Video blog[edit source]

you should video blog your trip --David.reber 21:53, 2 May 2008 (PDT)

Would love to... great for documenting AT projects for Youtube too. My budget's stretching, but I think this is worthwhile... I'll see if any friends have an unused video camera, otherwise I'll see what I can get in Singapore. --Chriswaterguy 22:05, 2 May 2008 (PDT)
Which now reminds me of an interesting site I recently found a site called ApproVideos which seems really interesting (though I will admit to not getting around to watching any)
An example of what you might shoot for is this video from the "uncultured project" which got half a million views
communication via wiki is really strange in that two people's dialog is spread out over all sorts of pages. --David.reber 22:18, 2 May 2008 (PDT)
ApproVideo is by EWB-International I think. Submitting to them as well as Youtube makes sense.
I've seen 1 or 2 of the Uncultured Project videos, and will check that one - I wonder what has made this appealing to viewers...? Btw, have you seen the videos on my Youtube page? Gotta update my homepage here...
Wiki communication is interesting - often works well but if you're not watching a page the conversation dies... or goes on without you. I suspect there'll be more tools developed to track these more easily. There might even be things we can do now, with some digging... another reason we need to keep expanding our tech team. --Chriswaterguy 07:48, 3 May 2008 (PDT)
mw:Extension:LiquidThreads partially addresses this problem, by giving you a count of all the unread replies to your postings on talk pages. A working example is on the Wikimedia Strategy Wiki. I'm not sure I like it, on balance. I find it somewhat akward to use. Wikis are not really about two-way conversation in any case. Instead they are for communicating about particular topics. The talk page of an article, for example, contains (or should contain) discussion about that article. What people said is more important than who said it. On well-run and well-documented wiki, many different people should be able to perform a given task. User talk pages are for two-way conversation, but they are more of a kludge, since you only get notification of activity on your user talk page, not on whether someone replied to your posting on their talk page (unless the wiki is running LiquidThreads). --Teratornis 17:06, 19 April 2011 (PDT)

Drop in the ocean[edit source]

I still don't understand how this rationalization makes any sense at all, or how it could find any traction in a rational mind:

  • "Deflect the question as one that requires collective action. Throw my hands up in there air, noting that my contribution is a drop in the ocean, and that only collective action will actually achieve anything - which really means the government putting a price on carbon."

This is true of nearly everything we do as individuals. Take anti-poverty efforts. Everything the average person can do to fight poverty is like spitting in the ocean. The total number of poor people keeps increasing despite (or possibly because of) all the efforts to fight poverty.

Voting in elections is similarly pointless, if the only reason you vote is to influence the outcome of an election. You might never vote in an election that is decided by your vote.

The way out of this paradox is simple: having morality. We vote, not because we believe our individual vote changes the outcome, but because we believe voting is the right thing to do. We give to the poor for the same reason, not because we imagine we will eliminate poverty, but because we think it is the right thing to do.

However, there are some practical reasons to vote:

  1. Because people who disagree with you are voting. Your vote cancels one of theirs. The other side probably is not troubled by thoughts of the collective action problem. They might not be smart enough to formulate such self-defeating thoughts.
  2. To put pressure on other people to vote. People are herd animals. We behave less according to logic and reason and more according to what the people around us are doing. By voting, and being conspicuous about it, we add to the social pressure that convinces other people to vote. This is what enables democracy to exist. If everybody realized their vote does not matter, democracy would collapse.

And again about the carbon tax, no democratic government will ever implement a carbon tax that substantially changes the behavior of 51% of voters. For example, if the carbon tax drives the cost of gasoline/petrol up to say $20/gallon in the US (where $4 gasoline is considered apocalyptic), the only way voters would ever vote for that is if at least 51% of voters have already adapted their behavior as if the price of gasoline had been that high all along. When 51% of voters are voluntarily treating motor fuel as if the retail price is equal to the actual environmental cost of burning it, then they can vote to tax the other 49% into line.

To say that one is not going to stop burning fossil fuels until the government forces everybody to stop is to adopt a philosophy of nihilism. One is basically saying there is nothing one can do to prevent the destruction of the biosphere, so one might as well help destroy it faster. This also overlooks the fact that governments (especially democracies) rarely lead on anything, they mostly respond to pressure from the public, or from lobbyists, or from economic figures. Every time we burn petroleum to travel around, we cast another vote for government policies to keep the petroleum coming. Someone in government is looking at the passenger counts when deciding what to do next. They probably don't see any corresponding number of protests against airports or highways.

