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A pessimistic vision of India’s looming environmental and economic collapse (thewire.in)
310 points by Santosh83 on Feb 4, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 174 comments



The thing that worries me the most is lack of fresh water. I belong to the Indian state of Gujarat mentioned in the article, and the pessimism isn't exaggerated at all. Soil erosion and fresh water coupled with rising temperatures is a real and present danger seeimingly ignored in favour of populist and industrialist projects such as GIFT (that keeps on winning elections for the incumbent). There's no reversing desertification that plaques my home state. It is heartbreaking, to say the least. It's taking us towards a Mad Max Fury Road esque world, and how.

Uttar Pradesh, the quintessential Indian state that 200* million people call home, along with another 200 million in the Hindi-Urdu heartland, has always had abundance of natural resources but its utter mismanagement has led to an unprecedented ecological crisis that no one in the political setup seems to be bothered about; and that may be since they continue to grapple with challenges of heavy population, unemployment, casteism, and near absence of law and order in every fabric of the society. Most of its major cities are on the verge of collapse, whilst the elites along with the politicians have cornered an enormous amount of wealth for themselves at the expense of the environment and the people; unlike in 2000s China, where the distribution of wealth seemed more fair, in comparison.

I think, India and Pakistan (I was astonished at the very similarity of what's happening to India's biggest states like Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana, and Punjab; and Pakistan's Punjab and Sindh) and most other tropical countries favouring unabated development at the cost of the environment are going to end up in a very sorry state that's going to get worse along an exponential curve for entities with larger than sustainable populations.

I don't understand at all the increasing rents, property prices amidst the impending crisis. Given that, especially, only a handful hoard most of the wealth and could afford buying or renting at today's rates.

India is being held hostage in a prison of corruption by greed, will promptly be taken to the altar of doom by ignorance, where civil unrest will have a final swing of the sword culling the Virus, as Agent Smith would put it.

*edit


Making big sacrifices now to avert a disaster that is "only" forecast, but not yet tangible/certain in the mind of most people, is incredibly difficult everywhere, not just in India. To cite an example from Italy, everybody who had a basic understanding of economics knew that we had unsustainable rate of growth of public debt and pensions promises, but there always somebody promising that they had a magic bullet solution (or that there is no problem at all), and most voters in the end prefer to believe in those. This is true even now that the consequences of those policies have struck hard with years of economic stagnation and a worsening general situation.


Romania is beholden to a post-communist party since 1989 using the same tactic - promise pension raises. Old people mostly vote with them, sacrificing the future of the country. They make a mess, then step down for a term to let the opposition fix it, then come back with more promises. And the old people love them because "What has the opposition ever done for us?" and "They are all corrupt, anyway, no matter the party".

But now even the leader of this party has a huge corruption case against him, so he tries to change the laws to save his ass, by making corruption legal. In the last 12 months he changed 3 prime ministers (all from his party, absurd as it seems) because even they were afraid to do the illegalities he demands. He's a joke and we can't get rid of him. Why can't he directly take the PM seat? Because he has already been condemned for corruption in a past case, so he's barred. He can still lead by proxy, though.

Sometimes I think old people shouldn't be allowed to vote because they got little time left and don't care much for the rest of us (the future they won't get to see), so they'll gladly sell our futures for a modicum raise in their pensions. If you vote, you should be held to the reality of what you voted on. It's unfair to vote and die soon (same thing happened in UK where old people voted out and young people are left with the consequences).


And if you introduce a voting threshold of 80 because "they're going to die soon anyway", thus ensuring their lifetime of experience is ignored, what stops you deciding that it's now all the fault of 75 year olds? Where does it end?

Your example of the UK gives away the problem. Lots of young people voted in, because they naively believed the predictions of catastrophe and doom that were being announced at max volume by the academic and governmental elites. Older people who perhaps remembered their long history of failed economic forecasting were less worried. Who was right? The older people were - the forecasts that were made in the run up to the referendum have by and large been systematically proven wrong since then, to the extent that senior members of government and business are openly stating the forecasters at the Treasury and Bank of England have no credibility and should be ignored.


The original forecasts were based on immediate invocation of Article 50, and without a significant intervention by the Bank of England, and without an uptick in global growth (which Britain is bottom of the class in). Instead what we got was a big devaluation in the Pound, slicing billions off the wealth of the country.

The other elements of the forecast are coming, they're just following on a time lag because they're dependent on choices getting locked in. The not so funny thing about Brexit is that it's like a game of chicken: the market doesn't believe Britain will choose drive off the cliff edge, so it hasn't priced in the damage; but that lack of pricing information makes it more likely Britain will drive off the edge.

It's one situation where markets might ironically be ill-suited to judge because of feedback effects. The worse the outcome, the less likely the market is to believe it, which sustains the delusion that it won't be bad.


The forecasts were not based on that, you can go read them. That's something invented later to try and explain why they were wrong.

But even if you were right about that, Article 50 was invoked and no insta-recession occurred.

Regardless of how you try and slice it the consensus of economists was wrong, 100% and completely wrong. There is no way to deny it.

The other elements of the forecast are coming

Wrong, totally wrong. Go read the Treasury's actual forecast:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/britain-to-enter-recessio...

New Treasury analysis shows a vote to leave the EU would tip Britain’s economy into a year-long recession.

Speaking at B&Q in Eastleigh, Hampshire, the Prime Minister and Chancellor set out the Treasury’s analysis of the impact on the nation’s economy over the immediate period of two years following a vote to leave.

Do you see that - vote to leave. Very clear. There was a vote to leave. Their predictions did not come true. My point remains.


Still a game of chicken. See the poll results in today's FT - businesses still don't believe a hard Brexit is coming.


Then the Rothschild's must be crazy for exchanging so much of their us assets into sterling. https://www.activistpost.com/2017/08/rothschild-just-dumped-...


This was primarily to reduce exposure to US assets, not to specifically gain exposure to UK assets. In fact, if you look at their holdings you’ll see the relative percent increase is much lower for Sterling than Euro, which could signal lower confidence in GBP than EUR.


True but if they were confident the Sterling was in bigger trouble than the dollar they wouldn't have invested in it.


No, they could believe that UK assets have a different risk profile than US assets and want to diversify, even if they think UK assets have a lower risk-adjusted return. Diversification is valuable.


Here’s a prediction - the future of independent Britain is as a vassal state of China.

I’ve heard many arguments on how brexit is not going to be a disaster and many which say it’s going to be great.

The fact is that any exit from the EU will add friction to transactions with its closest geographic partner which it did not have before.

So the best option is that either the brits become a stepping stone for some world power (America/China).

And since recently someone pointed out that “China currently won, America just doesn’t know it yet.” I suspect that the power who finds use in propping up a regime near the Atlantic will be China.

Or it pretends to it’s populace that it’s independent but instead conforms as closely to EU regs to facilitate trade.

Either way, the drop in GDP is guaranteed, it is a matter of how much.

Every drop in GDP Is many thousands upon thousands of jobs that cease to be, its the inability to fund the NHS or repair trains.

Eventually it’s the utter overtake of the country by people who promise the moon but then divide the dwindling spoils.

Now humans think this sounds bad. But it’s not. It’s not terrible/ you aren’t becoming a third world nation.

You just have a GDP reduction. That’s it.

