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Up to one million species are on the verge of extinction, U.N. panel says (washingtonpost.com)
548 points by uptown 19 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 494 comments



I have a theory, and I have no evidence to back this theory up.

The increases in anxiety in the general public over the last decade or so is in large part to people knowing we're on an unsustainable path. We're all collectively marching towards the edge of the cliff to jump off together. More people than ever have anxiety because we subconsciously (or consciously) know this.

We're unsustainable with how we pollute and how we treat the environment. How we overfish the oceans. Income inequality rising. Political and cultural polarization widening.

It's all so unsustainable.


My dad grew up in the Great Depression. He fought in both WW2 in his teens and in Vietnam in his 40s. The world was on the verge of ending during WW2 and for many years after during the Cold War because of nuclear weapons.

There's always an Arquillian Battle Cruiser, or a Korilian Death Ray, or an intergalactic plague that is about to wipe out all life on this miserable planet. The only way these people can get on with their happy lives is that they do not know about it!

-- Men in Black https://www.quotes.net/mquote/61255

People pay too much attention to the negative parts of the news and not enough attention to the positive parts.

When Iraq left Kuwait and lit oil wells on fire on its way out, it was predicted that it would burn for years and be a global climate catastrophe. When crack teams converged on the country, invented new methods on the spot and wrapped things up in a mere six months, it was not given the same level of media celebration that the hand wringing about the end of the world got. It was a footnote in more dramatic stories.

People get anxious when they feel they have no control. There are things individuals can do, but most people feel it doesn't really make a difference and that's partly because they aren't likely to get pats on the head from anyone for quietly doing the right thing.

Some things that help:

Walk more, especially as a form of transportation.

Use more daylighting and passive solar. This can be as simple as opening the window instead of cranking the AC.

Eat less meat.

I've lived under sentence of death for a long time. I"m still here. I've largely stopped listening to the whining of people who didn't actually care when it was just me facing a horrible, gruesome death but now they are all scared about their future, wah.

If you don't want this future, then do something about it. Among other things, I gave up my car more than a decade ago. People can make such choices. Most people just don't actually want to be personally inconvenienced by the coming apocalypse. They seem to want everyone else to behave better so as to preserve their right to do whatever the fuck they want.


I would argue that the increase in anxiety is due to the growing wealth gap. Compounding that is the fact that those in control are actively working on maintaining that gap and will allow nothing to stand in the way, including the environment. The gap is growing worse and will continue to do so and that relentless pursuit of wealth at the top and the hopelessness of those in the middle is making the environment worse. If I am barely surviving and I feed my kids with wages from a polluting industry, with no other option I will vote for those that allow my wages to continue, and damn the torpedoes, even though deep down I know I am making the world worse (further compounding my anxiety and despair). See the coal industry.

So many of us exist in quiet desperation.

People struggling to survive are focused on their next meal or rent payment and while not destroying the world tomorrow sounds good, they are more concerned with what they have to deal with today.

The environment is a side effect of civilizations profit at all costs mentality. Unfortunately this outlook will continue to do as it has always done, reward the few at the top and punish everyone else.


Except, those “rewarded” will suffer the same fate as the rest. This isn’t a Hollywood story, there is no off-planet settlement and won’t be before it’s too late for humanity. I think people underestimate just how fast the shits gonna hit the fan. My guess is my kids will not want to have kids given the environment of their lifetime.


"I can't help it, it's my nature" said the scorpion to the frog.


I have $2MM in my 401k I can't touch until I'm 59-1/2. I'm in my 40's and I'm worried of being broke when I'm 60. Insane? Probably. It's like no matter how much you have there's always fear. I keep thinking, "Yeah, it's all in funds and could just go poof if the DOW corrects back down to 7,000 because it took 20 years to get to where it is now..." Does the anxiety never end?


>>I can't touch

Yes you can. If you're actually going to go broke when you're 60, I'd HIGHLY recommend touching at least a bit of that cash at the cost of federal income tax.

Edit: Am not financial advisor


OH, right, yes. I can pay the 30% penalty. I was pointing out how irrational my brain is and the anxiety I feel when 70% of the population is nowhere near where I'm at.


"So many of us live in quiet desperation".

This is so true it hurts.


It's actually a famous quote, i.e.:

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”

- Henry David Thoreau, Walden


The context is also relevant here.

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.”


Maybe, though I suspect the income inequality/political instability side is causing more anxiety than the environmental one. The latter is certainly more of a focus now than it was before, but the money side probably plays more on people's minds. A lot of old life advice isn't working any more, people are finding their kids may have a worse quality of life than they did and governments are doing nothing to fix it.

And of course, then there's the constant media hysteria driven by an obsession with social media stats and clicks too. Things are bad in many ways, but if you went by how the press spins it, you'd think the apocalypse was about to hit next week.

That'd surely increase a lot of people's anxiety, even more so if their sources are particularly slanted in a certain political direction.


Same thing. Money = flexibility and control. People may feel the environmental anxiety, but feel powerless to do anything about it because they have to spend all their time working (if they can) to make ends meet. Social media stats/clicks are a similar race to the bottom to make money. Overall there's a sense that every part of our lives, environment, social sphere, and future is being over-leveraged, over-risked, and is hanging from a high wire above oblivion.


The way I like to spin it is: the paperclip maximizer that AI futurists worry about is already here, in the form of capitalism, and we're all part of it. It doesn't care about life; just numbers in bank accounts.


I have a related theory, that rather than our rise in anxiety being because of an analytic understanding of doom, we are more anxious because the environment is becoming unfamiliar, and we as animals still are not comfortable with such a fundamental shift in the world around us.


Since we’re trading theories, I’ll jump in!

My theory is that we are destroying the environment because of our anxiety. It leads us to want to control things and accumulate safety in tangible, physical and dollar form. And the more we do that, the more we destroy the environment. And of course, that also leads to further anxiety as you’ve all pointed out.

So, therapy for everyone - heal people’s desperate fears and the world will heal itself.


I'm optimistic about the research being done in psychedelic therapy for this reason. Take a capsule, lose your ego, understand your place in nature, and put your mind back together - all in an afternoon session.


Sadly, 1 capsule won't be enough.

We all need 2 ayahuasca shots...and some will need up to 4. and there is only one other key requirement, it will all need to be done together simultaneously, otherwise you will end up with a sort of 'race condition'.


I agree! I think that the solution to the current environmental catastrophe is going to be an unexpected leap forward in our understanding of the mind and emotional life.


Read the late Dr. Hans Rosling's Factfullness. By many measures, the world is getting much much better. Try testing yourself to see what you know, are you smarter than a chimp?: http://forms.gapminder.org/s3/test-2018


Better and better? A comment on Hans Rosling

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OoIcsj9ysvs


Great rebuttal! Thanks for that!


"World" - does this include measurements for the natural world as well (which our world is built on top)?

Or just things that have improved human life without looking at the environmental destruction that occurred over the past few decades.


I'd say so. Climate change is real, but not permenent.

If we decide to do massive geo-engineering, it's not going to take 100,000 years to accomplish whatever goal we set. With nothing but pure hubirs to back me up, I'd say it will take 500 years, but more like 100.

We're very smart over a long enough time scale and we will likely live in harmony with the Earth, at least asymptotically so. It'll never be perfect, but it will get close.


My understanding is the current climate science (IPCC 2018 report) is that we have around 10-20 years maybe to turn things around, i.e. radically decarbonise to avoid global warming rise above 1.5C and now this report by IPBES about mass extinction event.

How are we going to achieve what is necessary to turn things around when governments and people are asleep at the wheel and just continue business as usual.

Are people willing to change their destructive habits, i.e. willing to drastically reduce their meat & dairy intake?

Are organisations willing to become more sustainable rapidly and not just do drip feed changes over the next 30+ years.


Maybe it's the feeling that we feel a plateau coming?


If anything, I think we all feel that there is a cliff coming.

Though not like a Kurzweilian Singularity, we all see a climate change cliff out there in (most of) our lifetimes. We all know that the future is not going to resemble the present, and that's anxiety producing.

I'd argue that from Dr. Rosling's data, it will be a much better world. But even his stats and monte-carlo show us that it'll be different. Pax Americana is ending, clearly, but what comes next with all those missles we have chained up in those silos, that's reasonably terrifying.

The world has never been more 'up for grabs'. It's exciting to me, but it can reasonably be very anxious to others whose livlihoods depend on stability.


Humans are good at being anxious due to the precariousness of life. Especially for things we don’t fully understand.

For example: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halley's_Comet#1910

Why is the environment any different?


> we don’t fully understand.

That's a language trap. It's true that we do not understand the environment fully, in the sense that we don't know how every single living creature on it will die.

But we understand it well enough: we can see the big trends.

We don't know exactly how times we will hit the cliff as we fall, but we can see clearly that we're falling.


Because the rate of change is too slow to perceive it as something that is critical. When looked at on a geological time-scale this is all happening in an eye blink. When looked at on a human timescale it is spread out over many years and so there is time enough to get accustomed to the new baseline as the change is happening.

The only thing different between an explosion and wind is the rate of change.


I agree that humans are, in a sense, evolved to stress out, but this is a horrible example.

Like so Michu astronomy, Flammarion's theory was merely conjecture with no experimental evidence. Further, many other scientists correctly contested his hypothesis at the time.

Compare that with overfishing, where we have strong evidence that tuna populations have drastically declined in the past 50 years [1]. These declines are very likely due to overfishing, particularly of immature fish that have not had a chance to reproduce. Without a change of trajectory, many tuna species will almost certainly go extinct.

Yes, we should be skeptical and not give into hysteria. But that doesn't instead mean we should just stick our heads in the sand.

Don't you think oceans without fish are going to cause a lot of problems?

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3251139/


I also have a theory. Anxiety is increasing because anxiety sells. The right leaning sites raise anxiety about immigrants. Left leaning sites raise anxiety that Trump is on his way to becoming a dictator. Environmental sites raise anxiety about species going extinct. Business sites raise anxiety about increase regulation and taxes.

Meanwhile, humans are the best off we have ever been. This is one of the most peaceful times in history. We have more opportunity and less inequality than before. For the first time in history, half our population is not subject to endless pregnancies and high maternal mortality. Women are valued not primarily for the child-bearing or child-rearing but for their ability to contribute to the full spectrum of society.

In addition, we are more capable of dealing with the vagaries of nature. Take for example Ebola. We came up with treatments and then a vaccine.

We also know how to control our environments. Air conditioning allows humans to live comfortably in some of the hottest climates on earth. We also know how to efficiently produce food, and more importantly to transport food from one area of the world to another.

For energy, we are not dependent on cutting down trees for firewood. We can know harvest sunlight, wind, and atoms to create unthinkable amounts of energy.

We are just on the cusp of having the capability to colonize another celestial body!

Yet, it is not the good news that sells in our attention economy. It is bad news and fear and outrage.


What you are saying is true.

However never before have we humans been on the cusp of ecological collapse.


Check out the global temperature record. [1] In particular this [2] is the temperature from ice core readings for the past 800k years. Modern humans evolved sometime around 300k years ago. Can you imagine going through such sharp changes with negligible technology? They were surviving through these changes with little more than furs and basic woodworking. Consider the first evidence of something as trivial as metalworking. It's required for basically any other meaningful task and can be achieved very easily. All you need is mud, ore, and fire. Nonetheless, it was incredibly difficult to discover. The first evidence of metalworking doesn't appear until around 11,000 years ago! And this is just the macro scale. Local game extinctions, droughts, disease, and so on were a constant and often fatal occurrence.

So you might say that we're now just living through the first highly publicized possible collapse. Yet once again this also would not be true. While we now find these things laughable, at one time people took doomsday predictions very seriously. And throughout the centuries there are invariably influential religious figures (including, for instance, popes) that have offered doomsday predictions. So seriously were these taken that some figures have even been punished for making such predictions and then them not coming to pass. There were also things like the 'Great Conjunction of 1524'. This was an event that based on astrological reading that predicted the world would end with a new great flood. This led tens of thousands of Londoners to abandon their homes and head for higher ground.

Ultimately, humans thinking they're all going to imminently die because of something outside their control is not a new phenomena. However, mass media is.

[1] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_temperature_record

[2] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_temperature_record#/med...


Sigh.

I think you are trying to point out that we were wily enough to survive past swings with a fraction of the technological arsenal we have today. Is that fair?

We know some humans survived history. How many? Where did they live? Did the survivors stay in a single place called "home" for thousands of years, change be damned? Did the survivors follow good weather and food? Did they live near the ocean, where all temperature variations are smoothed out? Did they migrate for adventure, or follow the whims of season and climate?

When they moved to a new place, were there already humans there? Was there enough space, shelter, and food for both groups? Did they welcome each other, or fight?

It's not that I think you're wrong. We're creative, resourceful, persistent, stubborn, and adaptable. But I think the picture you're making leaves something important out. For most of that graph, we were smart, rare, small-group primates that used wit, teamwork, and basic tools to overcome our natural environments.

It's probably no coincidence that metalworking turns up so near the emergence of our early social and organizational super-organisms. You don't need bronze tools to hunt shellfish, fruit, or rabbits. Our super-organisms needed them to raze forests, clear land, excavate rock, and make war.

Surviving climate change is not be about overcoming our environment a final time. I agree, that is a fight we could win. Surviving climate change is about overcoming our nature as individuals, the nature of the social and organizational super-organisms we form, and the historical accumulated impact of both with interest.


Apologies here for the length here. As Twain might say, I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.

I was simply responding to the statement that "never before have we humans been on the cusp of ecological collapse." That is not an accurate statement. Ecological collapse was very much an everyday reality, and battle, for humanity through much of its existence. And in more modern times, people lived through decades waking up each day knowing that nuclear war could very realistically end the world, as they knew it, at any moment. And indeed it very nearly did, multiple times!

Outside of that I fully agree with almost everything you've said. The 'almost' part comes primarily because I think you're not considering the imbalance of power that would result from the current mitigation strategy of reducing CO2 emissions. Developing nations and those who dependent on carbon output for revenue, such as China and the Mideast would be asked to entirely change their developmental trajectory. Developed nations, by contrast, need to do little more than possibly accelerate the trajectory they're already on. To deal with this inequity the Paris agreement, for example, proposed the developed nations subsidize the developing nations. This sounds reasonable on paper, but in practice what you're talking about is places such as China rolling back its development and then becoming dependent on US handouts to regrow and simply sustain itself. That's a relationship that could and would be abused, once established, to further our ends. This is a nuance that places such China are not going to ignore.

This certainly falls under the blanket of overcoming our nature as individuals, whether individual means a single person or a large group acting as an entity. But it also reframes the problem in a way that I think is somewhat more realistic than a rallying among equals to do their part for an equal outcome. This is why I increasingly think that technological solutions, such as carbon scrubbing, need to be playing a bigger role in the discussion. For instance imagine the US (and other developed nations) greatly subsidized the research, rollout, manufacturing, and deployment of carbon scrubbing industry in developing nations. This is something that I think could see real effect since there's a more equitable relationship. The developing nation is not only able to continue on their current trajectory, but to develop even faster through the further expansion of their energy/industrial facilities. And the developed nation is able to use little more than their great economic might to effect positive change. And there's less room for abuse of the relationship. If the developed nation pulls funding, they suffer due to the lack of scrubbing. And if the developing nations tries to use scrubbing as leverage (or misappropriate funds) they suffer for identical reasons. Interests are aligned with no imbalanced leverage.

