Sunday, September 19, 2021

The Great Pause Week 79: Building Mouse Utopias

"We don’t know, certainly at the community or the national level, how to envision a future that is attractive and which doesn’t have growth in it."

In September, 2020, a rodent named Magawa won the animal equivalent of Britain’s highest civilian honor for bravery because of his uncanny knack for uncovering landmines and unexploded ordnance. In 2016, he travelled from his home in Africa to Cambodia’s famed Angkor temples to begin his bomb-sniffing career. Trained to cover the area of a tennis court in 20 minutes, he detected and alerted his handlers to 71 landmines and 38 items of unexploded ordnance in his four year career. While Magawa may have saved countless people from death or maiming, scores of his fellow migrants may have saved even more. They were trained to sniff out asymptomatic tuberculosis patients. 

Winning gold metals was better than discovering utopia for these rodents. That’s because utopia may not be all it is cracked up to be. Working with National Institute of Mental Health from 1954 to 1972, the American ethologist and behavioral researcher John B. Calhoun created what he considered the perfect mouse utopia — unlimited food and water, multiple levels, and private nesting areas.

He repeated his experiment 25 times at different scales and observed nearly identical results every time. The layout was a rectangle measuring ten feet by fourteen feet divided into four equal sections equipped identically with a food hopper, water and nesting areas and separated from section to section by electric barriers.

Universe 25

His final experiment, “Universe 25,” had space for 3,840 mice but population peaked at 2,200 and began to decline from there because the mice were exhibiting a what Calhoun called a behavioral sink — an increase in pathological activities due to the stress involved in high density living.
Regardless of the scale of the experiments, the same set of events would transpire each time:

  • The mice would mate and breed in large quantities. 
  • Eventually a leveling-off would occur.
  • The rodents would develop either hostile or anti-social behaviors.
  • The population would trail off to extinction.

Males would lash out at other members — including infants — often biting and wounding them. Females would stop nest building or caring for the young. Eventually infant mortality topped 90 percent, mainly from abandonment.

The death phase of each experiment consisted of two stages: the “first death” — characterized by the loss of purpose in life beyond mere existence (including the loss of desire to mate, raise young, or establish a role within society) — and “second death” marked by the literal end of life and the extinction of the colony. But, ominously, it did not end there.

Before the death of the colony, Calhoun took the four healthiest males and females and allowed them to breed. Placed in a fresh new environment without all of the stress, one might expect a new generation of mice to follow. What Calhoun saw instead was epigenetic damage. Mouse behavior had been so inexorably abused that none of the infants survived to reproduce. Calhoun said, “I shall largely speak of mice, but my thoughts are on man, on healing, on life and its evolution.”

More than six decades have passed since Calhoun conducted his last experiment, nonetheless, questions linger.

Sure, we can be heartened by the fact that humans are not mice. We have science, technology and medicine to heal ourselves and explore new environments and possibilities. But we should also acknowledge that such distinctions are the standard go-to of incorrigible optimists.

Dennis Meadows, co-author of the original Limits to Growth study in 1971, says the problem is transitioning from rapid forward movement to being quiescent. 

It’s like riding a bicycle. It is relatively easy to ride a bicycle and its also relatively easy to stand next to your bicycle holding it there still. But to get from rapid forward movement to dismounting and standing — that is a skill set, which if you don’t master it can cause a lot of damage. And that is what we face in our society. We don’t know, certainly at the community or the national level, how to envision a future that is attractive and which doesn’t have growth in it.

Meadows says population is now clearly declining in a number of nations — China, Japan, Russia, “so rather than fight it, by offering subsidies or banning birth control, it would be useful for governments to try to understand how they can run a system in which the population isn’t continuously expanding.”

In which you don’t continuously need more building stock, in which tax revenues don’t keep going up and up and up, in which there is not a steady supply of young people to support the old people in their pensions and so forth. It’s a lot of interesting problems, which you could address, and which would be intellectually challenging. Until we have answers to those questions we are going to ignore the fact that we are overpopulated.

In 1948, at the International Congress on Population and World Resources, demographer P.K. Welpton challenged the Congress to consider the obvious.

It seems to me that even in countries like the U.S.A., the population is above the economic optimum; that is, we have more people even there than is most desirable from the standpoint of the natural resources which we possess. That does not mean that a rapid decrease in population would be desirable, but I think it does mean that if we could choose between a stationary population of say, 100,000,000 and 150,000,000 or 200,000,000 we should without question be better off with the former. 

The United States population today has grown above 330,000,000. It finds itself confounded by multiple interlocking crises — persistent drought in the West, urban decay in the Northeast, and rising sea level along its Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Population should be set not by good times, it is learning, but by what it can feed and shelter in the worst of times.

We have rodents who have mirrored our highest attributes of altruism by sniffing out land mines or tuberculosis, but are still unable to control their own fecundity. The question is, does this separate them from us, or make us more alike?

__________________

 The COVID-19 pandemic has destroyed lives, livelihoods, and economies. But it has not slowed down climate change, which presents an existential threat to all life, humans included. The warnings could not be stronger: temperatures and fires are breaking records, greenhouse gas levels keep climbing, sea level is rising, and natural disasters are upsizing.

As the world confronts the pandemic and emerges into recovery, there is growing recognition that the recovery must be a pathway to a new carbon economy, one that goes beyond zero emissions and runs the industrial carbon cycle backwards — taking CO2 from the atmosphere and ocean, turning it into coal and oil, and burying it in the ground. The triple bottom line of this new economy is antifragility, regeneration, and resilience.

Help me get my blog posted every week. All Patreon donations and Blogger subscriptions are needed and welcomed. You are how we make this happen. Your contributions are being made to Global Village Institute, a tax-deductible 501(c)(3) charity. PowerUp! donors on Patreon get an autographed book off each first press run. Please help if you can.

#RestorationGeneration

“There are the good tipping points, the tipping points in public consciousness when it comes to addressing this crisis, and I think we are very close to that.”

 — Climate Scientist Michael Mann, January 13, 2021.

Want to help make a difference while you shop in the Amazon app, at no extra cost to you? Simply follow the instructions below to select “Global Village Institute” as your charity and activate AmazonSmile in the app. They’ll donate a portion of your eligible purchases to us.

How it works:
1. Open the Amazon app on your phone 
2. Select the main menu (=) & tap on “AmazonSmile” within Programs & Features 
3. Select “Global Village Institute” as your charity 
4. Follow the on-screen instructions to activate AmazonSmile in the mobile app

Sunday, September 12, 2021

The Great Pause Week 78: Rewilding Iowa

"Major producers of animal products are at risk of a serious economic shock."


