately, an antagonistic relationship between humans and the environment. If that's the case, then we really are doomed.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:39 PM
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The horse was humanely treated during its long life, and died of old age.

I hope the entire horse was eaten, taking the place of another piece of livestock that would be raised only to be killed before its time.


Posted by: Ardent reader | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:39 PM
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What should I clean up my dog's crap with?

This is a good question. We try to avoid plastic bags, but not completely, since we use them for scooping the cat litter. Paper? Seems weird.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:39 PM
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204: Compost the crap and re-use the same bag?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:40 PM
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but I did spend a good deal of time researching the early nineteenth-century cholera epidemics around Europe and North America.

If you liked Richard Evans' history of Nazi Germany, you'll love this.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:42 PM
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I think they actually sell biodegradable dog crap bags. Or I suppose you could use a scooper and just carry the poop home and dump it in the garbage or bury it bag-free. You could MAKE a scooper out of accumulated plastic bags: iron eight layers of plastic bag together (low heat, put the plastic between two sheets of parchment paper, dummy), then cut and assemble into a hand-held doggie poop scoop!

Or maybe you could just sort of nudge the crap into the gutter while averting your eyes, and then wipe it on someone's lawn?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:42 PM
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If Western civilization were a person, it'd be a chain-smoking heroin addict driving drunk over an icy bridge.

Those people are fun as shit to hang out with until they start stealing your stuff and offering to drive you places.

The rest of your comment struck me as scolding about listening to scolds, which, okay, I get that you disagree with those guys that think the environmental movement needs to be less in the larger population's face about how fucking wasteful and appalling they are and more about the gentle, branded messaging. I do get that.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:42 PM
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we could play How Much Is Your Monthly Energy Bill?.

I came across an electricity bill from our second year in this house (2002); it had this line about how, unlike everything else, the cost of electricity had gone down in the past year, and shouldn't we be so thankful.

This was rather rueful, as my bill has been going up by a buck every other month for the past 2+ years. Drip, drip, drip.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:43 PM
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199: That was amazingly good. Was that just from recall? And did you just finish the book or something? Regardless, I'm impressed.

204: Our co-op sells biodegradable poop collection bags. I think they're made out of starch. Buying them feels a bit odd, I'll admit, but at least they're not very expensive.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:44 PM
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Compost the crap and re-use the same bag?

That's what I'd say, but then again I've never had a dog. For a bag you could look for a reusable bag that's easy to clean.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:44 PM
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209: Why not scoop the cat litter into a paper bag? I use paper bags to hold the mouse bedding when I clean the cage. Then the whole kaboodle just goes into the "yard waste" bin.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:45 PM
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What should I clean up my dog's crap with?

Another dog who will eat the first dog's crap. Easier to find than it sounds, but it does yield a turtles-all-the-way-down problem.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:46 PM
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The rest of your comment struck me as scolding about listening to scolds

Sometimes, when something seems like scolding it might be helpful to remember that how a comment is perceived is a function both of how it is said and how you perceive it. For example! In your caricature of his comment, you used the phrase "fucking wasteful and appalling" and it might be worth taking a minute to consider whether that was in Stras's comment, or just in your reaction to it.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:46 PM
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I'm pretty sure my electric bill was between $15 and $17 for every month between October and March. It had been about $35 in the summer.

This tells me that
A) All my decisions about energy use only make the tiniest difference at the margins, compared to whatever that baseline $15 is. (refrigerator? TV? VCR?)
B) The air conditioner uses more electricity than every other electric thing I use, combined
C) Really? How can the air conditioner use THAT much electricity?!?


Posted by: Fatrman | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:47 PM
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Why not scoop the cat litter into a paper bag?

Toilet train your cats, everyone! Eyes on the prize! You're either with me or you're with the terrorists


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:47 PM
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199: That was amazingly good. Was that just from recall? And did you just finish the book or something? Regardless, I'm impressed.

Chinatown + recall + the William Mulholland wikipedia page to remember when the dam burst. It's a dramatic story! Farmers dynamiting the city boys! Hundreds dead in a civil disaster! Faye Dunaway and John Huston!


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:47 PM
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I think they actually sell biodegradable dog crap bags.

Apparently they do indeed.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:47 PM
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Compost the crap

Can't compost carnivores' waste!*

You people!

Or maybe you could just sort of nudge the crap into the gutter while averting your eyes, and then wipe it on someone's lawn?

In the middle of a park? No gutter!

Biodegradable bags don't help, since, as we all know, nothing biodegrades in a landfill.

* Not for food purposes, anyway, and all our gardening is for food; you can compost dog fur.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:47 PM
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218: huh huh. He said turtle.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:47 PM
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Why not scoop the cat litter into a paper bag?

Because then I'd have to buy paper bags instead of using the plastic ones that make their way effortlessly into my life. Sigh.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:48 PM
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Can you actually compost dog poo?


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:48 PM
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I'm pretty sure my electric bill was between $15 and $17 for every month between October and March. It had been about $35 in the summer.

Wow, that strikes me as really low. Are you in an apartment?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:48 PM
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Not for food purposes, anyway, and all our gardening is for food

You could have flowers, though.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:48 PM
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Oh, hello, late again. Nice to see you!


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:48 PM
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A really good book about the Owens Valley.

An environmental science professor in a class I took offered the counterfactual that a watered Owens Valley could have ended up looking something like the Bakersfield area. Good for the farmers, obviously, but very different than it looks now from an environmental standpoint.

I haven't read this thread, but just wanted to recommend that book.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:48 PM
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221: WATER WASTER.

Sometimes, when something seems like scolding it might be helpful to remember that how a comment is perceived is a function both of how it is said and how you perceive it.

Tweety, your own brain is scolding you.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:49 PM
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less in the larger population's face about how fucking wasteful and appalling they are and more about the gentle, branded messaging

A friend of mine believes that one of the labor movement's biggest problem is that there's no PETA to its Audubon, no Earth First! to its Sierra Club. The fuck-you-ists create a lot of space for the reformists to work. Ah, for Wobblies.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:49 PM
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I remember hardly any of the rest of the book (or any of City of Quartz, which I read around the same time), because it lacked a compelling narrative arc and explosions. Also, it was like blah blah blah Colorado River, when we all know the real doom is going to happen when the Ogallala Aquifer runs dry. (Sorry Heebie!)


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:50 PM
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Can't compost carnivores' waste!*

Really?? I thought composting was just a big mushpot. Just goes to show.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:50 PM
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211.---That's a really good book. I have a whole cholera bibliography around here somewhere. Ah, I'm sitting right by the disease bookshelf! The New York City guy is Charles E. Rosenberg.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:51 PM
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Sorry Heebie!

It's okay. What did you do?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:51 PM
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That plus nagging people about eating meat is soooo 90s. will be so 2020's


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:52 PM
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219: it was in my caricature of the straw man-ish characterization of traditional environmental messaging presented by two dudes who's names I don't remember who I saw in a movie I forget the title of. So only very, very tangentially related to stras or anything he said. I also only skimmed his comment, and yeah, the fact that he is often a very angry person probably influenced my perception that he was being all angry.

I may have been wrong!

Sorry, stras! Wuv you!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:52 PM
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Oh, Snark, I know you just like to say "Ogallala".


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:52 PM
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In the middle of a park?

Oh, in a park? Bring a little trowel, dig a little hole, and bury it. Back to the earth!


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:52 PM
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Actually, I'm not sure how accurate Cadillac Desert is on some of the history, but I haven't read it. Just seen it disparaged by some historians (who didn't dismiss it entirely).


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:53 PM
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It's okay. What did you do?

Failed to invent a time machine to travel back and prevent people from settling in the Great American Desert to use up all the fossil water. Also, to shoot Hitler.

On the other hand, you're going to kick ass in Thunderdome.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:53 PM
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For a bag you could look for a reusable bag that's easy to clean.

Wow, when you say you don't have a dog, you really come with the proof that you don't have a dog.

Unused dog-poop bags are stored in a coat or pants pocket; there is no realistic amount of cleaning that will get a used poop-bag back into my coat or pants pocket.

I always dreamt of training my dog to crap in ground cover, but I don't think they're all that thoughtful about where they crap. It's an unusual stance, but I feel comfortable with it.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:55 PM
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I've been training!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:55 PM
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Failed to invent a time machine

You can still turn this around, snark.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:55 PM
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243: ooh, I invented one of those! It's broken at the moment, though, and I mostly used it to drive around a big party in said desert.

My bad!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:55 PM
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I get that you disagree with those guys that think the environmental movement needs to be less in the larger population's face about how fucking wasteful and appalling they are and more about the gentle, branded messaging.

Actually, I'm not sure I disagree with this. Whatever works, works, and I certainly don't have the numbers to say that a confrontational approach would be more effective (off the top of my head I'd assume not, since Americans hate the dirty hippies so). The obvious downside to the gentle, branded messaging is that there's a certain limit to the scope of the message you can push; "we're all gonna die" probably won't sell well, which is too bad, because if we don't do something pretty massive about climate change soon, we're probably, um, all gonna die.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:56 PM
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It's an unusual stance, but I feel comfortable with it.

Unusual... is it particularly wide?


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:57 PM
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244: If you really cared about the environment, JRoth, you'd be less fussy about your jacket pocket.

(That said, actually the thick ziploc bags are easy to wash. I can send you some; for god only knows what reason my husband bought a box of the stupid things.)


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:57 PM
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mature

First James, now stras. Who's next?

eb, that looks like a great read, thanks.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:58 PM
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Oh, in a park? Bring a little trowel, dig a little hole, and bury it. Back to the earth!

I love you, B.

You were joking, right?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:58 PM
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Wow, when you say you don't have a dog, you really come with the proof that you don't have a dog.

We had a fish when I was a kid, but I got really broken up when it died, and my dad said I'd never be able to handle the death of an animal that could actually show emotion.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:58 PM
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233: The response to the Haymarket and McNamara bombings suggest that this might not be a great idea.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:59 PM
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242: It's accurate enough that it gets assigned by excellent environmental historians. There are caveats offered, of course. But this is true of all books. Caveats are the only way to prove that one is just as smart as the author of the book being assigned.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:59 PM
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248: we work within the limits of our nature and our built environment, I figure.

The problem with full-on reality-facing when it comes to environmental problems is that if you actually start to tally up all the ways that you're guilty of living unsustainably, and all the ways that unsustainability is going to fuck us all, poorest first, you end up basically wanting to crawl in a hole and die, except then the toxins in your body would pollute the soil. So yes, let's find ways to make our diet less impactful, and let's enjoy the delightful water that flows into our very homes. So positive! So yay! Enough? Hey, don't make me crawl in that hole and die again.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:59 PM
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Hey, here's a good reason to use glass rather than plastic bottles. Can't do that with plastic.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 9:59 PM
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My bad!

byrnyng man inc.

we bild a giant man in the dezert
yu kom out do druggs
get nakkit thair
yu burn itt.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 10:00 PM
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gets assigned by excellent environmental historian

I know some excellent historians who argue and truly believe that good books don't teach as well as not as good books...


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 10:00 PM
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252: I was half joking. You *could* do that, you know. It's a little wacko, but only a little.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 10:01 PM
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An environmental science professor in a class I took offered the counterfactual that a watered Owens Valley could have ended up looking something like the Bakersfield area. Good for the farmers, obviously, but very different than it looks now from an environmental standpoint.

This was sort of my confusion with Cadillac Desert. Sure, farming is nice. But so is a massive industrial and commercial city, and if you can make a lot more money from the city and farm somewhere else... it's not clear that that's inherently bad for society as a whole.

Also, the "farmers think that they are putting one over on the city slicker or their neighbors, but in a shocking turn of events the city slicker is more devious than they expected" did not inspire much sympathy.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 10:01 PM
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257 is awesome.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 10:04 PM
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259: Oh if I must name names I will. The Dons, Worster and Pisani, both think pretty highly of the book. There are some problems, I guess, but they say it's accurate enough that they don't have to teach against it. Having said that, I have no earthly idea. Too far afield for me to have an informed opinion.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 10:04 PM
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I imagine the Owens Valley would have had cleaner air than Bakersfield, just from pure fact of geography. But maybe it's true that what I, personally, want, is the valley to be just like it is now, but all full of water and lushness.

Sifu: not known for the realism of his counterfactual aspirations.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 10:04 PM
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Too far afield for me to have an informed opinion.

Ari's still a little new here.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 10:06 PM
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265: I just assumed that I tried to post an opinion you'd have posted the same thing but one comment earlier. So what's the point?


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 10:08 PM
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Current-day Owens Valleyans are of two minds, in my experience. They like hating the DWP, but they also recognize that if it didn't own the land, it would not be nearly as pastoral up there as it is.

Fortunately, the DWP has been hateworthy on any number of contemporary problems, such as their responsibility to damp down the dust off the dry lake bed so that Paiute kids don't get lung cancer for their sweet sixteens. There is progress here of late too, though.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 10:09 PM
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Did y'all see about the oil analyst who thinks we're within 2-3 years of $7.50/gal gas? He called our current prices about 5 years back, so he's credible, at least.

At that point, market forces really will start to have an impact; the problem is that the groundwork hasn't been laid. Imagine if the carbon tax had been passed back in '93; imagine if that $$ (or a fraction of it) had been applied to things like transit. The depopulation of exurbia could hit the ground running, as people would have a lot more places to go. As it is, a lot of people will be looking at $1000/mo gas bills, but not knowing how to fix it.

I bring this up not to minimize the importance of the plastic water bottle thing, but to point out how big the coming dislocations may be, and that it's far from clear how any of them will be coped with. I've seen a lot of change in my lifetime, but it's all been in the name of BiggerFasterBetter. I have trouble conceiving of 21C Americans dealing with SmallerSlowerWorse (even though the definition of SSW is not dissimilar to my lifestyle - it's not as if we need to go hunter-gatherer, just a bit closer to 1950 life patterns*).

* Sexism and racism excepted. Just to be clear.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 10:10 PM
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that if I tried to post


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 10:10 PM
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Ari's still a little new here.

No googleproofing either. Unfortunately, I'm not going to name names, especially since I have a hazy memory of the conversation, which was between the professor and another student, not me. But it wasn't an environmental but a political historian. Hundley's Great Thirst was recommended for California water history.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 10:10 PM
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267: I guess you probably have reasonably strong opinions about the valley, too. The new water flow to the river seems kind of exciting.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 10:10 PM
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270: Yeah, I regret not having googleproofed. Oh well. I live on the edge. (That said, if someone's paying attention, it would be great if my stupidity got fixed.)


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 10:12 PM
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260: I'm considering it. But I suspect it's not sustainable in a 1+ acre, grassy park that is play space for about a dozen local dogs, not to mention a lot of humans.

OTOH, the local drug dealers would know me as "that crazy dude who buries his dog shit." So that's something.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 10:13 PM
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Owens Valley would have had cleaner air than Bakersfield

See my 267.2. The air is pretty sweet up there, but there are some pockets where the dust off the lake is intolerable. Guess where the economically disadvantaged tribe lives? And no, the Paiute Palace is not one of the big ones.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 10:13 PM
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261 - It's more the "I'm going to destroy your farming valley for the benefit of another farming valley where my cronies happen to own all the land". You've got admire the positively Reavisian chutzpah.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 10:15 PM
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273: Its either that or washing ziploc bags.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 10:17 PM
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I bring this up not to minimize the importance of the plastic water bottle thing, but to point out how big the coming dislocations may be, and that it's far from clear how any of them will be coped with. I've seen a lot of change in my lifetime, but it's all been in the name of BiggerFasterBetter. I have trouble conceiving of 21C Americans dealing with SmallerSlowerWorse (even though the definition of SSW is not dissimilar to my lifestyle - it's not as if we need to go hunter-gatherer, just a bit closer to 1950 life patterns*).

I think California gas consumption is down something like 4% y-o-y already. There have been significant changes in the new vehicle mix, and probably more substantial changes in the vehicle-miles-driven mix. Urban living is making a comeback among the wealthier sorts. It's happening.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 10:18 PM
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271: I don't know about particularly strong opinions--I'm grateful that it's less developed, and regard Mulholland as a Great Rogue of History. But it was home for a little while. It was weird to see the lake bed green on the way up 395 to that thing.

