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We effed up. Sad. Couldn’t there have been an alternate reality?


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We were well into the petroleum era before there was widespread realization that we effed up the atmosphere. Although interestingly, I have recently read stories that the science was discovered like 100 years ago. 
So it was a tall order indeed for humans to forego the convenience of petroleum living. 
Can we possibly imagine the alternate reality that could have been had we been fully aware of where the incessant burning of fossil fuels would lead?    I have always thought a low energy existence would have been cool. Like during COVID, no scurrying aboot and sitting in traffic jams. Sure, we need heating and some cooling, although we definitely overdo it in the cooling side. And I spose it is not really helpful to reflect on what could have been, but it would still be interesting to see if it could have been possible to navigate a more sustainable path for civilization. Hard to make a case for us being the most advanced civilization when the world existed for a long long time before we became petroleum addicts. 
Disclaimer: This diatribe was inspired by some early morning doom scrolling where there was an article aboot Miami Beach. That the Greenland ice sheet is snot only melting but is getting covered in soot that darkens it so it is way less heat reflective. 
Signed,

Debbie Downer :(

BTW, I was quite awed by flying over the Greenland ice sheet a few years ago so I feel emotionally attached to it now.  :)
And effit, I am going to flag this as an IP, self-indulgent as that may be.  :D

 

 

 

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I guess it depends on your point of view.  If not petroleum or fossil fuels, what would we have chosen had we more knowledge or clairvoyance?

Continued use of whale oil, to the extermination of all the whales?

Wood, the burning of which releases particulates and isn't nearly as energy dense as petroleum?  Granted, wood is a renewable resource but it wouldn't have been renewed at the rate it was consumed.  I've read numerous accounts where a factory or an industry closed up and relocated simply because they'd burned up all the timber within an easily and economically transportable range.  It was cheaper to move the factory than to keep transporting the timber.

Come to think of it now, in some sense whale oil could be considered a renewable resource...

There's nothing wrong with imagining alternate realities, because that's were great ideas sometimes originate.  But in looking back and looking forward those great ideas have to have some bridge to reality - announcing humanity should have transitioned to cold fusion at the beginning of the Industrial Age serves no purpose but to create an excursion in fantasy.

Everybody in today's petroleum economy can do something.  It just depends upon the depth of their convictions.  Everyone can turn off lights when they leave the room, leave their car parked instead of driving to the next store a few blocks away.  Small everyday actions that simply reduce waste or avoid needless use. 

Or, depending on your convictions and commitment, go big.  Recycle or don't buy a cell phone.  Recycle or don't buy clothing made with petroleum.  Get rid of your house and move into a small energy efficient apartment or one of those tiny houses featured on that TV show.  Grow all your own food and put aside enough to carry you and your family through the winter or through the off-growing seasons.  Hey, it's been done before.  Hardly realistic, though, if one wants to continue to participate in today's modern society - but if one's commitments and convictions are deep enough that's one way to follow them.

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3 hours ago, Thaddeus Kosciuszko said:

Wood, the burning of which releases particulates and isn't nearly as energy dense as petroleum? 

If people burned wood to heat their houses there wouldn’t be all those multi thousand acre wild fires out west that pollute the air.

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1 hour ago, Longjohn said:

If people burned wood to heat their houses there wouldn’t be all those multi thousand acre wild fires out west that pollute the air.

There wouldn't be any forests or parks either.  We'd all look like Texas.  And who needs photosynthesis anyway?  

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Just now, Longjohn said:

Most of photosynthesis comes from the ocean .

May be true but you got nothin' on the Texas factor.

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5 hours ago, Thaddeus Kosciuszko said:

Everybody in today's petroleum economy can do something.  It just depends upon the depth of their convictions. 

We walk our dogs just about every day.  Many days we walk the Ottawa River Walk trail.   We walk from 1 to 4 miles, depending on when the dog lays down to protest walking...  then we turn around.

image.png.d6da5abbe9e3e1145cd40e3054466be5.png

In the winter, there are a few cars in the parking areas near the river, with the engine running and the heater on.