For instance our current CO2 emissions due to fossil fuels is about 37 billion tons a year. One new technological solution [1] proposes an atmospheric removal of CO2 that could cost as little as $94 per ton. That's $3.5 trillion, 4% of the global GDP, to reach 0 carbon emissions. And that not only doesn't cripple developing nations but could greatly accelerate and strengthen them. I don't entirely understand why stuff like this isn't a more significant part of the conversation.

[1] - http://www.digitaljournal.com/tech-and-science/technology/ne...


Thanks for responding, and for correcting my takeaway. I agree it's not an accurate statement.

We might be chasing our tails at this point. Power imbalances (current and historic legacy) is a big component of what I mean when I say this fight is against our super-organisms and their accumulative impact. I'm optimistic about what technology can do, but skeptical of anything that sounds like an excuse for anyone with economic or ideological incentives to write off emission-reduction strategies.

All approaches to climate change have to be implemented through a complex adaptive system in which billions of human individuals and superorganisms that have their own concepts of what is/isn't in their best interest, constantly recalibrating behavior against each other.

Will impoverished people be willing to stay that way just because the fossil-fuel bonfire is passé? Will there be clean alternatives for them to improve their lives? Will they be able to afford them? If not, will other actors with sufficient capital finance them? Will they suspiciously reject gifts from colonial powers?

If we're unable to avert the collapse of some ecosystems, will the people living in/around them placidly endure misery and await death? Will they chase better weather and food?

Will people in areas relatively enriched by shifting climates help pump the brakes, or step on the gas? If some of these are the same developed powers largely responsible for emissions to date, will they have enough internal support to actively reject this boon and take responsibility for the actions of earlier generations?

When primary fossil fuel demand peaks, will countries and landowners sitting on large fossil fuel deposits and companies producing them ease off to hold prices steady, or lean in to force prices down, undermine the short-term profitability of renewables, and extract as much wealth as possible before the party is over?

What if individuals and superorganisms that invested in profitable atmospheric CO2 capture iterate into technology that supports profitable extraction far below ~278ppm?

How many superorganisms will make the bet that they can make short-term profit by externalizing costs and some conscientious third party who'll feel compelled to pay $94-232 per ton to capture extra emissions?

Will superorganisms acquire companies that invent potential carbon capture technologies like this in order to extort rents from the patents, or repurpose the technology for some other application with little urgency to support the original intent?

Will rumors proliferate on the internet that large carbon capture facilities are a secret plot to poison or pacify the population?


With respect to your first point, life expectancy during those times was age 20-30. Their standards of living were more akin to the standards for animals in zoos than modern humans.

Climate change isn't a religious doomsday prophecy. Since modern humans evolved 300k years ago, we've industrialized and created technologies that are accelerating the pace of the destruction of Earth. The claims in the article are based on verifiable science.


I don't know that this is true. Do previous ice ages not count? Or how about the plague? It seems that we've been near extinction at least a few times:

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

I'd also add that until the 1990s the threat of total nuclear annihilation of the human race (and probably other stuff) was very real. That was anxiety inducing.


I agree, and this time we have a lot more knowledge and tools for coping with ecological disasters.


It would still be very much preferable to not have to do it.


> humans are the best off we have ever been

This is too broad to be true. It's easily disproven with a single counterexample.

I could guess what you actually meant, but the tiny details in sentences like these change so much meaning I better let you clarify if this was an important point you're making.

Especially since you seem to be aiming to dismiss concerns about people who are not safe, I think it's important you be more specific.


Ok here are some of the areas where we are better off than ever looking at humanity as a whole:

* Infant mortality * Life expectancy * Maternal mortality * Global poverty * Opportunities for women * Global literacy * Ability to control pain * Knowledge

Here is a more concrete example. Imagine you are going to be born as a baby girl in a random family on earth. In what other time would you have a better chance of having a decent life?


Thank you for clarifying, this is much easier to have a discussion about.

I have two open questions, I won't try to make a counterclaim (that 2019 is worse), but I can point out where your position feels hollow to me and needs to be shored up.

1) If I accept what you're saying that for the average person life is better in 2019 than in 1950, that doesn't generalize to all humans. My assessment is that life has been pretty good for the average human regardless of the time period, and good governance is more about how bad we let it get for the marginalized few than how good it is in the average case.

2) You listed things that are better for the average human... Are you claiming that there is not an equal (or larger) set of things that's worse? For example: depression, loneliness, anxiety. If your children are all living but you rarely speak to them and are cripplingly lonely, is that a better outcome than having 7 children, four of whom died, and you live in an intact healthy family unit?

(Also, as a side note knowledge is not monotonically increasing with "progress". The Catholic Church tried and partly succeeded at destroying all native language books in Central America, and replaced them with books that seemingly include much less knowledge. Social knowledge loss is one of my biggest concerns with modernity: More knowledge accessible to any individual, less knowledge stored in the overall system. Less culturally usable knowledge for most individuals. Another example: we're probably only just getting back to the same level of total beer making knowledge that was embodied in the system before the mass market beer system.)


>My assessment is that life has been pretty good for the average human regardless of the time period.

Here is where we fundamentally disagree. My assessment looking at history is that life for the average human, especially, the average female human, was horrible. I would guess our current 10th percentile is better off than the 50% percentile in the past.

The average human was a farmer. They had to do hours of back-breaking labor. They were many times just a bad harvest away from starving. They were routinely preyed on by the more powerful. A significant portion had personally lost a child/spouse/parent due to childbirth. They were illiterate. Child marriages and involuntary marriages were the general rule. The distinction between you and elite was directly coded into law.


A lot of what you are talking about here is still the case in much of the world. In other parts of the world where it is no longer true, it will absolutely make a comeback unless we can halt and reverse the damage being done by the levels of inequality we have.


> If your children are all living but you rarely speak to them and are cripplingly lonely, is that a better outcome than having 7 children, four of whom died, and you live in an intact healthy family unit?

Yes, unless you have an extremely convincing argument that being lonely is worse than being dead.


Ok, I'll try: being lonely hurts and being dead doesn't.

What's your argument that it's better?


Whilst the data you are referring to is correct, so is the data on climate change and the various degrees of impact that humanity will have on the hospitality of our planet for our own human race.

In other words: some things are getting better, but others are getting so much worse that it might be for nothing.


Anxiety sells and social media enables every person to play a part in signal boosting it.



Read "Factfulness" (one of Bill Gate's Top 5 books)... or Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker (or just watch the 15 min TED Talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/steven_pinker_is_the_world_getting... )

In most places, in most ways, the world is getting massively better than it even was 20 or 30 years ago...


Sure, if you conveniently exclude the environment.


I completely agree.


I think you have reversed the cause and effect. People before us lived far closer to the brink of destruction, and endured actual hardships, which I think made them less anxious.

Our current anxious, no-risk state makes us much more prone to fatalism, and nihilism, making the environment the perfect end of days thing to feed that anxiety.


This is the case for me. I just can't be apathetic to what seems like impending suffering at a scale never seen. N=1, though.


There was an absolutely phenomenal piece written recently: "How the news took over reality" [1] It goes into some degree of depth about why it is exactly that ever more people are increasingly feeling every pulse of every issue. And why it's not necessarily a great thing.

Consider something. Today, by most metrics, is by far the most stable and safe time that we've ever lived in during humanity's existence. This seems contradictory to how many feel. But consider that it wasn't that long ago that literal imminent nuclear annihilation was just a regular part of life. As a child we had fire drills. Go back just a couple of decades prior and school children were having nuclear explosion drills.

And there was absolutely no end in sight. The Cold War started around 1946 and ended around 1990. Imagine 44 years of fear of nuclear annihilation. You had a generation of people that grew up knowing nothing except this reality and for it to last long enough for them to reproduce and yet another generation to live through this, onto adulthood, as well. It's difficult to even imagine this.

And it's not like that was some extreme example. Right before the Cold War we had a couple of very not cold wars. In World War 2, some 3% of the entire world's population was directly killed in 6 years. It's impossible to understand that scale of loss directly. So let's measure it in terms of 9/11 attacks, where 2,966 were killed. Given today's population a 3% global loss would be the equivalent of 77,882 consecutive 9/11 attacks. That's 213 years of a 9/11 attack happening every single day. If you have a child at age 25 that means you're great great great great great great grand children would get to live their life with a 9/11 attack happening every single day. And now take all that misery and despair, and compress it into 6 years. And of course we weren't fighting over the petrodollar. We were facing an opponent who had every open intent of enslaving and/or engaging in genocide against the losers. And for some time it looked like he may very well win.

Now let's consider climate change. In the worst case scenario we're looking at extreme weather conditions and having to deal with coastal regions (where most people tend to live) becoming less habitable and uninhabitable in some instances. And this is assuming we completely fail at transitioning away from carbon producing systems and also completely fail to develop mitigating technological measures - many of which already exist (such as amine based scrubbing), but are too expensive to deploy. Climate change is of course very relevant, but when you frame it in comparison to issues people of previous generations have had to face... Suffice to say I'd happily take climate change over imminent nuclear annihilation and genocide. Not exactly a high bar I'm setting, but that low bar is exactly the sort of circumstance that defines what we've had to live through for centuries.

[1] - https://www.theguardian.com/news/2019/may/03/how-the-news-to...


This assumes the effects of climate change will be smooth and linear, rather than lurching and dramatic. It also fails to connect the dots between the nuclear annihilation you fear and the politically destabilizing effects of Climate Change.


Extreme weather conditions will be paradise, not the worst case scenario. When we reach 3 degree mark we are going straight up to 4 and then 5. Between 5 and 6 degrees the world is over in the most spectacular apocalyptic way you can imagine. How far away is this? I’m guessing your kids won’t want to have kids to spare them the suffering of 4 degree rise. At that point we will be fighting wars, billions will need to migrate north, nukes are on the table. The sad thing is, once we get there we have inevitable human extinction. Fresh water and food shortage will be a massive problem. A few or more billion people will die. How you get to extreme weather as the worst case scenario is beyond me. Look at how complex ecological systems are and how they affect one another. Acidification will bring about ocean life extinction and phytoplankton suffocation. Ice will melt, all of it, sea levels will rise, ocean currents totally screwed up, superstorms, flash flooding of biblical proportions will displace everyone in the coastal region. Migrations will trigger wars, food will become a luxury, methane will trap more heat, ozone will poof, enjoy your cancer.


This is a cheerful read.

So what's the solution? Can we get the global economy to change course and can we get most people in the West to change their destructive habits?

How are you preparing for such future? Move north and become a prepper?


The solution is likely a multi-faceted approach on all levels of society - policy, private enterprises, consumer, personal habits, education, social initiatives etc...

We need to be doing everything, not one or two things.

I think asking the West to change is an impossible task, but putting in place policy to guide decisions and to bring about mass education regarding environment is probably a step in the right direction.


Yes, it requires a radical change and I think we know what to do and we have solution in place already and we know how to research and develop more solutions.

Question is can we do it? Will leaders of the western world be able to trigger this radical systemic change that is required... keeping in mind that the orange leader doesn't even acknowledge that there is a climate crisis.

So with that in mind... what are your plans for the next 10 years or so? Move out of cities?


Bulletin Of Atomic Scientists [1] disagrees with both your statements: nuclear annihilation is out of public mind, but it is not much less probable, and climate change is, among other things, a risk factor there. Global catastrophic risks are often interconnected.

[1] - https://thebulletin.org/doomsday-clock/


The issues faced by previous generations were temporary. Wars end, new treaties are signed, etc.

Climate Change is irreversible if we don't act ahead of time.


How would they know they would be temporary? The Cold War lasted more than 40 years without stopping and no clear way out. People grew up knowing nothing but the Cold War. They had children who knew nothing but the Cold War. Each and every day people woke up realizing there was a very real chance this could be their last one on Earth. And in several instances we came extremely close to that becoming true. For instance a single man, Stanislav Petrov [1], is likely single-handedly responsible for stopping nuclear war at one point. We certainly wouldn't be here concerning ourselves over climate change had there had been a lesser man in his role!

And wars of time past were not like today's proxy wars or petrodollar warring. See Generalplan Ost [2]. Hitler planned to colonize central and eastern Europe by engaging in the mass genocide of native Slavic peoples, people who numbered in the hundreds of millions. And it's extremely unlikely he'd stop there. This is the sort of war where if you lose, the suffering has only just begun. And this was the reality of life for people in one way or another, for centuries.

'Irreversible' is somewhat misleading as used in climate discussion. It's used in the same sense as saying that the above consequences would be irreversible. And in that sense it's completely true. But many people interpret it, as you seem to be implying, to mean impossible to ever reverse. What it really means is that the expected return to a climatic equilibrium, through entirely natural processes, would take a length of time outside the scale of a human lifetime - hundreds to thousands of years. It does not mean permanently irreversible nor does it mean we go full Venus. And perhaps most importantly, technological changes such as carbon scrubbing [3] - which already exists but is not yet economically viable as a solution, altogether negate the notion of 'irreversible'.

[1] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanislav_Petrov

[2] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generalplan_Ost

[3] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_dioxide_scrubber


> 'Irreversible' is somewhat misleading as used in climate discussion. It's used in the same sense as saying that the above consequences would be irreversible. And in that sense it's completely true. But many people interpret it, as you seem to be implying, to mean impossible to ever reverse. What it really means is that the expected return to a climatic equilibrium, through entirely natural processes, would take a length of time outside the scale of a human lifetime - hundreds to thousands of years. It does not mean permanently irreversible nor does it mean we go full Venus.

I'm not sure what your point is here. Yes, nothing is ever truly permanent—eventually the sun will die and all life on earth will likely go with it. When I say something is "permanent", I think I should have to qualify it with "until the heat death of the universe."

If a million species go extinct, they aren't coming back. The glaciers, once melted, will take millennia to reform.

This is entirely different from a normal geopolitical conflict, which can be ended whenever all sides agree to such. Wars can of course inflict permanent damage (and loss of life), but the time scale is generally of a different order of magnitude.


The point is not to be drawn into sensationalism. For instance you responded to my comment by comparing time frames of hundreds to thousands of years to the heat death of the universe, which is something on the scale of 10^100 years. For some context to that number, 10^100 is greater than the number of atoms in the entire observable universe. And to give that number some context, there are 100000000000000000000000 atoms in a single grain of sand. That's not really a reasonable notion.

The reason climate change being reversible on human timescales matter is because it becomes a self correcting problem even in the worst case scenarios. If we create conditions such that the regular flow of society and production is disrupted, we just instantaneously solved our emissions problem. And of course there are technological solutions which already exist to reverse climate change. Only holdback there is they're not yet economic to deploy at scale. Consequences get worse, and governments will consider that perhaps that 2 trillion spent trying to stabilize the petrodollar would be better spent trying to stabilize carbon output.

Of course I completely agree with you of course that some changes such as the loss of various species would be irreversible. But as this article emphasizes this is not just an issue of climate change: pesticides, plastics, poaching, overfishing, even things like people using bug zappers to get rid of mosquitoes are playing major roles. By some estimates we're already losing thousands of species per year [1]. Many of these things could be resolved by with relatively simple per-nation action (as opposed to global action) that'd have near immediate outcome (as opposed to a non-negative outcome on the scale of decades). That nations are unwilling to even engage in this, by contrast trivial, behavior should emphasize why it's quite relevant that climate change is reversible.