You also get to keep people tout, and fight harder for whatever it is that drove people to vote against their interests.


Excuse me? What a load of bollocks. If you think Britain is currently experiencing the full effects of Brexit, you have something coming for ya. Even then government's own analysis shows that all Brexit scenarios will have a negative impact on Britain's economy. The only reason you feel otherwise is the overall booming economy worldwide, which is covering up the negative effects of PRE-Brexit.

The population was fed a bunch of lies and rolled with it, complete BS like the 350M that would be shifted from Europe to NHS. How any sane person can still be rooting for Brexit after the truth came out is beyond me.


Even then government's own analysis shows that all Brexit scenarios will have a negative impact on Britain's economy

Did you read my post at all?

Government ministers are saying that its own analysis is suspect and not to be believed. And they are correct because the Treasury and many other economists all predicted a recession triggered by a vote to leave, not leaving itself (due to "uncertainty"). But that vote happened, so did invoking Article 50, and yet no recession occurred. Also all their post-vote predictions about quarter on quarter growth were wrong too, and again, in the wrong direction.

The government's predictions about the economy have no credibility. Young people often have trouble accepting that, but it is fact and cannot be argued with. The predictions were precise, and the real reporting values are also precise. They do not match and are not even close.


A small hint: Brexit didn't happened yet.


> Sometimes I think old people shouldn't be allowed to vote because they got little time left and don't care much for the rest of us (the future they won't get to see)

That sounds literally crazy to me, and the consequence of individualism run amok. In a healthy society, the elderly should have a strong vested interest in seeing their children and grandchildren succeed.

I'm not sure whether the fact that you seem to truly believe that the elderly just want to acquire as much money for themselves says about the elderly or about yourself — I truly mean that by the way, since I don't have much actual direct experience with seniors here.

But you know, what do I know, I come from a society where the traditional multigenerational family is still considered an ideal to be worked towards.


I'm not sure which society you are from, but it's pretty clear that we here do not have a healthy society.


It may be interesting to weigh votes then. The older you get the less worth your vote gets.


Perhaps a Gaussian distribution of weights?


Sounds very much like South Africa, as well:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_capture#South_Africa


What is your brilliant solution? Bring back to power PNL plus a (so called) right coalition? Put Traian Basescu as prime minister, the liberal that stole Romania's entire naval fleet? In my town PNL won and they make Trump look sane! They claim they will bring a Tesla factory! We have no infrastructure and Hungary is absorbing electric car projects like crazy! Even Trump's dumb wall idea to keep Mexicans out of the USA sounds sane by comparison!


Are you suggesting we're better off with PSD?


The choice is between incompetent people and insane people. I can't choose for you. Your choice.


Seems like Italy is a basket case. I sometimes look at Who's Hiring in the EU, yet I've never once seen a startup in Italy.

Wages seem to be awful there compared to the US and northern Europe, but it also appears that home prices are still really high.

Finally, from the few Italians I've spoken with - I've only been there once long ago - nobody is getting married and people live with their parents until their mid 30s, at least.

A lot of the educated Italians hit the road for jobs in Germany and elsewhere, meanwhile you're importing a lot of low skilled migrants from Africa.

Why are things so bad there?


Taxes and bureaucracy and crony capitalism are really high. The State and political parties also have a great propaganda machine in place and blame everything on tax evasion (it starts in school with specially designed cartoons [1]. Truth is that with a real tax rate that goes from 70% to well over 100%, only those who evade taxes or practice crony capitalism can survive.

But even despite this the tax evasion rate is really low in rich areas, even if you take into account the rate given by official stats (which are probably fake since those who made the stats need tax evasion to appear high in order to justify the persecutions of entrepeneur), while is a little higher than EU average in poor areas where people either eat or pay taxes (and in Italy there are no food stamps no real welfare for the cronically unemployed).

Also we had hundreds of capable entrepeneurs who were brought to suicide by State persecution, with illegitimate request of money from various government body.

Also, another fun thing is that if you are persecuted by our equivalent of the IRS you can go to a special court, where the judges are people who used to work for the IRS equivalent or similar institutions designed to persecute business (not exagerating). Despite this the IRS equivalent still loses over 50% of the time [3] because it asks for money it shouldn't even in light of our anti-business laws. Just recently they have been found out while bringing fake documents in court [2].

But that's nothing but a hint of the terrible tax situation in Italy, so there you have it

[1] https://goo.gl/images/VjFqaB [2] http://www.ilgiornale.it/news/politica/altro-che-fisco-amico... [3] http://www.linkiesta.it/it/article/2012/03/20/contenziosi-co...


Such high taxes and levels of corruption are hard to describe as "capitalism" of any form. Those are attributes much more associated with communism.

I would note that the EU's Vice President and head of foreign affairs is an Italian woman ... and former member of the Italian communist party.


Yes, in fact I was talking about crony-capitalism. Also consider the fact that Italy is the country where a communist party got the largest share of the popular vote, ever.

But fun thing is that after ww2 many communists in Italy didn't really like economic central planning bcause it felt too fascist. So, they were communist but they didn't practice communism to the full extent. Italy also used to have classical liberals like Einaudi who even became president for many years, and kept politics in check. Sadly, I noticed that we are moving towards statist ideas more and more, with people expecting the State to solve everything and regulate all aspects of life. It's scary. Even people like Berlusconi or Salvini, while right wing, still have a lot of statism in them, even considering just what they appear to be.


I would not judge a country’s economy from HN. Not everybody subscribes to tech startups being a sustainable thing.


Well let me tell you - being one of those Italian migrants - that Italy is stuck in a rut. What the parent wrote is painfully true even for myself. Only people I know of that live a “normal” life are the privileged ones, who’d be elite anywhere else.

I don’t know the exact causes: lack of focus on high margin activities (like, in the ‘90 the right was celebrating the small cottage industry in the North East, who was essentially competing with Eastern Europe and China... anyone’s guess how that ended?)

Or if it was staying in the Eurozone, as until ‘90 we were ok deficit-wise. But very uncompetitive so we took a load of debt just to stay in the Euro - and buy German goods for cheap - and not to become competitive.

In the meantime industrial production de-mobilized out of Europe and we’re just stuck with post-industrial parks and nothing to replace them with.

I’ve somewhere read that neo-liberal single market zones develop a trend where human (economic) potential remains constrained by the local macro-zone, hence migrations.


We took most of our debt during the 1980s, well before the euro. During the 90s we already had to tighten our belt because of the high debt, which we were actually able to reduce, but, instead of investing in the future, we paid lots of money to keep existing industries that had no future here (eg Aluminium smelting, when we have the highest cost of electricity in the EU) and save jobs; for those jobs we couldn't save, we gave early pensions. When the Euro came, Berlusconi his voter base to use it as an excuse to raise prices - making us less competitive - while a very tax evasion friendly policy increased our debt again. In all, we got the the crisis as the most troubled EU economy after Greece - and we're paying the consequences.


One of the causes is a cultural problem with elites being extremely short-termist in their outlook. Italy saw upheavals, revolutions and invasions during almost every generation since Roman times; the overall attitude is that you take your money today because tomorrow it might all be gone. Investing is considered foolish, people don’t like any sort of risk, and we celebrate taking advantage of others rather than helping them becoming the best they can be.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that post-ww2 economic development in Italy was exceptional: powered by the Marshall plan and the need to rebuild a country from scratch after being bombed back into the middle ages, the market boomed. Once that wave was over and public money ran out, the traditional approach came back in fashion and the country stalled.