In the summer, there are a few cars in the parking areas near the river, with the engine running and the A/C on.

WoBG and I assume...  they may stop to eat or just see the river.  We also assume when they get home / back to work / etc...  they all tell their friends / family about how they went down to the river.  I'd guess they don't tell that they never got out of the car. 

Many times we walk past the car near the start of the walk, and they are still there on our return trip back to the trail head parking.   And then people wonder why they are obese.  

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People today know that the USA is in a desperate fresh water situation, yet little is being done.

There should be lots of research money being spent to find cheaper ways to desalinate large amounts of sea water, ways to improve irrigation efficiency - which accounts for 75% of freshwater use, yet half of it evaporates into the air - and for the creation of intercity/county water grids.

The US population is expected to expand from 338M now to around 900M by the end of the century - most of whom won't be related to those in the USA now.  Providing resources for them will be a major problem.  Meanwhile the major EU nations have almost the same population and same number of illegal aliens.  But in a century their population with be about 395M.  Their population is aging without a huge influx of young immigrants, yet their average incomes are growing closer to the USA's.  The huge amount of immigration into the USA is NOT sustainable!

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10 hours ago, Thaddeus Kosciuszko said:

Everybody in today's petroleum economy can do something.  It just depends upon the depth of their convictions.  Everyone can turn off lights when they leave the room, leave their car parked instead of driving to the next store a few blocks away.  Small everyday actions that simply reduce waste or avoid needless use. 

Or, depending on your convictions and commitment, go big.  Recycle or don't buy a cell phone.  Recycle or don't buy clothing made with petroleum.  Get rid of your house and move into a small energy efficient apartment or one of those tiny houses featured on that TV show.  Grow all your own food and put aside enough to carry you and your family through the winter or through the off-growing seasons.  Hey, it's been done before.  Hardly realistic, though, if one wants to continue to participate in today's modern society - but if one's commitments and convictions are deep enough that's one way to follow them.

Not yet a cellphone owner/user yet. So haven't used any precious rare metals (that's very polluting to extract). I'm certain alot of people will feel sorry for me 30 yrs. from now because I haven't had a car. So....make use of short taxi rides 2-3 times/wk...still alot cheaper.

I've reached a point in my life, especially highlighted by covid and working from home...even when I return to work twice wk. (it will be mandatory for us this fall), made me realize I don't need to buy new clothing for next several yrs...no polyester..via from petroleum..  

I want to believe that covid has changed the daily transportation and living patterns of some folks for more sustainable living, less earth footprint. Unfortunately it might be only a minority...most still live in neighbourhoods far from services/bisected by busy/dangerous roads.

So am I only the person in this forum...that hasn't owned/driven a car for many years?  :huh:  Who is moving into a neighbourhood that's a 15 min. walk to shops and services from home? Admittedly Thad, my lifestyle is a blend of circumstances, long-term habits derived from childhood (parents made sure they lived close to transit, etc.) and saving some money.  Not really initially saving the planet.  

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4 hours ago, Bikeguy said:


In the winter, there are a few cars in the parking areas near the river, with the engine running and the heater on.

In the summer, there are a few cars in the parking areas near the river, with the engine running and the A/C on.

WoBG and I assume...  they may stop to eat or just see the river.  We also assume when they get home / back to work / etc...  they all tell their friends / family about how they went down to the river.  I'd guess they don't tell that they never got out of the car. 

Many times we walk past the car near the start of the walk, and they are still there on our return trip back to the trail head parking.   And then people wonder why they are obese.  

:(  Maybe just sit there to see river.

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The water temp has heated up over last few years....also due to a heat bubble floating in the Pacific. that several varieties of salmon are dying off.  And this summer along the B.C. Pacific coast, they estimate nearly 1 billion shell sea life and plant life got cooked to death on the rocks because of lack of rain and continuously overheated sun More than a billion seashore animals may have cooked to death in B.C. heat wave, says UBC researcher | CBC News  temperature.