 A few years ago I was at a conference and had a chance to try a fake burger. Vegetarian or vegan since 1970, I had not forgotten the taste of a nicely grilled hamburger and was pleasantly surprised at how good this fake one was. I have to say it was better than most of the bean, gluten and tofu burgers we make at The Farm. 

I still wasn’t all that keen on the concept of lab food for the masses, though. I know, and teach, the epigenetic importance of the soil-food-web to the human gut biome, as well all the many dangers of genetically modified (GM) foods. Jeremy Rifkin got that right in Algeny: A New Word, A New World in 1984. 

But now I am forced to re-examine some of my thinking in light of the new wave of “precision fermentation” and cell cultures. The guys in lab coats are absolutely correct when they say you don’t need a cow to make milk. We’ve been doing it with soybeans at The Farm since 1971. You can also do it with tree sap, nuts and hemp hearts.

So, while I agree switching to mechanical cows may not be much different than switching from horses to bicycles, I have to fall back on the indigenous shamanic teachings and ask my allies in the plant world if this is really what they want and need.

In The Biochar Solution, I described how ruminants and grasses co-evolved:

When a grazing animal browses ground cover, it removes photosynthetic surface area, so the plant sheds root mass, which becomes labile carbon in the soil. As the animal browses, it is also exhales carbon dioxide, which wafts over the plant and is taken in through pores to build biomass. When the animal excretes, some carbon is lost into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide and methane, but considerably more makes it into the soil, along with nitrogen, phosphorus, and, of course, the rich microfauna contained in the animal’s intestine. 
In tropical environments that alternate between seasonally humid and arid, or in temperate zones that alternate between hot and cold, billions of tons of vegetation die each year. The microorganism population needed to decompose the vegetation would also die off from the changed seasonal conditions, were it not for the guts of large grazing animals, which remain a moist and fertile home for microorganisms. Over millions of years, a symbiotic relationship between plants, large animals, and microorganisms has evolved. Even in the harshest part of the year, microbes are able to break down the tough plant material, nourish the grazing animal, and sustain the life of the soil. 
Over those millions of years, many species of large herbivores have come and gone, and have usually managed to keep up with the billions of tons of vegetation dying every year. Besides the microfauna in their intestines, the herbivores provide a reseeding service — hooves dig up the soil, digestion stratifies the seed, excrement buries it, rooting mulches, and urine fertilizes — all to ensure the spread and survival of the forage species. Grazing animals garden. 
The dung of grass-eating mammals is home to a fascinating zygomycete fungus known as Pilobolus, which feeds on nutrients that have passed through the animal. Eventually it sends up tubes, each tipped with a fluid-filled bulb. On top of the bulb is a black spore packet. The fluid-filled bulbs act as water cannons, propelling the spore packets up to six feet away from the dung. 
Pilobolus spores need to be eaten by an animal, which passes them through its digestive system, then excretes them with its dung, providing food for the fungus to continue. If the spores didn’t get propelled away from the dung that Pilobolus lives in, they would never make it back to the animal, because most grazing animals will not graze on or near their own dung. 
This dispersal strategy also serves other organisms, in particular, parasitic nematode worms that live in the gut of a grazing animal and send their eggs out with the dung. When the baby nematodes hatch, they climb up the Pilobolus tubes to the spore packet where they, too, are shot out of the cannon like a microbial amusement ride. 

Even if fake meat or dairy may taste good and have calories, it is likely to be less helpful for your microbiome or to the grassland ecology. But then, designer meat can include probiotic cocktails and animal protein is presently eating up continent-sized chunks of rainforest at a rate that will finish them off by the middle of the century, so which is worse? Vitamins produced using Precision Fermentation (PF) already include vitamin C, B2, B12, D2, EFAs, K2, coenzyme Q10, pyrroloquinoline quinine (PQQ) and glutathione (GSH). Others can be produced using a combination of chemistry and PF, such as niacin or B3, B5, C, and L-carnitine. 

 


Plant-based substitutes for beef have been doing very well in the marketplace. Beyond Meat debuted on NASDAQ in May 2019 and has reached a market capitalization of more than $7 billion. Tyson foods watch out. They are coming for you.

A couple short weeks after getting regulatory approval to sell cultured meat in Singapore, Eat Just announced last night it has made the first commercial sale of its GOOD Meat Cultured Chicken. 
 — The Spoon, December 2019

You can find Beyond Meat chicken in KFC and its patties in Burger King. Burger King markets the Impossible Whopper by touting its health benefits (0 mg of cholesterol). Israel’s SuperMeat is opening its own test-kitchen-meets-restaurant initiative in Tel Aviv. Soy-based Miracle Meat from Yokohama chain Freshness Burger has attracted more than $27 million in funding this year to scale to 4000 tons production. They may be 10x that in 3 years.

3D-printed steak from MeaTech
 Using the technologies gained from its $18 million Peace of Meat acquisition in December 2020, Israel-based, NASDAQ-listed MeaTech now aims to establish a Belgian pilot plant and start chicken fat 3D printing during 2022. The company has also begun research into the best way of scaling the 3D bioprinting of pork, turkey, duck and more. Last year, Israeli food bioprinting firm SavorEat raised $13 in its Tel Aviv IPO. Redefine Meat’s 3D printed animal-free meat, raised $29 million in a February IPO. Barcelona-based Novameat has announced plans to market 3D printed, plant-based ‘steaks’ to restaurants in 2022.

Current estimates are that the global market will grow to $88.6 billion by 2030. Finland-based Solar Foods has received 23 million euro to go into production in 2023 with its soy-based alternatives. It reckons the switch to plant protein will actually reduce the amount of soy being grown in the world because most of it goes to animal feed at a 30:1 loss in protein to waste — manure, hair, hide, bone. To feed the estimated 9.8 billion people on the planet in 2050 at present animal-based dietary standards, we would need to farm (mainly by clearing forest) an additional area the size of two Indias — 2.29 million square miles

Meanwhile, food-processing wastes upcycled by Spanish startup MOA Foodtech — sugar, wheat, corn, beer, potato and fruit — are being fermented into high-value protein ingredients for snacks, pet food and specialized products for athletes, the elderly, diabetics and others. No genetic engineering required; these are just your specialized digestive microbes and thoughtful formulations. No new land required, either.

There may be examples of vertical farming that are good but most of what I have seen is just motivated by money.
 — Food Critic Mark Bittman

Since the 1970s, costs of PF food have fallen 10,000,000 times since the first molecules were produced, to about $100/kg today. An order of magnitude reduction, expected to occur between 2023 and 2025, to about $10/kg will unlock the mass market. By 2035, PF protein will be $1/kg while the cost of cow-produced milk protein will have doubled to more than $10/kg. Similar trends will emerge for PF ground beef, reaching cost parity in 2025 and likely three times lower than the cost of conventional meat by 2030.

