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The Unlikely Success of Fish Sticks (hakaimagazine.com)
136 points by Thevet 8 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 169 comments





This made me curious about how it was that Clarence Birdseye came to discover the fast-freeze approach that preserves flavor. The answer is surprisingly straightforward - he was a fur trader in Labrador (northern Canada) and noticed when he pulled fish out they froze immediately and were still delicious months later. So if only you could make fish as cold as northern Canada, you could make frozen fish tasty! It was from there that he designed a -45F calcium chloride based belt technique and then a -25F ammonia evaporation driven technique.

https://www.loc.gov/everyday-mysteries/technology/item/who-i...


Sounds like he was inspired to try that by the food company of the same name

Also, what are the odds of Lou Gehrig contracting Lou Gehrig's Disease? So unlucky.

Sounds to me like he founded the company of the same name.

I like that you can still buy Birdseye brand frozen foods in the Grocery store.

Nitpick: the brand is Birds Eye. After a series of mergers it's owned by Conagra, which also owns a dizzying array of brands, including Chef Boyardee and PF Chang's.

Good point, thanks, I figured it must be owned by some large corporation by now. At least the historical branding remains.

It’s a pretty big, well known brand in the UK :)

> Each kilogram of fish sticks produces about 1.3 kilograms of carbon dioxide, which “rivals the climate impact of tofu,” she says. Beef, by comparison, produces over 100 times that amount of carbon dioxide per kilogram.

These estimates vary a lot from one source to another, but even then 130 kgCO2/kg is an unusually high estimate for beef. Common range, I think, is from 20 to 60. For example this estimate is 26 [1] and this is 21 for beef from dairy herd and 60 from beef herd [2].

[1] http://css.umich.edu/factsheets/carbon-footprint-factsheet

[2] https://ourworldindata.org/food-choice-vs-eating-local


This also depends on what you count as carbon dioxide production. For example, cattle produce methane through gut fermentation, which is a strong greenhouse gas. However, it contributes to warming only to the extent the cattle stocks are growing. If cattle numbers are stable for some amount of time, than the methane produced by them does not contribute to new warming, as it forms closed cycle: methane decomposes to CO2 in atmosphere in a decade or two, which is then captured by grass, which is eaten by cattle. The result is a steady state of stable fraction of CO2 and CH4 in atmosphere, and no warming.

What really does contribute to climate change though is emissions that come from fossils, like fuel for machines, electricity for processing and storage, and gas for artificial fertilizer. The variation in reported numbers is caused by agenda, ie whether one wants to accurately assess impact of beef production, or whether they want to paint beef as worst thing ever.


I keep seeing this and I don't understand it because it literally doesn't matter.

There is a total amount of emissions in a year and it leads to a certain amount of atmospheric forcing.

Let's say the algae food amendment works out and cattle methane can be eliminated with it. Some cattle are completely pastured, let's say you can get a 70% reduction in total methane emission from cows, just mandate that lot-fed cattle must receive this feed amendment and maybe subsidize it.

That's huge. That reduces a big source of emissions. It's less atmospheric forcing in total for the year. That's the only thing that matters.

It's an open-and-shut scenario for "shut up and calculate".



Firstly you are presuming cattle are grass fed with no fertilizer used. Nitrogen fertilizer and stock feeds use petrochemicals directly or indirectly.

> If cattle numbers are stable for some amount of time

Cattle numbers are mostly static. The amount of methane produced is not trivial, although as you point out not the same class of problem as CO² since CO² is cumulative. Was your 40 year figure the half-life?

For comparison, CFCs break down over many decades (I couldn't find reliable figures) but the ozone hole is still a serious problem (it seriously affects us in New Zealand where I live).


> Was your 40 year figure the half-life?

Half-life of methane in the atmosphere is 9.1 years (Wikipedia).


> methane decomposes to CO2 in atmosphere in a decade or two, which is then captured by grass

But methane is a worse greenhouse gas than CO2, so it's not neutral at all.

You're also assuming that cattle are fed naturally occurring grass rather than industrial livestock feed, which I don't have numbers for but I assume is not carbon-neutral.


But methane is a worse greenhouse gas than CO2, so it's not neutral at all.

It is worse, but it doesn’t matter: as long as cattle population stays at constant levels, so will the amount of methane in the atmosphere that resulted from cattle emissions. You only get climate change from growing amount of greenhouse gases.

> You're also assuming that cattle are fed naturally occurring grass rather than industrial livestock feed, which I don't have numbers for but I assume is not carbon-neutral

In fact, I’m not; I explicitly mention artificial fertilizer, for example, which is typically not used to produce hay. The point is that to assess the effect of cattle on warming, you should focus on fossil inputs into it, not on methane. I think is quite likely that methane production from gastric fermentation in North America these days is lower than, say, in 1500s, where 60 millions bisons alone roamed the plains, along with another tens of millions of deer and other ruminants.


Can’t you apply this logic to other things too though? We have two ICE cars for the household, and as long as that remains stable the CO2 produced will be used by the plants in our garden.

No, because cows run on biofuel that is recently captured carbon, while your car is burning fossil fuel that is long ago captured carbon. Your houseplants aren't recapturing anywhere near that much.

No.

They turn that carbon from carbon dioxide into methane, which has a 27x multiplier in warming over its lifetime in the atmosphere.

It's not carbon neutral, it's equivalent to 26 extra tonnes for each tonne of CO2 which goes into the feed.


And that methane does not stay in the atmosphere forever, but only for a decade or two. It’s all part of a cycle.

If it makes it easier to think about it, here is one way: imagine a world with no humans, no fossil fuels, but stable population of 10 billion cows. These 10 billion cows produce tremendous amounts of methane. Do you expect this methane to warm the climate over next 1000 years? If you do, you’re wrong: if the population has been and will stay stable, the methane that cows emit is just enough to replace the methane decomposing to CO2 and H2O that was previously emitted by the cows. As long as population numbers are constant, the amount of methane in the atmosphere is also constant, and you’ll see no climate warming.