And the conditions I mentioned in 274 are, slowly and after many lawsuits, being remedied.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 10:18 PM
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That said, I'm inclined to trust the two Ari has cited.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 10:19 PM
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I think I have to link to this before anyone else gets the chance.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 10:19 PM
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I actually have no problem imagining 21st century Americans adjusting. 21st century America, otoh, I wonder about. By which I mean things like economic policies and such.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 10:19 PM
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That said, I'm inclined to trust the two Ari has cited. With some important caveats, of course.

See what I did there? I made you sound as smart as you really are. I'm telling you: it's all in the caveats.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 10:22 PM
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The link in 280 is worth sitting through. At about one minute in, Isabella Rosellini, from within a giant pink earthworm costume, demonstrates that creature's various excretory methods.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 10:26 PM
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Boy, 277 is warmly optimistic. But I'm thinking about millions of SUVs sitting, almost literally worthless, in a world of $7.50 gas. Shit, I wouldn't be able to afford my Passat, and I use less than 2 tanks per month.

Part of me sees it as a cleansing fire. Part of me sees it as Yosemite in 1996 (no, dammit, I'm not checking the date).


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 10:26 PM
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280: Uh. Wow.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 10:31 PM
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What happened in Yosemite in the 1996 of your fevered imagination, JRoth?


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 10:31 PM
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The link in 280 is utterly insane. Isabella Rosellini is a mad genius.

Also, I missed in AP bio the part where earthworms drop their whatchamacallit, and that's where the baby worms emerge from.

Safari accepts whatchamacallit as an acceptable spelling.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 10:33 PM
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286: You know, the year where the forest fires went all crazy.

Now that I think about it, it can't have been that year, because that year I was driving cross-country, and would've been somehow affected by the fires.

But anyway, the story - as I recall it - was that the sensible decision was made to allow a natural burn, but it went out of control (partly) because the burn cycle had been interrupted for so long: too much fuel, too little variance in tree maturity, etc.

It was a metaphor (not an analogy!), so I don't think I should be held accountable for strict historical accuracy.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 10:36 PM
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Do you mean Yellowstone in 1988?


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 10:37 PM
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288: good, cause you're off by like six or seven years, at least.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 10:38 PM
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And, per eb, several states.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 10:39 PM
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Boy, 277 is warmly optimistic. But I'm thinking about millions of SUVs sitting, almost literally worthless, in a world of $7.50 gas. Shit, I wouldn't be able to afford my Passat, and I use less than 2 tanks per month.

There's a lot of steel in those SUVs - I bet they'd be scrapped. I think America will muddle through.

On the other hand, I think huge chunks of Africa and Asia are very seriously screwed. You could probably convince the average rich Westerner to stop using a dirt-poor African family's food to power his SUV over a 40-mile commute. I don't know how much luck you'll have convincing your moderately poor Indian or Chinese family that they have to give up their hard-won $2500 Tata or their refrigerator or air conditioner or their electric lights so that there's not a famine in Bangladesh. I also don't know how much luck you'll have convincing your typical American that he shouldn't dig up the coal in Wyoming because India or China is digging up theirs.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 10:39 PM
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SmallerSlowerWorse

What's wrong with SmallerSlowerBetter as a target? Ok, yeah, probably too late for that. But at least head that way?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 10:41 PM
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But anyway, the story - as I recall it - was that the sensible decision was made to allow a natural burn, but it went out of control (partly) because the burn cycle had been interrupted for so long: too much fuel, too little variance in tree maturity, etc.

Magpie and I went to Yellowstone -- Jesus, 4 years ago at this point. At one of the ranger stations they have a video about the fires, and make the point that while everyone thought it was a huge disaster at the time, it's turned out to be hugely beneficial to the ecosystem. Yeah, there's still a ton of deadfall, but things are recovering quite well.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 10:46 PM
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We have a DVD about the fires; the scars from them seriously impressed PK when we were there. He was 2 and very into fires and firefighters at the time.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 10:58 PM
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What's wrong with SmallerSlowerBetter as a target? Ok, yeah, probably too late for that. But at least head that way?

I thought about that as I wrote. And your second sentence is the one I find persuasive. People finding that meat has gone from 30% of their calories down to 5% aren't going to find it better. People who've learned to rely on bottled water finding that it's off the market, or taboo, won't find it better. We've spent vast resources going in the wrong direction for the last 25+ years, and very little of that reverse gear will feel better to hoi polloi, even if we righteous white people prefer this lifestyle.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 11:01 PM
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289, 290: Really? Jeez, I would've thought later than '96, not 8 years earlier.

Is this a sign of age? Or just East Coast centrism?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 11:02 PM
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I went to Yellowstone in August 1988. My family took car-camping vacations every summer and that year we headed for the Rocky Mountain states. Some of the areas were closed off, but we saw Old Faithful and that sort of thing. The park is huge, so even with huge fires there was a lot still open when we went through. Although I think a couple of the roads we used were later closed off as the fires moved.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 11:04 PM
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while everyone thought it was a huge disaster at the time, it's turned out to be hugely beneficial to the ecosystem.

I suspected as much.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 11:04 PM
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People who've learned to rely on bottled water finding that it's off the market, or taboo, won't find it better.

I don't know. I think reliance on bottled water is pretty unlearnable. Can't people go back to drinking alcohol all the time, like in Gatsby and in the old West?


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 11:07 PM
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296: I honestly think you're wrong. People adjust to things--it's part of what makes our species so successful. And while people resist change beforehand, or just as it's happening, the fact is that once it's happened we usually go, huh, that wasn't so bad. No one *really* "relies" on bottled water; they're used to it. If it suddenly disappeared tomorrow, people would gripe for a few weeks, then they'd get used to getting it from the tap.

I mean, within my life time we've adjusted to (e.g.) houses that are twice as big, to the point where the houses of our parents would seem unacceptably small. It's entirely possible that to kids PK's age, 2000 sf houses will seem ridiculously enormous.

Mostly what makes people feel deprived is comparing themselves to their neighbors, rather than to their own past.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 11:08 PM
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Our neighbors should stay drunk, so we can save the planet!


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 11:09 PM
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298: I was there, too. And had the same experience! Are we the same person?


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 11:12 PM
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It's entirely possible that to kids PK's age, 2000 sf houses will seem ridiculously enormous.

I feel the same way about ancient ruins.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 11:13 PM
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Despite my anti-temperance message, I do agree with B here. I also agree with Michael Pollan that a lot of the way we're going to get there is by having the most annoying of us lead the way.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 11:17 PM
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I went to Yellowstone in August 1988.

I was living in Denver at the time. I remember going outside one night and looking up at the full moon... which was orange from all the smoke.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 11:17 PM
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You schmuck, that was the Great Pumpkin.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 11:19 PM
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301 True. It's not like all of the change has been improvements, though many are at least arguably neutral, in some ways we are worse off.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 11:23 PM
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Mostly what makes people feel deprived is comparing themselves to their neighbors, rather than to their own past.

You think? I don't disagree about people comparing themselves to their neighbors, but I think nostalgia is tremendously powerful. I mean, to a certain extent it's the entire strength of the Republican Party.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 11:28 PM
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This guy, who's on the Daily Show to talk about his book on blogs, just defined what a sock-puppet is and did so in a totally incorrect way. He said it's someone who just repeats talking points, and brought it up in response to Stewart's questions about whether some bloggers are paid and undisclosed shills for a product or issue.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 11:28 PM
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Unfogged meetup at Yellowstone!

Easy access from Salt Lake. Camped there in '05, and again last summer. Probably going to hit the Sawtooth area in Idaho this year.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 11:30 PM
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If snark hadn't screwed the pooch, we could have met up there in 1988. Ari and eb are waiting for us.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 11:33 PM
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Camped there in '05

Charlie don't camp.

I want to go back, if for no other reason than to finally make it to the top of Mt. Washburn. We tried twice when we were there, but Magpie had a hard time with the altitude. (Although not as bad as the woman who passed out at the trailhead.) Next time I want to be more prepared for the elk, too.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 11:36 PM
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hey, how many days should one devote to Yosemite out of a 9 day trip to Northern Cal.? Mainly looking for non-car-bound but not especially strenuous activities--easy to moderate day hikes, that sort of thing.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 11:37 PM
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310: was he asked to define "lint puppet"?


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 11:37 PM
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People adjust to things--it's part of what makes our species so successful.

Homo sapiens hasn't been around all that long; we're an important species in terms of our impact on our environment, but how successful we are remains to be seen. And given that our adaptiveness to date has consisted largely of coming up with the sorts of environment-changing innovations that have now placed us squarely between a rock and the end of the world, I'm not all that willing to put much faith in a general history of human adaptability.

The real problem isn't bottled water, of course - it's our general rate of consumption of fossil fuels, of topsoil, of potable water, of ecosystems and biodiversity. And that gets into basic issues of the way we live, from suburbs to big farms to manufacturing to an economy premised on the need for constant growth. It's not just a matter of swapping out SUVs for hybrids or coal-fired plants for solar power; it's a matter of changing the way our civilization is structured, and doing it within a relatively short period of time.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 11:41 PM
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And given that our adaptiveness to date has consisted largely of coming up with the sorts of environment-changing innovations that have now placed us squarely between a rock and the end of the world, I'm not all that willing to put much faith in a general history of human adaptability.

Again with the "OMG humans are going to go extinct!" We might fuck our current culture beyond belief. We might even trigger events which kill off tons of people. We're not going to fucking well go extinct.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 11:45 PM
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Charlie don't camp.

Really? You're missing out. Camping in the Yellowstone Lake area (Bay Bridge or Grants Village) is great.

I imagine the elevation is pretty sketchy if you're coming from the coast. The Salt Lake area is well over 4000 feet, so going up to 8000 is noticeable, but not too bad.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 11:46 PM
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We're not going to fucking well go extinct.

I'm glad you're so much more certain than the various biologists, ecologists and palaeontologists who believe otherwise.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 11:47 PM
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I'm glad you're so much more certain than the various biologists, ecologists and palaeontologists who believe otherwise.

Name 'em.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 11:51 PM
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320: For a start, E.O. Wilson and Peter Ward, both of whom I've mentioned before, and both of whom think human extinction is a very real possibility if policy on global warming doesn't change. The notion that we're currently in the middle of a sixth mass extinction is now widely accepted; it would be foolish to assume that homo sapiens will necessarily survive an extinction event when the various keystone species of previous eras all died out with their various extinctions.

I've also recommended Ward's Under A Green Sky in the past, along with the more readable and more broadly focused The World Without Us.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 11:56 PM
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The Salt Lake area is well over 4000 feet, so going up to 8000 is noticeable, but not too bad.

People vary quite a lot when it comes to altitude. Some get altitude sickness as low as 4000 feet - when I took an outdoors first aid class, "high" altitude was defined as anything above that elevation because of this - and others much higher. I've noticed I'm fine with anything up to about 9000, but at 10,000 I need some time to adjust.

I've been to the top of Mt. Whitney, but only after a few nights at 8-10,000 ft before the trip up.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 11:57 PM
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in 322: "fine" = I notice and am short of breath, but not actually sick.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05- 8-08 11:58 PM
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Really? You're missing out.

I wish it were an option, but for various reasons it's not.

Camping in the Yellowstone Lake area (Bay Bridge or Grants Village) is great.

Yeah, Magpie and I stayed at the Lake Yellowstone Hotel when we were there. Drove out into the Hayden Valley one night to do some stargazing... We got a little ways into the valley, pulled over to the side of the road, and put down the top of her car so we could sit and gawp. We hadn't been there more than a couple of minutes when we heard grunting and the sounds of large animals moving around, and then we realized we were about to be surrounded by a herd of bison. We decided to take a pass on the stargazing after that.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 12:08 AM
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Peter Ward, both of whom I've mentioned before, and both of whom think human extinction is a very real possibility if policy on global warming doesn't change

From the Amazon excerpt of the Library Journal review of Ward's Future Evolution: "Ward states unequivocally that humans are virtually "extinction-proof" owing to their ability to alter environmental conditions and insulate themselves from adverse conditions that affect every other species."


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 12:18 AM
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But I'm thinking about millions of SUVs sitting, almost literally worthless, in a world of $7.50 gas.

Americans always says this. I don't understand it. Petrol is already more expensive than that here. There are still a lot of people driving SUVs.

OK, engine sizes and per-vehicle fuel consumptions are generally lower, I don't doubt, but it's not as if expensive petrol flicks some magic 'green' switch.

re: sustainable agriculture, impending human extinction, etc.

It's easier to believe that we can grow food sustainable if you live, say, here. Where people have been intensively farming the land for multiple thousands of years, rather than, say, there, where a shit-load of your country isn't like that.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 12:30 AM
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I can wrestle a buffalo!

I almost hit one driving back from flyfishing. It was dark, and that big bastard was walking in the road. Buffalo vs. Corolla would have ended badly.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 12:35 AM
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Buffalo vs. Corolla would have ended badly.

No joke. The visitor's center in Teton has a sign with a moose on it that says basically "He weighs as much as a Volkswagen. Don't hit him."


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 12:37 AM
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314: It really depends what else is on your agenda. One could easily spend nine happy days there. But if you're planning a multi-venue visit, that's probably not an option. And if you haven't spent a lot of time on the coast, there are other spectacular places to visit: Big Sur, Pacific Grove, etc. In short, I need more information before giving a useful answer.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 12:38 AM
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314: Also, it would probably make more sense just to move here.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 12:39 AM
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I've read Ward's collaborations with Donald Brownlee, Rare Earth and The Life and Death of Planet Earth, and found them both thoroughly persuasive for reasons of rhetoric as much as facts. There is, in my experience, a kind of tone that comes from people who are actively seeking not to deceive themselves and not to deceive you - up front about the limits of their information, about disagreements among experts and how they're selecting from among conflicting or at least competing interpretations, about the simplifications that come from reducing mathematical detail, and so on, but also with a wider awareness of living in contingent circumstances and doing the best they can as part of history not yet concluded, sympathetic to good will wherever they find it, justifying their confidence without claiming a monopoly on truth, and so on. They brought all that to bear in a big way.

So I'm inclined to look favorably on other stuff by either of them.


Posted by: Bruce Baugh | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 1:22 AM
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Bottled water at home is one thing; bottled water when traveling beyond both your home area and areas with trusted treatment plants is another. It's just not worth reformatting your intestinal tract every time you travel. Move, sure. But travel?

Sure, alcohol, soda, etc. are alternate solutions - but there's still a place for water.


Posted by: HC | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 1:54 AM
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Americans always says this. I don't understand it.

Most Americans aren't paid very much in absolute terms. They have hitherto maintained an inflated standard of living due to stuff in general being very cheap by European standards, partly through low taxes, and partly through people not being paid very much. Expensive oil at source fucks with this model badly.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 2:28 AM
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And of course the collapse of the dollar is a twofer.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 2:30 AM
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re: 333

That's true, I suppose. When people were listing their salaries on the 'money' thread a while back, that did strike me.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 2:43 AM
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On the vitally important 'cleaning up dog crap' thread here, we use old catalogs. Coated paper makes a perfectly fine barrier between your hand and the crap for pickup purposes, and it doesn't have to be a sealed container if you're just walking fifty feet to a trash can with it.

Now, that still leaves shit and coated paper headed for a landfill, where it probably won't biodegrade at any speed at all, but it is what we do.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 5:39 AM
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I recently learned that a relative of mine claimed to have been the architect of Leeds and Bradford's late 19th century water infrastructure (Victorian and Edwardian engineering, huge reservoirs in the Washburn valley, light railways built to support the project).

But he wasn't; he may have been a labourer on the project at some point, but he certainly was a fraud, and married some poor woman on the basis of this tale.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 5:40 AM
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Every NYC corner should have a dogshit compost bucket. There'd have to be a few central composting locations, and city workers would cheerfully and promptly pick up the deposits daily. These could be places that tourists would ask to see when they visited.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 5:44 AM
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333: Yeah. From our end, that explains some American attitudes about Europe. It's kind of shocking seeing someone who you know makes very decent money by American standards being thoughtful about small-scale expenditures, and it feeds into an inchoate sense that social welfare states are impoverishing. This is bullshit, but I do think people feel that way.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 5:50 AM
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338: I have actually fantasized about dogshit trapdoors in the storm drains, so you could drop it directly into the sewers.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 5:51 AM
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It's kind of shocking seeing someone who you know makes very decent money by American standards being thoughtful about small-scale expenditures, and it feeds into an inchoate sense that social welfare states are impoverishing.