Of course, there is something akin to the taxpayer fossil subsidy in the US dairy industry, too, supported by wealthy lobbying. Subsidies add $0.27/kg to milk producers’ net and tariffs protect them from international price pressure.

Nonetheless, most U.S. dairy farmers operate at a loss. In 2018, the lowest quartile of New England dairy farms made a loss of $447 per cow, with the average across all farms a loss of $40 per cow.

As U.S. milk consumption has steadily declined, the guaranteed buyer of last resort has been purchasing surplus production and storing it as processed cheese, periodically releasing as government food assistance or sweetheart deals with fast food chains. In early 2018, USDA partnered with Pizza Hut to include 25 percent more cheese on pan pizzas in an effort to release 70 million extra kilograms of milk per year to the market. Still the pre-pandemic surplus of cheese was the largest ever — 617,000 metric tons.

New to the Lover’s lineup, the Ultimate Cheese Lover’s pizza packs an extra cheesey punch. This new recipe is a mouth-watering combination of Alfredo sauce and three cheeses — Romano, Parmesan, and Pizza Hut’s signature pizza cheese– blended to create an ultimate cheese experience like no other. 
— Pizza Hut Advertisement

As the psychology of stranded investment strikes a fossilized food industry seemingly secure by virtue of its successful regulatory capture, it looks like a deer in the headlights' glare. According to a study by RethinkX:

Decision-makers must also recognize there are no geographical barriers to the food and agriculture disruption, so if the US resists or fails to support the modern food industry, other countries such as China will capture the health, wealth, and jobs that accrue to those leading the way. 

Because fake meat uses 98 percent less water and 99 percent less land, it means that by 2035, about 60 percent of the land currently being used for livestock and feed production will be freed for other uses as the cost/price curves cross. According to RethinkX, this liberated territory should be viewed as potential rewilding area. Just in the United States it is about the size of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase — or six Iowas. 

RethinkX predicts U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from cattle will drop by 60 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2035. Even when the full Life Cycle Analysis of modern food production is included, net emissions from the food sector as a whole will decline by 45 percent by 2030, 65 percent by 2035. 

  • Water consumption in cattle production and associated feed cropland irrigation will fall by 50 percent by 2030, 75 percent by 2035. 
  • If all the freed land were dedicated to optimized reforestation and soil regeneration, all U.S. greenhouse pollution — 5.5 billion tons of CO2e each year — could be fully offset by natural drawdown by 2035.
  • The cost of modern foods and other precision fermentation products will be at least 50 percent and as much as 80 percent lower than the animal products they replace.
  • At current prices, revenues of the U.S. beef and dairy industry and their suppliers will decline by at least 50 percent by 2030, and by nearly 90 percent by 2035. All other livestock and commercial fisheries will follow a similar trajectory.
  • Farmland values will collapse by 40 percent-80 percent.
  • Major producers of animal products are at risk of a serious economic shock.
  • The average U.S. family will save more than $1,200 a year in food costs. This will keep an additional $100 billion per year in USAnian pockets by 2030.
  • By 2030, at least half of the demand for oil from the U.S. agriculture industry — currently about 150 million barrels of oil equivalent a year — will disappear.

Extrapolated to the entire world, the rewilding of cattle and cropland and the tree uptake of carbon dioxide would begin to stabilize the atmosphere, gradually withdrawing tens of gigatons of CO2e per year until by mid-century or shortly thereafter, the legacy fossil pollution of earlier centuries would be completely erased. Ice cover would return to Greenland and Antarctica. Ice would once more protect the northern whale migrations. The polar vortex would behave. Storms would lessen in ferocity. Zoonotic viruses would remain in wilderness host populations. Wildfires would diminish. Coasts would be spared monster hurricanes (although sea level will continue to rise for several more centuries).

Externalities not captured in the economic models include the past public health costs of animal protein and dairy, the impact of antibiotic resistance, animal Pharma’s effects on the marine environment, and the ubiquity of high-fructose corn syrup. While public health costs like these were used to justify taxes on tobacco or gasoline, animal foods were exempted and subsidized.

I think I can forego some of my concerns for Pilobolus fungi. They are not in danger of extinction like we are. Still, I have reservations about energy-intensive, technology-intensive foods making up a cornerstone of my diet even if they reduce my intake of HFCS. Even RethinkX admits “potential health issues could arise when incorporating novel food components into the food chain.” I worry about the lack of love in preparing food, as important an ingredient in my health as any I can think of.

At The Farm we went in big for soy in all its miraculous and historical forms, prepared with love every step of the way: milk, tofu, okara, tempeh, grits, butters, miso, shoyu, natto, burgers, dogs, nuts, coffee, flour pastries, granolas, pizza, soysages, yogurt, frogurt, ice bean, frijoles, stroganoff, sufu, yuba, scramble and I am probably still forgetting half the rest. There were and are folks whose digestion can not handle soy but there were also wheat gluten, hemp hearts and many other plant bases from which entire cuisines can be constructed, naturally. 


All told, this is great news. 2025 is not very long to wait for the brick to drop on concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and their 370 million tons of manure leaking from overflowing lagoons, battery cages for hens, gestation crates for sows, tail-docked caged cattle, tormented veal calves, and other forms of unspeakably inventive torture. The sooner that industry is disrupted, the better.

At that point, we may learn whether Townsend or Bowen is the more correct. Given virtually unlimited, high-quality food and abundant land and water, will population once more burgeon, or, having adequate opportunity now for provision of the four prerequisites of population decline, will it drop?

 __________________________


The COVID-19 pandemic has destroyed lives, livelihoods, and economies. But it has not slowed down climate change, which presents an existential threat to all life, humans included. The warnings could not be stronger: temperatures and fires are breaking records, greenhouse gas levels keep climbing, sea level is rising, and natural disasters are upsizing.

As the world confronts the pandemic and emerges into recovery, there is growing recognition that the recovery must be a pathway to a new carbon economy, one that goes beyond zero emissions and runs the industrial carbon cycle backwards — taking CO2 from the atmosphere and ocean, turning it into coal and oil, and burying it in the ground. The triple bottom line of this new economy is antifragility, regeneration, and resilience.

Help me get my blog posted every week. All Patreon donations and Blogger subscriptions are needed and welcomed. You are how we make this happen. Your contributions are being made to Global Village Institute, a tax-deductible 501(c)(3) charity. PowerUp! donors on Patreon get an autographed book off each first press run. Please help if you can.

#RestorationGeneration

“There are the good tipping points, the tipping points in public consciousness when it comes to addressing this crisis, and I think we are very close to that.”
 — Climate Scientist Michael Mann, January 13, 2021.

Want to help make a difference while you shop in the Amazon app, at no extra cost to you? Simply follow the instructions below to select “Global Village Institute” as your charity and activate AmazonSmile in the app. They’ll donate a portion of your eligible purchases to us.

