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> the US has stalled or moved backward, at least the Federal level.

It has at the individual level too for most individuals. Try to get someone to consider flying less. Look at the size of vehicles on the road. How much meat we eat. Air conditioning to point of needing sweaters in the summer and heating to wearing shorts in the winter.

All personal choices anyone can make, no legislation necessary. We can blame fossil fuel companies, and they are abusing their power, but we have a long way to go as individuals before legislators see that regulation will result in more votes, not less.




I work in a bank. They keep it so cold inside in the summer that employees are forced to have space heaters in their offices to keep from shivering all day. All in hopes that a customer who comes in from the outside heat will feel comfortable for the less than 5 minutes that they are inside.

The amount of waste is unreal and disgusting. I was laughed at the other day by a coworker because I commented on how much energy we waste by doing this. He said, "But you don't have to pay for it. Who cares?"

That about sums up the attitude here in Texas.


At least in commercial buildings in humid climates, building air is cooled by industrial chillers to lower humidty to acceptable levels (chiefly to inhibit mold growth I think), then the air is heated for comfort. So it would actually use more energy to make these spaces warmer. This is what I have been told by some building engineers/architects.


A chiller generates a lot of heat which is discharged outside (for example on the building roof). I would ask the engineer why they don't use this heat to reheat the dehumidified air.


I work for a financial group, and no customer will ever have a reason to come into this specific building whatsoever. Current outside temp this morning is about 65F with a high of 68F. The temperature set for inside is 60F. What sadistic person thinks that 60F is comfortable? That temperature never moves.

I wear thin sweaters to work during the summer. Last summer, I went inside a gas station after work to grab a snack. The outside temp was anywhere from 90F to 110F. The woman behind the counter asked if I had a medical condition, because, "Who wears a sweater during the summer?" I laughed and explained how my office building is an ice box.


This is a problem even in tropical countries such as India and Singapore. The contrast between outside and inside temperatures is insane. We get headaches and God knows what the long term detrimental health effects are. It's worse in Singapore as the subway is also super cold.


This affects hotels/conference rooms in Singapore a lot. It's a bit absurd - I needed shorts+tshirt to survive the trip to the hotel and then a sweater to survive the conference inside. I'm not sure how can people deal with it every day.


I’m living in SG 5 years now, moved in from Europe. You get used to the temperature outside (Took me two months to get adjusted), so wearing long trousers and a shirt is ok now. That also works for inside. When I’m back home now everything < 25°C is cold!


As long as the energy wasted is clean energy, I guess it should be fine? The sun is shining on Earth at all times and most of the energy is wasted.


(a) it isn't clean energy, generally;

(b) setting up the infrastructure to produce clean energy is not purely clean itself.

Until you can account for every last gram of toxic solvent, mine tailings, electricity consumed during manufacture, and CO2 produced during transport from e.g. solar panels, it's not entirely clean. It's just better than the alternative. Not using the energy is always cleaner.


I read an article a few months back (no reference handy, unfortunately) that was talking about attitudes towards energy utilization in Quebec, Canada, where the vast majority of the electricity is generated from hydro. The basic conclusion was that when everyone knows that the energy they're using is "clean", they don't actually worry too much about it.

That idea really excites me! If our energy sources are both clean and abundant, that opens up a lot of doors to technology that previously had uncomfortable tradeoffs. For example, high-energy-consumption recycling instead of mining new raw materials; right now it can be a bit of a wash (sure, we're mining less, but we're burning coal to power the process), but post-scarce-clean-energy it becomes way less of concern. Likewise with a lot of automation tasks. Very exciting!


Constructing clean energy is not without greenhouse gas emissions, and the wastage of clean energy means that soemone else is required to use dirty energy. Now once we get to a world of 100% clean energy this won't be true, but AFAIK only a few countries have achieved this so far, and it only occurs when weather conditions are just right.


