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Re: Limits to Growth - a critique

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  • Eric Thurston
    ... fishing. Rivers have improved when we have controlled our emissions into rivers. The quality of the air does recover when we cut our pollution of it. The
    Message 1 of 14 , Nov 30, 2002
      --- In energyresources@y..., "John Goss" <johngoss@n...> wrote:
      > My response to Denis in italics
      > John G
      > ----- Original Message -----
      > From: Frith, Denis
      > To: Oz-Inform ; energyresources
      > Sent: Friday, November 29, 2002 5:26 PM
      > Subject: [energyresources] Limits to Growth - a critique
      >
      > Wrong. Fishing stocks do recover in most cases if we stop
      fishing. Rivers have improved when we have controlled our emissions
      into rivers. The quality of the air does recover when we cut our
      pollution of it. The ozone hole will disappear if we keep on with
      the control of HFCs etc. This is not against the second law. In some
      of these cases we have used up more energy from fossil fuels to
      achieve an improvement in the environment, (though the cost has been
      relatively small in the examples I have given) but I don't think
      the 'damage' to stocks of fossil fuels anywhere near out balances
      the improvement we have seen.
      >
      > A solution for one aspect will almost certainly cause a problem
      in another. Natural repair is likely to a very limited degree.
      >

      My two cents worth as far as the issue of nature repairing itself.
      In Charles Little's book 'The Dying of the Trees' he points out that
      the combination of the degradation of the soil via acid rain and the
      accumulation of pollutants, along with the unnatural disruption of
      forest ecology via clearcuts will keep a forest from truly
      regenerating for possibly hundreds of years. In one set of forest
      plots studied with a fairly virgin stand compared to a second growth
      stand, the second growth stand, even after 85 years was nowhere near
      getting back to the health of the virgin stand. I'm sure the
      pollution, overfishing and coral reef destruction of the oceans
      mitigates heavily against the rebound of fishing stocks in anything
      less than many hundreds of years. Besides, who is bothering to
      regulate fishing these days? And with the Bush administration, the
      air regulations are getting rolled back more than ever.

      Eric Thurston

      ~~~~~~~~ EnergyResources Moderator Comment ~~~~~~~~~

      Folks:

      By the late 1970s, it was clear that the carrying capacity of land and oceans was limited, that over-production from lands and seas would wreck the productive capacity of those places, and that scientifically moderated production would allow people in resource rich places to gain continuing, relatively high productivity with much less investment than they would get if they wrecked the substrate of lands and seas upon which productivity was based.

      In fishing, the area I know best, the aggreagate (read politically influential) money was in the building of boats, not in the efficient production of seafood.

      So we built great seagoing fleets and they caught up most of the fish. Now the communities and jobs that depended upon that exploitation are disappearing--as predicted.

      Will we learn?

      Beats me...





      ~~~~~ EnergyResources Moderator Tom Robertson ~~~~~~
    • Chester Walls
      John, You talk of costs and price, by which I assume you mean money. Please provide me with examples of formulas from the realms of the natural laws {(physics,
      Message 2 of 14 , Nov 30, 2002
        John,

        You talk of costs and price, by which I assume you mean money.

        Please provide me with examples of formulas from the realms of the
        natural laws {(physics, chemistry etc) that govern everything we do}
        which include the $ symbol.

        There are none, $/kwhr etc are not part of any law and are of no
        consequence at all.

        Judging anything real by way of the monetary system is wrong. Every
        decision made in this world today based on the monetary system (maybe
        95% of all decisions) is wrong.

        The monetary system is the prime driver in our rush to dieoff.

        Read “Overshoot”, “Energy and Resource Quality”, “Geodestinies”, “Beyond
        Oil” then tell us about price and costs.

        Lomborg and the likes are possibly the saddest examples of denial and
        the power of money.

        Chester.

        -----Original Message-----
        From: John Goss [mailto:johngoss@...]
        Sent: Saturday, 30 November 2002 4:26 p.m.
        To: energyresources@yahoogroups.com
        Subject: Re: [energyresources] Limits to Growth - a critique

        My response to Denis in italics

        John G

        ----- Original Message -----

        From: Frith, <mailto:denisaf2000@...> Denis

        To: Oz-Inform <mailto:oz-inform@yahoogroups.com.au> ; energyresources
        <mailto:energyresources@yahoogroups.com>

        Sent: Friday, November 29, 2002 5:26 PM

        Subject: [energyresources] Limits to Growth - a critique





        Limits to Growth
        By Bjørn Lomborg and Olivier Rubin

        There are a number of points made in this article that are demonstrably
        erroneous. Doubtless they have been pointed out before amongst the
        numerous well-founded criticisms of Lomborg. However, I will put my
        contribution here, partly because I provided a critique of Lovins’ view.
        Some of the points made there are also pertinent to Lomborg’ and Rubins
        view. Extracts from their article are in bold.