No, because almost all of the CO2 that comes out of your tailpipe used to be buried underground in stable forms. The plants in your garden both won't absorb enough, and even if it did it would never end up in any long-term storage separate from the atmosphere.

I think that would only be the case if the plants in your garden eventually turn into biofuel.

The CO₂ produced by cars is proportional to their use. You could have 100 cars sitting in your massive garage and they wouldn't emit CO₂ beyond what was used for their manufacturing.

> as it forms closed cycle

Wouldn't that require the grass to grow more to compensate for the increase in CO2?


> These estimates vary a lot from one source to another, but even then 130 kgCO2/kg is an unusually high estimate for beef. Common range, I think, is from 20 to 60

Still, we'd be much better off, had we stopped eating beef (and other ruminants) and instead switched to pork, poultry and fish.


Another thing British and Americans have a different name for. We call them fish fingers. If you ask for fish sticks in the UK you will probably get the pinkish crab sticks that don’t have breadcrumbs

Fish fingers sounds funny to me as an American, but actually it's more consistent. Chicken fingers in the US are the same product but with chicken instead of fish.

As an aside, I grew up with “chicken fingers” everywhere, on restaurant menus, etc. but now I can’t think of the last time I didn’t see them called “chicken tenders” outside of one regional fast food chain where I am now. I live in a different region now so I wonder if that’s a regional thing or just an overall trend

Indeed, I had never heard of a chicken tender until I started reading r/WSB; they've always been chicken fingers or buffalo wings.

Buffalo wings are something completely different though? Those are the thigh/drumstick of the chicken (which is commonly served with a spicy sauce), whereas chicken fingers/tenders are the tenderloin.

Buffalo wings are actually wings. The "flat" and "drum" are both from the wing: https://www.wikihow.com/Cut-Chicken-Wings

Some restaurants serve "boneless wings" which are typically fingies with buffalo sauce.

Northeast? I see "chicken tenders" on a lot of menus. I can see the difference being that "chicken fingers" having a childish connotation. And it goes without saying, "boneless buffalo wings" is a complete fabrication of reality.

I wonder if Alton Brown has more sway than I thought. He's done a whole series of rants over the years on his show about how chicken don't have fingers. Then, in his last live stage show, he told a hilarious story about how he made chicken feet for his daughter when she insisted that chicken do have fingers.

I believe the chicken tender is a specific cut/part of the breast. I would guess it’s being used inaccurately for marketing/trendiness purposes, but originally it was probably not just a regional variation of “chicken finger”. See related: Chilean Sea Bass as a renaming of the less glamorous “toothfish”.

“Chicken strips” is quite common too in the United States.

Indeed. Although I'm mostly aware of the American equivalents of British terms, in this case it caught me off guard. Seeing the headline I had no idea what it was talking about, and I thought it might mean "fish sticks" as in fishing using spears! I wonder what my American counterpart might have thought if the headline used "fish fingers" instead... maybe that the article was about the unlikely evolutionary success of vertebrate fingers‽

Chicken prepared in a similar manner is called chicken fingers in the US, and at least in Canada, "fish fingers" sounds entirely natural and is not something I would even blink at. I don't even know what they're labelled as on packages; probably a mixture of both.

If you go somewhere upmarket in the UK, they will be cod goujons, and will be an artfully irregular shape.

Had a chuckle that the local Asda (owned by Walmart until late last year) might be considered upmarket!

They have cod goujons, and they are indeed respectably artful in their irregular shape.


> pinkish crab stick

interesting, these are Japanese Surimi, no?


Yes

I even thought the article was about the "crab" sticks.

Above all I find fish sticks convenient.

I can take only as many as needed out of the box and put the rest back into the freezer for next time. They only take a few minutes to fry and go well with a variety of side dishes which gives flexibility. I do not even mind putting them on burgers instead of patties when I am not willing to make some (I usually cook freshly and do not like pre-made patties at all) (-> flexibility again).


Such an improvement over fishbricks:

> Birdseye developed a novel freezing technique...but when used on fish, the method created large blocks of intermingled fillets that, when pried apart, tore into “mangled, unappetizing chunks” .... The fishing industry tried selling the blocks whole, as fishbricks. These were packaged like blocks of ice cream, with the idea that a housewife could chop off however much fish she wanted that day.

What a world.


Funny that we have certain collective nouns that don't cross meat types.

-- Fish sticks

-- Chicken nuggets or fingers

-- Shrimp poppers

And beef / pork don't seem to ever fall into those. (pork sticks?? Beef nuggets??)

Maybe because beef, pork seem worthy of preserving identity as a piece of a distinguishable reputable whole parent, while fish, chicken, are sometimes almost.... um, extruded and need a noun of their own after such process?



Fwiw - in Ireland & UK, they're fish fingers, not fish sticks.

Interesting -- for the US "fingers" is reserved for breaded frozen meat that appears to be hand-formed (that is, not rectangular, but still likely machine-made at scale). Chicken fingers and fish fingers are commonly available.

What's a sausage if it's not an extruded pork stick?

I think the secret sauce for fish sticks’ success is tartar sauce.

By themselves fish sticks are meh, but when dipped in tarter sauce, the taste is sublime.

The shape and consistency of fish sticks make it easier to dip in tartar sauce.


Tomato ketchup is also pretty good - even if broadsheet journalists might dismiss it as "a bit childish":

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/dec/15/how-to-...


The extra bite from HP sauce makes it preferable to normal tomato ketchup here: the real sophisticate’s choice. ;)

I was always a fan of cocktail sauce (ketchup with horseradish).

Agree. Cocktail sauce with extra horseradish is great on all types of seafood - oysters, shrimp, fish, etc...

There is a fine line between genius and madness, and i regret to report that you crossed it a long time ago.

A 50/50 Mix of Tomato ketchup and Sriracha is IMO better than straight ketchup

New York semi-recently discovered korean ingredients so Gochujang and ketchup is the new hotness for the western world.

I like fried battered fish with tartar sauce, but cocktail sauce (ketchup and prepared horseradish) is better IMO and malt vinegar is several factors better.

"The fishing industry tried selling the blocks whole, as fishbricks."

Now that sounds unappealing.

But fishsticks were always great as a kid.