That's certainly a valid point.

Here's the broader problem: Italy's economy has not expanded since 1992 on an inflation adjusted basis. On a nominal basis it hasn't expanded since 2004. The population has expanded by about three million since 2004. The demographics have worsened in terms of an aging population, much like the rest of the developed world. That adds up to a painful scenario.

Italy's economic growth has been falling on a ten year averaged basis, since ~1960. That isn't super unusual, that's true of a lot of developed economies. The problem is, in the early 2000s it basically hit a zero growth flat-line, and has never picked up off of that. The significant economic contraction periods of 2008-2009, and 2012-2013, were never countered with bursts in post-recession growth as would be more typical. If you don't have a post-recession bounce of outsized growth, things tend to get super bad, super quick, as inevitably another recession will arrive and make the situation worse. Some meaningful growth is practically a requirement to a healthy society, in the sense that it pays for inevitable mistakes that are made politically and socially, including as it pertains to debt or policy mistakes. Without that, you have to operate at a level of perfection at all times.

At some point Italy has to figure out how to grow again. As a population ages, obviously, things only tend to get more expensive in terms of social welfare and having enough active workforce to pay for it all.

Ultimately there are two choices in that scenario: ration resources more tightly, reduce standards of living, and accept that as a new normal; or start growing again.


I wonder if it has something to do with corruption being tolerated in the Cold War era in order to prevent Soviet influence.


That is the case with most countries including India. It is difficult to have conversations about public debt, fiscal responsibilities without getting mired in some emotional debate.


You can only survive a few days without water. And when you don't drink, your capacity for thinking peacefully disapear quickly.

So you have more than a billion of people that will soon need to drink on a packed polluted land. And the country has already huge social tensions, a gigantic gap between the legion of the poor and the small group of the rich, plus the nuclear weapon.

China took the himalaya for this very reason years ago. Fresh water is more important than the dalai lama.

But for india, the 3rd world war could very much start here. I wish i was joking, but i have political analysts around me that take this possibility very seriously.


>> China took the himalaya for this very reason years ago. Fresh water is more important than the dalai lama.

Tibet is a cold desert or tundra. Please don't spin this around. China has an abundant land elsewhere outside of Tibet which provides plenty of rainfall. China's intentions and justification for their relationship with Tibet is largely political and strategic.


When your territory is saturated with pollution, rainfall is not going to help.

Air is already a problem is some parts of China. So water ?

They will eventually need to choose between their industries and water. And they will choose their industries. Their gov knew this, and made a bet on Tibet.

Now, because India gets most of Tibet's water, they had to hide the plan behind something that made sense. And they did had a problem with part of the Buddhist community, so they killed 2 birds with one stone.


Thank you, i’m embarrassed to say i fell for it. Now i have to research and find out the likely truth.


Easy. Take google map. Look for the blue areas in tibet. Look at the number and size of them. No factories here. Just clean water.

A territory, btw, next to india.


>next to India.

Ha, I guess if you can say crossing the Himalayas is next to anything. I’m trying to imagine the trans-Annapurna pipeline right now.

Also, I’ve Nepalese friends who would tell me Nepal is actually between Tibet and India.

About those blue areas though, yeah it has a Minnesota-looking tapestry of lakes spread out over 1000 miles, about 300 mi north of the mountain range.


Huh so, Tibet does generate a lot of water relative to its size (>620 km^3 per year). By comparison China only generates 3-4x as much water total. However, the vast majority of Tibet's water drains to India not China (like >85% or something).

So at first glance I don't see it. Is the concern that China is somehow going to massively redirect water flows somehow and take water away from India?


China and India share the same water problem. When the time comes, yes, China will drain all the water it needs from Tibet. And probably sell access to India.

You don't need to redirect it though. You can, but you could also pipe it, pump it, bottle it, whatever.

The thing is, when you have no water, cost is no issue, because the stuff is way more valuable than gold.

The only real issue is India getting mad about it. But now that Tibet is China's territory, it has a legitimacy that will be impossible to contest peacefully.


>>India is being held hostage in a prison of corruption by greed

While this is true. The true problem really is the population scale is just too much. At that point everything breaks.

We really are a society of extreme scarcity. There could be enough for everyone, but there are just too many people. People do the obvious and optimize to no end for personal profit. At one point in time people thought the government is corrupt, or that government jobs automatically come with corruption. At that point in time around late 80's there was a sentiment private jobs and enterprises would come along and solve all this. Something like the exact opposite happened. Almost every company I've worked I have seen politics and corruption to no end for foreign travel opportunities, pay rises, equity and promotions. This automatically creates a situation where merit can never win. You can start all the start ups you want but if you can't solve this problem its just attempting to build a pyramid on quick sand.

>>I don't understand at all the increasing rents, property prices amidst the impending crisis.

Why don't you understand this?

Settling in cities is the only hope for a decent job currently. Farming jobs are long gone and are not profitable for a long time. Most farms lands are owned by a few families and the remaining people just slave around on that. For those people the only escape is to start a small shop or get some education and get a job in the city. So those people will keep coming to cities. And we can only develop a few cities as we don't have enough tax collection to build and develop all over. This concentrates people into a few cities.

Now you have a high demand and low supply situation. There fore high rents and property prices.

Ideally if you had good transit then you could expand to outskirts and increase supply. But some 1000 people come to a city like Bangalore everyday, and there isn't enough tax money to build that sort of infrastructure.

>>Given that, especially, only a handful hoard most of the wealth and could afford buying or renting at today's rates.

If you start early, save and invest well, you could establish unbeatable lead over your colleagues. In a society like India where things are so scarce this is even more so true.


"Most farms lands are owned by a few families and the remaining people just slave around on that".

I wonder how you came to this conclusion. In fact, farming in India is very fragmented. Lot of farmers or people in rural areas own very small parcels of land and work on them. Yes, there are people or families which own large pieces of agricultural land, but not in the numbers that you seem to imply.

Also, lack of manpower for working on farms is a very real problem in India. Farming jobs still exist at a big scale in India because we don't have mechanization like western countries(Again because of fragmentation of farms). People are not willing to "slave around" in farms anymore because they get subsidies from government i.e. food at very low cost for people below BPL. And it is very easy to get a BPL card if you live in rural area. This comes from someone(me) who has worked and been around farms and is still involved in farming though not directly on a day to day basis.


This is again with regards to population scale. Those who own lands are way smaller in number compared to those who work on them. Thereby over supply of labor, bringing down wages.

>>Also, lack of manpower for working on farms is a very real problem in India.

That's not a problem, that's a solution. Nobody should do a job that doesn't work for them.


> But some 1000 people come to a city like Bangalore everyday

That’s really a lot of people if think about it. That’s 365,000 people a year. If a new city was built for all those people, in France it would be the 5th largest city.


> We really are a society of extreme scarcity.

That scarcity is completely artificial though. Wealth and income inequality make this obvious and they are the problem. A different social organisation could allow for everyone to have enough and probably make society less wasteful too.


