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  1. At this point, I'd vote for Jeb Bush if he made addressing climate change his top priority.
  2. Liberals love to bash conservatives as climate change deniers, but it feels like liberals are only slightly ahead of the curve on this one. Years ago, I read how society had to make dramatic cuts to our carbon emissions to avoid the "point of no return" that would create a planet that would be uninhabitable by humans. So we are talking about a risk of total human extinction here if we wait too long and do too little to reduce carbon emissions. What is too long? What is too little? There's a lot of debate, of course. Some scientists (and some people I know with genius-level I.Q.s) are convinced we have already gone too far and tripped too many environmental feedback loops, which will make human existence impossible within 50 - 150 years. The notion we've gone too far, that our extinction is now mathematically certain, is still a fringe view. In between the climate change deniers, and those who feel we've already gone too far so that any efforts we make now are pointless, we have the rest of us -- people who agree that if we do not do enough to change, and do it quickly enough, we WILL have gone so far that our extinction will be inevitable. For those of us holding this "middle" view, it's hard because there's no clear answer to how much we have to change, or how quickly, to avert our extinction. I found a 2012 news article discussing a study that said 2017 was the point of no return if we did not drastically reduce carbon emissions (note, we have not reduced carbon emissions drastically, if at all, since 2012). Unfortunately, the uncertainties about this issue seem to pave the way for the majority -- including most liberals -- to just shrug and accept minor changes that are not even concrete. President Obama's big climate change plan involves a target of 30% reduction by 2030. Note, these "targets" can easily be missed. What do you do if you tell companies to reduce carbon emissions and they instead increase them? Impose a fine? Great, but it does not really make up for the resulting human extinction, does it? Do we really want to trust our very existence to large businesses toeing the line to strictly adhere to governmental environmental mandates? Their track record on this is woefully bad. Perhaps even more importantly, even if we reach this target, no scientist I know of has actually said that a 30% reduction in 15 years will avert certain doom for humanity. Everything I've read (excluding material from conservative lap dogs) suggests this is too little, too late. I feel like there is an astounding disconnect going on here. If a cage full of spiders at the zoo breaks open and one of them stings you, and the zoo people tell you that the spiders are deadly poisonous, but he's not sure how long you have till it'll be too late, what do you do? Do you make a "target" of going to the hospital the day after tomorrow to get checked out and see about an antidote? Do you finish your tour of the zoo before heading off to the hospital? Of course not! You rush straight to the hospital as quickly as you can, not because you know you'll die if you don't, but precisely because you do NOT know how long you actually have. See, when you're life is on the line, and you are faced with an uncertain time-table, the only sane and logical decision is to act with all possible haste. So, if that's how we act when our life is on the line, how should we act when our human survival is on the line? Set target deadlines decades away for modest carbon reductions? Even though there are plenty of scientists saying that'll be too little, too late? That's insanity, that's suicidal. In the face of uncertainty as to the extent of change, and the time table for change, that is needed to avert our extinction, we need to act like we are dying and rushing to the emergency room in an ambulance, running red lights, exceeding the speed limit, etc. It's kind of funny when you think about the comparative harms of making a mistake being too fast or too slow on this issue: What's the risk of we erroneously move to fast to cut carbon emissions, doing it with decades to spare? The normal growing pains when people have to rapidly change their way of life. That's it. On the other hand, what's the risk if we erroneously move to slow to cut carbon emissions? Human extinction. Hmm... Comparing these, should we really be talking about targets to cut carbon emissions fractionally in 15 years? Shouldn't we actually be talking about declaring martial law? Shouldn't we be having a serious discussion about having the government take over all factories that emit greenhouse gases with armed soldiers and shutting them down, only letting them open after they've been re-engineered to renewable energy? Shouldn't we be talking about making it a mandatory law that employers must require telecommuting for every employee who can possibly telecommute? Shouldn't we outlaw all fuel burning cars effective, say, Jan. 1, 2016? Heck, I'd even be willing to bail out the auto companies again for any financial loss they incur from having to move "overnight" to electric cars. Shouldn't we be talking about massive solar and wind energy projects, not