I don't know why it isn't mentioned that they were good for dipping. You could dip them in tartar sauce, inferior to british fish and chips, but kids didn't mind, they were even amenable to ketchup or mayonnaise.


> Each kilogram of fish sticks produces about 1.3 kilograms of carbon dioxide, which “rivals the climate impact of tofu,” she says. Beef, by comparison, produces over 100 times that amount of carbon dioxide per kilogram.

That's fascinating. I wish they'd explain why.


I've mostly seen statistics about water usage for dairy milk production, but it takes a lot of water and food to raise a cow to maturity. Fish (if harvested sustainably) care for themselves until caught, so it makes some sense to me that planting, growing, harvesting, and processing soybeans into tofu would have similar impact to fleets of ships traveling the ocean catching fish.

A few years ago I read and enjoyed the book "The Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollan. The author follows three different meals from farm to table as completely as possible given the nature of modern food production. It's a great read for someone who wants to know more about where food comes from and how it gets here, and it's definitely made me think about what I'm eating.


But presumably the fish still does need to eat, which you'd need to keep in mind for the calculation?

I don't think so, unless there is a significant amount of carbon released due to the way the fish's food grows. It's certainly not the same as running all of the machinery required to process and transport livestock feed. There has been some interesting back-and-forth about the role of the fish themselves as a natural carbon sink[1][2]. I don't pretend to understand the science or math involved in these calculations though.

[1] https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/6/44/eabb4848 [2] https://sustainablefisheries-uw.org/big-fish-sink-blue-carbo...


Not for the purpose of making a carbon footprint calculation I believe.

That beef number is going to vary widely. The low end might be grass-fed beef on rotational grazing regenerative grassland fed a methane suppressing supplement versus beef raised on factory farmed corn grown on land created by burning down the rain forest.

I thought the methane from decomposing grass was net generated whether it passed through the cow or not?

You are correct. It's one of many sleight of hand tricks used to exaggerate the impact of beef. For some reason, certain parties don't want harm reduction policies on these issues, they want you to stop eating Beef altogether.

Sure you can argue about the specifics and how bad eating beef is for the environment and whether it's 10x worse or 100x worse than something else. But it's hard to argue that it's not causing an environmental problem that other foods simply wouldn't create. Monoculture, water poisoning, carbon footprint, animal cruelty, health and we haven't even considered the ethics of it yet. I get that it's part of our lifestyle but why is it so difficult to move on?

It's difficult to move away from because it's part of our lifestyle.

Most beef aren't fed grass, they're fed corn or barley or other grains.

As a someone who came from a fish-eating nation (Japan), it's great to know that fish sticks are sustainable. The collective memory there was that Japan was condemned as fish abuser. People felt unfair but also were ashamed at the same time. (Over-fishing was/is at least partly true after all.)

However, I don't have any memory around fish sticks associated from my childhood in Japan. Fried (frozen) fish fillets are popular, but they are more chunky. "Fish sausages" used to be popular and felt kind of similar, but it was even more artificial. I wonder where it went. It doesn't make sense not have it there.


If Seaspiracy is to be believed, there's no such this as sustainable fishing at scale. In order to catch this much fish, you're going to kill tons of other animals, discard tons of nets and other fishing equipment, saying it's "sustainable" is probably a lie in most every sense.

The uncomfortable reality is that there is almost no “sustainable” anything at our current population scale. Certainly not at anything approximating a typical Western lifestyle.

I think this is a cop out that needlessly encourages people to not try to find sustainable solutions.

Yes, the road to sustainability is hard and long, but a path does exist that achieves sustainability without population reduction. Discouraging people from seeking that path does nobody any good.


Can we improve things? Sure. Should we invest in improving things? Absolutely.

Neither of those permits the kind of pervasive magical thinking people have where we can somehow raise even a fraction of our 7 billion people to anything approximating a typical Western lifestyle without further accelerating environmental collapse. Or even maintaining the number of people with such a lifestyle that we currently do.

Our planet fundamentally lacks the resources for sustained consumption anywhere near the scale we're operating at, no matter how green we try to make things. Even just on a purely thermodynamic level we're running out of energy budget without overheating the planet[1]. And that's completely ignoring greenhouse gases.

[1]: https://dothemath.ucsd.edu/2011/07/galactic-scale-energy/


I think you'd be surprised as how sustainabily we could approximate the western standard of living if we had the will power to try as a whole society. There would certainly be sacrifices, but I suspect we would also gain significant quality if life improvements. What this requires is a change of mindset and I don't think attitudes like yours help.

We are hundreds of years from that thermodynamic limit at our current exponential growth rate, but that growth may be slowing as population growth slows. It is also quite likely that extraplanetary energy sources could be available by then.

I'm sort of unclear where you are goin with your argument? Are you arguing we need to kill of people or economically retard developing countries energy use? Neither of those seem reasonable stances so I am left wondering what you see as the path forward and what value you see in advancing your argument.


>I'm sort of unclear where you are goin with your argument? Are you arguing we need to kill of people or economically retard developing countries energy use? Neither of those seem reasonable stances so I am left wondering what you see as the path forward and what value you see in advancing your argument.

Lack of resources are a common cause of war. Lack of resources was a problem for humanity for its entire existence and only in the last 100 years has it ceased to be a problem. I'd love it if people voluntarily decided to keep this abundance state going instead of doing the usual party everything away until it's gone behavior.


What lack of resources are you talking about? You comment seems completely disconnected from what you are replying to.

> We are hundreds of years from that thermodynamic limit at our current exponential growth rate

…assuming Earth is a perfect blackbody, which it is not.

> It is also quite likely that extraplanetary energy sources could be available by then.

This is irrelevant. As long as that power is delivered to Earth, it doesn’t matter how or where we generate or collect it.

I mean, just take a step back a second. In the best case scenario, where we completely strip the atmosphere of carbon dioxide, methane, and any other greenhouse gases, we have maybe five generations before we have to completely halt our energy growth or we’ll literally bake the Earth and everyone and everything on it.