        Denis Frith

        Melbourne

        1 Few resources have turned out to be essential, since the demand for
        and the availability of the Earth’s resources adjust over time in
        accordance with technological progress and economic development.

        This is a common argument that ignores the geophysical fact that the
        terrestrial stocks of resources are finite.

        The total minerals in the 6 billion trillion tonnes of the Earth's mass
        is almost beyond comprehension, so to say the stocks are finite is to
        miss the point. What counts is the amount of minerals we can extract in
        an economically and ecologically viable way. The evidence so far is that
        as we get cleverer the real price of extracting minerals has fallen, so
        as far as minerals go we are leaving our children with better access to
        minerals than we have, (though its true this statement assumes we solve
        looming energy problems).

        There is also the point that a lot of our minerals do not disappear but
        end up in rubbish tips, so can often be recycled.

        Where the stocks truly are limited is oil, gas and helium. I'm sure
        thats what Lomborg means by the 'few resources' in his statement. (Some
        would add coal to the limited list, but there is so much of it, there is
        no limit for at least the next 100 years).

        Oil is readily available now but that is a temporary situation: the only
        uncertainty is how long will it be before declining supply is having a
        noticeable impact on global operations, even to Lomberg and Rubin.

        True. This is the issue.

        2 Renewable energy (such as solar and wind power) are becoming a viable
        alternative to fossil fuels.

        There is no evidence to support the contention that renewable sources of
        energy can be a viable alternative to fossil fuels. It is extremely
        doubtful whether they can do more than provide a partial substitute.
        They will doubtless provide a limited supply of energy in due course.

        3 Likewise, as humans have become better at extracting oil, the world’s
        known oil reserves have increased significantly in recent years despite
        a considerable rise in energy consumption.

        This is an assertion without the qualification that there is great
        uncertainty amongst the informed about whether the reserves have
        increased significantly. The authors simply choose to ignore the
        evidence and geologists views that the actual accessible reserves have
        not increased much over the past decade while exploration and
        exploitation is becoming noticeably more difficult.

        4. The limit of sustainability is not a static ceiling but is
        formed and expanded by human innovation and technological progress.

        The continuing availability of the irreplaceable terrestrial stocks of
        resources, particularly the fossil fuels and many minerals, (Which
        ones?) has a significant impact on the operations of society. Human
        innovation and technological progress has never had any impact on these
        stocks. They have been provided by nature over millions of years and
        there is nothing humans can do to replace them. The most they can do is
        substitute one resource for another, in some circumstances

        5. For starters, global warming does not have remotely the same
        impact on wealth as would a theoretical exhaustion of essential world
        resources. The total costs of global warming for the next 100 years are
        estimated at $5 trillion, which should be compared to the total income
        of $800 trillion to $900 trillion expected to be generated in the same
        period.

        This is based upon an unwise assumption, even for an economist. (Lomborg
        is not an economist. He is a political scientist) There is good reason
        to believe that human operations have degraded the environment to a
        significant extent already. Global warming is just one factor that
        seems to be having an impact. It is receiving increasing prominence for
        a variety of reasons, not all tied in with the physical significance.
        The changes in ocean currents, de-forestation, soil salinity increase
        etc could all have a significant impact on the future operation of our
        biosphere. The increase in natural disasters over the past decade could
        well be due to these or other factors. Who would care to try and predict
        the cost (in fiscal terms) of such an uncertain future. We do know that
        the environment will continue to degrade (global entropy increase) so
        long as fossil fuels are exploited but the detail is very uncertain.

        6. Moreover, had the emissions of carbon dioxide posed a real
        threat to future growth, the global community would be capable of
        significantly limiting carbon dioxide emissions with the technology
        currently at hand.

        Interesting comment. Relating emissions to future growth without
        consideration of more basic consequences like the impact on the
        environment (past, present and future) and so human habitation. Further,
        technology has a very limited influence on the emissions. The only
        really effective means of cutting them down is to reduce the consumption
        of fossil fuels, which will nature will ensure shortly, especially in
        the case of oil.

        It is contrary to the laws of nature to assert that the environmental
        damage that has already been done can be repaired. Reduction in the
        emission of greenhouse gases can only reduce the rate of further
        deterioration. Repair of the damage using manufactured processes is not
        entropically possible.

        Wrong. Fishing stocks do recover in most cases if we stop fishing.
        Rivers have improved when we have controlled our emissions into rivers.
        The quality of the air does recover when we cut our pollution of it. The
        ozone hole will disappear if we keep on with the control of HFCs etc.
        This is not against the second law. In some of these cases we have used
        up more energy from fossil fuels to achieve an improvement in the
        environment, (though the cost has been relatively small in the examples
        I have given) but I don't think the 'damage' to stocks of fossil fuels
        anywhere near out balances the improvement we have seen.