Interesting. For me the main evidence that Europeans of my acquaintance are making tons of money by American standards is the fact that they can afford things like very expensive gasoline and expensive American garments, which makes me feel that my nation-state is impoverishing.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 5:56 AM
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(Relatively speaking.)


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 5:58 AM
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I suppose there's a sense that, at least in some domains, Europeans are (perhaps) paying closer to what any 'real' price* is likely to settle around.

* not including the still insane house prices in bits of the UK.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 6:03 AM
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I'm thinking about a trip I took back in college, so ages ago, and being surprised by the very conservative amount of discretionary spending a couple of upper middle class families I stayed with (relatives of a friend) seemed to have available. I may be overgeneralizing from my own reaction, but I've recognized what looked like the same reaction in poorly-founded rightwing commentary about Europe.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 6:06 AM
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My son was amazed and horrified by the expensive Scandinavian beer (three to six times the cost of PBR). However, that's a function of high taxes and a century of temperance movements. Vodka tourism is a big factor in Scandinavian life (and Estonian life too).


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 6:10 AM
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I'll cop to some interest in learning the general policy prescriptions of the Strasmangelo Jones environmental agenda.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 6:19 AM
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"Ward states unequivocally that humans are virtually "extinction-proof" owing to their ability to alter environmental conditions and insulate themselves from adverse conditions that affect every other species."

Like I said, read Under A Green Sky. He doesn't seem to think humans are extinction-proof there.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 6:58 AM
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I mean, within my life time we've adjusted to (e.g.) houses that are twice as big, to the point where the houses of our parents would seem unacceptably small. It's entirely possible that to kids PK's age, 2000 sf houses will seem ridiculously enormous.

But that's adjusting to having more. Not the same thing. Evidence that we got used to having more isn't good for showing that we'll get used to having less.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 6:58 AM
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humans are virtually "extinction-proof"

If the oceans go anoxic and the atmosphere fills with hydrogen sulfide as it did during at least one of the earlier mass extinctions, all the cleverness in the world won't save humanity.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 7:04 AM
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I have actually fantasized about dogshit trapdoors in the storm drains, so you could drop it directly into the sewers.

Paris has something close to this. Since Parisians are notoriously fond of dogs, and equally notoriously unwilling to pick up after them, Paris has to resort to other measures. They have little silhouettes of a dachsund painted on the curb next to storm drains, with arrows pointing toward the street, the idea being that you should encourage your dog to crap right in front of the drain, where the deposit will be swept into the sewer when the sanitation department flushes the streets (as they do nightly).

To deal with the large residual of deposits on the sidewalks, the city deploys Dr. Seuss-looking mobile crap vacuums with extensible arms. (I looked for an image to link to but couldn't find one.)


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 7:11 AM
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People seem to have this impression that the worst-case scenario for global warming is that civilization will collapse and we'll be set back a thousand years to a new dark age, which seems to betray a real lack of knowledge of what kinds of worst-case scenarios are commonly being discussed here. We're very rapidly approaching a set of tipping points with climate change, and once those tipping points are passed, the world will keep heating up even without our burning fossil fuels. Which means that if civilization collapses because of climate change, the story doesn't end there, because whoever's left in that Kunstleresque world will still have to find a way to survive on a planet that's getting hotter and less hospitable to human life every year. Yes, the carbon levels should eventually go back to normal - providing we haven't passed the ultimate tipping point and turned Earth into Venus - but the time frame there is on the order of something like a hundred thousand years.

I've mentioned this before, but Ward's scenario - which isn't even the worst worst-case scenario out there - is that the atmosphere will become unbreathable for most life on earth, as it did in the Permian extinction. I don't see how humans - especially humans with a radically decreased capacity for developing and producing new technology, as would likely be the case in a climate-ravaged world - would survive something like that.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 7:20 AM
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349, 351: you say this like you don't even want new robot bodies.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 7:42 AM
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I'll cop to some interest in learning the general policy prescriptions of the Strasmangelo Jones environmental agenda.

Have we heard the baa environmental agenda ? Is it more complicated than "pretend there isn't a problem" ? Or have you advanced to the more sophisticated "there's nothing we can do about it anyway" stage ?



Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 7:44 AM
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re: 352

Yeah, we'll all be living in a transhumanist paradise by then. An infinity of mouse orgasms, etc.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 7:46 AM
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I'll cop to some interest in learning the general policy prescriptions of the Strasmangelo Jones environmental agenda.

I think we have to greatly decrease the amount of fossil fuels we burn and, in general, the amount of stuff we manufacture and consume. We can't think of solar and wind as a free lunch; they're both great, but they both consume resources in their own way - especially in terms of natural habitat - and neither will probably be able to produce as much energy as quickly as fossil fuels used to, so the lesson here seems to be that we need to reduce the amount of energy we consume, period.

We probably need to live in much smaller (by size, not necessarily by population) communities, where people can get around mostly by walking and biking with relatively clean public transit. We need to stop thinking about the economy in terms of endlessly increasing growth, and more in terms of communities being able to provide for themselves and their members (in terms of producing food, clothing, medicine, etc.). I'm pretty sympathetic to ideas like the Wildlands Project, that say we have to more or less leave large swathes of the natural world alone for rewilding. We need to somehow bring down our population gradually before we hit a peak and collapse.

I don't have super-detailed policy prescriptions here, unfortunately. Some of this stuff has already become commonly accepted within the environmental movement and the larger liberal coalition. Some of it is a bit fringier. I have no idea how we get any of it done politically. Anyway, that's what I've got.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 7:53 AM
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We don't even need to postulate the extinction event to think we need to shape up. Seriously, just within the past 12 years -- since I've started driving -- gas has quardupled. You know what hasn't? Wages. This is completely unsustainable. And it's going to be my fucking generation's problem, so if all these lawmakers don't want to be pushed into the polar oceans*, they better get their shit together.

*We'd set them out on ice floes as is traditional, but there won't BE any.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 8:01 AM
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355: stras you crrrrrrrazy radical, you.

I'd be surprised if anything there was that fringe from a left of center perspective. I have a little more hope than you that we can make a lot of progress without having completely re-plan major American cities (by making cars much cleaner and much more expensive, among other things), and on the population front I think the solution is relatively clear (education! relative prosperity!) if not easily achievable without it's own set of burdens accruing, but otherwise I feel like eveyrthing you've said is pretty reasonable.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 8:01 AM
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I should also append to 357 that I'm more sanguine about either the eventuality or the relevance of an extinction event, depending on your perspective.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 8:02 AM
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357: Except for the water bottle thing.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 8:06 AM
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stras -- thanks for the response. Much appreciated.

political football -- what's your major malfunction? Is the idea that people to your right exist just so infuriating that contempt and trivialization is a knee jerk response? Life must be hard.

I can't say I have an 'agenda' on the environment. It's not a topic I know a great deal about, or where my confidence about the relevant fact base is high. I can imagine what I would do if I thought catastrophe was imminent, but it's not something I've spent much time thinking about (hence my question to stras, who evidently has spent time thinking about this scenario).

That said, the basic biases/priors I operate under are:
1. Global warming is almost certainly happening, and is almost certainly caused largely/primarily by human behavior
2. It's unclear to me at this point whether the danger posed by global warming should be understood primarily as slow, incremental, but serious costs to human well being, or the risk of massive, 'tipping point' catastrophe. Both are bad, of course, but the later is much more disturbing
3. Technology and economic growth give us increased power to deal with slow environmental change, even if it is ultimately very damaging. So one needs to carefully balance economic growth against environmental damage even if the harm one cares about is that resulting from environmental damage. Of course, that isn't the only kind of harm we care about.
4. In terms of active policy, I wouldn't say I have strong views. A pigouvian externality-internalizing tax on carbon seems like a fine start. As does directed government investment into carbon-minimizing energy sources and potential 'catastrophe fixes.' I'd rather have NASA researching carbon traps and meteor defenses than sending up shuttles, e.g.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 8:07 AM
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OK, engine sizes and per-vehicle fuel consumptions are generally lower

Well, yeah, there are something like 5 million non-work trucks in America that get ~13 MPG. Most of those are owned by people who drive 25-50 miles per day. That's $5-10,000 a year, a number that, five years ago, was more like $1-2,000 a year.

I'd say the difference is threefold: nothing in Europe get s mileage like a Suburban or Hummer; gas in Europe has long been expensive, so no one who can't afford expensive gas has bought an SUV; and people drive more here, with fewer options for avoiding it. Families with 2 cars going a combined 35k miles/year are not unusual here.

Part of the problem is that poor Americans drive used cars - generally ones that get poor mileage. This has never been ideal, but is about to become nonfunctional. You could hand a working mother ($1700/mo) a Suburban, and even at 750 miles/month (not a big number by US standards), how could she afford to fill it ($430/mo.)? This is why I was saying SUVs would be worthless. It's an exaggeration, but not by much.



Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 8:09 AM
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359: well, yes. The water bottle thing seems sort of tertiary to stras's prescriptions, if symbolic of a heroically wasteful attitude.

360: the only thing I find to object to particularly is the idea that economic growth and environmental damage are two opposing forces which need to be balanced. I tend to think of forward-looking environmental policy as creating new, high-tech growth industries in sectors (energy, transportation, building) which are both fairly inelastic demand-wise and have basically been declining for about a century, compared to their demand curves.

That is (in case I totally fucked up the conomics terms, which I don't think I did) sound environmental policy can create exactly the kind of high government investment feeds high international demand industry the US has historically been great at (cf. defense, petroleum). It just is a different set of players and a different pool of money than the traditional players, so it gets huge resistance among money people.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 8:16 AM
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Is the idea that people to your right exist just so infuriating that contempt and trivialization is a knee jerk response?

Speaking only for myself and not PF, I think that the American right has been so terribly disgraced over the last 27 years that a kneejerk response of contempt is quite appropriate. The American right consists of useful idiots (i.e., little government conservatives and Christian know-nothings, both of whom have been double-crossed, and both of whom are nasty pieces of work anyway), imperialists militarists, authoritarians, bigots and nativists, grafters and petty criminals, and above all country-club Republicans who want to get rid of taxes and public services.

Conservatives not belonging to these groups have nowhere to go. But they've mostly been happy to affiliate with the actual Republicans we have.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 8:19 AM
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355: Right on.

Urban farming in Pittsburgh.

Problem 1: China has now surpassed the US in carbon output. Obviously, that's still less per capita, but they're on a steep upward curve. We're at the point where, even if the US became strastopia tomorrow, that wouldn't be sufficient to stop warming.

Problem 2: We've apparently run out of food right now; the sort of food production that stras calls for is less productive than what we do now (with all its externalities). Even if we all go veggie, US meat consumption doesn't cover both the current global shortfalls and the loss of capacity from localized, de-petroleumized agriculture.

Solutions?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 8:22 AM
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re: 361

That's $5-10,000 a year, a number that, five years ago, was more like $1-2,000 a year.

Yeah, that leap is gigantic. By comparison, last year I did about 4000 miles in a car that average about 40 - 45mpg at around 4.50 [gbp] per gallon. So, while petrol isn't cheap, any rise in petrol prices isn't crippling.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 8:22 AM
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363: but baa's expressed opinions on environmental matters have consistently strayed quite far from whatever GOP party line there is, and if we have the chance to talk to somebody who does not typically vote the way we'd hope in a civil way, and maybe convince them that the Democratic party is smarter about this sort of thing, we should really shun that opportunity for a chance to bitch at them about positions they don't even hold?

Yes, Sifu, of course we should. To the pigs! To the barricades!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 8:23 AM
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362: I'll let it go, because I don't really care all that much, but it's interesting to contrast the optimistic we-will-bike-and-give-up-our-cars-and-live-in-smaller-houses-and-play-acoustic-guitar themes (people will adjust!) with the freakout everyone had towards stras's (I use the word lightly) scolding, when if we listened to stras's advice we'd have to adjust so much as to fill up a water bottle.

353 was a model of civilized discourse, whereas 25 scolded.

I'm going to start a blog just so I can have a day where I ban everyone.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 8:25 AM
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364: on Problem 2: it's less efficient in absolute terms. If you factor in the subsidies and what they do to food production in the present moment, sustainable agriculture minus crazy-ass grain subsidies is probably more efficient.

On China: the one hopeful thing about China is that they're building all this infrastructure right now, so if we invest heavily in green tech, that achieves price/performance levels that'll sustain it in the marketplace, we outsource the manufacturing of that tech to China, the companies we've outsourced it to look at what we're doing and copy it: hey presto, China has a domestic source for affordable green tech, and everybody doesn't have to buy their Frod Escarp or whatever.

That "hey presto" is doing a shitload of work, but still, there's a path.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 8:27 AM
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361:

I'm expecting to see radical modifications on the ones people are stuck with as their value as-they-are plummets.

Scrounging for thinner, smaller wheels and tires, to get the thing closer to the ground and minimize tire drag. In the short run, pumping the tires up to 40-50 lbs.

On pushrod V8s, taking the pushrods out for both valves on every other cylinder in the firing order: center two on one bank, out two on the other. That will halve capacity, and greatly reduce pumping losses from cruising with a nearly shut throttle.

Stripping weight, just about gutting the interiors.

Covering the beds or removing the tailgates of pickups, taking off the roof racks of SUVs.

These changes may push an ~13 well over 20mpg in some cases, if driven properly. They'll loosen your dentures, and shake in their motor mounts, but it'll be worth trying if you have no choice, and could save hundreds a week if you drive a long way, as many poorer Americans must.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 8:29 AM
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367: optimism is nicer. "Hey, maybe eat less meat [implied: jerk!]" is a lot less pleasant to hear than "wouldn't it be great if we built livable cities where we wouldn't have to drive everywhere all the time?"

If Stras's 25 had said "eat more locally produced food, and hey, maybe avoid factory farmed resource hogging meat" it would have been (a) whiter and (b) probably recieved differently.

But yeah, let's drop it. The actual substantive discussion going on is more fun.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 8:30 AM
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Economics and the environment are on a collision course. The goal of all economists I know of, including nice liberal and radical economists, is a steadily growing standard of living and GDP/capita everywhere. Some economists realize that without a flat or declining population this will lead to disaster (even 1% population growth every year, compounded, leads to significant growth on a per-century basis -- someone do the math for me). But not all: the physical environment just doesn't provide any variables for economics, and even a very versatile economist doesn't have to know anything at all about it. (It's amusing that economists have the same apparent contempt for earth scientists that they have for lyric poets and political leftists).

The economists' truism is that "a rising tide raises all boats", meaning that everyone can win, and that the best way to bring the third world out of misery is for the first world to get richer and richer, and they also say that the best way to preserve the environment is to increase production so that we can afford a clean environment, but these arguments seem like self-serving tunnel vision to me.

Economic growth is to a great extent driven by the desire of people who are well off to be even better off. The idea that a good life is attainable at a relatively low level of consumption monkeywrenches economic growth, and our economies are organized so they cannot stay the same. If they don't grow, they decline.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 8:35 AM
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You know, it occurs to me I'm splitting hairs in 370. Let's us drop it, yes.

Stras is right! Yay!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 8:35 AM
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371: you're assuming that it's impossible to decouple economic health from (non-renewable) resource consumption, which seems like a bit of an a priori gulp of the economist's methodological kool-aid.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 8:37 AM
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371 is very true, and is one of the main reasons I remain not very hopeful.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 8:38 AM
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Wait, people were actually upset by 25? I thought we were all just joking. It seems completely harmless and perfectly reasonable. And is of course 100% correct.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 8:41 AM
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without a flat or declining population

I'll tell you who to blame.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 8:43 AM
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The other Duggar children, in between Joshua and Jennifer, are Jana, 18; John-David, 18; Jill, 16; Jessa, 15; Jinger, 14; Joseph, 13; Josiah, 11; Joy-Anna, 10; Jeremiah, 9; Jedidiah, 9; Jason, 7; James, 6; Justin, 5; Jackson, 3; and Johannah, 2.

"Tiffany, Heather, Cody, Dylan, Dermott, Jordan, Taylor, Brittany, Wesley, Rumer, Scout, Cassidy, Zoe, Chloe, Max, Hunter, Kendall, Kaitlin, Noah, Sasha, Morgan, Kira, Ian, Lauren, Q-Bert and Phil."