We can’t even get people to believe in a global pandemic, much less take it seriously enough to wear masks and vaccinate. What do you think are the odds we’ll convince everyone to rein in energy production globally to avoid catastrophe here? Especially when that means either a) telling the world’s impoverished that we simply can’t let them continue improving their lifestyle, or b) telling the world’s rich that they’re going to have to cut back dramatically. Do either of those sound like platforms we’ll readily elect politicians on around the globe?

And this is just one axis: energy. Humanity faces dozens of these problems simultaneously, all as a simple outcome of the mind-blowing scale we operate at. The oceans are being fished empty. Aquifers for farmland are quickly being depleted of water across the globe. I mean, we’re even running out of sand!

It’s true and I hope it’s uncontroversial that we can’t continue exponentially growing into a finite space. My fear, which appears to be founded by all the evidence I can find, is that we’ve already passed the point where we can even continue things as-is no matter how much we move to solar and wind, aquaponic farms, and electric cars. All of those things require resources too, and even if it’s less it’s likely still too much.

> I'm sort of unclear where you are goin with your argument? Are you arguing we need to kill of people or economically retard developing countries energy use?

My point is that our current situation of resource usage cannot last much longer. This is unavoidable fact. We can opt to find ways to dramatically cut back—far past current feel-good greening measures—or it will happen automatically for us.

As I said this is an uncomfortable reality. Your need to assume that I’m proposing nefarious, evil, and fascist solutions when I’m merely pointing out the unavoidable truth of our predicament should only highlight that more.

I have proposed no solutions because I personally don’t believe any achievable ones exist at this point. We as a species will continue to consume all available resources until the moment we can’t and then… incredibly bad things will follow. I don’t know how to stop it any more than you do. But it doesn’t bring me comfort to believe that vague promises of human ingenuity will somehow overcome these very real problems.


> My point is that our current situation of resource usage cannot last much longer. This is unavoidable fact. We can opt to find ways to dramatically cut back—far past current feel-good greening measures—or it will happen automatically for us.

This is blantantly false.

How does an energy budget that is multiple orders of magnitude larger than our current usage imply we must reduce energy usage below current levels?

What is the "automatic" mechanism that will curtail our energy usage below current levels?

You arguments don't make any sense and seem completely pointless. If you really don't believe there are any solutions, you should shut up and let the optimists work the problem on the off chance you are wrong.


>I'm sort of unclear where you are goin with your argument?

The argument is that its magical thinking that the earth, which has finite resources, can support an infinite number of people, if we only, "manage the resources right". Its a question of reality, not morality, but unfortunately some have a hard time separating the two concepts.

> Are you arguing we need to kill of people or economically retard developing countries energy use? Neither of those seem reasonable stances so I am left wondering what you see as the path forward and what value you see in advancing your argument.

Nobody has to be killed off, but what we should be doing is setting as a goal sustainable population levels in the future through reproduction. This isn't to suggest people should be prevented from having children, but that our policy goals should incentive having fewer children. Right now are policies are the opposite - we offer subsidies to people to have children. What if we offered subsidies to people who didn't have any children?

Of course people will inevitably raise the straw man economic argument, "we need more young people to pay for our older people". The fact is that we have a glut of unskilled labor that is only growing due to automation and increased overpopulation. The unsustainability of our debt-based economy is, unfortunately, not a function of population and will have to be reckoned with on its own.


This is a bizarre argument to make in a world where every 1st world nation is on the cusp of negative population growth. The biggest problem we have is we have is that not enough people have access to a western lifestyle, which has been extremely effective at reducing birthrates to or below replacement levels.

Population-based sustainability arguments are a deflection from the actual hard work, which is reducing CO2 emissions and preserving ecosystems. Because they have nothing to say and no knowledge to contribute about actual sustainability, and reliably go nowhere.


> its magical thinking that the earth, which has finite resources, can support an infinite number of people, if we only, "manage the resources right"

I have not met a single person that thinks the earth can support an infinite number of people. If that is the position you are arguing against, I believe it is a strawman and a waste of your time.

> Nobody has to be killed off, but what we should be doing is setting as a goal sustainable population levels in the future through reproduction.

Global population growth has been slowing for half a century. If you are concerned about reducing it further, western "baby subsidies" aren't a good place to start. The main place you would have to look is Africa since that is expected be the source for the majority of population growth over the next 50 years. If this line of thought is still making sense to you, you are veering dangerously close to ecofacism and genocide. IMHO, the only remotely ethical way to reduce population growth is to mirror the factors that lead to declining birth rates in the west (i.e. prosperity and social stability.)

This means that the only ethical way to reach sustainability is to find ways to be prosperous and sustainable. To do that we must find ways to aproximate the western standards of living in sustainable ways.


> To do that we must find ways to aproximate the western standards of living in sustainable ways.

And this is where we come full circle to magical thinking.

The Earth is struggling to support the current number of people living at western standards. “Approximating” it for a few billion more people will require even more resources than we use today no matter how green you theorize we make things.

This is never going to be possible, no matter how much nicer it would be if we could make it happen. We’re simply too far past the point where it’s a plausible solution. Which, I want to be clear, is super awful. It would be great if that were still an option but it isn’t even close.

> Global population growth has been slowing for half a century.

Growth has been slowing which means… we’re still growing. At a time when we’ve blown past the CO2 threshold to reach +2degC with barely a speed bump. That’s going to happen even if we stopped emitting today and started sucking CO2 out of the air. Which means the actual reality we face is going to be much worse.

> ecofascism

If the only real argument you have against this is ad hominem, you’re on shaky ground.

Unless we cut back our resource consumption—not just the growth rate but the real absolute amount—these things you find so unpalatable will happen. Wars will be fought over resources, hundreds of millions will be displaced and/or starve due to lack of fresh water and arable land, and a host of other increasingly displeasant situations I don’t care to list.

Do I have any practical answers to how we avoid those things? Of course not. Nobody does! But calling people epithets for simply pointing out the abysmal future humans have wrought upon ourselves is childish.

Maybe you disagree that we’re past a point of no return. That’s completely fine. I think the overwhelming quantity of evidence is in my camp but we can disagree here. But if you take a minute to consider that there’s some point where these things are true, what would your perspective be if we were there?