It would be fine if all energy used everywhere on the planet was green. Until then, wasting clean energy still creates more demand for that clean energy, which affects its price and thus its competitiveness vs other energy sources. Even in Quebec, for example, energy not used is sold outside the province.


Wasting a resource decreases its supply. With legitimate demand constant, the decrease in supply increases the price of the good. If the price is then in the fossil fuel range, you’ve increased the demand for fossil fuel.


As someone who generates a lot of waste - environmental responsibility just doesn't factor into my consumption decisions.

I work from home so I have the A/C set to be fairly cold. I enjoy a specific brand of bottled water. A major online retailer sells this water cheaper than my local store. I drive a car that gets about 15mpg because I enjoy driving it. I generate approx 13 gallons of trash per day. This is mostly shipping materials and grocery packaging.

All of these examples are the direct consequence of prioritizing myself. There simply has to be a stronger (perhaps economic) incentive that will change the behavior of people like me.


I wanted to change my habits because I thought it was the right thing to do. So we put solar on the roof and bought a cheap used electric car (a Leaf). My goal was to do the right thing, but the result has been unforeseen benefits.

The solar power more or less makes us net neutral, even when factoring in the electricity for the car.

In short:

- The solar power will pay for itself in less than five years.

- We don't have an electric bill to speak of. (There is an eight dollar a month charge for just being hooked up to the grid.)

- We pay very little to run the Leaf. (We pay nothing when we charge at home, but sometimes we charge on the road.)

I'm surprised by this outcome. I started out trying to do the right thing but ended up doing something that benefited me financially.


If I read you right, beyond the environmental reasons and beyond the financial results, you sound happier than expected at acting on your values.

I think people don't realize the happiness and emotional reward that comes with acting on your values in the face of resistance.

That's why my podcast http://joshuaspodek.com/podcast focuses on leadership first. The joy, fun, meaning, value, purpose, and community parts of acting on your values are what make it fun. I'm in it because my food is more delicious, though it's cheaper too.

Crossing the finish line of a marathon is similar. It costs me money and causes me pain, but it's one of the best things I've ever done. People can live life for comfort and convenience, but for me the best things come from activity.


Five year payoff for solar is good - below (above?) average.


While I don't dispute that economic incentives are important in changing people's behavior on large scales... on a purely individual level, whatever happened to doing something because it's the right thing to do? You're not some self-serving automaton. You're aware that these practices produce unnecessary waste. Is your tap water unsafe to consume?


> whatever happened to doing something because it's the right thing to do?

Taken to its logical conclusion, one could follow anyone around and claim they aren't doing the most right thing. The "right thing to do" is a scale, not binary, and it often conflicts. E.g. right thing to do for self health, vs environment, vs for my customers, vs for my employees, vs for my family (and time with them), vs happiness (for self and others), etc. GP is right, you have to align "right thing to do" with "prudent thing to do" and it becomes viable. Otherwise, to many it comes off as preaching as though they are bad people when they only optimize for other right things.


Agree, that is why one should advocate taxation and subsidies which promote green lifestyles rather than moralizing and pestering people. Just make it economic to be environmentally friendly.

Now I don't drive but I use public transport. However I'd be okay with biking if we had a much better bike lane system in Oslo, Norway where I live. When I lived in the Netherlands I biked everywhere. It was often faster to do than public transport. It felt safe and it gave me about 1 hours of exercise each day.

You feel better from getting exercise, you save money and time. So once cities and authorities actually plan for green living it isn't very hard to do so.

Yet in my native Norway, the green shift has been much more about making life miserable for those who drive, while making few benefits for those who use public transport or drive.

A particular bad development, is ever more centralization by the government in the same of efficiency and saving money. It means pharmacies, doctors offices, police stations, hospitals are made fewer and placed further and further apart. This means public services you used to be able to walk to or bike to, now requires a car.

All this happens while government keeps harping on people needing to use their car less.

There is a lot of things I think our government is really good at in Norway, but transport is an area we utterly suck at. I am very envious of the Dutch.