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 8:45 AM
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you're assuming that it's impossible to decouple economic health from (non-renewable) resource consumption, which seems like a bit of an a priori gulp of the economist's methodological kool-aid.

It's not so much that it's impossible to be economically healthy and environmentally sustainable at the same time. It's more that the overwhelming majority of mainstream economists currently define "economic health" in terms of economic growth, and a system that depends on ever-climbing rates of production and consumption just isn't sustainable in a world with limited resources.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 8:45 AM
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What, no Jesus?


Posted by: mano negra | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 8:46 AM
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369 is really interesting. Detail shops transformed into SUV-improvement shops.

One reason that I get pessimistic about things is that I think we've already missed the boat on Sifu's 'Presto' moment - China is building brand new, million-person cities right now, and Green Collar as a going concern, rather than an optimistic vision, is at least 5 years away.

Related to that, and key to 364.1, is that the scale of what's going on in China, India, and the middle east utterly dwarfs what we're doing here, and none of it remotely approaches sustainability. They're building cities in the desert, and we're hemming and hawing about extending light rail to first ring suburbs.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 8:47 AM
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There are resource economists and environmental economists doing good work, John. It's a marginal field because for most of "economic" history those sorts of things just haven't imposed meaningful real-world constraints. They are starting to becoe constraints now, and will become increasing more so in coming decades, and these subsfields will gain more prominence. I bet in 20 years you won't be able to get a respectable economics degree--perhaps not even take a respectable intro course--that doesn't cover these topics in some depth. (And once people start paying attention to it, they'll also realize that a lot of the tools of traditional economic analysis are actually pretty well suited to this sort of world. Economists love thinking about scarcity!)


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 8:47 AM
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Why must you always link to things that make my brain bleed, apo?


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 8:48 AM
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on ever-climbing rates of production and consumption

But who actually believes in this? Ever-climbing rates? 2% GDP this year, 4% next, 8% after that? Economies very rarely do this, except if you're China now or the UK in 1850, and it's far from a normatively-desirable condition.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 8:51 AM
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If you pretend 381 is literate it comes across much better.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 8:51 AM
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Further on

Green Collar as a going concern, rather than an optimistic vision, is at least 5 years away.

Think about how long it took PCs to actually affect workplace productivity. 15-20 years. Arguably, it wasn't even the PCs, but the Net. Which suggests that the first decade+ of Green Collar will basically tread water until the Presto that none of us foresees comes along. And we don't actually have 10-15 more years at the current pace.

It'd be kind of funny if 2000 really did turn out to be the end of the world, we just didn't notice at the time.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 8:52 AM
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Why must you always link to things that make my brain bleed, apo?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 8:52 AM
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Meh, I wasn't trying to resist the "don't drink bottled water" thing at all, really. I *am* sorry I hassled Stras to the point of losing his temper.

Re. adjusting downwards, I really think it's not as difficult as people expect it to be most of the time. God knows I bitched about my complete lack of disposable income when I lived in Canadia, but it didn't seem to bother PK or Mr. B. one little bit and I must confess that in terms of actual quality of life, aside from the depression, things aren't all that different now than they were then.

The one thing that's gonna be tough for Americans, I think, is when air travel becomes really expensive again. We're a society in which "success" often means living in a completely different state than one's parents.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 8:52 AM
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I've gotta say, my instinct is for "we're all gonna die". It's making it a bit more difficult to get out of bed in the mornings. Stras's "dark ages" scenario in 351 sounds like the best-case, and I figure I'm one of the 99.99% who doesn't make it through the transition.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 8:56 AM
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political football -- what's your major malfunction? Is the idea that people to your right exist just so infuriating that contempt and trivialization is a knee jerk response?

The positions I outlined in 353 are very mainstream positions, and accurately represent the progression of political thought among mainstream commentators. Yeah, I'm unhappy about this fact, and my sarcasm shows through. Sorry.

To pick one example, Robert Samuelson, a very mainstream guy, explicitly falls into the camp of "we can't do anything about it" and says that because we can't do anything, it's "highly contrived" to criticize the global warming debunkers on moral grounds.

But thanks for your answer ! It was interesting.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 8:57 AM
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376: Jesus. She's *my* age and she has 18 kids?? Like wow.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 8:58 AM
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385: PCs most definitely increased prodctivity before the web took off. Word-processing? Spreadsheets?

387: hi-speed rail!


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 8:59 AM
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386 is pretty zen.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:01 AM
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386 is pretty zen.

Crap. It was supposed to be followed by "WMYALTTTMMBB?"


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:07 AM
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She's *my* age and she has 18 kids?

BitchPhD is an underachiever.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:09 AM
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391.1: Not measurably. Not compared to the investment. When I was in school, in the early 90s, there were studies indicating that you got a bigger productivity boost from giving your secretary a better chair than from giving him a PC.

Turns out a word processor allows you to make better looking docs, but not necessarily be super-efficient about them. A word-processed form letter looks better, but isn't necessarily any faster than the old-fashioned kind.

A lot of this was actually acclimation: you had PCs sitting on everyone's desk, but most people either couldn't use them effectively, or didn't have a clear path for using them effectively. And people who could use them effectively - like corporate planners who lived in spreadsheets - simply produced more of the same, which doesn't necessarily impact company-wide productivity.

Some of the productivity gains of the late 90s came from acclimation, but most came from networking and the internet. A lot came from people working more hours. [All of the above is generalized, of course. But it's not made up]


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:10 AM
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There are resource economists and environmental economists doing good work, John. It's a marginal field because for most of "economic" history those sorts of things just haven't imposed meaningful real-world constraints.

I read this as meaning "Economics will encourage destruction of the environment until the costs show up in their own numbers. They will continue to ignore all data from outside their system, and they will fight a rear-guard action against political attempts at environmental preservation which cannot be justified in terms of the economics of the moment."


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:10 AM
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So, who cares if humans die out? If that's what happens, that's what happens. This might be at the root of my lack of concern.

Scenarios that have billions of people living in the environmental equivalent of hellfire are more likely to spark some concern, but not a hell of a lot.

I realize this sounds trollish, but seriously, why does anyone care?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:10 AM
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I'm thinking about a trip I took back in college, so ages ago, and being surprised by the very conservative amount of discretionary spending a couple of upper middle class families I stayed with (relatives of a friend) seemed to have available.

Another factor that surely played a bit role in creating LB's perception way back when: the scarcity of consumer credit. Credit cards and revolving consumer debt were quite rare in Europe back then (and are still harder to come by than in the U.S.). Mortgage lending is traditionally also much more restricted (for a variety of reasons); even the "normal" (for the U.S.) 30-year fixed rate mortage with a 20% downpayment would have seemed impossibly generous by the standards of a typical European bank, especially in the 80s/90s.


Posted by: KR | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:11 AM
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So, who cares if humans die out?

GOD, THAT'S WHO.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:12 AM
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I've gotta say, my instinct is for "we're all gonna die".

There are days when this makes me very sad. I expend a fair amount of effort to see to it that my kids get a decent shot in life, and the idea that so many people are willing to risk pissing it all away is disturbing to me on a personal level.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:12 AM
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GOD, THAT'S WHO.

He'd better get off his ass and do something about it then.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:13 AM
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How about a nagging sense of personal doom, as opposed to vague-humanity-in-the-future-in-general doom? Thinking that humans are going to die out is one thing; thinking that I, personally, will be starving and dying on the streets is different.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:13 AM
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401:

Sexist


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:13 AM
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Lessee, Jedediah is the seventh son, assuming Jinger is a boy. Sustainability doesn't come without a heavy price: smaller families = death of mojo.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:14 AM
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390: 18 and counting.

Don't feel bad. Even though you're a failure as a woman, things you've done in other areas may redeem you, for all I know. We're all God's creatures, you know, even the least of us.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:14 AM
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Oh, and my maternal grandmother gave birth to sixteen children. Five of whom made it past puberty. Suck it up, bitches.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:14 AM
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397: I sometimes felt the same way before I had a kid. Now I'd kind of like him to be able to live a full life, sans apocolypse. I'm sure I'll eventually feel the same way about his children, if he has any.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:15 AM
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391.2: This was so grim. I was looking through my New York Gazetteer before my vacation last week, and spotted some interesting rail sidings near Schenectady. So I went to Google, and saw that both have been torn up. They were intermodal facilities, with numerous sidings running up to long warehouse buildings, which linked to the local road network. But they're been torn up, in just the past 5 years, to create truck-only facilities. This is the sort of thing I meant in 385 - we're still going backwards, destroying the very things we need to be the bases of the next economy.

I might add that I've developed some ambivalence about rails-to-trails as well.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:15 AM
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I wrote 400 before reading 397, but I think it's responsive. Other folks have a visceral loathing for racism that I lack, never having been subjected to it. But my kids are going to have to live in Hot World, and I like my kids and wish them well.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:17 AM
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I sometimes felt the same way before I had a kid. Now I'd kind of like him to be able to live a full life, sans apocolypse

See if you would stop destroying the environment with human overpopulation you wouldn't have to worry about your kids living through an apocalypse.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:18 AM
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I realize this sounds trollish, but seriously, why does anyone care?

407 got there first, but absolutely. I realize this sounds trite, but parents care.

I really don't like the idea that Iris might know a world that makes this one seem like a paradise.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:18 AM
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I sometimes felt the same way before I had a kid. Now I'd kind of like him to be able to live a full life, sans apocolypse.

That makes sense; the coming apocalypse is something I think about when I consider whether to have kids.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:18 AM
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I think 406 is ogged's coded way of saying that he plans to pay a visit to the Duggar's.

Do it for the planet, O!


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:20 AM
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410, 412: The fact that things are going to hell at an accelerating rate has really screwed up my family planning. I was trying to have kids so their votes might cancel out those of the Duggars (well, 1/9 of them at least), but now it looks like we won't even make it until they're 18.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:23 AM
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Joining in the chorus of "I don't care if I die miserably, but I don't want my kid to." I also really want him to be able to have, and enjoy, his own kids. That said, if he ends up living a 1950s or 1800s style life, I'm basically okay with that except for my anxiety at the the thought of plagues.

Ironically, however, PK is very much in a phase of "humans suck, we're destroying the environment, we should all die." He himself is far more worried that we'll make the planet uninhabitable for mice than about what might happen to him.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:24 AM
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415: at a certain point sociopathy stops being adorable, B.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:24 AM
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PK in ten years.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:25 AM
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Someone pointed out awhile back that setting the consumption clock back 50 years would put us in 1958, which wasn't really all that bad. And we wouldn't lose all of the high-tech stuff we have now, either, if reducing energy consumption, water consumption, and space usage were the criteria.

But we'd lose a lot of mobility, and for many Americans even small reductions of living standard are unthinkable. Though if everyone is going downhill, relative consumption will remain the same, so only the real decline will be noticed.

Though I do expect the pain to be distributed completely unfairly, and I wouldn't be surprised if the richest suffered no decline at all (since widespread destitution would make hiring servants cheaper).


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:26 AM
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Oh, hey, facts.

Webb's figures show wholesale prices on big SUVs such as Chevrolet Tahoes, Ford Expeditions and Toyota Sequoias are down 17% from a year ago. Full-size pickups have fallen as much as 15%, Webb says.

"It's a challenge," says Adam Lee, president of the Lee Auto Malls dealerships in Maine. "How do you tell a good customer, 'You paid $32,000 and now it's only worth $17,000?' "


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:26 AM
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I realize this sounds trollish, but seriously, why does anyone care?

I care for a couple reasons, I guess. I feel some attachment and affection for human beings as a whole, in the abstract, and I'd like us to still be around in a couple thousand years. I also feel a lot of affection for the natural world, and I feel pretty shitty about what we've done to it, and I'd like us to be able to repair some of the damage instead of bringing it crashing down all around us. When you start thinking the end of the human race in the midst of a mass extinction is inevitable, you start looking around at every living thing around you - squirrels, trees, birds, whatever - and thinking, will this be around when we're gone, or are they all doomed too? And that's just depressing.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:26 AM
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PK could devote his life to the design and installation of survivable rat habitat.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:28 AM
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Well, if we turn the clock back to 1958, maybe the next time we get to 2000, we'll have the goddamn flying cars.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:30 AM
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422: given the whole resource consumption thing that doesn't seem that likely. But dare to dream!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:31 AM
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416: Meh, I think loving animals more than people, as a child, is a strong sign of great character. It demonstrates that his heart is with the dispossessed.

421: Actually, this (only mouse habitat, not rats) is one of his future career plans. Along with "owning a seafood restaurant" (this from a kid who refuses to eat any fish that isn't on the Monteray Bay Aquarium approved list) and being some kind of scientist.

He got really pissed off at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory open house last weekend because none of the engineers he talked to took his idea for a magnetic train that *doesn't use electricity* seriously enough. Even my suggestion of solar-powered electromagnets was a no, because it would still take energy to transport the materials and build the thing.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:32 AM
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364: on Problem 2: it's less efficient in absolute terms.

It sometimes isn't even that. There was a recent paper discussing roughly 10% less yield from some current gen GMO soybean than traditional crop.

This seems crazy, until your realize that yield isn't the only economic incentive. This roundup-ready stuff lets farmers spend a lot less time in the field.

The US has gone from ~30% of the population involved in farming to a fraction of 1%, in about 100 years. That's one thing that almost certainly has to change somewhat if things go more local.

Corn yields are the big-ag poster child, but that has it's own huge set of problems. Moving away from corn dependence would be a good thing.

As far as global food supply goes, I'm not hopeful. The so-called `green revolution' upped production more that 200% globally, but in unsustainable ways. In much of the world, this translated to population growth that is pretty much completely dependent on fossil fuel based agriculture. We're essentially spending a `battery' of solar energy in the form of fossils that has allowed unsustainable agricultural footprints. Simply put, if the battery runs out, a lot of people die.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:33 AM
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397 see 400. My views on this subject changed the moment I had my first kid. I suspect that this is true for many if not most parents. The idea of a future matters much more to me because that future belongs to my kids, and, to be honest, the kids in my son's kindergarten class.

Also, B's point that adjusting downward won't be hard is completely right (even though this means that I'm breaking what I thought was an ironclad rule: never disagree with Cala). People have adjusted downward many times in history. They just haven't had to do so for very long in the industrialized world after the Englightenment. Even then, though, there have been times and places when it's been necessary. And the shock hasn't always been severe or greeted with antipathy -- so long as people think they're pulling together for something important. Which, I think, is the most important reason to critique neo-liberalism: it has almost no room for the notion of civic virtue.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:33 AM
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I feel some attachment and affection for human beings as a whole, in the abstract

I always knew that, deep down, stras is just a big softie.

TBH, if humans literally go extinct, I'm less concerned about the natural world. It'll come back, new and different, soon enough. We won't. What I hate is the idea of humanity surviving in a dessicated, destroyed world. Nothing left but rats and roaches, thistle and ailanthus.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:33 AM
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Oh, and my maternal grandmother gave birth to sixteen children. Five of whom made it past puberty. Suck it up, bitches.

Funny - my maternal grandmother gave birth to five children, all of whom not only made it past puberty but are still alive today. So while Ma Ogged may have had a busier career, mine had a better batting average.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:34 AM
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One more vote for having a kid inducing kindness toward s humanity.

My neighbor is an urban planner/property law type; he tells me that developers have come to view green and compact as long-term profitable, and are now by and large trying to balance perceived long-term gain with short-term cost. Many of the problems we're discussing here have only started to attract serious attention in the last 5 or 10 years. Barring problems stemming from overpopulation, which are looking less likely, there will be a way for 9 billion mostly middle class people to live in peace.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:35 AM
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424.1: Iris was very concerned to learn about white blood cells and bacteria. "But how do you think the bacteria feel about that?"

After several failed attempts to explain that bacteria have neither thoughts nor feelings, we punted with a "I'm sure they don't like it."


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:35 AM
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his idea for a magnetic train that *doesn't use electricity*

How would that work?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:37 AM
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And obviously 426.1 was pwned multiply. But not by Jetpack! Which is progress, I think. Maybe there's hope for humankind after all.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:37 AM
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that future belongs to my kids, and, to be honest, the kids in my son's kindergarten class.

Ari understands neither scarcity nor survival of the fittest.

Teach your son not to wash his hands at school; the greater share of resources will go to him.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:38 AM
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there will be a way for 9 billion mostly middle class people to live in peace.