How it works:
1. Open the Amazon app on your phone 
2. Select the main menu (=) & tap on “AmazonSmile” within Programs & Features 
3. Select “Global Village Institute” as your charity 
4. Follow the on-screen instructions to activate AmazonSmile in the mobile app

Sunday, September 5, 2021

The Great Pause Week 77: The Manchurian Confusion

"The reveal came when China moved to control the price of infant formula."

Two decades into their 81st Century, the powers that be in China announced a succession of dramatic policy shifts. They began with a move on the transnationalist Chinese financial sector, including Hong Kong; disrupting ownership of the largest online retail chains; sidelining their wealthy oligarchs; keeping enterprises from leaving China through public stock offerings in New York, London or Brussels; banning BitCoin miners; and reasserting authority over the all-important data that technology companies — FinTech, MedTech, EdTech, gaming, telecommunications, even China’s version of Uber, Didi Chuxing — had begun amassing to track personal buying habits, health, gaming skills, attitudes, and interests. The Chinese central party asserted dominion over all that. If you were a company in China, Xi Jinping seemed to say, the government is now your managing business partner. The data you gather belong to us. The profits you make return to be used to elevate the standard of living for Chinese people. We are, after all, communists.

Popular media outlets in many parts of the world read nefarious meanings in these tea leaves. They assumed an emerging Big Brother surveillance state, a return to hardline Marxist doctrine, or some similar totalitarian power grab of all China’s young, successful, capitalist enterprises that apparently had gone too far and transgressed some unseen red line. Reassertion of control over the financial hub at Hong Kong was only the first shoe to drop. China was moving to control its own interior, across the entire spectrum of industries and new media. 

The reveal came when China moved to control the price of infant formula. The hidden motive behind China’s crackdown was much simpler then the Sinowatch cabals on K-Street fantasized. It was about babies.

Facing an aging population and dwindling labor force, China in 2015 scrapped its controversial one-child policy. Still, Beijing has struggled to convince couples to have more babies. In 2020, the number of newborns plummeted 18% to 12 million compared to the previous year, the fourth straight year of decline. 

The cost of education steadily rising through the new EdTech sphere in the wake of pandemic lockdowns was less about those startups getting way too profitable for Communist Party tastes. Prices were getting way too prohibitive for parents to educate children, which meant they would be less inclined to have more.

China cracked down on unaffordable housing costs for the same reason. Then they cracked down on video game play by dating age youth, and on the high cost of dating generally. They actively encouraged the developers of Tinder-like apps, with data sharing redirected to Beijing to be combined with gaming habits, taxi-rides, concert attendance, Fitbit uploads, and purchases at the corner pharmacy. 

In a country that not long ago went to great lengths to limit family size to one child, there are now generous incentives to have more children, even a monthly check equal to US$77 for any second or third child.

Risk-taking and experimentation by young workers make them the engine of capitalism. They are also more mobile and thus can move to places where they will be most productive. So, what happens when that part of a national demography wanes? 

Over the next 80 years, in almost every country, population will shrink. According to a 2017 “Global Burden of Disease” study published in The Lancet, some of the largest nations’ populations will halve, while Nigeria will overtake China as the second most populous. Other African countries will also continue to densify.

Outside of Africa, women are having fewer children. In 1950, the average number a woman produced was 4.7. By 2017, it was 2.4. Well before 2100, the Lancet authors predicted, it will fall below 1.7. And that is a magic number, something Thomas Malthus would not have predicted absent a globe-shattering famine or descent into vice (neither of which should be ruled out, as I will explain in later posts).

In the United States, 25 states had more deaths than births last year, up from five at the end of 2019. Kenneth Johnson, a demographer at the University of New Hampshire, has calculated that together with the rise in deaths — up by about 18 percent from 2019 — the drop in births is contributing to the aging of the US population. The rate among women in their early 20s is down by 40 percent since 2007. Teenagers have had the sharpest decline, down by 63 percent. The U.S. fertility rate is now around 1.73 children per woman — roughly on par with that of Denmark and Great Britain.

Max Pop

Once women have fewer than 2.1 babies each, population declines. In fact, the researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation predicted the world’s population will max out in 2064 at 9.7 billion and fall to 8.8 billion before century’s end. “Falling to 8.8 billion” makes me wince. One needs to grasp what that dimension of human flesh will mean to fish and fowl. It is like accepting 3 degrees as a climate goal (our present trajectory is 4–5 degrees warmer by 2100).

In recent years this population conversation has divided into two opposing camps. One camp sees the issue in terms of economics. There is a “demographic time bomb” about to explode in the most highly developed and modernized countries. It has already begun to shrink those countries native populations below replacement level and erode their abilities to maintain economic growth, innovation, and the essential services required for a high standard of living. 

The other camp sees the issue in terms of ecology. Human population has grown beyond reasonable limits and is now degrading biodiversity, social systems, and nature, leading to a spiral of abrupt climate change, extinctions, pandemic diseases, and economic overshoot. Our demands on the planet for energy, mineral and food supplies exceed its ability to support us at this scale. 

Some in the first camp think we should try to avert this problem by encouraging fertility. Others believe immigration could solve the problem. In 1965, the US Congress repealed 1924 Johnson-Reed Act, which had imposed national-origin quotas expressly designed to maintain America’s Western European ethnic makeup. Ending it resulted in 58.5 million new immigrants over the next 50 years, about 25 million Asian. Many were high-tech geeks, Unicorn creators, arriving from China and India as students or young professionals. And so was born Silicon Valley and a quadrillion-dollar industry from mere electromagnetic ones and zeros.

According to a study by the nonpartisan National Foundation for American Policy, more than half of the 91 start-ups that became $1 billion companies had one or more immigrant founders. Likewise, the Partnership for a New American Economy found that immigrants or their children had founded more than 40 percent of the 2010 Fortune 500 companies.

 — Shikha Dalmia, Who Has the Cure for America’s Declining Birthrate? Canada.
The New York Times,
Aug. 18, 2021.

Given the perfect storm of climate change, water scarcity, biodiversity loss and resource depletion, my feeling is that we should not be thinking of ways to have more babies. National economies and elderly welfare, as important as they may be, are not more important than innumerable species extinctions, our own included. Degrowth is a wave we could learn to surf. And, like zoonotic pandemics, it is a wave we know is out there.

The demographic bomb that China is attempting to defuse is set to go off in 2035 when China’s new births will no longer keep pace with its natural death rate. A few years later, China will be hard pressed to fill employment vacancies in its production and service industries. Rather than prepare for its future by defusing the demographic bomb, as it is doing by draconian means (China time makes the New York Minute seem like hours), it would do better to let the D-bomb go off and prepare to build a better, smaller society as the implosion proceeds. 