Then also the glaciers in British Columbian and whatever's left in Alberta mountains (ie. Jasper), are melting too fast..the Canadian scientists sadly have tremendous measurement proof over the past decade.  The melt has been unexpectedly very fast.  Heat waves are increasing across Canada — and hotter nights are also dangerous | CBC News  They continue to do their research and measurements consistently...we need this proof. And yes, this means running out of drinking water faster than we want.

1 hour ago, MickinMD said:

People today know that the USA is in a desperate fresh water situation, yet little is being done.

There should be lots of research money being spent to find cheaper ways to desalinate large amounts of sea water, ways to improve irrigation efficiency - which accounts for 75% of freshwater use, yet half of it evaporates into the air - and for the creation of intercity/county water grids.

The US population is expected to expand from 338M now to around 900M by the end of the century - most of whom won't be related to those in the USA now.  Providing resources for them will be a major problem.  Meanwhile the major EU nations have almost the same population and same number of illegal aliens.  But in a century their population with be about 395M.  Their population is aging without a huge influx of young immigrants, yet their average incomes are growing closer to the USA's.  The huge amount of immigration into the USA is NOT sustainable!

I think it's more important to educate people, starting with kids in school and also parents, how to use water daily and wisely.  If we can teach many people to mask, we can also teach them not to overwater their lawns, turn water on forever from the kitchen, etc.  Living out in the prairies, gives a wrongful idea we can expand our cities with larger lot detached/semi-detached home neighbourhoods.  For instance, last year. our city council voted for 14 new suburban communities to be built and expand the city over the next decade.  It shocked the bureaucracy who were fighting against developers who want to make money. Meanwhile we have to spend more municipal tax money on extending out/maintaining roads all 4 seasons, waterlines, etc. And people wonder why taxes go up. 

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I seldom go out to fringes of the new suburban divisions in our city..except 1 area that's because of an Asian supermarket...and of course, I bike out there and back with groceries. I'ts a 45 km. round trip but sure transportation and fitness rolled in 1 trip.

2 years ago, dearie and I spent 1/2 day cycling to and on the newer fringes of the city.  We were shocked by the bulldozing of vast amounts of land, far-flung new homes..not close to any services nor shops.  It felt very isolating to us. For sure, a car-dependent life.

 

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48 minutes ago, Philander Seabury said:

It bothers me how you have to run so much water down the drain to get hot water.  I guess dishwashers are a lot more efficient than hand washing dishes.

That's what they say. In a way, for me it's true. I only turn on the dishwasher every 2-3 days. otherwise I would be handwashing daily.

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This is a tough issue. To answer Thaddeus, the best I can think of right now would be if we had burned the dead ferns more slowly.  If they took brazillions of years to form, burning them up or making them into globe polluting plastics in a couple hundred year period seems foolish, even ignoring  the carbon dioxide emissions. But how would we have done that?  Capitalism is sort of tough on resources. I am sorting of thinking of it as if this was one giant puzzle that humans could have solved. Given how technological progress works, I guess there was not much wiggle room. Petroleum was like the apple  in the garden of eatin’. :D :(
Thaddeus or other deep thinkers, I would be interested in your interpretation of how the Jevons paradox would apply.  Jevons basically said the increasing efficiency of the coal fired steam engine actually INCREASED the demand for coal rather than decreasing it, since then you could do more things with it with the lower price.  That has to tie in here somehow.   

 

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18 hours ago, shootingstar said:

So am I only the person in this forum...that hasn't owned/driven a car for many years?  :huh: 

Probably.  For me, it simply isn't an option.  Autos are a must have.  Everyone's life has different demands. 

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3 minutes ago, Wilbur said:

Probably.  For me, it simply isn't an option.  Autos are a must have.  Everyone's life has different demands. 

For porpoises of this thread, it doesn’t really  matter. Western civilization is dependent on the auto and trucking, and now so is Asian and some African civilization. 