[1] - https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/biodiversity/el...


The above is why I said that 9/11 was really nothing in the grand scheme of things, but a lot of people got mad at me. Were we not the nation that faced down the Germans and the Japanese at the same time? And then a few years later, a couple planes hit a couple buildings and everyone lost their minds and let the government take away most of their rights. Makes no sense. And yes, they dug deep--look at all the spying they do on us now, all the rules for bank accounts, drivers licenses, the TSA, the PATRIOT Act and the absolute dragnet put on the Internet.

9/11 was the biggest bunch of nothing (yes, it sucks if you were victim or the family of a victim). We let the big gov statist MIC get such wonderful mileage out of it! Then that bastard Chertoff with the shoe bomber got his naked body scanners sold, too. Never forget!

The people who run the US since the 1950s are such pieces of shit. We the people deserve better and we need to do better at stopping this scourge.


What's the theory? So far you just stated a premise...


> The increases in anxiety in the general public over the last decade or so is in large part to people knowing we're on an unsustainable path.

That's the theory, or at least that's how I read it.


when someone on the internet says "theory", they usually mean it in the "everyday speak"-way, not in the "scientific definition of a theory"-way.

But somehow I guess that you already know that?


regardless of what "definition" of theory I used, the post is still without conclusion. It started off somewhere and then never made a point.


The "Club of Rome" report[1] was published in the early 1970s. We've known for a long time. Still, most people probably still don't know, because they are too busy shopping for the latest shoes or cars.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Limits_to_Growth


Gaël Giraud (Chief economist of the French Agency for Development) said something along these lines: In economy, usually when someone builds a model that predicts the future for 18 months they later get the Nobel. The World III model from the Meadows Report almost exactly described the world for more than 45 years.

If we may think that it's still modelling our world exactly enough, complete civilisational collapse will probably come in the next couple of decades.


>"If we may think that it's still modelling our world exactly enough [..]"

Some people think that it has been pretty accurate:

"[..] The dotted line shows the Limits to Growth “business-as-usual” scenario out to 2100. Up to 2010, the data is strikingly similar to the book’s forecasts."

From: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/02/limits...


Do you have links to any decent analysis of that model?

Because the only things I've been able to digest are the criticisms (the majority of what I've found is that the model does not accurately reflect the world we live in). I'm not trying to confirmation bias myself here, but I would like to see what the proponents have to say.


Here is a pretty good one IMO (loooong read):

https://jancovici.com/en/readings/societies/the-limits-to-gr...

Another article that explains well what the model does, that economists do as if matter and laws of physics didn't exist (unless they're of the rare breed of Georgescu-Roegen's disciples):

https://jancovici.com/en/energy-transition/societal-choices/...

Another article from another source:

https://dothemath.ucsd.edu/2011/09/discovering-limits-to-gro...


This (esp the first figure) reminds me of economics research on long waves:

http://joshuagoldstein.com/jgcycle.htm


Thanks, looks like an interesting read.


How much of that is just survivalship bias though? As in, if you were to asked to bet on a 50-year-in-the-future model in 1970s, would you have picked this model?


Might be transformation rather than collapse, not a done deal


To put things in context; If we wipe from the planet ALL vascular plants, all flowers and trees and ALL vertebrates, fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals, the full pack, plus SIX major phylums of invertebrates including all molluscs, snails, clams and squids, ALL corals and jellyfishes, ALL starfishes and sea urchins, ALL sponges, ALL flatworms, parasites and free living, and every one tunicate described by science...

... after killing all of those, we would have still to wipe 366.000 extra species to reach one million.


Or about the estimated number of beetle species[1]. Not that I don't like beetles.

[1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beetle#Distribution_and_divers...

Edit:Link to the Assessment Reports this article discusses [2].

[2]https://www.ipbes.net/assessment-reports


That's just... crazy.


Can turn crazier. Selecting carefully and with "1 million of nethack scrolls of genocide" we could probably wipe all extant life beings known heavier than 1 Kg, except fungus, macroalgae... and not much more.

I hope that this article is wrong. If not, one million of species is a lot of biodiversity about to jump by the clift in the next ten or twenty years.


> I hope that this article is wrong

Time (and further research) will tell, but truth be told nothing in it surprises people who have watched specific local nonurban areas for decent spans of time. Ecologies are collapsing. It's visible and obvious; scientific reports describe and quantify what we already see and experience daily.


Not if you begin by blessing the scrolls.


sounds like you're advocating this


We keep hearing that individual actions don't matter and that we need a system change instead. I used to hold the same opinion for the very long time. However, since recently I started to turn around. For the last 30 years governments and politicians have proven incapable to do anything about global heating. What makes us think it will be any different in the coming years. Scientists keep producing report after report after report. Every one grimmer then the preceding. And nothing happens. I begin to believe individual action is the only option left. I don't know the circumstances of every person on the planet and therefor don't know what they can do. But I think I know what HN crowd could do.

- Stop flying to conferences. Go to a local meetup. It's fun. And cheaper. If you really need to get out of town, take a train.

- Start working part time, and part of that part time remotely. Reduce your commute. If your boss won't let you, find a job that will. In the current job market you can negotiate almost anything, and remote work must be the easiest thing to negotiate.

- Reduce your meat consumption as much as you can. Don't go all the way vegan, but make meat a special treat not a commodity.

- If you have any investments shift them from fossil to green.

- Don't upgrade your phone. Seriously.


I believe this is an incredibly dangerous attitude. Kudos that you're doing your part, and leading by example is important.

However, systemic change is possible. We have numerous counter-examples: the UN, the Montreal protocol, free trade deals, et cetera.

So why don't we have systemic change for climate change, because people like you and I let our politicians get away with it! If it was obvious to politicians that doing something about climate change was required to get re-elected, they'd do it.

It's an incredibly difficult task, which means we need to try harder, not that we should just give up on the planet.


Maybe I wasn't very clear. I am not against systemic change. Surely we need to keep pushing for it. It's not either/or. We should use every method we can.

On the other hand, recently I've been thinking about this. According to some theory it takes about 3.5% of the population to take part in active resistance to cause change (https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=YJSehRlU34w). Now, 3.5% is clearly not a majority required to vote in the right politicians. Which leaves you with direct action. Something like that.


It seems like this would be extremely difficult to accurately measure for many reasons. Two big ones immediately come to mind.

1) Confounding variables. She essentially states that she looked up resistance movements and then quantified what percent of people participated and the outcome. But there are going to be tremendous confounding factors here. While she does not offer much in the way of examples she did reference the most iconic examples - Gandhi and the US Civil Rights movement. The Civil Rights Movement has some great examples, but I think India is perhaps even more striking so let's just consider that.

The British Empire was collapsing into bankruptcy in 1946 following World War 2. They were only saved by an emergency loan from the United States. At the same time this was happening the world had become divided between two superpowers - the USSR and the USA. And neither of them looked fondly upon British imperialism. India would be granted independence in a matter of months - in 1947. And over the next 18 years so would nearly every former colony of India, regardless of the level of resistance. And indeed, our author here almost certainly also listed all of these incidents as successes of nonviolent resistance from tiny minorities, even though their independence was driven largely by outside factors.

2) The meaning of protest has changed in the age of the internet. In the 1960s organizing was extremely difficult and travel was expensive. Seriously, imagine trying to organize things when the best you have is a phone where you have to manually dial each and every number (and long distance was pricey!) or things like hanging up signs on street lights. And people getting places was costly. A one-way domestic flight could set you back nearly a thousand dollars. The net effect of this is that in times past a single person represented far more people than just themselves.

However today this has radically changed. Organizing people is completely trivial and free. Travel is still a burden but it's become much cheaper and easier than ever before. This also means that protests mean something entirely different. if there are a million people protesting something, it's entirely possible that these million people don't necessarily represent all that many people other than themselves.

This also makes me wonder about something else, but since it's a distinct point - I'll put it in another post.


> According to some theory it takes about 3.5% of the population to take part in active resistance to cause change

If that's true, it should be made more widely known.

I think that would be cause for hope for many people who despair at democracy and collective idiocy, and it would change their behaviour because of hope and belief in the effect of personal actions.

If the 3.5% is actually true, that change of behaviour caused by knowing it might tip serious balances.


Consider the very foreseeable 'unforeseen consequences' of suggestions such as this. Think of all the views you may find undesirable. Now how many of them do you think could round up 3.5% of people to engage in disruptive behavior if they believed it would let them 'win'?

You end up in a situation where you want people you agree with to engage in disruptive behavior, but not people you disagree with. Yet messaging like this would fully motivate everybody. It seems likely to ultimately do little more than encourage fringe extremism because you have to remember everybody always seems themselves as the good guy. Let them think they can win with a negligible minority of disruption, and you're strongly motivating extreme behavior from fringe groups. For that matter you even motivate people who like to play puppeteer. Imagine you're a billionaire and you now believe you can achieve near anything you want if you can just get 3.5% of people to start misbehaving.

Getting your way by misbehavior is exactly what we aimed to move away from with democracy. And I completely agree with you on the failings of democracy which does seem to be trending towards idiocracy. At the same time, I think this is the sort of solution where the cure is far worse than the disease. You keep the same idiocracy, but now you convince them that they can get whatever they want if they start trying to break down normal civil order. And the current establishment in politics would use it, similar to 9/11, as an excuse to greatly expand domestic surveillance and further strip away privacy and various civil rights. You know, for 'your' protection.


With regard to "telling people about the 3.5% theory", I think that decision depends on how much you believe that "hopelessness" is playing a psychological part in our collective problems, or inability to deal with the largest threats.

I agree when it comes to "getting your way by misbehaviour", that democracy is designed to improve on that.

But if we generalise to "change caused by individuals' actions", which may not be the change each direct actioner demands, so much as the consequence of their applied lives, that covers more things.

For example, climate change activists who don't fly and tell others not to, are not causing a democratic catastrophe, yet they are having an effect and it's probably disproportionate and probably good.

I don't think that's chaos, I think it's a form of distributed intelligence and attention process. Albeit a messy one, without monotonic improvements.


I don't think the suggestions OP had were very extreme but even if they were civil disobedience is a very key part of democracy. The civil rights movement at the time was viewed by many as misbehavior and extremism. I think it changed our society for the better.


Let's assume this is true. What happens to the rest of the population? For instance there are many issues that have far more than 3.5% of people that feel very strongly about them, and other people feel very strongly about them in the opposite direction. For instance about 30% of America would like to overturn Roe vs Wade. [1] So strongly do people feel about it that this is a topic that has inspired multiple instances of independent acts of domestic terrorism over the decades.

So let's just imagine some chunk of this group starts engaging in civil disobedience and so on. You'd need less than 12% participating to hit that magic 3.5% from which it supposedly literally "never fails" according to our researcher. So now what? Clearly we're not going to now just go overturn Roe vs Wade. And even if we did it would create even more chaos. The protests themselves would also likely lead to violence due to the inevitable emergence of counter protesters. It may be the case that 3.5% works in some cases, but that's going to need to come with several asterisks after it to clarify what, when, where, why, how, and against whom.

[1] - https://www.pewforum.org/2013/01/16/roe-v-wade-at-40/


> We should use every method we can.

This is something I hope people will soon recognize on a much broader scale. We should forget about fuel cells vs. batteries, wind vs. solar vs. nuclear, CO2 capture or not, etc.

We need all of the emission reduction technologies we can muster ASAP.


The next U.S. federal election is an excellent opportunity to address climate change. Ensure that the Democratic primary chooses a leader with a good plan, and then ensure that he/she wins in 2020.


I'm not confident any of the Democratic candidates have a good plan and even if they do, voters would not support it.

Even with mild assumptions about a duty to not harm future generations (say if we substantially discount the livelihood of our children and their children in favor of our own), we would need to take action that dramatically reduces our emissions.

American voters will not vote for anything even remotely of that magnitude. Most Americans would be unwilling to see their electrical bills rise $10 if it meant averting climate change.


Unfortunately you are correct. If you ever read the comments section of news piece regarding gas taxes or steps to reduce carbon emissions, the average American voter freaks out at the mere suggestion of increasing energy prices just a little bit.


Except it's also not. As a continent, Asia is the largest polluter by far. What's worst, they're exporting those practices to Africa.

Meanwhile, the Anglo-West is hyper-focused on the US because there's a president they don't like. This has been a blessing (now the average Anglo-Westerner at least pretends to care about the environment), but also a curse (they think the US is the only country that can save humanity).


How much of that is as a result of them manufacturing the vast majority of our stuff? Essentially we outsourced a proportion of our emissions.

USA is doing terribly thanks to having by far the largest emissions per head, dramatically in excess of anywhere else.

Asia is doing poorly thanks to having larger populations, developing apace and being home to much of the world's manufacturing.

UK is just about world's worst for historic cumulative emissions thanks to being home of the industrial revolution.

Shall I go on? It's everyone's problem, and needs addressing everywhere, at every election. Anything else is just finger-pointing excuses not to act.


There's actually a whole body of literature out there on climate justice, if you want to take a look for answers.

One of the primary ones is that most of the developed world has gotten to the quality of life it has today through very high historic emission levels (and continues to have higher per capita emissions). Additional emissions in the West go towards maintaining our very, very high quality of life - emissions in the developing world (like Asia) go towards bringing millions of people out of poverty.

Asia may be the largest polluter by far, it also happens to be the continent with the most people and the most people in poverty.

Nobody thinks that the US is the only country that can save humanity (even if the US cut to 0, that wouldn't be sufficient, although it'd be approaching it), but if the US, which easily emits 4-6x more than most people per capita is unwilling to cut, than we are totally FUBAR on a global scale.


The per-capita emissions in the US are about twice to 2.5 times as high as that of a british citizen. Maybe it's just that there are the low hanging fruits?

It's easier to reduce 1 ton of annual CO_2 emissions when you're producing 17 tons per year and person (like in the US) than when you're at 6 tons like the Brits. In either case, it would be 1 ton saved per year but it's only a 6% reduction for someone in the US but a 17% reduction of their yearly emission for a Brit.


- US per capita emissions are more than double China's.

- China is taking concrete steps to reduce emissions: capping coal production, switching to electric buses, et cetera

- For better or worse other countries are far more likely to say "why should we reduce emissions if even the US won't" than to say "why should we reduce emissions if China won't".


> As a continent, Asia is the largest polluter by far.

Don't forget that a lot of that pollution is due to production for western consumption.


> Except it's also not. As a continent, Asia is the largest polluter by far.

That doesn't mean that US policy can't address the problem; US policy—on climate as well as most other things—need not be limited to domestic policy.


Exactly. For example the US could collect a "carbon duty" at the border on all imports. If the source nation has already collected a carbon tax or equivalent, it avoids the carbon duty.


Some people were hoping Trump’s proposed Border Adjustment Tax could have done double duty of this sort


Per capita, North America is 4.6x worse than Asia: https://ourworldindata.org/uploads/2018/10/CO2-emissions-by-...


The US gets the attention because they’re the only powerful country fighting against the sort of collective action we need to take.


Would you mind substantiating that claim a bit? It seems false on the face of it, but I don’t want to strawman your argument just to shoot it down if there’s more to it.

Russia and China are not fighting against the sort of collective action we need to take?


Russia is not powerful and China is not fighting it.


The US can play a leadership role. It's abdicated that position presently.


what is an anglo-westerner?


Democrat vs. Republican is the politicized version of Good cop vs. Bad cop.