        A solution for one aspect will almost certainly cause a problem in
        another. Natural repair is likely to a very limited degree.
      • Jack Dingler
        V = E / M Where: V = Value of Money E = Usuable Energy M = Quantity of Money W = E / P Where: W = Wealth of a region E = Usable Energy in the Region P =
        Message 3 of 14 , Dec 1, 2002
          V = E / M
          Where:
          V = Value of Money
          E = Usuable Energy
          M = Quantity of Money

          W = E / P
          Where:
          W = Wealth of a region
          E = Usable Energy in the Region
          P = Population of the Region

          http://www.publicdebt.treas.gov/opd/opdpdodt.htm

          Jack Dingler

          --- In energyresources@y..., "Chester Walls" <lcw@t...> wrote:
          > John,
          >
          > You talk of costs and price, by which I assume you mean money.
          >
          > Please provide me with examples of formulas from the realms of the
          > natural laws {(physics, chemistry etc) that govern everything we do}
          > which include the $ symbol.
          >
          > There are none, $/kwhr etc are not part of any law and are of no
          > consequence at all.
          >
          > Judging anything real by way of the monetary system is wrong. Every
          > decision made in this world today based on the monetary system (maybe
          > 95% of all decisions) is wrong.
          >
          > The monetary system is the prime driver in our rush to dieoff.
          >
          > Read "Overshoot", "Energy and Resource Quality", "Geodestinies", "Beyond
          > Oil" then tell us about price and costs.
          >
          > Lomborg and the likes are possibly the saddest examples of denial and
          > the power of money.
          >
          > Chester.
        • Frith, Denis
          Jack I do not know from your quote below whether you support these definitions or not. However, I will give my view, which is certainly consistent with that of
          Message 4 of 14 , Dec 1, 2002

            Jack

                  I do not know from your quote below whether you support these definitions or not. However, I will give my view, which is certainly consistent with that of Soddy.

            Real Wealth cannot really be measured in fiscal terms and is not represented by transistory material items like houses and cars. These views of wealth are delusionary. Wealth is more in culture and wisdom.

            There is a need to recognize the source of the Energy. Energy from store is artificially cheap and is used at the expense of the future. It ignores the fact that solar is the only continuing source of energy. Improved means of using solar energy remains one of the major challenges.

            In these terms, the first equation is absolutely meaningless whilst the second encourages the delusion that more wealth can be created by using more energy, a very common view, unfortunately.You probably prefer the interpreation that as energy supply declines so does (material) wealth. How much real wealth declines is more a matter of how humanity faces up to reality.

            Denis Frith

            Melbourne

             Jack Dingler <weaseldog2001@...> wrote:

            V = E / M
            Where:
            V = Value of Money
            E = Usuable Energy
            M = Quantity of Money

            W = E / P
            Where:
            W = Wealth of a region
            E = Usable Energy in the Region
            P = Population of the Region

            http://www.publicdebt.treas.gov/opd/opdpdodt.htm

            Jack Dingler

            -



            Yahoo! Hint Dropper
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          • Jack Dingler
            ... definitions or not. However, I will give my view, which is certainly consistent with that of Soddy. ... represented by transistory material items like
            Message 5 of 14 , Dec 2, 2002
              --- In energyresources@y..., "Frith, Denis" <denisaf2000@y...> wrote:
              >
              > Jack
              > I do not know from your quote below whether you support these
              definitions or not. However, I will give my view, which is certainly
              consistent with that of Soddy.
              > Real Wealth cannot really be measured in fiscal terms and is not
              represented by transistory material items like houses and cars. These
              views of wealth are delusionary.
              > Wealth is more in culture and wisdom.

              So a person can still be wealthy, if they have no food, water,
              shelter, medication, transportation or the means to acquire these?
              Many people who have died from famine and drought had culture, yet
              they are dead and one can argue, not wealthy.

              I'm not sure I understand your point. What can you accomplish, using
              only culture and wisdom, but without using energy? How can you have
              culture and wisdom and not energy? How can you have these things in
              absence of life? Without energy, one has no food, no water, no oxygen.
              What kind of culture or wisdom can be sustained without life?

              > There is a need to recognize the source of the Energy. Energy from
              store is artificially cheap and is used at the expense of the future.
              It ignores the fact that solar is the only continuing source of
              energy. Improved means of using solar energy remains one of the major
              challenges.

              Why does the source of the energy need to recognized? It's usable or
              it's not. Solar energy falling on the concrete of my driveway, does
              nothing to increase my wealth atm. It is not convertible to food, to
              liguid fuel for a motor, to cellulose to feed to an ungulant. What
              good is energy that has not come to earth yet, and thus hasn't been
              harnessed to perform work?