Gujarat is almost surrounded by the ocean, it's an endless supply of water. You can build very low tech and very cheap systems to evaporate and condensate fresh water. Black container with salt water, a few reflective panels to concentrate the sun, tube to guide the steam/vapor into another container with the fresh water. It can be VERY cheap.

There are probably more efficient membrane-based solutions, but probably more expensive.


You won't provide water for a billion souls this way.


You don't have to. Gujarat's population is 63 million. And most of them get enough water to survive already.

Unless you meant to supply the whole country from Gujarat, in which case it's a straw man argument.


It also destroys the local ecosystem which many are dependent on for food and commerce.


> The thing that worries me the most is lack of fresh water. I belong to the Indian state of Gujarat mentioned in the article, and the pessimism isn't exaggerated at all.

but surely Ram mandir will fix all that. The real problem is cow slaughter, and inter-religious marriages, oh and Padmavat[i]


What will this argument achieve? It's not like the other side is asking people to be more responsible either. If you have Ram mandir on one side, then the other side were the guys in charge who led all the selloff and debt holidays for corporations in the first place. And don't get me started on the third side with their BS free electricity promises.

As long as you keep taking sides, you eventually become a part of the problem because every side is fucked up to the core.


Do you have better issues on which to win the largest amount of votes? People have no concept of how many different competing agendas exist in a country as large. Whatever issue you pick a large majority of the country is bothered about something else. Which is why things devolve to the lowest common denominator.


> Do you have better issues on which to win the largest amount of votes? ... which is why things devolve to the lowest common denominator.

That's what separates a leader from a petty peddler.

Its not the case that one hasn't seen such leadership before. But when politics is a career, why would one bother when they get a win with shallow clickbait issues. Leadership that needs sincerity, lets not do that, pimping up some clickbait issues, hell yeah.

As far as better issues there are plenty -- Better, sustainable basic infrastructure, better governance of resources ...


You forgot routine murders of RSS workers in Kerala.


> home to 400 million people

That's a pretty intense number even for India


Wikipedia says 200M (which is still an insane number). Typo in the parent comment?


Sorry, fixed it. I really meant to also include Bihar, Jharkhand.


Interestingly, most of the article thesis isn't specific about India being destructed, it's about the World being destructed (over exploitation of natural resources + pollution).

But the element that I find strangely missing is the one about population growth. I'm pretty sure that GDP per capita can grow, if not indefinitely, for a very very long time - if the population isn't too big. India will soon be the most populous country in the World and still growing strongly enough; I would be curious to know if this is seen as a big problem in India, or not...


The population growth isn't a problem "yet" but it is a problem when those people want to develop (ie increase energy consumption). Hans Rosling explains it well: https://www.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_and_the_magic_washing...


will energy consumption be less of an economic problem thanks to the break even of solar and coal?


World as a whole is hungry for energy. Industrialized nations have been able to reduce the link between economic growth and energy consumption, but the same is not true for the rest of the world.

Globally alternate energy adds to the global energy production, it's not replacing. When the industrialized world moves to alternate energies, developing world can afford to consume more oil, gas and coal. When solar becomes cheaper, it makes hydrocarbons cheaper due to decreasing demand. I don't see how solar power replaces the global hydrocarbon production significantly before it's too late. It certainly will not do so in the short or medium term.

Markets value large oil and coal companies and producers like the demand will continue. EIA estimates that global petroleum and other liquid fuels consumption and production are in constant upward path: https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/steo/report/global_oil.php


Fossil fuel production is highly competitive, so prices are pretty much set by the costs of the last marginal producer.

If the world decreases its consumption, the prices may go down (possibly by a large amount). But any increase in consumption will very likely push the prices up, it does not matter it the competition between consumers is small.


That was a great video! Thank you!


> strangely missing is the one about population growth

This.

There was a time when population explosion was recognised as something to deal with. For the last decade or so, somehow this conversation has simply vanished (from the school books, from political discourse, from the news media). It is as if we, the citizens, have collectively given up on this issue and want to pretend that the issue does not exist.

If I were to pick one single thing to start with, in order to reverse the current trend of environmental degradation, it would be population control. Unless this is addressed soon, it will be the root cause for the breakdown of the equilibrium of the environment and the social structure.


Well is that observation specific to India, or do you mean in the west?

In the west it's disappeared because the projections were all wrong. The population in rich countries does not replace itself. Without large levels of immigration the population would start to decline. This is partly why the EU is trying to force mass migration on the member states - it's for several (stated) reasons, but one of them is a belief that otherwise the population will decline and the economy will shrink.


> This is partly why the EU is trying to force mass migration on the member states - it's for several (stated) reasons, but one of them is a belief that otherwise the population will decline and the economy will shrink.

This is a completely unfounded speculation.


No it isn't.

http://www.dw.com/en/jean-claude-juncker-migrants-need-legal...

Europe will clearly need immigration in the coming decades, so we have to provide those who want to come, and are able to come, and whose situation makes it possible for them to come, with legal paths to get to Europe.

Why will it clearly need immigration? Because of demographics.

https://www.politico.eu/article/europe-migration-migrants-ar...

(written by Avramapolous, EU Migration Commissioner)

The EU has granted protection to more than 700,000 people last year. They have found safety in Europe, but we also need to make sure they find a home. This is not only a moral imperative. It is also an economic and social imperative for our aging continent — and one of the biggest challenges for the near future.

Note: aging continent.

The people who control the EU do routinely state their belief that the EU needs mass migration from Africa for demographic and economic reasons.


The population issue has become racially charged and therefore off limits to talk about in polite society.


I totally agree, I also noticed that this element was missing. A think, a crucial first step would be to stop population growth. This is very intrusive in people’s lives and hard to control as measure, but more than necessary. The footprint of a human being needs to be sustained by its local environment. Global effects are not helping, but in the end this problem requires a local solution.


The world's population growth is screeching to a halt almost universally, even without China-style coercion. This includes India, where the total fertility rate has fallen from >6 in the 1950s to around 2.4 today, and the steady decline is set to continue.


Last I've read the population growth has not reduced as quickly as hoped in Africa and soon most of the worlds population growth will happen there.


Do have source for that on a country level?


The animation & sources here is a good starting point: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_fertility_rate


I still don’t understand the relevance of your argument. No numbers are given on that page for India. Contrast that with this page, and you’ll see that India will increase its population quite significantly until 2030. How can you not see that this is a major problem?

Just because Japan is ageging India won’t be saved.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Projections_of_population_grow...


Take a look at India’s tfr here: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_states_and_union_ter...

‘Population momentum’ will mean they keep growing for a 2-3 decades but the tfr is very low in many states (well below replacement level) but there are a couple of big poor states where it’s still higher than replacement level but still not anywhere near as high as it used to be. The damage was done in the 50s and 60s for the most part, people are having far fewer children today. In some wealthy states like Punjab and Kerala it’s far below replacement and in fact lower than even Western Europe and the USA.


No population control is no longer a necessity. Hans Rosling explains it really well in this video: https://vimeo.com/79878808


Maybe globally it's not. Some regions however would eliminate a great amount of suffering were they able to implement it. Because at the end of the day population control comes around anyway.


I am starting to think that Hans Rosling did some real harm. People confuse a global trend with a local one. In a World with borders, local overpopulation will lead to catastrophes, where millions could be affected.