> The Earth is struggling to support the current number of people living at western standards.

We are having significant effects on the climate and ecology, but I don't think it is accurate to say the earth is struggling to support us.

> Growth has been slowing which means… we’re still growing. At a time when we’ve blown past the CO2 threshold to reach +2degC with barely a speed bump.

I've repeatedly acknowledged the issues we face with global warming. Halting population growth will not solve that problem alone. However you keep bringing up the thermodynamic limit amd the declining population growth and a huge impact on when we reach that limit that you seem to refuse to acknowledge.

> If the only real argument you have against this is ad hominem, you’re on shaky ground.

I made no ad hominem attack nor did I call you any names, nor did I ascribe any beliefs to you. I meant to be using "you" in the general form to explain where I see a particular line of reasoning headed. I probably should have used a different general form for clarity and I appologize for any confusion.

You've explained elsewhere that you aren't going anywhere with your argument and don't believe solutions exist.

> Maybe you disagree that we’re past a point of no return

I don't believe there is a single point of no return, but I do believe there are a large number of inflection points that if you pass make the problems haeder to solve. We have passed some of them and there are more on the way. The longer we wait to really take these problems seriously, the hardee they are to solve

I am still unclear what the "magical thinking" is...


>If you are concerned about reducing it further, western "baby subsidies" aren't a good place to start.

Nowhere did I say the subsidies should be western. Naturally the subsidies need to be global to affect the largest areas of population growth. This would have the added benefit of helping pull those in the poorest countries on earth out of dire poverty.


At least for energy there is no problem at all, except for investment costs. A reasonably sized chunk of the Sahara, covered with solar panels, could provide all the energy we need. Nuclear is also an option.

This is plainly false, if you would actually read what I linked.

We simply cannot grow at a 2-3% rate of energy consumption, period, without shortly running into thermodynamic limits of how quickly Earth can radiate excess heat into space. As I said before, this is while completely ignoring greenhouse gases and assuming Earth is a perfect thermodynamic blackbody. And the real Earth is not a perfect blackbody, so reality is inevitably worse than the theoretical limits.

This is entirely independent of the method of energy generation. It’s true of nuclear, solar, and even magical faerie dust. And there’s no getting around it, at least not unless our most basic understanding of thermodynamics is completely off base. Some future where we have “unlimited” energy is a complete fantasy.


Nobody believes that our energy consumption will continue increasing at the current rate for the time it would require to run into any hard limits. In developed countries energy use per capita is constant or decreasing. Population is expected to top out around 10 billion or so.

Population capping out doesn’t mean people stop wanting to use additional energy.

Raising half of the current global population to a Western standard of living would blow past this hard limit, even if we assume a doubling of energy efficiency.

Nothing in this graph[1] should give you the warm and fuzzies that we’ll all somehow band together to avoid this fate.

And keep in mind, we are fewer than five generations away on our current path to a physically-unavoidable global catastrophe. This isn’t the sort of thing we can solve with technology. There’s a hard physical limit on global energy production that cannot be exceeded. We don’t know exactly what that number is given greenhouse gases, but it’s definitely less than a few generations of growth away. How close, exactly, do you think we should creep up to this number?

[1]: https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/global-energy-substitutio...


> Population capping out doesn’t mean people stop wanting to use additional energy.

Nobody said it did. What it does do is reduce the exponential growth rate in energy demand.

However, energy use per capita is not currently growing exponentially in developed countries and is declining in some places.

The combination of those two factors makes the prediction of continued exponential growth in energy consumption at the same rate pretty unlikely.

You should just stop mentioning the thermodynamic limit as it is irrelevant to any of our practical considerations for the predictable future.

> Raising half of the current global population to a Western standard of living would blow past this hard limit, even if we assume a doubling of energy efficiency

What hard limit are you talking about? There are several thresholds we should avoid crossing, but there are no hard limits (besides the thermodynamic limit, which we wouldn't come anywhere close to reaching even if we gave everyone on the planet a western standard of living and also doubled the population.)

> Nothing in this graph[1] should give you the warm and fuzzies that we’ll all somehow band together to avoid this fate.

The direness of the global warming situation has been repeatedly acknowledged by me. You seem to think that holding out any hope that we have a path to recovery, matter how hard and long, is "magical thinking" but somehow fail to see that taking this stance is actively making our chances of finding and following that path worse.


How shortly is shortly? The linked paper suggests several hundred years or more. So we certainly don’t have to worry about this as there will be unimaginable technology changes by then.

“Unimaginable technology” does not free us from thermodynamic reality. The Earth can radiate heat into space, but convection and conduction are unavailable.

We have two hundred and fifty years, assuming we completely rid the atmosphere of carbon dioxide, methane, and all other greenhouse gases. Hopefully you can see that this means it will be less than that amount of time.

I don’t know about you but “some amount less than 250 years” to get the entire globe to agree to permanently cap energy production is almost comically implausible. No politician will ever get elected on a platform centered around this, much less an entire planet of such governments. And as with all tragedies of the commons, every individual will have a multitude of reasons to personally use more while hoping that everyone else makes the necessary noble sacrifice.

Has anything about this last year of a global pandemic given you reason to believe that humans as a whole will accept an indefinite future of permanent restriction for the sake of everyone? We can barely get half the American population to obey stay at home orders for a few weeks at a time, and that’s to say nothing of countries like Brazil whose leaders refuse to even acknowledge a problem. Hell, we’re fifty years into scientists sounding the alarm about greenhouse gases, and we’ve only managed to accelerate our production of them in the time since.

I’m honestly just glad I won’t live to see this play out.


> We have two hundred and fifty years, assuming we completely rid the atmosphere of carbon dioxide, methane, and all other greenhouse gases. Hopefully you can see that this means it will be less than that amount of time.

Global energy usage is already diverging from that exponential curve so your alarmism does not seem very rooted in reality (as long as global population continues to stabilize.)

> Hell, we’re fifty years into scientists sounding the alarm about greenhouse gases, and we’ve only managed to accelerate our production of them in the time since.