by some vague laws that give some kind of incentives to private companies, but by just building the damn things as a government project so it just gets done? Shouldn't pass a law right now that guarantees free college tuition to every person who majors in environmental sciences, so we have as many minds as possible working on a cure? Is this overkill? Maybe... Just like it's overkill to speed to the hospital for a spider bite when you MIGHT have days or even weeks before the poison kills you. But, since you just don't know, overkill is the only sane approach. I'm a reasonably intelligent person, maybe not brilliant. I try to stay on top of important issues, when I can. I've tried honestly to read up on climate change to figure out what we need to do, by when, so I don't have to worry we are the generation responsible for committing global suicide. And I honestly cannot find any clear answer to how much we have to change, or how soon. And I think most people are in a similar state of uncertainty. However, I look around and it feels like the masses who share this sense of uncertainty are not driven by this uncertainty to a desire for urgent action. Instead, it feels like they think, "Gee, since I don't KNOW that we are taking action too slowly to avert our doom, I won't make waves, I'll just vaguely encourage my politicians to make the environment a priority... And that seems so crazy to me. You don't need certainty to act in response to a grave threat. If you give me a gun with 1,000 chambers and only one bullet, I won't point it at my head and pull the trigger. One in a thousand risk of death is too great. Every day we sit back and let the current inept and corrupt politicians quibble about minor climate change measures, I feel like we are pulling that trigger. And eventually there will be a bullet in that chamber, maybe as soon as tomorrow. Given the gravity of the situation, the question should not be "how much do we need to change, and by when?" Because that makes it sound like we are going to try to just squeak by with the minimum we have to do to survive. The question should be, "Are we doing everything conceivable and possible to reduce our carbon footprint and restore the atmosphere as fast as possible?" The answer to the latter question -- the better question -- is definitely "no." Which reflects a disconnect not just with government, but among the people who sit by and shrug it off. Can anyone give me definitive proof that we are doing enough to avert disaster? Because if not, then that proves we should be doing more. Ken
  3. There are plenty of New Paradigm proposals linked to the issue of climate change and the need for focus on true sustainability. The American Dream was founded on the mistaken (and unstated) notion that money buys happiness. A new paradigm could look like this: ENERGY: In the 12th episode of Cosmos, Neil Tyson Degrasse illustrated how it is entirely feasible to supply all our power needs from solar and wind. We could actually have more power than we have now, with no fossil fuels at all. But that would really shake up the billionaire power brokers, and people fear change, so on we plod... JOBS: The problem of unemployment is actually that we view it as a problem at all, rather than take advantage of the fact that we have more workers than work. I mean, that should mean we all get longer vacations, right? More people to do less work? But no, stupid American capitalism instead views extra workers as a problem, and has to threaten those workers with poverty, homelessness, death, in order to goad them into finding some new angle to get themselves into the global marketplace of goods and services... Yeah, like we need more plastic crap in our 99 cent stores... These cheap, crappy goods hurt the planet when they are made, when they are distributed, and then when they are tossed in the trash after their short lifespan. You realize the average worker is about twice as productive as 75 years ago? Now, if you told an idealist 50 years ago that technological breakthroughs would double worker productivity in the next 75 years, what would they say? Oh boy! How great! The average work week could be reduced to 20 hours! The average retirement age could drop to 40! Workers could take 26 weeks of paid vacation each year! Hmm... How did this surplus of free time not translate into a more utopian society? How is it that the average work week is actually longer for most Americans now? And to make it more of a head-scratcher, consider the addition of women to the workforce in the last 75 years... We ought to have quadruple the number of workers we actually need to produce the goods and services for our society... What are the other 75% actually doing out there in the workforce? (Well, 65% if we assume 10% unemployment.) I'll tell you what: They are doing crappy make-work. They are creating goods that have no business existing. They are creating layers of bureaucracy and inefficiency that equates to job security. They are trying to market things to people that nobody needs. They are trying to convince everyone that you need a new TV every 4 years, a new computer every 3 years, and a new phone every 2 years. They are convincing American parents that no birthday party is complete unless you send each attending