              > In these terms, the first equation is absolutely meaningless whilst
              the second encourages the delusion that more wealth can be created by
              using more energy, a very common view, unfortunately.You probably
              prefer the interpreation that as energy supply declines so does
              (material) wealth. How much real wealth declines is more a matter of
              how humanity faces up to reality.

              Once you've used the energy your wealth is gone. Where'd you get the
              idea that using the energy creates wealth, or that material goods
              represent wealth? It's the ability to do things, or in other words
              having energy that one can harness that gives one wealth. If spending
              energy makes one wealthy, then in the conventional view, getting rid
              of money makes one rich.

              My equations, say nothing about material goods, where did you insert
              those variables?

              > Denis Frith
              > Melbourne

              Jack Dingler

              > Jack Dingler <weaseldog2001@y...> wrote:V = E / M
              > Where:
              > V = Value of Money
              > E = Usuable Energy
              > M = Quantity of Money
              >
              > W = E / P
              > Where:
              > W = Wealth of a region
              > E = Usable Energy in the Region
              > P = Population of the Region
              >
              > http://www.publicdebt.treas.gov/opd/opdpdodt.htm
              >
              > Jack Dingler
            • John Goss
              I m sorry, but it is cut and dried. I was responding to the absolutist, fundamentalist statement by Denis Frith below. It is contrary to the laws of nature to
              Message 6 of 14 , Dec 3, 2002
                I'm sorry, but it is cut and dried. I was responding to the absolutist,
                fundamentalist statement by Denis Frith below.
                'It is contrary to the laws of nature to assert that the environmental
                damage that has already been done can be repaired'
                To disprove such an absolutist statement it is only necessary to produce one
                counter example, and I produced more than one.
                Denis would serve his case far better by not being so absolutist, and not
                using such ex cathedra pronouncements as 'it is contrary to the laws of
                nature'.

                I can easily agree with him if he says that 'environmental damage that has
                already been done is difficult, and sometimes impossible, to repair'.

                So I am really criticising a style of argument which I find all too common
                on this site, and that is an absolutist style which ignores the fact that
                there are greys in every issue. The absolutist style is characteristic of
                the 'true believer' and I notice Ron that you are quite rightly critical of
                the 'true believer'.

                Some people on this site, for example, seem to treat the Hubbert Peak and
                Decline as a sacred object which only heretics would dare to question. I am
                more pragmatic. I treat it as a very useful statistical projection which has
                substantial evidence going for it; but I am always prepared to consider
                other possibilities.

                Yours in greyness
                John G






                ----- Original Message -----
                From: "Ron Patterson" <readyourdarwin@...>
                To: <energyresources@yahoogroups.com>
                Sent: Sunday, December 01, 2002 3:16 AM
                Subject: Re: [energyresources] Limits to Growth - a critique


                > John Goss wrote:
                > >>>Wrong. Fishing stocks do recover in most cases if we stop
                > fishing. Rivers have improved when we have controlled our
                > emissions into rivers. The quality of the air does recover when
                > we cut our pollution of it. The ozone hole will disappear if we
                > keep on with the control of HFCs etc. This is not against the
                > second law. In some of these cases we have used up more energy
                > from fossil fuels to achieve an improvement in the environment,
                > (though the cost has been relatively small in the examples I
                > have given) but I don't think the 'damage' to stocks of fossil
                > fuels anywhere near out balances the improvement we have seen.
                > <<<
                >
                > Well John, it's not really that cut an dried. Fish stocks do
                > recover after awhile. But these fish stocks are near the bottom
                > of a food chain. Species that depend on these food stocks could
                > take much longer to recover. But EXTINCTION IS FOREVER! Species
                > are going extinct at an alarming rate, thousands of times faster
                > than one would expect from nature.
                >
                > Also, as far as atmospheric pollution is concerned, it will
                > eventually recover but it will take decades, and in some cases,
                > hundreds and perhaps thousands of years. Global warming for
                > instance, if it triggers a release of methane in the oceans and
                > tundra, could trigger a runaway effect that would keep going
                > even if we stopped emitting greenhouse gases completely.
                >
                > Ron Patterson
                >
                >
                > =====
                > - It is the true believer's ability to "shut his eyes and stop his ears"
                to the facts that do not deserve to be either seen or heard which is the
                source of his unequaled fortitude and constancy. He cannot be frightened by
                danger nor disheartened by obstacle nor baffled by contradictions because he
                denies their existence.
                > Eric Hoffer: The True Believer
                >
                > __________________________________________________
                > Do you Yahoo!?
                > Yahoo! Mail Plus - Powerful. Affordable. Sign up now.
                > http://mailplus.yahoo.com
                >
                >
                > Your message didn't show up on the list? Complaints or compliments?
                > Drop me (Tom Robertson) a note at t1r@...
                >
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                >
                >
              • Frith, Denis
                John We clearly have a different view about a very important subject. There has been appreciable disagreement for decades about how the Second Law impacts on
                Message 7 of 14 , Dec 3, 2002

                  John

                          We clearly have a different view about a very important subject. There has been appreciable disagreement for decades about how the Second Law impacts on the operation of our biosphere. A lot of this stems from different ways of looking at these operations and the impact that humans have on them.