Global warming is a signifanct concern, the thermodynamic contraints on solar energy generation is not.


Unimaginable technology also includes technology to increase energy efficiency or to completely change what needs to be done in the first place. People don't care about "using energy" - they care about making themselves happy, which is often related to, but removed from that.

Does that path exist? I am not entirely convinced that you can have our current population living with our current standards -- especially if the standards spread from say that USA to the poorest nations, sustainably.

Not in our current economic structuring, but our current economic system places little to no value on sustainability.

I wholey believe that we can replicate the aspects of our standard of living that have the biggest impacts on our quality of life. We can have nice clothes, we just need clothes that last a decade rather than a month or a year. We can travel, we just have to travel a bit slower using electric power. Education is a huge factor in our quality of life and can be done very sustainably. We can still have plenty of food, we just might not have year round cheap access to stuff that doesn't grow locally.

So there is definitely a path to a very good aproximation of our standard of living that is sustainable for the entire planet. We just aren't currwntly on that path, or even really headed in that direction .

k__ 7 days ago [flagged] [–]

Or it's simply eco-facism.

I think, we should move to sustainable solutions, but I don't believe in over population


What do you mean by "I don't believe in overpopulation?"

Overpopulation is definitely a real thing in ecological systems, so I assume you mean either:

1) We are not currently in an overpopulated state.

2) We are extremely unlikely to reach an overpopulated state in the nearish future.

One important thing to note is that overpopulation is not a fixed threshold, but one that is dependant on a number of ecological, environmental and technological factors that makes it extremely hard to completely accept 2).


I mean, I believe in the concept, but I think humanity is far from reaching that state.

Which doesn't mean that I think we can't live above our means with the population we already have. I just think it's a question of optimizing production and not restricting population growth.


I don't know. If you removed all the worst parts of the supply chain of a cell phone - the slave labor, the conflict minerals - it would cost like what, four times more? Boohoo. But nearly everything else about it, like the IAP sold on it, or the music you listen to or the books you read, is already essentially sustainable. And people spend literally hours on their phone, globally, consuming and spending in totally sustainable entertainment, and not just in the West.

For the consumer, sustainability in the West really is about food, and specifically, it really is about meat. There's no amount of equivocation that will change that. And affecting it - by simply not buying meat - really is as easy and as effective as it appears.


Maybe if you only ever bought a single phone and never discarded it, creating more e-waste that would not have a big impact on the environment. But if everyone buys one or two new phones a year then you have a mountain of waste. Of course you don't see it because it's a mountain that forms in some far away land where people are so poor they have to scavenge in the detritus of your electronics and can't afford to eat any meat anyway.

I think a big part of this is the lack of repairability and long-term software support, though. There's no good reason we need to be replacing our phones (and a lot of other electronics) as often as most of us currently do.

But if phones cost 4x what they do now, as GP suggests, people would replace their phone far less frequently.

Yes. The root cause of unsustainability is still something horrible - the abuse of labor - but not literally the same as environmental goals. This is a case where intersectionality really shines. You really can align goals because ending labor abuse is good for the environment.

Likewise, with meat, the root cause of unsustainability is the animal abuse that enables cheap meat. I'm definitely not blaming the consumer here. Of course you could make sustainable meat, it would just cost 10-400x more (Eating Animals is a great, broad take on this you could read).


>If Seaspiracy is to be believed, there's no such this as sustainable fishing at scale

This statement is silly. There is A scale at which fishing is sustainable. The issue is that we are likely well over that.


This is like saying your amazing lock-free architecture is scalable, as long as you define scalable to mean "at most one thread."

Huh? Just because something is scalable, doesn't mean it is scalable indefinitely.

There very clearly exists a scale at which fishing is sustainable and a scale at which it is not. You can argue what the tipping point is, but you can't argue with that fundemental premise.


I phrased this quite poorly; my quibble isn't with the concept of scaling or that it's possible to fish sustainably at some defined scale. I was getting at the idea that most people's definition of doing something _at scale_ is going to be well above the tipping point, in the same way that processing data _at scale_ usually invokes rows of server racks, and not a single thread on a dinky laptop.

"Scalability" means that you can adjust the scale at which you are operating.

The definition of "At scale" just means operating at whatever is a sufficient scale to solve the problem at hand. If you only need one dinky laptop to solve the problem, you can operate at scale with a dinky laptop.

So "fishing at scale" is fishing at a scale that statisfies the demand for fish. Since demand for fish will drop as sustainabile fishing regulations increase costs, there is absolutely a way to fish at scale sustainably.


If marine biologists are to be believed, Seaspiracy is not a reliable source of information.

I think that there is some confusion as to what you are trying to say.

1) There is no way to catch the amount of fish we catch in a sustainable manner. (No sustainability at our current scale.)

2) There is no way to catch any amount of fish sustainably. (No sustainability at any scale.)

I think people are intrepreting you as saying #2 when you are really saying #1.

The answer would appear to be that if that we need to reduce the scale at which fiahing operates. This means sustainability requirents that increase the costs to fishermen so that overall demand cam be curbed to a sustainable level.


As far as I understand it, Seaspiracy claims that 2) is the case and we should all stop eating fish entirely.

I interpreted it as unless the fishing are doing is entirely local (the example in the movie being the African fisherman) it can be sustainable, but really and type of fish most of us buy is definitely not sustainable no matter what organization says. That sustainable fishiers fudge the numbers to work and farming produces it’s own set of problems

Which is silly since one can make a completely isolated self perpetuating fish farm given enough money, heck even building it disconnected from the sea is a possibility with today technology.

I think Seaspiracies argument is that current "sustainable fishing" efforts are not actually sustainable and are designed to appear to solve the problem while avoiding regulations that would actually enforce sustainable fishing (and hence massively disrupt the industry.)

If that is their argument, the push to stop eating fish would be justified only in the current environment where there is no ecologically sustainable source.

Maybe I being too generous, but "fishing can never be sustainable" appears to be blatantly false so I feel we have to look for the "strongest plausible interpretation".


You must have missed the part saying that most fish sticks use farmed fish.

Fishing at scale? Pun not intended (I presume).