This is unreasonably optimistic, but perhaps plausible if `middle class' looks essentially nothing like it does today from a resource use point of view.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:38 AM
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430: Heh. For PK, the white blood cells v. germs thing is all about good guys v. bad guys. We postponed gun and war games for several years with that (and firefighters).


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:39 AM
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erm, even so 9 bil seem intuitively crazy, just from the issue of food, but i haven't done the back of the envelope calcs on it.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:39 AM
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Nothing left but rats and roaches, thistle and ailanthus.

Apparently the rats and roaches won't do too well without us. Rats need our garbage to thrive, and roaches need our heating to live outside the tropics.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:39 AM
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One more vote for having a kid inducing kindness toward s humanity.

I certainly hope you meant "fondness". People with kids can be giant assholes just like anybody else.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:40 AM
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Long-term economic downturns (as opposed to teporary adjustments) usually and maybe always lead to social pathologies of one kind or another, though.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:42 AM
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I always knew that, deep down, stras is just a big softie.

You have no idea. Offblog, I'm just a big, mildly cranky teddy bear.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:43 AM
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431: Glad you asked! The magnets would be mobile: round magnets, that would turn to shift from attraction to repulsion, etc. They'd be moved by a series of gears that would be turned by station attendants, since every train needs stations.

I like it because it would provide employment along with saving the earth. That's not really PK's idea, though; he insists that human energy is "more efficient" than electricity because people can do more than one thing at the same time.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:43 AM
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I have to find something to replace my Nalgene bottle since they're supposed to be bad now. What exactly is bad about them? gswift said something in 177.

When I lived in Davis, I distilled my water. There was so much salt in it to treat it that it was undrinkable, and I didn't want to fill gallon jugs at teh supermarket all the time.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:43 AM
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Roaches need our heating to live outside the tropics.

Ah, but you see, the earth will be warming. So.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:44 AM
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The creatures who survive us won't necessarily be the very ones we most dislike. But I'd suspect a boring world dominated by lichens and algae and little bugs that live on them.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:46 AM
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Mice are very adaptable.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:47 AM
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What exactly is bad about them? gswift said something in 177.

Most of them contain BPA, and Nalgene itself is phasing them out. New ones don't contain BPA and are supposedly safe. Me, I'm off the plastic water bottle train, man. Glass! (Although White People are now getting metal water bottles, usually either from Klean Kanteen or Sigg.)


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:48 AM
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fossil fuel based agriculture.

Only because coal is still the cheapest electricity. Solar or wind electricity to produce nitrogen fertilizer is feasible. It'll take infrastructure, but that's getting cheaper to build. Getting away from corn would be great.

Bach had 20 kids, 10 survived puberty. Odds of death for the mother during childbirth were above 5% per kid pre-Semmelweis, which probably affected how women felt about pregnancy.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:48 AM
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Long-term economic downturns (as opposed to teporary adjustments) usually and maybe always lead to social pathologies of one kind or another, though.

The frustrating thing about all of this is the though that we missed the window to a positive fix 20-30 years ago.

To my mind, some (certainly not all) of the tradeoffs we've been making have been a serious net loss in quality of life that were avoidable but now have difficult path dependence.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:50 AM
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439: As opposed to during upticks? Being human, I think, is the cause of deeply rooted societal pathologies, economic conditions be damned.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:51 AM
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446: White People have been using Sigg bottles for a long time. The whitest of them have been doing it for decades.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:52 AM
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The frustrating thing about all of this is the though that we missed the window to a positive fix 20-30 years ago.

Especially because this was no secret during the 1980's. I remember having a class in elementary school where we had to bring current events in, and bringing in a totally ordinary article about global warming.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:53 AM
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447: Producing the nitrogen is only part of the problem. It also isn't plausible to me that we replace the entire scope of our current ag. system with renewables. That isn't even getting into the fuel usage by largely mechanized production and long distance shipping, either.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:53 AM
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445: So are humans. Really. They can live in tiny spaces, if necessary, subsist on a fraction of the food and water we all use, and even make it for days without working stand mixers.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:53 AM
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Most life is in the ocean.

That said, if the alpaca lips does arrive and civilzation collapses, I'd feel really bad about the loss of a lot of ultimately silly stuff. Who will preserve the works of Archimedes this time around? What will happen to the Picassos?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:53 AM
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451: Yes. I remember a guy doing urban agriculture (and fighting with the city zoning people all the time) going on about this then, and he basically had it nailed down.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:54 AM
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(Another article I remember someone bringing in was about how they had found a cure for AIDS. They were going to inject you full of tiny things that the AIDS virus would land on and attach to, instead of attaching to you.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:54 AM
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451: Honestly, this is the thing that made me the maddest about Clinton's anti-experts rhetoric. After Katrina, everyone read the years-old Times-Picayune and National Geographic


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:56 AM
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449: your 426 was much too benign. Declines heighten problems whereas rises allow them to be meliorated.

So long as people think they're pulling together for something important/i> -- this really only works where there's an end in sight. In real permanent declines you get large numbers of dispossessed, angry people, increased ethnic problems, lifeboat ethics, drawbridge ethics, and so on. And there's less discretionary wealth to spend on the social amenities, as more and more people struggle to maintain a degree of comfort and respectability.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:57 AM
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Huh, half of 457 got eaten. Oh well. It wasn't great, anyway.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:57 AM
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301: Mostly what makes people feel deprived is comparing themselves to their neighbors, rather than to their own past.

My great grandparents had a 17-room house in Canada with a couple of servants. I feel a little deprived comparing myself to them.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:58 AM
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So long as people think they're pulling together for something important -- this really only works where there's an end in sight. In real permanent declines you get large numbers of dispossessed, angry people, increased ethnic problems, lifeboat ethics, drawbridge ethics, and so on. And there's less discretionary wealth to spend on the social amenities, as more and more people struggle to maintain a degree of comfort and respectability.

HTML pisses me off.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 9:59 AM
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427: Nothing left but rats and roaches, thistle and ailanthus.

Eh, I don't believe that for a second. Have you seen the urban greenfields of central Detroit? Most ecologies are more robust than we give them credit for. Take away the ginormous energy inputs of recent civilization and most parts of the developed world would be back to a very healthy, biodiverse state within 10 or 15 years. (cf. Dead Cities, Mike Davis 2002; The World Without Us Alan Weisman, 2007)

(And don't talk to me about an "age of brambles", either. Those do well enough on recently disturbed ground, but fast growing tree species choke them out of the sunlight very quickly here in the temperate zones.)


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:01 AM
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458: If you're really talking about the End Days, then I agree. But the situation we're in now doesn't need to be a permanent decline. I'm with Jetpack; we have to adjust our expectations in the short term: learn to live in smaller house, build more compact cities, become less reliant on cars, stop drinking bottled water and eating factory-farmed commodities, and then watch as things improve.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:02 AM
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Apparently the rats and roaches won't do too well without us.

Oh, I know. I'm lamenting a human-occupied world with no truly wild animals.

I'm kind of relieved to learn that, if we go, we take the worst of the junk species with us.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:05 AM
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`middle class' looks essentially nothing like it does today from a resource use

Yeah, this is what I expect, without too much pain about adjusting downwards, like someone said above. Smaller cars, more compact housing, bread much cheaper than meat, lots of symbolic rather than tangible luxury goods.

The main cause of my optimism is that people are only now beginning to take scarcity seriously for planning and resource allocation, and I have faith in humanity's ability to find intelligent fixes. I could be wrong about how bad the transition will be, but I prefer to think about possible ways out; that way, if life returns to the old ways and elders are kept around because they say something useful occassionally, I'll still get some gruel.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:05 AM
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462: quoting Mike Davis authoritatively is a big risky, no? I do tend to agree with your general point about ecologies being able to rebound relatively quickly in the absense of further degradation, though.

463: I don't think I even said that. I've totally got you fearing the pwn, now. Eeeexcellent.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:06 AM
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Five of whom made it past puberty.

Ogged's family has an unusually high percentage of quitters.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:06 AM
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Further to 463: I should add that I have no idea how to make any of this happen, particularly in a world in which neo-liberal orthodoxy passes for civic religion. Again, the concept of civic virtue is an important one, albeit as anachronistic as a buggy whip.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:06 AM
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I'm kind of relieved to learn that, if we go, we take the worst of the junk species with us.

You're mean. Rats are awesome.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:06 AM
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466.2: You were thinking it. Seriously, you implied it above. And you've made the point elsewhere, no?


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:08 AM
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Not only are rats awesome, but this "junk species" idea is completely anthropocentric. Shame.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:08 AM
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467: No, it's the brutal Lur coming-of-age rituals. Walkabouts in Kurdistan, that sort of thing.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:09 AM
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You're mean. Rats are awesome

And I used to have Madagascar hissing cockroaches as pets. They are fun and almost no effort.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:10 AM
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I have faith in humanity's ability to find intelligent fixes

You have be careful with the line between faith in human ingenuity and magical thinking here.

I thing a lot of what you are describing is what will happen, under duress, but also suspect that some of the problems we face are not actually solvable, or the solutions are too difficult for us to find in the time allowed. I guess that is incorrect in the sense that they will solve themselves in the form of the premature death of perhaps even billions. Mostly elsewhere, tautologically. I suppose this may help people in rich, relatively resource rich and population sparse areas put some perspective on their own depriviations.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:13 AM
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"junk species" idea is completely anthropocentric.

Nobody can make junk like humans can. We're #1, We're #1, We're #1.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:15 AM
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Part of what makes people deprived is comparing themselves with their neighbors, but knowing that the best I can hope for is maybe half of what my parents accomplished sucks.

The worry isn't that we can't adapt; those of us who don't starve will. It's that we're stubborn enough not to bother changing our behavior until the choices are between adapting and starving. (B gives the example of learning to live in smallville Canada, but I note that a) she moved back and b) we're not talking about scaling back expectations to smallville Canada, but somewhere further past that.)


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:16 AM
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Soupy is holding up ten of those big foam #1 fingers as he types 475.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:17 AM
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476: The thing is though, I'm convinced some of those scalings back are positive w.r.t. quality of life. At least if they are done before the adapt-or-starve line. It's maddening that `we' seem to be on rails leading away from some of these improvements.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:18 AM
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477: And it's damnably difficult to type with those things on.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:19 AM
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478: indeed, the most recently developed parts of the country -- which would ostensibly the biggest, bestest most livable -- are instead some of the most problematic and least desirable ones, valued mostly for their cheapness and the perception that they were on the way up. Returning to land use patterns of sixty or seventy years ago would suit me, at least, just fine.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:20 AM
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this "junk species" idea is completely anthropocentric

You people. I knew I'd get shit for that term.

It's not the idea that's anthropocentric, it's the species themselves. Rats thrive because of us, as do roaches, ailanthus, and thistle (pigeons, too). None of these species exist in anything like their current profusion except thanks to our lifestyles. And, speaking at least about the plant species, they're pretty bad for their ecosystems. Eventually they'll be succeeded by something sustainable, but that's long-term (~50 years); in the short term, they strip nutrients from the soil and collapse slopes rather than stabilize them.

As I said back in 427, our complete absence doesn't concern me (for the natural world, that is) - within a century, things will be on their way to some (new) equilibrium. Even in the absolute apocalyptic version (anoxic oceans, etc.), things will be fine in a million years. But in a world where we survive, but climate zones shift faster than (plant) species can migrate, we're going to have a lot of junk species. PA is supposed to be like AL in 50 years; but we won't have the array of plants that have spent 10 million years adapting to AL conditions; we'll have dead oaks and maples surrounded by thriving ailanthus.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:23 AM
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"eleven-cent cotton and fifty-cent meat"

Some bad stuff is going to happen during the transition to a less energy-intensive economy. But some bad stuff happened in the transition to a more energy-intensive economy, and some bad stuff happened at that economy's apogee. Luckily for us, we're not standing under the 500 lb. safe. I think it would be really, really great if people here in the belly of the beast could organize around finding ways to make the coming transition easier for the people who are going to get it in the neck (i.e. the same people who ALWAYS get it in the neck), but I'm not holding my breath until it happens.

(to Sifu: most of the stuff from Dead Cities that applies to this discussion is the direct quotes from other sources. Regardless of his footnoting practices, Davis' recent analysis of current events seems kinda shaky to me.)


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:25 AM
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My wife's family grow almost all their own food and just about every resource they use is local to them. There are already people living in this down-sized manner. Not because they choose too, but because they have to.

In fertile, temperate countries -- most of Europe, large swathes of Asia, parts of the USA -- living on locally grown produce, in a relatively low-impact manner isn't really that difficult to get going.

Places with crap water supplies, poor weather, and that rely on heavy hydrocarbon consumption just to make then liveable at all are basically screwed, I'd have thought.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:26 AM
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I don't actually expect an extinction event, just a substantial decline which will be responded to by maintaining ever-decreasing upper and middle classes while ejecting more and more people into the class below, ending ultimately with shantytowns, licensed street beggars, poorhouses, indentured servants, etc.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:28 AM
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the best I can hope for is maybe half of what my parents accomplished sucks.

Meh. My parents didn't accomplish much, and don't own shit. But you know, they're doing all right. If I can manage to not be depressed and to be fairly active into my old age and to die before I have to be consigned to a nursing home, then that's not bad at all.

And of course this is predicated on my being, already, a fairly affluent North American (and in my own particular case, on living in a coastal town with a lot of sun). People are already dying from some of the effects of global warming, if you're willing to believe that climate change has something to do with Katrina and the cyclone in Myanmar. But the odds are that neither I nor PK will be on such a list. If the worst that happens to us is that we somehow end up scratching out a subsistience living by growing our own food--and for most Americans, I don't think it'll get that bad--we're still not terribly badly off.

Now, in terms of caring about humanity as a whole, that's a different issue. But I'm fairly complacent about my own personal prospects (and I try to remind myself that PK is also likely to find his way, even though I worry a lot more about him).


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:30 AM
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483: One advantage that parts of Europe have over much of N.Amer. is the existing town footprints haven't strayed too far from the localized agriculture model.

In many places in N. Amer., the best agricultural land local to a population center has been paved and put under subdivisions, and you have to drive through them to get anywhere useful. This is difficult to reverse.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:31 AM
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This seems crazy, until your realize that yield isn't the only economic incentive.

I remember reading somewhere that the most productive farming techniques, in terms of yield per acre, were still intensive hand-working of the fields. But, you know, most people don't want to live like Chinese peasants in 1750.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:33 AM
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483 is what I hope for. 484 is what I fear.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:33 AM
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481: but we won't have the array of plants that have spent 10 million years adapting to AL conditions

Uh, hold on there professor, weren't there a whole bunch of periods of extensive glaciation in between 10 million years ago and now? A big chunk of the continental US, and pretty much all of Canada was under sheets of ice a mile thick just a couple of tens of thousands of years ago. "A geological eyeblink" as the cliche goes. Every biome in Pennsylvania was pretty much starting from scratch around 10,000 BCE. I'm not convinced that all of the anthropocentrism in your argument has been destroyed in the white heat of internet commentary. Species are. Until they are not. And even then. Is one of those "junk" tigers that the zoos won't touch a less-effective predator for having some lion genes? There used to be billions of passenger pigeons on this continent. Now regular pigeons and gulls and sparrows fill similar ecological niches. If all the people disappeared, there'd probably wind up being some kind of "passenger pigeon" again in a little while, geologically speaking.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:34 AM
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484: Lagos as city of the future; that Koolhaas fellow is clever.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:35 AM
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in terms of yield per acre, were still intensive hand-working of the fields.

This is especially true in water-poor conditions. We take massive amounts of fresh water for granted as agricultural input, but this is also a problem (declining aquifers, etc)


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:35 AM
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re: 487

There's been quite a bit of research on this, I think. Or at least I remember reading a few 'pop science' type articles on this.

Smallholdings during WWII, when Britain had no choice but to be largely food-sufficient, produced a gigantic variety of foodstuffs and in pretty striking quantities.

Very labour intensive, though.

http://www.defra.gov.uk/esg/work_htm/publications/cs/farmstats_web/History/WWII/WWII_stats.htm

Has some stats which show how quickly production can be ramped up in an emergency. 63% increase in arable land area, in less than 6 years.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:36 AM
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486: I dunno; see Detroit, some other towns in the rust belt. It could be difficult, it could be reasonably easy. It's only being tried embryonically.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:36 AM
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Very labour intensive, though.