Not everyone in the Chinese Central Congress is entirely agreed to Xi’s program, by the way. Rumors coming from China’s own version of Breitenburg or Davos suggest Xi might do well to start shopping his resumé around. In a contest between Marxist wealth sharing and unicorn billionaires, old Karl M. may hold the losing hand this time.

Instead of dethroning its oligarchs, China’s next generation of leaders may find it more fruitful to recruit immigrant clean-tech startups and back them. Climate tech venture capital is trillionizing, outstripping investments in every other industry on the planet by orders of magnitude. The nations that emerge on top will be those that discover diverse and novel ways to run the carbon cycle backwards within the next ten years. That is something that can grow.

 



The COVID-19 pandemic has destroyed lives, livelihoods, and economies. But it has not slowed down climate change, which presents an existential threat to all life, humans included. The warnings could not be stronger: temperatures and fires are breaking records, greenhouse gas levels keep climbing, sea level is rising, and natural disasters are upsizing.

As the world confronts the pandemic and emerges into recovery, there is growing recognition that the recovery must be a pathway to a new carbon economy, one that goes beyond zero emissions and runs the industrial carbon cycle backwards — taking CO2 from the atmosphere and ocean, turning it into coal and oil, and burying it in the ground. The triple bottom line of this new economy is antifragility, regeneration, and resilience.

Help me get my blog posted every week. All Patreon donations and Blogger subscriptions are needed and welcomed. You are how we make this happen. Your contributions are being made to Global Village Institute, a tax-deductible 501(c)(3) charity. PowerUp! donors on Patreon get an autographed book off each first press run. Please help if you can.

#GenerationRestoration

“There are the good tipping points, the tipping points in public consciousness when it comes to addressing this crisis, and I think we are very close to that.”
 — Climate Scientist Michael Mann, January 13, 2021.


Want to help make a difference while you shop in the Amazon app, at no extra cost to you? Simply follow the instructions below to select “Global Village Institute” as your charity and activate AmazonSmile in the app. They’ll donate a portion of your eligible purchases to us.

How it works:
1. Open the Amazon app on your phone 
2. Select the main menu (=) & tap on “AmazonSmile” within Programs & Features 
3. Select “Global Village Institute” as your charity 
4. Follow the on-screen instructions to activate AmazonSmile in the mobile app

Sunday, August 29, 2021

The Great Pause Week 76: The Goats of Juan Fernandes Island

"The world’s population is now leveling off to 10 billion. There it will stay, do whatever anyone will."

 

image by author after Landscape with a Goat and Two Dogs (1644) by Hendrick Hondius


In 1786, an anonymous “Well-Wisher to Mankind,” later revealed as one Joseph Townsend, published in London A Dissertation on the Poor Laws. In it he described the history of an island named Juan Fernandes in the South Seas. 

In this sequestered spot, John Fernando placed a colony of goats, consisting of one male, attended by his female. This happy couple finding pasture in abundance, could readily obey the first commandment, to increase and multiply, till in process of time they had replenished their little island. 

The inevitable outcome, of course, was that having no natural goat predators on the island, the goats continued to multiply until they had exhausted the food supply and began to starve. Then the colony was reduced in number until a balance was again struck, after which the population rebounded, followed by famine, and the cycle repeated.

When the Spaniards found that the English privateers resorted to this island for provisions, they resolved on the total extirpation of the goats, and for this purpose they put on shore a greyhound dog and bitch. These in their turn increased and multiplied, in proportion to the quantity of food they met with; but in consequence, as the Spaniards had foreseen, the breed of goats diminished. Had they been totally destroyed, the dogs likewise must have perished. But as many of the goats retired to the craggy rocks, where the dogs could never follow them, descending only for short intervals to feed with fear and circumspection in the valleys, few of these, besides the careless and the rash, became a prey; and none but the most watchful, strong, and active of the dogs could get a sufficiency of food. Thus a new kind of balance was established. The weakest of both species were among the first to pay the debt of nature; the most active and vigorous preserved their lives. 

From this Townsend drew the lesson and purpose for his pamphlet: “It is the quantity of food which regulates the numbers of the human species.”

After reading Townsend, the ecologist Garrett Harden asked, 

If all this great earth be no more than the Island of Juan Fernandes, and if we are the goats, how can we live “the good life” without a functional equivalent of the dogs? Must we create and sustain our own dogs? Can we do so, consciously? And if we can, what manner of beast will they be?

Perhaps the beast they be is a novel coronavirus. Like the process of evolution that weans out those dogs lacking sufficient stealth and climbing skill to catch a goat, with each generation, or variant, this virus becomes more fit for purpose. Its purpose is not to exterminate us; the killing is merely a consequence of its breeding scheme. Its purpose is to reproduce.

Our breeding is much slower, as much as two decades between generations, and as we have seen, a virus can evolve many times in the course of a year.

We likely can’t develop immunity for every virus or parasite that comes along. We haven’t yet for Ebola, HIV, or many others, after decades of trying. We should probably be grateful for these beasts, because if it weren’t for them we might have already perished of thirst or starvation, surrounded by multitudes of like kind in parched and famished condition.

Townsend’s conclusion about food regulating population, while embraced by Darwin and Malthus, also drew its critics. Francis Bowen, writing a century later, concluded:

On examining the facts in the case more closely, it will always be found that it is not the excess of population which causes the misery, but the misery which causes the excess of population.
***
Universally the law is, that the numbers of the poor increase most rapidly, of the middle classes more slowly, and of the upper or wealthier ones either not at all, or so slowly as hardly to be perceptible. ‘By a singular anomaly,’ says Alison, a well-informed English writer upon the subject, ‘the rapidity of increase is in the inverse ratio of the means which are afforded of maintaining a family in comfort and independence. It is greatest when these means are least, and least when they are the greatest.’ 

According to Bowen, the goats and dogs on the island would have reproduced most when food and comfort were at their lowest ebb. By crude analogy, Nigeria is expected to surpass China and India to become the most populous country by mid-century, not because it is best positioned of the three to afford it, but in large part because its people are the poorest. 

Bowen’s hypothesis is the foundation of present day sustainable development goals that assume that to curb population we must first raise standards of living.

In the late Hans Rosling’s popular TEDx Talk, “Religions and Babies,” the demographer said it was neither wealth nor poverty that determined population growth after 1960. Neither was it religion or cultural factors. It may have been food and comfort up to a point, but no longer. The world’s population is now leveling off to 10 billion. There it will stay, do whatever anyone will. 

Rosling said that what arrests increase in human population today are four factors: children surviving to reach adulthood, children not needed for work, women getting an education and joining the labor force, and accessible means of family planning. 