The two-party system is a farce, it's not like past democratic leaders made any meaningful systemic changes to prevent climate change.


they're not mutually exclusive


> Don't upgrade your phone. Seriously.

The market makes this easy nowadays. Unless your phone is broken/severely outdated there is next to zero benefit to upgrading at this time. Prices for flagships become prohibitive as well.

Upgrading phones every 1-2 years is a dead tradition outside of contract incentives, only relevant to hyper enthusiasts (r/android etc...). Even then I am not sure why aside from corporation benefits. The differences are marginal at best (ok, Candy Crush 4D gets 8fps more nowadays), the value of upgrading has declined for years now.

Of course these statement will have enthusiasts screaming and foaming because the newest FiveMinus 8T has 1mm less bezel while sporting 25 mAh more battery compared to last years model. Also NIGHT VISION CAMERA! All the not-quite photography-enthusiasts are salivating and throwing their money at phone makers year after year in order to participate in blog-jerk-offing and karma whoring.

People who care about photography get DSLRs, people who care about functional functions in phones haven't had to react to significant changes for several generations now, unless lack of security updates (cough Google) forced people to. WhatsApp, Instagram, Firefox, Mail, Dial, Weather, Auth Apps, ToDo, ... they all run fine on still supported iPhone 5S/SE or older supported Androids. What app that an iPhone 5S cannot run is even truly useful and missed?


Two things I look for when replacing a phone: 1. Lineage OS support. (So you actually get security updates) 2. A decent repairability score on iFixit. (So you don't end up with a brick when your battery dies in a few years.)

Right now I'm on a OnePlus 2. It will be 4 years old this summer and doesn't seem to have any issues with the newest Android (in the form of Lineage OS), or any apps I use!


Sounds like a good strategy.

It is utterly insane that consumers and the industry are fine with battery degradation coercing them into complete $600+ device replacements (further fueled by the "I got the newest phone!" social status incentive for some folks).

Batteries should be swappable and at replacement time be properly recycled. Manufacturers need to be legally required to provide this option at all times, if they refuse to do so (do any?).


I fear it's getting harder to find those two criteria on a new flagship.

I wish Google would sort out a way of ensuring everyone could get stock android updates for a much longer time period.


I should try lineage OS... I'm on a OnePlus 3, and the battery is starting to go. I was thinking of trying the Librem 5 when it ships, but we'll see.


I've been running LineageOS on my OnePlus3 for the past couple of years (since the whole telemetry app scandal in fact) and I highly recommend it to everyone. I don't have a bad word to say about it, in fact.


You're forgetting the status symbol aspect of having the latest phone. It seems to me that fashion is a driving factor for far more people than any technical consideration.


There’s a reason Apple sales are down so much YoY. People are already not upgrading.

Until recently there was enough to be gained from an upgrade every other year for most people. That is no longer true and the market sees that.

E.g. Going from 5S to an X is a worthy upgrade. That’s how many years of progress? You will feel the benefits every time you pick up the phone.

Turns out people are generally good judges of how to spend their own money.


The span between 5S and X is pretty much the largest one can make between two phones that continue to get security updates.

Your point does stand - an X is an enormous upgrade to the 5S in usability and feel.

But barely so in function I would say. There are few truly useful things one can do on the X but not on the 5S. Portrait mode pictures? High-definition Netflix streams? 4k images?


I find the larger and full screen front with no clunky home button much easier to use. The form factor is so much easier to type on than the 5S — I have my old 5S plugged into a music dock in the family room and it feels just so ridiculous going back to type on it.

I also really appreciate wireless charging and waterproofing.

Bluetooth and WiFi work better for me on the X than they did on the 5S.

I also opted for 128GB when in the past I always skimpt on storage, and now I really appreciate never having to think about clearing pictures off my phone or if I’ll have space before going on a trip.

Come to think about it, some of my favorite pics of my kids were taken in Portrait mode. It really is a very pleasing effect.

Back when I had the 5S daily, we occasionally pulled out the Canon DSLR. I should probably sell that thing on eBay now...

At this point I don’t know what would drive me to upgrade short of breaking or losing my current X. It would take something groundbreaking, like a phone form factor that also doubled as a laptop through an AR keyboard and AirPlaying to any screen I happened to walk up to.

In the past my phones always got sluggish after a few years. Maybe that was Apple intentionally throttling and hopefully that won’t happen this time around. I don’t do anything on the phone that ever really challenges it except maybe searching through thousands of old emails and web browsing without an ad blocker.

My wife has I think a 7 Plus (?) and has absolutely no desire to upgrade.


Eh, continued updates that disregard older phones (leaving them crippled with modern updates) make it so even if the hardware is good, you have to upgrade. Good enough hardware isn't much use when the software makes it run at half the speed. Then it goes from good enough to barely usable.


Err, not really in all cases. An example - my crappy 3-year old Huawei Honor 5x is utter piece of st. I bought it as a temporary cheap need-phone-now solution because my previous phone got stolen in Paris. I tried to go the way you suggest, but there are limits and I am hitting them hard.

Not only is the battery severely degraded by now (still +-usable though), but I can't update any app for last 6 months simply because there is no space on phone anymore (that 32GB microsd card means nothing to that ancient Android 6). I can remove properly functional useful apps from phone and thus reducing its usability, but that's a bad deal. The worst part is sluggishness though - it can easily take 30 seconds just to be able to start Firefox and begin to type the URL. Or start maps and begin to type address. Everything is super slow.

Its a good tool to train my patience, but as actual usability goes, I have to upgrade. I need to keep my sanity.


If the system isn't working that implies that there aren't enough committed individuals to change it. If we can't get enough people to work on fixing our relatively simple human-built systems it seems unlikely that they will have sufficient impact on the much larger and more complex natural systems of global health. So while these suggestions are great, I do think we should continue to focus on, explore, and advocate for broader systemic change. If the politicians of the world wont take these problems seriously then we have to vote in new politicians that will or else our failure is ultimately assured.


> I do think we should continue to focus on, explore, and advocate for broader systemic change.

Absolutely agree. It's not either/or. We need both. But hey, it's easier to advocate for systemic change if you lead by example. See e.g. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/apr/26/greta-th...


It's not so much that there aren't enough individuals that are committed to change. I think it's partly that people would rather do than be done unto (the feeling of controlling your destiny rather than being controlled), and partly that people can be gamed to act against their own long term interest (ironically being controlled into thinking you're in control when you aren't).


Im afraid nothing will change to the moment people start dying because of climate change effects. And by that i mean at leadt hundreds of ppl of not thousends.

Fastest move would happen if what im talking about did happen in 1st world countries.

Thats sad masses need such a strong shake up.


That might be optimistic. The pessimistic version is that the 1st world would not react before it starts to see a large scale migration from developing countries because of climate change, and the first reaction would be to close the borders.


that is already happening yet people are still not moved to action http://climatemigration.org.uk/


They won't until the border pressure will be so hard the nations will start shooting people trying to cross them.


I'm afraid that would have the potential to increase the "it's every man for himself" atmosphere...


The best reason for exactly these individual changes you are describing is that - and this is a really funny and convenient coincidence - you are benefiting of them first and foremost yourself!

> - Stop flying to conferences. Go to a local meetup. It's fun. And cheaper. If you really need to get out of town, take a train.

No unnecessary hassle and stress from flying to far away places or getting stuck in traffic jams.

> - Start working part time, and part of that part time remotely.

Not sure why this is beneficial to those species or climate or anything but working less gives you time to focus on family, friends and hobbies.

> - Reduce your meat consumption as much as you can. Don't go all the way vegan, but make meat a special treat not a commodity.

Meat is unhealthy - period. It's a nice to have but it is at the end of the day just not good for you.

> - Don't upgrade your phone. Seriously.

Applied shift of focus away from materialism and unimportant fuss like whatever new feature and gadget just come out.

You are the one gaining happiness and satisfaction of those steps right now! And on top of that - you're reducing your footprint :)


> Not sure why this is beneficial to those species or climate or anything

"...A number of studies (e.g. Knight et al. 2012, Rosnick and Weisbrot 2006) have found that shorter work hours are associated with lower greenhouse gas emissions and therefore less global climate change. The relationship between these two variables is complex and not clearly understood, but it is understandable that lowering levels of consumption, holding everything else constant, would reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

This paper estimates the impact on climate change of reducing work hours over the rest of the century by an annual average of 0.5 percent. It finds that such a change in work hours would eliminate about one-quarter to one-half of the global warming that is not already locked in"

-- Reduced Work Hours as a Means of Slowing Climate Change. http://cepr.net/documents/publications/climate-change-worksh...


Chicken, fish, and turkey are some of the healthiest delivery mechanisms for protein on the planet.

They can be grown sustainably, as well, so again, veganism isn't required. At the supermarket, just get the expensive chicken breasts - I'm guessing the vast majority of us on this website can afford it.


> Chicken, fish, and turkey are some of the healthiest delivery mechanisms for protein on the planet.

Observing the diets of blue zone populations, it definitely seems like meat should be consumed rarely. Although they consume different forms of meat, they seem to share in common meat consumption of roughly 1-2 servings per month. This is far rarer than the average American diet.


Nah man, just eat the plants those animals are eating. You can't get away from the 10x energetic penalty.


But the animals strip out the fiber/carbs and over time convert it into efficient stores of protein/fat.

I need ~140g protein a day to perform in the gym, I don't really want to get that from beans and be chew through 3,500 calories of carbohydrates to get to that protein.


"Hey guys I'm all for saving the world and stuff but I have to beat my squat PR so it doesn't apply to me because chewing beans is annoying compared to eating chicken"

This is exactly why we're doomed. Everybody wants to "save the world", everybody knows what to do, nobody does it because it's incompatible with our current self destructing life style.

No you don't >need< 140g of prot a day, you can hit all the macro/micro nutrients your body needs easily even with very low amount of meat. Who cares about gym performances, we're talking about the future of an entire planet/eco system.

> At the heart of capitalism is a vast and scarcely examined assumption: you are entitled to as great a share of the world’s resources as your money can buy. You can purchase as much land, as much atmospheric space, as many minerals, as much meat and fish as you can afford, regardless of who might be deprived. If you can pay for them, you can own entire mountain ranges and fertile plains. You can burn as much fuel as you like. Every pound or dollar secures a certain right over the world’s natural wealth.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/commentisfr...


I sympathize with the environmentalist cause, because I am an environmentalist.

I listened to a podcast by Dan Harmon once, where he was talking about a fictional protest at Berkeley, with antifa on one side and nazis on the other. One of the Berkeley protesters in the skit says "While I don't support almost any Republican principles, I actually do think I should be allowed to own a gun." The Berkeley students, enraged, push him to the nazi side.

I've also heard this called "fallacy of the pure movement." There's lots of words for it, but the basic idea is someone alienates all but the True Believers from their cause.

In your mind, I must be a vegan to be a true environmentalist. There is No Good Reason to eat meat. A bit silly, there are plenty of Good Reasons to eat meat. I just named one. Another is culture - isn't a tribe of fisherman that have been fishing for 2,000 years entitled to continue to pass down their recipes for cooking fish to future generations?

Kinda moot though, because the dangerous thing you're opening yourself up to here is a retort of raw values - when was the last time you took a flight? How DARE you? Used a car? Why didn't you spend 2 hours biking instead? How DARE you not sacrifice every centimeter of your well being for the environmentalist cause?

There is no True Believer. Not even you are the True Environmentalist. Accusing me of not being True doesn't help.


> A bit silly, there are plenty of Good Reasons to eat meat.

Yes, but no reason to eat meat every day / multiple time a day.

> I must be a vegan to be a true environmentalist.

No, just act according to your beliefs. If you willingly do something going against what you preach then you should look into yourself, you're either lying to us or lying to yourself.

You don't have to be an extremist, if everyone was acting on the low hanging fruits [0] it would already help immensely.

[0] Eat local food, don't waste food, reduce meat consumption, don't overuse AC/heating, don't be one of these guys who take the plane every weekend, don't buy useless low quality gadgets, &c.

Also: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Moral_letters_to_Lucilius/Let...


alright that's enough flaming from you for today


You're the one that called me delusional lol where am I flaming?


If an olympic level athlete can reach peak success [0] while "chewing beans" - you can do that too.

[0] https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2012/ju...


Swimmers, tennis players, and runners. No weightlifters.

Why the attacks? I don't buy pounds of factory farmed beef a week. I'm buying free range chicken and turkey, sustainable fish, free range egg and cheese. This supports the cause. We are on the same side.


> No weightlifters.

I've suspected that you'll write this.

https://www.riseofthevegan.com/blog/only-male-us-weightlifte...

Why do you think that 1kg of free range chicken is more ecofriendly [0] than the factory farmed one? I'd agree free range chicken is better from the ethical stand-point, but from pure efficiency of producing 1kg of chicken from available resources, I'd speculate that free range is not more ecological.

We are talking about the fact that people are not fitting on this globe anymore and some sacrifices need to be made. Why are we destroying forests to make land to grow crops to produce meat with 10% efficiency versus if we'd use that land to feed ourselves directly? Growing animals just to slaughter them sounds extremely inefficient, land and resource consuming. 10% efficiency is pretty shitty efficiency when we are low on resources.

[0] in terms of CO2 required, in terms of land required to grow same amount of animal meat, in terms of clean water required, etc.


> This supports the cause. We are on the same side.

No definitely not you're delusional.


Personal attacks? Seriously?

This is no true Scotsman or some version of it. I don't get to be an environmentalist because I'm not a vegan? Nevermind the composting, bicycling, lobbying, donations, volunteering, picking up of trash, lack of a car, love of nature.

What if I turned this argument around? What if I claimed you can't be an environmentalist if you ever purchase petroleum based products (plastics)? And then I called you delusional for thinking otherwise? How would you feel?


If you're going to be pedantic about the parent's "meat" generalization, you should probably be more precise than "fish".

Many commonly eaten fish are considered too dangerous to eat frequently thanks to pollution levels.


> meat is unhealthy - period. It's a nice to have but it is at the end of the day just not good for you.

[citation needed]


I just invested 17 seconds into your health, buddy :)

Here you go:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26780279


Not to be a pedant but the study states "increasing amounts of red meat and particularly of processed meat" and even says the negative association "has been absent with white meat". I imagine the [citation needed] comment was more calling all out the blanket-ness of "meat is unhealthy - period". I think it'd be more accurate to say "large amounts of meat, especially red meat, are unhealthy - period".


Not sure how that proves "meat is unhealthy - period." This study specifically calls out red meat and processed meat. It says nothing about poultry or fish. Did you read the entire abstract?

> The association has not always been noted with red meat, and it has been absent with white meat.

So white meat is fine. Furthermore, the protein need is so great that for those over 70, restrictive recommendations should not be applied:

> Restrictive recommendations should not be applied to subjects above about 70 years of age, as the studies quoted herein did not examine this age group, and the inclusion of sufficient protein supply (e. g. in the form of meat) is particularly important in the elderly.

So, pretty obviously shown from your own source that "meat is unhealthy - period" is a false claim.


As others have already pointed out that paper doesn't say meat is bad, it says that the culprit is processed red meat. It's not the meat that's bad, it's the vat of carcinogenic chemicals that processes the meat that's the problem.

Just think about it a little bit, man evolved over hundreds of thousands of years eating meat, there's no way that it's bad for you.


Important note here is that it's primarily red and processed meat. I think fish and poultry are still considered healthy in moderate amounts.