> There simply has to be a stronger (perhaps economic) incentive that will change the behavior of people like me.

People like you might want economic incentives, but what they actually need is a better education.


Seems he's quite aware and knowledgeable about his impact, he's just the kind of person who is apathetic to the tragedy of the commons, aka why humanity can't have nice things.


I won't rip you for being honest, and I suspect there are a ton of people out there that behave either consciously or unconsciously like this. It's not sustainable, so society will either have to tax these behaviors at the consumer or ban them at the producer side, or some combination of both.

But I do hope that consumers start to choose better habits, because if we don't, we're going to hit a wall sooner or later.


Artificial scarcity of garbage disposal maybe? Where I live in Australia, you wouldn't be able to put 13 gallons of trash a day in a bin. The trash bin has maybe 20-30 gallons total and gets taken every other week. The recycling and compost are larger and get taken more often. You could produce more garbage of course, but then it's up to you to drive to the tip and you'll have to pay to drop stuff off.


If you value how you affect other people, you may find that acting on that value improves your life.

Simply prioritizing yourself and only caring about economic incentives would motivate stealing when you know you won't get caught.

You sound as if you know your waste is hurting other people. You have your values, but if I lived as you describe, knowing my externalities needlessly hurt people would eat me up inside -- no right, wrong, good, or bad, just my personal values. I would change simply to feel better about myself and my role in my community, local and global. Just because people can't see how I'm affecting them, I still am.

If you don't value how you affect other people, my view is to live and let live and hope that people who care enough to act outnumber people like you enough that your waste doesn't hurt that many people.

I suspect that if you started changing a few things, you'd find the emotional reward to change more. I created my podcast http://joshuaspodek.com/podcast for people to hear leaders doing just that.


You are essentially explaining why people and companies need to be held accountable for externalities. If you were taxed on the order of your waste, you’d rapidly change your behavior because you’d actually be paying for it.


This is so true, one can be thought of as crazy for suggesting some of those ideas you mentioned. I've come to realise that it's the market that drives a lot of demand. Sure, in some cases markets are rigged in the fossil fuel industries favour (by the Government); However, I see more people not caring about environmental issues than anything else so it makes it easier for politicians to do nothing.


While these are personal choices, there must be some incentive. If increased electricity bill from abusing "Air conditioning to point of needing sweaters in the summer and heating to wearing shorts in the winter" compared to conservative temperatures boils down to single digit percentage values (as non-USian I don't know what those values are) of all annual home upkeep expenses, it is difficult to rationalize saving.


> there must be some incentive

My experience and observation say otherwise. I have no incentive not to litter when I know no one will fine me. Still I get up and walk trash to garbage cans. Even with all the litter around, most people still walk trash to garbage cans instead of littering.

Most people don't shoplift even when they know they wouldn't get caught. Most people stop at red lights in the middle of the night when no one is around. Etc. Etc.

I've found living by my values the greatest incentive. The alternative is to try to accept that my comfort and convenience come at the cost of others' health and resources, which ate me up inside.

I think most people value clean air and water enough that when the culture shifts, they won't need material incentive.

Laws will follow behavior, not the other way around.


Partly agree. It is fine when it puts low demands on you. It is much harder to get people to do the right thing when it is a significant burden.

It is also a question of habit and social norms. A lot of what we claim is internal moral values, is really just social conformism. We don't throw garbage around and shop lift in large part because we don't want to be worse people than everybody else we know.

We see this in countries with a lot of cheating on taxes. It is hard to break out of, because nobody wants to pay taxes while knowing that none of their friends pay. Nobody wants to be the lone sucker doing the good deed. On the flip side you don't want to cheat on taxes if you know everybody else is really particular about paying it.

So I think the establishment of social norms is very important. And to do that one might need to create incentives and rules to kickstart people. As the norms develop you could cut back on the incentives and rules.