> The collective memory there was that Japan was condemned as fish abuser

I don't know about the over-fishing, but I do remember reading a lot about whaling in Japan and some incidents about fishermen hunting whales in sanctuaries. Guess that could also be folded into "condemned as fish abuser".


I think The Cove (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cove_(film)) had a lot to do with raising (negative) awareness of dolphin fishing in Japan.

Also see: epicanthic folds.

You've heard of the killing of dolphins by Japanese fishermen, but not of the similar practice of killing of pilot whales in the Faroe islands where people are distinctly not of Asian descent:

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


Maybe that's got more to do with the fact that the Faroe Islands have a population of 52,000 while Japan's population is 125,410,000? Surely the fishing practices of the nation 2400x larger are going to be more impactful by at least an order of magnitude or two.

Edit: We don't have to guess. Using 1986 numbers since this is when I remember the world being peak-Save-The-Whales (Star Trek IV's release year). Admittedly if you use current numbers they're closer, but that's because Japan's fishing output has decreased dramatically. That decrease is due to exhaustion of its fishing grounds; their fishing practices i.e. square milage of nets it's putting in the water each day remain mostly unchanged.

Faroe - 355,000 metric tons fished in 1986

Japan - 12,750,000 metric tons fished in 1986

Source: https://tradingeconomics.com/faroe-islands/total-fisheries-p... and corresponding Japan page.


"The Cove" is about a traditional annual dolphin hunt in one Japanese village, called Taiji, similar to the traditional annual hunt of pilot whales at the Faroes. The two are directly comparable.

The numbers you quote are for fish, without distinction (and they may well exclude cetaceans, actually). The Taiji hunt has a quote of about 2000 animals. The Faroese hunt doesn't have a quote as far as I can tell but it catches 500 to 1000 animals on average according to wikipedia. Look it up yourself if you're interested.


I suspect the stuff that went into "fish sausages" is used to make surimi nowadays.

Fun fact, Birds eye belong to the Nomad Foods which resides in Tortola - British Virgin Island. I guess there neither there for the fish nor the weather.

https://www.icij.org/investigations/paradise-papers/british-...


And here I am amazed that British schoolchildren in the 70s apparently ate on proper plates with cutlery.

How do kids eat in other places or at other times? I think kids eat from plates with cutlery in most of Europe both now and in the past.

Do kids in the US use plastic cutlery and paper plates or something (and drink from red solo cups)?


When I was growing up (in the US), school lunch would typically be served on a disposable tray with a plastic spork. Similar to this:

https://arc-anglerfish-arc2-prod-tronc.s3.amazonaws.com/publ...


Interesting, but so wasteful and hamburgers?

In Hungary kids eat something like these for lunch:

https://m.blog.hu/eo/eokoskodas/image/menza2.jpg

https://kep.cdn.indexvas.hu/1/0/1758/17587/175878/17587888_0...

Far from fancy, but at least real plates and cutlery. I guess American schools are afraid kids will hurt themselves with a real fork or break a plate on each other's head and the school gets sued out of existence by the parents or something?



I'm unsure of why you shared this? Normal people are unlikely to have a plate freezer at home, which this seems to require in order to make these at home. And I'm not sure how many people keep minced fish meat around at home anyways.

To explain that fish sticks are made from ground fish which is beaten into filet shape again?

Which seems to elude many posters in this submission.


That fish sticks episode of South Park is so good. Can't wait to watch it with my grandkids and admire the puzzlement in their faces.

I'm convinced having to eat fish sticks as a child has caused me to hate the taste of fish as an adult.

How healthy are the fish sticks?

> In 1953, 13 companies produced 3.4 million kilograms of fish sticks. A year later, four million kilograms were produced by another 55 companies. This surge in popularity was partly due to a marketing push that stressed the convenience of the new food: “no bones, no waste, no smell, no fuss,” as one Birds Eye advertisement proclaimed.

A dirty lie, at least when it comes to "no waste", when you consider that the skin, head and tail of the fish, or about 1/3 of its edible tissue, is thrown away as garbage, and lucky if it's made into pet food.

This is the convenience and advantage of rearing entire generations on food that doesn't look like food: that they never wonder what happened to the rest of the animal.

No respect for an other living thing.


If people bought whole fish instead, do you think those parts wouldn't still go to waste? I guess you could use them for stock, but really, how many people would bother. If anything, I would guess food processing companies would have an easier time finding some use for them (like you said, as pet food or whatever).

Depends on the fish. The tails of many fish are great fried. It's just another crunchy item. Salmon skin is also tasty as long as you get it crisp when cooking. Mahi skin is kind of thick and chewy so I usually throw that away (or into the marsh for the local critters to eat). Most of the bass type fish skins are also tasty.

Heads are harder to deal with unless you want to make your own stock.

I grew up on the coast, catching, cleaning, and cooking my own fish all the time. I know not everyone has those experiences.


Industry factory farming is many horrible things but its not wasteful. They use every part of the animals to increase profit margins.

Why would you make such a confident assertion, filled with such vitriol, when it's completely wrong? I don't understand your motivation for this.

Here, this link will set you straight, and it has a real discussion of the actual downsides and consequences of this practice.

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

Rather than what you said, which is complete nonsense. I'd accuse you of lying, since you used that word, but I'll be charitable and assume you were exhibiting ignorance.


Your link makes it clear that fish meal is made from fish bones and entrails that are inedible by humans, not their heads, skins and tails that I'm talking about and which are edible. Plus, it's made from by-catch which is not mant for human consumption anyway:

> Fishmeal is made from the bones and offal left over from fish caught by commercial fisheries. The vast majority of the fish from which fishmeal is manufactured are not used for human consumption; rather, fishmeal is generally manufactured from by-catch.[1][2]


You're just embarrassing yourself at this point.

Excuse me but, do you have some weird behavioural problem? You burst out of nowhere telling me I'm filled with vitriol, you throw a blunt link at my comment without explaining why it disagrees with what I say, and when I quote from it a part that shows that your comment is irrelevant to what I say you resort to insults?