The problem with individual action is that it requires a collective effort to make such sacrifices worth it, and most people aren’t willing able to make all or any of those sacrifices.

For example: one cannot simply replace air travel with trains in the US. Amtrak is wholly inadequate to act in an interstate commuter transport capacity in the vast majority of the US.

Also, I’m not at a point in my career where I can afford to work part time. Part time software engineering jobs are hard to find in the US, and part time jobs don’t provide benefits like healthcare.

Individuals are going to look at this and say “why should I make these sacrifices when I know that others aren’t going to make them?”


That's kind of the point. Stop thinking about "most people". Do it for yourself. If you believe in the climate emergency that is. You might be pleasantly surprised to see your friends around you follow the suit.


I like to think of this in terms of carbon debt. It is surprisingly easy to calculate the avg. per-capita lifetime carbon debt accrued by someone living in a specific country. It’s a fun metric to compare generational differences (e.g. baby boomers vs millennials) & location-based differences (e.g. USA vs.China) ... last time I did this I can to a carbon debt of EUR 20K for my generation. Which in the grand scheme of things is not all that bad.


I can’t even get my friends and coworkers to vote.


Perhaps they might be persuaded to do other things, whose effects they can see more directly.

Also, encourage children in their activism. They are good at making complacent parents take notice at least, if only for social signalling :-) and hopefully some of it sticks when they grow up.

Voting shouldn't be seen as the basic thing, which people need to do to show they care in the world. Many people see voting as mostly pointless, and they might even be right compared with other things they can do.


> Don't upgrade your phone. Seriously.

In general, fix your stuff before buying new or buy used. Or at least try to extend the time between purchasing a replacement.

Better yet if You think about new startup don't just create another super smart and sneaky ad technology but try to find an idea that contributes to humanity or the environment. After all, it's not the idea but your grit and perseverance that will take you to the top so why not make it matter.


Dude, none of the things what you suggest would make any impact. For me, personally - but those were kind of personal suggestions.

I haven't flown anywhere in three years, and certainly don't visit conferences.

"- Start working part time, and part of that part time remotely. Reduce your commute. "

Uh, what? I commute by bike and with the bus in the winter. I don't really see how stopping that would contribute.

"- If you have any investments shift them from fossil to green."

Uh, most of my investments are in index funds. I'm not going to change that, but I do hope my fund managers will.

"- Don't upgrade your phone. Seriously."

I don't upgrade. I buy replacements when the previous unit dies. I haven't seen any concrete benefits from upgrading from a top model in the past six years.

See, it gets pretty weird if you try to engage on a some sort of grass roots movement beyond a very, very specific goal. People have wildly different lives.


Nope, you just have reached the point that others haven't yet.

Your carbon footprint is much lower than theirs for sure and trying to convince someone with a higher footprint to change will be vastly more efficient than trying to squeeze the last kilogram of carbon emission reduction out of your own life.

Thanks for the effort by the way!


> Nope, you just have reached the point that others haven't yet.

That might be true. But I'm under the impression that:

- Flying is often said to be the biggest individual climate-harming action by individuals.

- Most people, even in the West, are kind of poor and haven't flown anywhere in the last decade.

- Most people, even in the West, don't have "investments" unless you count a measly pension they don't have much control over anyway.

- The mobile phone market is struggling because people aren't upgrading as consistently as they used to, older handsets are good enough, and newer ones aren't special enough. People have enough spares now that they pass old ones on to their poorer friends.

If that impression is accurate, perhaps others are generally closer to the emissions levels reached by the GP commenter.

Some other areas for improvement may be car use, home energy and food, as these are all things which can be significantly improved. I imagine most people (in the West) still drive a lot, have woefully inefficient homes, and buy food based on price and appeal rather than climate impact.


> I imagine most people (in the West) [...] buy food based on price and appeal rather than climate impact.

I'm not into smartphones since my 12-13 year old phone still kind of works (lost battery cover so battery often disconnects, often bad contact with sim card...), but I know from behavior of some friends that there are apps which track foods and products by barcode for calorie intake etc..., in theory an app could by barcode pop up a warning or something pointing out the environmental impact of a product which relies on environmentally harmful soy, palm oil, ... it should list both impact of full consumption, and impact by "dose" or rate if it's say shampoo.

After using it for a while it could say calculate the impact of your choice of shampoo by looking at the first and last dates of buying a bottle and the total number of bottles minus one divided by the time between first and last... then the user could see a breakdown with sometimes perhaps counterintuitive results.

Users should be able to collaborate in verifying and correcting calculations, so only a minority need spend time and effort such that a majority can rely on the app more blindly...

Edit: adding that it's also not helping when geopolitical rifts induce my country to ... burn produced apples and pears, instead of letting their price fall for a year...


All good points. I'd like to see a study on estimated emissions by income quintile, as I would suspect strong correlation.

edit: I mean in the US. Global income vs carbon footprint is easy to find: https://ourworldindata.org/uploads/2018/10/CO2-emissions-by-...


"Thanks for the effort by the way!"

Uh, you are welcome, but these are not choices I've made due to any environmental reason. They are the most comfortable option for me personally at the moment.


What's with all the condescending "uh"s? Are you roleplaying as Daria?


"Doesn't apply to me, thus it doesn't apply to anyone"


No, I'm quite sure it applies to some, but since it does not apply to all (as per my counterexample) it's hard to predict what percentage of the audience is primed to react in any beneficial way.


"Individual actions don't matter" would be overdoing it, but spontaneous "lifestyle" change can never be more than a minor contribution to change. The reason people emphasize system transformation is because it really is needed. That it looks unlikely to happen doesn't alter that fact.

I agree it's unlikely, but if it were to happen it obviously wouldn't be initiated by 'governments and politicians'. It would come from populations, or significant portions thereof, pushing them in the right direction. Hence Extinction Rebellion, the school strike etc. I suspect though that the last century or so of corporate propaganda has captured enough people to make it all too little too late.


Individual actions in this context are like trying to put down the fire with a single glass of water. It will certainly not hurt if you do it, but for it to have any significant effect you need everybody else to do the same at the same time. And the best way to have everyone do it is to push politicians to commit to it and create public policies to enforce it. The huge problem with individual actions is that they make people feel good about themselves, makes them feel like they did their part, while actually the effects of it are minimal.


I don’t think this is universally a reasonable outlook. For example, I’ve become vegan in the last year. It is extremely politically infeasible to legally force a vegan diet on everyone, so individual action is the only way to participate in veganism. However now that I am vegan I can legitimately tell you this: being vegan is super awesome. I no longer contribute to the insane environmental destruction of the beef industry nor do I contribute (with my diet) to animal suffering on the same scale as before.

Individuals deciding to be vegan is a kind of voluntary collective action that should not be forced by the state. I would imagine it is not the only kind.

Realistically an entire change in our culture to reduce consumption is needed. Some of that can come from above (government decision) and some of that must come from below (genuine cultural support).


To make an orthogonal point to yours: I gave up meat a few years ago and this has lead to (more than) a few friends either giving up meat themselves or reducing their meat consumption now that they've seen (because of _my individual action_) that it's a viable option.


> The huge problem with individual actions is that they make people feel good about themselves, makes them feel like they did their part, while actually the effects of it are minimal.

How is this a huge problem? What's wrong about feeling good about yourself when you are doing something good? It's actually great. You help the climate AND you feel good. Win-win. Just imagine what a hell the life would be if doing something good felt bad.


Problem is not that people feel good, problem is that they're concentrating on insignificant actions and it gives them a false sense of doing enough - so they stop at that, guilty-free, but without doing anything actually impactful. It's actually a very common form of self delusion, we all do that by drinking that diet-soda after we just ate a full box of ice-cream while on a diet, or in social media by liking and retweeting calls for help or action, while never really following through to actually help or take part in that action. It dilutes the outcome, lots of momentum gets wasted that way.


I know what you are saying but I wouldn't call abandoning flying and meat insignificant actions. Liking and retweeting might be. Actions I propose are also very visible. It wasn't the main reason, but meeting vegetarians at work and in the friend circle certainly served as a helpful encouragement to reduce my own meat consumption.


Everything matters.


I think individual actions might be required for a system change. It would be way easier fe. to put high taxes on animal products if people wouldn't be so used to only eating meat. One person giving an example of alternative ways to consume is shifting the culture of consumption around him/her and therefore making a system change easier.


You leave out the most obvious way for individuals to alleviate the system level threats: accept that you need to get your hands dirty and go into politics.


The difficulty this poses is that the market may as well be designed to frustrate this approach. It works only in the absence of marginal consumers, which, in practice, never happens.

Stop flying? The airlines still have to amortize the cost of their airplanes and bulk fuel purchases. You've subsidized discount flights, paying with your virtue.

Work remotely, so you don't need to buy a car? That's one more car that's sold in a lot sale, or for a few hundred less on Craiglist if you buy used.

Reduce meat consumption? More for the people of the developing world, many of whom eat as much as they can afford and would like more.

Don't upgrade your phone? That's one more that gets sold next year, on sale, when the new models come out.

Demand-side reduction doesn't work. We need actual solutions.


> The difficulty this poses is that the market may as well be designed to frustrate this approach.

You bet it does. I didn't say it was gonna be easy.

> We need actual solutions.

Sure. But those actual solutions will necessarily include mandated reduction in flying, driving, meat consumption etc. We might as well show that we are ready to accept it.


Why not go vegan? Sure, anything is better than nothing, but a vegan diet is best of all. Plus, dairy, especially when consumed as cheese, is worse than some meat in terms of environmental impact.


The most calorie dense food is the least healthiest... when you have tens of millions of people with no savings and with little food security in the USA... it's easier said than done.

The US also has over 23m people living in "Food Deserts" - https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-food-des... and http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-access-research-a...


Personally I think that we need to change what it means to be standard vegetarian - add fish, remove dairy. Better for the environment and perhaps easier for people to switch to!

Currently, I have to go around calling myself a "lacto-pescatarian" which is far too much of a mouthful


It would be far better for the planet for vegetarians to eat chicken than to continue to support the fishing industry.


Fish farms are more environmentally sustainable than chicken farms. Overfishing is a problem but it's not the only way to get fish


I think it's more complex than that [1]. But I also think that seafood is inseparable from overfishing as an industry.

[1] https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/aaa273/...


Going completely vegan is pretty difficult. You can get 95% of the way there with a pesco-vegetarian diet for half of the effort and cost.


Why is it difficult? If someone is still eating eggs, dairy and fish they are not 95% of the way to being vegan. And cost? What makes you think being vegan is more expensive than eating animal products?


> If someone is still eating eggs, dairy and fish they are not 95% of the way to being vegan.

95% is obviously not a real number, but it's not far off when you actually look at the environmental impact of different foods[0]

> And cost? What makes you think being vegan is more expensive than eating animal products?

I should specify that being vegan and remaining healthy is more expensive than eating animal products. You could probably survive on lentils and be ok... for a while. But your diet will not be balanced. To eat a balanced vegan diet, you will need to buy a lot of fresh foods in comparatively higher quantities, and the cost adds up. Semi-vegetarians and pesco-vegetarians seem to have the most balanced diets[1]

[0]: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/04/30/dining/climat...

[1]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3967195/


If someone is pesco-vegetarian and eating a lot of dairy, especially cheese, and fish, then their environmental footprint would be way higher than someone (a vegan) who is not eating those things. The NY times article you linked shows just that.


You'll notice that I didn't say "your environmental impact will automatically be reduced to near that of a vegan diet by eating a pesco-vegetarian diet."

Changing to a new category of diet does not absolve you of the need to make responsible decisions. You could technically be a very wasteful vegan and have a higher carbon footprint than an omnivore. You could also be a responsible human being and eat a conservative vegetarian diet that is roughly equivalent to a vegan diet but much easier to execute.


Why "change category" and constantly be chasing the next trendy label? Just eat less meat. When you do eat meat, eat higher welfare meat that's farmed locally (fewer food miles). Why do people take everything to extremes?


Because most people are vegan for animals not for environment or health, so it's not that they are taking things to extremes, but rather that being responsible for only the occasional death or abuse of another animal isn't an option.


The context of most of these threads on HN is environmental impact. And invariably, vegans show up with an "all or nothing" attitude. I understand if environmental impact is not their primary motivation, but then they should say so.


>You'll notice that I didn't say "your environmental impact will automatically be reduced to near that of a vegan diet by eating a pesco-vegetarian diet."

Erm, yes, you pretty much did. We are talking in the context of certain food choices being more environmentally friendly, and you said a pesco-vegetarian is 95% of the way to being vegan.


Getting the same amount of protein is difficult? I've never seen someone try to argue going vegan is cheaper then eating meat. Maybe cheaper than eating steaks, but chicken breast/thighs and ground beef? Eggs are also an excellent source of protein, it comes out to about a $1 for 80g of protein.


How much protein do you think you need? Everyone is sucked on to the whole protein protein protein thing like it's all that the human body needs, especially Americans. It's fucking ridiculous. Try worrying more about fiber and other nutrients and there might be less obesity and diabetes. BTW, lentils and beans are cheap and full of protein.


Eggs are pretty much the most cost effective source of protein in existence, hence bodybuilders have traditionally eaten large quantities of them.


Cost effective for who? If one day we factored in the cost of damage to the environment or the cost to the living creatures being abused in order to supply all those eggs, or the cost of the extra burden on hospitals due to all the cholesterol people are eating,the price would go up considerably.


This. And also:

The environment is an awesome way for people to virtue signal how much they care. But the fact is the real world consequences of what most environmentalists ask for would seriously affect the way of life they have. Politicians know this. Any serious attempt to change anything will not get you votes and out of government.

That is not the governments fault. That is not the corporations fault. That is every individuals fault who talks the talk but doesn't walk the walk. How is a politician supposed to do anything about the environment when it WOULD make the poor poorer?

Most people don't realise that the effects of the 2008 financial crisis is nothing compared to what sort of reduction in living standards you would need to get even close to being carbon neutral. In fact, its usually environmentalists complaining about inequality and cost of living.

What would being carbon free mean for anyone individually? No flying, no cars. Buying solar panels. Insulating your home. No meat. No imported foodstuffs. How much sacrifice and cost is that for 1 person? Multiply that by everyone, it's INSANE.


> it's INSANE

And the death of our living planet isn't? So-called 'economic growth' was never much more than a global entropy increase, as high quality self-organising evolved systems were ripped out to feed crude technological ones requiring endless inputs.

This was always mere borrowing against the future. It was never 'growth' in any true sense. It ends because biology, chemistry & physics say it must, regardless of human pouting.

We could perhaps 3 or 4 decades ago have made a collective decision to gradually reduce consumption and allow our home to survive in decent enough shape to sustain us. Or maybe it was a biological fait accompli that any species evolving capacities to escape population limits and spread like a devastating weed across the world would eventually outstip the world's capacity to absorb the change. We'll probably never know which.


> We could perhaps 3 or 4 decades ago have made a collective decision to gradually reduce consumption and allow our home to survive in decent enough shape to sustain us.

One thing we know about humans is that, as a species, we were never and are not currently capable of making such collective decisions or otherwise coordinating at this scale. This is probably the root of most problems we have, except death and diseases.


> One thing we know about humans is that, as a species, we were never and are not currently capable of making such collective decisions

I'm pretty sceptical re claims of knowledge about complex systems, and human ecology is about as complex as systems get. So I think your statement is way overconfident.