If you saw a gang of thieves looting a house, would you conclude that since the house had already been looted, you might as well go in after them to see if they missed anything? The point of having morality is to have a guide for behavior that depends on principle rather than on what other people happen to be doing. Using other people's behavior as a cover for our own behavior means having no moral compass at all. When we decide whether or not to steal from our neighbor's house, the overall crime rate normally does not enter into it. We refrain from committing these crimes not because of what anybody else is doing, but because we find such crimes disgusting and our remorse from committing them would outweigh any benefits we might gain.

Motor travel should be the same way. Whatever pleasure we get from helping to destroy the planet should be outweighed by the discomfort we feel from knowing that we helped to destroy it - and we contributed our money to the fossil fuel industry which lobbies governments to insure there will be no effective carbon tax. Most people in the developed countries, of course, have been raised in a moral vacuum with respect to burning fossil fuels. Because we haven't been told from infancy there is something wrong with it, we just can't bring ourselves to add up the facts and accept the inescapable conclusion.

Travel is probably the number one challenge for the green movement, and the one area where greens are in full agreement with the Koch brothers - burning fossil fuels to travel is wonderful! Give us more please. It's much trendier to stop eating meat, or to support fair trade. Hardly anyone in the green movement is brave or honest enough to take on the sacred cow of travel. It's unusual even to find someone in the green movement who spontaneously questions travel addiction. People who wouldn't dream of posting videos of butchering cattle on Facebook will boast about their latest carbon-spewing adventures with an indifference to the consequences that would rival Hannibal Lecter's indifference to the plight of his victims. Most people talk about their travel habits as if they are incapable of realizing there could be any negative consequences.

On the bright side, at least you seem to be having some misgivings now. My advice is to embrace that guilt, it will motivate you to do something about it. It may take years, but the problem will still be around when you get to it, and only become worse with time. --Teratornis 17:06, 19 April 2011 (PDT)