Overpopulation can be addressed by building more cities. Take India for example. Mumbai is overpopulated. The reason for this is that it's the financial hub of the country and also has a booming movie industry (Bollywood). But that will change once we have smart cities through the Smart Cities Mission: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smart_Cities_Mission

This will lead to natural decongestion as industries will spread out over a larger area causing large populations to shift base.

For instance, the Dholera Smart City (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jOFpWFLSqgU) based in Gujarat will become operational in 2019 (http://www.dnaindia.com/money/report-dholera-smart-city-to-b...).


"Economic growth is a central assumption to political and economic systems… But strong growth is not normal, being a recent phenomenon over the last two centuries… It was based upon the profligate use of mispriced natural resources such as oil, water and soil. It relied on allowing unsustainable degradation of the environment. The human race refuses to accept that it is not possible to have infinite growth and improvement in living standards in a finite world."

Exactly this - it seems that while we are aware of it as individuals, we act as of it were not so as societies.


The unstated (and unsupported) assumption is that economic growth requires growth in the use of resources.


well, even if it didn't, the increasing wealth leads to increased use of resources, as people will spend it on things, long distance flights etc.


Increased wealth comes from an increase production of value in the world. It is not a one-way street, one gains wealth by contributing to society. A single person's work can provide jobs for thousands. It can increase the production of food/housing/etc which helps millions of people. Or reduce millions of hours used in one area to free up human capital to focus on other areas, etc, etc. It's entirely possible for individuals in society to contribute far far more than they consume and set up systems which helps future generation contribute far more and at a faster rate than previously possible (ie, via investment in education, economic support systems, access to capital/banking, etc).

There's no reason why increased individual consumption can't be sustainable or a ultimately net gain in society despite their increased individual consumption (by their own productivity, contribution to taxes, economic contributions, social work via charity, etc).

This is what is so often overlooked in people's efforts to blame 'wealth accumulation' as the underlying problem, as if it only benefits that one person. Resulting in policies trying to reduce "wealth inequality" that ultimately end up hurting everyone (including the poor) in a 'noble, well intention' effort to punish the rich.

The government and volunteer groups are the primary bodies that needs to address and coordinate many of those social and economic issues.

The biggest problem with India is that:

a) the taxes/government organizations are wasted and terribly corrupt which hurt both economic growth for the middle class and small business [1], where only the powerful/connected are allowed to operate in an efficient business environment and social policies make little progress

b) countless individuals exploiting this corruption and contributing nothing to society (ie, rewarding people despite not contributing any value to the economy) by leeching off these public institutions either by getting friends in gov to do their bidding or more directly skimming off public funds

c) big longterm social issues can't be addressed with an ineffective government, a private/non-profit industry constrained by endless bureaucracy and top-down political influence, a healthy middle class and safety net (where the majority of the population can't live a sustainable lifestyle out of pure necessity to eat/live).

d) the smartest people needed to lead those non-profits and government agencies all leave to North America and Europe - driven away by the government incompetence, leaving many mediocre B-players in leadership positions within India, further contributing to government failure - an evil cycle.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVwIZzGHxwc


It only takes a shortage of one core resource (e.g. water) for a whole economy to crumble.


The concept of whether a belief in indefinite growth as a possible tragectory for human societies is “normal” offers little to people considering the issues.

You don’t have to look that far back in history to find examples of societal “norms” that are downright sociopathic. For all the problems of the developing world, life is much less cheap now, than any other time, anywhere

The US bombed civilian populations with napalm in the Vietnam War.

If anything, the forces of greed and self interest that lie behind the problems described in the article are timeless. The problem is that the human species has been so successful, and developed new technology, that there are new problems to go along.

Fundamentally, the most severe problems facing human populations have their roots in politics and culture, not resource constraints.

As I was thinking about what motivates the super rich to keep going with obtaining wealth far beyond their needs, I had a bit of an epiphany.

All people suffer from being vulnerable, by our nature, and assured of our own guaranteed destruction. To the extent that wealth creation and accumulation provide real, if marginal, improvements to our security, it’s not surprising that someone super rich would continue whole heartedly in one of the activities that actually does the increase security.

But since even the super rich are only a little bit more existentially secure than the rest of us, to stop with the process of wealth accumulation would deprive them of one of the few activities they have relied on to increase their sense of security. It would lead to a greater experience of their subjective personal powerlessness.

I also think, based on my own idle speculation, anecdotally, that more pronounced sociopathic behavioral traits are distributed among the population, across class.

Such traits provide an advantage to power seeking individuals, with talent, ambition, and cultural resources at their disposal. Hence, positions of power have an over representation of heartless, ruthless, greedy people in their ranks.

Such people, lacking in empathy and charity, once they reach positions of power, can distort the behavior of the institutions they control, leading to the kind depredations described in the original article.

The only hope against such people is that the mass of non-sociopathic individuals can weave supporting and countervailing structures.

If the societal institutions are strong enough, the talents of such driven people, with the “killer instinct” can be mitigated, and in some cases channeled into productive activities.

We see such sociopathic behavior from Trunp, big time. My fear right now is that in his wake, he is tearing at this social fabric, as an end in itself.

The people associated with him, the powerful republicans who populate Washington, are being”turned” by Trump, and are re-introducing and amplifying a “take no prisoners, scorched earth” approach to US politics.

Sean Spicer does not strike me, or probably anyone, as someone who would instinctively go on national TV, and spout obvious lies, in service of maintaining a corrupt politician. But that’s what he did.

I’m he’s asked himself many times, “what was I thinking?”


I don't understand any donwvotes on parent, because these dynamics are pretty well known and observed.


> not possible to have infinite growth and improvement in living standards in a finite world

But our world might be infinite, and there is certainly at least 20 orders of magnitude more available resources than our current usage, so this isn't a practical consideration.


What do you mean the world might be infinite? The Earth isn't. Do you mean the sun, asteroids and other planets in the solar system will provide all the resources and energy we could ever need? Because even that's not infinite on a Kardashev increasing energy scale.

But the real concern is the biosphere, which most certainly is finite and the 7.4 billion humans are very much dependant on it. Maybe we terraform Mars someday, but I doubt that will do much for life on Earth.


Unfortunately, the opposite is true for basic resources such as clean water and air: look up "Earth overshoot day" [1]

[1] https://phys.org/news/2017-08-earth-resource-spent-august.ht...


Near limitless clean water is a technological problem that we have already solved via reuse and desalination. The challenge now is to make it far less expensive, which we'll also do in the coming half century or so.

Vast progress in real-world use of desalination is why Israel can exist at all for example. [1]

Large cities in California will likely become supplied mostly by desalination in the near future. San Diego is getting 1/3 of its water from one plant. It can fulfill the water needs of its entire population for about the cost of three, one billion dollar desalination plants. I consider that an extreme bargain. Such plants will get cheaper and more efficient with time.

Indoor agriculture and altering crops to need less water, adjusting them to indoor efficient growing via CRISPR, will also significantly lessen our water demands over time. That'll take decades to bring to meaningful impact, however there's no scenario where we don't do that.

[1] https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/israel-proves-the...


The main problem with desalination is energy use. I don't see desalination on a massive scale happening unless we get a lot more (and thus cheaper) energy being produced.