We have reached peak child. The number of children is not growing any longer in the world. We are still debating peak oil, but we have definitely reached peak child. And the world population will stop growing. The United Nations Population Division has said it will stop growing at 10 billion. … So when you discuss and when you plan for the resources and the energy needed for the future, for human beings on this planet, you have to plan for 10 billion. 

There is a great deal of worrisome hand-waving in countries like Italy, China, and France about negative population growth and what it will mean for the economy. There it is again, the “e” word we hear whenever we are told schools and businesses must reopen even without mask rules, contact tracing or vaccinations for all students and teachers. The ‘“e” is more important than other values, apparently, such as health, or life. 

China need not worry. It only has to look to Tibet, Nepal or Bhutan. It can find examples of quality of living rising even as economies and populations decline. There is a science to that, as important — more important I would argue — than putting robots on Mars or hailing autonomous Didi Chuxing gyrocopters. 

Goats and the dogs are a stable system. Together they co-evolve to make a better goats and dogs.


References:

Anon. 1786. London: A Dissertation on the Poor Laws.
Bowen F. 1879. Malthusianism, Darwinism, and Pessimism, North American Review.
Hardin, G. Ed, 1964. Population, Evolution and Birth Control: A Collage of Controversial Readings, San Francisco: Freeman & Co.. 
Rosling H. 2012. “Religions and Babies,” May 22, 2012 TEDx Talk

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has destroyed lives, livelihoods, and economies. But it has not slowed down climate change, which presents an existential threat to all life, humans included. The warnings could not be stronger: temperatures and fires are breaking records, greenhouse gas levels keep climbing, sea level is rising, and natural disasters are upsizing.

As the world confronts the pandemic and emerges into recovery, there is growing recognition that the recovery must be a pathway to a new carbon economy, one that goes beyond zero emissions and runs the industrial carbon cycle backwards — taking CO2 from the atmosphere and ocean, turning it into coal and oil, and burying it in the ground. The triple bottom line of this new economy is antifragility, regeneration, and resilience.

Help me get my blog posted every week. All Patreon donations and Blogger subscriptions are needed and welcomed. You are how we make this happen. Your contributions are being made to Global Village Institute, a tax-deductible 501(c)(3) charity. PowerUp! donors on Patreon get an autographed book off each first press run. Please help if you can.

#RestorationGeneration

“There are the good tipping points, the tipping points in public consciousness when it comes to addressing this crisis, and I think we are very close to that.”

 — Climate Scientist Michael Mann, January 13, 2021.

Want to help make a difference while you shop in the Amazon app, at no extra cost to you? Simply follow the instructions below to select “Global Village Institute” as your charity and activate AmazonSmile in the app. They’ll donate a portion of your eligible purchases to us.

How it works: 
1. Open the Amazon app on your phone 
2. Select the main menu (=) & tap on “AmazonSmile” within Programs & Features 
3. Select “Global Village Institute” as your charity 
4. Follow the on-screen instructions to activate AmazonSmile in the mobile app

Sunday, August 22, 2021

The Great Pause Week 75: Rolling the DICE

"How do you advance climate measures without negative social feedback unwinding the whole proposition?"


A flurry of carbon pricing bills await the US Congress when it returns from vacation next month. Fifteen now pending are supported by Democrats and 5 of those are also supported by Republicans. 

With 79 co-sponsors, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act ($15/tC from 2021 rising 10%/y+inflation) is the most broadly supported carbon pricing bill in Congress at the moment. Its economy-wide price on carbon would push for net zero by 2050. Ninety percent of USAnians would receive a dividend that would more than offset the higher prices caused by the fees. 

America’s Clean Future Fund Act ($25/tC from 2023 rising 10%/y+inflation) also includes an economy-wide carbon price with 75 percent of revenue returned to households as dividends and the rest invested in clean energy and transition assistance to state and local governments. 

The Climate Action Rebate Act ($15/tC from 2021 rising $15/y+inflation) has a high price trajectory with 70% of revenue returned to households as dividends and the remainder invested in infrastructure, research and development, and transition assistance. 

The Save Our Future Act pairs a carbon price ($54/tC from 2023 rising 6%/y) with a price on other air pollutants. The money from the fee goes as direct payments to US citizens, investments in frontline impact fossil fuel communities, and block grants to states. 

The Market Choice Act ($35/tC from 2023 rising 5% + inflation) is a bipartisan infrastructure bill with a modest carbon price that rebates to fund climate adaptation. 

The Consumers Rebate Act ($25/tC from 2021 rising 10%/y) offers 0.5 to 1 percentage point reduction in individual income tax rates (four lowest brackets only) and after block grants divides 80 percent for “quarterly citizen rebates.” 

The American Opportunity Carbon Fee Act ($52/tC from 2020 rising 6% + inflation) would give tax credits, Social Security beneficiary payments, and $10 billion in block grants. 

The Stemming Warming and Augmenting Pay Act ($30/tC from 2021 rising 5% + inflation + $3/y) would give 70 percent in payroll tax cuts. 

The Raise Wages Cut Carbon Act ($44/tC from 2020 rising 2.5% + inflation) and America Wins Act ($52/tC from 2020 rising 6% + inflation) would only apply to energy sector emissions. 

The Healthy Climate and Family Security Act would auction GHG pollution permits and send 100 percent of revenues in quarterly dividends to most legal residents, equally.

Under all of these bills there are more winners than losers. The vast majority of taxpayers would receive more money than climate solutions will cost them.
The wildfire driving these bills, more than the actual, bipartisan, fires in Western States, may be the incipient trade war. EU and China are planning to extend taxes or carbon fees to Scope 2 (supplier energy use) and Scope 3 (customer) emissions for their domestic companies.

This is going to seriously degrade US exports if the Congress fails to enact its own fee system first. The Save Our Future Act imposes an “Equivalency Fee” on energy-intensive manufactured goods (5% energy cost minimum) but reduces it if the importing partner country imposes “carbon-based fees.” The Market Choice Act imposes a trade tariff based on GHG intensity of the manufacturing sector. The America Wins Act subsidizes fossil fuel and “carbon-intensive goods” exports to counter foreign tariffs and puts a tariff on C-intense imports. The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act and the America’s Clean Future Fund Act make border adjustments for iron, steel, aluminum, cement, glass, pulp, paper, chemicals, and ceramics. While export of fossil fuels would be exempt by the Consumers Rebate Act, a “Carbon Equivalency Fee” would be imposed on “imports of goods containing or produced” using fossil fuels but would exempt trade partners with equivalent measures.