This is the key point. UK is particularly fecund, but many other places can produce a lot more food, but there is no way around the need for people to get personally involved. Which is the opposite direction of the trend of the 20th century, barring blips like wartime production.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:39 AM
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PA is supposed to be like AL in 50 years

Is this true? I may have to re-think my move south. (I'm serious.)


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:41 AM
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Very labour intensive, though.

Exactly. Hands up, everyone here who wants to do heavy physical labor for 14 hours a day.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:41 AM
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496: It doesn't absolutely have to be all or nothing like that, you know.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:42 AM
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re: 494

I'd imagine perhaps not quite as labour intensive as it was then. There must be technological solutions to some of the problems. But yeah, it'd still require a lot more people on the land. Or people devoting part of their week to personal agronomy for themselves and their family.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:42 AM
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Surely we can build robots to do the heavy farming for us, though.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:44 AM
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495: I think that's rather on the pessimistic side of assumptions.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:44 AM
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re: 497

Yeah, even at peak agricultural labour levels, it was still under a million people engaged in agriculture. A lot more people than now, but not exactly 'everyone doing 14 hours a day'.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:45 AM
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I didn't bookmark it, but the Dept. of Agriculture publishes a crop-zone map of the U.S. which tells you things like "In zone 3 you plant soybeans in the beginning of April, but in zone 4 you plant them about two weeks later, and in zone 5 you shouldn't plant soybeans" [improvised non-actual facts]. Anyway, the zones are about 100 miles wide, and they recently moved them all north 50 miles. People who need to know are not global warming deniers.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:46 AM
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Or people devoting part of their week to personal agronomy for themselves and their family.

Right. Technology should help some things. As I noted somewhere, we've experienced something like a 99% decrease in the number of people working in agriculture since the rise of industrial ag (not to mention the reduction in number of horses!) .

It isn't crazy to imagine a permanent 10-25% of population involvement.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:47 AM
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PA is supposed to be like AL in 50 years.

Yeah, negroes will move in, guys will chew tobacco and spit all the time, incest will become normal, and people will put gravy on everything.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:50 AM
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I agree a lot with Ari about civic virtue, and want to add an observation that inevitably pisses off a lot of well-intentioned conservatives but seems to me important and true: it's not just that we now face well-entrenched opposition that doesn't care about anyone else now or in the future. It's that we face well-entrenched opposition who are sadists. The conservative movement machine is run by people who will deliberately choose to own a larger piece of a smaller pie, simply because they wish to see rivals humiliated and suffering rather than face the prospect of people besides themselves prospering. And they fight against security for the masses because they like a population that's fearful and miserable. They acknowledge this from time to time in their writings and speeches, but it's not hard to work out from their actions. They care very much about others' well-being, just in a negative way.

A lot of conservatives aren't anything like that at all, but they remain the tools of those who are, and purging the sadists will be a struggle that makes getting the War Party and Democrats disentangled seem very simple and easy. If we get to the point where a lot of social power rests in the hands of people who simply don't care, that'll actually be progress.


Posted by: Bruce Baugh | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:51 AM
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495: It was in the local paper a few months ago. Kind of made me regret tearing out the air ducts in my house - I don't need AC now, but in 20 years....

Of course, I won't be able to afford it.

502: Yeah, I recall seeing that.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:54 AM
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people devoting part of their week to personal agronomy for themselves and their family.

Exactly. Do I want to do this? Obviously not, or I'd be doing it. But, if it comes down to that, will I probably end up saying things like "it's hard work, but in some ways it's a lot more enjoyable than spending all day on the internet, and Mr. B. and I spend a lot more time together than he did when he was commuting to work, plus wow! I'm so buff!"? I bet the latter.

My maternal grandparents were farmers. Their lives didn't suck.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:55 AM
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re: 507

As I said, my in-laws do this already. The actual growing stuff doesn't seem incredibly bad. I don't know how many hours it is a week, but it's not intolerable. But all the preserving and pickling and bottling to make sure that all the stuff you grow doesn't spoil before you eat it, looks hard work.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:56 AM
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Whatever happens, I just can't see a reduction in the oversupply of cheap, mediocre food to be the end of the world.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:57 AM
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(erm, obviously 509 is a comment on local, not global situation)


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:57 AM
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Let me second what Bruce said. For conservatives, a world without losers and sinners and unfortunates and disgraced people and condemned criminals would be a worse world. Their feeling of normality requires an outgroup of the punished. They don't even care whether people are punished for sin, crime, laziness, inefficiency, lack of ability, bad health, or bad luck, as long as they take their punishment. (That's how judgmental Christians and lowlife riverboat-gambler entrepreneurs can both be conservatives: neither pities the victims).

The unfortunate should accept God's judgment, and for those better off, they serve as warnings and object lessons.

George Will is an example of this kind of conservativism. He's wrapped up clear-eyed meanness in a neat, well-expressed package.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:58 AM
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But all the preserving and pickling and bottling to make sure that all the stuff you grow doesn't spoil before you eat it, looks hard work.

This is one of the astonishing changes. The assumption of a nearly rock-solid electrical is almost ingraned here, but unheard of in much of the world. People have forgotten so much about food preservation.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 10:59 AM
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all the preserving and pickling and bottling to make sure that all the stuff you grow doesn't spoil before you eat it, looks hard work.

Of course it is. But I dunno, I think that on some level doing that and having it actually be *important* and valued, rather than a hobby (or devalued "women's work), plus being able to do it with others, might be nicer in many ways than, say, a lot of crappy office jobs.

And I agree with Bruce and John in finding a lot of what passes as "conservatism" basically sadistic and mean-spirited.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 11:01 AM
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I have a neighbor 84 years old or so who's been a poor farmer most of her life. It sounds like it was pretty miserable, because they lacked most luxuries and some necessities.

Her husband was sent off to WWII and never sent any money home, and she still blames Roosevelt.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 11:02 AM
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Food preservation: for example, the fermented fish product David Weman recently told us about.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 11:02 AM
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I tell you what, though, I'm not going to start fermenting fish.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 11:03 AM
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Nobody seems interested in the Minnesota carp futures scandal, so I won't tell you about it.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 11:04 AM
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Food preservation: I actually wonder if this is an area where technology can make us better off as we drift back. There's a lot to be said, nutritionally, for freezing instead of canning, and canning's pretty energy-intensive, too. I'd love to see energy-use comparisons of canning vs. a good deep-freeze.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 11:06 AM
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re: 518

The minute electricity supplies become intermittent, though, freezing is out the window.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 11:07 AM
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Shit I would say we've learned a ton about preserving food. All that processed crap? Amazing shelf life!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 11:07 AM
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I've kept things frozen solid for a week in the desert with no electricity, so I'm not totally convinced, ttaM.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 11:08 AM
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In Minnesota it's colder than the deep freeze at least 3 months a year. If your freezer is outside you have to put a heater in it or the food is destructively frozen.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 11:10 AM
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397

"So, who cares if humans die out? If that's what happens, that's what happens. This might be at the root of my lack of concern."

Suppose the United States is fine but nearly everyone in the third world dies. Would that bother you more?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 11:11 AM
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until the choices are between adapting and starving

Adapting to an atmosphere permeated with

Adapting to an unbreathable atmosphere and no ozone layer isn't quite the same task as changing agriculture and housing patterns.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 11:11 AM
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If "intermittent" means "you might not have power for an entire week", then maybe, but anything less bad than that can be designed around. A block of frozen things surrounded by insulation and sitting in a basement takes a long time to warm up.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 11:13 AM
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Shit, people kept ice frozen all summer in an era before there was any electricity at all.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 11:15 AM
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521: Right, but in order to do that you had to use ice from somewhere, yes?

524: I'm telling you, it's all about the mice.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 11:15 AM
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My own personal plan is to just build a damn windmill. Voila!


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 11:16 AM
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527: he said "intermittent" electricity, not "no" electricity.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 11:17 AM
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529, 527 to 526.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 11:18 AM
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Anyhow, was it the Little House on the Prairie books or East of Eden where we all learned about preserving ice with sawdust?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 11:20 AM
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530: Yes. In a planet with no natural ice whatsoever, reverting to 1850s technology to cool food will be difficult. That is totally true.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 11:20 AM
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I'm aware of ice-houses and the like. When I was a kid we used to break into the derelict Victorian ice-house in the grounds of the mental hospital.

Freezing doesn't seem a one-size fits all solution, although I can see how ultra-efficient insulation could make freezing work even if the electricity supply was intermittent.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 11:21 AM
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531: I learned about it in the Great Brain books, personally.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 11:21 AM
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Boys and girls, there was a sawdust ice house here in Wobegon until 1960 or so.

You need a lake that freezes at least a foot thick for that, though.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 11:23 AM
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351

"... We're very rapidly approaching a set of tipping points with climate change, and once those tipping points are passed, the world will keep heating up even without our burning fossil fuels. ..."

This is highly speculative. There is lag between increases in greenhouse gasses and temperature increases because of the heat capacity of the oceans but it is not generally believed we are near a runaway point.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 11:23 AM
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You could put a mouse-powered generator on top of the freezer to keep it cold.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 11:23 AM
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it's actually speculative that we're not near a runway point too. But the more comforting speculation gets the benefit of the doubt.

There was just an article up about the thawing Russian permafrost and the methane that will be released when it thaws. Nobody is sure about the magnitude and significance of that, but it doesn't look like a good thing.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 11:26 AM
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My maternal grandparents were farmers. Their lives didn't suck.

Tell that to all of the people throughout history who migrated to cities.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 11:26 AM
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There is lag between increases in greenhouse gasses and temperature increases because of the heat capacity of the oceans but it is not generally believed we are near a runaway point.

Really? There are a lot of people who think we are near tipping points. Methane release from the permafrost, melting of the polar ice-caps, etc. Once some of those things happen, a switch will have been flicked.

I don't think the existence of a number of possible tipping points is much in question any more.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 11:26 AM
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A lot of people who migrated to the cities had been bankrupted out. Farmers tend to like farming if they can do it. A lot of them take side jobs to support their farms.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 11:28 AM
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A lot of people who migrated to the cities had been bankrupted out.

Throughout the entire course of human history?


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 11:29 AM
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539: Like my mother?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 11:31 AM
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Pretty much. Farmers lose money on bad years and they lose money on good years (when prices are low). They can't really hold their crops off the market and wait for a good price. They end up being at the mercy of commodity prices and credit.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 11:31 AM
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542: Actually, yes.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 11:32 AM
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(My mother left the farm because she and all her siblings except her oldest brother hated it. But they're all unusually bitter and miserable people, so.)


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 11:33 AM
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B, we don't talk about your mother. We talk about you. (And Ben's mother).


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 11:34 AM
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My mother left the farm because she and all her siblings except her oldest brother hated it. But they're all unusually bitter and miserable people, so.

My mother left the farm because she hated it and she is a very well adjusted person. Personally I would hate it too. The people who farm now though probably do like it. They are the 1% hold outs.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 11:48 AM
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My late m-i-l hated the farm, but she was the evillest person I've ever been associated with except for my b-i-l.

People who marry into this wicked house are normally themselves evil.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 11:52 AM
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Tell that to all of the people throughout history who migrated to cities.

The reason they do that is that only the oldest son inherits the farm, so what are the other 17 kids going to do?


Posted by: mano negra | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 11:52 AM
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Pwned, sort of, by 546.


Posted by: mano negra | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 11:54 AM
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preserving and pickling and bottling

The tipping point to fear is an interruption of the thermohaline circulation of seawater that keeps northern Europe inhabitable. That's right, global warming will hasten the appearance of an ice age that will punish the very people who did their best to recycle.

It's speculative because measurements of slow currents along the ocean floor are hard now, and there's no historical data. But the models are alarming.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 12:00 PM
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We have our selection of tipping points to fear. And it's all speculative, which is supposed to give us comfort.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 12:04 PM
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Pretty much. Farmers lose money on bad years and they lose money on good years (when prices are low). They can't really hold their crops off the market and wait for a good price. They end up being at the mercy of commodity prices and credit.

But farming doesn't suck, you say?


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 12:07 PM
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553

"We have our selection of tipping points to fear. And it's all speculative, which is supposed to give us comfort."

When you start speculating about things for which there is little evidence, like WMD in Iraq, you are likely to end up doing something stupid.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 12:19 PM
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Oh this is going to be good.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 12:21 PM
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for which there is little evidence

Funny.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 12:24 PM
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The peace prize is one of those humanities things, Tweety.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 12:29 PM
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I'm assuming James meant a specific scenario, not warming per se (for which there is a metric shit-load of evidence). Some of the scenarios for current stalls etc. are pretty tenuous right now.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 12:47 PM
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212: we buy the biodegrabale dog bags. They work well, they're sort of expensive in relative terms, but still a negligible expense in absolute terms.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 12:54 PM
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559: yeah, I was using shorthand for the sheer volume of research; there's plenty of scenarios (methane release in Siberia) that have big buckets of evidence behind them, and if you take the overall picture, the evidence that things are happening towards the "uh oh" end of the model range is rather strong.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 12:57 PM
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212: we buy the biodegrabale dog bags. They work well, they're sort of expensive in relative terms, but still a negligible expense in absolute terms.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 1:00 PM
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559: yeah, I was using shorthand for the sheer volume of research; there's plenty of scenarios (methane release in Siberia) that have big buckets of evidence behind them, and if you take the overall picture, the evidence that things are happening towards the "uh oh" end of the model range is rather strong.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 1:01 PM
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evidence that things are happening towards the "uh oh" end of the model range is rather strong.

This is true. The specifics are tricky, but the outlook is not good.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 1:09 PM
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561

"yeah, I was using shorthand for the sheer volume of research; there's plenty of scenarios (methane release in Siberia) that have big buckets of evidence behind them, and if you take the overall picture, the evidence that things are happening towards the "uh oh" end of the model range is rather strong"

There are positive feedbacks involved. A feedback factor of .6 is worse (will produce a greater response for a given forcing) than a feedback factor of .4 but the response is still continuous. You need feedback above 1 to get a discontinuous response (or runaway condition). There is disagreement about how how much feedback to expect but it is my uinderstanding that the bad end of the model range is still believed to be well below the amount required for runaway (globally at least, locally like melting the greenland ice might be different but that is self limiting).


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 1:24 PM
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evidence that things are happening towards the "uh oh" end of the model range is rather strong.

Or stalling the atlantic currents.

These are still "uh oh" from the point of view of all humans, if not earth-turns-into-venus territory. Which I think is what Sifu meant, and certainly what I meant.

There are some models at the `bad end' that look quite bad, btw, but it seems a bit speculative.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 1:29 PM
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I even sort of agree, James, but when you're speculating that it'll get fairly close to the line you're introducing error bars on the upper side that put you over the line, and the prospect of that should be enough to act as if it were going to happen, since it does indeed run the chance of killing us all off. (For slightly loose definitions of "all" and "us".) Especially given the imprecision of the models, and the fact that every time we revise predictions we revise them upwards.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 1:29 PM
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567

"... Especially given the imprecision of the models, and the fact that every time we revise predictions we revise them upwards."

I don't believe it is true that the predictions have been moving uniformly upward.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 1:42 PM
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567 568

Here are some estimates of climate sensitivity over time. No particular trend is evident. The current (2007) IPCC range is 2-4.5 (best estimate 3).


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 2:15 PM
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First of all, "speculative" doesn't mean "without evidence", because the things we're talking about are not without evidence, but something like "unproven because it hasn't been studied enough". And when there are a number of speculative disaster scenarios, and when the reason they're unproven is because we lack information because the topic hasn't been seriously studied (and not because a lot of studies say tha problem isn't serious), I say it's reasonable to take the possible problem seriously. Whereas the oil industry position, and yours, is that until we have proof we should assume that there's no big problem.

Most of your arguments are rational, but the Iraq War comparison you just made is not, and worthy of a big "Fuck you James!" The WMD in Iraq were not speculative. The best evidence was thet they weren't there, and the reason why people thought otherwise is because a lot of people were deliberately lying.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 2:15 PM
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And James, what would you do different from a policy perspective even if the "runaway" models are overstated, especially given the clear danger of "overshooting" (or as pointed out multiple times above) that we have already overshot the threshold where humankind can get to a long-term sustainable relatonship with the world without a wrenching hideous-death-for-billions "adjustment". That is my annoyance with the "Al Gore" made 4 mistakes in his presentation so partay!! attitude.