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On 7/24/2021 at 7:55 AM, Philander Seabury said:

We were well into the petroleum era before there was widespread realization that we effed up the atmosphere. Although interestingly, I have recently read stories that the science was discovered like 100 years ago. 
So it was a tall order indeed for humans to forego the convenience of petroleum living. 
Can we possibly imagine the alternate reality that could have been had we been fully aware of where the incessant burning of fossil fuels would lead?    I have always thought a low energy existence would have been cool. Like during COVID, no scurrying aboot and sitting in traffic jams. Sure, we need heating and some cooling, although we definitely overdo it in the cooling side. And I spose it is not really helpful to reflect on what could have been, but it would still be interesting to see if it could have been possible to navigate a more sustainable path for civilization. Hard to make a case for us being the most advanced civilization when the world existed for a long long time before we became petroleum addicts. 
Disclaimer: This diatribe was inspired by some early morning doom scrolling where there was an article aboot Miami Beach. That the Greenland ice sheet is snot only melting but is getting covered in soot that darkens it so it is way less heat reflective. 
Signed,

Debbie Downer :(

BTW, I was quite awed by flying over the Greenland ice sheet a few years ago so I feel emotionally attached to it now.  :)
And effit, I am going to flag this as an IP, self-indulgent as that may be.  :D

 

 

 

We can't unring the bell, Debbie.  The days of coal based industry and home heating also played a major role in browning up glaciers.  Much of it has always been used for dating of historical events.  The problem is surface population and global economies.  Again, we can't unring the bell. 

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5 minutes ago, Wilbur said:

We can't unring the bell, Debbie.  The days of coal based industry and home heating also played a major role in browning up glaciers.  Much of it has always been used for dating of historical events.  The problem is surface population and global economies.  Again, we can't unring the bell. 

Right. Good point, it is all fossil fuels, not just earl. (Uranium is a special case of fossil fuel. Not really fossil but mined like coal. )

My question is would there or could there have been a way to avoid the problem. Yes, this is definitely a coulda’ shoulda’ woulda’ thread. :D
Or IOW, was nature or God, whichever you prefer, testing us with a giant puzzle?  Like Wanda Sykes says wimmin are always testing men.   :D

 

 

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30 minutes ago, Philander Seabury said:

Capitalism is sort of tough on resources.

I would offer the suggestion that of all the economic systems available to mankind, any economic system consumes natural resources.  I'd also suggest that of all the economic systems, capitalism is the least destructive because it promotes the greatest efficiency of all systems because a person or competitor gains advantage (and market share) when it lowers its costs by wasting less.  Remember, any dollar saved in energy or resource cost contributes a dollar directly to profit.

That's not to say capitalism is a perfect system where no waste occurs. Let it be stipulated that waste does occur. Even so, the proper comparison is how many resources would be required to produce the same product or service under a capitalistic system vs. what would be required under any other system.  I'll not name the other economic systems we might use for comparison - that might smack of politics so I'll let you name those yourself.

39 minutes ago, Philander Seabury said:

 Jevons basically said the increasing efficiency of the coal fired steam engine actually INCREASED the demand for coal rather than decreasing it

I would say you're right.  The coal fired steam engine was integral to the industrial revolution.  What used to be done or made solely by human or animal muscle power could now be done many times over in far less time for far less cost.

Before the industrial revolution all clothes were made by hand, an expensive, manually-intensive, time consuming costly process.  After the industrial revolution cloth was quickly, cheaply, and efficiently made and now more people could afford clothes.  Instead of one set of clothes that had to last a year or more and that people were washed infrequently for fear of damaging the clothes, they owned several sets of clothes with a greater durability that they could wash more frequently because the manufactured cloth could better stand it and could be more easily replaced. 

Before the industrial revolution the child mortality rate in England was (forgive me for recalling from memory and not consulting the Google) was about 70% for children under 5.  After the industrial revolution, it plummeted.  Why?  Because the industrial revolution, ignited in part by the coal steam engine, employed not only parents but also children in the mills.  'How horrible! Children in mills!" one might say.

But now those parents and children had wages to support themselves, whereas before they typically worked together in home (children included) producing far less goods of lesser quality for less money.  Often for so little money there wasn't enough to eat.