In my first installment of this series I went back to a 1992 paper by W.D. Nordhaus that plunged headlong into the mire of carbon taxation. In Nordhaus’s optimization path, a carbon tax of $5 per ton from 1990, gradually rising to $20 by 2100 would hold Earth to 1.5C above 1900 levels. Later revisions of his “Dynamic Integrated Climate-Economy,” or DICE — put the social cost of carbon at about $88 per ton by 2050. The Obama administration’s estimates pegged the sweet spot at $50 a ton, but the Trump administration cut the estimate to as little as $1. Biden estimates roughly match Obama’s, coming in at $51.

In a Nature paper published July 27, Daniel Bressler updated Nordhaus’ DICE model for the social cost of carbon to $258 per ton and another paper scheduled for publication August 24 in PNAS puts the Social Cost of CO2 (SCC) at 24.5% greater when tipping points are incorporated rather than ignored. It is important to note, however, that 25% is just the median estimate, with 50% confidence. The paper’s high-end estimate is 347.8% higher social costs when factoring tipping points like melting permafrost and the slowing Atlantic Current. I described last week how we currently spend more than $1600 per ton paying polluters to pollute. It would seem to me the price to un-pollute the same CO2 should at least equal that.

What it means is, there’s a small-but-not-negligible chance that we are currently underestimating the cost of carbon emissions by as much as 250 percent or more. If that is true, we’re really giving bad policy advice, as in, “market mechanisms” vs. “wartime footing.”

My own thought exercises in this area go back to the 1980s when I was litigating climate change in court. In that process I interviewed a number of climate scientists who had been ruminating along these lines. I wanted to tease out some of their ideas when I was working on my book, Climate in Crisis, but by 1989 when I sent the final manuscript to the publisher, most proposals for carbon exchanges were still too poorly formed to include. Rather than publish some hazy ideas then emerging from Irish peak-oilers or an obscure K-Street think tank called Global Commons Institute, I decided, with editors Matthew McClure, Rachel Sythe and Barbara Wallace, to limit the discussion to two subchapters in my chapter called “Twenty-One Better Ideas.” Sub 13 was “Establish World Targets:”

The United States has the means to reduce its energy costs by $220 billion per year, above and beyond the $150 already saved by recent improvements. The price for this cost reduction would be an investment of only $50 billion, meaning that the investment could be completely paid off in just 83 days.
The world could have a 2 percent annual rate of efficiency improvement for the next decade without having to come up with any new technology — we already know how to do it. To sustain a 2 percent improvement rate beyond the year 2000 will require a little more effort and innovation, but that effort, estimated to cost $15 billion, would reduce energy consumption to one-third of present levels over a 50-year period.
Some countries have been achieving this 2-percent target for the past 15 years. The technology is steadily improving. We can make buildings all over the world as efficient as they are in Sweden, industrial factories as efficient as they are in Japan, and automobiles as efficient as the best French and German prototypes, with very little additional capital outlay, and with a rapid pay-back from reduced energy overhead. Why don’t we do it? Up until now, we haven’t considered it all that important.

Sub 14 was “Tax Greenhouse Gases:”

The moment we put a dollar per ton tax on the emission of carbon dioxide, we will see a change in the rate at which industries discharge carbon. It may take a year or two, but everything that can be done to save that dollar, if it costs less than a dollar, will be done. When we reach that point we need to raise it to 2 dollars per ton. Then it needs to go to 3 dollars per ton. … [A] carbon tax of $50 per ton would raise the price of gasoline by seventeen cents per gallon and of electricity by 2 cents per kilowatt-hour. It would cost consumers some $240 per year in the United States and $9 in India. These are not insurmountable sums, especially if they were reached gradually, over the course of several years, And yet, a $50 tax on each ton of CO2 could raise nearly $300 billion annually, more than enough to offset the diverse economic impacts that may accompany the worldwide shift toward sustainability.

There is more in Climate in Crisis, and I recommend it if you can find a remaindered copy on EBay, but at this stage I want everyone to notice the $300 billion. Where does that go? How does it get to those people and companies who will be most harmed by the tax? One way would be to make it an actual tax and let government dispense it. There are many perils in that approach, not the least being negative social feedback that could unwind the whole proposition — or “strangle the baby in the crib,” to use the anti-tax rhetoric of that period. 

Contraction and Convergence

At the Global Commons Institute, the idea of putting these billions to social use and rebranding climate mitigation as a “tax” was batted around until they came up with the idea, c.1989, of “Contraction and Convergence.” Their notion was to reduce overall emissions of greenhouse gases to a safe level (contraction) by leveling emissions per capita to an equal degree for all countries (convergence). The burdens of carbon taxing would fall mainly on the wealthy and profligate consumer countries, which would incentivize rapid decarbonization. C&C proposed to dispense the billions in tax revenues to bring up standards of living in the poorer two-thirds world, a sustainable development “dividend.” The UN formally adopted a version of C&C in the run-up to Kyoto (COP-3) in 1997. 

At Kyoto, the UNFCCC and IPCC pushed the concept as the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities,” an utterly ham-fisted ad slogan that obscured the whole dividend idea by appealing to moral duty rather than greed. No-one there had worked in advertising, obviously. They acknowledged that individual countries have different capabilities in combating climate change, owing to fossil-powered development, and therefore the obligation to reduce current emissions should fall most heavily on developed countries, on the basis of historical responsibility.

Al Gore was one of the white knights who brokered the final deal, bringing together the African, Indian and Chinese delegations, former Eastern Bloc countries and 36 reluctant overdeveloped (Annex I) countries, the former colonial powers and designated shame-ees. When he got home he was sent to the doghouse. It could have been worse. He might have been sent back to Harvard to study the public relations campaigns of Edward Bernays

Faced with a divided and climate-hostile Congress that abhorred a treaty that let China and Russia off the hook for emissions reductions, President Bill Clinton declined to forward the treaty for ratification — a pocket veto of sorts. Canada, Japan, New Zealand Aotearoa and Russia later dropped out. While coal-burning countries like India and China used C&C as an excuse to dig more coal mines and burn Arabian oil, the emissions of Annex I countries also increased 32% by 2010. Kyoto was a poster child for how NOT to write climate laws. 

Cap and Share

My late friend and collaborator Richard Douthwaite explained the drawbacks of C&C to me when we spoke from the same podium on my Irish tours because, while our expertise was different — he the economist and me the permaculturist — we converged on recommendations.Cap and Share was his invention. 

Cap and Share provided that emissions allocations be distributed equally to individuals as a common right because the atmosphere was a global commons. As a pragmatic compromise, Richard allowed a convergence period, during which the richer countries would receive higher per capita emissions allowances than poorer countries as they weaned themselves from their high living addictions. A rainy day fund would also be held back for use in countries facing exceptional difficulties, such as for Kiribati to relocate its islanders to higher ground in Australia. The system published by Feasta (the Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability, which Douthwaite founded), called for global emissions to be capped at their 2005 level and then brought down year by year at a rate fast enough to prevent catastrophic climate change. 