                  However, I take your point. I should not make what you call an 'absolutionist' statement without providing a sound backing to it. I make no excuse for looking at fundamentals as they help to reduce the uncertainty. This I am doing and I will make no more comments on the subject until I have finished it.

                  On the other hand, it is always possible to select examples that seem contrary to a generalization but this can be because they are exceptional. They can add to uncertainty about the genralization, as here, until the reasons for the examples being exceptional are identified. You use the term 'disprove'. That is being absolutionist!

                  Denis Frith

                  Melbourne

                   John Goss wrote:

                  I'm sorry, but it is cut and dried. I was responding to the absolutist,
                  fundamentalist statement by Denis Frith below.
                  'It is contrary to the laws of nature to assert that the environmental
                  damage that has already been done can be repaired'
                  To disprove such an absolutist statement it is only necessary to produce one
                  counter example, and I produced more than one.
                  Denis would serve his case far better by not being so absolutist, and not
                  using such ex cathedra pronouncements as 'it is contrary to the laws of
                  nature'.

                  I can easily agree with him if he says that 'environmental damage that has
                  already been done is difficult, and sometimes impossible, to repair'.

                  So I am really criticising a style of argument which I find all too common
                  on this site, and that is an absolutist style which ignores the fact that
                  there are greys in every issue. The absolutist style is characteristic of
                  the 'true believer' and I notice Ron that you are quite rightly critical of
                  the 'true believer'.

                  Some people on this site, for example, seem to treat the Hubbert Peak and
                  Decline as a sacred object which only heretics would dare to question. I am
                  more pragmatic. I treat it as a very useful statistical projection which has
                  substantial evidence going for it; but I am always prepared to consider
                  other possibilities.

                  Yours in greyness
                  John G






                  ----- Original Message -----
                  From: "Ron Patterson"
                  To:
                  Sent: Sunday, December 01, 2002 3:16 AM
                  Subject: Re: [energyresources] Limits to Growth - a critique


                  > John Goss wrote:
                  > >>>Wrong. Fishing stocks do recover in most cases if we stop
                  > fishing. Rivers have improved when we have controlled our
                  > emissions into rivers. The quality of the air does recover when
                  > we cut our pollution of it. The ozone hole will disappear if we
                  > keep on with the control of HFCs etc. This is not against the
                  > second law. In some of these cases we have used up more energy
                  > from fossil fuels to achieve an improvement in the environment,
                  > (though the cost has been relatively small in the examples I
                  > have given) but I don't think the 'damage' to stocks of fossil
                  > fuels anywhere near out balances the improvement we have seen.
                  > <<<
                  >
                  > Well John, it's not really that cut an dried. Fish stocks do
                  > recover after awhile. But these fish stocks are near the bottom
                  > of a food chain. Species that depend on these food stocks could
                  > take much longer to recover. But EXTINCTION IS FOREVER! Species
                  > are going extinct at an alarming rate, thousands of times faster
                  > than one would expect from nature.
                  >
                  > Also, as far as atmospheric pollution is concerned, it will
                  > eventually recover but it will take decades, and in some cases,
                  > hundreds and perhaps thousands of years. Global warming for
                  > instance, if it triggers a release of methane in the oceans and
                  > tundra, could trigger a runaway effect that would keep going
                  > even if we stopped emitting greenhouse gases completely.
                  >
                  > Ron Patterson
                  >
                  >
                  > =====
                  > - It is the true believer's ability to "shut his eyes and stop his ears"
                  to the facts that do not deserve to be either seen or heard which is the
                  source of his unequaled fortitude and constancy. He cannot be frightened by
                  danger nor disheartened by obstacle nor baffled by contradictions because he
                  denies their existence.
                  > Eric Hoffer: The True Believer
                  >
                  > __________________________________________________
                  > Do you Yahoo!?
                  > Yahoo! Mail Plus - Powerful. Affordable. Sign up now.
                  > http://mailplus.yahoo.com
                  >
                  >
                  > Your message didn't show up on the list? Complaints or compliments?
                  > Drop me (Tom Robertson) a note at t1r@...
                  >
                  > Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/
                  >
                  >



                  Your message didn't show up on the list? Complaints or compliments?
                  Drop me (Tom Robertson) a note at t1r@...

                  Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/



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                • Tom Robertson
                  John, Denis, EnergyResources Group listers, et al: The messages below discuss the issue of our wrecking the environment. I want to point out the massive
                  Message 8 of 14 , Dec 3, 2002

                    John, Denis, EnergyResources Group listers, et al:

                     

                    The messages below discuss the issue of our wrecking the environment.