Voting in elections is similarly pointless, if the only reason you vote is to influence the outcome of an election. You might never vote in an election that is decided by your vote. - Indeed, which is why I believe in compulsory voting. If voting isn't compulsory, people don't vote even when it's in their collective interest, and you end up with... the US political system.
The way out of this paradox is simple: having morality. We vote, not because we believe our individual vote changes the outcome, but because we believe voting is the right thing to do. We give to the poor for the same reason, not because we imagine we will eliminate poverty, but because we think it is the right thing to do. - I'm fairly immoral by that standard. I do judge my giving primarily by the net impact, and in particular by whether it makes a strategic difference. I admit it's not quite the same as my approach to travel & climate, but it's not quite the same issue. Still thinking on that.
People who wouldn't dream of posting videos of butchering cattle on Facebook will boast about their latest carbon-spewing adventures with an indifference to the consequences that would rival Hannibal Lecter's indifference to the plight of his victims. - That's squeamishness about the slaughter, not morality, as we can tell when they sit down to eat. (I don't claim to be perfect here, but the ethics of the treatment of animals is a major factor in how I eat.) Most people don't care about cattle being slaughtered if they don't have to watch. At least we've progressed a bit from where we were.
Just wanted to give a part answer before I crash. The most convincing idea for me is that there is real value in being a pioneer. And that I personally want to think more about creating the funds to travel, as best that fits with ethics, rather than traveling as cheaply as possible.
Worked on the spam thing overnight then got caught up with COTW stuff. Thanks for pushing the Tasks subpage idea, btw. --Chriswaterguy 17:24, 19 April 2011 (PDT)
Thought some more about why helping the poor might seem more compelling. If I give $x to a program that helps y people, I have a fairly clear idea of how much I've helped. That idea might be completely wrong, of course, as assistance programs are not as simple and effective as we'd like to think - good intentions aren't enough - but even if I'm an aid skeptic, I can find programs that I think are relatively effective and support those.
If I take individual action against climate change, what difference have I made? Will the temperature rise by 10-n less, or the sea rise by 10-pm less? How many lives will that save, or impact? I have absolutely no idea, & I'm not even sure whether anyone else has a clear idea. Now, that doesn't mean that action isn't critically important, but it makes decision making harder, and it makes it a much harder sell.
Re misgivings, I've had them for a long time about my own travel. I've also noticed, as you have, the way climate activists seem to see no problem in flying around for conferences and even for holidays. But you're pushing me to think harder about it, which I appreciate.
And again about the carbon tax, no democratic government will ever implement a carbon tax that substantially changes the behavior of 51% of voters. For example, if the carbon tax drives the cost of gasoline/petrol up to say $20/gallon in the US (where $4 gasoline is considered apocalyptic), the only way voters would ever vote for that is if at least 51% of voters have already adapted their behavior as if the price of gasoline had been that high all along. - there's something in this, but there is also an extent to which people are willing to make a shared sacrifice that they might not actively choose on their own. Your example of laws and enforcement against speeding (on another thread somewhere) is an example, and I think many of the "green" people who like flying would fit in this category. The people who would complain about heavy taxes on fuel aren't usually the ones who would be changing their behavior on their own initiative anyway. --Chriswaterguy 10:33, 20 April 2011 (PDT)
  • On giving to the poor: your quantifiable impact is proportionately similar to your quantifiable impact on the climate. I.e. a drop in the ocean. The fact that your drop is visible makes no difference to the overall problem. The number of poor people is immense and increasing, and there is probably nothing you can do as an individual to reverse that trend. I think the specific comparison you chose is slightly misleading. In my view these are the proper things to compare:
    • Things you can count, such as:
      • Your personal share of the global wealth maldistribution that you personally correct (by giving some of your maldistributed wealth to the poor); and your personal share of global carbon dioxide emissions that you cut. You can calculate your emissions reduction almost as accurately as you track your charitable contributions. "Dollars to charity" is analogous to "less CO2 emitted".
        • I use the term "maldistributed" somewhat advisedly. My actions indicate that I don't have a huge problem with income inequality. When a person happens to be earning more than the global average income (world GDP per capita is $10,700), one no-nonsense measure of his or her concern for the poor is how much of his or her "excess" personal wealth he or she contributes. By this rather stern test, I don't know anyone who cares very much for the poor. The average American, for example, earns over four times the world average income, and would thus need to give 75% of income to charity to demonstrate serious concern for the poor.
    • Things you cannot count, such as:
      • Your actual impact on global poverty (did your actions help or hurt in the long run? Merely feeding hungry people can make poverty worse if they go on to produce even more children they cannot feed); and your exact impact on global average temperature or sea level.
  • The way around fretting over the incalculable seems quite simple to me: with respect to both poverty and climate change, we seem to know what is causing the problems. In the case of poverty, maldistribution of wealth is either a cause or a really big symptom, which anyone who is on the top side of the maldistribution can correct by contributing excess personal wealth to charity. In the second case, it's maldistribution of greenhouse gas emissions, which anyone who is on the top side of the maldistribution can correct by burning less fossil fuels directly and indirectly. Nobody knows exactly how bad climate change will turn out to be, but everybody can know their personal contribution to the problem, with some precision. Focusing on the global rather than the specific is, in my view, simply a trick our minds play on us to get us to ignore our personal responsibility.