Having said that, if I had to make a bet on whether or not we'll make the necessary decisions given how late in the game we've left it, I'd put a decent whack of cash on the prospects of failure. Also that the proximate cause of the collapse of our civilisation won't be global environmental collapse, but war consequent on local collapses. Look at Europe following 2015, convulsions caused by trickles of refugees that were minuscule compared to what's coming. I'd bet on nukes (another can we've kicked down the road for decades) offering the coup de grace.


> I'm pretty sceptical re claims of knowledge about complex systems, and human ecology is about as complex as systems get. So I think your statement is way overconfident.

Complex behaviour of systems often arises out of simple rules. Game theory is not always well applicable, but here it provides some simple models that explain this problem very well: multiple people forgoing individual gains in order to cooperate at getting bigger gains is a very unstable state that can be quickly destroyed by free-riders, who defect in order to reap both individual and group gains. The very awareness of this dynamic, which is something we all have as intuition even if we can't put it in "mathy" words, is enough to severely curtail the ability to cooperate. Looking through this lens, you can discover that of cultural customs and social pressures around individual behavior are really mechanisms that deter and punish defection and strive to establish an environment in which cooperation is easier.

Scott Alexander explored this topic far better than I ever could: https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/07/30/meditations-on-moloch/.


I wasn't disputing the plausibility, rather the knowledge. You can't intuit your way to rationally justifiable prediction of future global events by thinking through a few toy models. Even predictions far better founded on reams of real empirical evidence are notoriously shaky (see Philip Tetlock's work amongst others).

Your guesses happen to be guesses I share. But they're just guesses.


I wasn't predicting things in my response, just commenting on why something in the past didn't happen and couldn't have (though with a strong implication that this applies to the future). While this is "just a guess", I feel pretty much the entire history of humankind backs me up on this one. I don't see much reason to believe humans will suddenly get better at collective action than they were before - especially now that we've understood and enshrined as holy, in the form of profit-seeking mandate of the market economy, the mechanism of strip-mining any forms of spontaneous coordination and turning them into dollars.

I still hope we can get out of this one, but I don't see the solution coming from "the people". If anything, "the people" will have to be dragged kicking and screaming into that future, by governments mandating the right moves, by public and private R&D creating solutions which companies then use to enable the governments to make the right moves.


For this reason there is no hope that collective action through government pave the way to the solutions we need. Governments will only be forced to act when things are so bad that it's too late. There is also no hope that individual action will make a meaningful difference. Not enough people will care until things are so bad it's too late. Public corporations will not lead the way to a solution because they are only driven by short term profit. Does anyone seriously believe any of the above will lead to solutions soon enough?

It seems to me that only the ultra rich have the resources, independence, and arguably intelligence to lead the way to solutions that could save humanity. They might devote their talents and resources to funding research into technologies we will need when when things get so bad that governments are forced to act. Also funding powerful lobbing groups to counteract the powerful lobbing efforts of corporations that benefit from delaying action on the climate.


> there is no hope that collective action through government pave the way to the solutions we need

I sort of disagree; the governments might be (as usual) the crucial element of the solution - they're the only actors on this planet capable of forcing a decision on masses, even if it goes against the wishes of the market. But getting the government to do the right thing sooner rather than later - that's the hard part. Especially that nations are market players themselves, and doing the right thing in case of climate change means handicapping the whole country on the international market.

I think both the ultra rich and governments can be useful in funding more R&D on clean technologies. The goal here should be developing technologies that ultimately let you go carbon-neutral while sacrificing as little as possible compared to the old methods. Doing the right thing is painful for people, and by extension the governments, so whatever can be done to ease that pain increases the chance that the right things will start being done.


I agree with you that eventually governments are the only entitles that could implement solutions on a big enough scale. However it will be too late if this only happens when they are forced to act by social upheaval, mass starvation and economic collapse.

I challenge the ultra rich to put a substantial portion of their assets to work in funding large scale R&D on clean technologies, and simultaneously funding powerful lobbying of governments to act on climate change.

Another thought is that for better or worse we now have the tools for "social engineering" and campaigns might be funded to sway public opinion to support governments that support clean technologies.


> even if it goes against the wishes of the market

I agree with your general point, but I'd add that the market is itself an artifact partly created by government.

I think it's about time we saw more change to the market itself, which requires cultural change among other things.

For example: Insulating homes was mentioned earlier. Yet, more and more people are renting homes and can't do much to improve home efficiency because that's controlled by the landlord, and "voting with your feet" is financially out of reach. Same with working much less, or not commuting: It's not a serious option to those at the less lucky end of the competitive market for essential life goods and services.

Both of those result from a certain style of capitalism, which is arguably in crisis already, and both of those can be greatly improved, even while retaining capital, when there is a widespread change of cultural pressures about basic expectations of owners and employers.


Collective action has worked in the past. We did it with CFCs.


Sort of, mostly. It's an interesting case you bring up, and I think it may be informative about the conditions under which global-scale coordination happens. Note here though, that "collective action" meant government regulating CFCs out of use, and not a bottom-up people movement.

I need to study the details of this case more; from the little knowledge I have on it, the cynic in me would conclude that it only worked as effectively as it did because by the time of the Montreal Protocol, DuPont had figured out and patented a replacement for CFCs.


Side note:

There is a quite recent amendment to the Montreal treaty, the Kigali amendment (2016), which phased out the CFC replacements with strong greenhouse effects in favour of replacements without them. This alone will save us ~0.3° warming until 2100 (if the projections are right).

This is about the only positive news I've ever seen for this topic.

https://ozone.unep.org/sites/default/files/Assessment_Panel/... (eg page ES.23 & ES.24)

(I really love those charts.)


We're talking many, many orders of magnitude difference in change.


No matter what we do as a collective society, the planet will change. Yes, our actions now are speeding it up. But they might also be speeding up the solutions. Borrowing against the future might be our best bet for preserving the future, if it means we develop the technology needed to properly address climate change.


>No flying, no cars. Buying solar panels. Insulating your home. No meat. No imported foodstuffs. How much sacrifice and cost is that for 1 person? Multiply that by everyone, it's INSANE.

That's far from what sustainability can mean, but it's not even that insane. It's only "insane" by the arbitrary consensus culture we've forged and grown up in.

Imagine what "insanity" we might have to adjust to if we don't do anything. Pseudomilitary lifestyles in communal arcology dwellings with (necessarily) authoritarian regimes. Striving for efficiencies that have been unnecessary since the Paleolithic but through the tools of modernity: rigid, normalized discipline, rationing, eugenics, jumpsuits, nutrient slurry.[0]

Even that would be far preferable to extinction, and it might be what space colonizers might have to endure even with a decadent, present day-style Earth civilization they can never return to.

And it might not be far from what we have to eventually endure either way; even in the best case, Earth has a shelf-life.[1]

0: https://youtu.be/6ilJcs7JL4M

1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_far_future#Fut...


I think this take is largely true. I think there is a path to saving the climate even when so many are completely unwilling to sacrifice any bit of their livelihood for a sustainable climate for future generation.

That path consists of heavy, heavy investment in geo-engineering and low-cost nuclear right now. As soon as we have perfected solar geo-engineering, we need to put it in place to prevent catastrophic runaway/positive feedback loops, while we work to replace the infrastructure in developing (and developed) countries with low cost nuclear.

This is politically unpopular, but I think that irrational opposition to nuclear (and somewhat rational opposition to geo-engineering) can be overcome more easily than people's unwillingness to sacrifice their own wealth.


The only real option is carbon capture.

Everything else has the wonkiest side effects in the models, eg concerning atmosphere/ocean circulation, which heavily affects local and regional weather patterns, and the cooling is still not sufficient.


Carbon capture is not remotely feasible given the cost/intrinsic limitations in how to get the carbon out of the air.

Sulfur dioxide has been shown to work in real life experiments (read: volcanic eruptions) and while t has some side effects, it’s a known quantity and the benefits generally outweigh the costs.


Yes, it works, but there is a limit for how much warming it can migitate (if you make the particles larger/more they will just coagulate and precipitate faster), and the limit seems to be ~ -2 W/m^2. (It is important to not only consider the short-wave reflective cooling of the aerosol but also the long-wave heating it creates. More sulphur will just coagulate faster. Changing atmospheric circulation patterns mean the aerosol is not distributed equally and can grow and precipiate faster.) (Currently we're already at an estimated +0.6 W/m^2.)

Additionally, the atmospheric circulation is disturbed [0]. Interaction with the ozone layer might also be highly problematic.

So this is not a solution, only a last-ditch effort if we need to buy some time. With everything else being constant, the injection needs to be repeated for basically forever, a problem for all solar radiation management techniques.

Carbon capture on the other hand allows us to stop at some point, it removes the problem instead of only treating the symptoms. There are ideas for enhanced weathering, or storing organic matter (eg as biochar), which are feasible from an energic perspective but still expensive.

Whatever we do, it needs to be done on a huge scale, like a massive war effort, with everyone involved and helping, and it will be more expensive than not emitting the carbon in the first place. Also, one method alone will not cut it, and there will be side effects, which are hopefully less severe than the alternative.

Don't rely on technology to fix the problem after the fact, push for change now.

[0] https://www.atmos-chem-phys.net/18/2769/2018/acp-18-2769-201...


That's why I said sulfur dioxide to put off the effects, while we develop nuclear-based mitigation technology we can deploy cheaply.

Sulfur dioxide is only one part of the solution, but its a necessary one: it's the tech we have now that works, carbon capture is a far off dream that costs thousands of dollar per ton of CO2


This isn't how it has to play out.

You can fly, you can eat meat, you can import things, you can do anything you want so long as it's sustainable.

What if cargo was travelling by modern, computer controlled sailboats that used zero fuel? What if planes used fuel produced by yeast that fed on raw sewage? What if cars could be made out of mushroom-based plastic and fully recycled metal?

None of these things are impossible, but nobody will do any of them until they're forced to. Either that's by preventative regulation, or, if things get really grim, by necessity.


None of that sounds bad to me. Imagine how quiet it would be without cars and planes, and how much better the air quality would be. Perhaps obesity would even be curbed if people were eating local vegetables, fruits, and grains instead of fish, meat, dairy, and other animal products. What you have described doesn't sound like people are poor but living a leaner, simpler, healthier lifestyle.


We're going to have it either way, whether by deliberate choice or as a result of unchecked climate change. If we were to start acting now, even in small ways like funding public transit and new solar infrastructure so as to try to cushion the impact, that would make a difference. But we aren't, and we won't. And attitudes like yours are part of the reason why.


It's controversial, but don't have more than two kids. Consider adoption.


It’s controversial, but consider genocide. I fear the day will come someone will actually put this option on the table. Our species seems to be particularly prone to bouts of this tendency.


>> Stop flying to conferences

This is not tenable for executive-level staffers.

>> Reduce your meat consumption as much as you can.

This is definitely an impactful idea, specifically red meat by quite a large difference comparative to other meats.

>> If you have any investments shift them from fossil to green.

This is not really a tenable suggestion either unless you are suggesting everyone take a giant hit to yield and also mass purge a lot of their index funds that necessarily have large investments in energy companies, especially if they are large-cap.

>> Don't upgrade your phone.

No one should be doing this anyway on a regular basis. It's ridiculous for non-environmental reasons.


> This is not tenable for executive-level staffers.

Well, if we don't go (as in the entire development community) then the executive-level staffers have nothing to do there either.


> This is definitely an impactful idea, specifically red meat by quite a large difference comparative to other meats.

This isn't exactly tenable for everyone, either. Some people [like me] need to fairly regularly eat red meat for the B12/Iron uptake benefits alongside supplementation.

Instead the industry should be pushed toward larger changes like this: https://e360.yale.edu/features/how-eating-seaweed-can-help-c...

I'm increasingly convinced the solution isn't quitting everything that looks like a vice (good luck with that), but instead to develop methods for reducing or removing and reversing the harm they cause.


That’s exactly it though. Conservatives are no doubt irritated by environmental jeremiads because they know revivals and camp meetings when they see them. Usually when this seaweed reducing methane stuff gets mentioned you hear crickets from the hair-shirt crowd


I'm not really sure I understand what you're saying. Can you elaborate?


I’m agreeing with you but I’m saying for a lot of environmentalists they have guilt they want to purge and a solution like that won’t do it.


Right— so you're saying a path that allows people to persist in their actions is unacceptable to environmentalists because it allows them to continue in their actions. More or less?

I'm unclear where "conservatives" comes into play. I've never considered myself a political conservative, TBH.


> This is not really a tenable suggestion either unless you are suggesting everyone take a giant hit to yield

Some believe divestment won't have significant impact on returns: http://www.lse.ac.uk/GranthamInstitute/news/the-mythical-per...


> Reduce your meat consumption as much as you can. Don't go all the way vegan

Why not go vegan/vegetarian? Most people who do handle it perfectly fine, unless there's another reason for suggesting this?


While people who do handle it fine, by that point you've lost a massive crowd that would maybe consider your other advice if not for the "oh, and also you should be vegan" part. The problem of meat production carbon footprint is roughly linear in the amount of meat consumed, so it's enough to tell people to eat as little meat as they can, without asking them to cross the mental/cultural barrier vegetarianism is.

(Also, I'm not sure whether going from vegetarian to vegan means smaller or bigger carbon footprint.)


Because most people who go 100% vegetarian break down and go back to eating meat anyway. Better be 98% vegetarian for decades than 100% vegetarian for a year.


Maybe in the past things were different (although many studies into this tend to have ulterior motives), but I would say that Veganism has gone from an obscure lifestyle/diet to the acceptable mainstream very rapidly - e.g. U.S's population has gone from 1% vegan to around 6% in just the last couple of years (https://www.forbes.com/sites/janetforgrieve/2018/11/02/pictu...).

Even KFC are creating a vegan option.. sometimes change happens quick. I see it becoming more and more normalised.


I think people should really just aim for 50% vegetarian, I really think this would help and most people could manage. For example, eat meat 3-4 days a week and the rest vegetarian. Imagine if everyone did this?

Yeah it's not perfect, but it's a start and it's more realistic.

Here's my story and I've heard similar off others:

I went vegetarian for 2 years (leaning to vegan) and found it hard to keep in shape and get enough protein, especially if you don't have time to cook and prepare meals. The only time I felt good was when I worked remotely and really had time to invest in cooking a lot of legumes and preparing meals with a lot of spices and variety to keep tings interesting.

Eventually I moved overseas and worked full-time again and felt depressed because I was missing out on a lot of nice foods and was surviving off only Tofu (readily available protein source), the lack of variety got me down.

I felt hungry quite often and often ended up supplementing with things like whey protein (probably has high Co2 footprint) anyway.

Eventually I slipped into some kind of extreme depression and was quite unwell mentally, I pondered a lot for why this might be. I'm not sure if my body was deprived of something and then I thought back to when it all started and it seemed like a correlation with my diet changing. I hate saying (because I think the ethics of vegetarianism/veganism is superior) but my mental state improved quickly once I started consuming more animal products higher in protein with more variety of amino acids (whey protein, cheese and milk combined with lots of nuts and legumes).

Eventually I went back to eating some chicken and fish and took some whey supplements and things continued improved for me and now I'm really quite content and working out / lifting a lot and feeling good physically and mentall. I eventually I just realized that I need to eat. I care a lot about climate change so I felt insane guilt for a while but it went away eventually.