                     

                    I want to point out the massive arrogance in such an idea

                     

                    The environment is a great container that holds all we are, can, and will be. There is no way that we humans, bounded to near insignificance by time, energy, matter, and space, can really damage, or for that matter protect that container

                     

                    In the process of making our lives here on earth, our environmental foolishness only hurts our own interests. The environment can and will take care of itself--as it has from whatever beginning.

                     

                    Some time ago, H.T. Odum and company did a study of Florida as an energy, ecological, and cultural system. They found that around a third of all the work done to support the state and its people came from the environment and its bountiful goods and services. (Of course, another of our human arrogances is the study of economics, an elaborate point of view to which all the free work of nature is invisible.)

                     

                    The real trick for people living in any place is to get an accounting, in appropriate terms and measures, of what the environment is doing to support their interests. On that basis, they can start learning how to take advantage of—and avoid diminishing—those free environmental goods and services in every way possible.

                     

                    We should recognize that the life game goes on for a long time, and we humans could do a lot better of living it than we have so far.

                     

                    Tom Robertson, Moderator, EnergyResources Group

                    (39°53'N 76° 59'W)    

                    -----Original Message-----
                    From: Frith, Denis [mailto:denisaf2000@...]
                    Sent: Tuesday, December 03, 2002 6:29 PM
                    To: energyresources@yahoogroups.com
                    Subject: Re: [energyresources] Limits to Growth - a critique

                    John

                            We clearly have a different view about a very important subject. There has been appreciable disagreement for decades about how the Second Law impacts on the operation of our biosphere. A lot of this stems from different ways of looking at these operations and the impact that humans have on them.

                    However, I take your point. I should not make what you call an 'absolutionist' statement without providing a sound backing to it. I make no excuse for looking at fundamentals as they help to reduce the uncertainty. This I am doing and I will make no more comments on the subject until I have finished it.

                    On the other hand, it is always possible to select examples that seem contrary to a generalization but this can be because they are exceptional. They can add to uncertainty about the genralization, as here, until the reasons for the examples being exceptional are identified. You use the term 'disprove'. That is being absolutionist!

                    Denis Frith

                    Melbourne

                     John Goss wrote:

                    I'm sorry, but it is cut and dried. I was responding to the absolutist,
                    fundamentalist statement by Denis Frith below.
                    'It is contrary to the laws of nature to assert that the environmental
                    damage that has already been done can be repaired'
                    To disprove such an absolutist statement it is only necessary to produce one
                    counter example, and I produced more than one.
                    Denis would serve his case far better by not being so absolutist, and not
                    using such ex cathedra pronouncements as 'it is contrary to the laws of
                    nature'.

                    I can easily agree with him if he says that 'environmental damage that has
                    already been done is difficult, and sometimes impossible, to repair'.

                    So I am really criticising a style of argument which I find all too common
                    on this site, and that is an absolutist style which ignores the fact that
                    there are greys in every issue. The absolutist style is characteristic of
                    the 'true believer' and I notice Ron that you are quite rightly critical of
                    the 'true believer'.

                    Some people on this site, for example, seem to treat the Hubbert Peak and
                    Decline as a sacred object which only heretics would dare to question. I am
                    more pragmatic. I treat it as a very useful statistical projection which has
                    substantial evidence going for it; but I am always prepared to consider
                    other possibilities.

                    Yours in greyness
                    John G






                    ----- Original Message -----
                    From: "Ron Patterson"
                    To:
                    Sent: Sunday, December 01, 2002 3:16 AM
                    Subject: Re: [energyresources] Limits to Growth - a critique