child home with a bag full of candy and super-cheap baubles and toys. I recently read a study on depression in modern England. It seems huge numbers of people feel useless not because they are out of work, but because they feel their jobs should not even exist, that their jobs actually make the world a worse place. The study showed how psychologists have determined that people want to feel they are making a useful contribution to society, this is necessary to be happy. Turns out, all those conservatives afraid that true social security would lead to everyone quitting their jobs and staying home to watch tv all day were wrong. The science is in. People LIKE to work, if the work has a positive effect on the world. Russian has known this for a long time, they used this in their Siberian prisoners to torture prisoners by making them move rocks from one pile to another and then back again, because apparently having to do work you know is useless will break a person's spirit, like so many "employed" people today are having their spirits broken. In fact, when people who are not soul-sick and depressed are not working at an official job, they universally find ways to contribute to society -- volunteering in soup kitchens, babysitting for neighbors, running errands for others, etc. People want to be useful. We do not NEED to fear the image of the lazy bloodsucker taking advantage of welfare! Wow, that alone should really set us, as a society, free from the traditional, misguided arguments against more social programs and funding... If you can get conservatives to acknowledge scientific truth, which is not all that easy. Anyway, the point is that the cure for joblessness is to embrace it, expand social security so no one needs to work in a job that they do not feel is useful. Let unethical and destructive businesses fail because they can't find people desperate enough to work for them. It's time to finally reap the harvest of our technological advances that have so greatly improved worker productivity. Let's demand those 26 week vacations, or 20 hour work weeks, because we actually don't need people to do at least half the jobs that they are out there doing. And if no one feared homelessness and starvation and loss of medical care by quitting a "bad" job, we'd see workers stand up and "vote" with their time. It's sort of a "union-istic" approach. ECONOMICS: Everyone says money does not buy happiness, but most then do anything they can to get rich. There is a minimalist movement, illustrated well by the "tiny house" phenomenon. The fact is, having a big home, cars, toys, electronics, does not make you any happier. It just keeps you on a treadmill. We all know this. We all nod our heads when we read how money does not buy happiness, but then we fail to demand societal change to reflect this truth. With the luxury of time that we all could have right now, if we demanded a true distribution of the benefits of progress, we could all learn that musical instrument, learn to paint, travel, volunteer for an archaeological dig, etc. We'd have meaningful and rich life experiences rather than working long hours that leave us so drained we can only muster the energy to watch some tv in our spare time. We'd have time to exercise, time to cook for ourselves and vastly improve our diets. It would be a huge boon for human health. And with a true social network, so no one really needs to fear starvation, homelessness, lack of medical care, or lack of educational opportunities, guess what? Crime disappears. Well, money-related and poverty-related crime. As for drug-related crime, we legalize drugs and use the savings to fund social recovery and drug education programs. What crime remains would essentially be crimes of passion or psychological disorders, and these really should be the province of the mental health industry, not the prison industry, teaching anger management, how to deal with feelings, healing past traumas, etc., rather than the sick and twisted prison mentality that currently operates in America. And with so many people having so much free time, as well as career mobility, we can encourage those people to pursue healthcare. What's the big "fear" of socialized medicine, to the Republicans? Not getting in to see a doctor in a timely fashion. But with all the people who don't need to be working their meaningless, crap jobs, a ton would jump at the chance to re-educate as a health care professional. We could quadruple the number of doctors, nurse practitioners, etc.. Not only would we not have longer waits for doctors, we'd bring back house calls and same day appointments as the norm. So, basically, getting rid of the sick and twisted approach we currently have to jobs -- the notion everyone needs to be working all the time, that we need to 'create jobs,' without regard to the question of "jobs doing what? Something good for society?" -- we reap dividends all across the board. The secret truth is that we have plenty of productivity right now for everyone in American to have plenty of food, clothing, shelter, and other necessities of life with only a fraction of the manpower we employ, and if we can just envision a new American paradigm, we can be living in a more Utopian society. Ken
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