I've seen this in my native Norway. Fathers and mothers could split the maternity leave. Although almost no father took advantage of this. It simply wasn't an established social pattern. Your boss would look funny at you if you did it. Then the government mandated that some weeks should be taken by the father otherwise those weeks were lost and could not be used by the mother.

Within few years the social norms around father staying home looking after kids, changed radically in Norway. Hence government policies DO matter for how personal values and behavior develops.


> It is much harder to get people to do the right thing when it is a significant burden.

Beliefs like this are why I focus on leadership first. There are many examples where we choose difficult things because of the reward

- Sports and exercise

- Learning and personal growth

- Hobbies

- Writing free software

- Having children

- Going to the moon

Many other examples. They generally turn out to have other benefits, but they are challenges. Yet we love them.


Over many years, laws shape culture though.

With all problematic behaviours, citizens fall into three groups: 1) those who refrain out of a healthy sense of personal responsibility; 3) those who persist out of a pathological understanding of personal freedom, and then 2) those who refrain only because they fear personal consequences (ostracism, fines, jail time).

My suspicion is that a well-written, well-hated law can push a healthy chunk of people from pompous group 3 into reluctant group 2. As the next generation sees less of the problematic behaviour growing up, group 3 shrinks smaller and smaller over time.

That's how progressives ended slavery, got women to vote, made gay marriage mainstream, banned public smoking, and how we are now reining in the war on drugs; it's not clear why it shouldn't work to address energy decadence and meat overconsumption.


That's also how "progressives" sent thousands to the guillotine in 18th century France and starved millions in 20th century China. They wrote laws. People who couldn't get behind those laws (or who were just associated with the wrong people) got screwed.

"Get on board or we'll screw you over", which is exactly the dynamic a "well-hated" law creates, is not how a healthy society is run.

NY-SAFE is an example of a "well hated law". How is it working outside the areas that wanted it in the first place? Culture isn't shifting very much as far as I can tell.


By shaping the culture? That was quite a reach.


And somewhat useless. Changing the temperature from 72 to 75 in my well-insulated house does take off a few kWh. But it seems a bit meaningless when the shop down the road is trying to get more people to come in by setting their thermostat at a chilly 65 and leaving the door open all day.

Likewise in spending thousands to upgrade from an average 25 mpg car to a 35+ mpg car, only to drive down the road alongside coal-rolling semis that believe DEF is a conspiracy.


Don't let perfect be the enemy of good. Incremental changes in the right direction help, whatever everyone else is doing.


Just because others aren't doing anything, doesn't mean you shouldn't. Every bit helps, and unless there is a major shift in public opinion, or the government steps in, businesses will not change their behavior, i.e. doing what improves their bottom line.


> Likewise in spending thousands to upgrade from an average 25 mpg car to a 35+ mpg car

I'm really curious about this as well. I drive an old Honda Accord that gets ~22-26mpg. In Texas I can choose to only purchase renewable energy, but how much environmental impact will be had from my purchase from an electric car compared to keeping this nearly two-decade-old car running? What is the point where this car is better left as recycled metal vs. keeping it running?


This depends on a lot of factors, including:

- How much you have to drive. The more you drive, the more you can offset the embodied carbon footprint of the EV, and the more fossil fuels you offset.

- How fast your decades old ICE car deteriorates, and therefore decreases in efficiency and increases its operational pollution emissions.

- The embodied carbon footprint of the vehicle parts you replace through maintenance of an old vehicle.

High range EVs with large batteries cancel their embodied footprint in 18 months with a typical drive cycle, even lower if you are mostly using renewably sourced electricity. Lower range EVs take even less time [1]

It sounds to me like from your situation (old car, renewable power available) the numbers already suggest you should do it now. From the report linked below, driving an EV in Texas today is like getting 52 mpg with an ICE car. If you're using only renewables it is multiple times more efficient (see equivalents for CA and NY)

1. https://www.ucsusa.org/clean-vehicles/electric-vehicles/life...


That's why we have these things called laws and democracy and international agreements. Relying on individual action rarely brought massive change.




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