                    > John Goss wrote:
                    > >>>Wrong. Fishing stocks do recover in most cases if we stop
                    > fishing. Rivers have improved when we have controlled our
                    > emissions into rivers. The quality of the air does recover when
                    > we cut our pollution of it. The ozone hole will disappear if we
                    > keep on with the control of HFCs etc. This is not against the
                    > second law. In some of these cases we have used up more energy
                    > from fossil fuels to achieve an improvement in the environment,
                    > (though the cost has been relatively small in the examples I
                    > have given) but I don't think the 'damage' to stocks of fossil
                    > fuels anywhere near out balances the improvement we have seen.
                    > <<<
                    >
                    > Well John, it's not really that cut an dried. Fish stocks do
                    > recover after awhile. But these fish stocks are near the bottom
                    > of a food chain. Species that depend on these food stocks could
                    > take much longer to recover. But EXTINCTION IS FOREVER! Species
                    > are going extinct at an alarming rate, thousands of times faster
                    > than one would expect from nature.
                    >
                    > Also, as far as atmospheric pollution is concerned, it will
                    > eventually recover but it will take decades, and in some cases,
                    > hundreds and perhaps thousands of years. Global warming for
                    > instance, if it triggers a release of methane in the oceans and
                    > tundra, could trigger a runaway effect that would keep going
                    > even if we stopped emitting greenhouse gases completely.
                    >
                    > Ron Patterson
                    >
                    >
                    > =====
                    > - It is the true believer's ability to "shut his eyes and stop his ears"
                    to the facts that do not deserve to be either seen or heard which is the
                    source of his unequaled fortitude and constancy. He cannot be frightened by
                    danger nor disheartened by obstacle nor baffled by contradictions because he
                    denies their existence.
                    > Eric Hoffer: The True Believer
                    >
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                  • Frith, Denis
                    Tom I have no idea where you got the idea that the discussion was about wrecking the environment. I have only mentioned damage to the environemnt. You use
                    Message 9 of 14 , Dec 4, 2002
                      Tom
                      I have no idea where you got the idea that the discussion was about 'wrecking' the environment. I have only mentioned damage to the environemnt. You use the term diminshing which is much the same. I agree with most of your comments but I take offence at being classed as arrogant because of a view that I did not express.
                      Denis Frith
                      Melbourne

                      ~~~~~~~~ EnergyResources Moderator Comment ~~~~~~~~~

                      Denis, I in no way meant to address you personally.

                      My complaint is with the way environmental organizations and others, (e.g., the Environmental Protection Agency) pitch their campaigns toward "protecting the environment" with little or no concern that their act of doing so in essence reifies the concept of the environment. As a result, the environment is characterized not as an evolving dynamic system in which we humans make our way, but as an ostensibly inert "thing."

                      While such characterizations may work well for fund-raising, membership drives, and political support, they have a very powerful and insideous effect on our real capacity to know and use the environment in the most beneficial ways.

                      The main loss comes from a lack of support for the systems sciences, which show the environment for what it is, a powerful complex and dynamic contributor to human enterprise. The environment contains the potential for massive positive and negative consequences--all of which can be better managed for human benefit to the extent the workings of the environment and its relationships to human interests are understood and acted on in the most mutually beneficial ways.

                      You actually illustrate this problem in your comments above.

                      When you say "I have only mentioned damage to the environemnt." you suggest the environment can be hurt by human action.

                      What I am saying is that the environment, as the container that holds everything human--and everything else--cannot be hurt. It is simply changed in one way or another by human--and all other--action.

                      The issue then becomes one of not asking: "How do human actions damage the environment?" but, the more accurate and useful question: how do changes in environmental systems, human induced or otherwise, affect human interests?

                      In the same way, when I use the term "diminshing" it is in context with the potential loss of the goods and services the human enterprise potentially gains from the environment. This is in no way similar to speaking of "wrecking" the environment. When "the environment" is placed in such a context, it becomes a thing valued in the abstract, rather than in terms of actual and realized goods and services available to support the human enterprise.

                      Sure its all semantics. However, we will do our best by the environment and what it has to offer to the extent we are clear about what it is, how it works, and how all that meshes with the enduring interests of the human enterprise.

                      Anything less, such as the confusions generated by the idea that we humans can "protect the environment," simply get in the way of human progress, which in the months and years to come, will be severely tested in its ability to continue in times of declining energy availability.

                      ~~~~~ EnergyResources Moderator Tom Robertson ~~~~~~



                      Tom Robertson <t1r@...> wrote:
                      John, Denis, EnergyResources Group listers, et al:



                      The messages below discuss the issue of our wrecking the environment.



                      I want to point out the massive arrogance in such an idea



                      The environment is a great container that holds all we are, can, and will be. There is no way that we humans, bounded to near insignificance by time, energy, matter, and space, can really damage, or for that matter protect that container



                      In the process of making our lives here on earth, our environmental foolishness only hurts our own interests. The environment can and will take care of itself--as it has from whatever beginning.



                      Some time ago, H.T. Odum and company did a study of Florida as an energy, ecological, and cultural system. They found that around a third of all the work done to support the state and its people came from the environment and its bountiful goods and services. (Of course, another of our human arrogances is the study of economics, an elaborate point of view to which all the free work of nature is invisible.)

                      The real trick for people living in any place is to get an accounting, in appropriate terms and measures, of what the environment is doing to support their interests. On that basis, they can start learning how to take advantage of—and avoid diminishing—those free environmental goods and services in every way possible.

                      We should recognize that the life game goes on for a long time, and we humans could do a lot better of living it than we have so far.