What exactly are you trying to say? What is it that you don't like with my original comment? What do you disagree with? How does your fish meal link disagree with it? Can you articulate all that clearly, or do you just want to pick a fight?


Well, the upside is that if some time before we make cold fusion a reality we are able to make safe, nutritious and cheap artificial meat & co., at least it's going to be more easily accepted by folks that won't expect to also see the other body parts.

It might, but only because those people are used to eating food made in factories. But making food in factories at ridiculous scales is what causes the excesses of consumption and waste observed in the Western world, in the first place. Vat grown meat is more of the same and I fail to see how it solves anythig, rather than making people dependent even more on the food industry, the same food industry that wants to sell them fish sticks, hot dogs and burgers.

Is that what it means? I take that as "you won't need to dispose of waste"...

Sure, someone else will do the dirty job for "you". Food waste as a service.

If those bits were removed in homes they are almost always going to be wasted without municipal composting, and even that is still wasteful. If they are removed at scale (no pun intended) there is a much higher likelihood that they will be used as a byproduct in pet food or fertilizer or something.

I'm talking about the skins, heads and tails of fish that have no business being removed because they're edible and nutritious. I think you 're talking about the guts, that are almost always thrown out anyway.

Food waste starts with cultural norms that make some foods taboo, essentially. Like for example "offal" as the perfectly edible entrails of ruminants are derogatorily known.


In 1953 I seriously doubt there was so much concern about it, much less in an advertisment directed to consumers.

Note the oxymoron in that advert: "Fresh Frozen!".

That's not an oxymoron. It means they were frozen right away after being caught. A similar term today used especially for things like shrimp is "Individual Quick Frozen" or IQF. Shrimp are frozen on the boat that catches them.

Do you think anyone ever freezes food when it's already unfit for consumption? "Fresh frozen" is nothing more than marketing speak.

There is a pretty wide span of time between catch and "unfit for consumption."

This particular product may be totally lying about how fresh they froze their fish, but it's still not an oxymoron.


1> So you like fish sticks?

2> yes!

1> So you like to put fish sticks in your mouth?

2> yes!

1> So you are a gay fish.

2> I'm not a gay fish, I'm the voice of a generation.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fishsticks_(South_Park)


Such a great episode

> Each kilogram of fish sticks produces about 1.3 kilograms of carbon dioxide, which “rivals the climate impact of tofu,” she says. Beef, by comparison, produces over 100 times that amount of carbon dioxide per kilogram

That's an u̶n̶f̶a̶i̶r̶ comparison. (apparently they did consider some of my complaints)

Does it take into account the additional co2 that fishing boats emit? Esp. given that they usually use far more harmful fuels than the gas used on roads.

Comparing a dish to the raw. material is unfair. Fish sticks should be compared to the environmental. impact of beef stir fry or sukiyaki or at the very least, an order of burger and fries (per kg)

Then there is the fact that caloric densities vary. comparisons should be made per portion, not unit weight.

co2 is also a complex topic. There is carbon that is recaptured in replanting crops. Beef also primarily produces methane, so I'm not sure if the co2 impact of beef is the proportional impact in methane or actual co2. Methane has a much shorter term. impact vs co2.

Lastly, trawling has massive ecosystem destroying impacts that don't show up on co2 counters. We must also consider that in sustainability calculations.

All in all, fish sticks might be sustainable, but these back of the napkin numbers are rarely representative of the complex systems that drive climate change.

____

to be fair, I love fish. They are healthier, easier to do sustainably than red meat, you need less of it to flavor food and it is easier to use 100% of it vs red meat animals. Lastly, salt water fish have straight up more flavor. (too much for some)

If seafloor trawling is banned and ships are moved over to better refined petroleum products, then fishing can be quite sustainable.


"Does it take into account the additional co2 that fishing boats emit?"

Yes.

"Unlike previous studies that have largely overlooked the downstream processing activities associated with Alaskan pollock, this study examined all the components of the supply chain, from fishing through the retail display case." [https://news.ucsc.edu/2020/01/mckuin-fish.html]


Thanks for adding that, will edit it into my post.

>Beef also primarily produces methane, so I'm not sure if the co2 impact of beef is the proportional impact in methane or actual co2. Methane has a much shorter term. impact vs co2.

It is most certainly accounted for. The correct unit is CO2-equivalent and the time horizon commonly used is 100 years.

See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_warming_potential


> Does it take into account the additional co2 that fishing boats emit? Esp. given that they usually use far more harmful fuels than the gas used on roads.

Those more harmful fuels don't produce extra CO₂, though. Marine diesel engines burn less clean oils, and thus produce other pollutants (such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, particulate emission), but the energy content and CO₂ emissions are same as with e.g. gasoline.


There’s a class of adult baby food that fish sticks fall under. It’s food that’s conceptually shaped for kids but adults have no problem eating this stuff with a straight face. Wendy’s nuggets look like chicken feet.

I think as we figure out how to make protein alternatives that taste like meat, we’ll see a small rise in adult baby food, things shaped like a slim jim, etc.

Then we can finally fulfill our prophecy of being adults that wear children’s winter jackets and eat food that’s shaped like toys, and just really come full circle with the aging into infancy.


Why on earth should adults care what shape their food is?

The childish thing is judging adults by completely substanceless distinctions like this.


Asking why this should be the case is not particularly useful. The fact is that it is true. If you offer an average adult cereal in the shape of little ronald mcdonald faces vs. generic flakes even with identical nutritional content they will, on average, select the more 'adult appropriate' option. Marketing is a thing for a reason.

The parent was alleging the opposite: that we are infantilizing ourselves by choosing child-oriented food shapes.

I think this is only a problem in a subset of cultures, not one of "adults" in general.

I think this idea of "adult baby food" is interesting -- just finger food in "fun" shapes? Like baby carrots? I think there's an element of fun and convenience that makes it attractive occasionally, but wouldn't consider fish sticks or chicken nuggets suitable for a regular meal in my house.

I'm confused by your remark about children's winter jackets though. Do you mean we'll have mittens strung through our sleeves so we can't lose them?


What is a “child’s winter jacket”? Is this some kind of meme thing I’m not aware of…?



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