Like someone else said, maybe it's enough not to treat meat like a commodity, more like something we're lucky to have an eat it as necessary and sparingly.

I think it's unfortunate and unhealthy to have to give up food and feel guilty for eating because people choose to drive their cars, have too many kids, drive to work, fly unnecessarily and burn fossil fuels to generate power. I'd prefer to see those issues addressed before going hungry and having health issues.

I know people live vegetarian fine, maybe it's easier if you have a low body mass etc; However in the end my contribution has been to move very close to my office and ride to work every day and I eat vegetarian for breakfast and most evening meals, consume less stuff I don't need, repair things and only fly once or twice a year (maybe it's too much).


It's easy to criticize you - one could simply argue that these will be measures taken only by a few, and therefore won't have an impact.

I still admire the fact that you are trying - who am I to dismiss it?

And yet, unfortunately I am more and more convinced that individuals won't change history. For a brief moment in my life (~2 years), I naively tried to do something to better the world, and of course didn't go anywhere.

It's sad.


Since this article is about biodiversity, the usual advice to address pollution don't fit perfectly. Biodiversity require a multitude of biotope and the preservation of high bio density biotope such as rain forest and corals.

Don't buy beef from places that burn down rain forests in order to raise cattle. Don't buy fish from trawling. Be extra careful with net caught fish and farmed fish, both which has higher risk of causing problem in the eco system.

Similar with vegetables. Oils from rain forest is to be avoided. Food from farms next to lakes that suffer from eutrophication is a major problem. Signs of overpopulation in lakes is a final indication of harm.

Sustainable fishing and wild game is one of few places where I know you can get some advice from governing bodies that tries to manage bio diversity. They are imperfect but at least they discuss the topic. Sadly there isn't much for other kind of food and ecological standards don't cover bio diversity or sustainability as criteria.


Just don't be a douchebag who brags about being vegan (making everyone around hate the very concept), while simultaneously investing money into crypto mining and raving about AI toys that require showing terabytes of data into high-power video cards.

Being reasonable and consistent works infinitely better than doing something to "make a statement".


This is definitely true! I do think that a lot of the stereotype about "obnoxious vegan" is something invented by people who eat to make themselves a little more comfortable with the moral tradeoffs they are making.

I say this as someone who has met lots of vegans in my life (and also is not one). The vast majority are not very pushy at all. The pushy ones exist, but seem to be much more common in the collective imagination of meat-eaters.


- Stop promoting/using power-inefficient, developer-centric webapps and start working on metrics for power efficiency

- Stop churning through overpowered smartphones

- Give up on "agile" project management ideas with daily standups in-person, fiddling with stories written on paper cards, and similar childish approaches


How does abandoning agile have anything to do with being greener?

I do hold similar opinions on some agile practices as you do btw.


There is one obvious thing you omitted. Population growth. We could do a lot to educate and help people in developing nations manage population growth better. China and to a great extent India have addressed the issue. Indonesia has not, for example.


As long as population growth is recognized as a problem in addition (and perhaps a bit less than) overconsumption - rather than a rhetorical guise used by people in the West to continue to justify overconsumption, I absolutely agree! Unfortunately, it far too often appears to be the latter


Of course it’s both. However more people means more clear cutting. More meat as more people can afford meat also means more clear cutting. We can consume less disposable products and also manage population growth responsibly (neither rise to fast nor contract too fast as both are destabilizing).


> - Start working part time, and part of that part time remotely.

With the number of people currently having to work more than one job, it's hard to see how they can switch to part-time.

I know some people who pay >50% of their income towards rent, and their rent isn't especially high. It's that their income per job isn't very high, and housing is set by competitive demand in areas with jobs, not by cost of provision.

We're going to have to solve the cost-of-basics problem somehow, before many people can reduce their work hours to part time.

But that doesn't stop people who can do it from doing it, and maybe that's enough to turn the tide for everyone.


> With the number of people currently having to work more than one job, it's hard to see how they can switch to part-time.

"I don't know the circumstances of every person on the planet and therefor don't know what they can do. But I think I know what HN crowd could do."


I'm sure your comment is making a point, but to be honest I can't be sure what it is.

My point was that switching to part-time seems unachievable to me for the majority of people, without changing other factors at the same time, and so we should simultaneously enquire how you recommend to deal with those other factors, for the advice to be most effective. I don't wish to dismiss the advice; I wish to understand how to solve the obstacles to actioning it.

Is your point that HN crowd are relatively well off, so part-time and remote work is available to many of the HN crowd?

(I'm pretty sure we're on the same side of the general debate, in favour of individuals taking actions that they can to improve their footprint.)


Well, so my thinking is along these lines. What we now call "full-time" - 40 hours a week - is not a law of nature. It's a social construct. In the beginning of the industrial revolution everybody worked 12 hours a day without the weekend. Labor movement (or was it Henry Ford? I don't know) pushed for shorter working week. It didn't seem to destroy the economy. So I don't see why we can't make it even shorter. And HN crowd, as indeed relatively well off, can lead the way. As more and more people work "part" time it might change the popular perception and eventually the rest of the society and regulation might follow.


Thanks. I completely agree with this.


Sorry, I think it is a silly dead end. Essentially you are proposing reducing action which has negative side effects to inaction.

That is not how humanity solved it’s previous major challenges.

The challenges we did mostly overcome (many horrific diseases, feeding more people, reducing lives lost to war) were all because of active actions taken towards outcomes we wished for.

On an individual level, if you can afford it, get solar panels, drive electric cars, buy food grown on the certified farms, etc.


The "incapable politicians"-part, are you saying that this is the case globaly or that it is the case in your country?

Because on a global scale I disagree. As an example, google "china and india planting trees".

Edit: Just to clarify: I think that we need both systematic and personal change. And in a democracy, a good way to make politicians care about a subject, is to make sure that they know that you won't vote for someone who doesn't care.


> For the last 30 years governments and politicians have proven incapable to do anything about global heating.

That's just disingenuous.

Climate change has been a major point for numerous governments, there have been huge pushes towards renewable energy sources through subsidies, legislation, international treaties, etc.

Yes, much more could be done, but claiming that nothing has been done is just polemics. It's disingenuous to claim that 2019 is basically 1989.


More subsidies today flowing toward the oil industry than in 1989; each year the amount of CO2 we add to the atmosphere is more than the year before. The subsidies for solar panels, etc., although well-publicized and well-criticized in the conservative press, tend to be about 3 to 5 orders of magnitude lower than subsidies for the oil industry, which get no press.

2019 isn't 1989. We'll do vastly more environmental damage this year than we did in 1989.


> It's disingenuous to claim that 2019 is basically 1989.

Yes, it's much worth. Sorry, the governments might be doing something, but I just look at the PPM and global emissions charts and they just keep going up.


You know what else keeps going up? The world population, from 5.2 billion in 1989 [1] to 7.7 billion today.

Yes, the PPM and global emissions charts keep going up. However, they are doing so at a much smaller rate than would be the case if governments would be doing today what they were doing in 1989.

Especially in Europe, we have see dramatic pushes towards renewable energy on the one side, and energy efficiency on the other.

A headline such as "Germany produces enough renewable energy in six months to power country's households for an entire year" [2] would have been unthinkable 30 years ago, and to claim that this is not a major development is just BS.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_population_estimates

[2] https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/renewable-energy-g...


> For the last 30 years governments and politicians have proven incapable to do anything about global heating.

That's because politicians are bound to follow roughly the public opinion, or they risk being not re-elected.

Therefore (sadly), this proves that individual actions will not make much of a dent.


Individuals are absolutely on the hook for living high carbon footprint lifestyles, however governments have the power to incentivize low carbon, tax high carbon, and provide R and D and partnerships. It'll take govt, industry, and the people to lick our carbon addiction.


Nobody is against government action. It's thoroughly needed. But I don't believe it will come around unless people demand it. And by demanding I don't mean signing a petition or shouting slogans at a demonstration. I mean real actions to adjust your lifestyle. And I don't believe it's necessary to immediately become carbon neutral on individual level. To begin with, even a small reduction can send powerful ripples across the economy.


The impact of not changing your phone is < 100kg of CO2 eq. It's of course a good thing to do, but it won't replace doing the other more important changes you've listed.


>- Reduce your meat consumption as much as you can. Don't go all the way vegan, but make meat a special treat not a commodity.

Why? How will this help the environment? Real sources please.


https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/78/3/660S/4690010

But really, it's common sense. Do you think it's more efficient to eat grain or to feed grain to a cow, wait until it matures and then eat the cow?


Reason is biology/physics. You need ten times the biomass to create an equivalent biomass at a trophic level that is one higher. It HAS to be more inefficient to eat meat instead of crops because it raises your trophic level by 1.

(Worst case is eating what were apex predators like e.g. tuna fish)

About trophic levels:

Level 1 are producers like plants. Herbivores are level 2, carnivores eating herbivores are level 3, carnivores eating carnivores are level 4 and then there's the apex predator that is not eaten by anything, usually.

Some links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trophic_level#Biomass_transfer... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecological_efficiency#Ten_perc...


Well... except for the fact that I don't have a gut to make use of any of the biomass that grazing cattle can harvest from a field. And eaten or not, that biomass is part of active carbon cycle, and if left on the field, will decompose back into the atmosphere.


About 36% of all crops were used to feed lifestock in 2017. [0], table on page 7 (PDF page numbers).

So - no need to graze.

[0] http://www.fao.org/3/ca0239en/CA0239EN.pdf


You’re missing the one that dwarfs the impact of all the rest:

Don’t have kids.


Start working part time? And if my boss won't let me, find a job that will?

You forgot to add "figure out how to live on 95% less income" to your list.


this heartfelt yet trivial response makes the worst fodder for those seeking to block or ridicule those serious about this topic. Absolutely down-vote on this, due to more significant systemic approaches needing the attention.


On the don't upgrade your phone...check out lineageOS for giving it more time

bad_user 19 days ago [flagged]

> “Reduce your meat consumption as much as you can. Don't go all the way vegan, but make meat a special treat not a commodity.

No thank you.

I know vegans have an anti-meat agenda and have been promoting this idea, however industrial agriculture as a whole is not sustainable, not just meat, and switching to a plants-based diet won’t save the planet.

The elephant in the room is that sustainable farming needs to be local, it needs natural fertilizers and it needs grazing animals. Sustainable farming also needs to do away with pesticides because we are killing the insects.

Also you have to take the cost to healthcare into account. The vegan diet is not sustainable and we already have a huge health issue on it hands, not from meat, but from all the cheap corn, wheat and sugar ;-)

Sorry, but most vegans have serious nutrient deficiencies, like proteins, vitamin B12 or K2. Humans are meant to be omnivores, we do not have the digestive tract of herbivores to synthesize proteins or the ability to synthesize vitamin C like carnivores for that matter.

If you want policy, ask the lawmakers to stop subsidizing corn and wheat. Making corn more expensive will make CAFO operations and thus meat more expensive, which will in turn increase demand for animals raised using more sustainable practices.


> Eschew flamebait. Don't introduce flamewar topics unless you have something genuinely new to say. Avoid unrelated controversies and generic tangents.

Let's please not go round after round of this. That we get dreadful sub-threads is one thing, but that they're so predictable is the kicker.

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

MiroF 19 days ago [flagged]

What a bunch of bullshit. I'm not a vegan, even though I'm sure you'll label me as having an "anti-meat agenda." I have substantially cut down on my own meat consumption due to the environmental impact.

> industrial agriculture as a whole is not sustainable, not just meat, and switching to a plants-based diet won’t save the planet.

Just because two things both cause emissions doesn't mean one isn't much, much worse than the other. The emissions impact of meat is far worse than the alternatives - beef emits a factor of 17x as much GHG than tofu.

Industrial farming at scale can oftentimes lower the GHG emissions per unit of food (that's how scaling works, actually). The problem with factory farms is when it is applied to (you guessed it) the mass production of meat.

> Sorry, but most vegans have serious nutrient deficiencies, like proteins, vitamin B12 or K2. Humans are meant to be omnivores

First, this is just not true and nutrient deficiencies can be easily substituted for. None of this is a reason to not "reduce your meat consumption," specifically when humans today consume substantially more meat than they ever did pre-agriculture (despite being "meant" to be omnivores).

> The vegan diet is not sustainable

Based on what? It's more resource sustainable than our current level of meat consumption, for sure.

Look, you're free to make the choices you want - but don't pretend that they're more environmentally sustainable or rational than reducing your meat intake. You like meat and are putting your preference for meat above the associated environmental concerns. Be honest with yourself.


>>First, this is just not true and nutrient deficiencies can be easily substituted for.

Wasn't there a story posted recently where a study found that nutritional supplements don't work?


I didn't say supplements - I said substitutes. Nutritional yeast is yummy and is an easy source of B12 (mind you - many meat eaters are also deficient in B12, so not really a vegan problem)


>What a bunch of bullshit. I'm not a vegan, even though I'm sure you'll label me as having an "anti-meat agenda." I have substantially cut down on my own meat consumption due to the environmental impact.

Do you fly less? Drive less or carpool? Recycle? Live in a small home? Did you decide to not to have children? Wear only used clothing? Do you track your trash and food waste? Do you eat less? Shower less? Do you donate money to environmental causes?

The militant "your opinion is bullshit" on individual issues is precisely why the majority of people don't take climate change seriously. I'll continue to enjoy my meat and do my part in many other ways, thanks.

MiroF 19 days ago [flagged]

Sorry, didn't realize I was talking to someone who believed making changes at the margin don't matter.

None of your arguments justify continued high meat consumption. I don't own a car, I recycle, I live in an apartment, don't have children, thrift, compost, ??eat less?? (no - I eat sustainably, and it more than makes up for the amount I eat).

> The militant "your opinion is bullshit" on individual issues

Thinking you're wrong isn't "militant" - it's just thinking that you're wrong. Learn to have a discussion.

People don't take climate change seriously because they're able to hide behind moral excuses for their own behavior, not because they're turned off because a vegan was mean to them once.


>I was talking to someone who believed making changes at the margin don't matter.

I listed plenty of things I do that contribute at the margins. But unless I follow your rules, it will never be good enough.

>None of your arguments justify continued high meat consumption.

I don't need to justify a single thing to you or anyone else.

>Learn to have a discussion.

Rich, coming from a person who opened up the conversation with "what a bunch of bullshit".


I think it kind of gets lost in this debate- but lets say that the facts point towards a very grim outcome in the relatively near future.

Now lets say we could possibly mitigate the grimness of that outcome with our actions...wouldn't it make sense for all of us to do everything in our power? What would we lose? A burger tastes good, sure, but who gives a flying fuck if the planet is essentially uninhabitable?


I recommend reading some essays on climate justice/meta-ethics, these are very interesting questions!

Under the assumption of utilitarianism, it does seem like we ought do everything in our power.


There is a drastic difference between saying: I still want to eat meat because I like it and I don't care about it's impact (or I offset the impact some other way like you say you do), and saying: vegan diet is not healthy or sustainable and thus no one should do it, and here are a bunch of pseudo-scientific facts to back my made up claims.

The former is honest, the latter is a bunch of BS.


You can continue to enjoy your meat, but still ensure your diet contains a responsible amount of it. A diet with proportionally less meat is both healthier and more environmentally sustainable.

I will never understand why Americans are personally affronted by the idea that they should eat less meat. What makes it such an insulting proposition?


> What makes it such an insulting proposition?

