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comment by kleinbl00
kleinbl00  ·  281 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: rd95's thoughts on "Eaarth" by Bill McKibben

The fundamental drive of Eaarth is that we're going to have to do more with less, and that externalities are disguising the true cost of lots of things. You probably know him primarily as the hippie who uses charts and tables to demonstrate that nuclear power isn't cost-effective once you get rid of the externalities and that actualized costs of nuclear power are always far greater than theoretical costs.

As far as food, he uses an example of a local butcher he tries to get involved in making local bacon - which they beg off of, because they can't make bacon for less than $14/lb. The fundamental point McKibben makes is that $14/lb bacon is okay because it's something we can eat indefinitely, while $3/lb factory-farmed bacon is not because of the externalities. His take on power generation is similar: if you can't do sustainable power for 45 cents/kWh, you need to use less power.

Perhaps most importantly, his basic stance is that these are not choices we get to make. These are choices being made for us and we can choose to plan for them or we can get smacked upside the head by them.

WanderingEng  ·  281 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Using bacon just as an example, is his point that the true cost of bacon is $14/pound and externalities are absorbing $11/lb from factory farms? And that when those externalities fail, bacon will only be available at $14/lb?

I'm definitely in the "let's prepare for things to happen" camp. They're going to, and even if it isn't ocean level rising or agriculture collapse, there are always local things like tornadoes or earthquakes.

The point that these decisions are made for us is probably a good one as long as it doesn't slip into conspiracy theory territory. I take as a given that public actions will shift slowly. My opinion here is that we're best served by finding solutions that need little or no change from the public, and lacking those, how do we manage the ensuing failures?

kleinbl00  ·  281 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Yeah - his point is that bacon costs $14 a pound because that's what your friendly neighborhood butcher has to charge for it. The $11/lb difference is the stuff that's gonna shake out when things fall apart.

Because that's his larger point - things are falling apart, things will continue to fall apart, and when putting things back together again requires the entire planet working together towards a better future, the prudent course is to plan for a fallen apart world. The entire first half of Eaarth isn't that a dark future is an inevitability, it's that the dire predictions everyone is making are likely to come true because that's the direction of inertia and short of a fundamental sea-change in culture, you'd best prepare for the worst. He goes out of the way to argue that everyone should do what they can to minimize that dire future because every little bit helps but also argues that little bits aren't going to get us to the same place that sweeping cultural change will.

It's a long damn way from conspiracy theory. He named his environmental organization because 350ppm CO2 is where we hit irreversible climate change; we've hit 400.

    My opinion here is that we're best served by finding solutions that need little or no change from the public, and lacking those, how do we manage the ensuing failures?

The subtitle of the book is "making a life on a tough new planet." This sentence is basically the whole drive of the book. You might like it.

user-inactivated  ·  281 days ago  ·  link  ·  

WanderingEng, I'm sorry I forgot I had a meeting tonight but I'll try to get quotes to you as soon as possible, but I have like ten minutes before I have to go.

I just wanted to add to this real quick because McKibben actually makes a lot of really decent points about local food movements. He tilts some of the ideas in his favor, which is fine, because he's writing persuasively. To touch on a few though, he talks about how Farmers Markets are growing in popularity (at least they were as of ten years ago), how food prices are maintained a bit because middlemen in storage, distribution, and transportation aren't part of the price equation. He also compares large commercial pig farms to smaller local farms where pigs aren't the focus of a farm, but an additional feature, and the massive pollution from commercial pig farms is obviously avoided. He even goes as far to bring up how in Britain there was a local food movement in WWII for obvious reasons and how some communities created pig rearing clubs.

user-inactivated  ·  281 days ago  ·  link  ·  

One of the ideas he briefly danced around, and I'll have to see if I can find the part, reminds me a lot of a Steady State Economy. Where, basically maintenance should take over as the main goal of our economic activity. When you combine that idea with, or compare it and contrast it to, Ecological Economics, you could get into a lot of compelling and exciting concepts that are interesting to consider.

Personally, I don't think I know enough about economics to give the ideas much critical thought, but it's something a lot of people on here might enjoy wondering about.