  • To prevent dangerous climate change (or keep the probability somewhat reasonable) we need to cut global per capita annual greenhouse gas emissions to something like two tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent as quickly as possible. For the average American or Aussie that's about a 90% cut. This is far from easy to do, as eating by itself results in about that much emissions per person in a developed country like Spain. If we accept the two tonnes target, then we need a drastic reduction in motor travel. Even driving a Prius the average US distance emits almost four tonnes per year. What seems to many people like a big green step - buying a hybrid car - still leaves them emitting more than the allowable per person limit just from personal driving, never mind eating and heating and lighting and manufactured goods and everything else we consume. You will know humans have gotten serious about climate change when most of the airlines have gone bankrupt. There's no room in the carbon budget for flying. As I may have mentioned before, I believe all international climate negotiations will fail as long as they depend on airplanes. If the negotiators themselves have not gotten serious about the problem, how can they negotiate a serious collective response? Climate conferences will never produce an adequate response to the problem until they are virtualized.
  • Liquid-fueled travel in general poses another more immediate problem. As Lester Brown points out, we not only use natural gas and petroleum to maintain artificially high food production, nearly everything we eat can be turned into fuel (alcohols or biodiesel). When the price of oil rises high enough, farmers can earn more money by growing fuel rather than food. Historically when petroleum was cheaper than its equivalent in food, the fuel and food markets moved independently. But now that petroleum supply is insufficient to meet the total demand for liquid fuel, the price of oil has risen enough to cannibalize some of the food supply. Now the prices of oil and grains move together. This has a devastating impact on the world's poorest people, right now. This is not something theoretical or uncertain or in the far-off future. Filling the tank of an SUV with ethanol burns enough grain to feed one person for a year. Liquid fuels are to a large degree substitutable - refineries can adjust the fractions of motor gasoline, aviation fuel, etc. they make from a barrel of oil. Therefore, burning aviation fuel to fly on a jet causes the market to adjust somewhere else by burning more crops. This substitution is either occurring now, or will occur in the near future when oil production begins its irreversible post-peak decline. The more oil we burn today, the sooner we get to the world in which the wealthy billion who like to travel by burning liquid fuels will compete directly with the poorest two or three billion who want to eat. People who wouldn't dream of robbing food from the mouths of poor people nonetheless routinely engage in behaviors that are or soon will have the same effect. The scary aspect is that virtually all motorists and air travelers appear completely oblivious to what they are doing.
--Teratornis 13:12, 23 April 2011 (PDT)
I could add that while it may be possible to offset the carbon dioxide emissions from burning liquid fuels for motor travel, there may not be any way to offset the effect of running out of oil (i.e. any options available soon enough). Any liquid fuel we burn today eats into the food supply, either right now, or in the near future. --Teratornis 13:25, 23 April 2011 (PDT)
I agree with some points (hadn't thought enough about the crop substitution problem). I partly disagree with others: "The number of poor people is immense and increasing" - there was a jump recently, but it had been decreasing strongly prior to that, mainly thanks to China's growth; Redistribution becomes much more complex when we look at real wealth and income - in your model, it would be possible for a poor American to be redistributing their money to a middle-class Indonesian or Chinese person... that doesn't affect the general argument for redistribution, though the mechanics of how to do that redistribution with a positive effect raises of bunch of issues).
Something that would help is some really helpful wiki pages on things like carbon accounting (for a start, where is the best place to calculate my impact?), travel choices, and carbon offset (those carbon credits I've purchased when buying a JetStar ticket, that were approved by the Australian Greenhouse Office - can I see a solid assessment of their effectiveness, or lack thereof?).
I'm not asking for answers here - but thinking about how to solicit that kind of info for Appropedia. Making changes is much more appealing if the process (especially documenting the process) will help others to do the same. --Chriswaterguy 09:45, 24 April 2011 (PDT)
  • According to the World Food Programme, "There are more hungry people in the world than ever before. More than one billion people, almost a sixth of humanity, are now undernourished, according to the latest estimates from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization." Economic growth in China has been partly to blame, by enabling the Chinese to eat more meat. Meat consumption requires more farmland per person than a plant based diet. Hundreds of millions of Chinese have joined the ranks of high-consuming first worlders, thereby becoming able to compete economically for a larger share of Earth's finite productivity, the way the developed nations have long done. The number of poor looks almost certain to rise:
    • Agricultural yields are leveling off almost everywhere. Most of the gains from the Green Revolution have been made. We are unlikely to triple grain yields again, even with genetic engineering.
    • Soil degradation, fossil aquifer depletion, and climate change related weather disasters are making it hard to achieve the record-breaking harvests every year that an exponentially growing population must have.
    • Growth in automobile use results in more farmland being paved over each year. Most of the world's people live in agriculturally productive regions, so a disproportionate fraction of prime farmland gets paved. Every five cars in the US require one acre to be paved. When China reaches the same level of car ownership as the US (three cars for every four people), it will have to pave an area equal to the area now used to cultivate rice. Note that electric cars do nothing to help with the paving problem.
    • Almost all the population growth is among the poor. The three billion poor people today are on pace to be five billion in a few decades, assuming they will get enough food.