One reason the child mortality rate plummeted was now the family had more money to buy food, and children were no longer starving, were healthier, and less susceptible to disease.  Note that mills were not completely safe places to work.  People and children, indeed, were maimed and killed by the machinery.  But in the end, parents intentionally sent their children to work in the mills because they understood that the additional wages meant their children would be less likely to starve and more likely to live.

Of course this flies in the face of many commonly held beliefs about the industrial revolution.  Choose whatever view you will, the industrial revolution was driven by a capitalistic-based system which in turn did increase the use of coal and all the associated environmental effects.  But again, the true comparison in judging capitalism and its associated consumption of resources is in selecting an alternative economic system and calculating how much coal would have been used to achieve the same benefits to society.

And, of course, any calculation would certainly involve some sort of model and its inherent assumptions.  And, as we have seen so often, the rationale and extent of those assumptions that control the model and its results soon become the basis for argument civil discussion upon which people don't often agree.

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1 hour ago, Philander Seabury said:

Right. Good point, it is all fossil fuels, not just earl. (Uranium is a special case of fossil fuel. Not really fossil but mined like coal. )

My question is would there or could there have been a way to avoid the problem. Yes, this is definitely a coulda’ shoulda’ woulda’ thread. :D
Or IOW, was nature or God, whichever you prefer, testing us with a giant puzzle?  Like Wanda Sykes says wimmin are always testing men.   :D

 

 

If one travels in the big old cities of Europe, you can see how housing and services have been built....closer to one another and don't permit big sized cars, or much car traffic all the time in certain neighbourhoods. So people grow up and get used to walking or biking naturally. They don't know any differently. 

Then they vacation in North America and think it's wonderful for all the space and big distances where we also lack dense network of intercity/cross-border passenger train systems. 

One friend and her hubby worked and lived in Toronto close to the subway system, services, school for their 3 young children.

Then they vacationed on Vancouver Island..then they bought a house (sight unseen by relying on friends to tour /inspect the house next door).  What they didn't factor in, was the constant driving multiple times per day, every day, to do stuff because schlepping children to their sports, etc. One can walk for 20 min. up and down small steep hill to the village for certain shops if it's a small amount of groceries. But other services were in a different town somewhere else.   She didn't like it at all (she hated driving) and actually dropped driving a car in the last 2 years after their adult children moved away from home. 

My point is to support municipalities who are trying to reverse long-term bad habits by building  neighbourhoods with services closer so people aren't so incredibly car-dependent, etc. The younger generations (and a few progressive ones our generation) of urban planners know this and want to do this.  But they get pressured by developers who want to make money.

  I know everyone loves a big house. Really....do you still want that at 70+ yrs. old etc. from a maintenance/cleaning perspective?  If you have money to hire someone to do this. Do your adult children want to help clean your house ...if you wish to save money.  Do you want the high heating bill if living in a climate of hard, very cold winters like where I am?  It's shocking to see 3,000+ sq. ft. homes in my area with 3 story high atrium.  Expensive to heat in winter and air condition in summer.  The only justification is multi-generational families for all that space where it would be used for decades.  Not empty when children leave home.

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To answer Philander's query:  at this time, we can do better but only by making conscious choices individually....and hope we choose to live in an area with choices for us to live in a way with a lighter carbon footprint.

To me, sometimes I do feel abit hippie-ish because of my age and lifestyle.  I'm not that unusual when there are more folks like me in Vancouver and Toronto. Rather annoying when I hear some blame on boomers as being wasteful generation, etc.  We probably "look" wasteful because we appear less saddled by humungous debt compared to millenials, etc. I think it's just ...well, envy.

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4 hours ago, Philander Seabury said:

It bothers me how you have to run so much water down the drain to get hot water.  I guess dishwashers are a lot more efficient than hand washing dishes.

My wife catches the cold water in gallon milk jugs and pours it into the washing machine. We don't use a dishwasher. I might add, she has been doing this for years. She is a long-time 'Greenie'.

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