Basically, fingers crossed for fusion.


Really? Do you have any evidence for this claim? Genuinely interested, as it's the first time I hear this.


Did you mean "20 times" instead of "orders of magnitude"?


I meant orders of magnitude, which most of the replies seem to have completely ignored.


Do you realize how large 20 orders of magnitude would be?!


It's fairly large - meaning we could double our population at current levels of resource usage every 100 years for about 6500 years before we start to reach the limits.


Yeah and the Malthusians have been predicting the downfall of civilization due to "non-infinite growth" for the last couple centuries as well. And they keep being proven wrong.

Just because growth isn't "infinite" says nothing about how far away we are from reaching the limits of the planet.

Personally, I think that limit is much closer to 1 trillion people living on the earth than it is to 1 billion people. So we've got a ways to go.

The facts show, that by every metric of quality of life, life is better than it has ever been in the history of the world.


Original Mathusianism should be distinguished from neo-Malthusianism, in that the latter does at least have some evidential basis in that it is based on measurement of resource levels and their rate of use, not just some political philosopher's wooly notion of overpopulation.

The problem, as I see it, is that even if you are optimistic about the theoretical capacity of the planet to sustain human life, its practical capacity is limited by how efficiently we use the resources to hand, and the current system does not properly incentivise efficient use. More often, it's the complete opposite, because the price of resources like water and soil does not reflect their true scarcity.

It's like having a large store of firewood. Enough, in theory, to heat your home through several years of harsh winters. Then you burn the whole stockpile in a great bonfire on the first cold Autumn night. That night, by every metric, you'll be warmer and cosier than you ever have been before, but you'll still have doomed yourself.


Reminds me of the well-known type of question in introductory calculus:

Q: "A population of bacteria in a petri-dish doubles every hour, after 24 hours the petri-dish reaches 100% saturation. At what time did the petri-dish reach 50% saturation?"

A: 23 hours.


"How efficiently we use the resources to hand" depends on how many people are working on solving that problem (of efficient use of resources). Higher population would mean more people trying to find more efficient use of resources.


> you burn the whole stockpile in a great bonfire on the first cold Autumn night.

How can people possibly burn our Sun energy ahead of time (billions of years ahead)?


>Personally, I think that limit is much closer to 1 trillion people living on the earth than it is to 1 billion people.

Honestly, you can think whatever you want. But what people want to think and what's actually true often don't line up, and they certainly don't here.

Wikipedia says that the total land mass of Earth is about 150,000,000 km^2. Do you really think a global population density of 6666 people/square kilometer on every single piece of land on earth is in any way sustainable? That's a population density that exceeds Tokyo. Japan's population is heavily dependent on food imports to sustain itself. When the whole world is denser than Tokyo, where is the food going to come from?


Much of the world is empty, undeveloped land right now, and cities take up a very small percentage of land.

Double the amount of cities in the world, from 1% to 2% of land usage, and that's 5 billion more people that the world can support.

For food well, we currently only use a very small percentage of the sunlight that hits the earth, and energy = food. Especially if lab technology for growing food gets much better.

Yeah, it is unsubstantiated sci-fi predictions but taking about these Sci-fi scenarios in detail is kinda missing the point.

The point I was trying to make, is that the whole "resources are finite" is a dumb argument because it doesn't say at all how close we are to that limit.

Someone's 1 billion people carrying capacity prediction is just as valid as my unsubstantiated 1 trillion people prediction.

And if you are predicting that doomsday overpopulation scenario is right around the corner, you better provide some damn good evidence, because all the current evidence shows that humans are doing better than they ever have been in the history of the world.

Evidence for us hitting the carrying capacity of the planet would be things like "hunger is increasing and quality of life is going down in these overpopulated places". But so far this is not happening.


That's 150m^2 per person. If everyone lives in skyscrapers then living space isn't much of that, and 150m^2 is (in the best case) enough for one person's food. So it might be that this scenario is impossible for other reasons, but I don't think mere land area is a problem.


You mean if every meter of the planet was covered with skyscrapers? Not sure how that's remotely realistic.

And it sounds incredibly dystopian.


No, the opposite. I mean you could use skyscrapers to make people's living space take up a much smaller proportion of the land area, leaving the rest free for farming.


Land usable for agriculture is a significantly smaller percentage than that.


Where exactly would the resources for enough skyscrapers to house a trillion humans come from? The world is facing a sand shortage already with not even 1% of that imagined population.


Sure whatever. I'm just saying land area isn't the problem.


Except it is. At least half the world's land is unusable for agriculture, and often for habitation. And transport had to be btaen into account for area. And that leaves no space for any wilderness, forests etc. Which is impossible ecologically. Your theoretical arguments here have no practical value.


> Just because growth isn't "infinite" says nothing about how far away we are from reaching the limits of the planet.

And just because Malthusians have been wrong for centuries, doesn't mean they won't turn out to be right in the next 50 years. At some point something will snap. Yeah, we have it pretty good right now. At least those of us in the west. I'm not sure if those people in India who have to endure 51 Celsius heats, don't have access to fresh water and live in areas where it's hard to breathe are in a better positions than their ancestors.

A trillion people on Earth may be possible if there was a God designing the planet from scratch with the specific aim to put a trillion people on it. But moving gradually to such a number, from where we are now, I'd say is absolutely impossible. Countries like India and China that are already bursting at the seams, seem to be proving that.


Sure, the world's resources are finite, and we will hit those limits "eventually".

But the burden of proof is on the doomsday predictors who claim that doomsday is right around the corner, when all actual evidence shows that things are going great right now.

China and India are NOT bursting at the seems. Quality of life is better there than they have ever been. Quality of life is still going up, and it is going up like crazy in those places.

You can look at any quality of life metric at all. Mortality rates. Access to fresh water. Diseases. Hunger levels. Life expectancy. They are ALL getting better. And they are getting better by leaps and bounds.

No, not just in the west. In poor countries and the third world.

Evidence that they are having problems, would look something like "hunger is going up, and quality of life is going down." but that isn't happening.


> Personally, I think that limit is much closer to 1 trillion people living on the earth than it is to 1 billion people. So we've got a ways to go.

A bold claim given we’re already way over the ecosystem limits regarding CO2 production, biodiversity loss, atmospheric nitrogen depletion; and close to the limits for ocean acidification, land use converted to cropland, & water consumption; and until we invent sustainable replacements for currently non-renewable oil drilling and phosphorus mining, it’s probably a better idea to say “fund research into fixing this” than “it’s all good”.


You always measure distance taken with speed?

Quality of life is nothing without way to sustain it long term.


> Personally, I think that limit is much closer to 1 trillion people living on the earth than it is to 1 billion people.

There's enough for everyone's need, but not enough for everyone's greed. -- Gandhi

> The facts show, that by every metric of quality of life, life is better than it has ever been in the history of the world.

Also, the gap between rich an poor has never been bigger.


Also, the gap between rich an poor has never been bigger.

In terms of digits in a bank account, that's probably true. Is it true in terms of actual living conditions and power? Is the gap now wider than between Louis XIV and his Haitian slaves?


Yes.