    • With the price of food tied to the price of oil, and substitution of fuel with food by the wealthy fraction of the world's people, when the price of oil rises substantially, so does the price of food, tipping more people into food insecurity. A rising price of oil also causes recession in the oil-dependent developed countries, making them less generous. Imagine the impact on rapidly growing, grain-importing nations like Egypt if the price of oil goes to $200/bbl.
    • Basically we have a population bubble created by decades of cheap oil. If cheap oil gets scarce before we find something else to keep the bubble inflated, the bubble will deflate. As always when things get tough, the poor will suffer disproportionately. The key, as always, is sustainability. We should not be fooled by short-term improvements based on burning more fossil fuels. The only real prosperity is that which can be sustained. China's recent growth has been mostly fueled by a huge increase in China's fossil fuel consumption. Rather than something to feel good about, it is simply getting us to the end game sooner.
  • Re: compulsory voting. The only way you could get that in a democracy would be for a majority of people to vote for it. If only 1% of people thought voting was worth the effort, you could only get compulsive voting by establishing a dictatorship first. If you didn't want a dictatorship, the only way forward would be to persuade enough people to vote, so they would vote to coerce the minority who could not be persuaded.
    • Dictatorships have their limits anyway. According to Napoleon I of France:
      • "There is no such thing as an absolute despotism; it is only relative. A man cannot wholly free himself from obligation to his fellows. A sultan who cut off heads from caprice, would quickly lose his own in the same way. Excesses tend to check themselves by reason of their own violence. What the ocean gains in one place it loses in another."
      • I.e., you could never have compulsory voting unless the vast majority of people either wanted it, or were content to go along with it. The same is true for any other mass obligation or prohibition. We won't stop burning fossil fuels, or drinking booze, until the vast majority of people are at least OK with making those changes, if not enthusiastic about them.
    • At the moment, probably fewer than 1% of people in the high-emitting countries have made even a token effort to compute their personal carbon footprints. In my conversations with people on the topic, I still have not met one other person in real life who has made as many calculations as I have - and I still have not fully calculated mine. Still fewer have made the drastic behavior changes necessary to pursue the 2 tonnes/year personal emissions target. The steps I have taken are probably not quite enough, and I might have taken the most drastic steps of anyone in my entire city. (For example, I spoke with a man who works in the heating business, and of the large number (thousands?) of homes and businesses he serves, he said he has never seen anyone who lives as heat-free in winter as I do. I may be in the four-sigma range of personal action on climate change, for my locale at least, which if true means humanity as a whole remains firmly locked into the trajectory toward ruin.)
  • Offsets: flying with offsets is probably better than flying without offsets, but not flying is better still. It may be possible to offset emissions. Maybe the offset methods even have potential to scale. (I mentioned the problem with scale earlier. Some offset schemes only work at small scales, for example offsetting jet flights by investing in wind farms. The emissions reduction from a wind farm is only available for trading if the consumers of the wind farm generated electricity do not claim those reductions. If air travelers purchase those carbon credits, then the wind farm customers have to take on the jet fuel emissions. To avoid such nonsense of double counting, in my opinion the only honest way to trade wind farm carbon credits is within the electricity industry. There are problems of double counting and scale whenever emission reductions get traded between unrelated economic sectors. What if, for example, all electricity customers grew a conscience and tried to order green electricity? Then there would be no unclaimed carbon credits to export to another sector like air travel. In other words, the first 1% of offsets are potentially cheap, and the last 1% are probably much more expensive. This is why airlines are able to sell such seemingly cheap offsets - because hardly anyone is trying to buy offsets yet. In my opinion, for an offsetting scheme to be honest, it must charge the average cost per tonne if we were actually eliminating all emissions. If everybody was really trying to offset all emissions, the net result would be no flying, until someone invents a zero-carbon way to fly.)
  • "in your model, it would be possible for a poor American to be redistributing their money to a middle-class Indonesian or Chinese person" - basically, yes. A "poor" American who earns more than the world average is not poor by world standards. Because we are selfish, we tend to compare ourselves to those with more than us rather than with those who have less. However, the poor American would not have to give up as much to redress the imbalance as a rich American (or a rich Indian) would. I mentioned poverty as an example of another problem that is impossible for the individual to solve, or even to put a measurable dent in, and yet few people would use the drop in the ocean argument as shamelessly as many people use it to excuse their continued fossil fuel addiction. This illustrates how our moral reasoning about poverty is light years ahead of our moral reasoning on the human-caused portion of climate change. Climate change could turn out to be the greatest human rights violation in human history, dwarfing even the scourge of poverty (and, of course, disproportionately afflicting the poor who bear the lowest historical responsibility for emitting all those greenhouse gases), making our behavioral indifference to the problem all the more striking.
  • On computing carbon footprints: I really should get around to porting my calculations from my personal (offline) wiki to User:Teratornis/Carbon footprint. The calculations are straightforward but it takes some time to track down the numbers, given that virtually no industry makes it easy to know what you are buying from them (in terms of emissions). But I don't blame the industries, I blame the indifferent consumers. If we demanded zero-carbon products, that's what industry would provide.

--Teratornis 12:26, 24 April 2011 (PDT)

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