                      Tom Robertson, Moderator, EnergyResources Group

                      (39°53'N 76° 59'W)
                      -----Original Message-----
                      From: Frith, Denis [mailto:denisaf2000@...]
                      Sent: Tuesday, December 03, 2002 6:29 PM
                      To: energyresources@yahoogroups.com
                      Subject: Re: [energyresources] Limits to Growth - a critique


                      John
                      We clearly have a different view about a very important subject. There has been appreciable disagreement for decades about how the Second Law impacts on the operation of our biosphere. A lot of this stems from different ways of looking at these operations and the impact that humans have on them.
                      However, I take your point. I should not make what you call an 'absolutionist' statement without providing a sound backing to it. I make no excuse for looking at fundamentals as they help to reduce the uncertainty. This I am doing and I will make no more comments on the subject until I have finished it.
                      On the other hand, it is always possible to select examples that seem contrary to a generalization but this can be because they are exceptional. They can add to uncertainty about the genralization, as here, until the reasons for the examples being exceptional are identified. You use the term 'disprove'. That is being absolutionist!
                      Denis Frith
                      Melbourne
                      John Goss wrote: I'm sorry, but it is cut and dried. I was responding to the absolutist,
                      fundamentalist statement by Denis Frith below.
                      'It is contrary to the laws of nature to assert that the environmental
                      damage that has already been done can be repaired'
                      To disprove such an absolutist statement it is only necessary to produce one
                      counter example, and I produced more than one.
                      Denis would serve his case far better by not being so absolutist, and not
                      using such ex cathedra pronouncements as 'it is contrary to the laws of
                      nature'.

                      I can easily agree with him if he says that 'environmental damage that has
                      already been done is difficult, and sometimes impossible, to repair'.

                      So I am really criticising a style of argument which I find all too common
                      on this site, and that is an absolutist style which ignores the fact that
                      there are greys in every issue. The absolutist style is characteristic of
                      the 'true believer' and I notice Ron that you are quite rightly critical of
                      the 'true believer'.

                      Some people on this site, for example, seem to treat the Hubbert Peak and
                      Decline as a sacred object which only heretics would dare to question. I am
                      more pragmatic. I treat it as a very useful statistical projection which has
                      substantial evidence going for it; but I am always prepared to consider
                      other possibilities.

                      Yours in greyness
                      John G






                      ----- Original Message -----
                      From: "Ron Patterson"
                      To:
                      Sent: Sunday, December 01, 2002 3:16 AM
                      Subject: Re: [energyresources] Limits to Growth - a critique


                      > John Goss wrote:
                      > >>>Wrong. Fishing stocks do recover in most cases if we stop
                      > fishing. Rivers have improved when we have controlled our
                      > emissions into rivers. The quality of the air does recover when
                      > we cut our pollution of it. The ozone hole will disappear if we
                      > keep on with the control of HFCs etc. This is not against the
                      > second law. In some of these cases we have used up more energy
                      > from fossil fuels to achieve an improvement in the environment,
                      > (though the cost has been relatively small in the examples I
                      > have given) but I don't think the 'damage' to stocks of fossil
                      > fuels anywhere near out balances the improvement we have seen.
                      > <<< >
                      > Well John, it's not really that cut an dried. Fish stocks do
                      > recover after awhile. But these fish stocks are near the bottom
                      > of a food chain. Species that depend on these food stocks could
                      > take much longer to recover. But EXTINCTION IS FOREVER! Species
                      > are going extinct at an alarming rate, thousands of times faster
                      > than one would expect from nature.
                      >
                      > Also, as far as atmospheric pollution is concerned, it will
                      > eventually recover but it will take decades, and in some cases,
                      > hundreds and perhaps thousands of years. Global warming for
                      > instance, if it triggers a release of methane in the oceans and
                      > tundra, could trigger a runaway effect that would keep going
                      > even if we stopped emitting greenhouse gases completely.
                      >
                      > Ron Patterson
                      >
                      >
                      > =====
                      > - It is the true believer's ability to "shut his eyes and stop his ears"
                      to the facts that do not deserve to be either seen or heard which is the
                      source of his unequaled fortitude and constancy. He cannot be frightened by
                      danger nor disheartened by obstacle nor baffled by contradictions because he
                      denies their existence.
                      > Eric Hoffer: The True Believer
                    • Eric Thurston
                      Tom, I can see what you are getting at but, if one accepts the Gaian hypothesis, it does make sense to see the environment as an organism that will strive
                      Message 10 of 14 , Dec 5, 2002
                        Tom,
                        I can see what you are getting at but, if one accepts the Gaian hypothesis, it does make sense to see the 'environment' as an organism that will strive for homeostasis and will react to injury. In this sense we can 'harm the environment.'  Neither do I think that the Gaian hypothesis sees the environment as "characterized not as an evolving dynamic system in which we humans make our
                        way, but as an ostensibly inert "thing.""
                        quite the contrary.
                         
                         The analogy of a symbiote-turned-parasite would also be appropriate for us humans on our Gaian host.
                         
                        Eric Thurston
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