With scientific and engineering advances, we in the "first world" have all the royalty-level of power and energy at our disposal. Washing machine alone is an equivalent of a maid or two. The ability to just sit down whenever and enjoy a play or a concert on TV is something you can do now, while it was utterly impossible for even the most powerful kings. If you couple this with advances in medicine it's safe to say that we live our lives in comfort and safety unheard of ever before, to the point that kings of the past, with all the personnel, seem trivial.

Meanwhile, "Haitan slaves" - or just normal people who didn't have the luck to born where they should - live exactly the same way they lived hundreds and possibly thousands of years ago. They struggle every day just to have something to eat and they die of hunger if they fail. The technology they use is the same as it was a thousand years back.

In effect, the gap between rich and poor only widened in time. And that's comparing low end to a average in first world countries. It gets really ugly when we start comparing low end with top 1% - it's the difference between struggling to just stay alive another day and taking a leisure trip to the ISS (or was it Mir back then?). The difference between having half of your family dead before your thirties and having a healthy life with all your friends well into 80s.

So in short, yes, living conditions of a king and a peasant were worlds apart but it did get markedly worse with time.


Well, given that there are still slaves (maybe even Haitian ones) and the living conditions of the average first world working class person are far better than those of Louis XIV, I'd say yes.


> Also, the gap between rich an poor has never been bigger.

Actually, it has been much bigger in the 19th century. Source: Piketty


> The gap between rich an poor has never been bigger.

So?

I'd rather live in the modern day, "unequally" with the rich, than starve or die of disease equally with the rich of the middle ages.

Just because the rich have 100Xed in quality of life over the last century, doesn't negate the fact that the poor have 10Xed in quality of life.

Making everyone equal is easy. Just make them all equally dead, starving, or miserable, just like they were in past centuries.


The counter to the reflex argument "it's worked thus far" is the parable of the turkey. Or the guy who jumped out a 100th floor window (and passing the 2nd floor said "so far so good").

https://blog.commonwealth.com/independent-market-observer/th...

Looking at the past only works if the future is like the past. It's a lazy argument, but sure, statistically you are right most of the time.

This in turn is a case of survivorship bias and a result of how you count: Everybody who is wrong is weeded out immediately. If you sample many times you are more likely to find that it all works just fine because those who survive are counted many times, failures only count one time. The more often you count the more your argument will look favorably for the side of the "anti-alarmists".


Not being able to drink the water is bad enough, but not being able to breathe takes it up another level.

It's such a sad state of affairs that in many parts of the world we can't even breathe the air. I'm in Thailand up in Chiang Mai where the "burning season"[1] has just begun. The mountains in the distance, normally plainly visible, are gone, hidden behind a blanket of smoke/smog. And the locals tell me, "hah, this is nothing, wait until March [when the air quality goes from merely unhealthy, to hazardous]".

Berkeley Earth[2] reveals the state of the air in this side of the world. Am thinking of heading to northern India but it seems there's no safe haven short of climbing Mount Everest. Maybe at other times of year the air quality is much better; for the locals I hope so.

[1] In Asia apparently every spring the farmers burn the previous season's rice fields in order to enrich the soil for the next crop.

[2] http://berkeleyearth.org/air-quality-real-time-map/?z=4&x=10...


You could consider going to Laos, the air is definitely better here


Thanks, think I'll probably head somewhere in southern Thailand until my visa expires.


I can't help but think that these problems won't be solved until there's an obvious, short term incentive for our lawmakers to actually tackle these problems in any tangible way.

The public outcry has been constant for decades. The information and alarmism has existed for just as long. There's no shortage of reasons why we shouldn't tackle these issues. Those in the power to enact significant change to environmental and economic models aren't incentivized to. How do we shift perception to incentivize sustainable growth, rather than growth in isolation. How do we incentivize politicians to feel rewarded for methodical long term changes rather than short term successes at the cost of finite resources?


The public outcry that you mention is not even close to large enough.

Sure, everyone is for reducing pollution and against climate change in the abstract, but then in my country coal miners rally (successfully) to avoid their mines getting shut down, drivers complain when car lanes or parking space are replaced with bike lanes or sidewalk, half of the population buys diesel cars to save a few bucks, many go to live in suburbs and plan their life around the car, and people give close to zero weight to environmental proposals in elections.

There are countries with more environmental consciousness than mine (I'm from Spain and sadly it's very far from being a model country in this...), but anyway, public outcry is worthless if it is hypocritical and near the bottom of people's list of priorities.

By the way, the answer to your question is that elections provide a great way of incentivizing long-term thinking in politicians: just don't vote those that don't exhibit it. It's the voters' fault if we don't take that into account and instead vote based on stuff like "unemployment has gone down 2% in the last 4 years" (probably more due to global trends and long-term decisions of previous administrations than to whatever the current one recently did...)


> How do we incentivize politicians to feel rewarded for methodical long term changes rather than short term successes

Make sure they stay in office for a long time.


Run a patreon style system where sustained long term benefits are rewarded with sustained long term income/rewards to the politicians?


Interesting approach. I'd like to also see a transparent system where campaign funds are kept in escrow until specific goals are achieved, those goals set by the donors


This is a great idea but I'm not sure it will work out.

Numbers are touched up all the time, both in politics (e.g. few governments will admit to lowering the employment rate, if things are not working, usually a new way of counting the unemployed is introduced) and in large companies (managers who report "everything's fine" up the chain until it's too late).

Applied to your idea, donors will have to come up with KPIs to meet. Whatever the situation, the KPIs will magically look good. And if there are no KPIs, nobody will dare take the job.


In my experience, politicians find new ways to massage the numbers but the civil service keeps collecting the old ones. But, I live in quite a democratic country:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/feb/22/britai...

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/feb/26/uk-governmen...


I find neo-Malthusian arguments like this need to be taken with a serious grain of salt. Much of the article would have applied word for word for China a decade or two ago, and that country continues to struggle with environmental problems as gargantuan as India's -- but it's now also equally clear that they have turned a corner and are not just taking the issue seriously, but starting to make an impact.


As an Indian living in the United States, I hope the development choices made in India skip some of the unsustainable choices made by other countries. Car ownership should be discouraged to a higher degree than what it is today, and we should focus a lot more on efficient carpooling solutions. Things like bikeshare, etc however may never be a realistic solution in most urban cities.

One other thing is most places in Mumbai for example don't have strict zoning practices. I do think that this has some unintentional benefits like lower travel time for commuting by colocating housing and offices.


As a Indian, convincing people not to buy cars is going to be very hard, if not impossible. Cars represent social status, and they are a big step forward in comfort when traveling. Even if the public transport system improves drastically, the comfort and privacy that one gets in a car is unrivaled (remember that public transport, be it trains or buses, is always overcrowded).

The general attitude among middle class, when discussing how unsustainable cars are, is - why do I, as a first time car owner, have to think about pollution and traffic when all first-world countries have enjoyed it for decades? I don't necessarily agree with that stance, although I understand it.


Impose a tax on fuel that is enough to pay to repair the environmental damage. Then it doesn't really matter if the tax disuades car ownership or not. If it doesn't then you have the money.


India already has very high tax on fuel - https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-breakdown-of-petrol-price-...

The problem is that a huge percent of the population use two wheelers to get around and any hike in petrol prices will affect them adversely.


That also requires the will to spend the money on offsetting the environmental damage done.