People are bred and raised with this axiomatic, individualist "you against the world" attitude from birth. There's a huge cultural divide.

"Why the fuck should I have to ever give anything up that I don't want to, to help you? And fuck you for guilt-tripping me" is pretty much the standard fare.


>I will never understand why Americans are personally affronted by the idea that they should eat less meat.

I'm not American, nor can you have any possible idea what amount I eat, nor "should" be eating.


[flagged]


I would submit that a lot of the idea that "vegans are obnoxious" comes from defensive projection. I know a decent number of vegans. I've known more at various points in my life. (I'm not one; I don't have the inclination or the discipline if I did.) And I have observed non-vegans transmute "no thanks, I'm a vegan" into a perceived attack and perceived moral superiority when it was not intended waaaay more than I've seen somebody getting a morality-boner over being a vegan.

Your four examples are anecdotal, much like mine, but we also see this sort of defensiveness around other topics where the conventional morality has some problems that conventional folks don't conventionally want to grapple with. I like Ian Danskin's work in general, but the way he looks at this in particular has resonated with me: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExEHuNrC8yU


I think has more to do with the fact that any sort of vocal veganism is considered obnoxious in the US. So yeah, anyone who tells you they're vegan will be labeled as obnoxious.


Yeah if only we could figure out how it got associated with obnoxious people in the first place.


I guess, sure, you can chalk it up to "those annoying people" and just be done.

Or you can look at the way that many Americans (for the purposes of this discussion; I am one, and I don't have sufficient insight into other folks) react to anybody suggesting anything is wrong with the status quo. America has not a conservative problem but a reactionary one, even outside of what is generally considered "political". This is part of the American hypocrisy about "leaving politics out of it"; most folks with a political education understand that life among other people is inherently and inescapably political, but it's only those who want to change things who are accused of "bringing politics into it", while the nature of the status quo is taken as implicitly apolitical.

To this end, I often see people react as if somebody else being a vegan is translated into being an implicit threat to a non-vegan's way of life. Similarly, you see this with those "normal people" finding gay marriage to be a threat to the "sanctity of marriage" or whatever (gay people are gonna make heterosexual marriages worse, are they?) and you see it with the completely bent way that Americans have and historically have reacted to the notion of somebody being "a feminist"--well before the internet's even more bent notion of some kind of "SJW menace" arose. I tend to think that that has transmuted into this reputation as much as any "bad apple"/obnoxious jerk has been, if not more.


Only thing you can do about that, IMO, is to not be reactionary and not make arguments that seem in the slightest threatening to people. Taking the marriage example, if someone brings up "the sanctity of marriage", instead of just being against that idea, I point out that I agree marriage is sacred and as such I don't want it being subject to definitions in a vote, or having sacred religious ceremonies attached to tax incentives. I think I've changed more than a few peoples minds with that one. People are irrationally reactionary, I agree, but the best response is to not give them so much to react to.


As a white, straight, cisgender male, I don't have to give anybody much to react to. When I go at somebody because they're being horrible, it's a choice (and one borne of a certain kind of community; as a white, straight, cisgender male, it's really hard for those reactionaries to bite me).

Were I black or gay or trans or a woman and American reactionaries are threatened by me for existing, it is not a choice. When your existence is a political question and a political threat, it is not so easy to simply "take it easy".


>Were I black or gay or trans or a woman and American reactionaries are threatened by me for existing, it is not a choice.

Everyone else is at risk, but white men are some homogeneous group that bands together to hold everyone else back. Do I have that right?


I don't think I explained my last point well. Someone, and it was probably conservatives that started it, turned the gay marriage debate into very much a your-definition-versus-my-definition debate. Very few people I think would actually support eliminating the existence of gay people. But a lot of people would be called to action if they feel that the government is going to define something that is part of their religion differently from their religion. I think "if you don't like gay marriage, don't get a gay marriage" is a great argument. But then people who don't want to bake a wedding cake for a gay marriage get taken to court and lose. If you can understand how people wanting to make gay marriage illegal makes gay people feel like their existence is threatened, it's not much of a leap to see how people in the Bible belt look at that sequence of events as a similar threat. So stop the adversarial nature entirely. The government doesn't get to define your peaceful, consensual relationships. End of story. If I want to not bake a wedding cake, and if they gay community wants to take their business elsewhere? That's the respective individual's business. If I want my next of kin to be a man, or a woman, or neither, or multiple people, that's my business. No one's church stops being considered a church because of beliefs regarding a protected class. No one's getting tax breaks for their relationships that other people don't on the basis of gender. Who can feel threatened?

edit: I'm trying to get away from arguing with anecdotes, but let me share a more extreme illustration of how a Christian might also feel "threatened" since you clearly already empathize with the gay community and why they feel threatened. A while ago the library in the next town over hosted a "drag queen story hour". They explicitly advertized this as being an event for children ages 2-8, where kids could come and read with a drag queen. The library said this was to promote diversity and understanding. Obviously the bible thumpers lost their minds, and the library then pulled one of the performers from the event, citing concerns about that performer being bullied. I googled that performer's name as part of trying to figure out what this was all about. The first thing I found was a video of that person, outside, in public, in a major city, masturbating with a toothbrush. The second thing I found was that person in lingerie kneeling before a Christian statue with what I assume to be simulated ejaculate on their face. This person, using the same stage name, was being promoted by the local government for a children's event. And objections about the appropriateness were labelled as bullying. If you're an otherwise peaceful, church-going person who has not previously been much of a party to any LGBT discussions, do you see why these people might feel like there's a threat to their way of life as well? And why they feel disrespected? There's not a lot of openly gay people in this town. This, and media, are all the exposure any of them gets to alternative sexual lifestyles. I don't know how you come back from something like to a reasonable discussion about the real bullying that happens.


Isn't it odd?

We have these ethical giants among us, screaming "bullshit" and making assumptions about the rest of us based on their personal values.


That was a pretty incoherent rant, so not sure where to start.

Meat, especially beef production produces an order of magnitude more emissions than crops do. Rice is quite bad among the crops because of the methane produced but even that is far better than meat. [0]

You can even cut 80% of CO_2 equiv. emissions of beef by replacing it with pork. It's THAT bad.

Half of all people depend on crops produced with artifical fertilizer, so there's no way around that at the moment. But: you could reduce a lot of the production of crops if you hadn't to feed that many cows for meat for dairy products.

I'm not a vegan or vegetarian by the way but have reduced my meat consumption by at least 50-75% without actually missing anything. Don't go into the sacrifice area, nobody likes to be there. Just cut what you won't miss anyways.

[0] https://ourworldindata.org/meat-and-seafood-production-consu...


One extremely low hanging fruit is to replace beef with pork or chicken wherever you're not really tasting and enjoying the beef. E.g. for tacos, where the flavor is dominated by spices anyway - at least for me it's equally good with minced pork.


> "however industrial agriculture as a whole is not sustainable, not just meat, and switching to a plants-based diet won’t save the planet"

Sure, except meat is an order of magnitude less sustainable than plant, because you extract ~10% of the energy from the meat you eat, and the animals the meat comes from extract only ~10% from the plant they eat: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecological_efficiency.

> "Also you have to take the cost to healthcare into account. The vegan diet is not sustainable [...]"

Initial comment talked about reducing consumption, not stopping it altogether, you don't need to have a steak in your plate every day to get enough vitamins/proteins.

Regarding the cost to healthcare, assuming you are in a country similar to the US, if everyone went vegan tomorrow, paying for the cost of a few pills of vitamin/protein per person compared to the disaster that is US (and most western countries for that matter) diet currently, it would be a massive reduction in cost.

If you don't want to stop eating meat because you like it so much, that's fine, but it seems like you are throwing pseudo-scientific arguments at plant-based diet to make you feel less bad about your choices.


The message you're replying to specifically said not vegan. Your points about farming might be good but the vegan stuff is a straw man.

The best diet for health and the environment[0] is high in whole grains, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, with small amounts of meat and sugar. Making meat a treat (as written above) is absolutely right.

[0] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jan/16/new-plan...


> we do not have the digestive tract of herbivores to synthesize proteins [...]

The goal of the digestion is not to synthesize proteins. Quite the opposite actually: it's supposed to break down proteins into amino acids. Amino acids are then recombined into proteins inside cells, according to the DNA.

Here is the DNA codon table that gives the DNA <-> amino acid translation: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DNA_codon_table


> sustainable farming needs to be local, it needs natural fertilizers and it needs grazing animals.

I suspect that the "sustainable farming" you're describing, if applied at scale (= enough to feed 7 billion people) would require so much land as to completely devastate and replace every natural environment still left on earth. Little crops and pastures, as pleasing as they are to the eye, are not a natural environment.


Yeah, this sounds like typical carnist propaganda. Meat has some magical ingredient needed for health that no one can name? Almost all peer-reviewed studies show that vegans (diet done properly) are the only group within healthy range for almost all markers; most meat eaters are deficient in B12 etc etc. It is strikingly similar to smoking: educating the public takes a very long time, laws are always behind and good news about your bad habits become industry-funded public "knowledge". Maybe we will have figured out how not to kill ourselves by the time we colonize mars


Like with most things, it depends. Something jumps in and shakes up the simplicity Sometimes it's an eskimo getting his vitamin C from animal organs.


Never do I hear so many ordinary people caring about the Inuit as when I mention veganism. Really makes you think


Only very recently did we stop eating organ meats for the most part.

Inuit is probably used as a living reference to what other cultures did in the past.


Nothing "natural" would sustain 7b+ people anyway, so what's your point against "sustainable" as a reasonable (and considerable) improvement?


> what's your point against "sustainable"

"Sustainable" is just a label, it doesn't in itself prove

a) that the methods it describes are sustainable;

b) that the conventional, industrial methods are not sustainable.

However, I agree that nothing natural can sustain a population of 7 billion. But we can try to concentrate the necessary unnatural food production on the smallest possible area, or use less technology and spread it over a much wider area.


The point is that local and "natural" is not sustainable. We need scale for a reason.


Scale is not sustainable either. What we REALLY need is population reduction.


Silly to advocate for population reduction when people in the developed world (esp. the US) emit multiple times as much as those in the developing world.

This is largely an overconsumption problem, not an overpopulation problem. Most of the people born today will emit less than you or I ever will.


Meat is great. Driving anywhere I want as often as I like is great. Cooling my house in the summer is great. Buying products made of plastic is great.

I don't want to stop doing any of these things, they make my life great. I could radically change my entire lifestyle to something much more limited and uncomfortable, only for the gains to be eaten up because my neighbor refuses to use contraception, and refuses to teach his 5 kids to use contraception.

The onus of climate change falls on people whose carbon footprint is exponential. Not me, mine is finite. I'm not going to move mountains in my life to make a difference that's fractional compared to other people's careless reproduction.


> Silly to advocate for population reduction when people in the developed world (esp. the US) emit multiple times as much as those in the developing world.

It's true, and it's enraging. But at the same time, are you wishing for the people in the developing world to keep producing so few emissions per capita? Because they would emit as much as we do if they could, and I'm sure they dream they'll be able to do it one day. And it's fair: but then we need to think of a recipe for sustainability that factors in much higher consumption levels for the now developing countries- instead of much lower ones for the developed world.


It doesn’t make sense that vegans would be short on protein give that there are copious sources of vegetable protein such as beans. B12 is an issue, but you could also make a list of vitamins that an average person doesn’t get in their diet because they eat fast food and ramen.


A lot of what you point out is fair, but there are some points I disagree with.

First, absolutely right that the big problem with agriculture is its industrialization. It uses a ton of petrochemicals and relies on shipping things all over the world. And monocrops are terrible for the planet in all sorts of ways.

Second, grazing is actually good for soil, which in turn is quite effective for sequestering carbon. Potentially rivaling forests if we’re talking about replacing industrial monocrop acreage.

And I like what you say about the cost being more realistic if we switch to smaller, local farms. Beef would cost more, because it would reflect the price of growing it sustainably.

Where I disagree is the attitude against veganism. This idea that you can’t be vegan and healthy is ridiculous. If we’re talking anecdotes, then my wife and kids (who are vegan because of allergies) are a good example because they have regular annual checkups and are thriving on a vegan diet. I have a friend who lifts and went vegan, and got before and after bloodwork and is remarkably healthier now. Most of the research I’ve seen over the past several years suggests that not only is veganism a totally healthy way to live, it might actually be the healthier way to live.


> Sorry, but most vegans have serious nutrient deficiencies, like proteins, vitamin B12 or K2. Humans are meant to be omnivores

Hi, I went to high school too.

Unfortunately for you this isn't true. Humans are quite capable to adapt to a meatless diet and remain healthy. You don't need the levels of protein suggested by many government adopted food guides or athletic trainers. We actually consume far more protein than is necessary for the average person.

I haven't eaten meat in years. I run 5k twice a week, cycle everywhere when the weather is good, and my doctor says I'm in good health. It's definitely possible to be healthy and not eat meat.

There are exceptions! I have friends who are allergic to complex plant-based proteins. There are people from ethnic and cultural groups who are also not able to switch to an entirely plant-based diet. That's fine! There will always be exceptions.

However the majority of us are able to reduce our meat consumption and given the current climate and indications of where it's heading I think it's great that this is finally coming to light.

> If you want policy, ask the lawmakers to stop subsidizing corn and wheat.

As far as I know, in my limited knowledge of the matter, a large part of the produce from those subsidies goes to feeding cattle. The backtracking of the Brazilian rain forest seems to be in large due to soy crops to feed cattle. (It appeared as though the campaigning to save the rain forest in the 90's was working until about the mid-aughts when it started to revert... fast).

The majority of crops are going to feed the meat industry to feed an even smaller population of humans. If enough of the human population adapted to a plant based diet we wouldn't even need most of those crops.

I used to hold the, "humans are omnivores," opinion but.. it was just an opinion. There have been some eye-opening documentaries in recent years shedding light on the data and political forces used to ensure the survival and growth of the meat industry. That's what tipped me over... being lied to that meat was such a critical part of my health when it's not... and that such campaigning has been harming the environment and hurting the climate -- something that does affect me more than missing bacon. I can live without bacon if it means my kids and their kids have a chance at making it through the next 100 years of damage coming their way.


How on earth are you going to get farming local in NYC? Where? Thinking that making all roofs farms will make even a small dent is absurd, especially since it would be competing with solar.


> Sorry, but most vegans have serious nutrient deficiencies, like proteins, vitamin B12 or K2. Humans are meant to be omnivores, we do not have the digestive tract of herbivores to synthesize proteins or the ability to synthesize vitamin C like carnivores for that matter.

Do some research.


Just because there are issues with pesticides, subsidies, and other aspects of agriculture, doesn't make your statements on meat true.

Meat takes a lot of energy to produce. It makes sense intuitively: think about how much energy was spent to raise you. That energy has to come from somewhere, and producing it has environmental side effects. Enormous ones. Don't underestimate the harm done by meat production to the environment.

Sustainably farmed eggs and fish are much more environmentally responsible, and provide the vitamins you mention. In the future all the essential nutrients will also be available via bacterial cultures.


I completely agree. The only reason grains and soy are more 'sustainable' at the moment is because we're spraying the planet over in petroleum-based fertilizers. These mono crops drive up insect populations that like to eat those crops, so they have to use oceans of pesticide.

Grazing animals do seem like the better solution. They can eat natural grasses and foliage, no herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers required.


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