A cap and share report, commissioned by the government of Ireland, proposed every person on Earth receive a carbon certificate representing their share of the emissions budget. They could sell their certificates to their post office or bank which could then re-sell them to oil, coal, gas, cement or steel manufacturers, or other polluters.

The similarity of this scheme to the Alaskan Permanent Fund did not escape Douthwaite and the others at Feasta. Alaska taxes its fossil miners and drillers and writes a royalty check to every resident every year. It is wildly popular and now virtually untouchable by fossil-funded state legislators and governors who would love nothing more than to raid or dissolve it.

There are some obvious flaws in Cap and Share, as there were with Contraction and Convergence. Richard Douthwaite went on to tussle with these for the remainder of his life, in The Growth Illusion: How Economic Growth Enriched the Few, Impoverished the Many and Endangered the Planet in 1992; Short Circuit in 1996, The Ecology of Money in 1999; and in 2003 he edited Before the Wells Run Dry, a study of the transition to renewable energy in the wake of climate change and peak everything. 

One glaring flaw in C&S was the perverse incentive that a per capita distribution would create to make larger families and increase national populations either by fecundity or immigration. Because population size is an underlying driver of climate change, the effect of paying people or countries to have more children by issuing certificates per capita would be the same as paying them to emit more CO2. 

Another flaw is the possibility of venue shopping if the agreement was not universal, not enforceable, and not equitable. Polluters would merely shop for places they can emit tax-free.

Cap and Dividend

Richard was exploring putting a sunset provision into Cap and Share and closing the venue shopping loophole when Peter Barnes, co-founder of the Working Assets Money Fund and a board member of Greenpeace introduced his Sky Trust concept. His goal was “limiting the amount of carbon that can be put into the atmosphere [by] allowing the free market to set a price on the right to emit carbon; collecting revenue from those who buy those rights; and returning earned revenue” to the commons — a la an Alaskan Permanent Fund for the world. “Sky Trust” was rebranded as “Cap and Dividend” in advance of the 2008 elections in order to raise its profile, but President Obama, advised on climate policy by Hillary Clinton, had a tin ear, choosing instead to pursue an “all of the above” energy independence strategy for the United States, tip of the hat to the Illinois coal unions down in Carbondale.

Cap and Dividend employs a gradually reducing cap on fossil use coupled with a universal benefit that would disproportionately affect people emitting more. Every month the government would send out another dividend check and people that conserve the most or produced the least pollution would get a bigger reward, or at least feel it more, than a person who has to pay higher prices refueling their Hummer or power yacht, or air conditioning their summer house in the Hamptons.

When President Cobblepot took office in 2017, several elder statesmen of the Grand Old Party called upon him to introduce cap and dividend, knowing just how good it would be for business and banking, and at the voting booths. These included former Secretaries of State James Baker and George Shultz and former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson. The President was less interested in actually governing than golfing and his crime family was there to rake the coals at the Treasury (running up negative $4 trillion in tax breaks for the wealthy), so needless to say, anything having to do with climate change was a non-starter. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out of the Oval Office, thank you very much.


In Climate in Crisis in 1990, I wrote:

Every nation needs to put a cost on destruction of forests, topsoil and biological diversity. Every nation needs to make pollution prevention pay. But nations are afraid to act unilaterally, because to do so can place them at a competitive disadvantage. The solution is to establish world targets and provide for fair incentives to move toward them. 
One way to link economic rewards for responsible climate policy would be to tie international rate of monetary exchange to protection of the environment. Nations would receive credit for strict regulation of manufacturing processes and lose credit for wastefulness and pollution. Currencies could receive value for reductions in birth rates, cessations in production of greenhouse gases, and topsoil preservation. They could lose value for use of high sulfur coal, loss of forests, or production of acid rain.
We are living wastefully, but we have been insulated from the consequences because we have begun to spend Earth’s capital as if it were income. We may not notice that we are borrowing from our children. Our children will notice.

As Edward Bernays might have told Al Gore, our evolutionary psychology inclines us away from the word “change.” We avoid pain. We seek reward, whether deserved or not — especially if not deserved. Greed trumps noble sacrifice. To ultimately succeed in reversing climate change we need to overcome normalcy bias, confirmation bias, and simplicity bias

I, like most USAnians, will likely notice that dividend check arriving in my mailbox every month. That is how we reverse climate change. The sponsors of the bills listed at the top of this page understand that it is they who will be rewarded.

_________________

References:

Barnes, P. 2001. Who owns the sky? : our common assets and the future of capitalism. Washington, DC: Island Press. ISBN 1–55963–854–0. OCLC 46590035. 

Barnes, P. 2008. Climate Solutions: A Citizen’s Guide. Chelsea Green Publishing. ISBN 978–1–60358–005–2.

Barnes, P. 2008. “Testimony of Peter Barnes to the House Ways and Means Committee” (PDF). US House of Representatives. (September 18, 2008)

Deitz, S., J. Rising, T. Stoerk and G. Wagner, 2021.  Economic impacts of tipping points in the climate system.

Revkin, A. 2008. “Paying the Cost of Climate Control”. NY Times Dot Earth Blog. 1/2/2008

 



 The COVID-19 pandemic has destroyed lives, livelihoods, and economies. But it has not slowed down climate change, which presents an existential threat to all life, humans included. The warnings could not be stronger: temperatures and fires are breaking records, greenhouse gas levels keep climbing, sea level is rising, and natural disasters are upsizing.

As the world confronts the pandemic and emerges into recovery, there is growing recognition that the recovery must be a pathway to a new carbon economy, one that goes beyond zero emissions and runs the industrial carbon cycle backwards — taking CO2 from the atmosphere and ocean, turning it into coal and oil, and burying it in the ground. The triple bottom line of this new economy is antifragility, regeneration, and resilience.

Help me get my blog posted every week. All Patreon donations and Blogger subscriptions are needed and welcomed. You are how we make this happen. Your contributions are being made to Global Village Institute, a tax-deductible 501(c)(3) charity. PowerUp! donors on Patreon get an autographed book off each first press run. Please help if you can.

#GenerationRestoration

“There are the good tipping points, the tipping points in public consciousness when it comes to addressing this crisis, and I think we are very close to that.”
 — Climate Scientist Michael Mann, January 13, 2021.


Want to help make a difference while you shop in the Amazon app, at no extra cost to you? Simply follow the instructions below to select “Global Village Institute” as your charity and activate AmazonSmile in the app. They’ll donate a portion of your eligible purchases to us.

How it works:
1. Open the Amazon app on your phone 
2. Select the main menu (=) & tap on “AmazonSmile” within Programs & Features 
3. Select “Global Village Institute” as your charity 
4. Follow the on-screen instructions to activate AmazonSmile in the mobile app


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