That's technically a separate issue. If you spend the money on hospitals instead then the environment will get worse, but you have the hospitals. You should just try to spend the money wherever it's most effective. If the environment gets worse because of that then whatever you got in exchange must (by definition) more than compensate.

I agree that spending money on the environment is a good idea, but it's still a separate cause. We could spend money on the environment even if we weren't taxing those who harm it.


As an "American" who's visited India as a tourist once, I have some questions to educate myself.

1) India is a very large and very diverse country. How is the culture of acceptance towards carpooling and resource sharing, especially when it will gain an ascendant middle class like we're seeing in China?

2) Vehicles have always had a status communication role. Is there something we can tap into that can impede this desire?


> 2) Vehicles have always had a status communication role. Is there something we can tap into that can impede this desire?

I really doubt it. People are always looking around for honest signals about each other, and a vehicle is the most expensive possession other people will see in a casual social setting by at least an order of magnitude. Whether you're at school, work, a bar, hiking, etc, people will see you get into your car.


1. Car pooling has become very acceptable. I live in NCR and every time I've taken an Uber Pool or Ola Share the car has been packed to capacity. This is especially popular among solo office travellers.

2. This has, sort of, lost its charm with the younger generation especially if they are earning well or used to own a car. Public transit has become faster (on the order of twice as fast during peak time) compared to driving. 2 wheelers are more popular than 4 wheels for cost and practical reasons.


Not specific to India but one theory behind luxury tax type approaches is that the social signalling still remains, but everything is shifted down a bit.

So if car pollution, parking, congestion is priced appropriately then some people will still have bigger, less efficient vehicles to show off but the baseline will be lower and therefore society as a whole is better off.


1) I think most of the resource sharing is driven out of cost necessities. There are many places where people share a single autorickshaw to the same destination. This is sometimes because there is a shortage of taxi/autorickshaws/bus availability at peak hours. I tried Uber pool a couple of times in Mumbai and almost always travelled alone. Not sure what's the reason.

2) The status still exists. However it can be practical to not own a car as roads are extremely congested in big cities (in some places temporarily worsened by public transportation infrastructure projects)


It shines new light on the mindset that promises bullet trains and ‘smart cities’ while neglecting public health and malnutrition; the pursuit of heartless policies calculated to keep agriculture economically unviable, driving the rural poor "wholesale into the cities to serve as cheap fodder for India’s ‘economic miracle’; and the permanent destruction of million-year-old mountains, forests and rivers to create a ‘nine-day’ industrial wonder."

I cannot agree with this more.


I live in South America, where we have plenty of space. Bangladesh is half the size of my state, but has 14 times its population. And 18% of Bangladesh floods during the monsoon. China has more people than India, but because it is so much larger, its density is similar to a European country's (Italy is denser than China).

India and Bangladesh make me very afraid for the future.


China's population is unevenly distributed. There is a large concentration in eastern coastal regions. There are provinces with larger population than Italy and MUCH higher population density.

The whole of Europe, similar in area to China, has 1/2 the population density of China.


India has more arable land (though less productive) than China.


The article on China linked to is also excellent: http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/31478-china-s-communist-c...


It took 200,000 years for our human population to reach 1 billion—and only 200 years to reach 7 billion...

6 minute American Museum of Natural History animation

https://youtu.be/PUwmA3Q0_OE

The fundamental problem is over population IMO


I was recently in Delhi for a few days.. the pollution really is truly awful. Indeed, I even had an layover on the way back (where I didn't even leave the airport) and I almost needed to wash my clothes after walking from the terminal to the plane doors. :/


Always nice to see mention of Kumarappa in an article. His viewpoint deserves more consideration than it gets.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._C._Kumarappa


Article discusses only one side of the debate, and media just publishes it without proper research. It should also mention the efforts taken to overcome the issues of environment, economy or infrastructure.


So what are the efforts taken to overcome these issues?


That's an Interstellar like scenario. Things literally are very bad in India. Ecological disaster has already started. But the same is true for most countries.


I think Govt should focus on Solar based Lift irrigation projects https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/gujarat-model-of-hate-i...


You could change "India" to "United States" in this article and still be pretty accurate.


I read the other day that chicken farmers are working on a solution to this problem https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16281316


I hope that one day, government corruption will be a solved problem. []-[]-[]-[]


1% in India cannot own 73% Wealth unless they're running Pyramid schemes.

Govt should impose 30% #InheritanceTax and use those funds for free healthcare/education/pensions.


Are short-term sea rise forecasts really up to 11 feet? Won’t that wipe out a big chunk of Silicon Valley?


If you ignore the IPCC reports of 1.5m because it was based on inomplete data and consequently intentionally ignored several positive feedback liops, the most recent studies suggest 3m-4m by 2075-2100 are very possible and even likely. This obviously totally floods places like miami, osaka, all three airports in NYC, Bangladesh is gone, many of the coastal Chinese cities, parts of vancouver, etc. I haven't looked in detail at Silicon Valley but the western coast tends to fare better because there is a rapid rise from the coast (many cliffs as well though they are extra vulnerable to increased erosion and you will see many collapses) and because of how the rise won't be even (due to gravity and other variables), places like the east coast will see a much greater percentage of that water focus there.


"Exploitation and inequality is innate to the industrial-capitalist system; a fact well-known at least since the time of Marx." Citation needed?


I mean, Marx would be the citation, but it's important to remember that exploitation in this context is a neutral term, not a judgment. It just means that people who own means of production (i.e. capitalists) can extract economic rent from people who don't (i.e. workers, who need access to those means of production to generate wealth). That shouldn't be controversial - the problem with Marx wasn't that he pointed this out, but rather his statement that it is a fundamental problem, and remedies offered for it.


If 'exploitation' is in the ethically neutral sense of taking something with latent potential and bringing it to bear then this isn't particularly controversial.

Capitalism has a happy partnership with inequality. People who exploit resource effectively get given more resources; that is the heart of the system. Works really well. Builds societies that are the envy of the world. Even people who squander resources can expect to come out ahead (they get a small share of a bigger pie).


One of the biggest flaws of democracies is that they strongly incentivize policy makers to follow short-term gains over long-term goals.


Because dictatorships are so famous for their 100 year horizons?

The USSR planned its world in 5-year spans. That's about the same length of time between elections in most democracies. Lots of people like to say things like "one of the biggest flaws of democracies" but I've yet to see such a statement that actually doesn't also apply to other systems of government.


Except china had the one child policy which clearly had long term goals in mind. Singapore also implemented eugenics policies and still has them to some degree.

Realistically population one of the few things you can take a long term view on, since so geo politics and technology are so unpredictable. With population planning much of the effects are only to come a generation later so mostly only a long term concern. It is also completely radioactive as far as modern democracies are concerned.


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Please don't use HN for political battle. It's not what this site is for, and it destroys what it is for.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


And India did have different govt for 6 decades that didn’t focus on Hindu agenda but had “Us vs Them” in other forms.


Which government are you referring to? India had several governments in the past. And yes the same lumpen elements in the past too had created the same "Us vs Them". There is a known religious right wing which follows this agenda. Which other government apart from that are you referring to how ?


Pretty apt. In its pursuit of Hindutva agenda, the govt is encouraging rabble-rousers and actively persecuting the liberals. Heck even the PM and his immediate advisers resort to demagoguery every time there is an election around the corner.




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