And I sadly missed most of this thread and Paul Ehrlich is pretty well deprecated in many quarters, but he does have what I find to be one of the most succinct and incontrovertible descriptions of what it will take:

Gradual and humane reduction of the size of the human population, limiting of wasteful per capita consumption among the rich to allow room for increased consumption by the poor, use of more environmentally benign technologies and increased equity among and within nations will all be required.

I am not sanguine.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 2:25 PM
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570

"First of all, "speculative" doesn't mean "without evidence", because the things we're talking about are not without evidence, but something like "unproven because it hasn't been studied enough" ..."

By speculative I meant something like "unlikely but not impossible based on current knowledge". I did not mean "likely but unproven".

"... The WMD in Iraq were not speculative. The best evidence was thet they weren't there ..."

The WMD were speculative in the unlikely but not impossible sense. And the best evidence is against nearby global climate tipping points.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 3:24 PM
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571

"... we have already overshot the threshold where humankind can get to a long-term sustainable relatonship with the world without a wrenching hideous-death-for-billions "adjustment" ..."

In my opinion such an adjustment is more likely to triggered by running out of fossil fuels than from climate change caused by buring fossil fuels. If we had an infinite supply of fossil fuel this would not be true but we don't.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 3:28 PM
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571:

Well then, let's just run it full throttle, because we'll never know which it will be unless we do the test!*

*James, I know this is not what you personally "support", but it is pretty close to what much/most of the "conservative" coalition unthinkingly advocates.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 3:46 PM
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571 573


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 3:46 PM
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In my opinion such an adjustment is more likely to triggered by running out of fossil fuels

I agree with you, but it's not that clear --- bit like a race to see which failure mode is going to screw us first. It really doesn't make sense to assume we run out of fossils before we go to far with the climate. That's a pretty stupid bet.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 3:51 PM
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Well, then you're wrong, James. These things are not unlikely. Their likelihood is unknown. That's why people other than you are worried.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 3:52 PM
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My (very limited) survey of environmental science does not suggest any consensus that we are approaching irreversible tipping points. So I, like James Shearer, wonder a bit where this assumption is coming from. It doesn't seem like most mainstream scientists view the end of humanity in 200 years via global warming as even a 5% likely scenario.

And I am kind of shocked that in any blog comments section, there's not more representation of Vingean post-abundance optimism. Isn't human well being incomparably greater now than in 1908. Isn't our ability to ameliorate environmental catastrophe incomparably greater? 75 years ago we didn't have nuclear power. Now France generates 80% of its electricity via fission. 50 years ago we didn't have DNA, now we routinely engineer crops. With this context why are people so skeptical of the possibility of technical fixes?


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 3:58 PM
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OK, James. The permafrost is thawing, and if it continues to get warmer, it will thaw more. This is known.

When permafrost thaws, it releases methane. This is known. And methane is a global-warming gas.

How much permafrost is there, how much will thaw under various global-warming scenarios, how much methane will be released under the various scenarios, and what will the effects be of that much methane? As far as I know, these questions are only beginning to be studied.

As far as I know, there's no reason at this point to say that the tipping point is unlikely. Unproven is a better word, and no one claims it is proven.

So it's reasonable to be worried.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 3:59 PM
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Baa: because the most powerful people (your conservative friends) deny that there's any problem at all and block technical fixes, maybe? And because saying "things have been good, so they'll continue to be good" is magical thinking? And because the cornucopianist successes of of the past helped get us where we are now?

And the best evidence is against nearby global climate tipping points.

I think that you're faking it. I don't think that anyone knows. "The consensus of the field" or "the best evidence" is the weakest scientific argument.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 4:06 PM
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With this context why are people so skeptical of the possibility of technical fixes?

Because that's magical thinking. A large amount of the change we've seen globally in the last 60 years is directly attributable to energy inputs in the form of fossils, far more so that the technology that harnesses it. The simple fact is there is no known technological solution to get us off the dependence in the short to medium term that looks at all politically feasible. Saying `I'm sure smart people will come up with something' is a mugs game.

Personally I think there is a lot that can be done technologically, and as soon as we get serious about that well see some real gains. But you can't engineer yourself out of the fundamental problem, that requires new ideas. You can never force new ideas into being, and historically we're terrible at predicting when they will arrive. We're much better at predicting our ability to refine ideas. That's not enough.

Isn't our ability to ameliorate environmental catastrophe incomparably greater?

Our ability to ameliorate environmental catastrophe is largely unknown. Our capacity for increasing it has been demonstrated.

As noted before, I don't expect the extinction level events, or at least I think the probability is low.

I do, however, think the probability of that is higher than the probability of a technological quick-fix.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 4:08 PM
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"When permafrost thaws, it releases methane. This is known. And methane is a global-warming gas."

Yes, that is what is known as a positive feedback. Positive feedbacks do not cause runaway unless the gain is greater than 1. A lot of permafrost melted at the end of the last glacial period. However it did not all melt. This indicates a gain less than 1.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 4:17 PM
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Since when are irreversible tipping points and the extinction of the human race the only things we need to worry about? And what precedent is there for expecting technology to help?


Posted by: mano negra | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 4:19 PM
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"Well, then you're wrong, James. These things are not unlikely. Their likelihood is unknown. That's why people other than you are worried."

This is a semantic quibble. Consider the probability of a major meteor hit on the earth in the next hundred years. We say this is unlikely although with better knowledge it might be certain.

And it can be rational to worry about unlikely events but that doesn't mean acting as if they were likely.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 4:26 PM
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My (very limited) survey of environmental science does not suggest any consensus that we are approaching irreversible tipping points.

Yes, there is a consensus on this. The IPCC has covered tipping points. The whole reason everyone wants to reduce our GHG emissions by 80% by 2050 is that this is widely recognized as a tipping point. Recently James Hansen suggested we need to get GHG levels down even lower, and possibly faster, than previously estimated by the IPCC. But there's absolutely a consensus that we are, at best, a couple decades away from the point of no return.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 4:28 PM
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what precedent is there for expecting technology to help

This, I think, is a better way to come at the 'magical thinking' objection. Why have faith in the power of technology to solve environmental problems? I would say the precedent is that technology has helped in every other field of endeavor to which it has been applied. For example: we can now generate electricity in massive amounts without fossil fuels via nuclear power. Not true 70 years ago. If global warming causes typhoons in Bangladesh, are we more or less capable of ameliorating and preventing that damage now or in 1908? Now, by a landslide (we may not care more, but we sure can do more.) New technologies won't be 'blocked' by evil-doers, we'll get them.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 4:33 PM
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"I agree with you, but it's not that clear --- bit like a race to see which failure mode is going to screw us first. It really doesn't make sense to assume we run out of fossils before we go to far with the climate. That's a pretty stupid bet."

The question is what is the most effective means of moving people away from fossil fuels. I think pointing out that the price is going to rise drastically as supplies are exhausted is likely to be more effective than speculation about climate change.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 4:33 PM
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First, the likelihood of the meteor is unknown but very small. We don't know that about the environment. Second, meteors are not under our control, so there's no policy impact. Third, nothing has changed in recent centuries making meteor strikes more likely. Three reasons why we should be more attentive to the environemntal threats.

I think that you are misrepresenting both how much we know and the magnitude of the threats. Specifically, the Iraq WMD analogy is a red herring.

If all you are saying that we cannot be sure that irreversible disaster is likely, I guess I agree. Your sniping method of argument sometimes make your actual position hard to know.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 4:35 PM
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"... But there's absolutely a consensus that we are, at best, a couple decades away from the point of no return."

Nonsense.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 4:36 PM
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Nonsense.

And with a single word, James B. Shearer cleverly refutes thousands of climatologists around the planet. Nice work!


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 4:38 PM
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James, please don't switch to political strategies. it makes you seem like a waste of time. We aren't talking about political strategies.

You really should start your own blog for people who like this kind of argument. It's becoming tiresome here.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 4:40 PM
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"First, the likelihood of the meteor is unknown but very small. ..."

No, there could be an extra solar meteor 80 years out which is dead certain to hit us which we just don't know about yet (and likely wouldn't until it was within a year or so of impact).


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 4:41 PM
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But there's absolutely a consensus that we are, at best, a couple decades away from the point of no return

This seems to be the nub.

Stras: not to presume on your patience, can you give some sense of your reasons for believing this to be true?

James: not to presume on your patience, can you give some sense of your reasons for believing this to be false?

Citations and links (in both cases) are welcome.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 4:41 PM
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I'd also like to point out that the IPCC's projections were very conservative, and have already proven to be too optimistic.

The linked article has to do with melting polar ice, which of course leads to positive feedback... so don't read it, James! Otherwise you might accidentally learn something!


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 4:42 PM
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How often do these meteors hit us, James, based on past history? Not very often. Do we have any reason to believe that the odds have increased? No. The odds of various global warming disasters are much greater than that.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 4:43 PM
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I think pointing out that the price is going to rise drastically as supplies are exhausted is likely to be more effective than speculation about climate change.

Umm, no. I think poeple have well proven they aren't going voluntarily to change much in their behaviour now in response to potential future price increases. And the point was that by the time those drastic price increase arrive (and actually do start forcing behaviors to change), we may well be too late.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 4:46 PM
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I would say the precedent is that technology has helped in every other field of endeavor to which it has been applied.

Confirmation bias. How shocking that technology has never been applied in ways that are not at all helpful!


Posted by: mano negra | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 4:46 PM
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"And with a single word, James B. Shearer cleverly refutes thousands of climatologists around the planet. Nice work!"

The current state of the knowledge about climate change is summarized in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (2007) . How about pointing to where it says there is a concensus that we are at best 20 years from disaster?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 4:52 PM
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"Umm, no. I think poeple have well proven they aren't going voluntarily to change much in their behaviour now in response to potential future price increases. And the point was that by the time those drastic price increase arrive (and actually do start forcing behaviors to change), we may well be too late."

You could just as well say people have proven they aren't going to voluntarily change their behavior now because of future climate change fears. The price increases have arrived and are changing behavior. The bad effects of climate change have not.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 4:59 PM
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Not in the U.S., James, but elsewhere.

And we are not really talking about political strategies. We're talking about global warming.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 5:01 PM
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Confirmation bias

Not really, I think. I should have said "virtually every endeavor." There are areas in which technology has been tried with (to date) limited success (e.g., improve the average performance on SAT tests, ), but in general technology has proven pretty darn amazing. If we were faced with global disaster, I think we could come up with some good approaches. Probably they would include Bruce Willis.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 5:02 PM
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How about pointing to where it says there is a concensus that we are at best 20 years from disaster?

I said the consensus was that we were "at best, a couple decades away from the point of no return." The IPCC put this, at a conservative estimate, at 2050 - the date by which we're supposed to have reduced GHG emissions by 85%. This is already seen as too optimistic, given observations like the one in the previous link.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 5:06 PM
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Baa, success at dealing with global warming requires actually agreeing that GW is real, and that doing something about it is a priority. Once that happens, tech optimism might be rational. But most tech optimists I ever read use their optimism to minimize the actual problem, and many are cornucopians whose primary goal is to black anything that might slow economic growth or require material sacrifice of any kind.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 5:07 PM
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What I remember from the IPCC Fourth Assessment was global average losses of 1-5 percent of GDP in this century due to warming (more in a few places, where it could be disastrous, less in others). On the aggregate that's a significant effect but a huge, huge distance from being civilization-ending. I also remember a lot of reasonable within-our-reach fixes that could be put in place if carbon was properly priced.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 5:09 PM
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I would say the precedent is that technology has helped in every other field of endeavor to which it has been applied.

You really have to be careful with the difference between what I'll call engineering development and technology advances, which are not the same thing.

Consider, we have been trying very, very hard for the past 60 years to find a fundamental improvement in battery technology. We've failed. Through engineering effort, we've managed to improve existing designs really quite impressively, sure, but nobody has found the sort of game-changing gain everyone was looking for. Not for dint of trying. There are tons of examples. Why haven't we solved the cancer problem yet? We discovered antibiotics, look what that did for infections!

It's really very misleading to thing about technology the way that you are. That's the heart of the magical thinking problem, because it leads you to say `hey, we licked these hard problems, surely we can lick that one'. However, that isn't how technological advance ever works, which is what makes it magical thinking.

Technological advances typically quickly follow the easiest path, iteratively, after a fundamental advance. Failing a further fundamental advance, they chip around the edges of that path and make small improvements (combustion engines today are a hell of a lot more efficient than they were in 1930, but not fundamentally so. They're still pretty terrible at converting energy). Historically we've pretty much never been able to plan for the fundamental advance, the breakthrough that opens up new directions. Instead, we push in every available direction, and when a breakthrough occurs, there is a rush to develop and extend it. Someone invents the transistor? Blam, within decades the technology has advanced to the point it is effecting everyones life. But nobody set out to develop home computers and the internet, etc. thinking that along the way they'd sort out the transistor.

That's what we're stuck with. We pretty much understand the fundamental energy technologies that we've got, and they just aren't going to cut it. We can put a lot of effort into trying to come up with something new, but deciding that it will `surely' solve the problem before things get too bad is simply inane.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 5:11 PM
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"... The IPCC put this, at a conservative estimate, at 2050 ..."

Where exactly did the IPCC say this?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 5:12 PM
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success at dealing with global warming requires actually agreeing that GW is real

I don't think this is true. Or at least, I don't think it is true anymore than success at finding a drug for Alzheimer's requires agreeing that such a drug is possible. You just need a some people who think it is possible, and think it would be valuable if it exists. Private equity investment in clean tech is white hot right now. This is because people are betting that reality will trump ideology on the issue. We may be investing less than is optimal (if, e.g., greenhouse costs were internalized into gas prices), but there's still a great deal of investment and research.

The IPCC put this, at a conservative estimate, at 2050

Stras, not doubting, not trying to be a jerk, just trying to understand, but can you cite the part of the IPCC you believe supports this?

James, do you have a response to this?


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 5:13 PM
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What I remember from the IPCC Fourth Assessment was global average losses of 1-5 percent of GDP in this century due to warming

That wasn't the estimated cost of global warming; that was the estimated cost of stabilizing GHG at around 445ppm.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 5:13 PM
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I don't think it is true anymore than success at finding a drug for Alzheimer's requires agreeing that such a drug is possible.

It would be pretty hard to get through the clinical trials without acknowledging that there is such a disease as Alzheimer's. (Or maybe it would be easier that way. This magic rock keeps tigers away!)


Posted by: mano negra | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 5:15 PM
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Baa, doesn't finding a cure for Alzheimer's require agreeing that Alzheimers is real and that Alzheimers is a bad thing?

This is because people are betting that reality will trump ideology on the issue.

Oh, fuck you, Baa. The ideological problem is that since 1980 denialists have been in control either in the executive or in Congress 90% of the time. Republican denialists. And global warming is the kind of widespread problem that public spending is best suited for, and for that reason research is far less than it should be.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 5:18 PM
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605 is really good.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 5:23 PM
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Really.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 5:24 PM
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Baa, here's a link to a story on the study; I'm looking for the pdf.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 5:24 PM
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the heart of the magical thinking problem

Soup, of course we can run into technological dead ends. But in terms of achieving human objectives, technology has a pretty good track record. Even on cancer. And -- I repeat -- we've only had a recognition of DNA for 50 years. We've only had chemotherapy for 50 years. That doesn't mean we can make a perpetual motion machine. It does make my prior/bias more "it will be possible to significantly ameliorate global warming via technology" vs. "it will not be possible to significantly ameliorate global warming via technology." I definitely agree that I don't see the way -- looking at our current tech -- of how we will maintain current standards of living without fossil fuels, or enable a rapid transition. But that's not the question being asked. The question is "will global warming be something that causes lots of damage, or something that causes irreparable catastrophe." I think the advance of science gives strong reason to back the former.

It would be pretty hard to get through the clinical trials without acknowledging that there is such a disease as Alzheimer's

You misunderstand me. You don't need consensus, or even majority opinion. You just need enough believers to run the trials. On global warming we have people running the trials. We have plenty of companies and researchers doing work in clean tech. Maybe not as many as we should have, but reality will obtrude at some point. The argument here is whether we have reason to believe that "some point" will be too late. (is this a reversible reaction on a downward curve, or an irreversible cliff).


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 5:24 PM
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Emerson -- are you on medication?


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 5:31 PM
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614: What you're ignoring, or overlooking, is that one would feel very differently about the prospects of an Alzheimer's cure (say) if there were a large group dedicated to denying that there was a disease ('it's just aging! people have always aged!'), and that influenced public policy regarding the funding of new therapies and drugs. Or if you had found a link between some contingent fact and Alzheimer's, and people spent billions trying to insist that there wasn't any proof all these people you'd studied were just old.

And faced with that, you might well say, 'Look, drugs that cure disease don't just come about when you need it.'

And that's to my mind what the environmentalist is saying here. If 'technology (wave the hand, feet up on the table) will save us' is taken as a reason not to bother conserving or (joy) not to bother supporting technological development, it quickly becomes a ridiculous position.

Not a position I attribute to you, baa, but 'we'll think of something' is a pretty common Internet defense of why, e.g., we shouldn't worry about global warming.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 5:32 PM
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Tech and free-market optimists tend to minimize the disastrous successes of technology and the market. For example, the unimpeded free market is capable of driving a large number of wild birds and mammals to extinction quite soon. And certainly technology's efforts to bring on global warming have been triumphant.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 5:33 PM
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The problem isn't "ideology", Baa. It's your (Republican) ideology. Other ideologies do fine with global warming. For I don't know how long the majority of Republicans have voted against almost every environmental bill that came along. The U.S. has a worse global-warming policy than almost any other developed country.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 5:38 PM
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Baa, if i were better medicated I might find you tolerable.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 5:39 PM
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Look, drugs that cure disease don't just come about when you need it.'

Totally agree. This just comes back to the shape of the curve. To extend the drug development analogy, I feel pretty positive about the ability of "science" to fix hepatitis C in 100 years. I feel pretty negative about the ability of "science" to fix a brand new pandemic flu strain that jumps from birds in 3 months before 20M people die. That's why I really want us to invest ahead of that problem (novel antivirals, novel and flexible vaccine technology).

On the "global warming denialists are the main problem" trope. Sure, it's bad that people deny global warming. That's stupid. Down with the GOP, etc., etc. But hey, the whole EU believes it's real. That's a lot of science! The GOP doesn't control what entrepreneurs do. That's a lot of science!


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 5:41 PM
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I might find you tolerable.

What's weird, just to be clear, is how you can move from civilized conversation to "go fuck yourself" so quickly. You should get that checked out. And while, yes, I do mean to be condescending and offensive, I'm also serious.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 5:44 PM
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The US has had actively anti-environmentalist presidents for at least four of the last seven terms, and Bush I and Clinton were nothing special (especially since Clinton had a Republican Congress.) "Ideology" isn't the problem.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 5:45 PM
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John hasn't been the same since he realized he wouldn't get to see me in Portland. And "go fuck yourself" outbursts are a grumpy old man staple. Did you suddenly stop being Jewish, baa?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 5:46 PM
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Come now, baa, even if the EU and entrepreneurs do a lot of science, surely we'd have even more to be optimistic about if the party in power in what I have heard is a nation capable of amazing strides in research weren't actively denigrating global warming. Government support -- however we quantify that -- seems to matter.

One has less reason to be optimistic when the World's Last Remaining Superpower (tm) is in denial that there's a problem.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 5:46 PM
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That wasn't the estimated cost of global warming; that was the estimated cost of stabilizing GHG at around 445ppm.

No, it's economic costs. They're very similar to mitigation costs, because it's hard to prove that stabilization costs are much lower than potential damages. I believe a recent study by Nordhaus might have had it up to 6-7 percent of GDP at the high end, with extreme warming, but I'd have to look that up.

Note that I'm *not* arguing that estimated GDP costs are the right metric to use in deciding just what to do (in other words: I oppose orthodox cost-benefit analysis in this case), because A) non-market outcomes are undervalued or omitted entirely, B) economic simulation models depend on too many assumptions, and C) nobody really understands either the likelihood or the potential cost of low-probability highly disruptive events

But what I am saying is that it's highly unlikely we're looking at any kind of "end of industrial civilization" scenario here. GDP losses are a good estimate of your sort of likelihood of civilizational collapse. There's really no clear evidence for that that I've seen. Warming or not, we should end the 21st century much, much wealthier than we are today -- and with much more resources to devote to trying to address these problems or mitigate their effects.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 5:48 PM
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I am relatively optimistic about fixes to global warming. Improvements to other pollution problem have been less painful than were expected and I don't think global warming is different. Pollution control is a good investment at the society level.

We have to work to solve global warming rather than just crossing our fingers though. Without some sort of regulatory framework, there is no real incentive for anyone to stop global warming.


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 5:49 PM
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Soup, of course we can run into technological dead ends.

It's not that we can, it's that this is mostly what happens. And the cases where it doesn't are somewhat (but not completely) random. Which is a problem if you want a particular outcome.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 5:49 PM
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I'll never be in the mood to have a conversation with a Republican about the environment. Even a nice Republican. We hope we'll be able to clean up your mess, and excuse me for not listening to your advice about how we should do it.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 5:50 PM
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baa, for what it's worth we're not that far apart. I don't assume we've fucked up so badly we're going extinct either.


Assuming we'll find a technological fix is stupid. Planning on it is stupid. Hopeing for it isn't. So the rational thing to do is improve what we can, study what we can't. Reduce usage even if it hurts (but not to the point it causes economic collapse, obviously). Put effort into new tech, put more effort into improvements we already know how to do. Make people suck it up and address the real costs of what they're doing, but help with the transition.

Only idiots (or really evil fuckers) propose doing nothing in under the assumption we'll sort it out `with technology', or the problem isn't so bad, or whatever. I'm not saying this is your position, but it's a common one.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 5:54 PM
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surely we'd have even more to be optimistic about if the party in power in what I have heard is a nation capable of amazing strides in research weren't actively denigrating global warming

Yes! I agree! I agree that the GOP policy on this is really negative! It's just not cause to be all "we're totally doomed thanks to the GOP." There's tons of clean tech science going on. Unless we're on the verge of a tipping point, the 'bright green' logic seems pretty compelling. That's why I'm fixated (and shamelessly begging stras and James for more information on) the tipping point/imminent catastrophe hypothesis. I freely confess that my big-picture optimism on global warming is largely dependently on the belief that the scientific consensus does not support the tipping point/imminent catastrophe position. If I thought that I would believe, and indeed, act, differently.

Did you suddenly stop being Jewish, baa

Maybe briefly.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 5:55 PM
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625: nobody really understands either the likelihood or the potential cost of low-probability highly disruptive events .... But what I am saying is that it's highly unlikely we're looking at any kind of "end of industrial civilization" scenario here.

Nobody understands the likelihood? You seem to.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 5:56 PM
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627: Or comes in from unexpected places. If you were armchair scientisting about how to cure AIDS, would you think 'let us get those guys who study retroviruses in sheep'?

Part of the worry with the stupid-evil (not baa) optimism is that it does seem to assume that a) we know what path will solve the problem and b) that the path that solves the problem is one that will be so profitable so that private industry will get there well in advance of most of the pain & destruction.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 6:01 PM
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Let's rewind this thread about 400 comments and have someone who knows what they're talking about recommend to me a good book on environmentally sustainable urban planning and development.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 6:03 PM
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The GOP doesn't control what entrepreneurs do. That's a lot of science!

It doesn't make sense for entrepreneurs to invest in carbon emission reduction if they can't make money on it. That takes a regulatory framework.


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 6:03 PM
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Nobody understands the likelihood? You seem to.

gotcha, etc. But the ICCC has put a low (but real) likelihoods on such events occurring, and then on top of that the likelihood of their triggering some kind of unpredictable economic catatstrophe seems small as well. It's still a risk I think we should do all we can to minimize, but if you're gonna take the rationalist / scientific approach you can't point to any clear scientific evidence that warming will cause everything to totally go to hell and destroy civilization as we know it.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 6:04 PM
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"... Warming or not, we should end the 21st century much, much wealthier than we are today -- and with much more resources to devote to trying to address these problems or mitigate their effects."

I am not totally convinced, I think the exhaustion of fossil fuels could pose real problems particularly for the poorer regions of the world. The substitutes look to be quite a bit more expensive which is bad if you are already on the edge. Africa has not been doing very well with cheap energy, it is hard to see them doing better with expensive energy. Of course it depends on who you mean by "we".


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 6:06 PM
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Yeah, I was just talking about global warming alone. Fossil fuel exhaustion is a whole other 700-comment thread.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 6:14 PM
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Fossil fuel exhaustion is a whole other 700-comment thread.

Oh boy, let's.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 6:17 PM
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"James, do you have a response to this?"

I don't believe the IPCC reports say any such thing but this is hard to prove as they are quite lengthy. I will respond to specific citations.

As I said above there is a lag (due to the heat capacity of the oceans) so if you stabilize greenhouse gas levels temperatures will continue to rise for a while. But there is no concensus that any particular temperature increase will abruptly cause disaster. And if we eliminated emissions completely greenhouse levels would start to fall as the atmosphere is out of equilibrium.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 6:21 PM
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I apologize to Sally and Newt and PK and the other children whose names I don't know. I've given up.

I remember the gas crunch of 1973 (or whenever that was). I was driving a small car that got 40 mpg (on a good day) surrounded by these behemoths , and I though "now we'll see rapid radical improvements in fuel efficiency". It's 35 years later, I'm driving a 1985 pickup truck that gets 28 mpg (on a good day) surrounded by all these behemoths. I'd like to get a new truck, but the new ones are bigger and get far worse mileage.

I remember as a child being taken by my parents to see a brand new nuclear power plant. I remember the all-electric Home of the Future, when electricity would be too cheap to meter. I think I'm paying about 8 cents a kilowatt hour today.

I remember when the civil rights acts were passed, and Watergate, and I remember thinking "this country is getting more cooperative, more civilized, in another few decades we'll have gotten past racism and sexism and the excesses of unbridled capitalism, and be living under the rule of laws other than the law of the jungle".

I remember when my city started a recycling program. Early 90s, I think. I put out my recyclables, every week, and they never got picked up. My bags with nothing but aluminum cans would get stolen if I left them on the curb for a week or so. I've never seen the recycling truck in my neighborhood, nor recyclables put out. I live in a poor minority neighborhood. In the affluent educated white neighborhood the recycling is put out and the truck comes, and from time to time we see reports in the news about how the recycling truck simply went to the landfill for some reason or other.

Last summer I drove east, and saw the vast devastation of the forests by th e little bug that's killing all the Hemlocks. The year before, in the Northwest, the millions upon millions of acres of pines killed by some borer or other. I'm watching all the ponderosa die on my little 20 acres in the mountains.

I'm confident that life in this country will get steadily more nasty, brutish, and short. I expect that anthropogenic climate change will accelerate and wipe out most coastal communities and totally disrupt agriculture.

I'm not doing a thing to prevent it. Judging by the election results of the last few decades, people like me are in the majority. Sorry, kids.

I just hope it happens after about 2035, because that's about as long as I think I can possibly live. People in this country like being ignorant and bigoted and selfish and stupid, and we'll choose to stay that way until it kills all of us.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 6:22 PM
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"Yeah, I was just talking about global warming alone. Fossil fuel exhaustion is a whole other 700-comment thread."

But global warming is only going to be a problem if emission reductions greater than those imposed by fossil fuel exhaustion are needed. In which case we may not be feeling so rich.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 6:27 PM
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But global warming is only going to be a problem if emission reductions greater than those imposed by fossil fuel exhaustion are needed.

You are thinking about this at about four times too many meta-levels of theoretical economics. I would rephrase that sentence as "Global warming is only going to be a problem if fossil fuels are not exhausted before global warming becomes a problem".


Posted by: Fatrman | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 6:44 PM
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I don't believe the IPCC reports say any such thing but this is hard to prove as they are quite lengthy.

I don't believe James has ever bothered to take a look at the IPCC reports before today.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 6:45 PM
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Do you need a hug, MHS?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 6:48 PM
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Thanks, Apo. But medication would probably be more efficacious.

I guess I've gotten tired of the 'but technology!' and 'market forces will fix it once prices rise' lines of discussion. Been there, done that, waited in the gas lines, paid the high prices, and Americans will never sacrifice or co-operate. We'd prefer to believe in magic. After all, the way to make sure the terrorists don't win is to shop more.

Yes, definitely, I need drugs.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 6:56 PM
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if you're gonna take the rationalist / scientific approach you can't point to any clear scientific evidence that warming will cause everything to totally go to hell and destroy civilization as we know it

What, exactly, are you defining as "the rationalist/ scientific approach"? As I've said before, a lot of biologists, ecologists, and palaeontologists believe that extinction is on the table. The notion that we're now in the middle of a mass extinction event is now a mainstream position in biology, as we've come to recognize that species are disappearing on the order of something like thirty thousand a year. Unchecked global warming could very well shut down the ocean conveyor and turn the sea anoxic, leading to mass death on land and sea. This isn't a crackpot theory cooked up by a handful of loons and amateurs on the internet; scientists who specialize in climate-induced mass extinction think this is a very real possibility. The stakes are a lot higher than most of us have been lead to believe.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 6:57 PM
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Do you need a hug, MHS?

No, he needs somebody to pick up his recycling. It's been out there since the early 90s! That's got to be a little distressing.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 6:59 PM
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I guess I've gotten tired of the 'but technology!' and 'market forces will fix it once prices rise' lines of discussion.

heh. Not to mention the "but only several millions (okay, maybe more) will suffer and die! It's not the end of the world!" line.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 7:17 PM
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Nope, market mechanisms will never have any effect on fossil fuel consumption.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 7:20 PM
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but only several millions (okay, maybe more) will suffer and die! It's not the end of the world!

I actually like that argument. I've visited Florida, and thought "nothing wrong here that a 15 foot rise in sea level wouldn't improve". On the other hand, London.

Nope, market mechanisms will never have any effect on fossil fuel consumption.

I remember seeing the same thing in the mid 1970s. Briefly, fuel economy was all the rage, Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards were imposed, etc. Then the problem of the commons returned, and here we are again. It's always going to better for me if I make you conserve, but I'll always refuse to straiten my life for the good of all. That's the Murrican way.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 7:26 PM
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I remember seeing the same thing in the mid 1970s. Briefly, fuel economy was all the rage, Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards were imposed, etc. Then the problem of the commons returned, and here we are again. It's always going to better for me if I make you conserve, but I'll always refuse to straiten my life for the good of all. That's the Murrican way.

The problem of the commons didn't return; the Saudis decided to pump a shit-ton of oil and sell it incredibly cheaply; when gas is cheap, people use more. That's not going to happen this time around.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 7:35 PM
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I actually like that argument.

Grr. Just for the record, mind.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 7:38 PM
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643

"I don't believe James has ever bothered to take a look at the IPCC reports before today."

Strange then that I was quoting from them in 2002.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 7:54 PM
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... the Saudis decided to pump a shit-ton of oil and sell it incredibly cheaply

Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't that decision influenced by US policy?

I seem to recall that the country had a choice. Some people were advocating a substantial increase in the gasoline tax, and increasingly tough fuel economy regulations, to reduce demand (and therefor prices) for the long term. Others wanted to do everything to increase supply - break up OPEC, reduce taxes on oil companies, open everything in the US to driling, etc. - to lower prices in the short term and let the long term take care of itself. In other words, the political will in the us was supporting "I want mine NOW" and let tomorrow fend for itself. That is, I think, an aspect of the commons problem.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 8:01 PM
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Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't that decision influenced by US policy?

Sure. OPEC was restricting production for political and economic reasons, we leaned on them to pump more to save us money and to screw the Soviets.

This time around, the oil doesn't seem to be there to pump. Leaning on them is not going to work.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 05- 9-08 8:11 PM
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Early 90s, I think. I put out my recyclables, every week, and they never got picked up. My bags with nothing but aluminum cans would get stolen if I left them on the curb for a week or so.

Stolen, presumably, by people who would then take them away and sell them for scrap - in other words, they were being recycled! Free market FTW!


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 05-12-08 8:43 AM
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I take the lack of response to 633 to mean that no one here knows what they're taking about. Unsurprising.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05-13-08 11:13 AM
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This whole thread has been an enormous [citation needed].


Posted by: #! | Link to this comment | 05-13-08 3:01 PM
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